The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny
The second book in the Amber series. Two sets of five books, plus a fist full of short stories and an amazing amount of fan fiction. Prince Corwin has escaped the Dungeon his brother Eric threw him, with the help of the family madman Dworkin. Revenge, and the throne, are what he is after. First he has to go to Avalon, and of course is sidetracked by Lorraine (name of the land and the woman). He does manage to finally get to Avalon and get what he wanted there. Not without complications, including his extremely deadly brother Benedict, another family member named Dara, and the ominous Black Road. This series are amazingly well written, and this volume includes some insight from a guard in the Castle Amber dungeon named Roger.
A good solid SciFi film that combines a psychologic thriller with a love story, and throws in a locked box mystery for flavor. The setting is a colony ship taking 5000 colonists to another planet. Since the trip is 120 years long, so everybody, including the crew is in cyro-stasis. The fun starts when the ship takes some damage the automated systems cannot handle. One of the first glitches is waking a passenger up 90 years early. Yup, for the first chunk of the movie, it’s all Chris Pratt, and an android bartender. He spends a year trying to figure out what’s going on, and slowing losing it from the isolation. Add in Jennifer Lawrence’s character for reasons I’m not going to give away, and now you have the romance part. When things go start really wrong, from the accumulating damage over the previous two years, toss in a crew member waking up. He doesn’t live long, damage from multiple failures in his stasis pod, but it gives the passengers the access they need to save the ship, and the 5000 other passengers, literally at the last possible moment. It’s not great, but solidly acted and well crafted.
Probably the best DC live action movie since the latest Batman trilogy. A good action movie. Personally, I thought all the Jared Leto/Joker hype was seriously over rated after watching this film. Cesar Romero could have done it better, given the freedom of a R rating. Much better performances were given by Margot Robbie and Viola Davis. Will Smith was good playing Will Smith, which was more convincing than Leto’s Joker. Still it was worth the rental and the popcorn.
For those of you coming in late to the party, Earth Day” is on Lenin’s Birthday. Not a coincidence, given that the “founder” of Earth Day was much more a “Watermelon” than an actual environmentalist. Watermelon: Thin layer of green of the outside, red to the core.
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — George Wald, Harvard Biologist
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“By… some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” — Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” — Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day
“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.” — Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University
“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….” — Life Magazine, January 1970
“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” — Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
Ok, Ehrlich was sorta right on this, if you restrict his predictions to modern Communist China, where they are showing the typical communist/socialist contempt for the environment.
“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Now we get to my personal favorite, although probably not Al Gore‘s… “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Honestly, a better movie than I expected. Ben Affleck played the poker faced autistic genius who does forensic accounting for very bad people for very large amounts of money. In some ways, this movie has a similar theme to Revenge of the Nerds, i.e. don’t piss off the really smart people. Except in this case, messing with the smart kid with the nerd glasses can get you killed. Raised by his father (Army Intelligence spook) not to be a victim, the Accountant is deadly dangerous, and will feel no remorse as he shoots you through the head. The movie actually tells a good story, in which people are not what they appear to be on the surface, but face it, it’s the fight scenes that you are going to rewatch it for. Fast, in close fighting and CQB Gun Fu. Plus some nice long range Barrett Fu. One of the bad guys pulls a knife, the Accountant pulls out his study leather belt. I’ve been practicing martial arts for a long time, trust me, the guy with the knife was deep trouble. Even Anna Kendrick, who also plays an accountant (she wanted to study art, but her dad said that wouldn’t pay the mortgage), gets some good hits in, including bashing a bad guy’s arm with toilet lid. Remember kids, a true warrior uses the weapons at hand (bonus nerd points for identifying the Chuck Norris movie that is from). Kendrick’s character isn’t a dark accountant, she’s just a regular nerd accountant doing cost accounting. I’ve also taken some graduate accounting courses, so if you are going to do accounting, cost accounting is the most fun. Trust me on this one. Trust me on The Accountant too. Fire up the popcorn and enjoy.
“Some folks ask me what the transition was like from NASCAR reporter to political reporter. It’s easy. In one, you try to explain to your readers the significance of grown-ups getting paid exorbitant amounts of money to around in circles indefinitely, always turning left. In the other, you get to interview racecar drivers.”
There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo
This is the first book in John Ringo’s four book Council Wars series. He wanted to to a science based fantasy series. So this series is set in a far future, in a technological utopia. People live for centuries, they can transform themselves into mermaids, whales, humanoids capable of flight, unicorns, etc. Prety much limited by imagination. There are also fantasy creatures created by genetic engineering and nanotechnology, including dragons and Elves. The Elves were designed as ultra-efficient combat troops. Pro-tip, do no screw with the Elves. Of course, things are no perfect in a Ringo utopia. The human population is shrinking, mainly because raising kids is a chore, and a twenty year commitment. The closest thing to a government is a “Council” that have control over “Mother”, the massive AI that controls the planet, and makes the utopia possible. The Council disagrees with how to handle this problem, so one side decides to kill the rest of the Council in order to gain control. The attempt failed, and the resulting conflict between the Council members sucks up all the available power, reducing the rest of the humanity to pre-industrial levels. Mother still enforces her basic protocols, absorbing all energy higher than low pressure steam. Ringo achieves what S.M. Stirling did in his “Dies the Fire” series, by evoking Clarke’s Third Law. I’ve recently reread the series. It’s a fun read. Check it out.
A New Leaf
We’re venturing back to 1971 for this interesting twist on the RomCom genre. Walther Matthau plays a New City City socialite who finds himself in the horrible position of being poor. It’s not some evil twist of fate that caused this, he just lived beyond his means at a rapid pace. His butler suggests an alternative solution to honorable suicide, find a rich woman and marry her. Matthau’s character takes this a step further and plans to murder his wife so he go back to his life of a rich bachelor. Enter Henrietta Lowell, played by Elaine May (who also wrote and directed the movie), a very rich, and socially clueless, young woman with no living family. This film has fine acting, but May’s over the top portrayal of the nearly helpless (except in her chosen field of biology) is a comedic high point. Matthau’s character, Henry, quickly wins her heart, gets married, goes on the honeymoon, and secures his financial security. All that is left is to kill Henrietta. When moving into his new wife’s mansion and estate, Henry finds the staff has been robbing his nearsighted wife blind, all with the help of her lawyer. This offends Henry’s principles, and fires the staff (at gunpoint when needed), and replaces with with a honest and reliable staff. Shortly after that, when Henrietta is about to drown and make his dreams come true, Henry finds that he would miss his wife, who truly loves him, and saves her. A delightful comedy with really first rate acting.
Tom Swift and His Flying Lab by Victor Appleton II
Let’s go back to 1954 for the first in the rebooted YA science series. The Tom Swift Jr. books are a spinoff from the earlier Tom Swift juvenile science based adventures. In the original Tom Swift books (first published in 1910), the young inventor was pushing the science of the day, with his motorcycle, airship, and airplane. So the science bar had to be raised in the mid 1950s. Tom Swift Jr., starts his adventures with an atomic powered VTOL aircraft that includes a full set of science labs, a kitchen for their cook, Texan “Chow” Winkler, and a smaller set of aircraft (jet and helicopter) in a hanger bay. Good fun, with a definite Cold War setting.
The Legend of Tarzan
I was expecting yet another Tarzan origin story, so I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Chronologically, it takes place after the first two books. Tarzan is living in London, he has his title, lands, and is married to the love of his life, Jane Porter. Meanwhile, bad things are happening in the Belgian Congo (which is historically accurate), and Tarzan goes to investigate. Jane is not being left behind, so adventure follows. Really good cast on this. Margo Robbie as Jane, Samuel L. Jackson as an actual historical figure (who kicked ass, and took names), and Christoph Waltz being excellent as the bad guy.