Haruki Murakami and not going for the hat trick

I don’t recommend reading Murakami books in a row. I went from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2014) to Norwegian Wood (2000). These works are the opposite of uplifting and motivational. They delve into the darkest corners of mental illness and isolation. While they can be pretty sad they are well written works that take you on a journey of discovery and coming of age. Other reviewers hate Murakami, calling him a one trick pony and detesting his use of sexual description and scenes. It’s a work of fiction and he is creating a world that behaves like ours (usually). I would not stoop to call any of it unnecessary or distasteful– because it isn’t real. These are concepts in which he engages us and drives us to think and consider. Plus they make up a small percentage of the actual story. Perhaps people like having their mind in the gutters continually, so to speak. At any rate, I’m re-reading Cannery Row as a jump start into something completely different and less depressing.

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Star Wars: Hand of Thrawn

This two volume set, Specter of the Past (1997)  Vision of the Future (1998), follows events over ten years after Return of the Jedi. Much more should have changed in the New Republic and the fledgling Imperial Empire. That said, reading about the same characters, planets, organizations, and goals becomes a real slog. There are some compelling events but again only a Star Wars fanatic would sit down to read the Thrawn trilogy preceding these works, really making a pentalogy. The first three books are worth a read, the latter two a Wikipedia entry. Like everything else in life though it needed more Lando.

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Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

The trailer for Oblivion looked promising, however reviews largely emphasized boredom. Thusly, I never saw it.

Yet the concept and early reviews for Edge of Tomorrow piqued my interest. Somewhat reminiscent of Starship Troopers but without the  war praise and nationalism; rather Edge of Tomorrow is firmly route in novel aspects of alien time, memory, and parasitic warfare. It’s hard not to compare it to Haldeman’s Forever War but Forever War is deeply rooted in its anti-coloniasm message and Vietnam-era feel. Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t get into politics in any real fashion, other than it gets in the way. The film is pure adrenaline and only in needed instances does it delve into emotional ties. These instances help build rapport between audience and lead characters. As a genre sci-fi military is in my wheelhouse; and given the film’s Japanese roots, based on the novel All You Need is Kill, it offers up a lone samurai feel as well. That said, go see this movie.

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Marwencol (2010)

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I’ve been meaning to watch the documentary Marwencol forever. Though I am late to the party, stepping over spilled beer, chip crumbs, and unrecognizable refuse, I can still say it was memorable. I’ll simply offer Marwencol praise, recommend it to you, dear reader, and whet your appetite:

On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who beat him nearly to death. After nine days in a coma and forty days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life. Unable to afford therapy, Mark creates his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II-era Belgian town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers. He calls that town “Marwencol,” a portmanteau of the names “Mark,” “Wendy” and “Colleen.” He rehabilitates his physical wounds by manipulating the small dolls and props — and his mental ones by having the figures act out various battles and stories.

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The Time of Contempt (The Witcher): Andrzej Sapkowski

My 2013 reading habits were more useless than a shriveled up baby Voldemort being held by worm-tongue. So it is with great pleasure to announce that I wrapped up The Witcher titles until the next volume rolls onto tablets in June/July. While the 3rd book suffers from translation issues and a tumultuous political story-line it manages to capture the magic (pun-intended) of the prior works. These are quick-must-reads for any fantasy fan. Sapkow keeps the story moving and the right moments, guaranteeing that you are never bored and continually in wonder.

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Blackfish (2013)

What kid doesn’t grow-up in love with aquatics, marine-life, and Orcas? Having been to Sea World San Diego and constantly in its proximity, I never thought to question their practices (outside of questioning zoos in general). Blackfish shines a light on the sordid and profiteering world of Orca raising/training for entertainment. It is a must-see documentary that is changing world-views, leading me to conclude that Orcas, complex and emotional creatures, have no business in captivity. After I watched the film, I read a bit more about the tragedies surrounding Sea World practices and even discovered that Sea World Entertainment is owned by Blackstone Group, an investment company whose main concern is to generate cash/revenue and focus on the bottom-line.

 

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Her (2013)

Spike created a beautiful and immersive world. While largely recognizable as our own it’s the differences in behaviour, technology, and culture that make Her sci-fi. As my 2013 movie pick I could find little wrong. It’d be easy define the main character, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, as self-indulgent/selfish but one would miss out entirely on his complex emotions and general character (existing in a world that largely forgives selfish and seemingly sterile). Scarlett Johansson totally blew me away. The depth she conveys in acting-voice only still gives me chills. Her had me mesmerized from beginning to end.

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