Saturday, July 27, 2013

Once a Gamer...

Many years ago, back before I started college, I was a gamer. If you asked me to identify myself as anything, that's what I would say. Not a comic book fan, though I was, not a Christian, though I was, and not a high school dropout, though I was. I was a gamer, proud of my 8-bit heritage and my modern mastery over all video games.

The last game I ever beat.
I hit my peek with that world when I was 16 and bought a PS2. For about five years, I lived and breathed video games. My collection was great and I played all the best games and the hidden gems, from roleplaying to first-person shooters. My music collection was, and still is, mainly made up of video game remixes. My computer was built for two things, to edit videos and to play games. 

Once I started college, things began to change. For one, I didn't have the time to play anymore. Studies and work took up the priority. For another, I didn't have the money. I started school around the same time the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3 were coming out, and I certainly didn't have the money for a new system. So, it was just my PS2 and Gamecube through school, both which rarely saw any play. I think it was my second year of school that I finally beat the first Metroid Prime game.

I loved it.
Once I got to Houghton, I was done. I got rid of my PS2 and gave a friend my Gamecube. I had moved on completely. My wonderful collection of games was sold and I had more important stuff to do. It was a sad time.

It's strange that it could be sad. They were just games. Yet, I had spent a considerable amount of time with many of them. Some of them had stories that effected me on an emotional level and sucked me in to their world, like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time or Final Fantasy X. Many of those games were associated with times of my life, with the smells of the new seasons literally reminding me of the games I loved. 

I think, had I not gone to school and just kept working my part-time job, I would have stayed a "full-time" gamer. I would have got the a new console and played the newest games and I would have been happy doing it.

I'm glad things are different, that I went to school and was changed deeply. I would never go back to that way of living. But that part of me isn't truly dead. From the NES to the PS2, I was a gamer. I might not be able to talk about modern video games anymore, but I've got that 20 years span under my belt and can talk old school with the best of them.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, that's for the next blog.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim was a good movie. It wasn't awesome or the best movie I've ever seen, but it was good.

A lot of people have complained about the dialog, and it's a just complaint. It can be pretty rough at times. But I think a big thing about the dialog is that it isn't polished to a witty standard, like the Avengers. The dialog and conversations do what they need to do and nothing else. No wry humor, no jab at the other people in the movie, just to-the-point sentences. In a two hour plus film, that can get tedious.

I think a part of that is because all the characters get along rather well. There's a lot of "you did great" talk, which isn't as funny as "you fight monsters like my chili fights my bowels...crappy!"

The rest of the movie was a lot of fun. Though there's a pretty long gap between the first robot vs. monster fight and the next, it starts getting into a high gear once all the pieces are set. The battles are huge and forceful; you feel every punch. When one pilot takes out the mech's sword, I knew I was in anime territory and happy for it. And it was funny, that these big battles still destroyed less and saved more than Superman did in Man of Steel.

I tend not to have as much to say about a movie I enjoyed as I do about one that was terrible. I usually have to love a movie to go on and on about it. In Pacific Rim's case, I enjoyed it, had fun and moved on with my life. I'd give it a B+, which seems a little optimistic but I'm in a generous mood and felt like I had the right attitude going in. The movie made me want to watch a whole bunch of mech anime, so that's a good thing. Too bad it didn't make any money; we might have got some more live action robot films.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reading; Why Can't I Get Paid for It?

I've been cruising through books this year. I big part of it comes from my desire/goal to read through all the Hugo and Nebula winners. Considering that's about 50 books each and intermixed, there's a lot to read before that goal is reached. I also work a lot, but that actually helps me read because both jobs tend to afford me and hour lunch where I can sit in my car and read. Being given a block of time that I can and must read really keeps me focused. 

Because of it, though, I read some amazing stuff. Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man was a fast paced cyberpunk novel written before cyberpunk was invented. It's crazy how modern that book read and how well it holds the reader's attention, even after sixty years. I also read A Canticle for Leibowitz, which was another book that read like it was written only yesterday. It's a post-apocalyptic book that also speaks on the power of faith. It's one of my new favorites.
But then there's the fact that I want to read books that aren't on either of those lists, books that I just want to read for fun. How do I find time for those? Or all the comic books I devour during the week? It's nuts.

After watching the movie, I have a hankering to reread World War Z. That got me thinking that I never reread my favorite books anymore. When's the last time I picked up Jurassic Park or Neverwhere? What's the point of owning The Lord of the Flies if I never read it anymore?

Or how about all the Christian literature I used to love reading? My to-read list for those titles is getting longer all the time with no dent. I used to try to read a fiction book and a Christian book at the same time, but I've fallen out of the habit. 

One solution I've decided is to have a reread month. I don't know when, but I think I'm just going to have to dedicate a month to rereading my favorite books, or I'll never get to it. I want to do it soon, so it might end up in the fall. Maybe September of October. I makes me feel like a crazy person to schedule my reading like that, but what's a guy to do?

During this past season of lent, I decided to fast from all secular reading and just tackle Christian books, which was nice but reminded me how badly I need to read them all year. It really does strengthen my faith and spirit to have a constant incoming of teaching and conviction. 

I just read The Dragon Reborn, the third Wheel of Time book, and loved it. I don't know when I'll get to next book, but I'd like to read two of them a year so I can finish the series before I die. I'm trying to be more open to the fantasy genre lately, with both Brandon Sanderson's writing and Ursula K Guin's Earthsea books informing my choices. 

How many plain old fiction books do I ever read anymore? I just read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was good for the most part. Michael Crichton's Disclosure also helped, but I think I need to start branching out into the normal, more contemporary world of fiction. For, I don't know, normality's sake. I don't know what that means I'll read, maybe more Jesse Stone books or books about people learning to love again. 

Since we're moving at the end of the month, I've already packed up all my books. I figured, if I could read a book a week, which I tend to do anyway, than I could leave three books out and finish them by the end of the month. First, I'm reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Then, I move on to Green Mars, which is the second book in the Mars Trilogy. And then, hopefully, I read Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man

After the move, I don't know how long we'll be living out of boxes so thank the Lord for my Kindle. I'll be using it exclusively for a while, I feel.Since I still haven't read Leviathan Wakes or The Heroes, which are both downloaded, I should be good for a bit, plus I have all those free classics like Tarzan and Robinson Crusoe to get to.

So, in summary; don't call me, I'm busy reading everything.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

World War Z

So, I found myself in the theater watching World War Z. I didn't think I would, since my love for the zombie genre has dissipated with the the whole world falling for it. But, luckily, the movie reminded me why I loved the topic in the first place and was the surprise of the summer movie season.

The movie gets into the action quickly, there's no build up to be found, just a head first dive into zombie action as the streets fill with undead. We get a tense apartment scene as Brad Pitt and his family try to make it to the rooftop and then the film's main premise takes off.

The movie and the book of the same name only share two things; zombies and a global canvas. Pitt travel's to Korea to Israel to India, looking for clues on how the zombie plague started and how to stop it. While it lacks he full scope of the book, the sense that this is happening everywhere is a boon to the film, especially in a genre that's usually stuck to lower budgets and small locations. If this is the first zombie blockbuster, it starts the concept off right.

Pitt is fine in this movie, doing surprisingly well in a zombie movie. He's the only real name actor (unless you count an edited out Matthew Fox) and everyone else works just as well. What was most surprising for me was how well the movie shifts from genuinely creepy, tense moments to full-scale mass zombie scenes. The apartment scene in the beginning is a scary one for completely different reasons than the huge chase through Israel. The plane scene that you've seen in most trailers is terrifying, even if only conceptually. Zombies On a Plane? No, thank you.

I've read on the original ending (read here if you've seen the movie) and I'm glad they made the change they did. The final scene in the lab is a creepy one and a surprise for a big budget film. It's nice to watch a movie that knows when to blow stuff up and when to let the action simmer. I think the ending still allows for sequels, though I'm not sure how ready I am for one. Sometimes, one is enough.

I give the film a B+. It's not perfect, but it gets a lot of things right and has some great moments. The zombies crawling over each other like ants has been well advertised but seeing it in the film is unnerving. A good choice for zombie fans, natural disaster moviegoers and those that like to be creeped out.