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Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Time Event
1:07a
Sherlock, a Koontz, and looking forward to 2012...




Sherlock came back! No, not the movie version (I've yet to see it), but the one that Steven Moffat is working on (at the rate of threeeeee episodes a year). Coming back to the series, which ended on a cliffhanger, was a little jarring as I'd forgotten the vocally animated portrayal of Moriarty from the previous season. All around, the show is just as good, if not better, than before. The use of on-screen text has found its place, almost becoming a character itself, providing information, atmosphere, and comic relief. The show even managed to work in the iconic deerstalker hat the "classic" Holmes is often seen wearing along with an Easter Egg involving a certain year in Holmes mythology. The writing was snappy and quotable, the cinematography blends well with the verbal sparring between Holmes and his targets, and there was plenty of Moffat-brand titillation for just about all tastes. Now if we can only solve the Case of the Mysterious Three-Season Series, all may yet be well. I don't want to spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it, but for those who have... was it too much? Too over the top, or in the spirit of the character?

    I never learn. Hoping that perhaps he'd mellowed a bit, I read a Dean Koontz novel over the weekend while working. It's a new release called 77 Shadow Street. It's basically a haunted house story, where the haunted house has been turned into condos. Every 38 years, weird stuff culminating in large amounts of death happens, which is a decent enough setup, giving us a ticking clock explanation why the "haunt" isn't ongoing and keeping everyone away from the place. The ghost that kept haunting the book for me, though, is the author, who can't seem to just let things go and tell a story.
    From what I've read, Koontz is quite "what's good for GM is good for the country, get those commie hippie freaks off of my lawn and anyone who can't overcome something is lazy, crazy, or a criminal"-esque. There are times where you can almost see him typing on a porch, waving a broken bottle at his typewriter. For the heroes, these times aren't so extended, though I imagine his ex-military veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who thinks PTSD is a myth to line the pockets of psychologists will get him a few letters. The one character who is wealthy from inheritance instead of hard work is driven to extreme paranoia by guilt over his unearned cash (understandable, right?). The villains (the ones that aren't from realms beyond) sound like they fell out of a talk radio program crossed with a pulp crime novel. What's worse, after we've read page after page of the most detailed ways that one Mr. Vernon Klick is basically the AntiKoontz, representing what I'm figuring the author imagines a skinny security guard version of Michael Moore would be like, he's shot and killed. You could have removed Vernon completely and replaced him with "nobody security dude #225" and lost nothing to the plot. As I've said before, I don't mind if characters have a political, social, or whatever bent in a novel. It's when nearly everyone involved was created with a pile of ground-up axes that it starts to look less like a story and more like a shooting gallery for the writer. This is the stuff that must be slogged through to get to the core idea lurking in this collection of vignettes.
    Once Koontz finishes venting his spleen every so often, he's got an interesting horror novel framework going, and populating the haunted mansion with people in converted condo spaces gives you a longer list of victims with more variety. While the threat is supernatural, it explains ghosts in a mode that's more like sci-fi involving time travel. The choice by the spooky force to repeat the word "exterminate" makes me wonder if the author is a closet Who-fan. So there you go. Aside from the occasional soapbox, it's a decent creepy book, if a little long in places. Oh, and while you don't have to endure yet another super-smart golden retriever, one of his more Marty-Stu characters has several paragraphs devoted to not only how great one he owned was, but how owning such a dog is what uplifts a man and expands his consciousness. I have to wonder how much his editors convinced him to leave out, and I'm kind of amazed he hasn't tried re-writing Clifford D. Simak's City yet.

The law is often a very strange thing, and it results in all kinds of acrobatics when it comes to businesses trying to work it to their advantage. Such was the case when some trade lawyers claimed that their client's action figures shouldn't be taxed at 12%, which is the going rate for imported merch based on human beings. Instead, they argued the figures weren't human at all, and therefore qualified for a 6% tax rate. The client was Marvel Comics, and the toys, ironically, were mutants from the X-Men. The story is covered in the RadioLab podcast, which has an audio embed at the end of the story. I'll be curious to see if anyone can track if this'll have an effect on TV show and movie product tie-ins, along with lines in said media about how remarkable it is that "they look just like us, but they're not human!" :)

I hope everyone out there is at least having a happier 2012 than Sears/K-Mart appears to be. They're closing a number of stores after disappointing sales continued. Some may blame stores in need of a makeover, high prices, or maybe the waning pop culture presence of the Blue Light Special, but I can't help things like selling this sort of thing had a hand in it. :) Still, even they probably don't feel anywhere near as bad as the robber nabbed outside of a Tesco's by a man in a banana costume. And yes, the hero of the story said he supposed he was the real-life Bananaman.

As for me, my family and I enjoyed a small get-together with friends, Josh got to run around and play with other kids (and occasionally glance at Tangled on the TV) until midnight, and Cristi made candied bacon for the occasion. I think the caramelized sugar shell on said pork product is there to stick to your teeth as a means of preventing one person devouring it all in seconds. Thanks to a cloudburst, we learned that an old mp3 player and speakers the host owns could survive at least half an hour in the shower. Josh learned how to say "party hearty," and he only ate one pistachio shell before I demonstrated that those were just the "wrapper" as well as not something I wanted to see on an x-ray. Happy new year to everyone, I hope your plans for the future come true (some quite soon), and here's hoping the following is of use:

- It's late for Christmas, but they just broadcast it (language and Brian Blessed warning): It's the Q.I. Christmas episode!
- Here's the annoying thing about wanting to get along in the world the way Mister Rogers taught us to: Some research shows that's not the way to get ahead.
- Your Prime Directive violation of the day: They've given iPads to orangutans. I'm pretty sure that'll void the warranty, and I think there needs to be some disclosure if they ever end up being refurbished.
- On a somewhat related note (though I'm not trying to Apple-bait), the first touchscreen phone was built a lot earlier than I thought. I'm having a hard time seeing James Bond using one, though.
- Outpost Haven is a decent top-down Aliens-style shooter. I'd hope if my space station were ever overrun with nasties, the computer would let anyone who wanted a bigger gun and more ammo have them for free.
- This next video link goes out to all the fans of the old "Galaxy Rangers" show. I just ran across what looks like a demo or pitch reel for the show. I don't want to look, but I can't help but think Shane Gooseman has shown up in someone's Firefly fanfic.
- A bit of a language warning on this one, but it's called Literally Unbelievable, and it collects reactions by people who think articles in the Onion are real.
- There's often a unique look to art made for sci-fi purposes, and that's especially true of this vintage trove from the former Yugoslavia.
- Since I noted movies, here's the most pirated video games of 2011. Footy fans are apparently not XBox owners, then?
- Things like SOPA and other attempts to control the internet have inspired hackers to look into using satellites to circumvent government interference.
- As a suggestion for the eventual Doctor Who feature film, this might be asking a lot.
- I'm not sure if these vehicles are real or CGI rendered, but I keep thinking up really amazing movie ideas as I scroll through them.
- Sometimes one just has to be impressed with the effort to compile a list. This one is 100 depictions of snow in video games.
- Statistically, summer tornadoes slack off during the weekends or they're really irritated by the mid-week grind.
- 2012 isn't all that different, in that there are still loads of zombie games, like Zomblast. Use the mouse and cursor keys to position grenades so that every undead on the screen gets hit by silver shrapnel.

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