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Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

December 2012 Notes

In about, books, film on December 31, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Another great year! 2012 was the first full year of this blog and it has continued to be fun to write for and maintain.

My standout item for 2012 would have to be The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. There are plenty of books that I love more, but the feeling captured by the first section of the book continues to float thru my mind and surface at unexpected moments…

In 2012, like 2011, I did most of my reading on my Android phone. In theory it seems like it should be a pretty poor experience (small screen, not as nice on the eyes as e-ink, dodgy battery life, not exactly beautiful to hold up for hours while reading, +(any number of additional complaints) – and I do own a Kindle, not frequently used any longer…), but in real life the phone is always around, always connected and I guess the details are all ‘good enough’ – glad I was not in-charge of any business decisions revolving around what people would read with, I have a feeling I would have made some very bad guesses…

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012) – Wow, even knowing that this would be bad and that this was mainly just an excuse to make a vacation day afternoon trip to the movies and eat popcorn this was painful. Slightly hesitant to even admit that I went and watched this – go ahead and laugh… Rating: 0 of 5

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control – I really enjoyed Errol Morris’s Tabloid and The Thin Blue Line and looked forward to this since the summary blurb “What do an elderly topiary gardener, a retired lion tamer, a man fascinated by mole rats, and a cutting-edge robotics designer have in common?” seemed really unique/interesting – which it was for 30-45 minutes and then it really didn’t hold my interest. Rating: 2 of 5

Sleepover, Alastair Reynolds – an apocalyptic science fiction short story not connected to any (current anyway) other of Reynold’s worlds. This is a quick/short read and I would say is best read for the very cool idea (the characters/plot are ok I guess but really just an interesting way to present world/universe history) – as usual Reynolds does not disappoint and this is well worth a few hours for a science-fiction fan. Rating: 3 of 5

Ted – Not so good – but I have to admit that there was something absolutely surreal about moments of the film and every now and then it seemed like it could really take a turn into strange art film territory (but it really really didn’t…). Rating: 1 of 5

The Alps – Great imagery of the Alps, Matterhorn and Switzerland – the film is short enough to enjoy just for that but if you do grab this film I have to warn you that a mountaineering film with a Queen soundtrack was a bit strange to me and the the plot/acting is very unlikely to draw you in. Rating: 2 of 5

Talk Ultra, Ian Corless and Ian Sharman

In podcast on December 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

I have run more in the last 18 months than in the entire previous 20 years. It is a little tricky to say why exactly – but since I am mostly running on trails one thing that has really caught my imagination is Ultrarunning. I have never done an ‘ultra’ distance race, and I am not sure I ever will – but the idea of smoothly/quickly covering long distances on trail/in the wilderness is inspirational and alluring.

The Talk Ultra podcast – hosted by noted ultrarunners Ian Corless and Ian Sharman – is a fun deep dive into ultrarunning – news, races, interviews, regular segments with Karl Meltzer, training tips, etc… If – like me – you are not a long time ultrarunner you might be a little lost amid all the race and runner’s names (esp. since the show covers races and runners from around the globe), but even though I occasionally have no idea who/what they are talking about it is still fun to go along for the ride. With show lengths around 3 hours I suppose this is designed for dedicated fans and long training runs – but maybe also fun if you are curious about something completely different…

Rating: 5 of 5 (for dedicated fans, if have a casual interest 3 hours of podcast is going to be a bit hit or miss…)
First Listen Date: April 2012

Talk Ultra

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Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley (New York Review Books Classics)

In books on December 8, 2012 at 7:39 am

Often the science fiction that I like sits more on the ‘hard‘ side of the scale, but this collection by Robert Sheckley reminded me how great stories without shiny-techno-gizmos and interstellar travel can be. There is a huge variety to these stories – but all of them are (deceptively) simple, thoughtful explorations of some aspect of humanity and are imaginatively told with wit, cleverness and (often) humor.

Rating: 4 of 5
First Read Date: July 2012

Amazon – Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley (New York Review Books Classics)

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November 2012 Notes

In about, film, tv on November 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Some short notes for October and November. I am having a bit of fun trying out Critiker right now – I tried to rate a bunch of movies to have some fun – see my profile if you are curious.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) – I didn’t know what to expect but this was wonderfully absurd and much more thoughtful/interesting than I would have ever guessed… Rating: 4 of 5

Withnail & I (1987) – I saw this described as a cult classic and it had good ratings so I thought this would be a win, but it was 98% lost on me (sad to say that the trailer had just about every scene I connected with as sort of funny). Rating: 1 of 5

Infernal Affairs – rented this without knowing that it was eventually remade into The Departed – decent police/crime plot, but it would have been better if I had not seen The Departed first – but there are enough differences that it was still interesting but… Rating: 3 of 5

A Life Ascending – great scenery and interesting people, nothing that amazed me but it was an interesting brief view into Ski Mountaineering/Guiding in British Columbia… Rating: 3 of 5

The Skin I Live In (2011) – Twisted, terrible and unexpected – this was great! Rating: 4 of 5

Looper (2012) – I love science fiction but this one kind of fizzled for me, worth watching if you are a sci-fi fan, otherwise skip it… Rating: 2 of 5

Public Enemies (2009) – 1930s crime flick, don’t bother. Rating 1 of 5

Downton Abbey (2010– ) – Over October and November watched Season 1. Kind of interesting for some of the details – dress, setting, time period – and at the start they introduce quite a few characters which keeps it interesting for awhile – but by the end I had my fill and am not really interested in digging into later seasons. Rating: 3 of 5

Frozen Planet – Some 100% astounding scenery and some great wildlife shots – but after Disc 1 it started to seem repetitive (theme/wildlife/scenery) and I lost interest. Rating: 3 of 5

Skyfall – Classic Bond – no real surprises I think, if you like the previous Daniel Craig Bond movies you are likely to enjoy this (and there were a few absolutely standout gorgeous scenes), otherwise skip it… Rating: 3 of 5

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 7 – stupid AND funny! Rating 4 of 5 (if you can tolerate a show basically about jerks being idiots (or maybe idiots being jerks)…)

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8 – AWESOME! Rating 4 of 5

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The Old Man and the Wasteland, Nick Cole

In books on November 30, 2012 at 9:16 am

The Old Man and the Wasteland by Nick Cole is a short post-apocalyptic story with (as the title suggests) some parallels to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea. There are moments in this novel that are truly wonderful, and anyone who is a fan of a post-apocalyptic diversions should add this to their list – but for me this didn’t quite rise to the level of Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, both of which I would recommend reading first.

Rating: 3 of 5 (maybe better for post-apocalyptic fiction fans)
First Read Date: May 2012

Amazon – The Old Man and the Wasteland

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Blue Earth Remembered, Alastair Reynolds

In books on November 30, 2012 at 8:04 am

Alastair Reynolds (official site and blog) remains one of my favorite authors and it was a pleasure to read another work this year – Blue Earth Remembered. Blue Earth Remembered is set in our solar system a century+ in the future and, it what seems like a departure from what I have been reading lately, is largely a shiny/good future with environmental problems repaired, violence largely eliminated and fantastic technology. Of course there is conflict too – the story revolves around a family mystery that takes the characters adventuring (and creating conflict) across the solar system until the big reveal at the end. There are other books planned in the Poseidon’s Children series, Blue Earth Remembered is a great start!

Rating: 4 of 5
First Read Date: June 2012

Amazon – Blue Earth Remembered

Complete Atopia Chronicles, Matthew Mather

In books on November 23, 2012 at 10:13 am

When I was younger I wondered if I would live to see the day when we lived ‘in space’ or on another planet. I thought it would be awesome/cool/fun and with all that space we just wouldn’t have some of Earth’s problems – it would be better. Sure, naive in an infinite number of ways – but what really took the joy out of that dream was that I started to believe that we will take our problems with us where ever we go…

Matthew Mather‘s Complete Atopia Chronicles tells the tale of a future where new technology is on the verge of changing the world. Most of the books tell different facets of the same story – slowly revealing more and more about the story/world – and giving a more and more complete idea of just what human problems we might take into the glorious techno-future. A great read and worth noting that  Hugh Howey wrote “So great that I wish I’d come with it myself”! (Although I do wish someone had warned me that the ending is the sort of ending that is really begging for a sequel…)

Amazon – Complete Atopia Chronicles

Rating: 4 of 5
First Read Date: October 2012

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I, Zombie, Hugh Howey

In books on November 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I really enjoyed Hugh Howey’s Wool/Silo Series and it was an obvious choice to read more of his work! While the Kindle samples of the Molly Fyde series (1st book) didn’t really excite me I had a different reaction to I, Zombie… I can not really think of a ‘Zombie’ book that I have read, so I don’t know the genre at all – maybe all or part of this book is typical Zombie material, I can’t say. But I can tell you I found it to be terribly gross, thoroughly horrific and a pretty fascinating blend of interesting and disgusting (maybe sort of a ‘this smells, smell it’ kind of thing?). Should you read it? I have no idea – I am almost surprised I made it all the way thru – but I found it quite original and I just couldn’t seem to stop…

Rating: 4 of 5 (but, seriously, very disgusting rotting pus filled stars)
First Read Date: October 2012

Amazon - I, Zombie

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Number9Dream: A Novel, David Mitchell

In books on September 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

For some unknown-to-me reason I recently stumbled on the Wikipedia page for David Michell‘s Number9Dream – and laughed! I laughed because the Wikipedia entry is maybe the exact opposite experience of reading the book. The Wikipedia entry lays out each chapter with a simple-clear-precise-proper summary, on the other hand each chapter in the book is an kind of hallucinatory blend of reality/dream-imagination that left me entertained, but certainly/completely without any ability produce a coherent summary paragraph. Number9Dream is not my favorite David Mitchell novel – but it is strangely fun and certainly unique – certainly don’t spoil it by reading the Wikipedia entry first!

Rating: 4 of 5
First Read Date: 2010 or so…

Amazon – Number9Dream

I have found several David Mitchell interviews online (all interesting and worth searching if you are interested) – a bit arbitrary but one I enjoyed as a place to start:  The Paris Review – David Mitchell, The Art of Fiction No. 204 by Adam Begley.

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The Dog Stars, Peter Heller

In books on September 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm

For the last few years I have found myself periodically seeking out the Amazon recommendations and internet lists of post-apocalyptic fiction – there is plenty in the genre that I am happy to skip over, but I continue to comb thru the lists because I have come to value, and maybe even crave, striped down post-apocalyptic worlds where the authors have discarded everything unnecessary and are left with only what they need for the story. The first half of Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars is a perfect example – a handful of people, a dog, a few landscapes, and a plane are about it for the first half… Heller takes these elements and produces an almost meditative exploration of the absolutely beautiful/gut wrenching/terrible/hopeful/lonely survival of the main character – simply amazing. The second half is good – not brilliant like the first half – but I certainly enjoyed reading to end.

Rating: 4 of 5
First Read Date: August 2012

Amazon – The Dog Stars

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