Review: EDYL – The Reading Department

You might be starting to suspect, by now, that I am somewhat partial to the science-fiction genre. A lot of the audiobooks I’ve listened to in the binge during the reading program, have fallen into this genre.

Well, you’d be right. Science-fiction is rather a large umbrella term for stories,  which usually overlap at least one other genre. Crime, Horror, Comedy, and many more. And just by adding some elements, technological or otherwise, that secondary genre can be substantially expanded.

EDYL – The Reading Department, by Mark Capell, overlaps slightly with the “Spy” genre. Set on Earth in 2046, Jake Radley is about to embark on a new career – but he can’t know what it is until after he’s committed to doing it. After that, the training doesn’t really give him any clues, either.

While this is going on, society-at-large is being filled in for us.

Mr Capell creates an interesting world in the short running time of The Reading Department, with uncertainty on both the societal and the personal level.

I enjoyed it, enough that I don’t want to talk too much about it, so I don’t spoil anything.

The Reading Department ends in a way that you rather want to know What Happens Next, like it’s Part 1 of a series. Technically it is Part 1 of a series, with EDYL – Island Of Immortality available on Kindle. Island Of Immortality, however, is set 71 years later, so we might not find out the rest of Jake’s story.

Still, the possibilities that are left dangling to us, may be a better choice than a direct continuation of the story.

Thumbs up from me.

Review: Some Louis L’Amour Audiobooks

Until recently I was completely unacquainted with Louis L’Amour. Two things have changed that: the first, I picked up a CD collection of his mystery stories for 50 cents in a thrift store; the second, my Grandmother-in-law gave me a CD collection of his Western stories, that she didn’t want anymore.

I listened to the mystery set about a year ago. there are 5 CDs, each with a novel (I think they really count as short stories). Each story lasts about an hour. What I really remember is the speed at which the stories were read. They’re dramatizations, so each character has a different actor, but each person reads quickly, and it seems like the whole thing is very tightly trimmed, so there’s just about no gap between people talking.

I think that this can be a drawback with audiobooks on physical media – you have to make it fit, and you don’t want to use more discs(/tapes[/records]) than you have to. Still, it was a bit more effort to listen to and catch all the important details, than the downloaded audiobooks that I’m used to, where time matters less, so the readers can talk at more of a normal pace.

Despite this, I managed to guess two of the whodunnits before I settled into more of a just-taking-it-in rhythm.

I tried to find a link for this collection (I  Hate To Tell His Widow/Collect From A Corpse/Stay Out Of My Nightmare/Street Of Lost Corpses/The Hills Of Homicide). I did come across an Amazon link, which lists it as an audio cassette, but has the picture of the CD set. I enjoyed it, not quite to “oh-I-must-listen-to-everything-he’s-ever-done” depths. Adhered too closely to the formula for that. Detective solves the crime and gets the girl. Not bad for 50 cents, though.

The Western collection was better. Two dramatisations were narrated by Willie Nelson, the other five stories were completely read by him. Disc One had a full dramatisation of “Riding For The Brand”, with Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash (people I’ve heard of! The latter I’ve heard of more for his music than for his acting, though he seemed fine in this).

Funnily enough, I had to pay closer attention to this collection, too, but for completely different reasons. The reading was definitely not rushed. Mr Nelson’s accent I haven’t had to contend with for such a length in a row, and the drawl doesn’t entirely lend itself to absolutely clear enunciation (now I have the vocal coach scenes from Singin’ In The Rain in my head, and I am amused). Secondly, and more of an issue, is that I haven’t read much in the way of Westerns, so I’m not familiar with all the jargon.

Put it this way: I had to go looking some words up.

Well, not many, most I could figure out from context. There was one story, “The Nester And The Piute”, where I ended up having to look up both Nester and Piute. (In case you were in the same boat as I: you’re welcome.)

Funny story: the way the CDs were ripped, the CD names ended up showing the wrong way round: Disc Four, Disc Three, Disc Two, and Riding For The Brand. So I got all the straight readings first, and the two dramatisations right at the very end.

I enjoyed these, too. Perhaps less familiarity with the genre helped with not finding the stories particularly formulaic, though you’d think I would have done given the next two sentences. There was a fair amount of “stranger shows up and helps folks in trouble. Injuns, while not always necessarily being the bad guys, don’t seem to be depicted with any sort of nuance.

See what I mean? Nuance can be tricky to fit into a short story. And I don’t think I’m familiar enough with either the genre, or actual historical attitudes and expectations, even cultures, to really be able to comment one way or the other that the attitudes and depictions are unfair. Still, those parts I was least comfortable with.

Other than that, these visits to the frontier were pretty interesting, and I enjoyed the stories at face value.

I got this version, in the wooden box, which isn’t terribly happy about staying together without a rubber band. Looking for the collection on Amazon, I also found this one.

“If you go to Ravenholm, you will die”

I like playing games, though I don’t really make a lot of time for doing so. Playing Final Fantasy VII with Oldest hasn’t happened in a while. I’ve downloaded a few games that I haven’t tried out, yet. Got a way into Cut The Rope 2, and log in most days to get the prize of the day, most days I don’t spend more time than that.

I’m fairly competitive so with the Final Fantasies I like doing all the side quests and getting all the items, Cut The Rope 2 I like solving each level all 3 ways, otherwise I would probably be a lot further ahead.

And then there’s games with Achievements. My first encounter with something like this was in Command And Conquer: Generals, medals for doing so many of different kinds of maps, medals for defeating the different General types and so on.

Though I prefer games that just come on CD or DVD and one can just play without having to do a tedious download, or even worse an update right when you want to be playing, any Achievements you earn while playing games are tied to your account and you don’t lose them.

Actually, I think it’s the same way with games in the Windows Store, though I only have installed one game that has Achievements: Microsoft Sudoku. (Had it on for less than a month, and already have most of the achievements, though one will take 8 months to get and another 12).

After getting through Half-Life 2 on Steam, there were several Achievements I didn’t achieve, and the competitive person in me has considered going back and getting them. Well, I didn’t and didn’t, but then a remake with updated graphics, Half-Life 2: Update, was released to everyone who already had Half-Life 2. And the Achievements were the same.

This seemed the perfect opportunity to go back and start over. One Achievement in particular, that I missed first time round, involves finding the Lambda symbol, or some supplies near to them, through all the game. So I basically have to play through the whole game to get this one, and was a big one I wanted to get, but had kinda been putting off.

I’m doing OK so far on that one, but there was another that I tried first time that was Hard with a capital Difficult. Get through Ravenholm using only the Gravity Gun.

At this point in the game, you’ve only just got the Gravity Gun, with which you can pick up objects, then either drop them, or fling them at high speed.

Ravenholm is a zombie-infested hell hole. It has regular zombies, the insanely fast zombies, regular headcrabs (nasty little critters that jump on peoples’ heads and turns them into zombies), toxic headcrabs (let’s just say that they’re so much worse), and carrier zombies (have a bunch of headcrabs on their head and shoulders that they just throw at you).

The level is rather easier if you’re using the other weapons you have at your disposal. The shotgun is quite helpful.

Now, there are rather a lot of helpful objects around that you can throw at all these zombies and headcrabs. The circular saw blades are the most effective, as long as you hit. Flammable barrels can affect a large area. Bricks, and plain barrels can be helpful in a pinch.

There’s one human (half-crazed) inhabitant of Ravenholm: Father Grigorio. At a few points, he’ll show up and ramble madly at you, and also take out a few enemies with his shotgun. He has also set a bunch of traps around the town, which can help you out. Or kill you, if you’re not careful.

If you’ve not played the level before, you’re going to be dying and reloading (and hopefully saving, frequently) a whole bunch of times. If you’re going for the Gravity Gun Achievement, same applies.

Hence the Babylon 5 reference in this post’s title. The original line was, “If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die.” Ravenholm may well be worse.

With the Gravity Gun, you can only carry 1 thing at a time. For a good chunk of the level, you can take it slow: carry a circular saw blade so far, go back and get another, take it to where you dropped the first, go and get a third. Less good is when you shoot one, need it again and can’t find where the stupid thing landed.

And that’s just in the buildings and in the streets: a fair chunk of the level you’re on walkways partway up the outside of the buildings. Very easy to lose stuff up there.

Oh no! Accidentally switched to the crowbar and swooshed it! Load saved game…

So there’s this part where you go into a door at the top of a building, and call the elevator to get down to street level, where a zombie horde is milling about. you close the door, call the elevator, and some of those insanely fast zombies break their way in through the skylight. The room, while not perhaps strictly small, is small enough to the point where, once you’ve picked up an object to throw, the fast zombie has knocked it out of your grip before you’ve had a chance to aim.

After several tries, one time making it into the lift, with the speedy so-and-sos also making it in, I figured it was really time to try something different. Before you go into the room, you can see down into the street you’re trying to get into. I found it safer to just jump down there, straight into the (for the most part, much slower) zombie horde than be trapped in a room with the fast ones.

Phew!

After that, the street was much easier: the fast ones showing up but not quite so close together, a trap that works once and then breaks, but you can Gravity Gun the broken-off part to good effect (repeatedly,as long as you can find the thing). Then you’re back onto the rooftops, and hey, there’s the cart I need to get across the gap, how do I get it here? Oh man, need to go back into the street into a building… OK, got it. Now back onto the roofs and walkways, further this time, Father Grigorio shows up for the last time, we can join him and he’ll accompany us through the graveyard.

But first, we have to wait on top of this building, for another little cart, that will carry us across the gap. And I have no objects to throw. (There are some ammunition boxes here, but throwing them does no good). And there are two fast zombies coming, one coming up the drainpipe (that you can’t knock down, though it be loose), and the other… Aargh! I don’t care! It’s coming!

So, defenseless (even if I had things to throw, the situation would be like being in the lift room, only there’d be a lot more losing the weapons off the side of the building), under attack, what do I do?

Run around, trying not to get hit. Jump in the cart when it arrives. Hit the button to be taken away.

Surprisingly, this method works, and the fast zombies decline to join me in the cart. Whew!

Comparatively, the graveyard is a lot easier. Then the mines.

Infested with headcrabs. And a few things to throw at them, but not quite what you would call an abundance. And then a barnacle (thing that lives on a ceiling, has a long sticky tongue that dangles down, if it touches you, it catches you and pulls you up to be eaten by the Big Pointy Teeth). This barnacle you have to use as a lift, and then not die.

The barnacle took a couple of turns, but was pretty easy to figure out. The mine workings, with elevated walkways and such, was harder with the many headcrabs running around on the floor. Managed to take a lot of them out with flammable barrels, then found a spot where they could get up to me one at a time, and sometimes the Gravity Gun blast will kill them (else it will just knock them away, at least on headcrabs the Gravity Gun will have an effect without needing an extra object to throw).

And then, after a much easier ascent, we reach daylight. There’s a little bit more to the Ravenholm chapter of the game, fortunately we get the achievement before we have to go through that.

Man, that was hard. But there’s an achievement on Update that I didn’t get on Original. Not in a rush to go back and get it there…

Here attached is a video of someone-not-me playing the level without going for the achievement: going with this one because there’s no commentary going on.
Warning: In case you hadn’t realised from everything I’ve said so far, there’s some violence.

Sesame Street

Middlest loves getting to spend time on the Sesame Street site, she enjoys the videos and the games. They do spoofs of recent films that the kids probably shouldn’t have seen. They did The Hunger Games, and one that Middlest keeps referring to is “Jurassic Cookie” (a spin on Jurassic World).

I’m kind of surprised they haven’t spoofed the recent Mad Max. “Furry Road” seems like a gag they would find hard to pass up.

I, of course, remember growing up with Sesame Street, and other relatives before me. Even had some Sesame Street games ont he Atari: Alpha Beam With Ernie, Big Bird’s Egg Catch, and Cookie Monster Munch. The games on the site… well, let’s just say technology has come a long way.

When I was younger, I got a letter from Sesame Street.

I was terribly disappointed, I was expecting two letters and a number.

Review: Educide

I was out working in the back garden when I finished Window In The Sky, the last Podiobook I had on my player. Forgetting that I had a series of Louis L’Amour short stories grabbed from CD on there, I came in and had a look at the Podiobooks that I hadn’t listened to, yet. Not sure at that point how long the Reading Program would be going on for (ends Aug 7th), I looked for a story that didn’t have a great deal of parts to it.

Educide by S. Lawrence Parrish was only twelve episodes long, and short episodes, as it turned out.

Avery Carmichael arrives at a school as a student teacher, someone learning on the job about what it is to be a teacher. He has been assigned to work with Sam Petersen, a veteran teacher.

In a school where resources are stretched thin, and many students require extra attention, the environment doesn’t start off easy (well, Avery wanted a challenge), and as the story goes on, progressively gets more difficult.

It’s been a while since I was in school, but there are many parts I do remember. Substitute teachers who tried to make things fun, but weren’t really able to handle classes that really test the limits with new teachers. Teachers who start off the year all pleasant, and “you can come to me if you have any problems with your work”, but as the year went on would flip out really easily, and you wouldn’t want to approach them for anything. And of course, teachers who, through whatever miracle, actually made you want to work.

And then the students, the ones you really wanted to see, the ones who you’d go out of your way to avoid.

Sartre had a point when he said “hell is other people”, though I believe he missed the rest of the equation, “so is heaven”.

Mr Parrish wrote school very well. the environment seemed familiar, both students and teachers. And, having worked for other people, the off-campus administrators seemed believable as well.

I found the ending rather a surprise, though I suppose I shouldn’t have. It seemed a logical outgrowth of the way people were treated.

Looking on Podiobooks, I see that Mr Parrish has a few more stories uploaded there. Based on how well this one was constructed, I’m going to have a good look at the others to choose some more to pick out.

Working on our Vespers service book

Today’s project for me was to slave over a hot service book.

Our Vespers service is the service we’ve been doing the longest. As we’ve been doing a priestless version for a while, my first revision of the book cut out all the stuff we don’t do.

We actually have at our disposal TWO different Vespers service books (multiple copies of each, we’re not all hunched around trying to peer at the words). The simple one is the white one, which are branded for our former overseeing church. It doesn’t have the music in, and there’s places where it notes that extra songs are added in.

The red book is more complicated, as I was reminded when I was looking through it to fill in some blanks. now some parts have me more confused…

We also have a set of music, which I believe we’ve been using in conjunction with the white books. There’s some songs in there that we haven’t done (the ones noted in the white book). This is the stuff that has mainly thrown us off when we’ve had a priest with us, and our recent visit to K-town’s Vespers used them, so we’ve decided to add them in.

So that’s what I’ve been collecting and adding today. The extra verses and parts of Lord, I Call Upon Thee, the Apostikha verses, and the Troparia. There’s also the Prokeimena, but I skipped those today. They weren’t in with the music, and the red book was seven shades of confusing in that regard. Plus the other stuff already took me most of today.

There are eight Tones, and we cycle through them. So Tone 7 started today, Tone 8 starts next Sunday, then it goes back to Tone 1 after that. All the things I added today (text only, thankfully, though some of the music could really use redoing), I had to add for each of the eight Tones.

The Lord, I Call stuff started straightforward. The first set of music I found turned out to not be the full set, the second set was more complete (missing a page, I think). After the “Lord, I Call” part, there’s 3 verses, each with a “Stikhera” (for the sake of not looking it up, let’s describe it as “a choiry bit”) afterwards.

This was just fine until Tone 7, where on the music sheet, the third Stikhera kind of gets interrupted by the third verse coming back and saying “wait! I wasn’t done yet!”, then the third Stikhera finishing off. (“I’ma let you finish…”)

In a rare display of being easier, the red book just includes “Verse 3 ctd” as part of the uninterrupted Stikhera.

The three verses have the same words in all 8 Tones. The red book lists 10 verses, the first 3 being the ones that we use. The verses are labelled 1-10, 1 and 2 being in the section (X), 3 and 4 in (V111), 5 and 6 in (VI), and 7-10 in (IV). I have no idea what this means; in the following pages, the words (and most of the music) are displayed, and only use the same 3 verses.

And after the last Stikhera, before the Theotokion which rounds out each Lord, I Call section, it says “(etc.)”

What etc? I don’t know the etc! Can’t you tell me the etc?

I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out. That’s maybe one to ask now-Father Dan.

In the meantime, have to check with musicy people about which construction of Tone 7 to put in the book.

The Apostikha(s? e?) were a lot more straightforward, the only issues I see cropping up here are noting that I need to enforce consistency with capitals (just corrected a bunch of Thys and Thous, cross usually has a capital C, as in “By ascending the Cross, O Lord…”, “Thy most pure Body” is in the Troparia, do I capitalise the B in “His holy body”? and so on).

I suspect proof-reading will be a lot of work.

The last section was the Troparia, and here things got a little complicated.

The wording on the music sheets mostly matched up with the Troparia in the Sunday service book, so a quick copy-and-paste did that job. I think the tunes were different, so I made notes where things were different. the differences were minor, Thy/the, to/for, some extra ands and an our. Some of the sheets had music for “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.” Others had [G.N.E.] written on them (I’d say “scrawled”, but don’t mean it to be disparaging, and also it’s better writing than mine). Following that, there’s a Theotokion.

The white book just says “Troparia (sung or chanted)”, followed by priesty parts we usually have to skip. So previously our service would stop just before this point.

The red book at this point in the service has a Troparion to the Theotokos (one set of words, two options for music, not a different one for all eight tones like in the music sheets). then it has page numbers for the appendices for Sunday Troparia and Lenten Troparia, so essentially the other way round from the music sheets. But the Sunday Troparia (words, at least, didn’t check the tunes) seem to be the same as on the sheets and in our Typika service book, so grateful for some consistency, there.

I’m grateful for the consistency we do get, and I do enjoy this project. It’s just that everything turns out to be more work than you think it’ll be. Lord willing, we’ll know what we’re doing someday!

Review: The Long Way Home/No Future For You

Today, I started AND finished three books, as well as finished an audiobook I started yesterday, and listened to more than half of today.

Perhaps it’s not fair to compare the books I read in their entirety today, with other books I’m in the middle of: Five Go Adventuring Again is a kids’ book, and only took me about an hour and a half to read. The other two books were graphic novels, and the audiobook was twelve episodes that ranged from about twenty minutes to  half an hour. Whereas The Ionian Mission and The Monuments Men are somewhat longer and denser. Nineveh And Its Remains is on the backburner, as I really want to be making notes while reading it (should be doing the same with The Monuments Men), and I am making notes while reading Twilight Of The Mind (which otherwise I would be making a lot more progress in).

A month or two ago (complete guess, I’m not good at tracking such things), my sister-in-law was whittling down her possessions, as she does from time to time. (Me, less so.) She asked if I wanted the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8 graphic novels that she didn’t want to hang on to any more.

Yes please!

A week or two ago (likely, but still a guess), the penultimate volume of the graphic novel of The Stand arrived (I only ordered it recently), and I pulled the Buffy off the shelf, intending to read them afterwards.

Didn’t happen. the two volumes have been sitting on my desk, unread, for longer than I would like. So after finishing Oldest’s library book (the Famous Five one, wanted to read it before it went back), I decided to read these.

First of all, these volumes being the first two collections of Season 8, there’s a lot more setup than resolution. (Checks the library system, yes the rest of the season is listed. Phew!)

The humour of the series (one-liners and all) continue intact. The odd wordages and slang of the characters also remains. This does feel like an authentic continuation. So do the outlandish situations, that the characters have to take very seriously. Like Dawn being made the size of Clifford The Big Red Dog.

Some of the characters have strained relationship, as happens, and some characters that you might not expect to recur from the series, do. In addition to that, there’s quite a few callbacks to events in the TV show.

Faith! Liked her in the TV shows, was nice having her back in No Future For You.

While I enjoy graphic novels, I do tend to have difficulties in telling sometimes, whether a character in one panel is the same character as one in another panel. I got this here a few times. Worse was when the visuals had to tell the story rather than the words: guess I’m more a words guy. Once or twice I had to go back over a sequence to figure out what happened.

I’ve put Volume 3 on hold at the library. There was the unfortunate possibility that Wolves At The Gate (collecting the original comics #11-15) was assumed to be the same as the Library Edition Volume 3 (collecting issues 21-30). We’ll see how that goes.

I’d say Season 8 got off to a good start.

Review: Window In The Sky

When I started getting into Podiobooks in a big way, I downloaded Homesick by Paul J. Joseph. This turned out to be the second book in his Through The Fold series. I went back and listened to Marker Stone (book 1), and now I’ve listened all the way through and finished book 6: Window In The Sky.

Through The Fold has been an interesting series. As a series primarily set in space, whether on ships or stations or alien worlds, we often see well-thought-out situations and technologies: muscle wastage in low-grav environments in those who don’t exercise, and people trying to find a way around the exercising. Stations as waypoints on longer journeys. Space travel taking a Long Time (which it ought to).

These things help ground the series when it ventures into the alien-ness of the Masters, then the even-more-alien-ness of the Szzzyyyxx (pronounced “See-ikes”), the weird weapon that so negatively affects Baltan City, and then the time travel and parallel universe stories.

I’ve read and watched a lot of science fiction, and know how badly the Big Shiny Reset Button can suck. Mr Joseph has impressed me by using reset buttons in two books, and have it be satisfying.

One thing I find interesting about the series, is the steps between each story are pretty big. The discovery of the Fold in Marker Stone does make a logical step to exploration of the other side in Homesick, but after that, the stories aren’t really what you expect from a logical, measured building-upon the foundations carefully laid by the book before. The pattern’s a bit more complicated than that, so while the steps seem like left turns, they do build upon each other and add up pretty well.

Layers of complexity are added as the series goes on, and Window In The Sky is the most complicated of all. Splashdown introduced time travel to the series, Window really explores the effects of history being rewritten multiple times. From the perspective of a few different points in the timelines.

There really is quite a tangled web, which Mr Joseph manages to untangle without leaving any threads hanging, which seems like rather a feat.

Initially in the series, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with a same-sex relationship portrayed in the story. I soon overcame this, though. Mr Joseph avoided two pitfalls that lie lurking, waiting to ensnare works like this. One, there can be a temptation to describe one type of relationship more than another. The other, to go into a lot of description about physical acts.

Mr Joseph balances the main romantic partnerships (Sally and Jackie, and Ian and Angela) about the same. The dynamics are different of course: Jackie is more supporting of Sally than Angela is of Ian, but neither relationship is turned into porn for the ears, as some other writers do. I appreciated that.

There’s a twist at the very end of Window that has the comments section at Podiobooks, very divided. To some extent, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, at the same time, it’s one of those things that seems worth discussing. So what I’ll do, I’ll give my wrap-up now, leave a few lines blank, then talk about the ending a bit. If you don’t want to be spoiled, well, you’re a grown-up, you can skip that part.

The wrap-up:

Someone (and I’m too lazy right now to look up who) once said: If a book isn’t worth reading twice, it’s not worth reading once. I enjoyed the Through The Fold series, and while sometimes it was a bit tricky to follow, when one character stopped talking and another started, and there wasn’t a lot of change in the vocal style, any potential confusion always got swiftly cleared up. The stories got complicated, yes, but I still managed to follow them. I think I will listen to the whole series again. They’re pretty long books, so I’m not quite ready for such a massive undertaking at this point, but having finished the series now, I’m kinda looking forward to it.

All six books of the Through The Fold series can be found at Podiobooks.

MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE BREAK

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Are they gone? Good. Reminder: MAJOR SPOILERS (in case you forgot)

After the entire timeline is reset, and a new universe emerges, Ian and Sally are, for different reasons, left partnerless. They also both remember the previous timelines, which nobody else does.

As the only people alive who share that now-vanished history, it’s not surprising that they would find it easier to connect with each other, than to anyone in the rest of the populace who wasn’t there so couldn’t remember. I’ve heard stranger real-life stories of gay people surprised to find themselves choosing to be in a straight marriage.

Ian’s broaching of the subject does seem a bit awkward, but any such conversation would be. The question “Are you still…?” then jarred a little, but seemed mitigated by his bringing up that she’d mentioned she had had a crush on a guy, once. Sally’s reaction to what would obviously seem like a major change, seemed reasonable as well.

Thus to me, that development in the closing moments of the book, didn’t really come across as contrived, to me.

I can see how it would piss a lot of people off, who have different viewpoints on the subject to myself. Seems Mr Joseph is on track to piss everyone off: for one group, by having a gay relationship prominent throughout the series, and to another, by having a gay character turn straight at the end.

I’m an asshole, and am also not entirely in either group, so I just find that observation amusing.

Anyway, the scenario made sense to me even without that change, so.

Review: Into The Woods

My sister-in-law put this movie on hold at the library, and it came in shortly before her holiday, gallivanting off to the Old Country (England, of course), with a friend.

I don’t think she managed to see it before she left, and it’s due back before she gets home (apparently it was an option on one of her planes, so maybe she’ll get to see it anyway).

Into The Woods is a musical that appeared on Broadway in the late ’80s, but was not adapted into a movie until 2014. I think I’d managed to not really know about the story at all (I think I registered the term “fairytale” along the way). I rarely look at the Entertainment Weeklys that breed like Tribbles in the bathroom reading rack, so I didn’t read about it there. There’s something good about watching a movie with no hype, no preconceptions.

The story itself does feel like a theatrical production, though the film does seem to spread out characters and locations more than I would expect to see on stage. And of course the effects. Very difficult to do CG on stage.

We tend to watch shows and movies with subtitles on, makes it easier when kids are being loud. Only Youngest was in the room when we watched it, the others being in their own beds, and that was plenty to justify subtitles. A lot of those song lines go really quick, though, so the subtitles were nice in that respect as well.

A lot of the songs seemed to show up, go away, then come back, sometimes as throwaway lines in other songs, so a lot of the soundtrack seemed to blend together, didn’t really seem to have a lot of variety. But on the other hand, it never seemed to be repetitive enough to be tedious, and if you’ve been following my opinions on music much, you’ll know it doesn’t take a lot for me to get annoyed at music.

In telling four fairytale stories (Red Riding Hood, Jack And The Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel), while weaving them together with a fifth story, some parts seemed to be shorter or less developed than I would like. Johnny Depp’s Wolf was fun, but essentially gets one scene. Red Riding Hood’s Granny was Annette Crosby in a blink-and-you-miss-it part. Rapunzel herself didn’t feel very developed and then isn’t really seen after her “happily ever after”.

Any perceived shortcomings didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the film. I like the actors (I didn’t realise that a particular character was Frances De La Tour until the end!), I liked the songs (more for the complexity and their part in furthering the narrative). It was fun.

For me, it didn’t reach the heights of “everybody should see this film!”. Although the fairytale-mashup genre has been done almost to the point of cliche since Shrek burst onto the scene, Into The Woods gets a free pass because technically it predated all of them. IMDB’s cumulative user rating is 6.0 for this film, and that doesn’t seem unfair. A bit above average, , but not so far as to be outstanding.

PlayStations 3 and 4

Because of some of the trailers coming out of E3 (Final Fantasy VII Remake, LEGO Dimensions), and the possibly-coming-soon Final Fantasy XV, I started looking into the relative merits of the PS3 and the PS4.

Some background: I have played consoles for years (Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, PlayStation, Dreamcast). I’m pretty sure the Atari has been in my family for longer than I have. My in-laws have one, too. I’m pretty sure also that my family of origin’s console was new. I have bought three consoles from the above list: PS1, Dreamcast and Mega Drive (possibly in that order), not a-one of them was new. (note to self: get Dreamcast working over here, and introduce kids to Chu Chu Rocket.)

From time to time we (mainly me and Oldest, but including the other two as well, even if the most we can expect from Youngest is chewing the controls) like to have a bash at some of the old games.

But sometimes it seems it would be nice to have a bash at some of the newer games, too.

Like, I have Final Fantasy I, II, and IV-IX on the PS1 (and III on the DS). Despite hearing that the later games in the series suffer a bit of a decline (well, I don’t know about the MMOs, but as they require a subscription I shall happily continue to ignore them), I still would like to give them a go.

I’m not sure I’d want to touch car racing games of the 8-bit era now, though I played quite a few. I play Gran Turismo 2 on the PS1 a bit with the kids. Comparing games like Out Run on the old machines, where, at best, turns and objects you might need to react to show up on screen at about the time you need to react to them, I notice on GT2 scenery being loaded just after it ought to be visible from line-of-sight, at some curve way ahead. GT5 and 6 on the PS3 have improvements on the graphics, of course, but they also support a 3D mode. Interestingly, GT7 on PS4 doesn’t seem to.

(I’ve spotted 3D projectors on Amazon for less than $500. Don’t know if they’re good projectors, but the possibility is rather interesting…)

Also, I’ve played some LEGO games on the DS (Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, Marvel), and while I could get them for 2-player action on the PC, a console might be easier.

Early models of PS3 are backwards-compatible to PS2 and PS1. PS1 is less important to me, as I have one, but there are a few PS2 titles I would be interested in. Some of them, though (Final Fantasy X and X-2) have PS3 and PS4 versions. And then some don’t.

The backwards-compatible versions are the 20GB, 40GB, 60GB, and some 80GB models. The hard drives can apparently be upgraded so you’re not tied to a specific size. 60GB seemed to be a safer bet than 80GB, so I’ve been keeping my eye on that. Compared to a 40GB the other day (both Used on Amazon), and they didn’t seem that different in price. Gotta watch out for which ones come with cables and controllers, but it looks like you should be up and running for $200 or less (inc. shipping, if you time it right). Can’t get those backwards-compatible models new.

PS4 has no backwards-compatibility. Some titles are available on both PS3 and PS4 (looking at the HD remaster box set of FFX and FFX-2 the other day, the PS4 version was rather more expensive – the pre-release Lego Dimensions Starter Set was the same price for either version). New PS4 costs about $400, Used (“Good” quality, inc shipping, cables and a controller) starts (as I write this) at $305, and going down the list the price rapidly increases.

For bang for the buck, and wider selection of what I want to play (though, to be honest, such playing would be rather occasional), PS3 would be my (sadly hypothetical) priority (the research has been fun, however). But some of these (as far as we know) PS4-only titles are rather enticing…