Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winter is coming...to HBO!

I am addicted to HBO Original Series. My addiction began when I started watching Six Feet Under while on summer break from college. I've always had this healthy fascination with the macabre, so a show about a family that runs a funeral home was right up my alley. That show was fantastic; the writing was witty, the characters well developed and three dimensional, the acting was superb (I've been HUGE Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause & Frances Conroy fans ever since) and the plot lines were complex and engaging. I've come to realize that this awesomeness is par for HBO. They spend the time and money on their shows. They pour in love and dedication and the results are excellent. I love current shows like True Blood, Treme and Boardwalk Empire (and we're only 2 episodes in!). Sean and I recently finished watching the raw, brutal and amazing series, The Wire, which is further evidence that HBO is simply the best.
That is why, when it was announced that they would adapt George R.R. Martin's novel Game of Thrones (and hopefully the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire series) into an HBO Original Series, we were stoked. The books that make up "A Song of Ice and Fire" are some of the best fantasy novels I've ever read. The characters are well developed; the female characters are complex, not just ladies of the court that faint at the sight of blood. I began the series abhorring a character only to find in subsequent books that they're actually kind of likable and relatable. War is bloody and brutal, sex is not off the page, or sweet and wimpy, and there's magic, but it is really dark, subtle, unpredictable and rarely used. It's fantastic. Everyone that I have lent the book to has devoured it and begged for more. Anyone who has not had the pleasure of reading the novels should stop what they're doing right now and buy the soft-cover Game of Thrones for $7.99. I promise that you wont be disappointed.

These books are PERFECT source material for an HBO series. And Martin is heavily involved, so I have no doubt that the book-reading audience will be happy. The series premiers in 2011 and you can bet that Sean and I will be hosting a party for it. Winter is Coming, ladies and gentlemen, and it's going to be stellar!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Frakking Shiny Book of the Month: Boneshaker by Cherie M. Priest



The Kelley/Ives household (okay, okay- apartmenthold) is populated by two avid readers- Chelsea and myself. Despite our best efforts, our cats Terry and Tamsin have not been able to overcome their feline natures, and cannot read. So Chelsea and I are big readers. I'm the "bookfinder" of our duo. I actively seek out new books to read. Usually this is a process that involves going to message boards populated by other avid readers (like sffworld.com), or googling an author who's been getting good press, or once in awhile getting a recommendation from a friend. After reading a book, I will talk to Chelsea about it, and will either A) tell her it's great and that she should read it, B) tell her it sucks and that she shouldn't read it, or C) tell her it's great, but that she probably wouldn't like it (because it has a sad ending, or small animal dies in it, or something).

It was in this way that we both ended up reading Cherie M. Priest's "Boneshaker". I was perusing a Steampunk message board (I honestly don't remember which one) and a thread popped up called "Boneshaker." Within the thread, various Steampunks were discussing the virtues of the aforementioned book. Per the thread, I learned that the book contained:

Sky Pirates
Zombies
Crazy steampunk weapons and armor
Multiple mad scientists
An alternate history US Civil War
and a tender story of a mother and son

Despite that last thing (kidding...kind of), I decided that this book sounded awesome, and....forgot about it for like 6 months.

6 months later, I was trying to find another book (Scott Westerfield's "Leviathan"), and I found "Boneshaker" instead. I bought it, read it in about 3 days, and told Chelsea she pretty much had to read it too. Which she did.

So, sky pirates, zombies, and mad scientists may sound awesome, but I've read those words on the backs of books before only to find that the book itself wasn't actually very good. "Boneshaker" was very, very good. What separates "Boneshaker" from other, more inferior books in it's genre is the story. The relationship between the two main characters (a mother and son) is very strong, and very compelling. You can have all kinds of cool, fun stuff in your book, but if there's no heart it's not going to be very interesting. On top of all of that "Boneshaker" is fun to say. Say it out loud like you're announcing the name of a professional wrestler at Summerslam.

So, Frakking Shiny, for the month of September, recommends Cherie Priest's "Boneshaker"- check it out for Steampunk-y goodness, and a great story.

Friday, September 24, 2010

To Love A Ginger

In high school, I stumbled on some literature that has stayed with me, closely, every since.  I believe it all started when my adorable, 7 year-old sister, Shelby, came home chatting endlessly about the book her teacher was reading to her in school.  My mother, an avid reader, picked up the book and promptly devoured it in about 3 hours.  Shelby, totally enthralled, promptly requested that my mother continue reading where the teacher had left off earlier that day and an argument ensued about a the pronunciation of a particular character's name.  Phonetically, the teacher had been saying Her-me-own.  My mother, well-read in Greek mythology, was pronouncing it Her-my-on-eee.  I distinctly remember the screaming match that ensued and the result on the following day when Shelby related the story of correcting her teacher (most certainly as smugly as she could) on the pronunciation of the name Hermione.  I believe the teacher even called my mother to thank her.  Needless to say, I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, so I grabbed the book and read it.

And thus my eternal love affair with the world of Harry Potter began.  I was definitely older than the target audience for the series (I started them at 16), but, nonetheless, I was enthralled with the wizarding world, Hogwarts, spells, totally creepy villains and the trio of Harry, Hermione and my absolute favorite, one Ronald "Ron" Weasley.  I've always been a sucker for the loyal best friend of the protagonist.  The Samwise Gamgees of the literary world. I told Sean, while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that if Ron died at any point during the novel, I would put it down and leave it unfinished forever.  And I was serious.  I am overly attached to that ginger-haired, be-freckled, wise-cracking lad.  Simply put, he's the best.

He's so the best that I was honestly apprehensive about the prospect of an actual human being cast as him when they announced that a movie would be made.  Was it possible to encapsulate Ron Weasley off the page? Would the absolute hilarity of the Ron one-liners come through?  Could I love the Ron of the screen as much as the Ron of the book?

The answer is, yes, yes I could, and I do.  

Rupert Grint not only has an awesome name, but is also a perfect Ron Weasley. Sure, he's not stick thin and tall like the Ron of the books, but he totally "gets" the character and the result is excellent. His comedic timing is just right, and he's honestly the best actor of the trio. By leaps and bounds.  Ron scenes are always my favorite.  And that, readers, is why there is one, very specific moment in the following trailer, that I'm so so very excited to see in November. You'll know it when you see it.  For your viewing pleasure, the extended trailer for Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shia LeBeouf has Come to Destroy Your Childhood

Over the Summer, downtown Chicago was invaded by Transformers.

Apparently, Transformers 3: The Search for More Money, has a climactic final battle scene in which the heroic Autobots do battle with the villainous Decepticons throughout the streets of Chicago's Magnificent Mile and Loop. While said battle scene was being filmed, those of us who work downtown would walk past, or sometimes through, the sets of this Cybertronian melee. For a short time, I would pass smoking piles of rubble, soldiers firing (prop) machine guns, and giant robots on my way to and from my place of employ.

One day whilst on lunch, Chelsea and I walked past a set and saw the movie's biggest non-robot star, one Shia LeBeouf. He's the dude I really want to talk about here. I won't get too into what I think of the Beef as an actor (I think he's a terrible actor). What I want to talk about today is the fact that Shia LeBeouf is a grim avenging demon who has emerged from the depths of hell to consume everything you loved about your childhood.

Now, as near as I can tell, Shia, or as he's known in the lower levels of hell Sh'a, was first spat out of Satan's maw sometime in the mid to late 80's. Shortly thereafter, he went to work at the Disney Channel where he became a progenitor of other famed ruiners-of-good-things like the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and the entire cast of High School Musical. Unlike his Disney Channel ancestors, Sh'a was not merely content to ruin the childhoods of today's youth. Oh no. He had to ruin the childhoods of every kid who grew up in the 80's as well.

It all started with the first "Transformers" film. Transformers, for anyone born in the late 70's through early 80's, was the coolest frakking thing ever. Giant robots turned into cars, jets, cities, dinosaurs, tape decks, cameras, and all kinds of other stuff, and then beat the scrap out of each other. Did the show make any sort of sense? No. Was it really just a veiled attempt to sell toys? Sure. But it was still amazing.

So of course Sh'a had to come along and wreck it with some crappy live action movies. Oh you could blame the film's directors, or producers, but I know the real blame lies with Sh'a LeBeouf. "Transformers" was the first part of his Satan-assigned mission to make me, and all other 80's kids unhappy. The first "Transformers" is terrible. TERRIBLE. And you know why? No, it isn't because Bumblebee doesn't turn into a Volkswagen Beatle. No, it isn't the non-existent plot. It isn't even the incredibly poor acting of Megan Fox. The real problem is that Transformers- a movie about badass transforming giant robots focuses ENTIRELY ON SH'A LEBEOUF! HE'S THE MAIN CHARACTER! Not Optimus Prime, not Bumblebee, not Ratchet, not Megatron. The main character in "Transformers" is NOT a Transformer. He's a dude. A really lame dude who's signature "thing" is that he stutters when he says words ending in "oa".

Sh'a didn't stop there. Oh no. Because you know what else you loved when you were a kid? That's right, Indiana Jones. Sh'a wrecked that too. No, it wasn't George Lucas, or Steven Spielberg. It was the Beef. In "Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" we find out that Indiana Jones, the most awesomest, badassest character ever has a kid named...Mutt. Mutt is played by Sh'a as he tries to pretend to be James Dean but with knives. You can point to a million problems with "Crystal Skull". I mean, I laughed when the "extradimensional beings" flew their flying saucer out from under the ancient Mayan temple. But you know when I started shouting with blind rage at the screen? That's right, at the end when "Mutt" almost PUTS ON INDY'S HAT! YOU DON'T GET TO WEAR THAT HAT BEEF! YOU DON'T EVEN GET TO ALMOST WEAR THAT HAT! THAT'S INDY'S HAT! GET AWAY FROM THERE YOU VILE DEMONSPAWN! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!

Ahem.

Where was I?

Oh yes, the harbinger of darkness ruining movies.

Sh'a isn't done. He has more great stuff from the 80's to ruin. Have you seen the trailer for "Wall Street 2: Money Talks"? First off, how weird is it that they're making another Wall Street so many years after the first? Second, how cool will it be to see Michael Douglas play Gordon Gecko again? Third- WHAT IN ODIN'S NAME IS SH'A LEBEOUF DOING IN THIS MOVIE? How is he going to wreck this one? My guess is that he will actually take a crap on Michael Douglas's face. I mean, that trailer looks pretty good, but Sh'a's in it, so that means two things- the movie will make $300 million and it will be frakking TERRIBLE!

So what's next for the Beef? What else can he wreck? Where does he go from here? Well, I saw some pretty impressive looking concept art for a Voltron movie floating around on the internet. Maybe Beef can play Voltron's obnoxious son?

Filibuster: The Adult Temper Tantrum

This blog is not meant for political discussion or current events (unless they're nerdy, amazing current events).  However, once in a while, there are issues that occur that need to be mentioned because they're important.

In this case, it is yesterday's filibuster of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.  It's extremely infuriating and not solely because of the defense bill it was centered on.  I believe that people loving people, regardless of either of their gender, is something that should be accepted, but in this case, that's not the point. It is all the recent filibusters that are frustrating.  I firmly believe that the purpose of government is to accomplish things.  To get things done. To speak for the people.  Filibusters are not accomplishing things. They're not getting things done.  They're an adult temper tantrum akin to a child plugging their ears and humming in order tone out what they don't want to hear.  And the saddest part of all is that it will lead to another childish behavior: tit-for-tat.  I have no doubt in my Democratic mind that come the time when Democrats hold senate majority again, the same thing will happen; the democrats will throw the same ol' temper tantrum.  And the cycle will continue. Nothing will get done, few bills will pass and those that do will be so watered down and full of random stupid crap that they will look nothing like progress.

And thus, while I truly believe that I am a child at heart, it is moments like these when I wish I was actually still a child.  Because being an adult and watching people "in charge" act like 5 year-olds is just not worth it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go play with my DUPLOS.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steamy Subjects

It's no secret that Sean and I do a lot of reading.  More often than not if you see the two of us on the train during the morning or afternoon commute, both of us will have our noses stuck in a book.  Even if we're sitting together in the often coveted CTA train seats, we'll be ignoring each other in favor of the literature in our laps.  The majority of that literature tends to be fantasy/science fiction.  We read about swords, dragons, magic, aliens, spaceships way more than anything that can be found on the New York Times Bestseller list.  In our little fiction corner, we've found steampunk.  To be completely fair, Sean found steampunk first, and galliantly passed it my way.  I love it.  And I've even found novels that are steampunk AND that incorporate some of my other favorite subjects, like vampires and werewolves!

What is steampunk, you may ask?  Well, simply, it tends to be a genre set in the 17th century, often Victorian times, where the technology is steam-based, but far more advanced than that of the actual time.  You will find steam-powered engines, yes, but you will also find steam-powered gadgets that you cannot even conceive of.  You will find brass doodads and copper whatchamacallits that do wondrous things.  You'll find dirigible skycaptains (a much better word for blimp) and parasols with a secret weapon installed.  Ladies in taffeta overskirts with leather bandoliers and goggles on their heads.  Men with metal arms covered in cogs, springs, coils and gauges. It's glorious.  A visual, if you need one:



And it's what we've decided to use as the theme for our wedding.  It'll be more formal, neo-vicotorian, and a little more subtle, but it'll be steampunk.   The groom, possibly top-hatted, in a jacket with tails, with a gear corsage and a smile on his face.  The bride, corsetted, a gathered, bustled, swag skirt, with victorian buttoned boots, a gear hair comb and a grin on her face.  It's going to be amazing. I know, I know. Try to explain it to great-aunt fuddyduddy and uncle traditional.  It'll be interesting, to say the least, but it will undeniably be "us."  A little weird, very awesome, and unique.

Hopefully I will have the time to update this blog with little snippets of our plans and our designs.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Excerpts from my High School Journal #1

Now, for your reading pleasure, here are a few, choice excerpts from the journal I kept when I was a younger, high school aged nerd:

2/11/2000

I've always had a thing for comic books, I don't really know why, nobody else seems to. I guess I see alot of humanity in them that other people don't. You have to see that in the end, the best stories about say Superman for instance since everybody knows who he is are always the ones that bring out the most human aspects of him. Yes I am familiar with the fact that Superman is an alien and by that very description not a human at all, but I think what has to be realized is that Superman is just a reflection of what we dream about and aspire to.


Wow. Apparently, when I was 18, I didn't know how commas worked. I was also very deep. Alot of my entries were stream of consciousness. Here's an example:

2/16/2000

Cleaned gunships big scary said cross balloon Marine in the marina which I can't swim type or signal for any matter fire bomb tune in to the wife and kids glory early in the war and never hot air planning help for veterans and a monument to your sweat selling apples for legislated medical tuition another brick in the wall silk, what's silk anyway hey it's snowing creatures and apple pie...



It goes on like that. By the way, all of my journals are on graph paper. I was obsessed with graph paper when I was in high school because I hated margins. Here's an early attempt at humor from before I thought of myself as someone who is funny:

March 14, 2000

How to curl your tongue: Well first off, try curling it. Curling your tongue is fun and easy, take one side of your tongue and touch it to the other side. Hurrah! Your tongue is curled. Hurrah! Chances are, if you can't do it, neither can your mom and dad. I've heard it's genetic so I guess that that is why this is true. This may explain why your parents never seem particularly excited about kissing each other.


Actually, that is kind of funny. Almost. Good work 18 year old me!

Well, that's it for now. But as you may have noticed, there's a no. 1 on the title of this blog. Which means that soon enough, I will plunge into the depths of my teenage self's brain to bring you more nuggets of youthful awkwardness.