Friday, November 28, 2008

Double Movie Review: Four Christmases & Transporter 3

Saw two movies today with Lisa. And unfortunately, I chose poorly. This is 0/2, folks! I rarely pick 'em this badly. We avoided checking out Australia due to the 2hr 45min running time. But I think we would have fared better if we'd stuck to just this one movie, rather than the two turkeys we did end up seeing. Hey, at least it was season-appropriate (har, har).

Due to this reason, I don't have the energy (read: enthusiasm) to give a full, in-depth review of either. So here are two mini-reviews instead.


This was one of the unfunniest comedies I've seen in a long while, which is a shock considering the otherwise high opinions I have for both Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. Their chemistry was fine, just the scripting of this stinker was way off. The humor (when it was there) was flat, and the "serious" moments were a little too heavy-handed at times, especially since the comedy was not where it should have been to balance everything out. The editing was also very strange, especially at the end when we suddenly and without warning jump a whole year ahead just to deliver an insignificant closure to the dilemma the two leads were facing as a couple. The resolution, as a result, felt rushed and with no emotional investment from the audience. Skip this one at all costs.

Rating: 3/10


To be honest, I didn't really want to watch this movie. The first one had been a decent, if anemic, little action flick. And I really do like Jason Statham in most other things (Crank notwithstanding). But the second movie in this arc was just awful and boring to boot. So I should have known better than to go into this one blindly without first reading any professional reviews.

Ugh, if anything this one is even worse than the second one! A feat I didn't previously think was possible. Statham was good in the action parts, and decent in every other scene. But for all the guys who were in attendance at my theater, this seemed to be geared more towards the ladies, as Jason almost literally took his shirt off every 15 minutes. Do they know who their target audience is for these things? The action was okay, but the story was a very dumb plot at its finest. A thug threatens an environmentally-conscious politician to sign off on a dubious company handling toxic materials in his country's backyard, in exchange for the well-being of his daughter. The Transporter's job is to drive the daughter around long enough until the deal is made. But things don't go according to plan, and stuff blows up. The end. I can't even recommend the driving scenes, as they were boring as well. Stay far the hell away from this one. I really wish I had.

Rating: 4/10

Two Thanksgivings - Of Nieces And Nephews

My family was having Thanksgiving in Queens this year, while Lisa's was in the usual place in the north Bronx. Stupid me waited until the last minute to decide that renting a car was preferable to riding the subway back and forth all day long, but alas EVERY SINGLE rental place was all sold out. Luckily, we were able to borrow my sister-in-law's car for the day, and despite horrific traffic tie-ups in Queens, the day went smoothly. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

This is Lisa's sister's son, Chandler. He's only 16 months old, but he looks bigger for his age. I believe he's 28 lbs. He was really happy to see his auntie, and every time the warning light lit up on my camera, he startled giggling hysterically. I swear, every single picture of his looks like this one! Afterwards, he spent most of the night running around and kicking his ball around and soaking in all the attention he was getting from all the ladies in attendance. Definitely a ladies' man, this one.

Lisa's brother and his girlfriend just had a baby this year. Her name is Ariana, and she's 6 months old. She's also the darling of any get-together. I mean, look at those cheeks! She's the chubbiest and most well-behaved baby I've ever seen. Every single woman there was trying to steal her and keep her for themselves all night. Even Chandler gets excited when his baby cousin shows up. He went running straight up to her and gave a big kiss. Then he pointed at Ariana and said: "Baby!" It was too cute.

She was loving my camera. She kept grabbing it and stuffing it in her mouth. It must be baby drool-proof, though, as it still works. Yay!

Lisa kept getting Ariana to smile all night. Here she was just fed, so she's extra happy. The babies in Lisa's family are generally well-padded, if you know what I mean. Which is how babies should be, no? :)

I just couldn't resist taking one last pic before she left for the night. Here Ariana is all decked out in a pink pea coat and matching hat. Stylin!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Really Am Stubborn

In reading my previous entry on how/why I learned Chinese, Cindy commented on my stubbornness. And you know what? She's absolutely right!

She would say it's a Virgo thing I'm sure, and that's probably true. Thing is, I'm not stubborn when it comes to personal relationships or anything like that. Where my stubbornness rears its ugly head is when it comes to my ambitions and dreams.

I just don't give up! I take the most extreme sorts of abuse and keep on going in order to obtain any goal I've set for myself. It's always been that way for me, but more so in my adult years.

Learning Chinese was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Hell, it IS the most difficult thing I've ever done. But it was something I *wanted* to do. I wasn't told I had to do it, or that my life would be better because of it. No, for the first time it was something I did outside of my family's influence and something I'd made my own. And no amount of hardship was going to deter me.

And for the most part, this stubbornness has served me well. Does it mean I always get what I want?

Oh, hell no!

Sometimes it feels like my whole life is nothing but me not getting what I want. However, if the thing is something that is within my power to get, then nothing can stop me.

I'm this way with my writing. I've been critiqued to hell and back again and, from all indications, I haven't even seen the worst of it yet. It's going to get very, very bad before it gets better. Another person might give up on their dream of ever becoming a published sci-fi writer.

But not me.

I simply don't care how many rejections I get. I have ideas, and they need to be written. Whether I can learn how to spin those ideas into gold is what my journey is all about. A hectic day at work or an argument at home are only obstacles to work around, not to defeat me.

I want this bad, and I've decided that I'm going all the way until I either run out of steam or I die. The latter will hopefully mean I made it to the point where my name is in a bookstore, and hopefully multiple times over. The former will mean that despite my best efforts, something defeated me. Which would not be good. Not good at all.

I'm stubborn where it counts. Because I know of no other way to get that which I want in life.

This has been a Public Service Announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Learning Chinese

As I've mentioned before, my father was hispanic and my mother was anglo-saxon/American. His family was from the Dominican Republic, while her family was from Scotland and England. My parents split when I was two, and at that time I had only learned rudimentary Spanish as a second language. Once my mother got her own place, however, my brothers and I spoke only English. I had to learn Spanish the hard way like everyone else -- through high school language class. But thanks to being exposed to it when I was a baby, the one advantage I had over everyone else was a natural authentic spanish accent that I didn't really have to work at, and a smattering knowledge of individual words like the words for "juice" and "dog".

What does this have to do with me learning Chinese? Well, you see, I hate Spanish and all things associated with the language and hispanic cultures. I was given crap all my life because I had a Spanish last name but yet could not speak the language or undersatnd the customs the way other hispanic people expected me to. So because of this I developed a negative stigma against the culture. To this day I refuse to learn more than the basic level of proficiency in Spanish because I vehemently do not identify with the culture.

However, I did want to learn another language. I'd been told so many stories about how naturally adept my mother had been at learning languages. She learned Spanish fluently over the course of one summer, according to my grandmother. I always entertained the idea that I had inherited her easy fluency with languages. I picked Chinese as the language I myself would chose to learn, rather than being something others expected me to learn simply because of my features and last name.

Let me put it another way: I felt I could only learn another language when it was a language no one on Earth would expect me to know. If my teacher or peers perceived me as somehow having an unfair advantage over a non-native speaker (as what happened with Spanish), I could not learn it. Additionally, I wanted a language that was so far out of left field that no one would expect it. I thrive in situations where people underestimate me. So naturally I wanted to learn something not too many people can learn easily.

This was one of the reasons I chose Mandarin. And yet it is only a superficial reason.

The other, real, reason I chose Mandarin was because of all the cultures on Earth, I've always identified most with Chinese people. That might seem strange for a mixed kid who grew up in the south Bronx ghetto to say, but it's true. From so early on that I can't remember why or when exactly, I've been fascinated with China. I used to read children's stories written by missionairies working in China. The stories were written by Westerners, but were about Chinese children and often took place during Imperial history (almost alway the Qing Dynasty, but I read a few from the Tang Dynasty as well). As a kid I found the culture so alien from anything I had ever seen before, that I used to think China was this mystical magical place. For me, the Far East was a real-life fairy tale!

For someone who hated his surroundings and the life he'd been born into, you can imagine why the allure of Asia had been so strong for me. As I entered puberty, it only grew more profound as I began reading histories and non-fictional accounts of China. I also read more serious Chinese folklore stories written by Chinese authors and poets throughout time. China felt like my home away from home, and yet I'd never been there.

In 1990 when I began high school, the Japan-o-phile invasion of manga and robotech anime cartoons had only just begun to take over hordes of dweebish American teens. And while I admit to being mildly susceptible to the allure of Nippon as well (particularly Samurai culture and coda), it did not even come close to the love affair I had with all things Chinese. Since I was a boy, naturally this chiefly developed into a keen interest (bordering on obsession) with all things kung-fu.

By the time I was 16, my main goal in life was to run away to China and seek out the legendary Shaolin mountain and study with the monks for the rest of my life. Say goodbye to my friends and family, and just disappear! That's how badly I wanted to be away from America and the materialism and senseless violence of the South Bronx ghetto mind in particular.

By the time I was 18, common sense won over and I realized that a more sensible plan was to go to college and study as much about Chinese culture as I could. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont primarily because it was a very strong private liberal arts college -- but also because it was one of the most esteemed and recognized leaders of undergrad language education in the entire nation. Not an insignificant accolade, I must say. Particular renowned were its Chinese language classes and instructors.

I started taking Chinese classes at a time when I did not yet know what my major would be. I came into Middlebury expecting to major in pre-med. Then this switched to Psychology. But when I realized how much fun I was having in Chinese language class--and that, in fact, I did indeed have a knack for learning the language--I came to an epiphany one restless night in January and decided to make my major Chinese Studies. And once I crossed that threshold, there was no turning back. I threw myself headlong into the endeavor of learning everything I could possibly learn about China. Not just its official language--but all aspects of this great culture and nation. Art, history, politics, economics, and, most of all, its literature. Although language study took up 60% of all my education time at Middlebury, my second love was studying Chinese literature. I devoured all of the classics, some of which I would later re-read in the original Wenyan -- the (classical) Chinese literary system of writing.

By sophomore year of college I was already taking advanced classes and preparing to study abroad in China during my junior year. However, plans unfortunately fell through due to financial reasons and also an oversight I had made in choosing my curriculum, which forced me to have to stay behind and take specific Middlebury-based classes or else risk getting kicked out of my major. It was a dark time for me because I had been so looking forward to studying at the Beijing Normal University and then, later, in the northern frigid city of Harbin. My friends ended up going, and I stayed behind. To this day it is my single most regret about my college education.

However, staying behind junior year turned out to have been a blessing. Because it allowed me to turn my studies towards modern Chinese literature and politics, a subject that I would find myself singularly attracted to. I also became engrossed in mainland China's dramatic film works, most of which had been banned by the Communist censors from being seen in the directors' own homeland. Had I gone to China, ironically, I never would have seen these movies during my junior year. Which would have been too bad as, due to these movies changing my world view forever, I was able to form the basis for the thesis I would have to write senior year in order to graduate.

Senior year, in addition to writing my 100-page thesis, I had now entered a super-advanced level of language study by this point. A level designed for only the serious Chinese major. This meant I was in classes with only 6 other students at all times, all of whom I'd been classmates with for almost my entire college career.

By this point we were studying Confucius and Lao Zi in the original script, conducting entire classroom discussions in Chinese, and writing out thousand-character essays every single week for each class! It was grueling, and my brain was mush--but I learned so much! I had long ago started dreaming in Chinese, but by senior year it had gotten to the point that I no longer remembered any Spanish. Whenever I tried to speak Spanish, the words would come out in Chinese first. It got so bad that it was sometimes difficult for me to even speak English, so immersed had I become in Mandarin.

I can't even wrap my head around that right now! Can you?

I ended up acing the thesis and graduating with honors. I had accomplished one of my main goals at college. Yet I knew enough to know that all my studies had only exposed me to the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and that the next step was to actually move to China and basically "turn" Chinese! :)

Unfortunately, I could not leave the people I loved behind after all. Most importantly, Lisa. We were too much in love that I could not bare the thought of abandoning her to live out my selfish dream of being some kung-fu hermit living on a mountain top in central China. I faced reality, and realized that I had other dreams to follow. Like becoming a writer . . . and marrying Lisa. So far, I've realized one of those dreams already. And I'm working hard on realizing the other.

I regret now, however, that in the 10 years since graduating, I have not found any use at all for my Chinese language skills. I don't have Chinese family members to converse with, my friends from college are all over the globe and of sporadic contact, and I've allowed myself to be too distracted by other personal concerns over the years.

All of which are excuses for me admitting that I have drastically forgotten a lot of what I've learned. I can no longer read Chinese even half as good as I used to be able to do, and my writing skills are almost non-existent. However, I can still carry on conversations in Chinese, as the lingual part of the language was the part most ingrained in my brain after all.

And, you know what? I still have the occasional dream in Chinese to this day! So I guess that's a good sign.

Over the past year I've been thinking of taking up remedial Mandarin classes. It's going to make me feel like a dumbass paying money again for something I've already learned before, but I jut can't allow for all that I worked for to go down the drain. I also need to figure out some way to keep the knowledge active so that I don't lose it again.

And, of course, I desperately want to go to China. I keep seeing three-week excursions being offered here and there, and want so badly to go. Maybe someday I'll work up the funds and courage to do so.

And there you have it folks. Why it is that I know more Chinese than Spanish, and why I feel more of an affinity towards Chinese people and culture than I do my own father's culture.

Thanks to Cindy over at A Little Sweet, A Litte Sour for asking me to write this. I know it was a rather long read, but I hope I covered all the bases! :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Weird Contraption, And Another Man-Bag Sighting!!!

Lisa and I went to the movies Sunday -- a rare outing indeed, as Sundays are usually our stay-at-home and unwind together day. We saw two movies: Twilight and Slumdog Millionaire. The review for the latter is one entry down on this page. Read it. It was an awesome movie.

Twilight was not so awesome, which is why you won't find a review of it here. It's really only for teen girls or women who've read the novels (or both). I don't include men in this category, although I'm sure there's one or two who might really, REALLY like this kind of thing. Basically, it's very teen angsty and emo -- the type of film someone watches just before slitting their wrists. Now, I like vampire movies. You know I do. And I've read my fair share of vampire-themed novels in my time. A *lot* in fact. But Meyer's version of vampires (at least from what I can tell from this movie alone) seems like a rehash of everything I've read/seen before. For some reason, the mythos strongly evokes the "Underworld" brand of games/movies/literature for me. Anyway, if you like high school lovey-dovey drama with a bite (ahem), then this is the film for you. Just be prepared to wade through the throngs of giggly teenage girls to get to your seat, tho (yes, there were quite a few of these groups in my theater).

Anyway, as me and Lisa were riding up the escalator to get into the theater, guess what I just happened to see? Yup, another freaking MAN PURSE!!!! Arghhhhh!

You see? You people thought I was exaggerating, right? But literally one fucking day after posting that entry, I get smacked in the face with this thing! God help us, but they're taking over NYC I tell ya! Run!

(ha, ha)

Oh, and I went to the restroom before the movies and was confronted with an odd gadget when looking for the paper towels after washing my hands.

Has anyone seen this before? Lisa informs me that they've been out for a while now, and asked: where the hell have you been? But honestly, I was taken aback by this. It's some sort of fancy, new-fangled type of hand dryer. You basically stick you hands right inside that slot and get what feels like a jumbo jet turbine unleashed on your wet hands. Seriously, the air is amazingly powerful. It gets your hands bone dry in literally 3 seconds flat! Whoa!

I'd hate to see one of these puppies attached to the inside of a toilet seat, although I hear they have them in Japan. I would imagine some people would get a little *too* much pleasure out of that, if you know what I mean.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Despite all the movie reviews I do here, believe it or not I haven't been to the movies nearly as often this year as I usually get to go. So Danny Boyle's latest film, Slumdog Millionaire, truly came out of left field for me. I had no warning or preamble that it was even out in theaters until I started hearing the great buzz. And I'm here to tell you: that buzz is well earned!

This has been one of the best surprises of the year for me, movie wise. Coincidentally, it comes at a time when I've been getting deeper and deeper into all things from the subcontinent--Indian music, history, sci-fi novels (yeah, no kidding), and, most importantly, Indian movies. Combined, most of these elements fall under the uniquely Indian umbrella concept of "filmi" -- which, as the word implies, revolves around the huge cultural juggernaut of the film industry there. Similar to the grand productions of the 50s and 60s in America's Hollywood, India's own Bollywood is a huge business in that country. Slumdog Millionaire is not a Bollywood movie in the traditional sense, seeing as it is directed by a Brit and financed and produced by Hollywood. Yet, it is filmed in India, starring Indians, and concerning distinctly Indian motifs.

And the soundtrack is provided by none other than A.R. Rahman, India's premiere filmi composer and extraordinary musical genius. I love this man's music, and own three of his compilation albums. Needless to say the music is one of the many highlights of the film, blending the traditional as well as modern Indian influences with a wide range of world music from Salsa to African folk drums. This soundtrack contains the breadth and scope that truly takes on a life of its own in the movie, but is just par for the course when you have Mr. Rahman composing and sampling the tracks.

But what about the movie itself? It's an intriguing concept that revolves around the hit British tv game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The show has long since been exported and disseminated to a hundred different other countries around the world (the U.S. included), and so naturally India has it's own version of the show too. The premise is the story of a young man named Jamal Malik, a lowly chai "wallah" for a telecommunications mega corporation based in Mumbai. One day he wins the chance to appear on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but is derided by the host (Mumbai's version of Regis Philbin) for his lowly roots in the slums. For "slumdogs" are supposed to know their place, you see? And never, ever possess the education or intelligence to even appear on the show, let alone answer any of the questions correctly.

But Jamal does answer the questions correctly, and pretty soon he is well on his way towards winning the sum pot of 20 million rupees (roughly the equivalent of $1 million). Just as he is about to go for the final question, the show runs out of time, and Jamal (along with the rest of the country) must wait another day to find out if he can pull off the greatest upset in the show's history.

However, Jamal ends up being dragged to the local police precinct and tortured for hours to give up his "secrets" on how he cheated to get the answers. You see, no one can believe he just happened to make it as far as he has when doctors, lawyers, and teachers have never made it more than halfway through the grueling trivia gauntlet.

What unfolds next is a weary Jamal reciting his life's story in bits and pieces as the film progresses. We jump between the present and the past, starting early with Jamal's childhood. With each story he tells, the police (as well as the audience) discover how Jamal's individual life experiences have prepared him to know the answers to each question. By the time the flashbacks wind around to the present day, you are in awe at what this young man has experienced growing up in the Mumbai slums.

Yet, at it's heart, Slumdog Millionaire is actually a love story. Jamal is forever searching for the love of his life, a childhood friend named Latika. Jamal and his no-good brother meet Latika as kids after a horrific mob murders their parents over their family's Muslim beliefs. Forced to eke out an existence among the other slumdog children, the three form a bond and grow to depend on each other. What follows next is a poignant tale of growing up, hardship, love, betrayal, friendship, and ultimately: redemption and forgiveness.

Newcomer Dev Patel does an amazing job portraying the sensitive yet cunning Jamal, a young man with a lifetime of experiences behind his sad eyes. Of particular note is veteran filmi actor, Irfan Khan, who does an outstanding job as the police inspector who grills Jamal. Westerners may be more familiar with him as the father in 2006's The Namesake. He is such a good actor! At first you want to hate him for his brutality, but as the film progresses he begins to show a human side and even compassion towards Jamal. Eventually he lets Jamal return to the game show to attempt the final question. I won't give away the ending, but everything does come together in a believable--and lovely satisfying--manner.

A special note is another newcomer, actress Freida Pinto, who plays the present day Latika. I don't know where she came from, but I hope to see her in more movies--both Holly-and Bollywood produced. She literally lights up the screen in every scene she's in and, along with Dev Patel, really wins the audience over with her performance. I think I might have a new crush now!

Doesn't she sorta remind you of Paula Patton? It's uncanny in the movie, the resemblance. She also looks a little like Rosario Dawson, too. I wonder if she's mixed? Her name seems rather Spanish- or Portuguese-influenced to me, but she was raised and educated in Mumbai, and is definitely very Indian.

Anyway, enough gushing about the movie and its actors. Although it's only getting a limited showing in the States at this time--I advise everyone to go see it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE when it hits theaters near you!

Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Score: 10/10

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Okay, Since When Was It Cool For A Man To Carry A Purse?

Here in New York City, I'm witnessed to a lot of crazy fashion choices that leave me scratching my head. But this latest fad among men is driving me bat shit insane! I've always heard of the man purse (or "murse")--which is also called a man bag--but the ones I've seen that are favored by European men look nothing like this. This is going too far! What's next, matching pumps and hoop earrings?

The first time I saw this, I was walking down the street. The guy in front of me had a full-on woman's bag hanging from his shoulder. It wasn't a messenger bag. *I* have a messenger bag--it's the type of bag you can fit a laptop into. In my day it was called a satchel.

But this . . . this is a completely different animal.

I mean, WTF? This is not cool. I know that as a man we sometimes need a place to stick our extra crap just like women. In my case, I'm constantly carrying around loads of books, papers, magazines, and work files. That's what a messenger bag is for. But this thing with big, loopy straps and supple leather exterior? Um, no. That my friend is a purse. Or handbag. Or whatever women call it. But the important thing is, it's for WOMEN!

On the subway, I saw another man with a similar type bag slung over one shoulder. But this one had a black & white tiger print pattern. You heard me right: TIGER FUCKING PRINT! I'm waiting to see rainbows and kisses next. Or maybe X's and O's written in pink lipstick all up and down the bag. *barf*

I'm thinking of starting my own photo essay collection, that's how bad it's getting. I'll take my camera with me wherever I go, and when I see one of these walking vaginas around town, I'm going to snap pics and post them on Flicker. Then you'll know I'm not kidding around here.

What I thought was just an odd sighting or two has recently blown up to a full out invasion in this city. And I'm sure it's not limited to just New York. Oh, and before you ask: no, these dudes did not seem like they were gay to me. I mean, I can't exactly tell of course. But from what my limited abilities can deduce, these guys are straight. They've just been brainwashed by this metrosexual phase that's been sweeping the country over the past several years.

And it needs to stop. I mean, seriously!

Back In The Wold Of The Living

Well, I hadn't intended on being a stranger all this time, but as you know I've been busy writing my latest sci-fi story. That's not an excuse, though. I've written stories before while keeping to a semi-regular posting schedule here. But I guess this latest go-round just sucked me in THAT much. I mean, I was so much invested in this story that I had no desire to write anything else at the time. There was also an issue of time. Between work (which was hectic this last week), weight training/running, and this story, I had little time for anything else. Including Gears of War 2 (boo!)

But I'm happy to say I'm done! With the first draft, at least. I finished last night, actually, and it came in a little longer than I wanted -- at 10,000 words. But I'm diving straight into the second draft today and will look to cut out around 3,000 of those words and add perhaps a thousand more in flesh-outs and scenery, as well as some tie-ins to make the plot flow better. It would be nice if, after the final polish, I can have something in the 7.5k range. Keep your fingers crossed.

And, so, what is this story about? Sorry, I won't divulge any details. Especially while I'm still in the rough draft phase. But I will let you in on the story idea that generated this tale, which goes:

What would you do if a bad man from your childhood walked into your clinic needing urgent medical treatment? Would you treat him like any other patient, deserving of your care? Or would you use the opportunity to take a life rather than save one?

This is the dilemma a physician--my protagonist--faces in this story. Can she put aside her hatred for what this man did to her family?

And of course, since this is sci-fi, it takes place aboard a space station situated at the mouth of a strategic wormhole. Because, hell, why not?

I'm off from work all next week, so between this second draft, editing an older story from September (and, oh yeah, that turkey-day thing too!), I'll be playing copious amounts of GoW2 until my bleeding eyes match the Locust splatter across my tv screen. YAY!!!!

Anyone have plans for T-day?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Before I get into the review, let me clue you in to a little secret about me: I've seen all the James Bond movies at LEAST 3 times each; some even more times than that (Dr. No; From Russia With Love; Goldeneye; Casino Royale). So I consider myself well versed in the 007 movie tradition.

When Casino Royale came out in 2006, I was more eager than most due to the fact that I believed the franchise had run out of steam utilizing the Pierce Brosnan model. Don't get me wrong, Pierce was a fantastic Bond. But the writing and direction of the two latter Bond flicks were terrible, and his performance suffered slightly as a result. Even more alarming, it had become clear (to me at least) that he had gotten far too old to play the character anymore. Which is a shame. If the producers had gotten to him a decade earlier when they first wanted him, we could have had one of the longest-running actor Bonds of all time.

Anyway, Casino Royale came out with a new Bond and a new mission: to eschew the gadgets and wonky villains, and go for something grittier and more realistic. And that's exactly what we got. Daniel Craig was excellent as Bond, evoking the franchise's original star, Sean Connery, who many argue (this reviewer included) is the greatest Bond of all time. Craig still has some catching up to do, but with Casino he was off to a great start.

Two years later, we now get Quantum of Solace. A film which, for the first time in Bond history, is connected to and takes place directly after the previous film. In fact, if what I've deduced of this current film's theme is in fact true, this may just be a trilogy! *gasp* Who'd a thunk it?

QoS does in fact take place roughly one hour after the last film ended, with Bond in the middle of a high speed chase after taking care of Mr. White at the climax of Casino Royale. The chase ends in typical dramatic Bond fashion, and then we're treated to the opening song and titles, which this time is called "Another Way To Die" (I think this should have been the title of the actual movie), and which marks another first for the franchise: a duet! And performed by Jack White (of the White Stripes) and Alicia Keys, no less! This song is kick ass! I've since listened to it about a billion times now.

From this moment on the movie is almost non-stop action all the way through. Almost. When Bond takes a breather or two, unfortunately, is where the movie falters just a tad. Whether due to the impending writer strike when the film was being penned, or perhaps because of the uncharted territory concept of a sequel, the story isn't quite as nifty and engaging as Casino Royale's was. Less spectacular, too, are some of the locations, with Haiti and Bolivia providing some of the most boring backdrops ever.

Where the story does excel, however, is in connecting the dots and filling in some of the blanks leftover from Casino Royale. I've spoken to a few friends who have expressed disappointment due to the confusing plot. But, honestly, I think it's really a matter of them either not having seen the previous film, or perhaps not remembering some of the finer plot details from the flick. In this matter I guess you can say I cheated, for I'd just re-watched Casino Royale a week before, so the plot was still very much fresh in mind. And watching QoS, I recall thinking to myself: oh, cool tie-over detail! I wonder how many people caught that? When a secondary, but somewhat pivotal, character from CR shows up about a quarter of the way through, I got the sense that about half the audience did not even know who he was. Yikes!

Due to the above, I have serious reservations about *some* of the negative reviews I've been hearing/reading over the weekend. I think of lot of these naysayers fell for the trick of thinking this was just another standalone Bond film. And, even when they learned that it was in fact taking place directly after the events depicted in CR, simply shrugged it off and said to themselves: well, how complicated can a Bond plot be anyway? And then complained that the very same plot was too convoluted after exiting the theater.

Are you serious, people?

Now, I'm not going to brandish a whip and tell people that they HAVE to go re-watch Casino Royale before seeing Quantum OR ELSE . . . but, please, do consider that maybe the reason a scene or bit of dialogue is not making sense to you is because you're pretty much watching it out of context if you don't remember the previous movie all that well. Believe it or not, there *are* quite a number of spots where knowledge of the prior film comes in handy. I'm not making this up.

Anyway, back to the review at hand.

QoS suffers from what I think will be seen as "middle movie syndrome" -- especially if it does turn out that a third film in this current arc is in the making. If so, then QoS works well to do what middle movies in a planned trilogy do best -- carryover from the previous film, and set up for the next. However, I'd stick my neck out and say that QoS did one better than that; it effectively ended the current storyline on a satisfactory note if the producers decide NOT to continue the arc into a third film.

For those saying the movie ended too abruptly and with no closure, you obviously weren't paying attention. Because of the storyline in Casino Royale (and a certain love interest in that film), the ending was perhaps one of the best moments of closure EVAR in a Bond title. Yeah, I said it.

QoS has excellent action, an engaging enough story if you remember the previous film well, and--best of all--some truly great performances by the leads Daniel Craig (better than ever as Bond), and the beautiful Ukrainian model-turned-actress, Olga Kurylenko (who I originally fell in love with in the movie, Hitman, a year ago). Judi Dench was superb as always as M (she really nails it with her performances in this role), and I can't get enough of my man Jeffrey Wright, reprising his role as CIA agent Felix Leiter. The movie's improved just by the presence of these two thesps alone! But I'd like to single out actor Giancarlo Giannini especially for his truly exceptional performance as the returning character, Mathis, who we were first introduced to in Casino. This guy was simply awesome!

I was telling Tarrell over at The Dragunz Den that, if you ignored Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace would be the best Bond film behind From Russia With Love and Goldeneye (both of which I hold as tied for first place). That spot is reserved now for Casino, of course, so QoS is third on my list. But you get the point. This movie is GOOD -- go see it!

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Some Slowdown

You'll notice sporadic updates for the next few days, as I'm in the middle of writing a brand new short story. I just started it yesterday and already I'm just under 4,000 words. If all goes well I should be able to bring it in at around 8,000, which I'll then edit down to 7 or 7.5k. Since I'll be back at work tomorrow, I don't expect I'll be able to write more than 900 words tomorrow night and the rest of the week. But I'll try to find the time after dinner somehow.

I was expecting to post up a review of the latest Bond flick this weekend, but the story took precedence so you might have to wait a little longer for that (don't hold your breath). I'll tell you this much: it was very, VERY good! :)

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a great and productive weekend like I did! Or better yet, a weekend where you just relaxed all day vegging out on the sofa. Either scenario sounds damn fine to me.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chivalry Died On The "A" Train

This morning on my commute in, the "A" train was its usual crowded tin of sardines. Which meant I had to stand the whole way to work -- a 40 minute long ride for me. Anyway I noticed something that made me realize (yet again) that there is something fundamentally missing from the youth of this city. I've noticed this trend before, but never really actually thought about it until this morning.

Chivalry is dead!

Now, of course, New York City is not quite the bastion of politeness and good manners, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the NYC subway system. People will just as soon ignore a pregnant woman as give her a seat. I give my seat to pregnant women, the infirm, and the elderly on general principle. But that's the way I am. And surprisingly, *most* other people are as well. Not all, but most. New Yorkers are assholes, but from my experience not more per capita than any other city in this country.

So, no, what I observed this morning didn't fall under the banner of general politeness which most New Yorkers actually do extend to each other in this great big city of ours. No, this has to do not with how we treat strangers in public, but with those we're romantically inclined towards.

Let me preface this with a rather obvious, though necessary, example first: when Lisa and I are on the subway, and if there is only one seat available, she gets the seat. End of story. It's not even something I think twice about or bemoan or anything. It's simply automatic. And that's the way it should be, right?

Well apparently not. I don't know if this is an age thing or a cultural thing, but I've now seen on numerous occasions where a teenage couple (and I stretch the word "couple" a tad here) are faced with the same scenario, but it's the male half that takes the seat. And not only does the SO of this equation not protest, she actually seems genuinely *okay* with the arrangement.

WTF? Did I stay home the day they issued a public decree thereby disavowing all young males from the act of performing common decency? Since when has this been *okay*?

And, as I've said, this was not the first time. I've seen the exact scenario play out half a dozen times on my way to work now. A teenage girl and boy, obviously on their way to school, making googly eyes at each other, standing way too close, but yet pretending like it's not really all that serious. Then a seat becomes available, the two walk towards it, and without even a moment's hesitation, the boy sits down rather than the girl. The girl then continues talking and laughing with the boy as if a major breach in interpersonal etiquette had not just transpired.

Again: WTF?

I've tried to rationalize how this could be happening within the youth culture of today. And I can only come to 3 possibilities:

1) The parents of these kids never taught them manners.

2) Pop culture of the day has dictated a new code of behavior between boyfriend and girlfriend, whereby boys get treated as if they're "the shit," and girls glibly stand by while feeding into their BF's egos.

3) A natural progression of the age-old quandary that girls like bad boys, and good boys never get laid.

So in this equation: (being a punk + stuckup asshole) * the degree of your indifference = girls forming long lines for the privilege of gulping down your junk.

In order to stay sane, I'll allow for the fact that No. 3 on that list is simply absurd, and lean more towards No. 1 instead.

Unless No. 2 is the actual reality here, in which case our planet is seriously and utterly SCREWED!

Anyone else notice this? Is this just with young people? And, if so, what the hell is wrong here?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hooray HBO! I Knew You Could Do It!

Finally! It took them nearly two years from acquiring the rights to George R. R. Martin's acclaimed fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, but HBO has finally greenlit the production of the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, for their original lineup. announced the details earlier this week, so check out the link if you want the full scoop.

I'm ecstatic! This is the best set of fantasy books since Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Trust me, I don't deliver such praise lightly. The funny thing is, ASoIaF doesn't actually delve so much on tried and true fantasy tropes as most books of this ilk do. There are no elves, barely any magic at all, and dragons (for the most part) are only mentioned in songs. There are giants and ghouls and all sorts of weird, crazy things in this world though. But they're kept behind a massive protection wall, sort of like what China tried to do with the invading Mongolian hordes (and look how well that worked out for 'em!)

The series, instead, deals primarily with internecine and devious strategies between several vying factions and kingdoms, all jockeying for control of the high throne. Hence, the title of the first book, A Game of Thrones. For me, this is the series' best selling point--it's sorta like The Godfather/Sopranos meets King Arthur! In fact, not unlike HBO's previous series, Rome, now that I think of it. Clearly the network has a keen love of the twisted power-play theme for their shows, and in this case Martin's books will fit right in.

Now that the show's been greenlit, fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief. A script for the pilot has been written, and so hopefully this means we can see an air date of sometime in 2010, although early 2011 would be my best guess. I can wait. Maybe in that time the author can *finally* deliver his latest book in the series, A Dance With Dragons, which fans have been waiting on now for going on 5 years!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There's A Black Panther TV Show?

As my grandma would say: Slap me silly and call me Shirley!

I don't know how this news slipped by me, but apparently at this summer's San Diego Comicon, Marvel announced plans to bring its Black Panther property to the BET network as the channel's first prime time adult animated series. The tv show will hit the air sometime in Feb. 2009.

And just this week reported that actor Djimon Hounsou will be voicing the famed Wakandan king turned superhero, which I think is just all sorts of awesome! I mean, DAMN, this is just the guy to get for the role!

Wow, this is so exciting! I've been waiting a long time for Marvel to finally get around to this, although personally I was hoping more along the lines of a movie deal. And starring Wesley Snipes, of course. Since Wesley is currently playing the stupid rich black man role in tax-evasion prison, I guess that will have to wait.

But in the meantime, this is the next best thing. I'm hoping for something along the lines of HBO's animated Spawn series over a decade ago, or even Spike TV's Afro Samurai mini from last year. So far, though, the details are looking good.

Apparently the show will spring directly from the most recent incarnation of the BP comic series as penned by Reginald Hudlin and drawn by John Romita, Jr. Hudlin also happens to be BET's "Entertainment President" at the moment, and the man responsible for bringing the show to the network. Right now it seems the show's run will directly follow the first six issues of the recent comic line, before going off to tell its own story. The art style is being strongly reflective of Romita's artwork, recreating the artist's look for the television screen.

From what I've seen of the teaser trailer (voiced before Hounsou came on board), it appears they've captured the look and feel of the comics perfectly. In fact, it's uncanny! Take a look for yourself:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Bloody Game . . .

Was busy with writerly duties over the weekend, so I didn't get to crack this game open until tonight. Phew! -- what a gruesome beast this Gears of War 2 is shaping up to be. I've only played through the first two chapters, but already I'm loving all the bloody disgusting mayhem I'm raining down on these bastard Locust hordes! And even though I played the first game 2 years ago, I wasn't rusty one bit! The game takes place roughly 6 months after the first, but really in terms of design, engine, and control mechanics it is the exact same experience. Of course the story is different, and the battles so far are more intense (if strangely easier). But, yeah, I'm in love!

For those not familiar with the series, Gears of War takes place on the fictional world of Sera, where humanity has occupied for a thousand years in what they thought was solitude. Lo and behold there was a literal underground civilization deep beneath their feet just waiting for the day to launch a surprise attack on the surface and take back control of the planet. When the veritable shit eventually did hit the fan--called "E-day," the day the Locust forces emerged from out of the ground--humanity was caught severely off guard. Now, 15 years later, most of the human cities of Sera lie in ruin. Locust hordes are getting stronger and more aggressive. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation of mankind is the human Cog Army. Soldiers are called "gears" in this army, and of course your main character, Marcus Fenix, is in charge of a small specialized recon group called Delta Squad.

The rest is pure runnin and gunnin at its best!

Anyone else out there love this series? Are you playing it right this very minute? I'm tempted to call in sick tomorrow and just spend an entire day kicking pale Locust ass all over the map! But of course I won't. I'll probably play this off and on until Thanksgiving break, when I can devote a lot more time and probably finish the game. In the meantime, I'm knee deep doing a finishing polish on several older stories, revising a couple of recent ones, and planning the plot details for a brand new story or two to be written between now and early December. On top of that, I have to work the regular 9 to 5, too.

Yeah, I have a full plate. But that's cool. I like being busy! :-)

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Little Tweak Here And There . . .

Made a few minor adjustments to the site that might not be immediately noticeable. I've moved the comments page so that it appears at the very bottom of a particular blog entry whenever you click on the "Comments" link to leave feedback. Previously it would appear on a side-panel alongside the entry. I like it better this way because it appears flush with the actual template of the site, and is easier on the eyes.

Also, at the end of each entry (just above the "Comments" link) you'll now notice a neat little feature whereby readers can leave their quick feedback, or "Reactions," to the piece. If you don't have anything you feel like writing in the "Comments" page, but want to leave your mark nonetheless, just check off which of the 3 boxes applies to your feeling of the entry in question. :)

But please leave comments, too. I do so love reading your thoughts!

Oh, and if you haven't done so already but are a registered Blogger, please click on the "Follow This Blog" link on the right-hand side of the page. Pretty please? I enjoy collecting followers!

More Cool Audiobook News!

Whoa! I was just mentioning in this post last month about how I needed to check out more audiobooks after listening to the superbly produced and written anthology, METAtropolis, released by Well now it seems that my favorite SF author in the world is jumping into the audio format foray.

Alan Dean Foster has updated over at his official website that audio versions of his acclaimed ongoing sci-fi series, Flinx of the Commonwealth, have been contracted for release through Audible! Yay! What better time for me to hop onto the audiobook bandwagon than with the very series that began my whole love affair with the genre?

To clarify, Foster currently has one of his books in the series, Flinx's Folly, available through Audible, as well as the Star Wars media tie-in novel, The Approaching Storm. Stephan Rudnicki, who narrated Folly (and, coincidentally, one of the stories in METAtropolis) has been tapped to handle the voicing duties for all the remaining Flinx novels, previous and future. I like Rudnicki; he possesses amazing narrative talents, including an uncanny knack with accents. Can't wait to hear how he lends his voice to Flinx's perilous adventures with his pet minidragon, Pip. Should be nothing short of awesome.

Foster has made no mention of a timeline for these audiobooks on his site, but here's hoping for a 2009 release.

This is sure to make many fans of Foster's work--and the Flinx books specifically--very, very happy little pandas!

A True "World Leader"

This video clip taken from CNN is just amazing. It shows how Barack Obama's win was a big deal not just for Americans, but for all stripes of people in nations around the world.

Seriously, does that not give you goosebumps? Who can say they've ever seen this much positive reaction to an American election in the world before? The folks are celebrating as if he was *their* President.

And that's the beauty of our country . . . we truly do represent the world. And it's not because we're better (we're not) or superior in any way other than arms (we're still not), but because America shows the promise of someone born and influenced from other cultures making it to the very top of the political system here. If that's not the true meaning of the word "hope," I don't know what is.

I've never felt so connected with the rest of the world than I do now. This is something just another old white guy in the White House couldn't have made happen. Even before he's officially taken on the mantle of President and expounded any kind of policy at all, Barack Obama is already a symbol of hope and something different than what the old regime has offered. To a lot of folks around the world, that is enough. To the rest of us, we wish and pray that he can live up to all the hype.

No, I don't think he's the second coming. Nor do I think our country will immediately heal from all which ails it. But I, along with the rest of the world, can see this moment as the *possibility* for something really good to happen. And we need that glimmer of the possible more than anything right now.

My Favorite Time Of The Year

I'm a cold weather person. The colder the better. If Alaska wasn't such a jacked-off, redneck hunter's paradise, I would seriously consider moving there. I mean, it has so much of what I love -- mountains, nature, solitude, and COLD! And being that I'm more at ease during the nighttime than I am in daylight, I could deal with the whole eternal darkness thing for a few weeks out of the year, too!

And yet, despite all this, winter is not my favorite season. That would be autumn. I've loved this season ever since I was a kid, and not just for the cool colors, but because of all the promise the Fall brings with it. This is my favorite time of the year because the weather starts to turn cooler, drearier, and also cleaner. When the wind shifts from out of the southwest to now from the northwest, the air has that crisp, clean freshness to it that you don't get the rest of the year here in the northeast. It smells of mountains and freedom to me. As a kid, there was also the added bonus of the big holidays -- Thanksgiving and Christmas. This meant time away from school and being with family and getting lots of gifts! :)

Yeah, you can see where my real priorities were.

So each year around this time I start to get excited, although family get-togethers are far smaller and fewer between than before. And of course, I don't get quite the same Christmas haul as I used to as a kid. Still, when the leaves turn that's when my mood changes. I get happier for no specific reason, and suddenly the world's problems don't nearly seem as pressing.

The only downside, however, is living in NYC around this time since the city takes far longer to fall into the traditional Fall patterns than the rest of the outlying areas. I never noticed this oddity until I went to college in Vermont, where the leaves there start to change in late September/early October.

In NYC, they start to turn around Halloween. Even today, one week later, the leaves are only barely midway through the cycle of change and discard. See for yourself:

(I took these pics from our bedroom windows this morning.)

Ultimately, the best thing about Fall is that Winter is not far behind it. I love anticipating the first snows and welcome the truly bleak and blistering weather to come in mid-January and February. When others are cursing the season, I'm grinning and feeling more alive than I've ever felt. This is why I miss Vermont so much. NYC just doesn't cut it when it comes to having *true* winters. All the concrete and crowds just retain too much heat to make it really bone-chilling cold the way I prefer. And of course the air is far cleaner up north in Vermont, too.

Maybe someday I'll move back? Not likely since Lisa, being a true Caribbean girl from Kingston, cannot stand the cold. She would prefer we move to Florida or San Diego -- or even Hawaii.

Blech! I don't know what I'd do without my changing seasons.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Box Set Dilemma -- And More Fraggles!

Those of you reading this thing semi-regularly may be aware of my recent run-in with Fraggle Rock related issues. If not, click here and here for a refresher. Seems I can 't get away from the little buggers now. And to make matters worse, I just learned of a GARGANTUAN box set release of the entire show on DVD!

That's 20 discs of Fraggle mayhem, folks! I mean, my god, how tempting *is* this? And it's not really that bad of a price for such a huge haul -- only 90 bucks on I want so badly to ask for this for Christmas, but there are so many box sets that, to my chagrin, I've also discovered on Amazon. It must be that time of year I suppose, because already my bank account is screaming at me.

Case in point:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Seriously, how can I resist? The Planet of the Apes complete movie collection is especially sweet because it is on Blu-ray. But then, Batman: The Animated Series is the greatest cartoon show of all time.

Surely the solution is simple, no? I must BUY THEM ALL!!!!

Haha, no. I wish I could, but I can't. If I really, really could only choose one . . . I'd have to go with my buddy, the Dark Knight.

Yeah, that's what I'll do.

And yet . . .

R.I.P. Michael Crichton

HOLY CRAP! just announced that Michael Crichton, famed thriller novelist and TV show producer, passed away yesterday at the age of 66 following an undisclosed bout with cancer. Crichton is best known for writing such best-sellers as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, as well as co-creating the hit medical drama "ER."

I was first introduced to Crichton's work in high school when I read Sphere in a single day, that's how engrossed I was with his fabulous writing. I remember being impressed that he had been a medical doctor who switched to writing full time. Back when I entertained ideas of becoming both a doctor and a writer, you can see why he was such an inspiration to me.

Such sad news. A great talent has been silenced forever.

One Helluva Night!

Last evening was one of the most surreal nights ever! I was having misgivings over the weekend and during the day Monday. But when I woke up yesterday and voted it started . . . this indescribable feeling of giddy hope that washed over me. It stayed with me the entire day, making it hard for me to concentrate at work. I swear I was only going through the motions. Then I came home and breezed through my 4-mile run without even remembering doing it. I literally blinked and my 16 laps were done! I was just so enraptured by the news broadcast the entire time.

I barely remember cooking dinner and watching some Tivo'd programming with Lisa, all the while switching back and forth between the live coverage on normal tv. It was an anxious night, and I didn't have much of an appetite. I was more excited than nervous, though. I pretty much knew once I came home which way the polls would go. Normally I wouldn't dare jinx something this important . . . but as soon as I saw Lisa I told her: don't worry, he's got this. I just *know* it.

And he did. Oh damn did he!

A strange thing happened to me when they announced Barack Hussein Obama as our next president. When the networks started running the footage of crowds in Times Square cheering and hugging each other and crying . . . I felt the tears well up in me too! I couldn't believe it, but it's true! I was actually overcome with emotion. Chills went down my spine; my vision went blurry. I simply could not believe the highest of my hopes had been realized.

I stayed up late into the wee hours listening to the speeches by both McCain and Obama. I've never been so proud to be an American as I was on that night. The streets around my neighborhood were alive with celebration. People were running up and down the street screaming "OBAMA!!!!" at the top of their lungs. Cars, taxis, and even city buses were honking their horns in unison. I've *NEVER* in all my years seen this kind of a reaction to a presidential election.

Even today it still seems so unreal. My doorman was grinning from ear to ear when Lisa and I left for work this morning. "Thank you for your 2 votes . . . thank you!" he said, over and over. He's from the islands, and is not a U.S. citizen. But even he looked close to tears. I just had to smile, because it really wasn't like we did much. Only followed common sense. But it made me feel good to see so many people this morning in such great cheer and actually smiling. SMILING, do you hear me? This is New York. No one smiles in the morning here, if ever. But everyone was happy beyond belief.

What a great moment in time. I don't think Obama is anything more than a common man, mind you. He won't deliver us from evil or heal the sick. Let's be real here. But at the same time, I do think he's brought a paradigm shift with him. And, from the tone of his speech, might actually bring about some measure of unity across this great country.

I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off of my soul. A weight I've been carrying around for exactly 8 years.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Because I Promised: There Will Be Kittens!

Well, I did say I'd post about kittens to make up for that last, slightly caustic, rant. So here you go: KITTENS!

Everyone loves kittens, right?

Actually, now this makes me remember my own cat, Tiger. The only pictures I have of him are from when he was already an adult cat. But he was one cute tabby kitty! Maybe I'll save an entry on him for the next time I go off. :)

The Young Vote

I'm getting sick and tired of hearing about the "young vote." Never have I heard such a crock of shit than the belief that young people will decide this election. Who's been lacing the Kool Aid?

Truth of the matter is, young voters are STUPID and LAZY. Every election the media makes a big deal about voter registration drives on campuses across America, rife with footage of earnest young people proclaiming how the right to vote is sacred and how they take their responsibility SO seriously.

You know what, young people? Go STFU!

Because after every election comes the reports of historically low voter turnout among young voters. Just look at the last election. Remember "Rock The Vote" and "Vote or Die"? Remember MTV rallying all the Puff Daddies and Eminems out there to charge up the young vote and get them to the polls? Yeah, remember how well that went?

So, it's cute for the media to pretend that the 18-24 vote actually matters. But let's be honest, we relied on it the last time and it got us nowhere. I'm not implying that young people would vote more liberal if they *did* exercise their right. But the fact of the matter is that that last two elections were really close. And the young voters did not show up. If they had, do you not think things might have turned out differently? I think so.

When I went to the polling station this morning, the line was out the door. But you know what? I can honestly say I saw maybe 5 people younger than me. Only 1 was under 24. Trust me, I kept an eye out for this. I'm sure most of this was due to the fact that it was 7am in the morning. I did say they were LAZY, didn't I? I really shouldn't have expected a college student to be up at such a godforsaken hour of the day. What was I thinking?

Anyway, the youth vote is a joke. Obama's people are wasting their time e-mailing and texting these poor excuses for human beings. Young voters believe that they don't need to vote because the right decision will be made regardless. And that, whatever the outcome, it doesn't affect them anyway. Because their own personal problems are so much more important. Yeah, okay.

Yes, I know I'm only 32. But sometimes I look at these young people and feel such a gulf between our priorities, despite only being 8 or 10 years apart.

Well, here ends my old man rant for the day! :) I'll write about fluffy kittens in my next entry to make up for it.

Well, That Was An Experience!

Got up super early this morning and went two blocks over to get my voting in before heading to work. I figured it would be crowded, so I gave myself an extra 30 mins. Turns out I should have given myself 90!

Jeez, the line was out the door, down the block and around the corner! And once inside, it was pure madness. I've never seen such a large turnout before, and I've been voting since 2000. And people were EXCITED! I couldn't believe how many black and hispanic people were actually looking proud to be on line voting. You could see it in their faces. This is huge because, in past elections, this was not something I was used to seeing. Voter turnout in the Bronx is iffy at best, due to the majority of people feeling apathetic and left out of the political arena at large.

Now of course no one said who they were voting for, but I think it's pretty obvious. :)

The only thing that can damper the experience was the fact that NY is going blue anyway, so whether the Bronx had a bigger than usual turnout or not, the end results are still going to be the same. Huge turnouts here are just overkill. If only the popular vote meant more . . .

Anyway, I came into work (eventually) and it seems the excitement is not just limited to NY. Early indication is that there is larger voter turnout all up and down the Eastern seaboard. Time will tell whether or not this fervor will spread West, but I think it will.

It's a funny feeling, but I think Obama has a VERY good chance now. I wasn't feeling it over the weekend, but I've never seen a voting climate so charged like this. Since McCain is really nothing new, I can only assume this is due to Obama. Unlike Bush/Kerry 4 years ago, people actually care this time and are fired up. Especially the Democrat base, which was pretty lamely backing Kerry last time. I mean, we voted for him, but no one was really all that happy about it. And yet we almost beat Bush regardless.

Obama has far more going for him than Kerry, and McCain has far more going *against* him than Bush did. So we'll see . . .

I hope the rest of you go out and vote today. No matter who you choose, your ancestors fought long and hard and sacrificed so much so that you would have this freedom. Don't toss it aside lightly.

Monday, November 3, 2008

This Book Saved My High School Career

Math was never my top subject. If I could have had my way, six year old David's school life would have involved nothing but reading books all day, and perhaps completing the occasional word problem or two. I was good enough to constantly get stellar grades in math, but it was always a chore for me. And I was a lazy kid. I hated any subject that required actual studying on my part.

Anyway, in 8th grade I had the world's worst algebra teacher. He took a disliking to me for whatever reason and seemed (in my opinion) to pick on me above all others. He actually told me to my face one day that I was a poor student and would never figure out math. How f'd up is that? As you can imagine, I didn't do so well in his class. Eventually I got my act together by the end of the year to pass, but it was a hard battle.

After that year, I actually believed I was really bad at math, and so I didn't apply myself the way I should have when I went on to high school. Things got really bad to the point I was on the verge of flunking geometry and possibly having to repeat a grade because of it. I was stressed out beyond belief. I had one last major test to prove myself and make up for the poor year I had had up to that point. The test was a super tests of sorts, a New York State oddity called a "regents" exam. I actually felt the cold dread of failure grip my heart as the day approached.

I studied my ass off like no sorry math cripple had ever studied before. Notes, text books, Regents-prep courses -- I did them all! And while I did actually pass the exam with a good grade, I of course thank none of these things for my success. :-)

No, you see, it is the book above that did it for me. I firmly believe this. Neverness is a hard book to get through, but it had a major impact on me nonetheless. The story takes place in the far future on an ice world colonized by humans thousands of years prior. The protagonist is a deep space pilot trainee studying to get his license. In this future, piloting spacecraft requires, among other traits, an affinity for complex mathematical algorithms and a near photographic memory to boot. The plot happened to be a really good one, too, which I suppose is why the book resonated with me. In any event, I used it as my inspiration when going to take my test. I pretended I was the protagonist, and that this regents exam was really my pilots exam. Except if I failed, I would die.

You think that's extreme, huh? Just remember, I was a 15 year old male in high school. Teenage boys dwell on that sort of high melodrama. :)

Anyway, the book actually opened up a love of mathematics for me. While I would never be deemed brilliant at the subject, I wasn't too shabby, either, for the rest of my years in high school. I was particularly good at trig, which surprised me. Everything about it just clicked for me. I ended up getting a 108% score on my final -- 100% for getting every single problem correct, and an additional 8 points for answering both extra credit questions correctly too! I was on fire that year!

I then went on to college and completed Calculus I and II when I thought I would be preparing for Med school. Yeah, the whole doctor thing fell through obviously, but at least I can say I faced my childhood fears concerning math and overcame them (and then some!) I'm proud of that much.

But it just goes to show the power of a young mind sufficiently motivated. One of my dreams is to someday have enough money or clout to produce an interactive sci-fi video game that uses mathematics in a fun way to, I dunno, power fighter ships through space or build suped-up, badass mech fighters or something. Basically, something that would appeal to a teenage boy or girl and show them that math can be fun if you spin it a certain way.

I'm serious. I would really *love* to make this happen someday.

Writerly Quiz

I took this quiz to determine "What Type of Writer I Should Be." Big surprise I got the result I did, huh? :)

You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer

Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.

And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.

Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...

Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!

What type of writer are YOU?

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...