Monday, March 31, 2014

My Complicated feelings about the 2014 TMNT Remake

So a few days ago I saw the first trailer for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) film and I have to say it left me a little conflicted.

Here's the thing; I grew up with the Ninja Turtles, I read the classic comics, watched the show, owned the toys, played the role-playing game and felt solidly betrayed by TMNT III: Turtles in Time - so let's just say I've been there, I know of what I speak and I come from a place where I can say I'm a big fan, it holds a special place in my childhood and even through I may not have liked every iteration of TMNT, for the most part I'm on board.

Now we get the new trailer, promising us a sleeker, more up-to-date look at the turtles, and I ask myself - do we need this?  I mean, I'm a big fan of movies, and I dedicated a whole month to reimaginings of older movies a few years back so it's not like I feel that reexamining a title has no merit.

But the Turtles?  My heroes on a half shell?

I honestly don't know how to feel about this.  True, I was in a similar place back in 1990 when the first live-action TMNT film came out, and I left the theatre promising myself that I would have the lyrics to Turtle Power down by heart within the week, but I was 14-years-old when that movie came out.

I'm just not sure I have love for another iteration of Turtle film in me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Last Day at my Library

So today I finished up the last little bits of my work (pictured left) at my current library in preparation for my new job which starts Monday. I’ve cleared my desk, my desktop and my email and am ready to move onto my fascinating new job working in Open Data. Having left three jobs since 2010, here is my advice for people in my position.

Start packing early, and get your home stuff home as soon as you have a concrete date of departure.
Although there are lots of reasons to push back tasks, remember that your last few days may be filled with things you didn’t plan for (meetings, last minute tasks, etc.), and if you want to make sure you bring home your fan, you photos, your rubik’s cube (everyone has one of those right?) and whatever else, they should all head home sooner than later.

Create a list of what must get done before you leave
Then print it out, tack it up on the wall, and cross each thing off as you do it – this will be a clear reminder of what needs to get done and a good way to ensure you cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s before you leave.

Figure out the best way to leave your office for the next person
If someone is coming in to do your old job, maybe leave a note – or as I often do, a list of things that were not very apparent to me when I started. Remember that even after your gone, you can still do a little good.

Get your coworkers contact info if they’re willing
Keeping track of friends tends to be easy, but coworkers sometimes fall into that bizarre space where you don’t exactly know if you want them connected to you on Facebook/LinkedIn/Google+ but believe me, it’s easier to ask in the weeks leading up to the end, rather than two weeks later (especially if some of them are retiring)

Take a moment
Regardless of whether your job change is a good or bad one, it is a transition period and it’s sometimes easy to lose track and forget that often the best way to figure out what is most important is to step back, take a breath, and then look around. Maybe you want to get a picture of the office you sat in for four years before your gone or maybe you just want to make sure you have that last latte from your favourite local coffee spot. Make sure to take a little time for you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Getting Lost in S.

For the last few days I've been working my way through the book S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.  Which is kind of strange, because the book is a story within a story (or better put - a story in the margins of a story), as the story exists on two levels: first a fictional 1949 novel called Ship of Theseus by a fictional author called V.M. Straka, and then a second story, written in notes left in the margins of the book by two university students.

As a soon-to-be librarian (2 weeks and counting!), I love a lot about this book, the fact that it practically begs to be re-read, the various letters, post cards and even a map written on a restaurant napkin slipped between various pages and the fact that even through the book is not yet a year old, it looks used, discoloured and works in a way that I don't believe could be replicated in an e-book format.

Also the book is a "stolen" copy from a high school library, so that's a little appalling, but with the compelling tale it includes I'll have to borrow a word from my friend Ron and simply call the story compalling.

A little reminiscent of Nick Bantock's Griffin & Sabine trilogy, or Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, S. is fascinating reading.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review: We Are What We Are

How important are family traditions to you?  Is there a specific way Christmas has to be celebrated or it just isn't Christmas?  Are there certain books that need to be read to the children each night?  In the 2013 film We Are What We Are (a remake of a 2010 Mexican film of the same name), questions of family tradition and responsibility are taken to an extreme and very unsettling level.

The film follows the Parker family in the wake of a massive loss.  While attempting to deal with this, the question of tradition becomes massively important, and although the film slowly builds to explain exactly what those traditions are, the build-up, for me, was one of the best parts of the film.

Although the family is dealing with aspects related to horror (and specifically Gothic Horror) in the story, the question of who will host Thanksgiving after the death of a parent is something anyone cane related to, which is a really big part of what makes the film so accessible, because even though the audience doesn't have the same traditions as the Parkers (I hope), the basic issue is one to which anyone can relate.

If you've never seen it, the film is definitely worth a watch, but it is not kid friendly (even through there are kids in it), and it may be uncomfortable viewing for the squeamish. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Things I've Noticed: My PVR is becoming more selective

I've had a PVR for the last few years and overall I'd definitely say it is worth it.  Not since VCR technology became popular has a piece of technology so dramatically changed how I watch television.

Before the VCR I watched what was on or I made my own fun - movies were seen at theatres or during special times of the year (my personal favourite childhood film - Star Wars, but in the original (to me) cut, with the station logo on the bottom right-hand corner and the commercials - why can't the new special edition of Star Wars smell like my Grandparent's living room carpet? - now that would be special!)

Once VCRs showed up, I could do two things:
1) As you could record stuff, you were no longer limited to watching things when they aired - also you could take late-night movies and watch them whenever!
2) You could watch things more than once a year.  Once I recorded Star Wars, I could watch it every weekend (which, in my own 9-year-old way, was probably my introduction to true fandom)

But now PVRs allow you to record one thing while watching another - also you can pause live TV and  can ask the machine to tape shows for you in series recordings - meaning you no longer have to know when your show is coming back, as the machine will tape it for you.

Unfortunately, leaving all this power up to the machine (or at least to my machine), means that sometimes it simply decides not to tape things for you - maybe it thinks these shows are not really worth your time or perhaps it believes you need to see the same repeat of Murdoch Mysteries again rather than watch that new show you've been waiting for - I'm sure a lot of you are thinking perhaps it's just a glitch, or maybe the schedule was off, but I'm pretty sure that the more I use this tool, the more it's starting to make suggestions, suggestions which will lead me to watching only PVR-approved materials in the not-to-distant future…

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on the Governor

I knew it had a release date of February 17, 2014, so rather than try to push through it at the end of February, I scheduled it for my March horror selection.

The latest book in The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part II.  I special ordered it from my local comic book store and waited.  Now here I am, March 19 (over a month later), and I'm still living without the book.

Not that I need the book to live - actually I read these and then they get re-gifted to a friend, so it doesn't even get added to my own collection, I just really enjoy reading them.

They take the story I know (based on the comics, rather than the TV series - which I'm also digging!), of the small town of Woodbury, and its leader The Governor, and tells it from another point of view.

On the positive(?) side, my local library still lists the book as "On Order" so at least no one else around here is reading it ahead of me - but as March begins to slip by, I'm becoming more and more sure that this story will end up being my April Horror selection and I'll end up picking something else out to scare me this month.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: The Riddle of the Wren

The first novel by Charles de Lint, The Riddle of the Wren (1984) follows a teenaged girl, Minda Sealy, who begins the novel suffering from a series of terrifying nightmares and after the appearance of a strange man crying for help in one of her dreams, attempts to rescue him on an adventure that takes her to many strange worlds and places.

To me, the book felt liked it borrowed a lot from both The Hobbit(1937) and The Chronicles of Narnia (1949 – 1954), as the book has much of the structure of The Hobbit and the large talking animals from The Chronicles of Narnia (although I’m sure large talking animals have been around in fiction for a long time in lots of places). What actually surprised me was (sorry for the mild thirty-year-old spoiler) the world-travelling that Minda does throughout the book, wherein she uses henges travel between various worlds on her quest to stop the book’s villain, Ildran the Dream Master.

The book feels a lot like Young Adult (YA) fiction, and the world descriptions are really fantastic – my personal favourite, Darkruin, seems to be less a fantasy setting and more one in my favourite subgenre. The story, although fairly familiar to those who have read a lot of fantasy, involves a quest, terrifying armies and some magical items.

Well worth the read, and although I wish Minda was a little more developed as a character, it left me looking forward to my next book by the author, Moonheart: A Romance.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Angry Birds Star Wars and Me

Although I've definitely slowed down in my video game playing in my last month of Grad School, there has been one key exception, I've been playing Angry Birds Star Wars on my iPhone.

The game, which works exactly like classic Angry Birds (funny I use the word classic for a game that is not even five-years-old yet), allows you to destroy pig-filled structures across Tatooine, the Death Star, Hoth, Cloud City, The Moon of Endor, and the second Death Star, with all the things you've come to love in Angry birds, a fine sense of humour, great easter eggs and the consistent urge to do the level again doing just a little more damage or using maybe one less bird.

I finished the game yesterday, but am now going back to random levels and working at them until I have them all done at a three-star rating (the game rates each level you complete based on how many birds you use and how much damage is done), and still have many levels to finish before I can say I've finished the game completely.

In fact, while typing this blog I've just competed one more!  I've now got 423 stars to my name!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Next Author

Last month I finished reading Never Go Back (2013), the latest of author Lee Child's 18 books about Jack Reacher.  As I dedicate one of my books each month to reading through the collected works of a specific author (before Child it was Richard Matheson, and before that it was P.G. Wodehouse and Robert McCammon), it is now time to decide who I will be beginning with next.

So starting this month I'm going to give the works of Canadian fantasist Charles de Lint (pictured left) a try.  I've been collecting his books on and off for years in my various used bookstore runs, so tomorrow I'll begin with his first novel The Riddle of the Wren.

To date I've only read one of his books, the 1987 book Jack the Giant Killer, which was listed as a recommended read in one of my Changeling: the Dreaming Role-Playing-Game Books.  I read it in the late '90s; it was excellent and the reason I started collecting his books almost fifteen years ago (yikes!).

Anyway, I'm hoping the experiment will turn out well, over the years my wife has read an awful lot of his books and tells me I'm in for a treat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gaming Slowdown in March

Although I’ve read Reality Is Broken, and can therefore argue all sorts of benefits that gaming can bring to people, I’ve hit my last month of my graduate degree and having recently finished the first episode of “The Wolf Among Us” I’m pretty hesitant to start any new games in my last few weeks of school.

So right now I have two telltale games - The Walking Dead: Season Two, and The Wolf Among Us, as well as a three others, Assassin's Creed III, Red Dead Redemption, and Dead Space 3, all sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to have some free time.

I'm 100% sure I could both begin a new game and continue with my school work for the next month without much of a problem, but as I'm now four assignments away from my degree I'm using the games as incentive to put more work in to my assignments.

On the other hand, I don't think I could really function if I slowed down on my reading - past what I already did when I started school - after all, you can only slow down so far.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Review: A Werewolf Boy

So this morning I sat down to watch the 2012 Korean fantasy/romance film A Werewolf Boy.  I had never heard of the film before, but my wife put it on hold at the library for me as she figured it might be something that I would like.

Boy was she right.

Set in 1965, he movie follows a young Korean girl, Soon-Yi (played by Bo-yeong Park) who has moved with her family out to the country, and her relationship with a feral boy called Chul-Soo.

Considering the fact that I tend to come to movies with the world "Werewolf" in the title with certain expectations, I was a little shocked to see that the film is really a study of the relationship between the two leads.  Which was great, by the way.

Considering I'd never even heard of the film before, it was exactly the kind of thing I love finding in film, a story that cares for its characters and a concept that promises to stay with the audience for a long time.

A wonderful film.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Musings towards the end of Library School

So here I am a month and change away from the end of my time at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, two-and-a-half years after I began (and at that time I thought I would be graduating around 2015), and part of finishing my program requires me to create a portfolio, including a number of assignments I've done, descriptions of my accomplishments in leadership and professional engagement and how I've gain all sorts of competencies in the field of study.

Also I have to write a mini-essay that synthesizes my time at library school, which got me thinking, what have I gained in the last few years?

When I finished my Library Technician diploma at MacEwan in 2000 I had a specific skill set that helped to land me the job I would end up holding for the next decade.

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I felt that I was better at research, time management, and writing papers (not to mention watching movies, TV series, listening to music, playing games and chatting with friends and family - thank you Communication Studies Major!)

Since starting Graduate School in September of 2011, I've done a lot of research (probably more than I did between Kindergarten and Grade 12), a lot of group work, presentations and become a lot more comfortable putting myself out there, wether that means joining other social networks like LinkedIn or Twitter, or just applying for scholarships (which in turn ended up taking me to library conferences in Jasper, Chicago and Philadelphia - not to mention Vegas later this year!)

I've learned the importance of changing with the times, learning from everything around me and most importantly, finding venues to share all this information with other people in a clear and simple fashion. One of my goals throughout Graduate School was to never write a paper my youngest daughter couldn't understand (she was 14 when I started the program) as I believe that unless what you know can be shared, there isn't much point in knowing it.

Finally, I've learned how incredibly supportive my friends, family and school have been in helping me get the most out of my time at school, and honestly, that may have been my favourite thing I've taken out of this experience.

Oh yeah, and I've learned that with hard work and consistent work, you can do pretty much anything,
Your Old Pal, Bookmonkey

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why I Don't Read the Inside Flap of books

Right now I'm reading the book The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway for one of my book clubs.

At two chapters in I can tell you it involves truckers, a world existing in the aftermath of something called "The Go-Away War" and is sort of like Earth (many of the same cities, movies and cultural concepts are there) but clearly is not our Earth.

I have to admit, after I finished the second chapter and was still unable to say where in the world this story was taking place a part of me wanted to read the inside flap of the dust-cover, you know the bit that gives you a brief plot summary to help you decide to purchase/read the book?

But here's my problem - I'm reading the book already, do I really need to know exactly what the overall story is about or should I just trust the author to take me to some interesting places with some interesting characters.  As of yet I haven't read any summary or review of the book and honestly I don't think I will either before I finish it.

Looking back at all the books I've read in the last couple years I realize that I really don't tend to read the inside flaps (or brief plot outlines online) anymore - I trust the authors I like and as many of my books are either based on recommendations from friends or come off of lists of "best 100 books" I tend to trust that whatever the story is about it's probably worth my time.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Indoor Winter Fun

So here at the end of February in Edmonton it's pretty cold (last night was -50 C, or -58 for you Fahrenheit fans), and it doesn't look like it will be getting any better through the weekend, so I've got to find a way to have some indoor fun.

Luckily, this weekend is also Oscar weekend, so I have a few more movies to catch up on and as I'm in my last month and change of Graduate school I have a lot of homework I can get working on as well.

Also, thanks to the kindness of my friend Ron, I've just been loaned the third Season of Game of Thrones so I'll get the spend the weekend purposely slowing down my impulse to marathon watch the whole season n two days.

Oh yeah - and I've got book club tomorrow - guess I'll be bundling up anyway...