Monthly Archives: December 2013

Andrew & Tracy’s New Year’s Resolutions

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Hey, everyone!  Like many of you, we here at Therefore I Geek each have a list of New Year’s resolutions, some geeky, and some not.  We thought that we would share them with you as a way of saying farewell to 2013, and looking ahead to 2014.

Andrew

Read More – I haven’t been reading as much as I would like and it’s my own fault. I tend to put the TV on for noise and do other things at times when I could be reading. It’s time to take on the Reading List of Doom and hopefully make it a little smaller.

Catch up on select TV shows – While I want to watch less TV, I would also like to focus that TV watching so I can catch up on several shows that I have never seen. This includes, but is not limited to Doctor Who, Breaking Bad, Lost and maybe (a very tentative maybe) Battlestar Galactica.

Lose more weight – Some of you may remember my Fit 4 Con posts and my attempts to lose weight before NYCC this past year. While not a resounding success, I did lose some weight and I’d like to keep going. Now that the holidays and their endless supply of treats are coming to an end, I’m in a pretty good place to keep going. I now have a rowing machine with which to torture myself, so I think I’m set.

Be more social – We are constantly advocating for geeks to be more social and while I have gotten much better about this than I use to be, there is still plenty of room for improvement. It does me no good to tell you guys to do something that I don’t do myself.

Tracy

My first resolution is to learn to swim properly.  I’ve tried some beginner classes, but instructors want to focus on treading water, which I cannot seem to grasp.  I can float and doggy paddle, so I won’t drown, but there is entirely too much splashing and it takes too long to get anywhere.  This year I want to take on the pool and learn to swim correctly.

Secondly, I want to spend some time researching and reading Cloak & Dagger.  This fun comic duo has always interested me, but I’ve been more enthralled with Beast and the Scarlet Witch in the last couple of years.  It is time to branch out to a series that I don’t know much about.

Like Andrew, I also need to up my book count this year.  It’s a big undertaking, but my goal is to read fifty two books in fifty two weeks.  I remember reading far more than this as a child, but I have gotten out of the habit, and become involved in reading more online or for school.  Books that qualify can be anything other than comic books (although I am willing to include full graphic novels).

Lastly, and perhaps my most difficult and most important resolution, I want to graduate in 2014.  I’ve been working on my degree for almost three years.  Because of careful planning, hard work, and some blind luck, I may be able to graduate a semester early, and I really want to do this.  It will take focus and even more hard work, but I believe I’m up to the task.

So those are our lists.  We cannot wait to see what 2014 holds both for us and the blog.  Are you making resolutions?  Share them with us in the comments.

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Geek Life, Tracy Gronewold

Editorial |The Silent Character

In the course of writing a novel or a screenplay, authors carefully set up the scene they wish to play out.  In science fiction or fantasy—even more so than in other genres—they create a world, and then populate it with figures that are limited only by the author’s imagination.  However, I submit that in the very best sort of books there is one character that is not created by the author, but is temporarily bound in the world he creates:  the reader.

A book is something like the stage on which a play is performed.  The onlooker sees everything that is going on in the story spread out before him in his mind’s eye.  In a play, the characters can interact with themselves, but they arrange themselves to be visible to the audience as much as possible.  Their gestures are larger than life, their facial expressions more dramatic, and their voices pitched to carry to the unmentioned and usually silent viewers.  Although in most plays the actors never acknowledge the audience, they still consider its response in every action that takes place on stage.

In a good book, the kind that sucks the reader in and completely absorbs him, the same thing happens.  In most of these books, such as Tolkien’s The Hobbit (now a Major Motion Picture), the reader is never directly addressed.  Characters act, interact, and react with each other for the benefit of the audience.  Events are arranged for thrilling suspense.  Action sequences are highlighted, and periods in between them are foreshortened.

Sometimes, although more rarely, the author does directly speak to his readers.  This is usually an aside.  My favorite example of this is from C. S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “”Wherever is this?” said Peter’s voice, sounding tired and pale in the darkness. (I hope you know what I mean by a voice sounding pale.)”  I think I was six years old the first time I read this, and it was a completely novel idea to me (pun entirely intended) to be addressed by an author I already loved and trusted by this point in the book.  However, this style of writing does not happen very often.

Down the beaver hole

Some authors spend more time crafting the story to their audience, such as Piers Anthony.  His world of Xanth is escapist fantasy taken to extremes.  Nearly everything in this fictional universe is designed to be a pun or an inside joke.  The reader is fully engaged as a silent character in his world.  More serious authors tend to make the role of the reader much smaller.  However, even these authors expect the audience to be fully engaged in the story.

In some cases, the author starts off with a good sense of his audience as a silent participant in his world, but then seems to forget their presence, further into the story.  A great example of this is George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.  The first couple of books read like smooth and beautiful stage productions.  The level of description sets the stage for the reader, without becoming so boring that he skips over large sections.  The action flows at a fluctuating pace:  slowing down during the moments of action and speeding up to skip over slow, boring chains of events, such as Catelyn Stark’s journey to King’s Landing in A Game of Thrones.  In later books, such as A Dance With Dragons, Martin seems to prefer spelling out each and every tiny event, even if it has very little to do with the story.  In cases such as this, I personally feel that extra time in the editing stage of the process is necessary.  (Of course, he doesn’t really have the time for extended editing sessions, but I digress.)

If GRRM doesn’t get the next book out sometime next year… grrmmph mumble mumble…

It seems obvious, then, that the audience to any good story is a silent, third party character which interacts with the world and the characters in it.  When the reader is so enthralled with a book that he or she spends hours or even days after it is closed reliving the events in his imagination, or creating new stories set on the same stage, the author has done his job.

Have you read a book that kept you focused for days, and even made you unwilling to read something else for a little while after you finished it?  Let us know in the comments.  I may even add it to my Reading List of Doom!

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Filed under Books, Editorial, Tracy Gronewold

Review: 47 Ronin

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I love samurai movies. I own the Criterion Collection edition of several of Kurosawa’s major works and they are among the prized pieces of my movie collection. With this in mind I went to see 47 Ronin. Despite claims that it was done in the same tradition as Kurosawa, I had no expectations that 47 Ronin would live up to that. All I was really hoping for was a faithful, artistic retelling of the Japanese legend. What I got was a disappointing mess. At almost every turn 47 Ronin managed to do the wrong thing.

The original legend of the forty-seven ronin is a classic Japanese tale about forty-seven masterless samurai lead by Oishi who avenge their master’s death. Their master, Lord Asano, had been goaded into attacking a court official, Kira, in Edo Castle over a perceived slight. Assaulting a court official was a grave crime and the master was forced to commit ritual suicide. Forty-seven of the disgraced master’s samurai vowed to avenge their master and waited two years to fulfill their promise. After completing their mission, they turned themselves in and were also required to commit suicide, an unfortunate but honorable end to their quest. The story has become an example of the best that the samurai culture has to offer; honor, duty and loyalty.

Japanese woodblock print of the forty-seven samurai

Japanese woodblock print of the forty-seven samurai.

The witch, played by Rinko Kikuchi, was a very bizarre and frequently creepy addition.  According to this movie, she placed Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) under a spell, which is what made him attack Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) with whom she is in league; rather than the original story plot in which Kira goads him into it.  The whole idea comes across as somewhat forced and unnecessary. There also was a big deal made of her eyes, which have Heterochromia iridum (fancy name for her eyes being different colors). While this was an interesting little touch, the movie spent considerable screen time on close-ups of her face, trying to show off this feature but without any real explanation. Do all witches have eyes like this? I’m fairly certain the answer is no. Even when she transformed into animals (all of which were pretty awful looking CGI) they still had the two-toned eyes.  She comes across as creepy.  She’s not spooky, Stephen King kind of creepy, but more like the “I need adult supervision” kind of creepy. One scene in particular between the witch and Mika (Kô Shibasaki) was both creepy and bizarrely sexual and just made me mildly uncomfortable.

It's the eyes.

It’s the eyes.

Hands down the biggest problem with this movie was of course Kai, the half-breed, played by none other than Keanu Reeves. /Sigh/ I’m almost at a loss of where to begin, but I think I’ll start with the character himself. Into this entirely Japanese cast the film makers dropped a half white, half Japanese character who was apparently trained by demons as a child to be a killer. He then escapes, is found by Lord Asano, and raised by the lord.  However, he was forced to live outside the lord’s house in a hut (Japanese xenophobia prevented him from being an equal).  Of course, the lord’s daughter Mika doesn’t care and becomes Kai’s companion.

Finally when Kai is grown up and the witch shows up with Lord Kira, he is the only one who can tell she’s a witch (apparently because he was raised by demons). I swear I’m not making up any of this, and in fact I’m leaving some of it out. It’s a mix of ridiculous and cliché that I could not have come up with after a week-long bender. I get why the studio would want to have included a white character, as there are not many big name Japanese actors, but to then add in all of this other crazy stuff just confuses the hell out of me. As for Keanu himself, he won’t be winning any awards for this performance, except for maybe a Razzy.  Reeves spent most of the film mumbling out dialogue and then staring blankly at either the camera or his fellow cast members.

This is about as emotional as he gets.

This is about as emotional as he gets.

For a movie that claimed to be the successor to Akira Kurosawa’s work, it falls spectacularly short of that high mark. The scale of the movie was probably the only element that came anywhere near it.  Kurosawa was capable of massive scenes, such as those in the movie Ran.  In this movie there were a couple of shots in which I could see that the film makers had done at least a little of their homework. These however were the only glimmers of hope, and the overwhelming majority were in the first thirty minutes of the movie.

When it comes to Japanese culture, however, the film makers were less than studious. Frequently, characters spoke out of turn or insinuated themselves into situations in ways that would have been unacceptable in Japanese society. There were also issues from time to time with the sword choreography. At times the fighting was much more of a western style as opposed to a Japanese style, using stabs and thrusts with a sword that isn’t designed for those kinds of moves. If it weren’t for the costumes, there were several times that I would have forgotten this story takes place in feudal Japan. Even the costumes often looked cheap and not in keeping with the standards that Kurosawa set for movies of this type.

Overall this movie was just a mess. While I didn’t feel like my money was wasted, I certainly cannot recommend this movie to anyone. If someone out there would like to make a movie about the forty-seven ronin that is really good, I encourage you to make it quickly so that we can all forget about this one.  I give it one Death Star.

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Movie Reviews, Movies

Around the Web December 26, 2013

Even though Christmas is over, we’ve got a few more holiday themed wonders for you, starting off with some Star Wars themed snowflakes. Remember back in grade school when you use to make snowflakes by cutting up folded paper, well now you can make some in the image of your favorite Star Wars characters.  My personal favorites are Boba Fett, the TIE Interceptor, and of course, Slave Leia. There are snowflakes available for 2012 and 2013 and they provide us with a nice video tutorial on how to put them together.

Geek arts and crafts are pretty fantastic, although I am uncertain as to why people trust us with sharp objects like knives and scissors.

Moving on to something a bit more edible, we have a gingerbread Serenity. For those of you who want to sail the verse on a sugary sweet ship, your sugarplum visions are coming true. It seems simple enough, but then again I’ve never tried to make a gingerbread house, so I could be completely off base. Maybe next year I’ll give it a try.

Serenity shipYou can’t take the sky from me…the sweet, sweet frosted sky.

And finally, for those of you comic lovers out there, Comics Alliance has put together a compilation of 200 holiday comic book covers. The covers span the entire history of comics, going all the way back to the early parts of the Golden Age of Comics. My favorites in this list are the EC Comics Vault of Horrors and Judge Dredd, because when I think Christmas, I think of Judge Dredd.

squirel girlWho doesn’t love Squirrel Girl as a reindeer?

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