Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: "Thor: Ragnarok"

Let's be honest here: this is more of my reaction than a proper review. Kind of like everything I post, really.

So I just got out of a showing of Thor: Ragnarok and HOLY SHIT WAS THAT MOVIE A BUCKET OF FUN!!!!

If one were to be honest, Ragnarok is more of a spiritual cousin to one of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It's got goofball humor, a fair amount of '80's nostalgia, flashy space opera craziness, campy villains, and a lot of snark.

A lot of snark.

Chris Hemsworth continues to knock it out of the park with the perfect combination of arrogant badass and snarky humor as Thor Odinsson. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki, the villain who is sometimes just an anti-hero. Mark Ruffalo returns as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. And this time we get classic, comic book Hulk. Idris Elba returns as Heimdall, the Asgardian who is as badass or more than Thor. And there's other returnees from the previous Thor films. They also introduce Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, a fairly obscure heroine from the Defenders comics in the Marvel universe. An interesting take on the character in this film.

On the villain side, we get Kate Blanchet who rocks every scene she's in as Hela, Goddess of Death. With her is Karl Urban playing the villain known as Skurge the Executioner.

I won't bother going into the plot. It's pretty crazy and I really don't want to spoil it. Suffice it to say, the story doesn't have many slow points. There's always something going on. When there isn't, the film cuts away for some villain to chew the scenery or some hero bonding and snark.

I honestly think this was the best of the Thor movies, hands down. A low bar, sure. Still, I would put Thor: Ragnarok up against possibly one of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies for well-paced fun.

As a bonus, I got to see trailers for Justice League and Black Panther. Until Wonder Woman, I really had no desire to see any of the DC movies. The previous ones were largely crap. The last Batman film I liked was The Dark Knight. Now that I've seen the Justice League trailer, I have to say I'm sold on seeing it. As to Black Panther, that just looks like a massive ton of fun. It's good to have films to look forward to.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Review: "Eutopia" by David Nickle

To be honest, this book caught me off-guard. I'd seen a review of the sequel, "Volk", on BoingBoing and the premise intrigued me. I got "Volk" and "Eutopia" off of Amazon after skimming the reviews. I got "Eutopia" first, which is just as well and...

Damn.

Set in rural Idaho (and bits of Colorado) in 1911, "Eutopia" is essentially a tale of a would-be utopian community set up by an industrialist in Idaho, as seen through the eyes of two protagonists: the first is Andrew Waggoner, an African-American surgeon educated in Paris. As one might imagine, he encounters no small amount of discrimination and trouble being a "Negro" (this term is used constantly in the book) doctor in rural America a little bit into the 20th century. The other is Jason Thistledown, an orphan of a terrible plague that kills everyone in his flyspeck town in Colorado, save him.

The two wind up meeting one another in the town of Elidia,the aforementioned would-be utopian community just as shit goes sideways. You see, there's not just your backwoodsman, Klansmen (the early part of the book has Waggoner nearly lynched by KKK dickweeds), outlaws, and the like. Oh no. This book is a horror story. It's got non-human monsters to go with the human ones.

In this case, there's parasitical creatures known as Jukes who can alter one's perceptions and induce people to worship them as gods.

And it gets worse, but why spoil the story?

"Eutopia" is a horror tale told through an interesting filter of early 20th Century America. It's got eugenics (and all the racist baggage that comes with that), straight-up racism (above-and-beyond the eugenics), and just a lot of fairly horrible examples of humanity in it. Nickle's story almost doesn't need the Jukes in it to be a horror tale, truth be told.

But he's got 'em in the story, and they're creepy as fuck.

"Eutopia" was, at first, a slow read and not really the sort of thing I'd pick up, but I'll be honest: I couldn't put it down. It was gripping and fascinating. Andrew Waggoner and Jason Thistledown were engaging protagonists and the rest of the cast were fascinating in their own way.

If you're looking for a bit of Americana horror, go no further.

I'll be interested to see if "Volk" can keep up the intensity.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Maratac Titanium Inspection AAA Flashlight

Yeah, I have too many flashlights. It's a problem.

I don't know exactly what possessed me to get the Maratac Titanium Inspection light. Maybe it was the price. Maybe it was the titanium construction. Mostly I think I was just in my crazy place.

However that works out, the Inspection is a welcome addition to my personal every day carry. As lights go, it's study and bright. The titanium frame is almost comically light. As it's titanium, it's probably going to break one of my bones before it breaks itself. It's long enough to serve as an impromptu kubaton, if there's a need, and is an excellent light. With the back button, you can click to select from low (5 lumens for 90 hours), medium (45 lumens for 6 hours), or high (385 lumens for less than 2 hours). As it takes two AAA batteries, it's pretty easy to just run to a local store and get new batteries when it runs out.

You can get a Inspection light at County Comm for less than $60 (not counting shipping).

Disclaimer: I don't work for County Comm, nor do I get anything from them. I really just like this light a lot.

Review: The Dervish Alchemy Flipper Knife

It was about a year or so ago when I first saw that Dervish Knives offered a flipper knife on the TAD Gear site. I missed the chance to buy their Alchemy knife but was mostly fine with that. On TAD Gear, that was a goddamn expensive knife.

Still, the Dervish Alchemy haunted me for a while. It had a look to it that really appealed to me.

Fast-forward many months. I'm bored at work and browsing. I found the Dervish Alchemy mentioned again somewhere. I had a bonus at work come through and decided I really wanted to get a Dervish Alchemy, if just to satisfy the damn mental itch that TAD Gear had started.

I shopped and searched in vain for some weeks before finding one on eBay. For a not-unreasonable price later, I found myself the proud owner of a Dervish Knives Alchemy Midtech.

So the Dervish Alchemy is a substantial flipper. It opens by pressing the stud near the end of the blade and flipping its slightly-curved and delightfully-sharp blade. It's got a nice weight to it, both open and closed, and keeps a lovely edge. It's now part of my EDC and has edged out my DPx for the time being.

Aesthetically, the Alchemy is so beautiful that I really have to struggle not to just flip it open at random intervals in public (or at work!) to gaze upon its beauty.

I have terrible problems.

I regret nothing.

Airline movies

Just completed a bit of business travel overseas. Along with my obligatory airport/airplane-induced cold, I've managed to see a few movies I missed in theaters:

The first was Kong: Skull Island

Set in the early 70's at the conclusion of the Vietnam War, Kong has the distinction of being an outlier as monster movies go I enjoyed this flick far, far more than I expected. I'm not entirely sure of the purpose of most of the characters in the film, but amidst Vietnam helicopter montages, Sam Jackson's always-awesome screen presence, and a huge-ass gorilla fighting weird monsters, I honestly didn't give much of a shit. I enjoyed this movie so much that I watched it both on my flight overseas and back again. It was the prefect balance of random character scenes, monster fights, and really awesome cinematography.

The second flick I saw that I've never seen was Baby Driver.

I really didn't know what to expect from this movie. I knew nothing of it. After watching it, I find myself slightly blown-away by Edgar Wright's action film. The main character's tendinitis was an awesome way to get some fun songs into a car chase film. And from there, the movie was just pure popcorn fun.

I wish airplanes had popcorn instead of the shit they usually serve.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Perspective

Wow.

170,000 acres of land has been effectively burned to ash in Northern California. The air quality in the Bay Area matches that of Beijing.

That is to say: it's pretty awful.

When I go outside, it smells of wood smoke. The smell is everywhere. It's in the underground stations of BART. It's in the office buildings. There is just no escaping it.

And those of us who just have to deal with that are the lucky ones.

All those people displaced. Their homes and belongings destroyed. Their lives upturned, and in some cases, lost.

Fucking hell. I'm not whining about my microwave again.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Good-Bye Microwave

This morning I bid a tearful farewell to my microwave.

A large, slightly-overpowered Panasonic that was almost-certainly not suited for my apartment's aged wiring, it served me well for several years as I prepared my breakfast, heated water or leftovers, and similar tasks. It was a beast that took up far too much counter space and the plug was hot to the touch if it ran for more than a couple of minutes. Some of the insulation melted at one point.

I'm quite surprised it didn't explode or cause a fire.

It was a behemoth, but it was a reliable thing. The recent flickering and hiccups were certain an indicator that something was wrong.

And now my microwave is dead.

Good-bye, Panasonic microwave. You will be missed.

Now to see if this smaller Black and Decker will do as well.