Monthly Archives: January 2013

We Only Need the Heads gets Scalzi’s The Human Division back on track

Just a few minutes into We Only Need the Heads, John Scalzi’s third episode of The Human Division, and I not only knew it was entertaining, but I also immediately realized the context of the second episode, Walk the Plank. Walk the Plank wasn’t quite as strong as a stand alone episode, but We Only Need the Heads quickly relates back to both of the first episodes.

As one CDF officer is loaned for a CDF mission to remove an unauthorized colony, a Colonial Union ambassador is tasked with completing the final negotiations with an alien race. Of course, these two separate goals are intertwined in ways that neither know at first.

We Only Need the Heads is very engaging, and Scalzi expertly jumps between action with the CDF and dialogue with the ambassadors. I believe we also see some hints of where the story is going in The Human Division, but it might be too early for me to know.

My fun Sunday: Aladdin, Social Distortion, and more

Last night was the rescheduled Social Distortion concert at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, so we decided to spend the day at the parks. We went to California Adventure, checking out some of the shows between a few rides.

First, we caught the Red Car News Boys, a little song-dance show set in the 20s about Mickey wanting to move to Hollywood to make it big. These mini-shoes that Disney does really helps set the mood and magic, I think. Next we headed to Paradise Bay to watch Instant Concert! …Just Add Water. This was a show featuring recorded music, the fountains, and Goofy conducting. It was fun but nothing too special. We caught Operation: Playtime! – Featuring the Green Army Men as well, which is a percussion show (for the most part) featuring the green army men from Toy Story. It was mostly for kids, but it was enough.

The last show we saw was the most amazing. Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular was a incredibly entertaining, albeit short, musical of Aladdin. The effects were great with clever use of smoke, trap doors, lighting, and character doubles. I also really enjoyed the genie’s use of current events in jokes. When Aladdin lamented that Princess Jasmine didn’t love him, Genie replied something like, “there are plenty of other princesses out there. I heard Disney just bought Star Wars. Maybe you could try Princess Leia!” If you haven’t seen it, I’d really recommend it. I’ll make sure to watch it again in the future.

Toy Story Mania

Among the attractions we rode, of course we had to hit up Toy Story Mania. I love this ride! I was wearing my new Evil Dr. Porkchop shirt that day, so I pretty much had to go on the ride. The game seems screwed up to me! If I beat gem, why do I get the stupid cat while she gets that super awesome beaver? I know, I know. It’s because she’s super awesome,  I suppose.

The concert itself was a lot of fun. The first opening band was The Interrupters, from LA. They’re a ska/punk band comprised of a singer, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer. The three instrument-players are brothers, and they actually brought their dad on stage for one song during which he played trombone. I love brass, so it wasn’t unexpected that that song became my favorite. I’ll definitely need to keep my ears alert for them in the future.

The second opening band was Eddie Spaghetti on guitar and vocals with an accompanying guitar player. Eddie’s one member of the Supersuckers. Make note of this so you can avoid them, because I thought Eddie Spaghetti was pretty terrible. Wikipedia describes the Supersuckers as garage punk, grunge, cowpunk, and southern rock. I had to look up cowpunk, but I could guess at what it meant. Cowpunk is a genre fusing punk and country, and that pretty accurately summed him up. At first it just seemed okay. He wasn’t much of a live entertainer, and the music was only so-so, but so-so can be okay sometimes. When all his songs became about drugs (and not just marijuana), I started to lose interest. I realize this was a punk concert, but trying to use as many cuss words as possible isn’t cool, and getting the crowd to all flip you off at the same time isn’t some amazing feat. When he was done, the woman behind me said, “well, that was painful,” and I heard a lot of agreement. Some people clearly clapped and cheered just to be respectful, but I don’t believe it was warranted. Half way through his act, I pulled out my phone to continue reading my novel.

Eventually Social Distortion came on the stage. I don’t actually know many of their songs – maybe three, and of those, they only played one song. The lead singer did bring his adult son out to play with them for a little bit. I think one of the best parts of live music is having guests play with the band, so I always enjoy that. Social D was a lot of fun, but there was more than just music; watching the mosh pit was entertainment itself. From the large dude with the huge beard who seemed very friendly while slamming people, even offering onlookers the chance to shove him, to the absolutely crazy girl who would go nuts for thirty seconds before disappearing for five minutes again, it was very entertaining.

At 11:30, four and a half hours after the doors open, I left. I don’t know how much longer they played, but it was time for bed for me.

Walk the Plank continues Scalzi’s The Human Division

Walk the Plank is the second episode in John Scalzi’s The Human Division. It’s very different than The B-Team, the first episode, which I presume Scalzi did on purpose to set expectations. Walk the Plank is written as a transcript rather than in a traditional form. In addition, it’s much shorter, and the story doesn’t seem as satisfying.

While the first episode was a great story by itself, Walk the Plank is self-contained but but only decent. If it didn’t exist as part of a larger series, it would be rather boring. On the other hand, it’s more than enough for a chapter in an average novel.

As part of a larger whole, it seems to help set up things to come. There are some troubling problems that will likely reappear in later episodes. To be clear, I wouldn’t complain at all if it was simply a chapter in a novel, which is what it is in a way. However, if the The Human Division was compared to a TV series with The B-Team being the double-length pilot, Walk the Plank would would be one of the more out-of-place episodes with its weird format and subpar plot.

It was entertaining and served the greater story but just didn’t stand alone as amazingly well as The B-Team. Of course, Scalzi’s set such a high bar far himself that it’s to be expected that some episodes would miss by a little. I’d guess that Scalzi knew this to be one of the weaker episodes that’s more of a side story providing additional information, and that’s why it was placed second. Now we know that some episodes will be very different, and this helps give us an idea of what to expect. I can’t wait until next week for the next episode!

Cookie swap!

Hurst Cookies

When I got home today, I saw a package sitting on the couch. Packages always make me excited so I went and looked at the label. It was to Duncan. Always Duncan. As I let out a loud groan, I saw the second package. This one was for us! We got cookies in the mail from Darnell and Alex! We sent them cookies near Christmas, so they decided to swap. They were super delicious.

The box was packed completely full with two types of cookies, and both looked out of the ordinary. The first I thought were biscotti, and the second were triangles specked with colors. What could they be? Well there was a card that told me!

The biscotti was actually chocolate chip bars, and the triangles weren’t just triangles; they were cranberry pistachio triangles! Yes, you read that right. Cranberry. Pistachio. Triangles. And oh boy, were they both delicious. I expected the chocolate chip bars to be crunchy, but they were soft, chewy, and amazing. The cranberry pistachio triangles were flavorful and delicious. I’m so excited to have this box of cookies!

The irony? Darnell and Alex congratulated me in the card on my weight loss. You know, that’s the same card that came with box stuffed full of cookies. Don’t worry. I have self control!

DEAD[ish] is dumb but good for a chuckle, 2/5

DEAD[ish], by Naomi Kramer, is a very odd book. It’s a bit dumb but good for a chuckle. I like the basic idea of a spirit screwing with the person responsible for her death. The idea of a vengeful spirit isn’t new, but Linda screws with Mike in a manner more like college pranks than revenge upon a killer.

That said, when things were finally revealed, it didn’t make a ton of sense to me. I comprehended the plot, but I didn’t see enough motivation for why things turned out the way they did. Questions are answered by the end, but the motivation for those events aren’t fully given. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling the short story. It’s a fun idea, and for a free ebook, it’s an enjoyable read.

John Dies at the End the movie: Great casting but rushed plot, 7/10

Having read the novel, I had some prior expectations about the movie. I tried to judge the movie solely on itself, but it’s hard to shake what I knew.

Have you ever seen something out of the corner of your eye late at night, but when you turn to look, nothing’s there? What if something really was there, and you gained the ability to see those beings? That’s what John Dies at the End is about – being able to see those creepy things in the night!

John Dies at the End is told mostly as a story as the main character, Dave, recounts his adventures to a journalist. Those scenes were fantastic. While the setting of the odd Chinese restaurant was a part of this, the character of Arnie was more responsible. Paul Giamatti plays Arnie Blondestone, and he’s absolutely perfect for the role. He seems so unimposing and a bit bland while at the same time just a tad odd, which is perfect for the character.

On the subject of casting and acting, all the characters were cast well. Chase Williamson is great as Dave, Rob Mayes plays a good, aloof John (although he looks tougher than I expected), and Clancy Brown is great as Dr. Albert Marconi.

Many things have changed from the book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story has been greatly condensed with some subplots ignored, some characters removed (or merged), and, unfortunately, some important details missing. While the initial setup and development is great in the first half of the movie even with the condensation, the latter half of the film suffers. There doesn’t seem to be enough justification for the characters’ actions. Things happen very suddenly at the end, and while some of the changes from the book are fun, it still feels incomplete.

Despite a rushed plot, John Dies at the End was still a terrific movie for people who like slightly cheesy sci-fi or horror films. While I complained about the rushed plot, it’s probably not as noticeable to someone who hadn’t read the book. John Dies at the End is probably best enjoyed late at night when you’re liable to see things in the shadows!

Daredevil by Mark Waid Vol. 2

Volume 2 of Mark Waid’s Daredevil collects issues 7 through 10.1, and Amazing Spider-Man 677. While I enjoy Daredevil best as a noir title, I enjoyed Waid’s continuation with a happier Daredevil. One storyline in this collection involves a villain stealing graves from beneath them, which then forces Daredevil to go underground looking for them. When one of the graves ends up being Matt’s dad’s, his emotional state turns sour. While this brings it a little darker, which I would normally like, the plot seemed rather silly to me, but the rest of the stories made up for it.

Now that I write this, I realize that my favorite story in this book involved Christmas, young children, tragedy, and harm coming to Matt. What did I say about liking the previous, darker Daredevil more? It’s darker than most of the surrounding stories while still ending positively.

Volume 2 also brings some comedy with a cross-over with Spider-Man. The Black Cat claims she’s been framed which sends Spider-Man and Daredevil off together. The switch to the Amazing Spider-Man’s art style seems very jarring because it’s a bit more stylized, but it also fits the comedy of Peter Parker. The cross-over brings plenty of jokes, a bit of romance, and great writing. “I think this is my super villain origin,” says Spider-Man, witnessing Daredevil and The Black Cat kiss.

The Omega Drive story continues as well. Matt contains a drive with terabytes of information on the world’s villain organizations, and they want it back. When one of them makes a move, Daredevil responds in kind.

Theater-packed weekend

Friday night I went to Fullerton College’s Playwrights Festival to see my brother’s play. His was third, last, so I’ll mention the other two first. Sala de Amor y Guerra by Elvia Rubalcava was family, a broken home, and repeating the same mistakes as your parents. It was entertaining, but it didn’t quite hit home with me. Some lines were in Spanish, and while I can understand the immersion aspect of seeing another culture, it ended up making me feel a bit frustrating. I also don’t fully grok being upset about the “broken home” scenario. My parents divorced, but I’ve never thought to say I come from a broken home. My life was fine.

The second play was Caught in the Middle by Iris Jimenez, which told a story of a love triangle, cheating, getting caught, rebounds, and more. It was extremely entertaining and very funny. As I watched it, I felt a little sad that it wasn’t something I could capture to watch again. That’s it. There’s no book, and there’s no DVD. Stupid theater!

His Story, by my brother, James Anargirou, was last. He actually never made it to a rehearsal, so he wasn’t sure how it was going to be performed. His Story was entirely dialogue driven set in a single scene. A woman is trying to talk a young man out of killing himself after catching him about to commit suicide. While he didn’t know her, it’s revealed that she not only knew him but was sort of stalking him. She convinces him to admit his reasoning: he was in love with a woman who died three years previously, and now he feels guilty for beginning to have feelings for other women. It was very interesting. When some people discussed it, they mentioned how at first you think he’s crazy and she’s trying to help, but then you learn they’re both crazy. It’s fascinating to me that someone would call him crazy, but I wouldn’t use that term. Yes, it’s extreme, but it isn’t exactly crazy in my opinion. It’s such an odd situation that I never previously considered either – being so devoted to someone that feelings for someone else after his or her death would leave you feeling as if you cheated. The play was performed as a dark comedy, but I think James wrote it as a drama. It was very entertaining to me, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it much. I can say that I’m very proud to have a talented brother though.

There was a bit more to my weekend, however. On Saturday I watched You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown! My coworker Mike was in it, so a group of us from work went to watch. It was very fun! I wasn’t very familiar with Peanuts, but I’m a bit more familiar with it now. The show consisted of mostly children, and they all did an excellent job.

Alice’s Uninteresting Adventures in Wonderland

Maybe I just don’t get literary nonsense, but I thought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was terrible. It seemed like Lewis Carroll didn’t know to where to take the story and just threw random elements at it, changing scenes whenever he grew bored. At least it was an easy read. I’m honestly surprised that it became as popular as it did.