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Creative Criticality
The Life and Times of a Raving Lunatic
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7th-Feb-2012 04:53 pm - Upping the Hyper-Partisan Ante
Brigade

In case you haven’t been following the news, things are going to hell in Syria. As is the trend in the Middle East right now, protestors have risen up against the government, calling for reforms and re-instatement of civil rights, and the government has responded by arresting and killing the protestors. President Obama took steps in May of 2011 to effect sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an effort "to end its use of violence against its people and begin transitioning to a democratic system that protects the rights of the Syrian people." This act effectively freezes any assets President Assad and those named in the Executive Order have in the jurisdiction of the United States. Similar steps were taken by the European Union and Canada, but have had no effect on President Assad’s campaign.


At the end of 2011, estimates showed that over 5,000 citizens had been killed since the revolution began in January. President Assad claimed that the uprisings were driven by foreign powers and that his "victory was near."


In early February 2012, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton took the issue to the United Nations in an effort to enact global sanctions through the Security Council. The resolution was vetoed by the countries of China and Russia, and the immediate response by one of our leaders here at home was disgusting.



Congressman John Fleming, a Tea Party Representative from Louisiana took the veto as a victory against an attempt by President Obama and Secretary Clinton to "decide Syria’s destiny." Never mind the fact that people are dying for something they believe in, and are being killed by an oppressive government, by all that is holy and American, the Conservatives won.


It occurs to me that Congressman Fleming doesn’t really have an understanding of American history or the Constitution he claims to serve. Lest we forget that 237 years ago, a group of rebellious citizens stood up against an oppressive British government for their right to governance with representation. This started an eight year war we call the American Revolutionary War which eventually resulted in the founding of this very country. In eight years, approximately 103,000 people were killed or wounded on both sides in the quest for reforms and civil rights.


The Constitution was written to ensure those rights remained in place, and over the following 230 years, those rights have been expanded from the Bill of Rights to include 17 further amendments to an ever-evolving document.


Not the same issue? I disagree, but I also digress. The real issue is this case is one of hyper-partisan politics. It’s almost as if there’s a script out there for this kind of childish tit-for-tat slap-fighting.


President Obama’s intervening on the global stage? He’s meddling in things!

President Obama’s not intervening on the global stage? The godless man is letting innocent women and children die!

President Obama wants to bring the troops home? He’s supporting terrorism!

President Obama deploys troops? He’s a warmonger!

President Obama announces plans to people to work? Socialist usurper!

President Obama announces a spike in unemployment? Where’s the jobs?!


Enough! This government has had absolutely no problem providing aid and assistance, for better or worse, to governments and people fighting against oppression for their rights. It is an American mission, whether we admit it or not, to not only promote but defend the concept of democracy around the world. It started with Manifest Destiny in the 19th century, and it continues today. It got us into the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. It also was partially used as justification to invade Iraq and Afghanistan after the September 11th attacks.


This isn’t an issue of Democrat and Republican or Liberal and Conservative fighting for their slice of the First World pie. This is reality. There are people dying at the hand of an oppressive government because they want basic human rights, and the United Nations, for all of its failings, is the body to enact sanctions to sway that government to stop. China and Russia have enabled President Assad to continue his tyranny, and Congressman Fleming is celebrating 5,000 deaths in one year because it blocked the will of his enemy. This is also the same congressman who opposed a tax hike because he could barely survive on $400,000 a year. He also rallied his supporters because he believed The Onion's satirical attack on Planned Parethood and posted it as news.


This kind of attitude goes against the spirit of the country and our Constitution. It also goes against very ideals and morals this congressman claims to hold as a leader in his Christian faith.


Honestly, Congressman Fleming, whose side are you on?




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Sources:

United States Department of Treasury: Administration Takes Additional Steps to Hold the Government of Syria Accountable for Violent Repression Against the Syrian People

BBC World News: Russia and China veto resolution on Syria at UN

ThinkProgress: Multi-Millionaire Rep. Says He Can’t Afford A Tax Hike Because He Only Has $400K A Year After Feeding Family

ThinkProgress: Congressman Posts Satirical Attack On Planned Parenthood From The Onion As News

Wikipedia: 2011–2012 Syrian uprising

Wikipedia: Congressman John Fleming

Wikipedia: American Revolution

Wikipedia: American Revolutionary War

Wikipedia: Manifest Destiny

Facebook: Congressman John Fleming

United States House of Representatives: About Congressman John Fleming

 

 

19th-Jan-2012 08:25 pm - Be Careful What You Ask For
Brigade

This is a humorous write-up about school prayer, shamelessly copied from an unattributed source.  If you know who originally wrote this, let me know and I’ll update with credit.

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Dear John,

As you know, we've been working real hard in our town to get prayer back in the schools. Finally, the school board approved a plan of teacher-led prayer with the children participating at their own option. Children not wishing to participate were to be allowed to stand out in the hallway during the prayer time. We hoped someone would sue us so we could go all the way to the Supreme Court and get that old devil-inspired ruling reversed.

Naturally, we were all excited by the school board's action. As you know, our own little Billy (not so little, any more, though) is now in the second grade. Of course, Margaret and I explained to him no matter what the other kids did, he was going to stay in the classroom and participate.

After the first day of school, I asked him, "How did the prayer time go?

"Fine."

"Did many kids go out into the hallway?"

"Two."

"Excellent. How did you like your teacher's prayer?"

"It was different, Dad. Real different from the way you pray."

"Oh? Like how?"

"She said, 'Hail, Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...'"

The next day I talked with the principal. I politely explained I wasn't prejudiced against Catholics but I would appreciate Billy being transferred to a non-Catholic teacher. The principal said it would be done right away.

At supper that evening I asked Billy to say the blessings. He slipped out of his chair, sat cross-legged on the floor, closed his eyes, raised his hands palms up and began to hum.

You'd better believe I was at the principal's office at eight o'clock the next morning. "Look," I said. "I don't really know much about these Transcendental Meditationists, but I would feel a lot more comfortable if you could move Billy to a room where the teacher practices an older, more established religion."

That afternoon I met Billy as soon as he walked in the door after school. "I don't think you're going to like Mrs. Nakasone's prayer, either, Dad."

"Out with it."

"She kept calling God 'O Great Buddha...'"

The following morning I was waiting for the principal in the school parking lot. "Look, I don't want my son praying to the Eternal Spirit of whatever or to Buddha. I want him to have a teacher that prays in Jesus' name!"

"What about Bertha Smith?"

"Excellent."

I could hardly wait to hear about Mrs. Smith's prayer. I was standing on the front steps of the school when the final bell rang.

"Well?" I asked Billy as we walked towards the car.

"Okay."

"Okay what?"

"Mrs. Smith asked God to bless us and ended her prayer in Jesus' name, amen, just like you."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "Now we're getting someplace."

"She even taught us a verse of scripture about prayer," said Billy.

I beamed. "Wonderful. What was the verse?"

"Let's see..." he mused for a moment. " 'And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.' "

We had reached the car. "Fantastic," I said, reaching for the door handle. Then I paused. I couldn't place the scripture. "Billy, did Mrs. Smith say what book that verse was from?"

"Third Nephi, chapter 19, verse 18."

"Third what?"

"Nephi," he said, "It's in the Book of Mormon."

The school board doesn't meet for a month. I've given Billy very definite instructions that at prayer time each day he's to go out into the hallway. I plan to be at that board meeting. If they don't do something about this situation, I'll sue. I'll take it all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to. I don't need the schools or anybody else teaching my son about religion.

We can take care of that ourselves at home and at church, thank you very much.

Give my love to Sandi and the boys.

Your friend, Jack

Brigade

My "favorite" comment on the thread sampled below was the suggestion that one was not American for disapproving of the supposed actions.

I shouldn't be surprised. I know from history that Americans objectify our enemies in order to build support and momentum for warfare. We did it in the Revolution. We did it in the years we fought the Native Americans.  We did it when we fought the Germans, the Japanese, the Koreans, and the Vietnamese.

We even conducted witch hunts among our own populace during the Cold War.  We continue that trend to this very day by associating people of certain political ideals with the very same Cold War enemy.  It even extends to attacks on religious ideals or lack thereof.

We're coming off as nothing better than schoolyard bullies.


Is this the American ideal we're supposed to defend?



Brigade
Entertainment Weekly recently posted an exclusive video that announced the return of Darth Maul to the Star Wars universe.  For those who either missed or refused to watch the prequels, Maul was a Sith Lord—the same kind of baddie as Darth Vader—who used a double-bladed lightsaber.  His first on-screen appearance was in The Phantom Menace in 1999.



In that film, a three-way lightsaber duel ended with Qui-Gon Jinn impaled through the chest and Darth Maul toppling into a deep shaft, deftly cleft in twain by the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Last January, viewers of the cartoon series Star Wars: The Clone Wars were introduced to Maul’s brother Savage Oppress (pronounced in typical Star Wars ­style as sah-VAHJ OH-press), who was a proposed apprentice to help Count Dooku overthrow his master and take control of the Dark Side of the Force.  At the end of that trilogy of episodes, viewers were told that Darth Maul was out there in the incredibly vague somewhere in the galaxy, and Oppress had to go find him.



So, apparently this means that Darth Maul does indeed live and, by some miracle, survived being cut in half by a lightsaber and falling several stories.  Insert exasperated sigh here.

Supervising director Dave Filoni told Entertainment Weekly that it makes sense in terms of Star Wars lore:


Fans will note that there is precedent for this kind of resurrection. “The Dark Side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural,” Darth Sidious says in Revenge of the Sith. Sidious and his master found a way to use the Force to cheat death—that’s how he was able to keep Vader alive after that little swan dive into a lava field. Couldn’t Maul have picked up on some of that too? Says Filoni, “He’s suffered through a lot to keep himself alive and implemented the training of his master to do so.”


There’s also significant financial interest for Lucasfilm in this move.  The episode(s) pertaining to Darth Maul will be aired in early 2012, and, by a cosmic coincidence I’m sure, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3-D is premiering February 10, 2012.  It goes without saying that I’m annoyed by publicity stunts written into entertainment to drive interest in a related property.  Anyone else remember the martial arts episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Tsunkatse”?  WWE Wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a guest star, and both WWE and Voyager were on UPN.

This entire mess—and yes, I’m calling it a mess—brings Star Wars into the realm of pointless character resurrections to drive sales.  It also revives the eternal frustrations I have with Star Wars fandom.  Since Maul was by far one of the coolest and most bad-ass characters in the prequel trilogy, the news that he would return to the franchise was understandably received with fan praise.  At the same time, others started to look at how this affects the overall quality of the franchise and aired their opinions.  In response to critical fans, some blogs, including Star Wars Underworld, questioned the “fandom” of people with differing opinions.  While I appreciate a discussion on how they plan to resurrect a character and do it well, it’s certainly not the first time that the Star Wars social media sphere has played the card of questioning how someone can be a fan of something while being critical: the hosts of The ForceCast did it numerous times before I stopped listening to the podcast back in May.

While other subsets of science-fiction and fantasy fandom can somewhat easily accept both positive and negative criticism toward the franchise of their choice, some Star Wars fans tend to follow the line of reasoning that if “you’re not with with us, you’re against us.”  It’s all fun and games until you disagree with Uncle George and refuse to drink the blue milk, and I’ve already seen backlash from refusing to buy the Star Wars Blu-Rays and my decision not to support the 3-D re-releases.  Having intelligent discussions about the positives and negatives of a franchise is one thing, but I cannot support attacking each other for having differing opinions.




The bigger problem I have with this is an issue that has plagued comic book franchises for decades, and that is in the pointless death and resurrection of characters.  In real life, religious beliefs aside, death is pretty permanent.  In storytelling, death is a result of failure, the completion of a heroic journey, or the motivation to start that journey.  In a smaller subset, that death results in a significant change of character dynamics—such as regenerations in Doctor Who, or the evolution of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings or Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars—but those deaths still carry the impact of the end of a journey and how it affects the characters around them.

Simply put, to reverse a death negates that impact and cheapens the victory for the winners.

In The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul’s death marked two important character changes:  First, it displayed Obi-Wan Kenobi’s maturity and readiness to be promoted from apprentice to Jedi Knight; second, it marked the beginnings of Anakin’s destined path.  The death of Darth Maul was a very important turning point for the Jedi themselves, as they discover that the Sith had indeed returned.

While I look forward to finding out how Filoni and company accomplish this feat, I am very skeptical about the Star Wars franchise as a whole at this point.  If Filoni proves me wrong and does this well, I will be quite amazed.  On the other hand, if this turns into yet another cheap comic book return—Superman wasn’t dead, after all, he was just resting—to sell tickets to yet another release of the Star Wars movies, then I’m done with The Clone Wars.  I have supported the show since it was announced, but for me, it would be that damaging, and since George Lucas has final approval on the show, the blame would lie solely with him.

Come 2012, we shall see.





12th-Oct-2011 06:37 pm - My Thoughts on Lost
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One of the American television shows that I heard a ton about but never had time to watch was Lost.  My wife borrowed the season sets from her brother, but only made it as far as season three before life took over.  During that time where we weren’t watching, fan groups and some of my trusted friends were still abuzz about the series, so when the complete series boxset came available after the series finale in 2010, I knew that it was a series that I had to invest in.

For those who don’t know about Lost, this post will involve spoilers.  If you intend on watching the show and want to experience it without knowing what’s coming, you probably want to stop reading and come back afterward.



 
What is Lost?
Lost was billed as a drama series, and ran on the ABC network from September 22, 2004 to May 23, 2010 over six seasons.  The show is centered on the survivors of the crash of Oceanic 815, a commercial passenger jet traveling between Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, California.  The crash occurred on a mysterious, unnamed tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.  The show was told in episodes that primarily focused on the events on the island, with secondary stories that amplified events in the life of the central character for each episode.  Lost was the brainchild of Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse.

When I say that Lost was a drama series, that classification is a very generic brush stroke to apply.  On its face, Lost was a character drama, but once I got invested, it was apparent that the show was part-drama, part-science fiction, part-fantasy, part-supernatural, part-hero quest, and part-mythological.  The blessing and the curse of the show was that the mythos brought up a plethora of questions that spanned all six seasons before being answered.  It was both frustrating and intriguing, and that was what I loved about it.

The frustration was amplified by the broad spectrum of cast members.  In the show, of the 324 people on Oceanic 815, 70 people and one dog survived, spread across three sections of the plane.  Season one focused on the survivors of the middle section, predominantly Doctor Jack Shephard, fugitive Kate Austen, con-man James “Sawyer” Ford, heroin-addict rock star Charlie Pace, former Iraqi soldier Sayid Jarrah, paraplegic John Locke, lottery winner Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, construction worker Michael Dawson and his son Walt, Korean couple Sun-Hwa and Jin-Soo Kwon, fueding siblings Boone Carlyle and Shannon Rutherford, and Claire Littleton, who is eight months pregnant.  As the show went on, some characters died, others were introduced—especially after the discovery of the tail section and the people who were on the island before the crash—and links between all of the characters are established from their lives before the show.

What starts as a simple show about people stranded on a desert island starts getting into the science fiction within the first few episodes with the introduction of a monster made entirely of smoke.  Characters also start seeing visions of dead friends and relatives, and eventually discover a mysterious hatch in the middle of the jungle.  Also woven throughout events of the show and the characters lives before the island are The Numbers:  4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42.

As the show went on, we discovered that the survivors were not alone.  First, there is the hostile seemingly primitive group known as The Others.  Second, there are the remnants of the mysterious Dharma Initiative.  Finally, there are the almost otherworldly inhabitants who have a greater purpose on the island.
 
Why I liked Lost
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for epic mythology.  Lost had that in spades.

One of the major complaints I heard about the show was that it was a victim of meandering stories that eventually headed in a somewhat decent conclusion, and I think that was a benefit to watching this on the DVDs.  Watching without the waiting between seasons or over writers’ strikes helped me to see this more as a mini-series rather than a six-season series.

Seasons one, two, and three of the show were standard American seasons with 25, 24, and 23 episodes, respectively.  Season four was supposed to have 16 episodes before the Writers Guild of America went on strike, and eventually ended up with 14.  Season five went with 17 episodes, and season six ended the show with 18.  The latter three seasons capitalized on the fact that the showrunners limited themselves to six seasons, particularly after the storylines started to wallow in stagnation in the third season.  The ratings show how the show started to suffer in season three.




Lost had an overarching mythology that, once it finally got assembled, really kept me rolling.  All the talk of The Numbers and Jacob and The Man in Black really came to a head for me with the eighth episode of the last season, when the show finally explained why everything was so important.  Sure, The Numbers were retconned in to correspond with the remaining survivors of Oceanic 815 who were potential candidates to replace Jacob, the guardian of the island and protector of the world, but I didn’t care because it made sense to me.  Jacob was a man who was forced into a sacred role and immortality without a choice, and a mistake he made in the nascent days of his role unleashed a great evil that had one goal:  to take over the world.  To get there, the evil Man in Black has to kill his brother, which he cannot do directly.  The rest of it, from the button that has to be pushed every 108 minutes to prevent the destruction of the island to the quest to control the energy at the heart of the island speaks to me as the folly of man.

While a great deal of the show’s events relied on destiny and fate, that’s what myths depend on as well.  Epic fantasy and science fiction, driven by powers outside the control on man, be it God, the Force, or whatever you want to call it, depends greatly on the possibility that certain things are destined to occur.  In Lost, the candidates were destined to arrive and be tested on the island, and they were selected not because they were strong or smart, but because they were flawed.  Only a flawed person, one who recognized and was willing to improve their shortcomings, could fill the role of protecting the island.  More so, Jacob wanted his successor to choose to be the protector, not be pushed into it.  Jack chose to take the responsibility directly, and Hurley chose indirectly by his continuous empathy and caring for his fellow survivors.  Jack continually jockeyed for the leadership position with Sawyer and Locke, but everybody truly loved Hurley, and relied on him for support.

Religion and faith also played a major role from day one in the show, and I had no problem with the final resolution of the “sideways” storyline being nothing more than a waiting room for the Oceanic survivors before moving on to whatever lies beyond this life.  Simply put, it was a method for each person to resolve any unfinished emotional business in their lives and remember the most important thing they did in the living world.  Watching all of these people, who had fought each other while struggling to survive, come together with a common goal in mind moved me, and I thought the intent was beautiful.

But the thing that moved me even more was the poetic ending for Jack.  He ended his journey exactly where he started it, and I bawled like a baby when he collapsed on the ground and Vincent—the dog who always had a knack for progressing the storyline when it needed a motivational kick—laid down next to Jack to ensure his last moments were not spent alone.  I’m getting weepy even now as I put these words to the page.  When a television show or a movie has the power to move me to tears, it takes a special place in my life.  I can count on one hand the media that has accomplished that.

That was the effect that Lost had on me.  It wasn’t just a drama series about survivors on an island with sci-fi and fantasy elements tossed in.  When I partake of any story, but in particular science fiction, I look for how it applies to the human condition.  Science fiction has always been an examination of the human condition by use of metaphor, and Lost did that.  Each character was three-dimensional in my eyes, and character motivations were, for the most part, genuine.  What solidified the characters for me was not only that genuine flavor, but the fact that they could evolve in believable ways as the plot progressed.

I know that the writing wasn’t always stable, and that there were problems with retroactively adding new characters into old situations as if they’d always been there, but for me, what I gained from experiencing the series far outweighs those minor quibbles.
Lost is a series I will go back to again in its entirety, and is a series that I feel has made a profound impact on my life.
 
 
 
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Ratings graphic sourced from Wikipedia, © www.mysona.dk.  Image is used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Unported 3.0 License.
Lost title card image is copyright ABC, intended for use under terms of Fair Use for review of the series.


25th-Sep-2011 12:24 pm - A Little Humor For Your Day
Brigade
Today's funny bit from my inbox.  Thanks to Mary Clo for the smile.



Top Ten Complaints From Dogs
 

#1: Blaming your farts on me: not funny...not funny at all!

#2: Yelling at me for barking: I'M A DAMN DOG!

#3: Taking me for a walk, then not letting me check stuff out: Exactly whose walk is this anyway?

#4: Any trick that involves balancing food on my nose: Stop it!

#5: Any haircut that involves bows or ribbons: Now you know why we chew your stuff up when you're not home.

#6: The slight of hand, fake fetch throw: You fooled a dog! Woo-hoooooooo! What a proud moment for the top of the food chain!

#7: Taking me to the vet for 'the big snip', then acting surprised when I freak out every time we go back!

#8: Getting upset when I sniff the crotches of your guests: Sorry, but I haven't quite mastered that handshake thing yet.

#9: Dog sweaters: Hello? Haven't you noticed the fur?

#10: How you act disgusted when I lick myself: Look, we both know the truth. You're just jealous.

Now lay off me on some of these things. We both know who's boss here! You don't see me picking up your poop do you?


29th-Aug-2011 09:22 pm - My Plans for Dragon*Con 2011
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It’s time for Dragon*Con again, and I’m branching out a little bit more this year.  Come find me and say hello!
 
I’ll be on the following panels:
A Little Cheeze With Your Syfy? on Friday at 10:00am, American Science Fiction Media (ASFM) track
Eureka: Café Diem on Friday at 10:00pm, ASFM
Superheroes on the Screen on Saturday at 11:30am, ASFM
BSG Universe – Evolution on Sunday at 1:00pm, ASFM
A Side of Mayhem With Your SF and Fantasy? on Sunday at 10:00pm, ASFM
Mormonism in Science Fiction on Monday at 10:00am, Star Wars (SW) track
 
Otherwise, I’ll be bouncing around the con having a wonderful time.  I’m also planning on attending the Geek Radio Daily recording on the Podcasting track, Friday at 7:00pm.

If you're going, I hope to see you there!
Brigade

Imagine the gritty world of Blade Runner, with all of its fantasy and science and punk vision of society. Now change the setting from a future Los Angeles to Victorian-era England.  Now take the replicants and hovercars and weaponry and imagine if they were all powered by pressurized steam instead of electrons.

That’s the way I’ve been able to understand the subgenre of steampunk.

I’ve been curious for some time about the allure of this science-fiction/fantasy subgenre, from buzzing on the internet to the plethora of costumes at events like Dragon*Con. When authors and podcasting giants Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris released their new novel, Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Phoenix Rising, I decided to take the plunge into the world of cogs, corsets, and airships.


The story itself is rather simple and linear, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite refreshing for what is essentially a spy novel, complete with action, suspense, and a hearty degree of intellect. Modern espionage tales try to layer double-crosses and intrigue to the point that all those plot twists shroud the very essence of the plot. I never felt that Phoenix Rising was trying to mislead me or confuse me at any point.

The tale focuses on our two heroes, Wellington Books and Eliza Braun, both secret agents in a clandestine branch of the Monarchy that investigates the peculiar, be it the occult or the supernatural. I thought of it as Indiana Jones and the Torchwood Institute combined with Her Majesty’s Secret Service from the James Bond series.

Agent Books is the embodiment of Q, a master of gadgets and gizmos, working as a librarian—pardon me, Archivist—in the bowels of the Ministry. Agent Books doesn’t seek action or adventure because he finds it in the case files he meticulously organizes like clockwork, nine to five, Monday through Friday. He’s prim and proper head-to-toe, armed with a dry wit, and sips a lot of tea. On the surface, Wellington Books is a rather boring guy.

Books is balanced with the spirited Agent Braun from New Zealand, who is the James Bond of the story. Quite honestly, she starts the story as more of a Daniel Craig than a Sean Connery. She goes into action like she’s a one woman wrecking crew, armed to the teeth while wearing a bulletproof corset, and takes no prisoners. She loves her drinks and loves her job, but she’s scarred by the loss of her former partner and her methods get her in trouble with her boss.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Crown’s fate rests in the hands of a renegade and a librarian.

The story revolves around a secret society that threatens the sanctity of the Empire. Eliza has firsthand knowledge of the case because it was what drove her former partner—with whom she was incredibly close—to become a permanent resident in the local asylum. After her scolding for the events of the first chapter, she’s relegated to the less action-packed Archives to learn about the other side of the Ministry from Agent Books. While there, she discovers that the case that claimed her partner is still unsolved and that both she and Books are linked to the happenings. The plot elegantly progresses from there.

The story shifts into high gear from the very beginning and stays there for 400 pages. Tee and Pip swap chapters, bouncing points-of-view from Books to Braun while including very deep character development and growth. The story is also presented in more of the proper British English format, keeping the U in “flavour” and really immersing readers in the Victorian setting. It also keeps the reader in the same mindset as the protagonists, discovering each clue as they do. The only breaks from that formula are the short chapters that expand on the antagonists and their shadowy machinations. These interludes also lay down hints and threads for potential sequels, which are rumored to be in production now.

For my first foray into steampunk, I’m very impressed. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequels as they arrive.



Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Phoenix Rising is available in bookstores everywhere in both physical and digital formats. This review is based on a personally-purchased copy.




7th-Jun-2011 04:57 pm - The New Project
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I'm back on the podcasting bandwagon!  I’ve started working with The Chronic Rift, a pop culture podcast based on a New York public access show of the ‘90s. Every week I’ll be recording The Weekly Podioplex, where I’ll cover the weekend box office results, the week’s upcoming films, the newest DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and a little news too.

The first episode is now live, so please give it a listen and let me know what you think.

See you at the theater.


3rd-Jun-2011 10:27 pm - From the Inbox
Brigade

Fresh from today’s inbox:

 

There I was sitting at the bar staring at my drink when a large, trouble-making biker stepped up next to me, grabbed my drink and gulped it down in one swig.

“Well, whatcha’ gonna do about it?” he said menacingly as I burst into tears.

“Come on, man,” the biker said. “I didn't think you'd cry. I can’t stand to see a man crying.”

“This is the worst day of my life,” I said. “I'm a complete failure. I was late to a meeting and my boss fired me. When I went to the parking lot, I found my car had been stolen and I don't have any insurance.   I left my wallet in the cab I took home.  I found my wife with another man and then my dog bit me.

 “So I came to this bar to work up the courage to put an end to it all, I buy a drink, I drop a capsule in and sit here watching the poison dissolve; then you show up and drink the whole thing! But enough about me, how’s your day going?”


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