Review: Reviewing Reviews by a Reviewer

I am wrapping up a project at work that has kind of consumed my life for the past few months (hence the super-sporadic posting).  I have been a bit manic about when/how/what I post. Hence there have been a few weeks where I got stuff scheduled the weekend before or managed to keep up with the occasional night-writing and the past two or three weeks have been deathly silent.

But now I am working on the reviews for my project-team. Because I think it’s important to give them feedback (the good, the bad and the ugly).  And it’s hard because reviewing-up is stressful (especially since I can’t be anonymous). Reviewing peers isn’t as bad, my workplace DOES have a good culture about constructive reviews.  ASKING for reviews is also hard because as much as my company has a culture to encourage constructive reviews – I don’t feel like everyone does it.

I have 2-5 managers I love working with because they give me AWESOME feedback (“the audio was kind of scratchy” or “I wish the examples had been more department-specific” or the like) where not only do they tell me something was wrong, they tell me what would make it better (even when I then roll my eyes in my brain and go “yeah…. not with OUR time constraints” or the like).

I like constructive feedback.  I LIKE it.  I crave it as an employee. I want to be better. I promise, I’m not trying to do something less than awesome and if it’s less than awesome I either didn’t know/realize or HAD to compromise because of time/money constraints.  That old time-money-quality triangle is something I balance in my head A LOT.  Probably more than I should. But if no one mentions it, I might not realize I missed awesome (’cause that was my AIM).

So as I come to the end of this project I am trying to think of some way(s) I can get the constructive critique I want.  I know at least one person on the project I am going to ask to get lunch with me and have a very frank conversation (a – I think he’ll be super-honest and b- he’s been extremely involved in several pieces of the project that were the pieces that went a little sideways). For most of them, I think I am going to give them constructive critiques (most of them highly positive) and just send them a quick email asking them for the same.

Hopefully, this also means I can get back to writing here on the regular instead of the manic sporadic writing I’ve BEEN getting in.  I have a character fluttering in my brain begging me to write her story but I’m soooo mentally tired every night.

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.