Thursday, April 4, 2013

River of Stars

Guy Gavriel Kay has a new book out. Its title? River of Stars. I suppose I should write a review of this book, since way back in the day I wrote an Honours thesis based in part on Kay's early work. (I fortunately came to my senses in time to escape the EngLit PhD trap, though!)

So for now this will just be a placeholder until I actually read the book and come up with something intelligent to say about it.

My prediction: I will, as always, be entranced by Kay's command of language, crafting of scenes, and his meticulous research into fascinating historical periods: but this book won't supplant A Song for Arbonne or The Lions of Al-Rassan from their places on the pedestal. Still, almost any book by Kay is intrinsically better than 95% of all commercial fiction, so I'm in for a treat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bringer of Fire

Your esteemed author, in an intellectual conceit, is going to pretend that he is an obscure cousin of Prometheus, the titan in Greek mythology who gave mankind the gift of fire. This identity lets me show that brimstone is a highly combustible substance as I post a scathing review of the new Ridley Scott film named after his famous relative.

Why am I so aggravated by this movie? Two words: high expectations.

I own just about every commercially-released version of Blade Runner and Alien (okay, not the Betamax versions). I would rate both in my all-time top five films, both in terms of pure enjoyment and on objective merit. So I got my hopes way, way up in imagining what Scott could do with modern film technology in making a prequel to Alien.

What did Scott ultimately deliver? A really amazing film spectacle, yes, but really he shot a film with a horrendous script.

Let's imagine you are one of the really, really smart decision-makers working for the Weyland-Yutani corporation, and your company is bankrolling a trillion-dollar space mission to another planet. This ship is going to carry your CEO, his daughter - who stands to inherit the controlling interest in the company, and who wants to survive the voyage - and some top scientists to explore a planetary body which might hold the secret of how life began on Earth. If we assume the crew were following their mission orders, based on what I saw in the movie theater, you probably wanted to make sure no-one came back alive from this journey, and you wrote up the mission protocols like so ...

Mission Protocols

1) Explore any artificial structures found at voyage terminus.

2) If structure contains breathable atmosphere, recommend opening all helmets and outer coverings to conserve oxygen supply.

3) If structure contains possible bio-hazards, direct contact (up to and including rubbing into eyes or other orifices) is authorized in order to discover possible physiological mutations in human beings.

4) All symbols should be immediately and repeatedly manipulated by direct contact. Any potential doorways should be opened without consultation with security personnel nor implementation of quarantine procedures. Ignore any signs of danger such as alien corpses, holograms or psionic shrieks of distress.

5) All alien power sources should be activated. Functionality of alien artifacts is a mission priority.

6) Release all (bound) alien life forms from stasis, to ensure best possible human-alien diplomatic relations. 

7) All specimens, materials and samples from the exploration site should be disseminated to surviving crew-members.

NB. In space, no-one can hear you scream.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

17 more years of waiting?

I publish this post after two periods of Game Seven in Vancouver. My team is losing 3-0. I am resigned to the Boston Bruins hoisting the Stanley Cup in our rink. This will be a bitter pill to swallow. I went downtown today on errands - and stopped not three blocks from the rink at midday. The atmosphere was electric, the mood incredibly anxious. Nearly everyone was wearing the team colours. I thought back to last year when my father and I were two of the lucky spectators at the Olympic gold-medal game. I could well imagine what the atmosphere was going to be in a few hours when the game would start and the Canucks would have a winner-take-all Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup on home ice.

I could rant about this series for hours, but the bottom line was this: this was the first Finals appearance by the Canucks in franchise history where they were the clear favourites to win the Cup. If this series had been played 100 times, I think Vancouver would have won at least 70 times. But this is real life. In a given season, you only have one opportunity to become a champion. You don't get a do-over or a large sample size to determine who wins the post-season tournament.

The Canucks didn't get the job done. Mostly, this was their own fault. Some of it was atrociously bad luck. And a very small part of the blame should be laid at the door of the NHL's inconsistent officiating, which definitely did the Canucks no favours. But make no mistake, over the balance of play of these seven games, Boston was the better team. That's why they play the games; in professional team sports the best team often doesn't win the championship. And that's what I believe happened here.

This was a gut-wrenching series to watch, especially for the last five games. The Canucks' luck was ridiculously bad - all the bounces of the puck went against them; the Bruins' superior goal-tending and defensive system negated much of Vancouver's league-best offense; significant injuries to nearly all of the Canucks' best players - most notably the Game One injury to Ken Hamhuis, the team's most reliable defenseman, and the clearly hobbled Ryan Kesler, the heart and soul of the team who soldiered on at half-strength - as well as the Aaron Rome suspension, robbed the team of its cohesion at the worst possible time. And you could just see the Canucks being worn down, their speed and skill advantages over Boston blunted as the series wore on.

Above all, this series will be remembered as one where the Canucks were blown out in all three games in Boston with sub-par performances by Roberto Luongo and most everyone else in a Canucks uniform.

I really hope the Canucks can make it back to the finals and take care of unfinished business before my nephew, aged 18 months, graduates from high school.

I hope Mason Raymond recovers fully from a gruesome back injury he suffered at the :20 second mark of Game Six.

If a miracle of biblical proportions occurs in the third period and the Canucks come back to win the series, I will probably end up collapsing after a week-long bender. If the Bruins win, I will undoubtedly be a morose grump for a few days. Either way, my liver is in for a world of hurt.

A very, very small part of me admires the achievement of Tim Thomas. He's the same age as I am - and he just put up a goal-tending performance for the ages.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

17 years of waiting is over

The Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maui Trip Report, pt. 1

I don't want to write anything about the Canucks-'Hawks series until it is over. Until then, I'll post a serialized trip report from my recent vacation - with pics to come.

2nd April

Get up early for 6 hr flight to Maui. Supposedly I'll be sitting next to sister, brother-in-law and 16 month-old nephew in bulkhead seats - more room to stretch out? yes please! - but they prove to be a myth. Bad beat.

I had resigned myself to long odds that Oliver would behave on the flight but he came through like a champion, much to the delight of everyone in the vicinity, as we gladly enjoyed the 7-to-1 shot. Only bad part of flight was about 1 hour's worth of fairly significant turbulence. Would happily have traded back the hour saved - we landed in just over 5 hours - for a smoother flight.

Somehow we spent 2.5 hours on arrival collecting baggage and picking up two rental cars. We then drove to . . . Costco. Yep, the first stop on a Hawaiian vacation was a giant store. Nothing says you're in Maui like Costco! This store was quite a bit different than the ones you'd find in Vancouver, though. Picked up essential supplies, then proceeded to posh resort. A spot of trouble with our room, but this was sorted out to our satisfaction and we settled in. (We soon found out the unit we were renting was for sale for a cool 1.4MM.) We spent a quiet evening getting the hang of the place and barbequed some burgers, than we turned in, ready to hit the beach the next day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Escaping to paradise

I have been mulling over what to do with this space. Like many bloggers whose authorial voice has waned, my posting frequency has dropped to nearly nil. Since it's not 2005 and I no longer feel the need to try to post a lot about my poker adventures or record my halting steps towards proficiency at various forms of the game, I have been considering what other topics I might opt to write about here. I have a few ideas and once I've made some preparations, all six of you who still read this blog will hopefully be rewarded with some content of non-negligible value.

In the meantime, I'm happy to say that I'll be taking a family vacation in a week's time to Hawaii. It'll be my first time to that island paradise, and we're all set to stay at a very nice resort. I hope my nephew, who is fifteen months old, behaves on the flight. Other news of interest: my father, who is a few years older than this car enthusiast, and probably has even more disposable income than his fellow doctor to make frivolous purchases, will likely own one of these very soon. Needless to say, I have dibs on taking it out for a spin - my brother-in-law will have to get in line!

Sadly, I'll be an island away from this poker blogger when I'm vacationing, and it doesn't look as if I'll be able to hop over for a visit because our schedules don't mesh. I guess our next meeting will have to wait until Vegas in December.

I hope to fit in a round of golf whilst in Maui, so if anyone has any golf course suggestions, I'm all ears.