2015 January Notes

In books, film, music, photography, tv on February 3, 2015 at 11:20 pm

The Shape of Jazz to Come – Ornette Coleman: I love this – still some familiar forms/ideas/content – occasional lyricism – plenty of variety – and most importantly just enough freedom from standard forms to allow – for my ear – this to become something wonderfully true and expressive (or maybe personal?) . Rating: 4 of 5

Bitches Brew – Miles Davis: Obviously working thru some well regarded jazz albums – but while I immediately connected to The Shape of Jazz to Come (and to some extent Coleman’s Science Fiction also) I just have not been able to hear/feel why this is so well regarded… Rating: 2 of 5

Science Fiction – Ornette Coleman: More diverse, but harder to listen thru than The Shape of Jazz to Come – and with less familiar to hang on to. Maybe some of this will grow on me? Rating: 3 of 5.

Gotham 7.5K, A Rare High Altitude Night Flight Above NYC – Vincent Laforet: Visually stunning pictures of New York at night. Rating: 4 of 5

High Hopes (1988) – In the beginning of 2014 we tried another Mike Leigh film – Life is Sweet – like that film I suspect that having no frame of reference for the characters and setting really killed the joy of this. Rating: 2 of 5

Short Term 12 (2013) – Simple – good story, believable characters and good actors. Rating 4 of 5

Rushmore (1998) – In Casa Video and lost among all the videos we needed a theme – Wes Anderson… This seemed great for fans – but really feels like a warm up for some of the later films (Moonrise Kingdom and Life Aquatic are certainly still my favorites). Rating: 3 of 5

The Squid and the Whale (2005) – Definitely some strange surprising moments but slightly strange characters couldn’t make up for being basically a not so interesting divorce story. Rating: 2 of 5

Boyhood (2014) – I have deep respect for this having being filmed over so many years – great that it could be done that way and the film hangs together. However, I have to say that I would take slightly jarring actor switch outs in exchange for something that – once I was over the slick time jumps – seemed like a standard coming of age tale.

Gone Girl (2014) – Well I admit there were a number of plot twists that I didn’t see coming – and showing the two stories was clever – but ultimately too long for too little payoff… Rating: 2 of 5

The Wind Rises (2013) – I have deep respect for Hayao Miyazaki – a human tale in the face of war – I don’t love all of his films I have seen equally but have to say I have had some kind of emotional connection to each one I have seen. I also think the subject matter is a bit of a puzzle – I am not really sure how to feel about the beautiful creations in service of war. Rating: 4 of 5

3rd Rock From the Sun – Season 2 – I see this in reruns sometimes but seeing a bunch of these back to back reminded me these are pure genius! Rating: 5 of 5

Quarantine – Greg Egan – So techy, so cool… But by part of the way thru all I could think of was Neal Stephenson’s Anathem – Quarantine was a little more fun but by the end I was kind of done. Rating 3 of 5

Diaspora – Greg Egan – This is one of the best science fiction novels I have read. I certainly admit that I skimmed some in some of the super deep tech theory explanation sections – but even with that this is great hard sci-fi on a grand scale, still with some personality and a lot of imagination and interest – this feels like a classic. Rating: 5 of 5

2014 – Second Half

In books, film, instructional, music, photography, tv on January 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

My time in second half of the year was consumed by hiking/running and my site – but as the end of the year came closer I eventually deeply missed making notes on what I was consuming – a long post to catch up…

Vikings Season 2 – Actually picked this up not realizing it was season 2 – and the ‘right into it’ start of the show didn’t tip me off that it was season 2 (I actually mentally applauded that the show just got right to it and dispensed with needless exposition – I was actually a little horrified when ADT told me that there was an entire season before this…). In the end I didn’t like this at all – much like Sons of Anarchy I found myself not liking any of the characters or what they are doing, maybe this is a reflection of the ‘historic’ basis for the series, but… Rating 2 of 5.

Interstellar (2014) – While I might frequently disagree with the Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for a movie I can often guess how my rating will compare to Rotten Tomatoes – in the case of Interstellar the critic rating stands at 73% today and I am mystified, I thought this was an absolutely fantastic movie and I am completely floored by the poor critical reception. Rating 5 of 5.

Helix Season 1 – Sci-fi and monsters, nice to find a sci-fi series but didn’t find this tremendously special. Rating: 3 of 5.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – It’s probably pretty fair to say that these movies finally realize a childhood dream of seeing super-hero stories well told as movies. These movies seem to bring together the tech and style needed with an effortlessness that I think is lacking with many previous super-hero films – it is actually pretty amazing that these movies are so smooth and slick now! Seeing these easily executed reminded me that you really never escape the need for great plot with great acting – I think these both fell short. Rating: 2 of 5.

Wings of Desire (1987) – clearly interesting with some great visual details, didn’t stay interested at all. Rating 3 of 5.

Kontroll (2003) – If this had been an American film in a familiar-to-me setting I have no idea what I would have thought about it (and surely there were many subtleties lost in translation) – but add a strangely interesting plot to the foreignness of this film and setting and I was definitely enthralled! Rating: 4 of 5.

Divergent (2014) – Can’t argue with the smart timing of this movie with it’s similarity to the Hunger Games – but I don’t think I am the target audience for this… Rating: 2 of 5.

The Maze Runner (2014) – A bit different which I liked and appreciated – but I think I would have been happier with a little more uniqueness/world building/maze/strangeness and a little less Lord of the Flies. Rating: 2 of 5.

Rebecca Litchfield – Fine Art Photographer – I found her thru Soviet Ghosts, a glance thru the collections on the site and you might be tempted because of the similarities to stop looking, but there are gems in every collection! Rating: 4 of 5.

Meditations on Moloch – Truly I am in over my head here in trying to really understand the context/references/material – and much of Slate Star Codex is like that, but isn’t the real trick to find things that stretch and interest you without being so far over your head/out of your interests that they loose you? Rating: 4 of 5.

Faith is Torment – I don’t remember what post first brought me to this blog – it was good enough to add to my feed reader, at first I just found it ‘ok’, over the past few months I have come to value having a quick place to look at art/design that I have never seen – sometimes it is great and sometimes it doesn’t touch me at all, but now I just appreciate new delivered right to me. Rating: 4 of 5.

Giant Steps, John Coltrane – I am slightly more drawn to Jazz these days and having been enjoying this album tremendously, this is a well known classic – not some hidden gem – but really I am – personally – just finding it. Rating: 4 of 5.

Time Out, Dave Brubeck – This is an album I have known for years and years, but for whatever reason felt the need to listen to it again in the past few months -really amazing and unique. Rating: 5 of 5.

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book for Digital Photographers (Voices That Matter), Scott Kelby – My relationship to photography is interesting, it isn’t something that consumes my soul – but I have a sort of vision for what I want to do, especially in regards to, and photography is a big part of that. This book had quite a few practical details and helped me kick off another round of learning that I think has already improved what I was able to do with the camera. Rating: 3 of 5.

Use of Weapons (A Culture Novel Book 3)Iain M. Banks – I want to say that the Culture novels are not a huge draw for me, which I guess is ‘true’, but somehow I always seem to read another. I wasn’t drawn to the violence in this novel and almost put it down a number of times – but their were plot and scifi elements that really drew me in. I think I recognize this as typical of my reaction to the Ian Banks novels – some part of what he writes about I don’t connect with at all, and part is pure genius. Rating: 3 of 5.

The Peripheral, William Gibson: I have read Gibson for over 20 years now – I imagine I am tied to him partly because of timing and culture, I am not sure someone born in the 1990s would have the same take on his work? This novel was a miss for me – the central idea of time travel has some interesting twists and perhaps some mystery opening the door to another novel, but I was not thrilled/awed/fascinated/mystified/delighted – still a good scifi read, no doubt about that, just not the connection I have had to other works. Rating: 3 of 5.

Permutation City, Greg Egan: WOW – amazing to find a science fiction writer with such amazing ideas. I know there is a practical infinity of books that I don’t know, but still quite surprised and happy to have found Greg Egan. Rating: 4 of 5.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: StoriesKaren Russell – Impossible not to enjoy the originality of these stories, but there was something here that didn’t draw me in, but I can’t quite say why. Rating: 3 of 5.

TranscendentalJames Gunn:  A pretty interesting scifi story – journey, paranoia and great twists. Rating: 3 of 5.

On the Steel Breeze (Poseidon’s Children Book 2)Alastair Reynolds – The sequel to Blue Earth Remembered. What I loved about this was that the scale was grand and there was deep imagination, but there were some plot details/moments/characters that I didn’t love as much. I am not sure where it would go but I hope there is another book in this series. Rating: 3 of 5.

Michael Frye Photography and Jack Dykinga – I have known Jack Dykinga’s work for sometime, but oddly last month was the first time I looked him up on the web (?no idea… a mystery as to why) – grouped these together because they are both notable landscape and nature photographers, and also because I find it fascinating to be in the part of the learning curve where I don’t even know who to take note of! Rating: 4 of 5.

Exposure for the Outdoor Photographer, Michael Frye: I got a lot from this book – I have a feeling that there is really nothing that I haven’t read before – but presented specifically towards what I want to do, and with lovely format, this was very much worth the price. Rating: 4 of 5.

Craft and Vision – I found this site when purchasing Michael Frye’s Exposure for Outdoor Photography. Something I have noticed on the internet is that there seems to be an inexhaustible number of beautiful and interesting photographic resources – but ‘useful’ and accessible to me is really a different thing altogether and harder to find. With a certain beauty to the site, mission as an education company, concentration on PDFs and affordable pricing this is really a find! Rating: 5 of 5.

The Strain (Season 1) – With Guillermo del Toro involved it seemed like an interesting bet and the series started off pretty strong, but for me slowed faltered a bit towards the end (while the series is clearly original it may have slowed down a bit once they basically established this was a vampire (or maybe vampire/zombie combination) show). Rating: 3 of 5.

Fargo TV Series (Season 1) – Decent, certainly didn’t want to stop before the end of the season – some strange/fun/original sections, maybe I lacked enthusiasm for this because it was close enough in tone to my memory of the movie that it didn’t quite have an original hook? Rating: 3 of 5.

American Horror Story – Coven (Season 3) – Another good season of this show. While the plot had some great details what I really love is seeing many of the same people pulling off a different show/theme/plot each season – why is this so unique in TV? Rating: 4 of 5

True Detective (Season 1) – This was fantastic – truly fantastic – the atmosphere, mood, sets, plot, characters and acting are all outstanding. This may be really one of the best things I have seen this year – pretty surprised that it is a detective show that I am saying that about… Rating: 5 of 5.

True Blood (Season 7) – The final season, I was pretty disappointed that they didn’t go over the top for this season with more of the blood and sex this series is known for – although either way I think this show had really run out of steam so better just to wrap it up. Rating: 3 of 5.

Time Out (2001) – This movie was ‘good’ enough that it was actually painful to watch – I even started to wonder what I might do like this… Rating: 4 of 5.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) – I did not enjoy the ‘live action’ style/look (I am impressed that they could sustain the look and mix in generated elements) and didn’t find this compelling at all. It would be fair to mention that I didn’t see the first 2 in the series, so it could be that I wasn’t really primed for this one – but I really don’t think that was the problem. Also, having recently seen interstellar it was so much more interesting to watch a story where violence wasn’t a core element in the story. Rating: 1 of 5.

July 2014 Notes

In blog, film, magazine, tv on August 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

Sidetracked – Sidetracked continues to deliver great content and beautiful images on the web – I did think that some of the previous content had just a bit more ‘wow’ factor, but on the other hand each article currently on the site became more interesting as I got deeper into it. The 2nd Volume of the print magazine is available for pre-order at the moment. Rating: 4 of 5

Timecrimes (2007): Not terrible but doesn’t really amaze since some of the time travel concepts feel like well used ‘tricks’ at this point (you will likely start guessing some of the plot details a few minutes into the movie…). Rating: 3 of 5

Stalker (1979) – Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is definitively a film that has stayed with me since I saw it in 2011 so I am not sure why it took so long to watch Stalker… But while Stalker is well regarded I had a much harder time staying interested than I did with Solaris. The imagery is stunning and the premise is compelling and interesting – but this film seems much more stripped down than Solaris, and perhaps for better or worse the additional ‘spectacle’ that Solaris has is an important element in keeping my interest in the rather heavy material. Rating 3 of 5 (clearly this is a masterpiece and the visuals are stunning – but I had such trouble staying engaged…)

Finding Vivian Maier (2013) – I think one of the amazing things about this film is that the hype around it takes nothing away from the power of the photography – there is an interesting story about a person here which in some films would be the central element, but here what ultimately lifts the scattered details of her life and the history of her work into something worth watching is the art. I did find the Wikipedia entry on Vivian Maier worth reading after watching the film – it has a few details that I found interesting, and not what I expected after watching this film. Rating: 4 of 5

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Not as bad as some, about what you would expect? Rating: 3 of 5.

Borgman (2014) – WOW! Didn’t really have many expectations going into this film and it completely entertained and amazed. I loved the strangeness, and I loved that it felt like the story was the primary concern over logic or detail – quite a trick to get the balance right between magic and reality, here it is done very well – definitely reminded in some ways of the works Haruki Murakami that I love. Rating: 5 of 5

High Country News – For a number of years I have seen and occasionally paid attention to articles from High Country News (‘for people who care about the west’) and just recently subscribed. You can read their mission page and browsing may give you an idea of typical content – but the important detail is that they are able to produce consistently interesting content, and that is magic! Rating: 4 of 5

See Dee Tee Bike – This is the first post in an ongoing series by Scott Morris on riding the CDT – while every individual post may not be magic the whole series and overwhelming number of great details and pictures make this an ongoing delight! Rating: 3 of 5

Orange is the New Black – Season 1 – Watched Season 1 of this ‘prison drama comedy’ on DVD – this series started well enough but by the last 4 episodes or so it really lost me, I understood how the details were adding up to get to the season finale – but I think it could have been done with about 30% fewer episodes. Not sure I am interested in the next season. Rating: 2 of 5

True Blood – Season 6 – It is probably good the next season is planned as the last – hard to figure out why I keep coming back to this, but there is no doubt I will watch the next season! Rating: 3 of 5

Déjame Vivir – Summit of my Life – The 2nd film in this series that follows Killian Jornet on speed ascents on a number of summits – while there are several destinations in the film the Matterhorn is the star here with some breath taking shots of the mountain and the ascent. Rating: 3 of 5

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) – An interesting documentary about an early attempt to make Dune into a film – this is a great documentary, but the Dune part – while interesting – almost seems like an excuse to have a conversation/tell a story with Alejandro Jodorowsky who by part of the way thru this documentary comes across as strange/interesting/charismatic enough that frankly doing any documentary where he could tell stories about his films would probably be great! Rating: 3 of 5

I am spending quite a bit of time lately working on Hike Lemmon which combined with ‘life’ has kept me very busy – reading anything long has continued to be one of the things that has fallen away and it seems odd to go so many months without reading a ‘book’, but I happy happy frantically creating right now so that is enough.



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