Christmas Podcasts of Interest   January 2nd, 2013

Here are a couple holiday episodes of various podcasts I’ve found interesting, as well as two I helped get produced.

I love EscapePod’s holiday SF stories. This year they have an alchemy-powered take on Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” with Marley and Cratchit by David Steffen.

Drabblecast, the weekly weird-fiction podcast, has an interesting story. Postapocalypsemas  by  Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw is a post-apocalyptic Christmas tale about a robotic reindeer, a cross between a toy and a protector, searching to find the little girl he was charged to look after and keep safe and happy.

And for my own publishing efforts, Anthro Dreams has two holiday-themed stories.

Shreddy and the Christmas Ghost by Mary Lowd has a loveable feline curmudgeon having another mishap with technology as well as a run-in with the supernatural.

The Gingerbread Reindeer by Renee Carter Hall brings a new addition to the Christmas mythos, along with wonder and magic of the Yuletide night.

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Waxwork Movie Review   November 13th, 2012

I was looking for some mindless entertainment on Netflix last night and the 1988 horror movie Waxwork came up in my suggestions. It sounded interesting, so I gave it a try. It did have a fresh take on the wax museum horror setting, though unfortunately it was better in inspiration than in execution.
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Cloud Atlas Movie Review   November 3rd, 2012

Cloud Atlas is both a compelling and challenging film. It has a sweeping narrative and stunning visual style, which is to representative of the Wachowski’s work. It also expects something from the viewer as it consists of several parallel and interconnected story-lines. These stories flow linearly in their own time frame, but the plot of the film cuts between all of them, sometimes quickly so. The editing, pacing and theming of these cuts was wonderfully done.

The stories are all inter-related, but the film is not totally clear on the mechanics of that. It is eluded that the characters could possibly be reincarnated souls, but that is not strongly suggested. Several links between the parallel lives are shown, but they don’t always make logical sense. Even so, thematically it all works.

The characters are played by the same actors in each of the different periods, sometimes with some impressive makeup which loses them in the character. The acting and characterization is brilliant and the stories make for some wonderful character drama. The film also works across several different genres and tones between the stories, which made things balanced and interesting.

There were some major themes throughout the stories: man’s violence against man for greed and more basic human drives, selfish and selfless acts, falls and redemptions. Deconstructing the film, it felt like the stories fell into two types, major arcs which dealt with the fight against systematic injustice, and minor arcs which served as connections between the other stories and showed more of humanity’s mix of weakness and potential.

The movie isn’t perfect. Some of the connections between stories felt a little superfluous. The points the film made did get a bit heavy handed at times, but at the same time the drama and overall intrigue of the stories were still definitely entertaining. If you’re willing to watch a film which takes some degree of active engagement from the viewer, and which could definitely use a second viewing to aid in the understanding, then it’s well worth the effort and a rewarding experience. 4/5 stars.

Podcastle – Zauberschrift   February 14th, 2012

Being a wizard is supposed to be exciting and prestigious, but what if it was more like being a programmer or an engineer?

Podcastle, the fantasy podcast, has a fun story Zauberschrift, about an apprentice brought in to do sustaining work on an old wizard’s buggy spells.

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Randy Pausch and Richard Feynman   January 11th, 2011

I recently finished reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, the memoirs of the CS professor who gave a moving lecture after being diagnosed with cancer. It’s a nice collection of essays and memoirs, dramatic and inspiring. It has the wisdom and creativity of one adept at engineering, both technical and social. Reading of his work in Virtual Reality and the sabbaticals he did at video game companies and at Disney Imagineering was fantastic.

I was also recently reminded of physicist Richard Feynman, autobiography, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman which I read in college. I started re-reading it today and have been enjoying that as well. Like Randy Pausch, Richard Feynman is an entertaining character. Both men are brilliant and smart, but not just with standard “book learning.”

They both show creative insight and love of solving puzzles, but also demonstrate a social knowledge which a lot of smarter people don’t always have. Pausch used that to teach his students how to be better collaborators and Feynman used social engineering along with his love of pranks to have lots of good-natured but devilish fun. I’m looking forward to reading about his time at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project, where he became a master safe-cracker, among other things.

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