Thursday, July 31, 2014

Le Transperceneige

A few weeks ago, we did like many other moviegoers across the country and rented a movie using OnDemand. What's interesting to note is that this particular film was still in theaters, though in a very, very limited release. The movie? Snowpiercer from Korean director Bong Joon-ho, based upon a French graphic novel from the 1980s.

When the world governments finally get around to dealing with global warming, they shoot a chemical into the Earth's atmosphere with the hope of lowering the planet's temperature. It works only too well by freezing the planet surface and destroying most life under a thick layer of ice. However, the remnants of humanity managed to board a train called the Snowpiercer that endlessly circles the planet once every year thanks to the foresight of an inventor who was obsessed with trains.

Through the ensuing 18 years, the people segregated into two sections: those at the front of the train, living the high life, partying, and enjoying what the train has to offer; and those at the back end of the train, living in horrific conditions, filth, the air rife with the threat of violence. Fed up with the lives of his fellow passengers, Curtis sets in motion a plan to reach the engine of the train, and with a small crew treks from car to car to find some way to take over the train and hopefully to better the lives of the passengers at the back.

It's an amazing film with a great story that actually relies on the story and the actors rather than splashy, over-the-top CGI effects (like many of today's sci-fi fare). The movie has action, but the story that slowly reveals itself the farther Curtis travels is full of tear-jerker moments and a few unexpected twists. And it's chock full of great actors: Jonathan Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho, and the scruffy, beard-clad Chris Evans as Curtis. If you can find it playing near you (or OnDemand), check it out!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Quickie Book Review: And the Band Played On

by Randy Shilts

In the early 1980s, a new disease quickly began appearing in San Francisco and New York. The purple blotches of Kaposi's sarcoma and mysterious bouts of pneumocystis carinii seemed to only affect a very small minority of the public -- the gay community. But unlike other mysterious outbreaks, such as with Legionnaires' disease, the government and media response to the new disease was almost non-existent. Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On chronicles the early days of the AIDS epidemic, how many groups (the Regan administration, the media, the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, gay activists and organizations) responded to the situation. Infighting, political red tape, and silence -- most surprisingly from within both the medical and gay communities -- affected and undermined the research into discovering the disease. It made me angry reading this book, learning how lax the media was in paying any attention to the outbreak, reading how egos within the CDC and NIH (not to mention the lack of immediacy from the government) hampered efforts to locate the cause for the rash of odd diseases. The reaction of most in the gay community was in most cases, to ignore it. I could understand the anger in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, as he's one of the main players in the book.

The book is very sobering and sad and alternately uplifting, realizing that not everyone was apathetic. Many of the doctors and researchers involved risked their livelihoods and reputations, seeing AIDS not as a gay disease but as a human disease. Many gay groups appeared to help get the word out about AIDS, holding candlelight vigils for loved ones, refusing to remain silent in the face of opposition.

And the Band Played On provides an in-depth and thorough look at the first years of the AIDS epidemic, and it's one of the best books I've read in quite some time. I most definitely recommend it.

And the Band Played On
by Randy Shilts
St. Martin's Press,br> trade paperback, 630 pgs.

purchased book

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mothers Day


My Mom and I finally found a day free of commitments on both sides to use her Mothers Day gift for this year. Now, my Mom usually likes going to a musical or a play, which we've done many times in the past. This year, though, she surprised me. When I asked what she wanted, she said without hesitation, "I want to see the U.S.S. Iowa."

And that's how we spent this afternoon, walking the decks of the battleship, climbing the stairs, soaking in the history. I was worried about the stairs, remembering from the Missouri how steep and narrow they can be. She has pins and screws in her left ankle, but she took her time, watched her step, and made it through the entire ship.

She was all smiles as we walked down the ramp into the parking lot. I'm not sure if it was because we finally saw the ship or because she mastered those steps.




Saturday, July 26, 2014

iTunes Saturday - Heap

One of my favorite artists releases a new album next month, so I find it fitting to select one of those songs for today's post. I first heard Imogen Heap when frou frou's songs Let Go and Breath In were released. I loved the CD and soon discovered Heap's second solo album speak for yourself thanks to her electronically a cappella song Hide and Seek. Her mixing of technology and music captivated me, and from then on, I've listened to everything I can find -- going so far as to download a ringtone she created. I'm excited about the new album, and this track provides a great glimpse of what to expect. (And yes, I've had it in my iTunes playlist for over a month....) You Know Where to Find Me by Imogen Heap:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Specs

A month ago, I attended my biannual appointment with the ophthalmologist. And as luck would have it, my prescription changed -- albeit it a very miniscule amount -- so I needed new glasses. Rather than try to sell me on a new set of frames to complement the new lenses, the tech immediately suggested simply ordering new lenses and having them sized to fit my current frames. I'd never thought of that, but I do like the current frames (and the clip on sunglasses that are custom to them) and immediately said yes.

I stopped by the optic lab this afternoon, and 15 minutes later, I'm sporting new lenses in old frames. For anyone who's ever suffered through new frames -- the constant adjusting over the ears, the fiddling with how they sit on the nose, the occasional bleeding from something not adjusted properly -- you can understand my happiness at not having to go through all that. My frames are a little over a year old. I'm accustomed to how they fit, how they look. And I'm so excited that I can see even better through them now!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Zombies in Savannah

Last night I finally finished The Walking Dead: Season One from Telltale Games, and I must say that I understand why it earned so many "Game of the Year" accolades. The game tells an incredible story set within the same world as the TV show. You don't play as any of those characters, though; instead, you're Lee Everett who stumbles across a young girl named Clementine during the first days of the zombie apocalypse. His mission is to keep her safe while trying to find her parents in Savannah. However, during the first episode you do meet Glenn and Herschel, and some of the interaction with them reflects upon certain points within the TV show.

The game itself looks great, with the graphics being a mix of graphic novel and 3D. Very stylized, but it allows for some surprisingly gruesome zombie effects. As for game play, it's not the typical shoot 'em up or mission-based play. Instead, it's very story driven, and the actions you take or things you say directly impact how the entire story evolves. At some points, I had to quickly decide which character to save, or whether to lie. So I can replay the game, make different decisions, and experience a different story.

What surprised me the most, though, was how emotional the last episode was...just like when I played The Last of Us. You don't think that a game would make you cry, but this one sure as heck did.

So now, I'm waiting for all the episodes of Season Two to be released. I don't think I can handle playing an episode then waiting a month or two for the next....

Saturday, July 19, 2014

iTunes Saturday - Jam

Usually, I have some kind of idea in mind when selecting which song to use for my iTunes Saturday. Today is not one of those days. So...here's A Town Called Malice by The Jam: