Saturday, August 31, 2013

Things I've Noticed: I start school again next week

Next week I begin my final year of my Masters of Library and Information Studies Degree.  As I have a full-time job I'm only taking two courses; Reference and Information Services, and Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public libraries.

Guess which one I'll be focusing on here on my blog.

So I've now got a list of a bunch of comic books I need to read to begin my understanding of the format.

First up, Owly v1: The Way Home and The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton, and The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Although the course does have a superhero component, that will come later so first up are two comics which contain almost no words.

I'm totally looking forward to it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

As a fan of the Horror genre, I tend to get pretty excited when a horror text hits the mainstream, so even though it was billed as a literary thriller, Marisha Pessl’s Night Film caught my attention a few months ago, and when a friend offered to loan me a copy I couldn’t possibly say no.

Having just finished the book, here are my key impressions (also it’s important to keep in mind that I haven’t read the author’s previous book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and came to this book as a fan of Horror novels, both of which will likely colour my opinion).

In a nutshell, the novel follows a disgraced journalist’s investigation into the death of the daughter of a major horror film director.  In the world of Night Film, this director, Stanislas Cordova has created a body of work that is both so influential that one of his films won an academy award in 1971 (sorry Kramer vs. Kramer), and so terrifying that his films are all now banned and only shown at night by enthusiasts to fans with the knowledge where to find these screenings.  Our narrator, Scott McGrath, follows an immersive journey throughout the book as he tries to find the solution to Ashley Cordova’s apparent suicide, which takes him through the young woman’s life and the films (and making of the films) which were created by her father.

The novel most reminded me of Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (adapted into the 1987 film Angel Heart), and Rosemary’s Baby by Iran Levin (also adapted into film in 1968), with an awful lot of similarities to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (still one of my favourite immersive horror novels, period).

Much of the information given about the Cordova family in the book is done is a format where webpages and articles have been reproduced, which is neat at first, but a little tiring after a while (and sometimes tricky to read due to font size or dark grey on black text) and thankfully doesn’t pop up much in the second half of the book.

As a mystery I found it to be a lot of fun, it definitely kept my interest through the entire 600 pages, and as both a film buff and horror fan, there was enough material to keep me interested – although to be clear, there are not that many horrific moments in the book – a few to be sure, but this book is clearly mystery/thriller with horror elements, rather than a horror novel of its own.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Review: The World's End

For my birthday the family took me out to see the movie The World's End, which was pretty fan-freaking-tastic.

Following a group of five men who are attempting to complete a failed pub-crawl they attempted twenty years ago, the movie begins solidly in the comedy genre, but then moves quite quickly and seamlessly into science fiction.

Having loved the previous works by this creative team (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and the TV series Spaced) I've been looking forward to this film all year.  My wife and kids also enjoyed it (although to be fair, my kids are older, so I wouldn't bring any Elementary-school-aged kids to see it), so all in all, it was a great way to spend the afternoon, and yes, I'll absolutely be adding it to my DVD collection when it comes available.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Things I've Noticed: It's my Birthday today

Today I celebrate my 37th birthday, and also my (roughly) fourth year of doing this blog.

I've had a pretty great day; my family has done some very nice things for me, we went out to see a movie (more on that on Wednesday), and I got to have my various birthday treats.

Also, I finished Infamous 2, which wasn't planned, but is quite nice, and I found the most adorable monkey-themed birthday picture I've ever seen (pictured right).

In a few weeks I'm back to school for the last year of my graduate degree, and honestly, I think I'm doing a pretty good job of living in my late-mid-30s (next year I have to start saying late-30s, so let me hang onto this for the year!).

For all my various followers, readers, and people who just stop by to see if I've found anymore cute monkey pictures, thanks!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Camping with Bookmonkey

Later today the family and I heading out for our yearly camping trip (although to be fair we didn't go last year, as I was starting a new job).

We've spent the last couple days packing and prepping, and yes, I've got a couple books and games ready to go.

See you all after the weekend!

Your Pal,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Review: The Enchanted Places

As prep work for an upcoming course, I recently read The Enchanted Places by Christopher (Robin) Milne, son of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne, and I've got to say the book was pretty interesting.

Following Christopher Robin's life as both the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and later as having his own degree of fame for being, well, himself, the book is both an interesting study in English culture through the 1920s and 30s, as well as a mediation on childhood celebrity.

Early in the book the author attempts to describe his dual fame as both the son of a well-known author and as the boy in the stories, " if I seem ill at ease posing as Christopher Robin this is because posing as Christopher Robin does today make me feel ill at ease."

What I liked best about the book was the honest look this man took at his bizarre life, having grown up famous for what he inspired his father to write, and dealing with the fact that for many people, his childhood was (and still is to a degree) public property.

A very interesting read.

As a side note, one of the wonderful things about YouTube is the fact that I can quite quickly find a recording of Christopher Milne reading his father's poem "Us Two" at age seven - the recital starts two minutes into the video.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Things I've noticed: cutting down on coffee is tricky

So I'm currently working on cutting myself down to two cups of coffee a day.

I didn't actually start drinking coffee until I was about 19-years-old, because back then it was the only drink you could get free refills at when you went out for dinner (this was before bottomless soda became a thing).

In my twenties I would drink 6-8 cups a day (often more) with cream and sugar and would often have coffee late into the evening while playing tabletop role-playing games.

When I started working at a local business that had free coffee for staff I knew I had to work on cutting down.  So I dropped down to four cups a day and only decaf after lunch.

Since starting my current library job last year I've gone down to three cups and cut sugar out of my coffee entirely.

As of last Thursday I've decided to drop down to two cups.

(this might be a good place to apologize for not getting this post up on Friday like I usually do - sorry all!)

For the first time in my history of cutting down I do have a low-level headache and my wife says I'm nodding off a little in the evenings as we watch our shows.

As of day four, I feel like the headache as levelled off a bit, and I'm loving those two cups of coffee I get each day a little bit more than I did my old three-cup-a-day habit, so that's good.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: John Russell

As a Canadian and a Genre fan, I'm always happy to talk about books and movies that show my fellow countrymen (and women) can tell great stories in the Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction genres.  Today I'm actually going to look at the film that won the first Genie Award (the Canadian Oscars - actually, to be fair, this didn't win the first one, but it did win the first one after the award changed it's name from the Canadian Film Award), Peter Medak's The Changeling, which stared George C. Scott as this week's genre character, John Russell.

In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, John moves into an old mansion in Seattle and attempts to put his life back together.  Unfortunately for John, the house isn't exactly empty.

What I really like about John is the fact that he didn't simply run away screaming as soon as things went strange in the house, instead he worked to understand the how and the why of the situation.

The movie is pretty great, also for those of you who have seen The Conjuring earlier this year, it's pretty obvious that at least two key scenes are heavily influenced by the earlier film.

It's definitely worth a watch.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh

Over the weekend I decided to read A.A. Milne's classic stories and poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, and completely fell in love with them.

I'm about 60% sure I've read at least some of these in my life, but as with most people of my generation, my introduction to the character came from the Disney shorts (and later feature film) of the 60s and 70s.  Reading the original text, I was really impressed by how close the films stuck to the source material and just how sweet these original stories were.

I don't know if I could pick a personal favourite character (my wife has long been a fan of Eeyore), but it's probably either Pooh or Piglet as they have some of the best interactions in the stories.

If you've never read the original works, I strongly recommend them, as they are in turns fun, whimsical, enchanting, and honestly, a wonderful look at childhood through the eyes of a young boy's toys.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Things I've Noticed: Prequels can be Tricky

Last night we got together with a bunch of friends and watched the 2013 fantasy film Oz the Great and Powerful and throughout the film thee were a few key things I noticed:

1) The image on both the poster and the DVD cover (pictured left) actually has nothing to do with any image in the film, there is no point where these characters all interact and certainly never while travelling down the yellow brick road.

2) Films which are designed to be both stories in their own right but also set ups for previously existing stories have an awful lot of challenges in store for them.

3) Much of what is covered in this film comes down to the hope that the Wizard of Oz's story is as interesting as Dorothy's story in the original film and that it might be able to capitalize on the success of both the Gregory Maguire book Wicked: the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and the successful musical adaption of it as well.

As the movie is still relatively new (5 months as of this post), I don't want to go too deeply into the plot, but I will say that the film had quite a tough challenge if it wanted to appeal to fans of the classic 1939 MGM film, as well of those of the manay adaptations and newcomers as well.

For my money, my favourite Oz film has always been the 1985 film Return to OZ, which is both a great fantasy film and one of the scariest things I ever saw as a kid.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Cole MacGrath

So I'm currently working my way through the 2011 PS3 game Infamous 2, and I just realized I've never really talked about the main character of the series, Cole MacGrath before.

Originally a bike messenger from the fiction Empire City, Cole begins the first game by getting caught up in a massive explosion, which has granted him electrical-based superpowers.

Throughout the two games Cole works to increase his use of these powers to aid him in his mission.

...and that's where we get into what I really love about both the character and this game series overall.

Cole can be played as either good or evil.

This means that as the player, you can decide whether Cole helps out the citizens of Empire City (and New Marais - clearly a New Orleans-inspired city in Infamous 2) or simply dominate them on his way to defeat those who would stand against him.

It makes for one of the more interesting game experiences I've had in my experience with video games - basically letting me decide whether I want to do my best to help those around me or simply get the job done and let God sort it out.

Yes, Cole has some pretty good one-liners and his parkour moves are pretty exciting, but unlike a traditional book, movie, or television series, the format of the game allows you, the player, to decide how things will run.

Also Electrical powers are awesome!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Long Weekend: Bookmonkey Style

For my readers not in Alberta Canada, we're just finishing up the August long weekend here - Heritage Day to be specific, and although I didn't really take in the Heritage Day festival this year I do feel like my long weekend was time well spent.

First of all my family got to start watching the first season of the HBO Series, The Newsroom, which has been pretty excellent so far.  

Next up, I got a good fifth of the way into the PS3 game Infamous 2, which takes the electrical-powered character from the first game and puts him in a city surrounded by ocean and swamp (he can't touch water or he'll die) - so far its been a lot of fun.

Past that I got to take my wife out for breakfast, go to one of my monthly book clubs, check out the 1971 Ken Russell film The Devils, and see a pretty neat little fantasy film called The Brass Teapot.

But now it's sleepy-time for this tired little bookmonkey, and back to work tomorrow.

G'night all!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Things I've noticed: I'm Free This August!

 So I just finished a pretty intense graduate level Education course last month (EDES 545: Information Technology and Learning), and now I have a whole month before I'm back at school in September.
So what will I be doing to fill up the month?  Spending a bunch of time with my wife; who now sometimes complains of the lonely life of an MLIS-candidate's wife.  Doing some yardwork, playing Infamous 2, and reading (I've got nine books lined up forAugust).

Past that I'm hoping to get so exercise in, as the scholar's life often ignores things like standing and walking around, so I'm going to try and take advantage of the weather and get out on my bicycle a bunch this month as well.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Scud the Disposable Assassin

Although I like to feel I’m on top of my favourite genres (Fantasy/Horror/Science Fiction) in terms of the classics, the popular, and the upcoming, sometimes stuff does manage to get past me; case in point (and the week’s genre character), Rob Schrab’s Scud: the Disposable Assassin.

First appearing in 1994 (so yes, I’m nearly twenty years out of date), Scud follows the story of a vending machine assassin robot with one simple rule - it self-destructs after it terminates its primary target.  The first story (which includes a nearly 20 page fight sequence) twists the robot’s original programming when the robot (Scud) happens to see a reflection in a bathroom mirror which states:
At which point he changes his tactics and (mild, twenty-year-old spoiler) puts his target into a coma, then takes her to the hospital and spends the rest of the series working as a freelance assassin earning money to pay her hospital bills so she won’t die (and therefore, neither will he).

The stories are pretty crazy (not quite Fun With Milk and Cheese crazy, but really close) and although sometimes the writing is tiny (I will admit to using a magnifying glass more than a few times), and some of the monsters defy description, I found I really enjoyed the heart at the centre of the story, and as more characters get introduced (this was almost a post focusing on Scud’s sidekick, Drywall), the story just gets more and more fun.