Monday, September 29, 2008

do you schedule your posts?

One of the nice features of using Blogger is that you can schedule your posts to come out in advance. I've found this to be useful when I am traveling. Also, I've used it on blogs like this one where I write about a fairly specific type of book and movie (here being mostly science fiction and speculative fiction / poetry). Sometimes I will have a lot of material ready at one time, and sometimes I might have busier periods where my leisure reading time is a bit cramped. I've found the scheduling feature to be useful for those times. I've noticed it being useful partly because it is a feature not available at some of my other blog sites, and I miss it there.

What about you? Is this a feature you use? When does it most come in handy?

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Friday, September 26, 2008

A 1982 Video Essay, and it still works

Koyaanisqatsi is a video essay. It doesn't have a plot. It just bombards you with images and an underlying soundtrack that evoke ideas an emotions by appealing to the senses.

Here's a good definition for the title: (Hopi) [n] 1. crazy life 2. life out of balance 3. life disintegrating 4. life in turmoil 5. a way of life that calls for another way of living.

The film is aptly subtitled "Life Out of Balance." It is part of a trilogy (I've not seen the other films yet), and makes a powerful statement, with a strong environmentalist theme.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Babylon AD

I saw Babylon AD over the weekend. It was nothing fantastic, though I did like Michelle Yeoh (as always).

My friend who saw the movie with me said it gave her a headache. Lots of action, loud action, and the shooting style was rather odd, with cuts from one bit of violence to the next that were not at all smooth nor easy to follow. It certainly gives the film that edginess that it seemed to aim for, but it was mostly that which gave my friend a headache.

Who should see the film? Someone looking for lots of action.

Who shouldn't see the film? Anyone who is looking for a well-developed plot, rich characters, the complexity of the best science fiction films, or a very coherent set of ideas to set you thinking. The film has none of those things.

But there is lots of action.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Oath

I don't always read horror novels, though I might take the time to do so every now and then. I tend to be more a fan of straight sci-fi or fantasy, but do enjoy a well-written horror story from time to time.

Horror stories are on my mind today because I recently wrote a book review of The Oath at Sloth Jockey. I called it "A Horror Story so Well-written You Can Smell it." And that's the thing about this novel. It has been a while since I read it, but when I think of certain scenes from the book (and I remember them well), it is the smell that comes back to me most vividly. Isn't that funny? Smell is the thing I most remember about a book.

To me, that is a sign it is well-written. It engages senses that it can't even touch directly. Good stuff!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Martian Race

I finished reading Gregory Benford's The Martian Race at the beginning of the week. It was a very good read. It started out a little slow for me, but when it picked up, it got to be a very engaging story. Even in the earlier parts when the story was a little slow, the ideas were still compelling enough to keep me reading. (In this way, it was kind of like a book I read last year called After the Fire. Both had a hard time getting off the ground, but when they did, they were really good.)

The Martian Race presents several interesting ideas. The one most foregrounded (and for which the book is named) suggests a possible way to approach the continued exploration of space, that being to put it into the hands of private industries. I understand why there is a certain fear attached to this, but the book does make its point well — if we are going to see the exploration of space grow by leaps and bounds instead of baby steps (and the public not lose interest), something is going to have to be done differently than it is now.

And the novel is not at all naive about the potential problems if the exploration of space were to become a private endeavour instead of one funded by governments. I like that the possibility of cutthroat tactics is not ignored. Big businesses get in the way all too often. That gives the whole thing a sense of realism.

I also like the idea Benford presents of what life on Mars might look like, and how it might be so entirely different from us (and from everything we've grown to expect) that we might not know how to interact with it at all when we first find it. That seems to me to be a very real possibility, whether life is found first on Mars or some other planet so far from us that we don't even know to look there yet.

Overall, The Martian Race is a book that I can recommend. Once you get into it (even if it takes a while to do so), I think you'll enjoy what you find there.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Clone Wars

A Star Wars cartoon really doesn't sound like a very good idea, does it?

Well, having recently seen the movie, I can confirm that impression. There is something missing when Star Wars translates to anime. I think it just loses its magic. For one thing, the movements are not at all fluid, and that is kind of distracting. But more importantly, part of what has always been fun about Star Wars was the low-tech yet dazzling special effects. In anime, that is just sort of gone. Similarly, the "humanness" of the alien/robot world(s) is one of the appealing points of the previous Star Wars films. Again, that is missing.

I am a big Star Wars fan, and thought I couldn't miss any Star Wars ever made. Having seen this one, I guess I have to change my mind. I could've missed it, and been none the worse off for that.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008


Thanks, Felix, for nominating this blog for an "I Love Your Blog" award!

The 7 blogs who I nominate for my award for the blog I love the most are:

1. Pinhole
2. The Irrelevant Cheetah
3 Madame Blogalot
4. family fun and faith
5. Jameo
6. Sun Singer
7. Get Paid to Write Online

In a few days, I will announce my decision for the blog which I love the most. As for the owners of the blogs who I nominated for the award, please follow these rules:

The rules of the award are:

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.

2. Link the person you received your award from.

3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

4. Put links of those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message on the blogs of the persons you’ve nominated

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Friday, September 12, 2008

When I was a kid, I had a huge collection of Star Wars toys. They weren't kept as collectors' items, but as toys. I played with them every day, pestering anyone who would listen into sitting and playing with them for a while with me. It was a world that I loved entering into, finding it the perfect escape from whatever pressure and expectations this "real world" held for me back at that age.

When I started making plans to move overseas right after university, I decided to sell my collection. I never expected to get a very good price for it, seeing as the toys were well-worn from years of play. I went to a trade show with my dad where collectibles and memorabilia of all sorts were being sold. It was mostly baseball cards and other sports memorabilia, so my table sort of stood out as the oddball at the show. That ultimately worked to my advantage, I think, as someone came and bought the whole collection. I might could have made more money if I held out, selling it bit by bit, but I didn't want to put that kind of effort into it.

These days, buying and selling collectibles is so much easier than it used to be when I sold my collection. If I had waited about 10 years or so, I could have much more easily sold my collection online. Shopping for such items has also changed a lot. Back then, people who wanted to buy rare items like some of those I had in my collection, he or she had to roam about at a good number of shows and prowl around obscure little shops. These days, it is just a matter of clicking on links from one site to another to find those rare items, and it can all be done from home. has taken another step that greatly changes the shape of online shopping. In most online shopping schemes, the results you see are from merchants who have paid for higher placement. In, you get a wider variety of merchants, from across the spectrum of online shopping sites available. ShopWiki searches across the search engines and brings you results from all the shops, letting you do comparison shopping all from one site.

That's a pretty cool concept. While it might not be as big a change as the one made from crawling trade shows and hole-in-the-wall shops, it is still pretty significant.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Indiana Jones (spoilers)

The most recent Indiana Jones movie came as a little bit of a surprise to me. Because of a rather odd schedule for me this year, I had not seen any commercials of the film, though I was very aware when it was released. But with my travels, I was never around during the time it was being heavily advertised, and seemed to miss out on all the commercials for it. So when I did finally get to see it, it was without any real expectations (other than those set by the earlier films watched a couple of decades ago).

Because I saw the movie (on a plane, so not in the best conditions) without knowing much what to expect from it, it came as a bit of a surprise to me. I didn't expect the Roswell aliens to make an appearance like they did. And of course, the racial and political stereotypes were rife, as always. I haven't seen an Indiana Jones movie in years, and forgot to expect this level of hoakiness. But hoaky is what the show is all about, isn't it?

All the old jokes were somewhat fun, being relived at this later stage of life, but that is about all I thought the movie had to offer. You know... the sort of thing you don't mind seeing on the plane, but shouldn't pay good money for.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Speculative Poetry updates available for Sept 2008

I am trying to keep up with monthly updates from the field of speculative poetry on my main blog. You can check out the September update for news and happenings in the field of speculative poetry.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sci Fi Channel on at last

My cable service only recently connected the Sci-Fi Channel here in Singapore. I am enjoying having it as an option, even though I haven't had a lot of time to watch TV lately. But when I do get a bit of down time to enjoy a program or two, I almost always tune in to the Sci-Fi Channel.

There are lots of reruns of old television series, and that is fun. There are plenty of movies on the weekends too, most of them older. It is a lot of fun to be able to pick up old films, especially those for which I am not particularly interested in buying the DVDs.

I haven't gotten to see the series Firefly yet, but the advertisements have captured my interest. I will try to tune in this week to see if it is as good as the ads promise.

One way or another, I am glad to finally have the channel connected here in Singapore!

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Monday, September 01, 2008


Wall•E just started at cinemas in Singapore this past weekend, but it has been driving me crazy all summer long. My nephews and godchildren saw a commercial for it early in the summer, and for three months now have been saying "Waaaaall•E" in that irritating robotic voice. I am hoping that our viewing of it over the weekend might have satisfied their hunger for the show, and I might stop hearing that. But I have a feeling that is just wishful thinking.

Wall•E actually turned out to be a better movie than I was expecting. I liked the limited dialogue, and how most of the movie is understood via a medium other than language. There is something very appealing about that, something that reaches a part of the mind other than that with which I mostly function throughout the day. (I can't help it, I am a very language-oriented person.)

Paralleling that appeal to a sub-linguistic part of the brain is the emphasis on human contact in its most basic forms. Well, perhaps "human" is not quite the right word, considering that Wall•E is not exactly human. Let's call it, then, contact between like-minded beings. That is the central point of the movie, facing competition for our attention only from the green theme. The repetition of the image of interlocking hands drives the point home: like-minded beings need each other. The juxtaposition of two robots who learn to love each other with humans who isolate themselves in a digital world is a very obvious way of making this point, but the cuteness of the robots covers a multitude of overtness.

Wall•E does a nice job of exploring some of science fiction's biggest concerns (the colonization of space, the future of the human race if we continue on the path we are walking, environmental issues, where androids and cyborgs might fit into the picture of our future, etc.). The limited use of dialogue is a good way of exploring these issues at a very basic level. Whatever faults I might find with the film, I do like its attempt to approach complex questions in this way.

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