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Meh. Can't do laundry because roommates left the Smartcard in their room (or hid it somewhere unusual) and are sleeping. I like doing it in the morning because there's usually no competition. If when they wake up all the machines are full, killing spree time. Well, probably not. But there'll be a frowning to remember!

Anyway, let's get to the Book Foo...

Finished: Queen of Candesce (Book 2 of Virga), by Karl Schroeder
Started: The First Half of the Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe (technically two books)

I don't really have many extended comments on this one. I liked it, but not as much as the first in the series. Some of the setups of Spyre and the different kingdoms seemed a little artificial (in terms of setup, of course they were artificial in origin). Still, I'm going to get the third (and probably fourth) eventually.

Finished: Nocturne for a Dangerous Man, by Marc Matz
Started: Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds

Comments behind the cut, short version: Meh, not my cup of tea. (no real spoilers except for concept and characters)

You know how they say you can't judge a book by its cover? Well, it's true, but like all true statements, it has exceptions, because this book pretty well conformed to my expectations from glancing at the cover. Maybe the title was the primary factor there. Anyway, I thought it was going to be a badass hero doing badass things I don't much care about and all the while being pretty uninteresting to me.

It's the common story breakdwon: Badass as Private Detective. Pretty much sums it up. You've got an incredibly 'dangerous man', who can kill without a thought, knows martial arts, lots of languages, all the right people, and is in general incredibly competant in violent things (plus a particular non-violent skill that seems to come in handy far more than it should), and has a surprising sensitive or introspective side, hired to find someone/something/the answer to something, much like a private detective would, except usually with a lot more violence and ooh, cleverness. In this case he's hired to find a kidnapped girl, and the non-violent skill is art history.

Now, this isn't necessarily a SF plot, so for this plot to work as SF, there are usually two ways to do it:
It's either a work in which the SF elements are pretty much window dressing, and it could have taken place in the modern day except the writer wouldn't think it's as cool, or where the SF element is integral to the story. This book chose the first aspect. This is not a grave sin in general (SF as window dressing is great), but for this particular type of plot, it's generally, personally, a dealbreaker. Contrast to Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, also in the Badass as Private Detective line, but for which the story couldn't work without the fact that people routinely have a 'stack', or brain backup, that can be put into a new body after death. Of course, Altered Carbon was also generally better written.

So yeah, none of the characters really came alive, and I didn't much care about the main character's search (most of which seemed to consist on him calling on old friends of particular skillsets and asking them to get information for him). Doubt I'll be reading much more of Matz.

Finished watching the first season of Wolverine and the X-Men (because the UK jumped past us, playing it every day instead of weekly). Rather good, overall. Could be better. (some spoilers for end of season coming)There seemed to be a bit too much focus on episodes centered on individual characters, whereas I'd like a little more full team action (or character-centric episodes where the rest of the team still plays a decent role). Evolution did that balance better. And less Wolverine in particular, but again, what do you expect?

Couple of weird seeming (at least to me) blips, timelinewise. Bishop seemed to be, well, well over 20, but claimed he had been born and raised in the post-apocalyptic future, which was only 20 years ahead. Also, in a flashback, it looked like Iceman was part of the original X-Men team, whereas everything in the rest of the series suggests he's much younger than everybody else, except Kitty. I suppose he could have been like, say, 13 or 14 in the flashback (he was covered in snow, like early Iceman, and never spoke in the flashbacks) and the youngest of the team, a little like canon, but it seemed a little off.

Still, the show does pretty good in action sequences and small moments of awesome.

I'm disappointed they got rid of Emma in favour of Jean. Maybe they'll bring her back, have the Phoenix return towards the end of the next season and Jean sacrifice herself, while reassembling Emma out of the diamond shards. Or at least, if not, I hope they bring in Colossus so they still have a 'turning into invulnerable material' character (and maybe get to bring in Magik and other characters through that). Also hope they bring in Nocturne in the AoA future, cause she'd be fun to see.

Also lately been enjoying the second season of Spectacular Spider-Man. It's nice to have good cartoons again, finally.

TVwise, Terminator wasn't bad, BSG was... kinda a waste for a second last episode, but we'll see how they end off.

Edit: Oh, and I finally saw Watchmen. My thoughts, spoilers behind the cut both for the movie and the GN. Short version: Liked it, a bit soulless in parts, but I'll probably buy the extended DVD.
Okay, I'll start with the good. Rorshach was spot on at virtually all points. I tend to be able to be very piecemeal with my feelings towards adaptations... that is, if they did one thing right, it's not a waste because I can take that one thing and treasure it. So yes, even if the rest of the movie sucked, I can take Rorschach's portrayal and file it in my head as "this movie was worthwhile to me because it brought Rorschach to life".

Luckily that wasn't the only good thing. Most of the others were pretty good too, Veidt and Jupiter the weakest perhaps. Most of the criticisms I'd heard early on (not just on them, but on the excessive violence and sex) I sort of agree with, but think they were a little overblown.

Love the set design and everything, very nice attention to detail, and for the most part (a few exceptions I might get to later), the opening sequence (that is, the credits... the pre-credits fight did kinda telegraph the villain much better and wasn't really needed) worked very well.

As to the ending, well, I can understand why the squid ending was changed, it would be hard to setup for a movie audience without adding to the running time, and probably hard to pull off convincingly. So I don't mind it. But I would have preferred the squid ending, or at least if they filmed/made the Squid ending and included it as an optional extra in the DVD. The squid had greater resonance with the Comedian's cracking up... in part BECAUSE it was so silly. It was so silly, and yet it would work, and the Comedian didn't get the joke (and sorry, it was in no way less realistic than Doc Manhattan). Doc Manhattan's didn't strike me as a 'joke', as opposed to just a scam. And not even a very good one. I'd imagine other countries would blame the US rather than joining with them, because they were the ones who created Manhattan and used him as a weapon. He might have worked if he was actually a constant presence warning that anybody who tried to make war would be destroyed, but that's clearly not happening. I won't call the ending a bad point, just sub-optimal. At the very least, I wanted more bodies. The end scene looked too sanitized and unreal. He'd already shown he didn't have any qualms about graphic violence with the other scenes. Yeah, bodies in the streets of NY might be a dangerous image after 9/11, but it's also a powerful one. Powerful images are what films are supposed to give.

The other bad points? I dunno, it felt a little soulless at times, like it was going through the motions without entirely understanding them. The slow mo fights kinda annoyed, and in particular the... straight fightiness of it all. For example, the prison break. In the comic, the Nite-Owl fought intelligently, used a sonic weapon to disorient and distract everybody on the upper level, and fought his way through the cells. In here they're all just jumping in the fray like nothing can stop them, presumably because it makes a better action sequence. But it ignores that Nite-Owl _isn't_ the action hero. He's the gadget hero. He's the rich guy with a utility belt aspect of Batman.

In fact, a lot of the problems seemed to be at the intersection of the graphic novel and the stuff they added/changed for the movie. And I realize that sounds utterly fanboyish (the novel was awesome and shouldn't have been changed one bit!), but I hope if I explain some points, it'll seem less so.

Silhouette seemingly kisses the nurse from the famous WWII photo... and apparently has a fairly public relationship with her for a while that everybody's okay with, before her murder, rather than her being a lesbian what got her kicked out of the group and later killed. Okay, it makes for a clever moment with the photo, but... it just doesn't seem right (that is, right for the time period... I'm certainly not advocating that type of reaction).

The first Hollis Mason scene. Here's a guy who Dan visits on a regular basis. And he's giving the story of how and why he first decided to dress up as a masked adventurer and fight the gangs. It's needless, clumsy exposition, even with the idea given that he was drunk and old and repeating himself.

Then Rorshach visits Dan, and, in order to set up that the Watchmen are over (btw, calling them the Watchmen instead of the Crimebusters is a forgiveable change, although it does feel a bit like they're thinking.. "but won't the audience be confused if we never call them the Watchmen?"), he gives a screed about how the Watchmen are over, Rorschach should give it up... and then of course, he segues into the GN line "Those were good times, whatever happened to them?"... in the novel, Dan's talking to Rorshach strictly about the case, yeah, he retired, but it's set up as something he might feel fondly about. In the movie, it sounds like he's saying it's stupid to be a superhero and Rorshach should quit and then following it up with "Hey, those were great times, whatever happened to them?" just makes Dan sound like a phony jerk.

Rorshach's "What do you have?" "Your thumbs. My perspective." Being changed to "Your thumbs. My pleasure." ... that doesn't really work with the line given. What Rorshach has, that is a help, is the crook's thumbs, and his unique perspective of the world that lets him use anything as a weapon. "His pleasure" doesn't help him, it sounds like a lame line.

And of course the useless rewritting of the "I did it 35 minutes ago."

Oh, and like I said with the changed squid ending. Remember, the theory of this seems to be that Jon nuked a bunch of cities, as retribution for flirting with war. So what's the first thing that Nixon does? "We're going to unite together against our common enemy.. DOCTOR MANHATTAN!"... uhm, yeah, right, that's a smart thing to do. The guy who, you believe, just nuked a bunch of cities with a flick of his hand, you're going to go on TV and publicly say the world's going to go to war against HIM.

Okay, maybe it is nitpicky fanboy rage. Anyway, not all the changes were bad, but it seems like they made too many useless ones. Other minor problems, Doctor Manhattan's segment didn't really get across how he looked at time, I thought, but that's extremely hard to do so I give them credit for trying. I don't think they really managed to convey how close the world was to WWIII, either, or Veidt's advanced recognition of this and thus his need to plan for it. Maybe that'll be fixed in the extended director's cut. And anyway, overall I did quite like it, enough to see it again and buy on DVD.
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