Friday, January 29, 2010

R.I.P. Dollhouse

The good always die young. Wow. What a series finale!

Dollhouse ended tonight and I'm pretty upset about it. This was a phenomenal show almost from the beginning (almost). The premise was great, what with the imprinting of entire personalities that have been cobbled together from bits and pieces of other people. How would such technology impact the world? Here's a hint: not very well.

Sadly, both seasons of the show suffered from the same sloppy structure. Both seasons started with "engagement of the week" episodes, stand-alone stories that really didn't contribute much to the overall storyline. Then, halfway through each, the show delved into the deeper mythology of the Rossum Corporation and their nefarious designs for humanity. It's unfortunate that they (either the writers or the network) chose to do it that way. Rather than draw in viewers, I think the relatively lackluster stories drove them away.

For those of us who stuck around, though, Man on the Street in Season One and Belonging in Season Two were game-changers, dropping us head-first into a twisted story that was so engaging because it was so frighteningly possible. I'm not talking about the tech. I have no idea if you can imprint total personalities over someone or not. But the way Rossum used the tech is completely believable. Joss Whedon has a dim view of humanity's ability to resist such seductive power. I share it.

But let's talk about some of the twists, such as who the head of Rossum was or who died in the finale tonight. No worries, no spoilers, but wow. No sentimentality for anyone.

There was one thing that bothers me about the way everything played out. It would appear that the writers ret-conned the way Caroline became Echo. In the Season One episode Echoes, it would appear Caroline became Echo after a weird YouTube animal rights plot. In the Season Two episode Getting Closer, Caroline is a crusading terrorist out to topple Rossum for what they're going to do to people. In both episodes, each plot seemed to be her entrance into the Dollhouse. A contradiction? I have no idea.

It's a shame that this is over. I think they could have kept going and it would have been a wild ride along the way.

So what's next for Joss Whedon? I'm hoping for Dr. Horrible 2. But that's just me. I do know I'll be mourning Dollhouse's demise for a while. Too soon, too soon.

Behind the Mask

So it's early 1996. I'm a college senior and it's Monday night. I've got nowhere to be and I'm a bit bored, so I'm flipping channels when I stumble across a professional wrestling show. Much to my surprise, I see that Hulk Hogan is wrestling.

My immediate thought is, Hulk Hogan is still wrestling?!?

The show ended on a cliffhanger and it intrigued me enough to tune in the next week to see what happened. Before I knew it, I was watching WCW Monday Nitro regularly, but not because of Hulk Hogan.

No, I was watching because of Rey Mysterio, Jr.

He's called the human highlight reel for a reason. He was incredible. This was back when he was in his early twenties and in great shape, doing all sorts of crazy aerial moves. I still remember the moment I became his fan. He was wrestling someone and his opponent went for a clothesline. Rey grabbed his opponent's outstretched arm and used it almost like a trapeze, swinging himself around his opponent's body so he could get his legs around his opponent's neck, which led to a head-scissors takedown.

This whole series of events took exactly half a second, if I recall correctly, so fast that I could barely have blinked.

I've followed Rey's career off and on since then. I was thrilled when he came to the WWE. I was psyched that he won the World Heavyweight Championship. So naturally, I was stoked to read Behind the Mask, Rey's autobiography.

I'm not so excited anymore.

To put it bluntly, this was something of a boring read. I did learn a bit about lucha libre and the culture of Mexican wrestling, which was cool. I learned about how Rey trained with his uncle, the original Rey Mysterio, how he broke into the business way earlier than most would (if I recall correctly, it was when he was fourteen).

But as the book dragged on, I got more and more frustrated. I've read other wrestling autobiographies in the past and loved them, but that's only when they pull the curtain back and show us the inner workings of the profession. How are decisions made? How are matches put together? What goes on backstage at a show and what stories don't we know about?

Sadly, Rey doesn't give much in that regard. He had a few short tales to tell about his time in ECW, but that was it. He mostly gave us match recaps, who did what and when and, he did it almost in a way that made it sound like we were supposed to think the matches were "real," so to speak. In many ways, it was almost like the story was being written by the character of Rey Mysterio, the man who comes out on camera and puts on the match. It was like he didn't want to break kayfabe, which is kind of the point of a book like this. We didn't see much of what happened behind the mask, which is pretty ironic given the title.

The few times we did drift backstage, it was bland and kind of predictable. Rey apparently was a saint who never had any beefs with anybody backstage. He says many times that he heard that some people think that Wrestler X was hard to get along with, but he never had any problems with him. Uh huh. Right.

It may sound odd, but what frustrated me the most was how thin the chapter on Eddie Guerrero and Rey's run with the World Heavyweight Championship was. There was very little there.

In the end, this book wasn't all that great. But that doesn't mean I'll stop being one of Rey's fans.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordcount Wednesday

I'll keep it short and sweet this week. Work continues on Failstate. As of a moment ago, I have 7,710 words put into it. About 35 pages or so, in five chapters. I've put together some halfway decent turns of phrases (at least, in my grubby little opinion). I was even able to piece together some details that had been eluding me for a while.

But I'm glad that I was able to add 4,476 words this week. That's over half. I wish I could double my word count every week. Could you imagine if wordcounts were exponential? Wow. Sadly, they're not. I'll keep going with the few hundred words here and there until this beast is done.

I do think I need to do some more research, only I'm a little nervous to proceed. I'd love to talk to a police detective about interrogation techniques, but I'm not sure how that conversation could possibly end well. "Hey, Mr. Police Detective, I'd like to pick your brains on how you would conduct an interrogation on a superhero." Yeah.

Well, I've got some time to figure out that bit of dialogue. But in the meantime, onward and upward.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Sims 3: World Adventures

I've been meaning to do this for a while. Let's talk The Sims 3: World Adventures.

It's not surprising that EA would put out an expansion pack for the Sims. That's where the money is and part of the reason why the Sims remains one of the top-selling game franchises for the past decade or so.

This one is a sort-of retread of previous expansions (namely Vacation and Bon Voyage) and allows your Sims to leave their homes and go on crazy adventures. Unlike the previous iterations, World Adventures includes three "real life" destinations, namely France, China, and Egypt (although I doubt anyone would ever find a place called Champs Les Sims, but I digress).

There's also the requisite new textures, furniture, and so on, plus three new skills for a Sim to learn (photography, "nectar" making, and martial arts. There aren't any new career tracks, which kind of surprised me since those are usually included as well.

Truth be told, there's not a lot to do at these destinations unless you want to go on the titular adventures (more on those in a bit). There's a general market for each new city, plus a few additional features (such as the nectary in France or the martial arts academy in China). You can certainly get to know the local Sims, go fishing, collect rocks and seeds, but that didn't hold a lot of appeal for me. What makes this expansion pack interesting is the tomb raiding.

That's right, each of the three destinations have numerous tombs scattered throughout. You can just plumb their depths right away, but I've found it a bit more satisfying to do the missions that accompany each one. Upon arriving at your destination, you arrive at a "base camp" with a mission bulletin board where local Sims post adventure requests. You can then accept the missions and go out to do them. This is actually an important part of the game, because how long you can stay in country is dependent on your visa level. The only way to increase that level is to earn visa points by doing the missions.

Some missions are easy: collect X number of Y and deliver them to Z. Others require you to go into the various tombs and retrieve certain objects or artifacts.

Ah, the tombs, where the game really shines. Inside the depths of these tombs, you find floor and wall traps that shoot darts or try to fry you. There are huge piles of rubble that need to be cleared away to expose treasure chests and hidden doors. There are relics galore to collect and keep. Some of them are fairly straight forward in terms of raiding. The worst seems to be Abu Simbel in Egypt. I'm pretty sure I botched that one when I cleared it, even though the game says I did fine.

Again, the focus on the expansion pack seems to be the tomb raiding, which is kind of an interesting twist to the franchise. It's not in the usual vein of life simulation and has an almost linear game-play feel to it. But it's kind of a nice change of pace. You certainly don't have to go raiding if you don't want to.

But there are benefits. Not only do you get lots of stuff that can be sold for lots of simoleans, you also can collect "epic" relics that, when gathered into one collection, give your Sim a nice mood bonus.

All that said, there are some serious bugs in the game, enough to really bother me about EA's quality control. I've had some experience with some of them. The game launcher will crash occasionally, although if I wait a few minutes, that problem resolves itself. More problematic is the strange relationship bug.

Let me tell you my story: before the expansion had come out, I had been playing with one family for a while. I really liked this crew and had some plans for where I wanted to take them even after the expansion was added. Small problem: once the expansion was added, I couldn't get their relationships to progress. They could become friends with other Sims, but those friendships couldn't progress to love or marriage or children (which is a small problem when you're trying to keep the game going).

From a quick search on the Sims 3 forums, I discovered this isn't a unique problem. A lot of players have run afoul of this bug. In my case, I was a bit frustrated because when I initially contacted EA about the problem, the tech support guy condescendingly suggested I was playing the game wrong and needed a game strategy guy to figure out what I was doing wrong. Um, no, this isn't my problem, buddy, it's yours.

The last I heard, EA is "working on it," whatever that means. Hopefully a future patch will resolve the issue. I did find a solution: I uninstalled my game and reinstalled everything and the problem seems to have been solved. But I shouldn't have had to do that.

Anyway, it's a fun addition, even with the bugs. Although if EA wants to fix those sometime soon, I certainly wouldn't object.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Catching Fire

I think I've commented on this before. When I'm not enjoying a book, it takes me forever to read it. When I really enjoy a book, it seems like I burn through them like nothing (pun somewhat intended in this case). That's certainly true of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

Katniss Everdeen, having survived the Hunger Games, now has to endure the Victory Tour. She must travel to all twelve Districts of Panem and face the families of the tributes who either died or were killed by her in the Games. But the stakes are higher than usual. The way she and Peeta Mellark won the games has started a spark of rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss is told that she has to smother the flames before the whole country catches fire, a task that may be completely out of her control, especially when the next round of the Games begin with a horrifying twist.

I'm pretty sure that I polished this book off in a little more than 24 hours. I simply could not put it down. Collins's story and characters are engaging and vivid. The first person-present point-of-view, while off-putting in the first book, felt completely natural this time around. The description of life in oppressed Panem was fascinating, especially at the decadence of the Capitol.

If there was any part of the story that had me a little upset, it was the fact that Katniss seems to be a bit too clueless for her own good. There were more than a few times when things happened around her and she just glossed over them and didn't pull the threads together to see what should have been obvious. A certain watch, for example. That's all I'm saying on that, but if you read the book or have read the book, you should know what I'm talking about.

That, and to be perfectly honest, I was hoping that at some point, Katniss would resolve the love triangle she's in. It's just not working for me.

That isn't to say I won't be reading the last book in the series. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I checked Amazon today and found out that I can pre-order the third book and lock in the lowest price possible. Right now, the third book is on pre-order for almost half off. I can't imagine the price getting much lower, but I know that even if it does, Amazon will give me the lowest price it lists. So I think I know what I'll be doing this fall: spending one last day in Panem to see what happens to Katniss Everdeen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Big Five Oh ... Oh

According to my dashboard, I've just hit a milestone on this blog. This is post #500. Well, for now it is. I've been thinking of going into my backlog and clearing out some of the overgrowth, but I've never gotten around to it, but anyway...

Wow. I'll be honest, when I started this blog, I didn't think that it'd last very long. If you go back and look at the earliest entries (and please don't, just take my word for it), this little corner of cyberspace would very easily live up to its name. Stupid rambling posts by yours truly, never around a central theme. It very well should have imploded like a Viking's fan's Superbowl dreams (Gah! Too early!).

But here we are, five years and five hundred posts later. I suppose I could get all introspective right now and try to come up with some profound insight over how I've changed over the past five years. Five years ago, I was still a pastor in Blue Earth. Five years ago, I hadn't yet gone through the adoption process and become a father. I hadn't attended an ACFW Conference yet, I was still banging away at the same science fiction trilogy that now gathers some dust on my bookshelf.

Truth be told, though, I'm in a bit of a mess right now mentally. So instead of going for philosophy, let's go for the moment.

As of right now, I'm sitting in my den chair, wearing my purple #4 jersey, wondering how much the Saints paid to bribe the refs. Saints fans may disagree with me, but come on, some of those last calls were ridiculous. Go Colts.

Now that that's out of my system, let's talk TV viewing. My current roster of TV shows I follow regularly is holding somewhat steady: Chuck, Heroes, Castle on Mondays. Scrubs and now Human Target on Tuesdays (although don't hold me to the latter, I'm not sure when that's on exactly). Law and Order: SVU on Wednesdays. Dollhouse (for now), Shark Tank, and Law and Order on Fridays. Thank goodness for my hardworking VCR so I can record it and catch up on those shows at my leisure.

I'm reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins presently and I'm surprised at how fast I'm plowing through it. Good stuff there.

According to my iTunes 25 Most Played List, I am apparently obsessed with the soundtrack for Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. Weird. I didn't think I'd listened to it that many times. Not that I have recently. I'm also the proud subscriber of about a dozen podcasts, three from How Things Work, the venerable Late Nite Jengajam, the PC Gamer Podcast, and I just recently, I subscribed to Word Like Fire and downloaded all 25 episodes.

I'm still a pastor but I've dabbled with dreams of going for an advanced degree of some sort. I took a somewhat half-serious look at an MFA from Hamline, but got derailed sometime last year.

I've lost more hair in the last five years than I wanted, but those are the breaks.

So that's about it. I have no idea where or when I'll be when post #1,000 comes around. I have no idea what changes might have occurred in my life.

Hopefully by then, the Vikings will have at least made it into the Superbowl. A guy can dream, right?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Breath of God

So, I guess, lesson learned. Don't expect great books at a liquidation sale. I just now finished the final book I bought at the B. Dalton clearance sale and, unfortunately, it would appear that there was a reason all of those books were sitting around.

I tried to save the best for last. I'm a big fan of Harry Turtledove. Or, at least, I used to be. So when I saw The Breath of God, I figured I couldn't go wrong. Half price, an author I usually (or used to) enjoy.

What I didn't realize at the time was that this was the second or possibly third book in a series. I'm a little miffed with Tor for completely concealing this fact from me. Nowhere on the book itself does it say that this is book two or three of four or whatever. It didn't help looking at the list of other books by Turtledove either since the publisher didn't group said books by series. When I first started reading the book, I assumed it was a stand-alone.

Needless to say, you can imagine my consternation when it became quite clear that I should already know most of the characters. Turtledove went over great chunks of backstory, so much that I realized I had missed at least one book, possibly two. The sheer amount of telling in the opening chapters, while necessary, was also boring. I almost stopped reading the book after the first fifty pages but my Germanic stubbornness kicked in and I decided I would make it through the whole book.

The story itself deals with Count Hamnet Thyssen. Apparently he and some friends have gone further north than anyone ever has, through a Gap in the Glacier, where they've discovered a great nation of people who call themselves the Rulers. The Rulers have great wizards and fight atop riding deer and mammoths. And now that they know the Glacier has the Gap in it, they're bound and determined to add to their territory. First they'll conquer the nomadic Bizogot, and then it's on to the Raumsdalian Empire. Thyssen and company must stop the Rulers, but that won't be easy since Thyssen isn't exactly on friendly terms with the Emperor.

Like I said, I had to force myself to read this whole book. Turtledove's writing was repetitive, so much so that it frustrated me to no end. Lots of pointless bickering, and the characters would resolve things by stating, "Tell me I'm wrong" or "I can't say you're wrong" or some variation thereof.

In short, I wasn't impressed. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it would have helped if I had read the first book or the first two books or however many I missed. But honestly, after slogging through this one, I have no desire to track down those skipped books.

Oh well. On to better things, books for which I paid full price.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordcount Wednesday

You know, it's been so long since I've posted an actual wordcount for one of these, I've almost forgotten how it's done.

Kidding, of course. But as I said last week, I finally started my downward spiral into the world of Failstate, a YA superhero novel. I wish I could report that I've made a lot of progress, but I haven't, not nearly as much as I'd like. Part of that is pressure from the "real world." Part of that is laziness on my part (combined with being distracted by our new Wii Fit Plus and the Sims 3: World Adventures).

But a lot of that had to do with my greatest arch-enemy: the blank page.

I hate blank pages. So much pressure to fill them and do so in a way that's good. And it's even worse when the blank page is the first of a new book.

Maybe I'm the only person who faces this tyrant with such fear and trepidation. I've kind of set a goal for myself to always try to have a great first line or a good first scene that really hooks the reader. I mean, we only have so many words before someone would put a book down, right?

Well, with Failstate, I had a problem with the first line. I couldn't think of a good one. I finally had to throw a weak one on the page and start writing. But because the first line was so lackluster, I didn't feel good about the two or three pages I pieced together.

Then, one evening, a better first line came to me. And it helped. The better first line led to a stronger opening, which led to a fun little scene, which led to more fun...

I'm not done with the first chapter yet (close, but my bed is calling to me with its siren-song), and I'm a little worried about that. I'm on page 13 and I was hoping to have the first chapter be 15 pages or less so I could have an easy entry for ACFW's Genesis Contest. Oh well, maybe I'll lose some bloat when I rewrite the chapter in a few weeks.

Anyway, on to the report. As of right now, I have put 3,234 words on the page. Not too shabby for about half a week's work.

But I know it could have been better. So please, feel free to leave somewhat disparaging remarks for me. I could use the motivation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Battles of the Bible

In the interest of fairness, I couldn't make it through the whole thing of this book. So these are my impressions based on reading half of it.

When I saw Battles of the Bible at the now infamous clearance sale at B. Dalton, I thought it might be an interesting read. It might supplement what I already knew. Maybe.

Sadly, the editors did a lousy job on this one. Weird misspellings here and there, plus bizarre choices for the artwork for the chapters. For example, in a chapter on King David, we had a picture of Samson being blinded. In a chapter about King Ahab, we had a picture of Solomon preparing to split the baby in two. Say it with me: "Huh?"

Maybe it's okay if you don't know any better, I don't know. At least I got it for cheap.

Something I should have put on my list...

Not that I need a new robe, but how cool is this? A Jedi bathrobe! My problem, of course, would be that I'd want to wear it out of the house.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordcount Wednesday

Over the past week, I've been working on the preliminary groundwork for Failstate. I've written a three or four page synopsis, I've worked out how the story will probably flow.

So I think I'm ready.

Hopefully starting tomorrow, I'll start the new manuscript. My target goal is somewhere between 65,000 and 80,000 words. I honestly don't know how long this one will go. I guess we'll see.

I'm also hoping to have this one done by the end of February. We'll see about that one too.

Wish me luck.

No words ... should have sent a poet

I'm in awe. And probably not in a good way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition

Every Christmas, I usually wind up getting at least one or two "double gifts." You know, when two people wind up giving you the exact same thing. This year, though, I wound up with a rare triple, all of them being The Force Unleashed. My brother and brother-in-law both gave me a copy for our new Wii, and my parents gave me the Ultimate Sith Edition for the PC. After doing some limited research and after a little bit of thought, I returned the two Wii copies and kept the PC edition.

At the time, I thought I was making the right decision because the PC edition contained three extra levels the Wii wouldn't have. Now that I've played through the original story and the extra levels, I realize that I probably made a mistake.

So let's break it down. Story first. The story of The Force Unleashed is set in the "missing years" between the two trilogies. It turns out that Darth Vader has taken an apprentice a little early, keeping him secret from the Emperor. He sends out his apprentice to mop up some Jedi stragglers who somehow survived Order 66. But then everything goes downhill as the Emperor learns of the apprentice's existence. Now Darth Vader sends out his apprentice on a new mission, one that will ... well, I'm not sure how to explain it without giving away some massive spoilers.

Anyway, in terms of story, the game was okay, I guess. It did raise my eyebrows once or twice when I realized what the implications of the story would be for the larger Star Wars story. As for the story of the extra levels, one is a tacked-on something or other about the apprentice raiding the ruins of the Jedi temple on Coruscant to learn more about his father. The other two promised to be more interesting: a retelling of two episodes from the original trilogy with a slight counterfactual twist. What would have happened if the Dark Side ending of the game was canonical? What if the Apprentice was the one on Tatooine and Hoth in Episodes IV and V?

As intriguing as "A Fragile Hope" and "Wrath of the Empire" (the names of said expansions) were on paper, the stories of both were so-so. They were what they were and that's about it. So in terms of story, the Ultimate Sith Edition fell kind of flat.

On to gameplay, and this is where the game really suffered. Part of it was issues with my computer. I had thought that my rig could handle the game and, for the most part, it did. But there were sections of the game where the framerate crawled along painfully, especially in wide-open spaces or areas where there was a lot of background activity. So, for example, Darth Vader raiding the Wookie village on Kashyyyk was particularly slow. I also experienced a few glitches with my sound card that struck at inopportune times.

But I still noticed graphical and sound glitches throughout the game that I'm pretty sure weren't the fault of my computer. There were a few times where the dialogue volume dropped so much that the music and ambient noises overwhelmed them. This happened so often I finally had to turn on subtitles just so I could know what was being said.

There were also weird graphics issues every now and then as well. For example, when I was playing the Hoth level in the final boss battle, the Apprentice's armor disappeared on one arm. Or, to put it more specifically, his arm disappeared but his glove did not, so it looked like he was wearing some sort of stealth suit. It was funny, but kind of annoying.

Weird glitches aside, I was a bit frustrated with gameplay overall because this was obviously a console import, and a bad one at that. It seemed pretty clear to me that the developers didn't put a lot of effort translating the game from the other consoles to PC. There were times I was struck by how lazy some of the changes were, especially when there wasn't a lot of explanation for what I was supposed to be doing. For example, when you're in a boss battle with another Force user, the game will prompt you how to counter certain moves. For the most part, what the game prompted me to do made sense. But there was one, some sort of spinning wheel that had something to do with Force lightning, that I couldn't figure out for the life of me and the game never helped.

But what really soured me on this game was what should have been the coolest sequence: ripping a Star Destroyer out of orbit.

I don't consider this to be a spoiler since they hinted at this part of the game in the original trailers. I was looking forward to this sequence when I first started playing but when I was in the middle of it, I was so angry I almost stopped playing the game entirely.

Simply put, this was ridiculously overcomplicated. You have to deal with a flight of TIE Fighters. Then you have to maneuver the Star Destroyer into a very specific position before you can pull the thing down.

On paper, it sounds like an easy task, but even on the "apprentice" difficulty (the easiest; yes, I know, I'm a wimp), it took me over an hour to do this. First of all, there's all sorts of garbage floating through the area that theoretically could have been used to take down the TIEs, but proved almost impossible to utilize in that way. Targeting the TIEs themselves proved to be ridiculously tricky because you had to be able to face just the right way to catch them or hit them, something that was difficult to pull off because of the way the camera locked itself for the sequence. While you deal with the TIEs, the Star Destroyer moves out of alignment, meaning you have to struggle to get it back into the correct position, by which time the next wave would catch up to you.

I suffered through multiple attempts before I finally managed to rip the stupid ship down, but by the time I was done, I was so angry and frustrated, I shut off the game and didn't come back to it for two days. I doubt that's what a game developer would want. Shouldn't I have been jazzed and ready for more after doing something like that?

Besides, there's a problem of logic with this sequence. Why do I have to carefully position the Star Destroyer first? It's not like I'm trying to guide it in for a soft landing. I want the thing to crash and crash hard. So why not just have me pull the sucker down any which way?

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...

The upshot is that in the end, I was foolish to trade in the Wii versions. The extra levels didn't add that much to the overall gaming experience. The weird issues I had with the game on my PC probably wouldn't have been present on the Wii. And with the Wii, I would have had the option of lightsaber duels.

I guess my final opinion, for anyone who stuck around long enough to read it, is that if you're facing a similar choice as I did, go for the Wii and skip the PC version. Just not worth it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chuck Season 3

Chuck is back! After a near brush with cancellation, staved off by Subway sandwiches, our favorite Nerd Herder is back. I rejoiced when I heard the news that we would get at least another season to watch Chuck do his thing.

But at the same time, I was a bit worried. Given the "upgrade" Chuck received at the end of season 2, how could the formula work? What would happen between Chuck and Sarah? How would the Bartowski team function with Chuck suddenly able to out-perform everyone? And sure, I had read on-line reports that everything would be cool but I had to see it for myself.

So last night, we had the two hour extravaganza, a kick-off for Chuck's return. And I honestly didn't know what to expect. What we got were the first two episodes of the new season back-to-back. Huh.

In some ways, I expected bigger. Something a bit more epic. Something to rival the craziness of the last few episodes of season 2 (at the very least, a Jeffster performance of some kind). But what I saw was good. The team is back in business, Chuck is getting used to the upgrade, and the dynamic is still working. I particularly loved the scene with Emmett where Chuck had to restrain himself. Great, great stuff (leading up to a scene that seemed more in line with a certain show on a different network on Friday nights, but more on that in a bit).

Now I'm cautiously optimistic. The next few weeks will tell us if the show can keep going. And recent news suggests to me that NBC won't be quite so quick to cancel in the future (I mean, there's a lot of hours to fill in prime time, fellas. Just saying). So I guess I'll just strap in for some great nerd fun.

Oh, and I know I haven't said much about Dollhouse in a while. I suppose that I didn't want to admit that the show would really end. And, given the sporadic nature of its schedule this season, it was hard to remember to blog. But given the huge twist this past week and the fact that there are only two episodes left, well ... I'm thinking a postmortem might be in order by the end of the month.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF

I'm beginning to see why so many of the books I got for half-off were still available. I spent the past week or so trying to work my way through The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF. According to the editor's introduction, this collection of science fiction short stories was supposed to recapture the sense of wonder that early science fiction inspired in its readers.

It succeeded ... sort of. It inspired wonder. I wondered why I bought this. Lots of stories, some of them mildly interesting, but none really evoking any true sense of awe in me. Well, a little, but not for the right reasons. For example: apparently you can only travel safely through hyperspace if you're Buddhist and have taken LSD. At least a quarter of the stories seemed obsessed with sex in some way, shape or form. And I'd be willing to bet that two of the authors are closet furries.

Oh well. Nothing ventured, right?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wordcount Wednesday

Well, no actual progress on Failstate yet. I haven't written a word of the actual book. I'm still hip-deep in putting together the plot and figuring out all the characters. I'm hoping I can start writing soon, but who knows?

But I did have a fun experience tonight. Failstate, the main character, began talking to another character. I've heard that this sort of thing happens to other writers but it rarely happens to me. Not like this. And I was particularly excited because, for the life of me, I've been having the hardest time figuring these two out, how they all fit together, how it all would come together with the main plot.

Now I know.

Slight problem, though. This all happened while I was supposed to be teaching my confirmation class about confession and absolution. Yeah. It's a bit awkward when you have two characters discussing alien abductions and injection wounds while trying to wrangle about a dozen junior high students. Loads of fun, let me tell you. I eventually had to tell both of them to shut up. They weren't happy and only wound up talking louder.

Being a writer is hard.

Saturday, January 02, 2010