29 November 2012

A Short Rant on 3-D Movies

Biblo Baggins smokes disapprovingly at your 3D
You've probably heard all these complaints before.  Railing against how 3D destroys the integrity of the movie, etc, etc.  Suffer my opinions or don't, it's your choice.  :)

I don't like 3D.  The only movies I can remember seeing in 3D are The Polar Express and The Avengers.  The Polar Express is, to me, the type of movie that is appropriate for 3D.  It's animated, not that complicated, brightly colored, and lots of opportunities for cool effects (like the train coming out of the screen).  Yet, seeing it in 3D made me just a little bit nauseous, and I felt like I had to hold my head at a very specific angle to just make the most important foreground objects focus.  It didn't ruin the movie for me, because, again, simple story and animated.  Not the same level of background detail as a live-action movie.  Still, I think I would have enjoyed in more in good old 2D, which looks plenty enough three-dimensional to me.  I never watch a movie and think "I wish the characters weren't crawling across that flat screen, this is just not very realistic."  In fact, 3D seems significantly less realistic than non 3D, in that it is a constant reminder that I'm watching a movie that has special screen effects!

I highly anticipated The Avengers and I went to a 3D showing with a group of friends.  I spent most of the movie wondering what was happening on the 70% of the screen that was dark and blurry and constantly adjusting my head angle so that, once again, the intended 3D objects would be sharp.  I knew the moment the movie was over (actually, probably somewhere in the middle) that I would have to see the movie again in 2D to really understand what had happened.  That's not even a terribly complicated movie, and much closer to the cartoon scale than a lot of live-action films.

I should mention at this point that I have super excellent eyesight, so we really can't blame the focus issues on  that, unless it's actually more enjoyable with worse eyesight.

So what brings up this rant, months after seeing The Avengers and years after seeing The Polar Express?  Well, I just found out (I'd probably heard it before and ignored it) that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is going to be released in 3D.  My excitement for The Avengers pales in comparison with my excitement for this movie (though I feel a good bit more trepidation about it too).  I have been a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan since I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring; not just for the movies but for the whole world of Tolkien's creation.  I'm not going to elaborate on my fandom because you all really don't need to know the depths of my nerdiness.  While I hold the books and the movies in somewhat separate categories from each other, I still expect a certain level of loyalty and excellence from the movies.

3D, in my mind, is a gimmick.  Lord of the Rings needs no gimmicks.  It is fantastic on its own.  Showing it in 3D is like putting plastic pink shutters on Neuschwanstein Castle.

Stop ruining my hobbit movie!

Obviously, I'll see it in 2D.  Obviously, these are all my opinions based on my experiences, and your opinions and experiences may be entirely different.

That was not quite as short as I expected.

Photo source: PC World, incidentally from an article about The Hobbit's 3D release: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2017108/new-3d-tech-in-the-hobbit-risks-backlash-as-film-debut-nears.html 

27 November 2012

SciFi, Whodunits, and Monuments

Source: www.tomgauld.com 
I said I was going to write about books and experiences every week, right?  And then I didn't last week - and now it's Tuesday.  Ah well, if seventeen years of education can't knock the procrastinator out of me, I guess nothing ever will.  I did, however, make a good dent in my reading goal.

I'm still trudging through Hyperion, which is turning out to be one of the weirder science fiction books I've read.  It's good, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.  I'm going to finish it, regardless, if only for "personal research" purposes: How have the styles of classic mid-century science fiction carried over into more modern literature?  What are the tropes, themes, development styles most common in science fiction literature?  At what point did I become such a huge nerd?  (That last one is a joke...I've always been a huge nerd.)

In my opinion, Hyperion is Dan Simmons's vehicle for exploring what an emigrated, interstellar human population would look like, culturally and politically.  It's not a novel idea for a science fiction book (/saga), but I can't complain because I've considered writing about the same thing.

What I did manage to finish, though, is M.M. Kaye's Death in Zanzibar.  I fell in love with Kaye's writing style when I read The Far Pavilions last year, which made it into at least my top ten novels, if not the top five.  Death in Zanzibar is a major departure from her epic historical fiction adventure romances I fell in love with, but still lovely and endearing.  In the vein of classic whodunits, a handful of stylish mid-century aristocrats spend a vacation in a palatial house in Zanzibar; the naive protagonist evades the blame for a murder she didn't commit while trying to find out who the real murderer is.  What makes it such a worthy read is Kaye's vivid descriptions of Zanzibar, based on her own trip there, and her lively characterizations.  You must read M.M. Kaye.  Do it now.  Go to the bookstore and get anything by her.

As far as those weekly "new experiences" goes...the best I did last week was a visit to the Tidal Basin on Thanksgiving Day. I'd been there before, but not yet seen the FDR memorial and the new Martin Luther King, Jr, memorial, which you may recall caused a bit of controversy with a misquote/misrepresentation.  I very much admire MLK, Jr, for his humility and commitment to justice.  His likeness on the monument, in rough stone, stares sternly out above monument visitors with folded arms.  King deserves to be remembered, but in all honesty I'm not sure this monument does him justice.  That said, I don't really have any better ideas.

This post accompanied by tea in handmade Georgia pottery

19 November 2012

An ambitious list

I got a request for at least a partial "to read" book list, and that request is about to be fulfilled.  I should make a disclaimer, though, that this is by no means a comprehensive list of books that I want to experience/have under my belt.  Rather, it's an immediate goal, in an effort to actually get some books read instead of deliberating over which book to read next.  Also, the list is not necessarily in the order in which I will (hopefully) read them.

If you have any opinions or advice about these books, or you think there's another book that I absolutely must read, I would love to hear from you!  I'm content to merely address the anonymous caverns of cyberspace, but I enjoy interacting with you, friends and readers of my blog - mostly because I'm always surprised to find out that it's being read!

Take a deep breath -

Hyperion Dan Simmons (CR*)
And Then There Were None Agatha Christie
The Scar China Mieville
Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
Death in Zanzibar and Death in Kenya M.M. Kaye
Great Expectations Charles Dickens
Brave New World Aldous Huxkey
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick (NYA**)
American Gods Neil Gaiman (NYA)
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula Le Guin (NYA)
A Farewell to Arms and/or The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (NYA)
Tender is the Night F. Scott Fitzgerald (NYA)
From Here to Eternity James Jones (NYA)
When All the World Was Young Ferrol Sams
Fool Moon: Book 2 The Dresden Files Jim Butcher (NYA)
Earth Abides George R. Stewart (NYA)
etc etc

The Hiding Place Corrie Ten Boom
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Eric Metaxas (NYA)
The Cross of Christ John Stott (NYA)
The Missionary Call: Finding your place in God's plan for the world David M. Sills (NYA)
Surprised by Joy C.S. Lewis

I could especially use your recommendations for Non-Fiction.  My type preferences for fiction are pretty obvious, but I also really like oddball history books, Bill Bryson-esque.

*Currently Reading
**Not yet acquired...any suggestions for finding cheap books, besides rummaging through haphazardly organized used bookstores or paying high shipping prices through Amazon Marketplace?

17 November 2012

There are no pictures, read at your own risk

Oh...hi...come here often?  I don't.  Let's see, last time I was here I was pondering the complex experience of moving around and traveling and having different "homes."  Since then, I have been:

Trying to get used to living with my family again, after 5 years of only being home for breaks and holidays (it's an adjustment, but also a blessing, and much more fun than being alone)

Looking for a job (huzzah, and it's going so well)

Getting familiar with this quaint little area I live in now that we call Old Town, and occasionally venturing into "The District" to get cultured and sophisticated (The District not to be confused with District 12, 13, or any other Panem Districts)

Even with the job search and trying to get some volunteering going, I seem to have a lot of time.  At first that time was a little bit staggering, especially since there were no overhanging assignments casting shadows of guilt and dread over it.  As I slowly came to realize that all the things I'd mentally listed as "I'll do it when I'm done with school" (i.e. read more, practice more, write more, brush up on Arabic) were now real, physical possibilities - and if I didn't start doing them now I might get a job and forget about them - the sheer volume of possible things I could do with my day precluded my choosing which thing to give a real go at.  I think that's what they call First World Problems.  Poor me.

Then I bought some used books.  I made a list of the books I want to read (it's a really, really long list).  I started a fresh notebook.  I got out my Arabic flashcards.  I went to The Phillips Collection and saw Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Chagall, Picasso.  I went to a free concert.  I started working on a Chopin prelude.  And then I started writing this blog entry.

Here's the plan, readers (hi Mom): I'm going to read at least 600 pages of fiction and 200 pages of nonfiction a week.  I finally have time.  Putting the goal in number of pages makes it sound a little bit like an assignment, and I originally thought to number it in books rather than pages, but since some books are 200 pages and some are 500 I felt like that wasn't fair.  Then I'll write here about one read per week.  I'll do something new every week (I doubt I can run out, there are so many things to do and see in this area) and write about it here.  At least, that's what I intend to do, and maybe since it's not a requirement from an academic authority it will actually be willingly accomplished.  I also have other goals, the accomplishment of which can't really be entertainingly represented here (like, practicing and non-blog writing).  If I'm going to be unemployed, the least I can do is be productive in the things I've been wanting to have time for for ages.

To kick this off, I'm going to do a quick wrap-up of the reading and the new experience, all-in-one, right here, right now.
I didn't read any new books this week.  Oops.  I did start one, though: Hyperion by Dan Simmons.  Maybe by this time next week I'll have finished it.
Two nights ago, we went to the Kennedy Center for one of their free nightly concerts.  The featured musical experience was a New York based band that covers 1960s/1970s pop songs from Pre-Revolutionary Iran. The lead singer wore a slinky blue dress, but her accompanying band, mostly middle aged men, had hair of varying degrees of too long to be socially acceptable for non-musicians, and wore wrinkled suits.  Got to love musicians.  But they were good, because thankfully for musicians, fashion has no direct bearing on talent.  That's a poor write-up of what was an excellent performance, but I've already written so much here and you've probably already stopped reading.

If I can truly stick to my goals, then I will be seeing you soon.