Friday, December 25, 2015

[Book] The Mountain of Fame

I am amused at the plus one this received, despite my initial place holder publishing the article.  Still, it humbles me to realize some of you had read this despite the total lack of content.  I guess my previous reviews were of some note.

Short: This book  is an amazing short but comprehensive history of China.

Medium: The book works primarily through biographies of individuals who live at key points in China's history, starting in the almost mythological past, and going up to the Tienamin Massacre.  It is fairly tone neutral but at the same time does not hesitate to make judgement when obvious that it adds weight and substance to the history presented.

Verbose: This is an excellent book.  It is said in 1984 and now elsewhere that those who wish to control the future control the past.  If knowledge is power, then controlling the past can be better accomplished through understanding it, and if there is any country on earth affected by its Past, that would be China.  I gained vast insights into their current behavior, including the important of identity in terms of nationality (Taiwan) as well as their obsession over the seemingly harmless Fu Lon Gong.  The current government may have its flaws, but they have clearly learned (some) lessons of the past and are determined not to have them happen again.

Still, the more interesting sections of the book are comparing the vibrant eras of their past, with the eras that led to decline. Some things apply to any culture, especially our own; though some most definitely do not.  What fascinates me is what I see of the echoes of the Beuaracacy and how it still haunts in some elements of the Communist Party today, though I make as few assumptions as I can in that vein.

I knew a lot about China before I read this book because I read a lot of news.  What I learned in this book after the fact forced me to go back and look at a lot of recent events in a whole new light.  I would highly recommend reading it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

[Audiobook] Taming Shadows by Fiona Skye

I loved it.

Edited version.  I got this for free and promised a review of it.  I have already reviewed the book.  And I had high praise for it.  Listening to it the second time around got me a lot more insight into Riley and a lot of the careful insight Fiona has put into the setting and the characters.  The narrator has a good capture for the sound of the character and a good vocal range, and is quite pleasing at a neutral tone.  She's an easy read, but she did the entire narration in a boston accent and I didn't immediately get it.

The bostonian accent threw me for a loop but I had forgotten her close family ties to Massachusetts.  Those family ties go back to the Summer Queen.  Those ties are, I believe, deeper than immediately let on, and key to Riley's history.  In short, what seems like a fun and quick urban fantasy read is actually an interlocking series of clockwork deeply involved and a serious contribution to the genre.  Each of the characters feels like a well drawn person, and is worthy of exploration.

PJ Morgan is very talented.  She has done a lot of other books including "How to Be a Man", "1Night Stand" and "The Muse" but judging by their blurbs it explains why she is so good a fit to read for Riley in these books.  She will be an excellent fit for the other two books in the trilogy.

In short, if you have read the book, listen to the audio book.  If you have listened to the audio book, read the book.  Taming Shadows is definitely worth your time.  I will now be listening to the second book in the series,"Silver Shackles."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

[Movie] The Martian

This is a really great movie.  In some ways, it is my favorite of the year except Pixar's "Inside Out."  I love the spirit of exploration and cooperation that it hints at.  Its the kind of feeling that Tomorrowland tried for, but just didn't connect with.  The movie managed to capture many of the meticulously researched details in the book without actually dragging the plot down.  There was a villain in the form of the political head of NASA but they kept him fairly realistic.   The argument of how many are saved is a very real one and by the pure numbers made sense.

The basic plot is about an astronaut that gets stranded on Mars without enough time to survive.   The solutions that he thinks of are quite interesting and very realistic.  It is also a gorgeous movie as well, well filmed and pretty to look at. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

[Movie] Tomorrowland

You're likely doing it wrong.

If you are reading the reviews of this movie that say things like,"

Convoluted and messy plot.

An unspiring muddle of a movie

As a recruiting poster for dreamers it falls short.

A negative for original plots"

If that is what you see, you're doing it wrong.

If you truly understand the words

"Greetings Starfighter.  You have been recruited by the Star League to fight Zurr and the Kodan Armdada"

"Should you need us Sara, you need but call."

"He who shall pull this sword from the stone shall be the rightful king of England."

"Yer' a wizard Harry"

Then this is indeed a recruitment poster.

This a metaphor.

This is poetry of a slightly less convoluted variety than the most experimental films.

This is an experimental film couched in a kids popcorn flick.

This is the Blue Pill.

But more importantly, it is a bright pin left in a place.  Enjoy it as you will I did, but its not for everyone.

If you thought Don Quixote was an amusing old man who tilted at windmills, then you might enjoy this on Net Flix.

If you get that Don Quixote really was the Lord of La Mancha....then it's an excellent litmus test on a metaphoric reality.

There are those who can see the unseen, but will still not get the movie.

There are those who are optimists but who really don't understand the cracks between the world who will not get this movie.

It isn't even for every dreamer.

But if you are a dreamer who dreams in daylight and who sees sunlight not monsters...this movie is for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Movie] Ex Machina

This is a psychological thriller about a Zuckerbergesque fellow who is an amalgam of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and the Google Twins in an isolated cabin in the middle of the great vast north, though the exact nature of the place is unspecified.  I'm going to attempt to avoid spoilers, but the thing is that the trailer makes a few things obvious.  The protagonist is there to evaluate a girl, to determine if she is really artificially intelligent or not. 

The film is thoroughly enjoyable and the acting superb.  Obviously, it is a bit of a head game, and the movie is advertized as such.  But it is worth it and the ending is not what you expect without losing itself in the potential complexities that they could have taken with such a film or so typical of "tent pole" movies these days.  This movie is not Inversion, and that is a good thing.

I highly recommend the movie.  It is worth your time if you enjoy cerebral near future sci fi with little action but great acting.  The visual and sound elements of the film are also quite good.  It's fun to watch, just as a thing unto itself.