Review (SPOILERS) Ready Player One [Movie]

I can’t review Ready Player One without spoilers.  I might be able to, but I’d have to go watch the trailer a bunch to make sure what I talk about is only from the trailer.  Oh, but can I assume people HAVE read a book that’s been out for 7 years?  I generally have a ~1yr policy on not spoiling books so….  (1 year from when you learned about the book is my general rule.)

So you have fair warning: I will be spoiling both book and movie if you haven’t consumed them yet… well, stop reading or don’t complain. I’ve done what I can to make sure everything that might preview on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere has given you time to go “noooo, no spoilers!”

I have been avoiding other reviews so everything I say is my own.

I suspected from the trailer, but I have to say I think it’s disappointing that they (a) left out the whole D&D part of the book and (b)if he was in any kind of formal school that was…. ignored? Edited out? It was world building I wished they had included.

know they had to trim things to make it into a viable move-length format but…. but since RPGs is my area of geekery (I loved how that played out in the book) I don’t like that it was completely cut out.  I feel like they managed to keep video games, movies & music – but roleplaying got cut completely.  I didn’t even see some good WOW references or EverQuest (and maybe I just missed them).  The closest was a troll but I didn’t see anything that screamed “RPGS” in it.

So putting that aside, I would say that as a movie inspired by the book; it’s good.  As a movie based on the book it lacks some of the depth the book had.  Not surprising, Ready Player One was told in first person and converting that to third person limited is damn difficult.  And on that front, I think this might be the best conversion from 1st person book to movie I’ve seen.

That said, it still loses some of the… urgency that Wade experienced in the book. I felt like he was less invested in hating IOI and more invested in his own comfort.  In the book it’s clear from page 3 or so that IOI is despised and even if Wade doesn’t feel he has the power to stop them; he would if he could. That was not evident in the movie.  I wish they would have minimized the romance with Art3mis rather than minimize the personality and motivations of the protagonist.

Which leads to the fact they minimized his role in general. I don’t know how I feel about this one. On the one hand I feel like Art3mis/Samantha was a much more interesting character and more plot-driving. I kind of love that she was the one to stick out the danger of IOI’s headquarters. BUT the romance element was… frankly, I felt like it was forced.  I just felt like they kept pushing the “kiss the girl” thing which wasn’t as true in the book.  At least my memory of the book it felt like they formed a friendship and he had a crush on her before he met her – but after meeting her he found the friendship as important as potential romance.

My other beef is minimizing the international nature of the world. I feel like it got set in OK and stayed there.  Everyone was just magically there; I kept wanting the scene where H comes to “rescue” him and I hated that WADE didn’t call H.  If I step away from the book, it’s fine and makes sense.  But definitely, the classic stands, “The book was better.”

I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.  I will try to distance myself more so I can watch it without wanting to see the book on the screen.

Trivia: Peppers

I get so annoyed with people confusing black pepper with bell peppers.  How can anyone who cooks think these things are anything alike?

Thanks English (#ThanksObama)

Well in this case I can very firmly blame the English.  Ok, mostly the English but also the Dutch, Portugese and Spanish – basically “Europe.”

You see, when Europeans came to America and found these…. things… that added flavor to food; they didn’t want to bother learning the natives’ language so they took them back to Europe and marketed them as “peppers.”

Prior to America, the most “spicy” food most Europeans ate came imported from Indian in the form of these little black pods called “peppercorns.”  So, these master marketers decided to call this new tasty treat a pepper!  (So creative. The most creative. Believe me.)

As an aside – corn meant “grain” so a “peppercorn” is a pepper-grain (which is fitting).  And pepper was a word from sanskrit which might have meant something like “berry” waaaaay back when; Ergo it’s “berry grain” which if you’ve ever seen perppercorns growing fits:

image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper

So, when these Europeans wanted to sell something that made food tasty, they named it the same damn name as what people already knew.  Or so damn close that 200 years later people don’t understand:

These are two totally separate plants.

In fact, you have to go up past species and genus and family and order  to Clade or Kingdom “Andiosperms” (clade) and “Plantae” (Kingdom).  It’s not even like they are closely related and so yeah people might have crossed the wires a bit… NOPE.

So, the next time you hear someone talking about peppers stop and ask if they mean real peppers or the Europeans-didn’t-want-to-confuse-people-to-make-profit peppers.

 

Review: Herland

Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I saw this on a list of “early sci-fi books written by women” and DAMN.  DAMN.  It was written as a serial and then published as a book in 1915.  Women got the right to vote in 1919.  Just FYI – that means this woman-written-science-fiction-utopian-novel about a society of women-only (literally, parthenogenesis – virgin birth no men society).

It was short and sweet and fun to listen to (via Librivox). The premise is three American men discover/get to this little land which has been protected by mountains & cliffs for two-thousand years.  With no men. Because the men killed each other.

I did get a little tired of the word “motherhood” because the over arching philsophy of these women is motherhood.  And so everything he (the imaginary male protagonist writer) “explores” about this utopia deals with this core concept.

It is fascinating.  I finished it on my way home and immediately wanted to write my thoughts, but that’s actually really hard. I’m going to have to chew on it for awhile. Was she making fun of “motherhood” in some places or did she really think that “motherhood” was the ultimate ideal for humanity. She definitely thinks men are the only reason humanity has wars or fights.

And, I was warned so it didn’t catch me off guard, the author had a thing for eugenics – which granted was a thing in the early twentieth century.  She was not saying one race over others (apparently these women looked like all the races) but breeding out “defects” such as needing glasses or behavioral problems…. yeah, so that’s a thing I don’t want anyone surprised by.

Ok, so without being spoilery; this book is reminescent of books like The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Call of the Wild in tone and pacing.  Low “action” and high “thoughts” but it isn’t boring by any means.  Gilman definitely keeps coming back to certain actions so the reader isn’t JUST reading a treatise.  And there is a mystery that gets hinted at and hinted at and the reveal feels natural.  And not surprising.  And still a hair shocking simply because the narrator was so surprised by it.

My Review: go read it to expand your horizons, but keep it in the context of its own time.

Manners: April Fools

HATE this “holiday.”

So let’s define what makes April Fools a thing.  (A) Pranks and (B) LIES.

When people talk to me about it, I tend to say April Fools is the day in which we glorify bullies.  Because let’s be clear here; pranks and lies are a breeding ground for bullies and abusers.  So even if you are just being funny; you are giving permission for that person/those people for whom something like “empathy” is a bad word… well, all you’re doing is telling them this kind of behavior actually is acceptable.

Yes, I am arguing that just like telling rape jokes informs rapists that other people think their actions are (ever) acceptable; your April Fools actions tells bullies & abusers that what they do every day must have some kind social acceptability.

There are exceptions.  Google has generally been good at April Fools; saying they were going to use toilets/sewer systems to get internet to people; scratch & sniff searching; rickrolling youtube viewers; translating animal sounds into human language; the pokemon map challenge (probably my favorite).

Here is what I see the difference being.  Putting out broccoli in a donut box isn’t horrible; but if I’m having a really shitty day and I go into the break room and I have that moment of “oh, wow. Someone did something NICE for us.” and then open it and find broccoli – “UGH.  Damnit, that would have made my day so much nicer.” At the end of the day you didn’t hurt me.  But the person who posts on facebook they are pregnant “april fools” – to every woman struggling with conception – that shit hurt.  To the woman who is suffering in silence (because society says she should “get over it”) from a miscarriage – that shit HURT.  And that isn’t a far step from one prank to the other.  And then putting reese’s pieces into a bowl with skittles and M&M’s might seem funny – until someone with a peanut allergy takes a “safe snack” and ends up in the ER (or worse).

And there are always people who take things too far.  Putting inedibles in food and handing it out randomly (one I’ve seen is replacing gum with play doh – it isn’t poisonous) or disgusting foods (caramel onions anyone?). But how the hell is that actually funny? Ruining clothes or forcing someone to spend hours cleaning up (again – things like “planting grass in someone’s keyboard” or wrapping their entire cubicle in wrapping paper):  How the hell is that funny? How long would it take to clean that shit up?  More than 10 minutes?  That would be a very annoying +10 minutes.

So despite the fact that funny pranks can happen; I hate this holiday.  I hate seeing a day which allows bullies to delight themselves in others’ pain.  I hate seeing parents glorify bullying behaviors for their children so their children repeat this shit every day after.  Because that’s what happens -children see their parents planning/pulling these pranks; and in the worst cases they continue to “one up” themselves until someone gets hurt. Or until they find themselves isolated and don’t understand why.

So before you post a fake pregnancy on Facebook this weekend for your April Fools joke (which btw is EASTER so… maybe just go with that holiday instead anyway?) think about it – could you be posting something that causes emotional pain? Are you sure it won’t?  Could someone think that your prank gives them permission to take the joke “too far” next time? Are you setting the example of empathy you want to see in others or are you delighting in the frustration of others?

Short Story: Dragon Drops

The bookshop was really just one of these hole-in-the-wall places, a door between two bright, shiny businesses.  The window was stacked with books, hiding everything inside. There was a posterboard that read “All Trade Paperbacks, $1” in front of the four towers of crappy paperback books – mostly romance novels from the scrawling letters – which balanced in the window.

The woman who entered this day was not tall, not beautiful, and not dressed up. Wearing jeans and a shirt that read “Talk N Er Dy to me” with the periodic symbols for Nitrogen, Erbium, and Dysprosium for the Nerdy spelling. It was a little loose and around her waist was tied the arms of a hoodie.

Behind the counter the proprietor raised his head without opening his eyes.  His sharp teeth gleamed as he said, “I think you might be lost ma’am.”

“I hope not,” she replied, turning in a slow circle to take in the shelves of precariously stacked shelved.

“Where are you trying to go?”

“Anywhere,” she replied, putting her fingers on the spine of a book with almost reverence.

The shop owner narrowed his eyes and took a long, deep breath.  The pages of the book beneath him stirred in the wind of that air and settled again.  He looked down and tapped on the page with a soft grunt of surprise.

“Very well ma’am.  It seems you aren’t as lost as I thought.  Are you sure?”

She didn’t reply, she had lifted a book from the shelf and was reading the first page.  The shopkeeper sighed and shook his head a little.  He tapped a bell on the counter and bowed his head against his chest again.

From the back room of the shop a door opened.  Noise made the customer raise her head and she set the book back on the shelf, sidling towards the open doorway.  As she stepped through, there was a jingle of laughter around her and three small baubles dropped into her hand.

Should you ever wish to return, just eat one of these drops,” a voice said.  “Just know, the same door is never available twice.”

She smiled a little and pocketed the baubles and fingered the five dragon drops.

Review: Subnautica

I have been watching this game for 2-3 years.  I watched JackSepticEye and NeebsGaming playing through the beta/early access versions.  I held off buying until it went live (ok, I got it like 2 days early, so technically I was an early access supporter…)

TL;DR: 5/5 review.

This game is NOT 100% perfect.  I had a few glitches, but since January I’ve played through the game 2.33 times. I am going to play through again ’cause I am determined to do a hardmode play through (one death, arg…); and I am not usually the person who does that.  But damnit, I am going to with this game!

So what draws me so strongly to this game? Well, I will be the first person to say I love survival games.  If you look at my steam hours played; Ark, Terraria, Starbound, Subnautica, Banished… survival & resource management. On my wishlist is games like “Surviving Mars”; “Y lands”; “Oxygen Not Included”; and “Eco” (though I’m waiting on that last one with more trepidation than some of the others).  Still, as far as survival goes – Subnautica is one of the better games I’ve played.  Although food and water are sometimes annoying, they rarely so demanding that it dominates game play (Banished is driven by food needs).  Oxygen (you know, ’cause you’re swimming a lot) is more difficult to manage and adds a great element of difficulty in general.

The story is definitely where this game shines.  Like diamonds in the sky shiny.  You spend a few days “surviving” and getting to know your controls and needs.  Then stuff starts to happen.  I’m not sure how the game determines it’s time to trigger specific events, but as they begin to play out the player is drawn to the mystery that is the core of this game.  I can’t talk much about the story because I do not want to give away spoilers.  You should play it if you want to see the story.

Difficulty progression is also something that these developers did an excellent job of.  In the beginning there aren’t a lot of super-dangerous creatures around you.  They are things you can avoid just by paying attention.  And that level stays pretty consistent throughout the game.  Through the entire game dangers can be avoided by just paying attention; listening to the environment and everything dangerous yells it’s location pretty regularly.  There isn’t a traditional weapon; all you have to “kill” things is a knife -and that’s the most lethal item in your arsenal.  So you have to  pay attention to the environment and keep alert for dangers – always.  Even after I had every upgrade available; avoidance was my most effective survival tool.

And none of this is touching on the graphics (which is where 90% of my glitches occurred) or the sounds & music.  Music isn’t constant, it has triggers and there were a few times where the music started and I started squirming in my seat “Oh, I hate when that music starts… but I have to keep going.”  It is one of the few games where I just play the game.  Much of my gaming I also like to watch YouTube or Netflix or something on our Plex (I’m very slowly working my way through Stargate SG-1).  Not with Subnautica.  I need those environmental triggers too much and want to be entirely immersed.

I give this a 5/5 because this is a: unless you refuse to ever play a video game or don’t have a computer – you should play this game; If you can bear survival games – you should play this game; If you like a good story with a mystery that you need to solve – you should play this game; When you need to immerse yourself into a fantasy world – you should play this game.

Seriously, even if survival isn’t your normal genre of gaming.  If you like RPGs or adventure or GTA or shooters.  Play this game; it’s worth it.

Short Story: Wind chimes

Staring out the window was hardly the most productive use of time, but it’s all Cordy wanted to do today.  It was just cloudy enough to be gloomy, with a pallor that it might rain any moment.  It was just cold enough to make a t-shirt too light and a sweater too heavy.  In all, it was the worst sort of day in her opinion.

On the other hand, it was exactly the kind of weather which was most useful to her particular brand of magic.  In those moments before the rain broke, the equilibrium of the world hung in balance and if she could time everything right, Cordy could change the world.

Most witches had to use potions or long complicated spells.  Cordy had spent years struggling with why sometimes her spells were powerful and sometimes they didn’t work at all.  It had been something of an accident when she figured out she was linked to the weather.

She had been sitting in her living room with a scrying bowl, trying to seek her next car.  It wasn’t as simple as going to the local dealership; a witch needed a car that wouldn’t dull her magical senses and wouldn’t fight her every time she did something a little funny to the universe.  There was a running joke that cars were harder to find than cats among witches.

Cordy had just entered her trance when thunder boomed.  It rattled the windows on her apartment and made the wind chimes she’d hung on the porch screech in a jangle of metal.  But the power which flower through her was intense; and she instantly saw her car.  It wasn’t anything special, just a blue Toyota; but it would be the car that wouldn’t get upset about magic and wouldn’t crap out on her.

It took some experiments to figure out that it was change that empowered Cordy; weather or construction had both proven useful. Recent road work near her house had been like there was a river of power flowing past her daily.  She’d never heard of a witch empowered by change.  Just think what she could do during times of civil unrest? Civil war would give her the kind of power people only attributed to Rasputin or Charlegmagne or Ceaser.

 


I know this isn’t a story with a plot; but it’s been rattling in my mind that IF there were urban witches, why aren’t they powerful? Why aren’t they turning people into frogs and whatnot?  Well, what if they used their power wrong.  So this isn’t as much a “short story” as a bit of exploration in a character/idea/magic concept.   It’s also a “I swore I’d get something blogged this week” post….