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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Thu Dec 04, 2008 1:32 am

It suddenly occurred to me today that there is no general forum thread about the stuff that we members of the Cult of the Cephalopod are reading/watching/listening to. This is unacceptable! How can we be educated as to what stuff rocks/sucks unless we educate one another?

So, this is the thread where you say what are reading/watching/hearing/etc or have recently read/watched/heard/etc (etc). Tell us the title, give a brief review and maybe tell how you came across it.

I'll start:

The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engler: I was utterly shocked at how short and shallow this piece of juvenile puff is. I wrote more profound words in the margins of my high-school notebook. This Marx guy is a "thinker"? Not apt.

Sister Alice by Robert Reed: This was pretty good. Reed is very good at thinking of grand ideas but only mediocre as a storyteller. That shows here. The book is chock full of mind-bending premises, epic set-pieces and a bustling made-up universe, but the narrative is hard to follow and ultimately too ambiguous for my taste. Not a classic, but well worth reading.

One Cello x 16: Natoma by Zoe Keating: I like Zoe Keating, even if I do confess it's mostly because of the novelty of her music. She's a soloist, but she uses recorded loops of herself playing to build up a dense wall of sound. It's a neat trick and it makes for some music that is very emotional, if not very deep. Best used as background music for work.

Be Kind, Rewind: This movie is extremely dumb, but I still liked it. In this age of sleaze and cynicism, it's refreshing to see a comedy that is both innocent and sentimental. It's naive and cute and unpretentiously silly. If those words sound good to you, you'd probably like it too.

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins: Just started reading this today. First impression: No one has a higher opinion of Richard Dawkins than Richard Dawkins.
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Post by Kevin Anderson » Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:27 am

I'll chime in.

Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog I finally got an internet connection fast enough to watch it this morning. All I can say is that if your a Joss Whedon fan (and I am) you'll love it. Really reminded me of "Once More With Feeling."

Masters of Horror - Right to Die - Just finish this up a few minutes ago, and it was fun. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Didn't change my political veiws or anything, but it was enjoyable. Reminded me a bit of that first Hellraiser film. My favorite episode in the series is The Screw Fly Solution.

The Rising by Brian Keen. I've enjoyed a lot of his short stories but this was the first novel of his I've picked up and it won't be the last. I'm going to start the next one in the series, City of the Dead, after the holidays, as Zombie Apocalypse stories are not very X-masy.

KILLERS OF THE DAWN: Book #9 in the Cirque du Freak Series
by Darren Shan.
I started reading this series mostly for research reasons as I’m writing something targeted at the same YA audience, but really got into it. Not every book is good, but most are. I’m halfway through this one and digging it.

The Stargate Cafe from Planet Rencon - podcast. This was a sitcom set in a cafe in space and it only went about eight episodes, but I just re-listened to the whole thing. Still makes me laugh.
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Post by normsherman » Thu Dec 04, 2008 3:39 am

Kevin Anderson wrote: Masters of Horror - Right to Die - Just finish this up a few minutes ago, and it was fun. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Didn't change my political veiws or anything, but it was enjoyable. Reminded me a bit of that first Hellraiser film. My favorite episode in the series is The Screw Fly Solution.
Oh man, is that the one with the zombie vets? Haha, that was so horrible. I loved that series though- have you seen the one with the aborted fetus eating? Unreal. Also, the one one about the bus breaking down in the woods and the competing killers was awesome.
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Post by Kevin Anderson » Thu Dec 04, 2008 6:30 am

No, Right to Die is the one about the wife with no skin - thats why the Hellraiser reminder. I saw the Zombie vets one, very cool. Haven't seen the broken down bus one - if you come across the title, let me know.
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Post by cammoblammo » Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:11 am

Reading:

Colour and Texture in the Brass Band Score by Ray Steadman-Allen I got hold of this book a couple of weeks ago and I've just about finished reading it for the second time. If you've ever wanted some great tips on getting the sound you want out of a brass band, this is the place to start.

The Burial of Jesus by James F. McGrath I'm only half way through it, but this is a pretty good (and honest) look at how historians deal with stuff in the Bible, using the stories of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as a case study. Has some fantastic stuff about the place of faith in a scientific age.

Last night I watched:

Prince Caspian
This wasn't bad. It has some fairly major departures from the book. However, I think they enhanced the story, and they were far more appropriate than what Peter Jackson did to the Lord of the Rings.

Hancock Fun movie. It didn't follow the standard Hollywood script, which was refreshing.

Music I'm listening to:

Most of the music I'm listening to at the moment is from magnatune.com. I'm currently getting into Jive Ass Sleepers, Drop Trio, Sibelian and Beth Quist.

Podcasts I'm listening to: (I'm too lazy to give links)

All of the Escape Artists. dunesteef, clonepod, Mark Sayers, theRubicon, and a whole heap from the ABC (Australia's public broadcaster and proof that all media should be owned---but not controlled---by the government). Oh, and I was getting I killed Awesome Man but that seems to have dried up lately.
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Post by Wonko » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:25 am

I'm Re-reading Watchmen. Was it this dense of a story the first time? If it was, I don't remember. Even though I have to read it for my ethics course, it's still good.

Also: re-watching the first (and sadly only) season of Journeyman. It's like Quantum leap, but somehow better.
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Post by tastycakes » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:30 am

Watching: 30 Rock - really, really good every week. Tracy Morgan can say anything and make me laugh, but Baldwin is where the show begins and ends.

Reading: Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser. This book is fucking awesome!!! I can't believe that no one has mentioned it yet. VERY drabblecast-y selection of short stories. Check this out, you will NOT be disappointed.

Listening: Chromeo - I'm a sucker for for Peter Gabriel and George Clinton, and Chromeo blends them both into something new.
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Post by tastycakes » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:34 am

Kevin Anderson wrote:I'll chime in.

Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog I finally got an internet connection fast enough to watch it this morning. All I can say is that if your a Joss Whedon fan (and I am) you'll love it. Really reminded me of "Once More With Feeling."
I watched this b/c everyone was popping boners over it at Dragon*con, but was left thoroughly meh'd. The music for one displays how formulaic newer musicals in general have become since Rent.

The concept of a superhero or villian musical could really be amazing, but this romance/comedy/tragedy thing was Whedon playing directly to his audience. Do something new!
One day he will look into what a ‘stigmata’ really is; for now, it is his trump card for getting out of work. He simply says ‘stigmata’ and they say ‘shit, hope you feel better soon.’ End of story.

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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:09 am

Excellent. I will refer to this thread in 10 or 20 days when I need something new.

Forgot to mention:

Playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent - This is pretty good. It's mostly classic Splinter Cell goodness, but they tossed in a few twists that I dislike. The whole "trust" system is silly and is basically just a cheap way to make the game harder. I also dislike the whole "double agent" premise, since it has you carrying minor acts of terrorism for the purpose of getting cozy with terrorists so that you can be a big jerk and back-stab them. Things were more fun when you were just the good guy without all the baggage.

Gears of War 2 - It's Gears of War... 2. That's a good thing. Still a great way for you and 9 friends to blow an evening.

Okami - This game is almost super-awesome but it trips over itself by just being too long and bloated. The story is a mess, there are way too many characters to keep track of or care about and there's too much stuff that just doesn't make any difference. The combat is fun, the graphics are drop-dead gorgeous and the premise is one-of-a-kind, but it just drags on for so long that you kind of lose your steam after a while. Okami proves that no matter how good a thing is, you can still have too much of it.

Finished:

Half-Life 2 - This game really wants to tell a great story, but all that shooting gets in the way. I found myself regarding the obligatory slaughter of the alien hordes as sort of a bonus, with the parts that advanced the story being what I was really playing for. It was all good, but I would gladly have sacrificed an hour of alien-slaying if it meant an extra hour of dialog. The game takes place in a gloriously imagined world, but you never really find out what's going on. Very good all the same: The game does a fantastic job making you feel like you're a character in the story, and that's why it rocks.

Portal - All must play Portal. Freaking amazing. Great creative gameplay combined with great creative storytelling. "You will be baked. And then there will be cake."
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Post by Kevin Anderson » Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:14 pm

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead – I’ve only seen the first 30 minutes, then had to turn it off. No, I wasn’t overcome with an overwhelming wave of good taste or the desire to watch something more mature, respectable, or something that has any socially redeeming value. No, I had to turn it off because my 6 year old daughter woke up at 6:45am, and came down stairs expecting to watch Saturday morning cartoons. “What the Filk!” Isn't there a law that says 6 year old should sleep in until at least 8 o’clock on non-school days. Well, there should be. So I had to switch over to Bob the Builder. Its kind of jarring going from Zombie Chickenoids to stop-motion construction equipment. Anyway. My review thus far is, if you enjoy gross schlock like The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke’Em High, then Poultrygeist is a quick trip to cinema heaven. But if your in the mood for mind bending, soul searching, well produced entertainment,… then sitting through this would probably be your definition of hell - kind of like when I have to watch Bob the Builder.

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The Moth:
I think anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling will really enjoy The Moth’s podcast. I just finished all the free downloads in their feed and enjoyed every one. These are real stories told onstage by all kinds of folks, NYPD cops, a neurosurgeon, a lot of writers, celebrities, one white house press secretary, etc… There were a few professional storytellers in there but my favorites were the ones told by the amateurs. Sometimes moving, often funny, but always entertaining.
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Post by Goldenrat » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:09 am

READ:
A Canticle for Leibowitz: By Walter Miller. Just finished it. I thought it was really good. I love post-apocalyptic fiction and this was a pretty good work (yeah, 1961 Hugo winner). Actually it is three stand alone stories which take place ~500 years apart, all set in a Catholic monastery in New Mexico. The first story takes place about 500 years after a nuclear war wipes out most of humanity - a monk stumbles upon a fall out shelter and the story progresses from there. The next two stories show the further advancements of society. Old school, but good stuff.

WATCHED:
Expelled. Ben Stein's attempt to paint the attempt of science to keep ID out of the classroom as a freedom of speech issue, comparing it with the fall of the Berlin Wall and even adding a little dash of Hitler for good measure. I was initially impressed with his collection of pro-ID scientists an their arguments but this thing went down hill fast and overall I would give it a thumbs down. Some parts were infuriating: the mockery of the scientists trying to explain how life started on earth, for example. Instead of letting them explain in depth their theories of crystals facilitating the combining of organics and life coming from asteroids / comets he just made light of them by showing funny clips of wacky crystal ball readers, and alien robots and flying saucers. (No mention of our little water bears or the bacteria that survived on the vacuum on the moon). Some parts were laughable: the Ben stare down with the Charles Darwin statue, the Hitler stuff, the Ben tearing down this wall / Reagan in Berlin clips, the final "no lie can live forever" quote. WTF? Loved the creepy lighting on Richard Dawkins, too. I guess the movie wasn't made for me anyway, its goal was to motivate ID proponents to get out and fight for their cause.

READING:
Death From the Skies by Phil Plait. Just started reading this book. Basically a science book about the different ways life on earth could end. I'm through the first two chapters - asteroids / comets, and solar flares. Wow, is this depressing. Makes you realize how fragile life is on this big blue marble. It sure wouldn't take much to do us in at worst or create a collapse of the world's economic systems at the least. We would have a problem just handling a rouge asteroid even with our space technology. Each chapter starts with a little fictional story about how that particular danger would affect someone witnessing it. After this week's Drabblecast and this book I'm going to have to read some stories about duckies and bunnies to clear the horror from my bean.

I'm usually a big movie-goer but have been too busy lately and nothing really looks that good. I hope to see some of these big holiday movies - especially The Day the Earth Stood Still.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:25 am

Goldenrat wrote:WATCHED:
Expelled. Ben Stein's attempt to paint the attempt of science to keep ID out of the classroom as a freedom of speech issue, comparing it with the fall of the Berlin Wall and even adding a little dash of Hitler for good measure. I was initially impressed with his collection of pro-ID scientists an their arguments but this thing went down hill fast and overall I would give it a thumbs down. Some parts were infuriating: the mockery of the scientists trying to explain how life started on earth, for example. Instead of letting them explain in depth their theories of crystals facilitating the combining of organics and life coming from asteroids / comets he just made light of them by showing funny clips of wacky crystal ball readers, and alien robots and flying saucers. (No mention of our little water bears or the bacteria that survived on the vacuum on the moon). Some parts were laughable: the Ben stare down with the Charles Darwin statue, the Hitler stuff, the Ben tearing down this wall / Reagan in Berlin clips, the final "no lie can live forever" quote. WTF? Loved the creepy lighting on Richard Dawkins, too. I guess the movie wasn't made for me anyway, its goal was to motivate ID proponents to get out and fight for their cause.
See, that's exactly how I thought someone unsympathetic to ID would take it. I was really bugged that Stein stooped to some of the mockeries described, because I thought it would put a big dent in its credibility, as it apparently did. That movie was schizophrenic with it's quick shifts between relevant interviews and foolish clowning.

I must say, though, that Stein's mockery is not a whit more extreme or juvenile than the mockery hurled by people like Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer. (Which is not a defense of Stein's tactics.) Shermer has referred to anyone skeptical of Evolution as a "doppelganger of Haulocaust [deniers]," among other things.

If you're interested in a better critique of Evolution, you might find Michael Behe's book The Edge of Evolution more compelling.
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Post by tastycakes » Wed Dec 10, 2008 5:56 am

Mr. Tweedy wrote: Shermer has referred to anyone skeptical of Evolution as a "doppelganger of Haulocaust [deniers]," among other things.
Wait, so this isn't true? I think we at least have to go 80% truthful on this one.
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Post by normsherman » Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:13 am

Goldenrat wrote:READ:
A Canticle for Leibowitz: By Walter Miller. Just finished it. I thought it was really good. I love post-apocalyptic fiction and this was a pretty good work (yeah, 1961 Hugo winner). Actually it is three stand alone stories which take place ~500 years apart, all set in a Catholic monastery in New Mexico. The first story takes place about 500 years after a nuclear war wipes out most of humanity - a monk stumbles upon a fall out shelter and the story progresses from there. The next two stories show the further advancements of society. Old school, but good stuff.
.
One of my favorite books of all time.
Kevin Anderson wrote: The Moth: [/b] I think anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling will really enjoy The Moth’s podcast. I just finished all the free downloads in their feed and enjoyed every one. These are real stories told onstage by all kinds of folks, NYPD cops, a neurosurgeon, a lot of writers, celebrities, one white house press secretary, etc… There were a few professional storytellers in there but my favorites were the ones told by the amateurs. Sometimes moving, often funny, but always entertaining.
I've liked what I could hear from the Moth so far. Unfortunatly I usually can't hear them in the car because they are mixed so softly.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:43 pm

tastycakes wrote:
Mr. Tweedy wrote: Shermer has referred to anyone skeptical of Evolution as a "doppelganger of Haulocaust [deniers]," among other things.
Wait, so this isn't true? I think we at least have to go 80% truthful on this one.
Well, I'm a skeptic myself, so I have to go with "no." (I can explain why in gross messy detail, but this probably isn't the best place. PM me if you like.) But then I'm skeptical of a lot of things that all non-troglodytes are supposed to believe. Possibly because I don't fall into that category. :roll:

But my point really isn't whether or such a statement can be justified. The point is that tossing out petty insults to belittle your opposition isn't just something done by rouge troglodyte filmmakers: It's done in the pages of prestigious journals too.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:43 pm

tastycakes wrote:
Mr. Tweedy wrote: Shermer has referred to anyone skeptical of Evolution as a "doppelganger of Haulocaust [deniers]," among other things.
Wait, so this isn't true? I think we at least have to go 80% truthful on this one.
Well, I'm a skeptic myself, so I have to go with "no." (I can explain why in gross messy detail, but this probably isn't the best place. PM me if you like.) But then I'm skeptical of a lot of things that all non-troglodytes are supposed to believe. Possibly because I don't fall into that category. :roll:

But my point really isn't whether or such a statement can be justified. The point is that tossing out petty insults to belittle your opposition isn't just something done by rouge troglodyte filmmakers: It's done in the pages of prestigious journals too.
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Post by Goldenrat » Thu Dec 11, 2008 5:35 am

Mr. Tweedy wrote: See, that's exactly how I thought someone unsympathetic to ID would take it. I was really bugged that Stein stooped to some of the mockeries described, because I thought it would put a big dent in its credibility, as it apparently did. That movie was schizophrenic with it's quick shifts between relevant interviews and foolish clowning.
I realize there are evolution doubters and the theory has holes, but there are discoveries made on a regular basis which support evolution - more recently transitory fossils of turtles and whales. I don't want to start a big science vs. religion debate. I would love to have a supernatural being give us a sign or something to end the debate. I guess I was hoping Stein would've taken the high road a bit more. Yeah, some of the anti-evolution folks were be-otches.

BTW, Tweedy, how is that Dawkins book so far? I'll probably be picking that up some time in the near future.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Thu Dec 11, 2008 5:58 am

Goldenrat wrote:BTW, Tweedy, how is that Dawkins book so far? I'll probably be picking that up some time in the near future.
Interesting, but very flawed. It's frankly surprising some of the errors Dawkins makes in his logic. For instance, he asserts that evolution no more violate the second law of thermodynamics than does the growth of a baby. That's a false equivocation: Evolution is the creation of new information, new code. A baby growing is merely the execution of existing code. Dawkins makes numerous equivocations of the same sort, taking things that only seem similar and calling them the same.

Dawkins is only so-so as a writer (he thinks he's far more clever than he really is), but his biological subjects are sufficiently fascinating to make up for his digressions. There's a passage about the complexities of bat sonar that was really interesting, and the whole is thought-provoking, if one is inclined to have their thought provoked.

I like Carl Sagan a lot better. Sagan is (was) just as knowledgeable, but more imaginative and much less pretentious. I've actually got a lot of respect for Sagan.
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Post by Goldenrat » Thu Dec 11, 2008 8:47 pm

Mr. Tweedy wrote:Dawkins is only so-so as a writer (he thinks he's far more clever than he really is), but his biological subjects are sufficiently fascinating to make up for his digressions. There's a passage about the complexities of bat sonar that was really interesting, and the whole is thought-provoking, if one is inclined to have their thought provoked.

I like Carl Sagan a lot better. Sagan is (was) just as knowledgeable, but more imaginative and much less pretentious. I've actually got a lot of respect for Sagan.
Hmm.....I don't know what to think of Dawkins. I'll give that book a go someday. I also liked Sagan a lot. His "A Demon Haunted World" really changed my way of looking at things.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:02 pm

Goldenrat wrote:I also liked Sagan a lot. His "A Demon Haunted World" really changed my way of looking at things.
An excelent book. Highly recommended. I have a copy on the shelf next to "Pale Blue Dot" and "The Dragons of Eden."
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