Book Review: 2001 A Space Odyssey

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Book Review_ 2001 A Space OddyssyArthur C. Clarke
New American Library
1968

“The thing’s hollow, it goes on forever…oh my God! It’s full of stars!”

In the year 2001 an alien artifact is found on the moon. Tracking its radio signal in outer space, an expedition is launched with mysterious, haunting results.

Well, here’s a rather daunting task. Try and tie down my thoughts on the classic Sci-Fi novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can see my dilemma, I’m sure: Much has been written about the book, as well as the even more famous Stanley Kubrick movie of the same name that was the result of both him and Clarke creating both the movie and the book together in tandem. Thesis papers, analytical books that make up several volumes, entire web pages have dedicated millions of words expounding on the nature of a book that, for all intents and purposes, was only a couple hundred pages or so. So, what does some pseudo-journalist wannabe like myself have to add to this mountain dedicated to one of the greatest yarns in Science Fiction to come out of the 20th Century?

Eh, nothing important. Or interesting, I would presume. Only that I recently got around to reading this, and now I must share my thoughts on the whole matter. Because that’s what I do. It’s my gift, it’s my curse.

So, my introduction to 2001: A Space Odyssey was probably like how hundreds if not thousands before me had experienced it: by watching the movie. In my case, it was a late night showing on a local PBS station. I was all of 13, and had heard of the movie by way of my Junior High English teacher talking about the general plot of it in class. That’s also how I got into Stephen King, if you recall. I remember watching it, feeling two things: confusion and boredom. Of course, this was also my first exposure to the cinematic stylings of Stanley Kubrick, so that reaction from my young self is to be expected. Unfortunately, because of that, it took me a very long time to finally look into the classics in science fiction literature, mostly because I was afraid I wouldn’t understand or get a lot of it. Of course, now is a different story. But, I digress.

I happened to purchase the first book in what would eventually become the Space Odyssey series of four, along with the three sequels at the same time, at the local 1/2 Price Books in Omaha. I figured, why not get all in one shot, read them in tandem, and see what happens. And so I did. And I’m just now getting around to sweep my brain droppings into manageable piles about these. So, on to the first one, shall we?

To start, I have to say that, while I’m not a fan of having to do homework to really enjoy a movie, having finally read 2001: A Space Odyssey, a lot of questions that I had despite multiple viewings of the movie since that night in Grandma’s basement were given an explanation. For instance, the whole Primate section shed a bit of depth into the inner thoughts and fears of the primates, and goes a bit further into the actual function of the mysterious monoliths in a way that was kind of lost in the movie. And that is about the only time I’m going to do that comparison between the two mediums, I promise.

So, essentially the story of 2001: A Space Odyssey deals with questions of the history of modern man, where we came from, how we came about, life, the universe and everything. And it looks like the answer can be boiled down to one word: Aliens. Or, in this case, the mechanisms of aliens. Or something like that. Anyway, after an extended look at the primates and how they got all smart and stuff, we flash forward a few million years, to “modern” times, and another monolith was found on the moon, which lead to an expedition to Saturn, where another monolith was found floating around.

Yeah, I should point out that Clarke was working with a version of the movie script idea that had Saturn as the planet, instead of Jupiter. It was fixed in the future books without any explanation as to why, beyond “the stories take place in parallel realities”. And this is the very, very last time I’m going to compare the two mediums. I pinkey swear.

While taking readings on the floaty black rectangle thingie, the ship’s AI begins to have a crisis of sorts due to contradictory programming, starts killing off the crew, leaving one alive to shut down the computer, and in the final moments of the book decides to take a shuttle pod directly into the monolith. It’s here where he discovers one of the functions of this monolith, and is ultimately transformed into an immortal Star Child that, disappointingly doesn’t look at all like David Bowie.

So, overall, having finally read this novel, I do have to admit that it wasn’t nearly as confusing as I initially thought it was going to be way back when. I had no doubt about it now, being older and having a bit more sci-fi reading experience under my proverbial belt. This is maybe the second Arthur C. Clarke novel that I’ve read, and so far his style seems to be a good bridge between the classic Hard Science Fiction stories and the more fantastical style of sci-fi that everyone is used to nowadays.

Yeah, that last sentence didn’t sound condescending at all. Look, despite what your thoughts on the movie are, at least give the book itself a chance. You’ll be surprised. And those of you who already have (several times, I’m sure) and think this “review” of mine is way off base, well…I’m really not as smart as you are, I guess.

Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

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fantastic beastsWarner Bros.
2016
PG-13

“I don’t think I’m dreaming.”
“What gave it away?”
“I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”

The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

I am not a Harry Potter fan. There, I said it. I have nothing against the series of books and films, and I acknowledge the phenomenon for what it is. I’ve never read the books, but I have watched all of the movies. When you date someone who is a massive fan, watching the movies was inevitable. They’re not bad. Not planning on reviewing them any time soon, mind you; what I’m trying to get at is, the Harry Potter series isn’t really my thing, and I hold no animosity against anyone who does. I write this for the benefit of anyone thinking of taking to whatever social media they use to call down fire on me for not liking what you like, therefore I must automatically hate it. Don’t be stupid.

Now that the disclaimer has been made, let’s move on to the first spinoff movie set in the Harry Potter Universe, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. This one, I actually kind of wanted to see when I first saw the trailer at some other movie I was waiting for to start. I understood it had its basis in the fictional text book in the main Harry Potter movies (remember, I’ve never read the books, so I personally can’t use those as a point of reference), with the story surrounding the adventures of the man who eventually would write that text book. The reason why I had an interest in see it was due to it being set in the early 20th Century New York. I am a sucker for period pieces, especially when united with sci fi and fantasy like this.

The movie itself, which I did see in the theater on opening weekend, turned out to be rather enjoyable. While the trailer makes it look like Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them is about a search for a bunch of magical creatures that have escaped and are roaming about in 1920s New York. And, at its base, it is…but this being part of the so-called Potterverse, there’s a bit more than that, with the search for the fantastical beasts being more of the incidental bit that leads to the overall wackiness that ensues.

So, we have this misfit wizard traveling the globe, documenting the titular fantastic beasts in their natural habitats, arriving in New York for one of his stops, where he suddenly finds his suitcase–where he has his collection of fantastic beasts–was accidentally switched with a similar one owned by a would-be baker wanting to get a small loan to open a bakery. So now, instead of the fantastic beasts, the suitcase is filled with baked goods. Also, a marsupial with a TARDIS-like pouch and a thing for shiny items has escaped. The Baker and the Wizard team up to find the escaped critter, they run into a member of the American branch of the Magic Police, who have their own hands full with…something. Bigger. Soon, the Wizard, the Baker and…not the Candlestick Maker (and her sister) find themselves tied up with a bigger conspiracy within the magic community, one that has ties to a certain wizard school across the pond in England. Whimsical wackiness and wanton destruction ensues.

So, overall, yeah. Rather enjoyed Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Everyone was good in their rolls (though I got a nagging feeling Eddie Redmayne was trying to channel Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor for his portrayal of Newt), the effects were good, and the story itself kept my rapt attention throughout the course of the run time. Taken on its own merits, Fantastic Beasts ranks as a memorable fantasy flick that should be checked out at least once.

Movie Review: BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADAMY

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Movie Review BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMYSony
2017
R

It’s four years later, and a new group of students has been placed in Saturday detention at the infamous and prestigious Crestview Acadey. When Siouxsie, sophomore ‘undercrust,’ crashes the party to avenge her sister’s death, a Saturday detention reserved for the privileged seniors of Crestview Academy turns into a date in hell. It’s not long before a naive pussycat lover, gay drug dealer, smokin’ hot preacher’s daughter, squeaky-clean senator’s son, and the uninvited younger outsider find themselves locked-up in school with no way out, wondering who (or what) has set them up. Hilarity and suspense ensue while each ‘bad kid’ pits one against the other, and one by one each falls victim to absurdly gruesome ‘accidents’ while trying to escape.

On the strength of the better-than-it-should-have-been Bad Kids Go To Hell, I decided to immediately watch it’s sequel, Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy, as kind of a back-to-back double feature. The result was…well, I’m not surprised, let’s just say.

I’ll just come out and say that Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy is a lackluster sequel, and kind of a mediocre movie in and of itself. We have the same basic premise of the first–weekend detention with a whole new bunch of stereotypes kids, only one of them has infiltrated their upper crust clique’ to solve the murder of her older sister at a party.

Mind you, things are a bit more subverted with the plot when compared to the first movie, as the kids never get to the library (it’s locked and no one knows the security code), and the whole conspiracy hinted at in the first one is more to the fore here. And there’s no implication of any kind of “hauntings” here, just a bunch of serial killer offings of everyone until the culprit is revealed in the third act, with the remaining movie kind of losing steam until the end.

It really says something that the best parts of this movie involved brief scenes with Sean “Still Working After Lord Of The Rings” Astin, taking over from Judd Nelson as Headmaster Nash, who hams it up with cheerful abandon. Outside of that, we have characters who lean more towards annoying rather than quirky, there are so many flashback scenes injected in the main narrative that it would give Quentin Tarantino a headache, and the big reveal of who’s doing the killing is revealed rather early in the movie (not that we didn’t finger the culprit early on just by virtue of having seen so many of these things to begin with…also, there’s a scene that not-so-subtly gives things away if you pay attention), turning the rest of the movie into a siege movie for the last third.

Bad Kids Of Crestview Acadamy was “Meh”. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the movie it was a sequel to, but at least it didn’t try to just rehash the entire plot of that one. This movie needed more involvement from Sean Astin, for certain. Watch it if the thought of not seeing the sequel gets you twitchy, otherwise you can just skip this one.

Music Review: AMERICAN MADE – Against The Flow

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Music Review_ AMERICAN MADE - Against The FlowAMERICAN MADE
Against The Flow
KMG Records
1999

The thing is, I know for certain I’ve already listened to and reviewed this particular album years ago. One could say, over a decade ago. Back when I was maintaining a LiveJournal (before the site decided to make us all sit through a pointless ad before allowing us to make our posts, which is one of the reasons why you’re not reading this on LiveJournal now), I remember picking up a cheap copy of Against The Flow from the late and lamented RadRockers store I would frequent back in the day, along with its follow-up Red (the review of which I managed to retain, for some reason), listening to them both a couple of times, then popped out a review for each and called it a day on American Made. But now, here we are, having the archives of my reviews over the decade been moved over to this biggity-blog for now, I seem to have misplaced the original review for Against The Flow. And since my odd bit of OCD won’t allow that oversight to continue on, I found myself having to once again listen to that album and write a new review, as the original has been lost forever. And let me tell you, that was something I was not looking forward to.

This time around, though, in the interest of providing a bit of back story to the item I’m about to, for lack of a better word, review, American Made has its roots in that tried and true way that many a band have come to be: the key members all met at a Christian summer camp. Two brothers who were into hardcore punk and a hip-hop enthusiast, for whatever reason, decided to start jamming together and blending the two styles, essentially throwing genres together at a wall and seeing what sticks. They found they gelled together enough to begin performing together (along with a bass player) under the name Against The Flow, but then changed their name to American Made, and recorded their first album which they titled Against The Flow (see what they did, there?), which was released as the first original recording on the KMG Records label.

You may have detected a less-than-enthusiastic vibe with my review so far. That’s because I’m still rather sore at spending $2 for a copy of Against The Flow, money that could have gone to a couple of tacos from Taco Bell. And in case you’re wondering, no. I am not letting the fact that I had to re-listen to the album color my review of it. I am nothing if not professional in my amateur pursuits as an online pseudo-journalist, after all.

The music on Against The Flow can be described as 2/3rds Pop Punk, and 1/3rd Miscellaneous. Keeping in mind that the popularity of Pop Punk (or “Mall Punk”, whatever you wanna call it) was beginning to wane a bit by the time Against The Flow was released, this is nevertheless full of the that style of music, with the tracks. However, when it comes to the “Miscellaneous” part of the songs, that’s where I found the band actually sounding rather decent. Not that I have anything against Pop Punk in general; it’s just that the band here has demonstrated a versatility that went beyond just the sum of their genre pigeonholing. Like on “Kick It”, they have a classic Suicidal Tendencies vibe which I rather enjoyed. “Against The Flow” has a 311/Sublime style, heavy melded with a hip-hop rhythm which is decent. The one titled “Rap Interlude” is just that, featuring an acoustic guitar and rhyming that I rather dug. “Nate” is a good heavy rap/rock song, and “How We Roll” was atmospheric with a nice Middle Eastern vibe with some more rap/rock styling. I should point out that “Enough Is Enough”, while falling into the Pop Punk style, has a darker feel than the other happy-go-peppy stuff that’s standard, so that one is a definite stand-out itself.

Overall, having given this another listen after all of these years, I do admit that there are more bright spots on here than initially back when I originally did the first review. It does have some good production, and as I mentioned their best bits were when they were going beyond the regular Pop Punk style. However, there’s more Pop Punk here than otherwise. And the Otherwise stuff isn’t really my style overall. But, I’m just a grizzled old \,,/METALHEAD\,,/ who happens to dabble a bit with other genres. I like what I like, I’m saying. And I’m still “meh” about Against The Flow, but not as vehemently as I was over 15 years ago when I first listened to it.

Music Review: ADMONISH – Den Yttersta Tiden

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Music Review ADMONISH - Den Yttersta TidenADMONISH
Den Yttersta Tiden
Independent
2015

I’ve written about Swedish Black Metal band Admonish before, as I took the bass-ackwards route to reviewing their discography by writing a review of their second EP release Insnarjd back in 2014-ish. It’s taken me a while to get to reviewing their first EP release, Den Yttersta Tiden; there’s no rhyme or reason to that, just now getting around to it. Also, I should point out that, since that time, I’ve discovered that Admonish has its own Wikipedia page, which is downright fascinating with the history of the band and such. Anyway, on to the review, shall we?

Despite having formed in 1994 and being active since then, it wasn’t until 2005 when they released this three-song EP–Den Yttersta Tiden–following a show at Sweden’s Club 666. I cannot tell you how tickled I am upon discovering that. The music on the EP is of the old school Black Metal variety–furious riffs, blastbeats, chilling shriek vocals, tempered at times with some mid-paced interludes, atmospheric and somber undertones. There are some acoustic instruments and some regular singing mixed in–on the last track, “Var Inte Radd”, the regular singing and the black metal vocals do a kind of duet–giving a bit more texture to the standard Black Metal assault.

Overall, Den Yttersta Tiden is a good sample of Black Metal with some somber and atmospheric undertones. The production is good, and while not groundbreaking, it’s a good, albeit brief, listen.

Music Review: ABATED MASS OF FLESH – Brutal Death

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abated mass of flesh - brutal deathABATED MASS OF FLESH
Brutal Death
Rottweiler Records
2013

In 2013, Tennessee-based deathcore outfit Abated Mass Of Flesh released their second EP on the Rottweiler Records label, entitled Brutal Death. Clocking in at 18 minutes, Brutal Death continues on in the “BR00TAL” deathcore style that their first release brought forth, your basic mid-paced chunky death metal riffs, backed-up septic tank style vocals, no solos, , some blastbeats and some movie clips thrown in here and there. In other words, your standard serviceable slab of basic deathcore, with not much deviation therein, which has the effect of things getting rather monotonous and stale mid-way through. And there are only seven tracks on here. The production is good, though, so that’s a plus mark there. Also, at no time do they venture into the whole “pig squeal” vocal territory. They come close on the track “Iniquitous Decimation”, but they don’t, so another plus in their favor.

Really, I can’t find much to talk about Brutal Death, other than it’s a decent bit of grinding deathcore brutality that kind of gets stale after a bit. It’s definitely not bad, as I’ve heard worse from the genre; but my attention began to wander, and for an EP length that isn’t even 20 minutes long, that’s not exactly working in favor of relistenability for me.

Obligatory Memorial Day Post (2017 Edition)

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header

arlington cemeteryToday is Memorial Day here in the United States of America, where I dwell. A day where we remember and acknowledge those veterans and soldiers who have fought for our freedoms in the past, and are currently fighting for them now. Also a day to remember the loved ones that have shuffled off this mortal coil, some far too soon.

Since I hold my family to be a very important part of my life, I thought I would take a moment to share a list of the names of the family members I remember fondly while growing up:

Bill Wheatley (Great-Grandfather)
Charlotte Marie Case (Great-Grandmother)
Robert Case (Grandfather)
Esther Case (Grandmother)
Gerald Strand (Grandfather)
Betty Strand (Grandmother)
Orland Krohn (Grandfather)
Fern Krohn (Grandmother)
Douglas Erickson (Great-Great Uncle)
Natalie Erickson (Great-Great Aunt)
Janice Nuzum (Great Aunt)
Bill Rabe (Great Uncle)
Murial Rabe (Great Aunt)
Barry Rabe (Second Cousin)
Janet Donahey (Aunt)
Janel Case (Sister)
Allen Donahey (Cousin)
Jerry Donahey (Cousin)

…this is not a complete list, of course. And by no means is it by order of importance. These are the ones that I remember as have being part of my life. There have been others, and there will be others to come. Such is the nature of living.

Anyway, happy Memorial Day, and thank you for all who have served, and are still serving in some capacity. Cheers, all…

::END TRANSMISSION::

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