Friday, December 31, 2010

I Sing the Book Electric

I've had my Nook e-reader since November 2009, and my iPad since its April 2010 release, so let's round it out and say I've been reading e-books for a year. In addition to the Nook, and the Nook and Kindle apps on the iPad, I've got Nook and Kindle apps on my Droid phone, which are handy for pulling out a book when you're stuck somewhere.

In that time, I have read, to completion, around 14 e-books, mostly on the Nook. I haven't compared that to the number of non-work physical books I read in years past -- mainly because I usually don't keep track of such things. But my sense is that I am reading more now, in part because of the convenience: When I finish a book, I don't have to dig or shop for a new one; it's a couple of clicks away.

I've also switched from buying my family's books in physical format to buying them electronically. The tough part is getting them signed. Autographing electrons takes a very small pen . . . .

A Tron in a Much Larger Game

I'm diving into the holiday movie season, which is much like the summer movie season except with a little more lead-shot weighting at the bottom, Oscar noms being so close and all. As I write, I'm waiting at the Landmark Theater to watch the current adaptation of TRUE GRIT; and last weekend I saw TRON LEGACY at the Majestic Crest Theater.

What can I say about a sequel/reimagining of a 28-year-old movie that I didn't care for when I saw it? Well, I liked it better than I liked the original. The original came out at a time when Disney was trying for slightly more edgy live-action movies than the family fare for which it had become known. It had not yet formed its Hollywood Pictures branch; this was more the CONDORMAN era. TRON therefore had the feeling of a studio groping for a style and failing to really achieve it. I wasn't wowed by the graphics; and without the graphics there was just the novelty of people pretending to be computer programs, on dark soundstages in neon clothes.

The 2010 TRON seems to have more of a storytelling flow, although it, like the original, is choppy in places. Logic ebbs and flows, and a lot of the technology explored in the story has to be taken on faith (kind of like the tech in INCEPTION) because there's no effort to explain it that makes any kind of sense.

But what the movie does have going for it is some humanity in the tripartite relationship between Jeff Bridge's Flynn, his son (the protagonist) Sam, and CLU -- a computer avatar of Flynn who has captured Flynn's world view at a young age, and has not let it go. In contrast to the older Flynn, CLU does not learn with age. So we have a sort of family drama with son, dad, and dad's obnoxious brother. Oh, and there's Quora -- Olivia Wilde, buffed out, mascaraed, and sealed in a skintight suit -- who is the only female character with any depth and therefore must fulfill all the roles permitted to women in a boy's adventure movie: Little sister, warrior babe, foundling, victim to be protected, and love interest. She must be exhausted.

Since it's a special effects movie, the story devotes little time to exploring the family dynamic (and probably too much time, to the folks who want to see light cycles blow up). But it adds a bit of substance to the eye candy of the CG, and the delight of a world where you can leap into space and form a light-jetplane around yourself.

It makes for a fun time in the theater, and a pretty experience for your eyes. But not necessarily a best picture nomination.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Tis the Season

Here are my recommended gifts for the season:

-- Charity gift certificates. Literally the gift for the person who has everything. You give the recipient a certificate he or she can use to give a charity of the recipient's choice. My favorite provider is Seattle's Tisbest (

-- Books. The bookselling industry (and, by extension, the book publishing industry) is in trouble. Buying from independent bookstores is good, but even giants like Barnes & Noble and Borders are suffering.

-- DVDs/Blu-Rays. Video sellers are also in trouble. Blu-ray discs are an especially appropriate gift for folks who have PS3s or one of the blu-ray players that have gone way down in price.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Warriors. Way.

There's nothing new or innovative about the peanut-butter-and-chocolate melding of westerns and eastern martial arts. The cultural cross-pollination between westerns and samurai movies starting in the fifties, the contribution of asian immigrants to the building of the west, and the ubiquity of westerns during the time that kung-fu became popular in Hollywood, have all contributed to a half-century of martial arts westerns. Certainly anyone who watched TV in the seventies -- or who has watched reruns from that era -- recalls "Kung Fu," the most popular martial arts western in the U.S. And Asian countries have contributed to the subgenre, with works such as the 1985 anime movie "Dagger of Kamui" in which a gold hoard from Catalina Island funds the overthrow of the shogunate.

So there's nothing new about "The Warrior's Way" in terms of theme. What's new are the technological innovations that make what would otherwise be a cheap B-movie into something that's visually entertaining -- sort of a live-action anime -- particularly the scenes with the ninja-like warriors dropping from the sky like black rain. And what would otherwise be a matte-painting background is now a digitally-painted background, unreal and real at the same time.

There's not a lot of brain power in "The Warrior's Way." The filmmakers don't bother to give most of the killed bad guys any personality. Neither do they explain what country the protagonist or his opponents come from (Korea? China? Japan? Some mythical amalgam of them?) or how literal armies of warriors can be brought across the desert or across the ocean. (How are they billeted? Provisioned? Paid?) But it's a fun weekend afternoon of martial arts, six-shooter entertainment.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Hey Kids! Free Books!

For those who have just obtained Kindles, Nooks, or iPads, and are looking for ebooks to put on the devices, I heartily recommend the Baen Books Free Library of ebooks. ( These are science fiction books that the authors or right-holders have elected to offer for free, either as the initial books in series or as examples of the authors' work. And these authors aren't z-list; they include some of the biggest names in science fiction -- such as Larry Niven, Andre Norton, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Keith Laumer. They're available in a variety of formats, so that you can read them on most devices. You can even read them online without downloading them, if you choose.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Desert Trip

Today, we took a road trip down to Rancho Mirage to visit Dad and Regina, along with my brother Steve and my sister-in-law Dawn. Along with a great dinner at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion, one of the highlights was Dad reading aloud from his book, while Steve and I took turns videoing him.

Here's some footage of Dad reading about his parents' courtship:

Watch "Dad reads a story from his book." on YouTube

Update: Dad's book is now available on as a paperback for $9.02 ( and as an ebook for 99 cents ( We are making the book available at cost.

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