Uncategorized

Book Review — Arcadia!

Arcadia

            What I liked about Arcadia is how the three worlds were mixed.  Angela Meerson invents a way to explore an infinity of universes and accidentally creates a time machine.  I guess we could have called it the “Accidental Time Machine” but that title is taken!

Angela is from a dystopian police state future.  And she has to test her machine on herself and escape before her boss takes over with megalomaniac delusions of his own.  She jumps, miscalculates and lands in 1936 Berlin.  Ach!

What’s interesting is how the main characters do something and then later in the story the same action is looked upon from a different view from another character later in the novel.  It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to remember who was what and what they’re seeing, but after a while of getting used to Mr. Pears’ style, you just can’t put the book down.

T43916146zhe book left open questions but perhaps they’re better left unanswered.  Loved the characterization of Rosalind, a shy teenager who somehow gets into a situation that is fearful and enjoyable at the same time.

Whereas from the brow of Professor Litten comes Angela’s universe.  And she can’t turn it off!

Wild stuff. An unusual take on time travel, police states and a fantasy world of superstition and structured rules and rituals.

But it takes getting used to.

A must-read!

 

Science Fiction Books, Uncategorized

Book Review: A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

ImageFirst Impressions:

I finished Vernor Vinge’s “A Fire Upon the Deep” and let me tell you this monster book, clocking at nearly 600 pages, does have adventure, medieval civilizations, a bit of romance and has its dark side as well. Parts of the book do drag and the author might have been in need of an editor, but overall not a bad space tale.

Basic Premise, Some Comments:

In this universe we have ‘zones of thought’ that are linked through a subspace network, similar to our Internet which is colloquially called the “Net of a Million Lies.” Would make a great advertisement for Wikipedia and the World Wide Web of today! The book was written in the 90s and so the pattern is of the Usenet groups of that time.

The book is broken down into several areas – the release of the “Blight”, a malignant force that destroys all who oppose it, a family that discovers the “Countermeasure” but crash on a planet of dog-like aliens that only communicate in groups (a “pack” can think and respond only in a group, not singly), Ravna’s planet, her job at “Relay” (as a librarian) and her relationship with a human (put together from parts by “The Old One,” a superior being from “The Beyond”, and their adventures together.

These parts don’t always fit well. Each is expanded on (such as in the dog-like alien world, “Tine’s World”) and that’s where the story tends to drag. We get involved in the intrigue, the castles, the battles and traitors of their race. The man and woman mentioned earlier crash-land and are immediately killed by this race. The brother and sister (Jefri and Joanna) are separated and each thinks the other is dead. The warring factions take advantage of this misunderstanding and slowly leech out technology that these children may know for their own advantages.

Interest:

I did enjoy the clash between factions in this alien society and the imaginative way they built “packs” where you would take different skills from each “dog” and they would somehow think together. With the invention of radio, thanks to the humans, the Tines discovered that they could radio to each others’ brains! This was interesting but never expanded upon to include the whole race, but just one pack.

Other aspects of the story: The warring factions clash near the last 100 pages of the book which I found fascinating, how each faction used the children as pawns and at one point wanting to kill them to gain advantage.

The part where each discovers that the other is alive is heartwarming but also comes with the price of a life. That was the best part of the book.

Romance:

There is a bit of this, between Ravna and Pham (at least before she discovers he’s not all man – oops!). Also camaraderie and loyalty between starship captains as they attempt to rescue Ravna from “the Blight.” Great space battle here.

World Building and The Internet:

The author dwells too long on detail and I felt the reader spends a long, long time on the chatter of the ‘Net, which can be annoying as you just want to story to move along, and the extraordinary time we spend on the Tines’ World. There’s not a lot of explanation of the “Beyond” and how and what that’s all about – just hints of superior beings and we as humans or lesser aliens are their pawns, and only in the lower levels are we safe from them.

Finally, it’s a tough book to put down and wait awhile and pick up again. You have to reread a few sections to refresh your memory on what’s going on. As well, Vernor Vinge tends to make up words without explanation and leaves it up to the reader to figure out, as well as not fully explaining what’s going on. For example it took quite awhile into the book before discovering that the alien “packs” communicated as groups not as individuals.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, a decent read. Set aside some time and give Vinge your full cooperation. May not be as good as the amazing space operas of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but it is a worthy, if dragged-out read. Recommended.

Uncategorized

Reducing Photo Time

 

Bridge at Merced River, YosemiteNot as much opportunity to shoot as much as I have wanted to.  I tend to squeeze in a few shots and festivals here and there.  Helping Scientology with a huge expansion program this Fall.  Happy to be a part of this.  The area of the humanities and counselling is about to change dramatically.  Just think, no more visits to a psych who gives mind-altering drugs for profit, but just a simple counselling session to alleviate the problems of life.

Recently explored more photos of cultural activities in the City.  First Friday of each month at City Hall.  Just shot the amazing Ballet de Folklorico de Oro.  Next month, possibly some Armenian dancing.  Really really really want to attend the Russian Dance Festival in February.

Classic Films, Uncategorized

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

First Thoughts:

Love the title of this film, such a play on words.  “Hidden”, unknown.  “Figures”, as the women in the film are experts in math and numbers.  And “figures” as in notable persons.

Story:

The film covers several themes which I found fascinating.  I’ve always loved NASA’s early space program and even what they’re accomplishing now, regardless of government cut-backs they still make something happen:  flyby of Saturn, discoveries on Pluto, and landing on the Moon often which no nation has yet accomplished.

But the historic backdrop is blurred by the underlying racial prejudice of those times, in the South, in the state of Virginia.

Separate sections in the library for whites and “coloreds”.  Separate bathrooms, waterfountains, busses, etc. etc.  This was in the 1960s as Dr. King was calling for equal rights among all races.

The characters in our play are confronting these sitauations daily and it’s fascinating watching them counteract each, as their counterparts tell them that “that’s the way it is!”

The film is based on actual occurrences.

The acting was superb.  The personal sidenotes, such as the proposal of a man to one of the ladies was cute and you’re pretty cold-hearted if you shed no tear!

Final Thoughts:

If you want to see why the USA’s space program, after many failures, finally beat the Russians and achieved winning the Space Race, and how a prejudiced South was not enough to dissuade three amazing Black women in overcoming these obstacles, pick this up!

DVD has great features and is a must-watch.

Highly Recommended.

hidden-figures-750x315_orig

Fantasy/Horror Films, Science Fiction Movies

Mini Review:Ex Machina

Ex Machina is an R rated film due to lots of nudity and a bit of knife-weilding.  So far so good.

A Bill Gates wannabe picks one of his own employees, Caleb, and sends him to a private island where the development of actual operational androids appear.

Some critics have called it “boring” — you know, the kind of critic who watches five minutes, zones out and writes ‘boring’ on an Amazon.com review — but it’s far from that, although a bit disappointing.

If you watch carefully, the writing is really well done.  Hints are dropped at the beginning, such as mentioning the inventor is God and that the (spoiler) android Ava turns on her creator.  Frankenstein reference.

Or when the inventor mentions we will be seen as we see ancient Man and then how the ending wraps up is comical if thought-provoking.

Caleb is caught in the middle.  Should he trust the inventor?  Should he go along with the android’s desire to escape?  You as the audience root for Caleb and Ava, but at the end you find your desire somewhat displaced.

Interested?

I picked up the Blu Ray and it has some special features, but the movie I felt could have ended on a more positive note — on the other hand it ended like it was meant to!

Lots of female nudity, thus the R rating. It’s OK, they’re androids!

Recommended.

 

Uncategorized

Movie Review: Rogue One, Putting the War BACK into Star Wars!

First Thoughts:

I already knew a bit of the plot, but it is great to see new characters and new adventures that wrap up the what and the why of how someone “gets” to be a Rebel, why you’d want to and how sometimes it’s a one-way journey!

The story is a positive one:  a girl who loses her family at an early age discovers her father is an Imperial Engineer in the construction of the dreaded Death Star.  These events happen while Luke is still hanging out on Tatooine making his moisture farm work.  Who whodathought?

We get some cameos of R2D2 and C3PO and even an unwinnable Rebel battle against the Empire on an Imperial-owned planet, to get the plans (as mentioned in A New Hope).  The graphic violence and characters we’d begun to know all pretty much make the final sacrifice to get the plans to the Princess to make Luke possible.

Overall, an excellent entry in the Star Wars mythos.  Highly recommended! maxresdefault

Comic Books!, Event Photography, Uncategorized

San Francisco Comic Con 09/2016

What Happened?

Since Wondercon bit the dust in 2011 as the premiere Comic Book Convention in San Francisco we have been happily satisfied with the shows coming out of San Jose, Stockton and even Sacramento.

But there comes a time where eBay doesn’t do it, that you want to dive into some great comics deals, check out the cosplayers and have some fun.

Back in September 2016 I went on a Friday, the first convention in San Francisco in some years. In response the place was packed!  I got to see some old buds and made new ones.  Really liked the artist alley and even met some Golden Age of comics artists (those who were young and published in the 1940s) who are now quite elderly but have not lost their spirit.

Of course the cosplayers make the show. They were creative, inspiring and sexy.  I did note they were not all excited to get their photo taken by me, not knowing of course what an amazing cosplay photographer I am.  Hope you agree with that statement.

Tech notes: Didn’t use a flash unit this time as I normally do, and it does show, even with some white balance compensation in Lightroom 6, still not by absolute best work.

Pros: Lots to see and do, great comics deals and great cosplayers.

Cons: The Marriot Hotel at Market and 4th was not the best venue.  The panel rooms were all scattered on other floors and the maps were via iPhone only so if you didn’t have a phone you were stuck.  I really hope they find a better venue next year.

 See you at the San Francisco Comic Con!

http://sanfrancomiccon.com/