Old Man’s War and The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I’ve been finishing up books like mad this New Year and I’m happy to report that my resolution to read more is 2015, so far has been a success. Writing has also been a success in the New Year so far, I have gotten some good work done on Harbingers and my wife and I have been plodding away on our original TV Sitcom Pilot Script. More to come on our Pilot Script, we just finished the treatment and are starting to get to the actual writing, but first I want to discuss two awesome books I have recently had the pleasure of reading. Just a heads up there will be spoilers for Old Man’s War and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, so stop now or forever hold your peace.

Old Man’s War is a book that I have had for a while, I won it from the tor.com best sci-fi/fantasy novels of the 2000’s contest, and randomly decided to bring down to Boise with me for Christmas. It’s not a very big book and for that I’m thankful because I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. Old Man’s War is John Scalzi’s debut novel and if my own debut novel is even a tenth as good as Old Man’s War I will consider it a success. This book was pretty much a space opera, but for the first quarter or so of the book we don’t really have any idea what is about to happen and I think that is one of the reasons it works so well. I also really enjoyed it because it dealt with being in the military in the future and in space and being an Air Force Vet myself this was also fun to see how my imaginings stacked up against Scalzi’s.

John Perry is the main character of the book, at the age of 65 humans on Earth can sign up for the Colonial Defense Force or CDF, because of course Acronyms for everything that’s totally how the military rolls, and he and his wife do so when they are given the opportunity. The population of Earth knows that there is a wider Universe and that aliens in it do not particularly like humanity, but no one seems to know exactly what the deal is with the CDF and why their age limit to join is 75. John just recently turned 75 and since his wife has passed he decides to follow through on his commitment and he joins the ranks of the CDF, knowing that he will never return to Earth. Everyone is under the impression that the CDF has some magic technology that will reverse aging or something similar but when they finally learn the truth I actually thought it was more crazy and awesome than I or the old humans in the book imagined.

The deal is simply this, your consciousness is transferred to a modified younger superhuman version of yourself, that is green, and you go out and fight the Universe in the name of humanity and the CDF. If you last the 10 years required of your contract you are given a new young non-modified version of your body and a nice place on some far away planet to spend the rest of your days. Most of the recruits will die however and we see most of the people John meets along the way find this fate, but John is able to survive, thrive, and make some crazy discoveries along the way. The military training scenes were some of my favorite because they really reminded me of how things went down in Basic in the Air Force.

John heads out as a grunt into the Universe, fighting a lot of crazy Alien species, like tiny versions of humans called Covandu, that they stomp on and are easy to defeat in a ground attack but nearly impossible in space. There are also the dastardly Wraey who have a taste for human flesh and have discovered a way to detect ships entering the system, even though their technology is not to that capability yet. In fighting the Wraey on a distant planet called Coral John runs across his wife, but as it turns out it is just his wife’s shell and her body is now in use by a Special Forces member named Jane Sagan. It seems that when human’s sign on the dotted line, giving DNA during the signup, if they don’t make it and join the CDF when they turn 75 their DNA are still used to make enhanced bodies for Special Forces to inhibit. This was a very interesting aspect of the story because these Special Forces are human it seems, but they were only “born” when the CDF created them and gave them consciousness (not from 75 year old humans). They have only known life in the Special Forces and to me it would be pretty damn weird to gain consciousness without having to grow up and have a childhood first. They are very good at their job though and John is able to help them win the battle of Coral and make his way into the ranks of Officer.

I can’t recommend Old Man’s War enough to anyone out there that has not yet read it, there are six books total in the series and I look forward to devouring each of them in turn very soon. Up next is the Amazing Patrick Rothfuss and his quirky novella that takes us back to the world of 4 corners and gives us an inside look at the mysterious Auri.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

In retrospect I wish I had soldiered through and made it to Seattle for the Rothfuss book tour and reading where I had a signed copy waiting for me. But alas I didn’t make it but was able to quickly snatch up a copy of his new novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It was a weird read, I have honestly never read quite anything like it before, but this is a good thing not a bad one. Auri is such a strange and mysterious character in the Kingkiller Chronicles. She lives under the school in an old abandoned section of it called the Underthing. She is odd, flighty, solitary, picky, and a character that I honestly didn’t necessarily want to know more about. But I’m not sad that I do.

Although The Slow Regard of Silent Things doesn’t delve into what made Auri the way she is, it does give a sneak peek into her day to day life. Holy hell is it a weird life. Auri seems to be a Namer, as we see from her finding things and areas and dubbing them as she sees fit, and she knows Alchemy as we see from her expositions into soap making. Kvothe always wondered how Auri got around in the Underthing, because ya know its underground and freaking pitch black, and we quickly learn about a little ball of glowing light named Foxen. Foxen is one of many collectibles that Auri has created or found, were not quite sure, though I suspect she made Foxen. The entire novella centers on the fact that Auri knows that Kvothe is coming to visit her and she must get three presents ready for his arrival. My main complaint with the novella was that it ended before we got to see the exchange between Kvothe and Auri. I do suspect that since one of his presents was a bed and a place to stay if he needed, that our hero will be using it as a refuge in the third book. The details of her day to day existence again are very strange but also strangely interesting. She is so much of a different character than any that have met in the Kingkiller Chronicles so far. There are probably a half dozen or so other characters I want to know more about but I’ll take anything Rothfuss wants to give me.

If you are new to the world of 4 Corners and Patrick Rothfuss then I, and even the author himself in the introduction, would not recommend you start with this book. I’m glad I read his books twice before I picked up The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I even look forward to my next re-read when I can make more sense of the areas of the Underthing that Kvothe searches for the secret entrance to the Stacks. This novella would be awfully confusing if you are not familiar with his work. But everyone should check out The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear anyways so go out and pick them up, give them a read (or two), and then settle down with The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Up next I have a blog post coming, hopefully by the end of the week, on Odds On by Michael Crichton written under his pseudonym John Lange. That’s right I’m back in the Michael Crichton Experience after a small break and I really enjoyed this crime novel and I’m looking forward to more. Any Crichton book that I haven’t read before is always good times.

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Agent Carter Pilot

Episode 1×1 “Pilot; Bridge and Tunnel”

Howard Stark’s deadliest weapon has fallen into enemy hands, and only Agent Carter can recover it. But can she do so before her undercover mission is discovered by SSR Chief Dooley and Agent Thompson? (via IMDB)

Fair Warning there will be spoilers ahead for Agent Carter.

Overall thoughts: I have been looking forward to this show for quite a while. I haven’t been able to get into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I stopped watching after 4 or 5 episodes into season 1, but I do plan on gorging myself on the rest of the series sometime soon. The 2 hour premier seems a little daunting, especially trying to blog the whole thing which I couldn’t convince my wife to do along with me, but I’m just so damn excited for this show!

Starting off with the last scene from Cap was a great idea. Agent Carter does look pretty amazing in that red hat. I’m also very excited to find out more about Howard Stark, I love that this show is set in the mid-20th century. Agent Carter’s boss and colleagues are a giant bag of misogynistic dicks, she needs to punch them all in the face like the dude in the alley.

I also think it’s awesome they used the actors from the movies and didn’t have to recast anyone, there are a ton of people from other shows I keep recognizing too. Jarvis the butler was the dude in the alley!! This show does not look cheap to make, but so far I am impressed with all the sets and costumes. Agent Carter also looks amazing as a blonde. My wife just had to explain to me why the lipstick had a number and name on it lol, well and because it knocked out the dude who kissed her. What the hell is that golden ball of light!

I guess people had to share tiny apartments in NYC even back in the 40’s. Awwww just as I was starting to like her roommate, poor Colleen. What the hell is up with that assassin she just beat his ass and threw him out of at least a 2 story window and he was just gone, I’d be getting the hell out of there. Stark is quite the ladies man, I hope that they don’t make him and Agent Carter an item, but who knows it could work. Awwww Carter looking at Cap’s file was heartbreaking.

This typewriter is like the 1940’s version of Instant Messenger. What is up with these bad guys having their voice boxes taken out, it’s creepy and yet also sinister so gotta respect that. Holy shit one of those tiny balls of light caused that much damage, it was like a mini nuclear blast. The first hour was awesome, can’t wait for the second!

2nd Hour

I really like the waitress I hope she has more scenes, and cripes Peggy’s new apartment a la Stark is freaking amazeballs. First Hydra now Leviathan I think I sense a theme here with mythological beasts being the bad guys. These voiceless assassins are seriously hardcore but Leviathan seems to be getting setup to be the big bad this season. I still can’t get over the sets and costumes and how great they are.

Chief Dooley! One of the main characters in my book has the last name Dooley and one of my friends growing up is named Dooley as well, love it! The radio plays are pretty great and give a nice feel to the era of the show. People keep mysteriously disappearing from very sticky situations, what is Leviathan pumping these minions full of, vita rays? Holy cripes that was an awesome fight scene on the milk truck, Peggy is a hardcore badass. I really am enjoying how much Cap is such a looming figure over the show, I wonder if we’ll get some superhero cameos in this show later on. They are also doing a really good job with showing how much of a pain in the ass it was for women during this timeframe. I really want more Howard Stark in the show. Well I can’t wait for next week, the Ant-Man trailer was ok, I’m just happy Crap Bag was finally able to make something out of himself, he apparently didn’t marry Phoebe.

Favorite scene(s): There are SO many good ones to choose from, but the one that sums up Agent Peggy Carter’s badassery the best is the diner scene where she convinces the misogynistic asshat who was harassing the waitress to find somewhere to else to eat from now on. Bravo Peggy, bravo.

“An ideal butler provides service without being asked” – Jarvis

Grade: A

Solid and extremely entertaining 2 hour series premier, I will be watching this show from now on, Agent Carter is awesome and was actually better than I thought it would be.

Friends Re-Watch: Season 1, Episode 4: “The One With George Stephanopoulos”

Episode 1×4 The One With George Stephanopoulos

Ross, upset about it being the anniversary of his first time with Carol, goes to a hockey game with Chandler and Joey and gets a puck in the face; they end up at the hospital, where Ross reveals that Carol is the only woman he’s even been intimate with. Rachel gets a visit from her old friends, which depresses her about her life. The women have a slumber party, which isn’t very fun until they spy on George Stephanopoulos.

Ellie                                                 

Overall thoughts:  Opening joke (pun on omnipotent/impotent) sets up that the theme of this episode will probably be about sex. Phoebe talking about her grandmother’s new boyfriend. Oooh, hockey game! The anniversary of the first time Ross and Carol had sex. Joey and Chandler trying to boost him up, aww.  Rachel finally confronts the consequences of her decision to leave Barry, and there’s some pretty juicy character development here. I really want some Tikki Death Punch, haha.  What’s George S. like in bed…. transitions to what “the guys” are like. Joey (kiddie ride at the park, put a quarter in and he just goes LOL). Chandler, mixed opinions, with Monica giving him more credit. Ross… Rachel gets lost in imagining him in bed. Hmm.  😉

The comedic flow of “Friends” really gets rolling in this episode.  The cast seems much more comfortable together as a group. Joey in particular felt much less stilted. I absolutely loved Jennifer Aniston’s acting in this episode. She brought a whole different layer to Rachel’s character. On the rewatch, this is the first episode that really hit that sweet spot between humor and the specific hardships of its 20-something cast that made/makes this show so relatable… and timeless.

Best joke:

“What if we don’t get magic beans? What if all we get are… beans?”

Grade:  A

Joe

Overall thoughts: Oh snap this is the episode where Ross gets hit in the face with a puck, I love this one, but Ross is freaking insufferable with the Carol whining. I think I sense a theme here with Ross being whiny. And there is a pack of Woo girls, HIMYM totally took a play on that for their show. I’m glad Rachel ditches her old friends they seriously suck, they kind of remind me of the women from Sex in the City. Sleep overs with Phoebe seem hilarious, especially since she rocks a onesy all night.

So many cameos from actors that I have seen in other stuff but can’t remember their name. Their balcony is so freaking awesome, much better than the HIMYM one where you have to climb out on the fire escape to get to it, I do really like the Chinese lantern outside I never really noticed it before. They like to play board games a lot, I’m also very pro board game. I was very glad to see some character development this episode, Ross is obviously having a tough time and Rachel is as well. Hmmmm they are probably setting that up for their kiss, which I think happens soon.

Best joke: “I think I’m just going to go home and think about my wife and her lesbian lover.” – Ross

“Forget hockey, lets all go home and do that” – Joey

hahahha I actually lol’d at this.

Grade: B+

Another solid first season episode, this is one that I remembered from Ross getting a puck to the face, it was still pretty damn funny on the rewatch.

Friends Re-Watch: Season 1, Episode 3: “The One With the Thumb”

Episode 1×03 “The One With the Thumb”

Ross discovers the fate of his childhood pet, Chichi. Chandler starts smoking again; when the group complains, he diverts their attention to their own faults. Phoebe gets money she doesn’t want; she complains and gets more; she gives it away and gets a can of soda in return… which contains a thumb. The beverage company gives her $7000. Monica’s new boyfriend (Alan) is a hit with her friends, but Monica’s not too sure.

Ellie

Overall thoughts:  Chandler smoking.  Joey’s actually a pretty good actor. Aww the dog.  Alan!  Subtle 90’s dick jokes. LOL.  The softball game is pure gold.  Chandler’s covert smoking made me laugh, but not as much as his super dated computer.  Phoebe is such a gem!  Joey’s hair looks gross.  Monica’s outfits continue to be horrib…bly on trend for 1994.

This is kind of a bland episode, with a few bright spots. The Alan plot was pretty funny, but the bit went on too long. Not my favorite episode so far, although I did love Phoebe’s plot with the thumb and magical money.

Best joke:

The breakup conversation Monica has with the gang when she tells them she’s breaking up with Alan.

Monica: I’ll meet someone else! There’ll be other Alans!

Or

Ross: “Yeah. He could row like a Viking.”

Grade:  B-

Joe

Overall thoughts: Ohhh Chandler’s going to smoke, he loves it so much but knows its so bad for him. Chandler and Monica have pretty good chemistry right off the bat too. That’s a sweet football phone, I feel like I had one or knew someone who did. Why does everyone have softball episodes, I remember Seinfeld had several of them through the years too. OMG Chandlers computer is so old and I wonder if you could smoke inside buildings still the first year of this show, since he was doing it in the coffee shop. Oh and there we get the title of the episode I couldn’t remember what it was referencing it took forever to get there, thumb in the soda! Okay I finally put 2 and 2 together and see that Iridium is the name of the restaurant Monica works at. The giant cordless phone is awesome. Only seven thousand dollars for a thumb in your soda?? People would sue for millions now a days. There is a lot of sitting around eating food, exactly what I like doing with my friends.

Best joke: “If only he were a woman (Chandler)” – Ross

Grade: C+

The least funny of the first three but still good.

Friends Re-Watch: Season 1, Episode 2: “The One With the Sonogram at the End”

Episode 1×02 “The One With the Sonogram at the End”

Description:  Ross finds out his ex-wife (Carol) is pregnant, and he has to attend the sonogram along with Carol’s lesbian life-partner, Susan. Ugly Naked Guy gets a thigh-master. Ross and Monica’s parents come for dinner, which stresses Monica out. Ross and Rachel console each other. Rachel returns the ring to Barry, who is much less upset about thebreak-up than expected.

Ellie

Overall thoughts:  Different Carol, same Susan. LOL.  Ugly Naked Guy!  Ross’s tie.  Now that there’s a baby involved, the stakes are higher for Ross. Comic relief from Joey eating the lasagna. Ross is the favorite child. Why do Monica’s parents hate her? I love that they hang out at a coffee shop and not a bar.  They changed Barry’s last name from Finkle to Farber. Good choice.

There were many Ross/Rachel moments in this episode that made me smile. I really enjoy their chemistry.  I thought the best part of this episode was when Ross, Susan, and Carol saw the baby for the first time on the sonogram.  I appreciated how well that scene balanced humor with a serious situation, something which Friends continuously does well during its entire run. This episode was not as funny as the pilot, but that’s probably because of the higher emotional stakes and more serious subject matter.

Best joke:

Carol: Is this a bad time?

Ross: No… it’s the stone age.

Grade:  B

Joe

Overall thoughts: This episode is obviously about Ross finding out his lesbian ex-wife is pregnant with his baby, just typing that is funny. Rachel is the worst employee ever. Whoa,  its a different Carol and I love Ross is putting a display together for work, I want to do that! Monica is so OCD, Courtney Cox plays her so perfectly. First Ugly Naked Guy joke, Thigh Master eww. Joey is so much more himself this episode, in the pilot he seemed a little off. The  Geller’s Parents are introduced really early, I like them. Monica fat shaming has also started from when she was a teenager and chunky, Ross is such a golden child, on second thought I don’t like the elder Geller’s. Still the original Susan that I remember though, the Sonogram scene is so cringe worthy. Rachel’s ex-fiance is so douchey.

Best joke: “I’m the only one in here who…Stands erect.” – Ross

Paleontology joke hooray!

Grade: B+

Solid second episode, Ross is so hilarious and sad and mopey but can you really blame him. “When did it get so complicated” – Rachel. This show is so great.

Friends Re-Watch: Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

Episode 1×01 “Pilot/ The One Where Monica Gets A Roomate”

Description:  Rachel leaves Barry at the alter and moves in with Monica. Monica goes on a date with Paul the wine guy, who turns out to be less than sincere. Ross is depressed about his failed marriage. Joey compares women to ice cream. Everyone watches Spanish soaps. Ross reveals his high school crush on Rachel.

Ellie

Overall thoughts:  I still remember all the words to the theme song.  Joey and Monica look the most “1994.” I think the most likable/funny character right off the bat is Chandler, but the most sympathetic character is Ross. It’s clear that they are setting up Ross and Rachel as end game… reminded me of the opening scene of How I Met Your Mother when Ted first meets Robin.  Monica’s overalls are completely ridiculous. Paul The Wine Guy is a douche.  Joey’s hair could be its own character.

Overall, I think this is a solid pilot episode. I thought it did a good job of introducing each character and making us sympathize with them. However, I think it relied a bit too much on stereotypes. Although most of the jokes landed, a few fell flat. And, of course, the pop culture references were really dated.  But I laughed more times than not, so for me, it was successful.

Best joke:

Ross: I just want to be married again.

Chandler:  And I just want a million dollars!

Grade:  B+

Joe

Overall thoughts: Awwww that theme song, I remember the music video by the band too but I can’t remember the name of them. Everything looks super dated and hilarious, if this was a pilot in 2014 it would have been a smart phone in Chandler’s dream. Ross’ wife being a lesbian seems like it would have been pretty progressive for this time, but idk. Ross and Rachel are totally endgame and I always thought they would end up together. Joey looks ridiculous, actually everyone is dressed ridiculous.

They all have such lavish apartments, especially Monica’s, I always thought it was unrealistic. I can see Ross having that nice of one being a Paleontologist (I wanted to be one forever growing up), but the rent controlled one is awfully convenient. Speed Racer Poster, no foosball table yet! First 80’s/90’s reference by Ross I didnt get. The transition music showing NYC stock footage between “commercial breaks” is annoying. I didn’t remember Monica cooking at work and the whole guy tricking Monica into sleeping with him plot line.

Best joke: “Sometimes I wish I was a Lesbian” – Chandler

Grade: B

The Pilot is dated but a very solid start to arguably one of the best sitcoms of all time. I want to know more about all of the characters. It was still funny now and pretty nostalgic overall.

Friends Re-Watch Commencement

My wife and I watch a lot of television. We mostly prefer binge watching them on Amazon Prime or HBO Go. Being caught up to a show that is on weekly television I find to be especially annoying. It’s like waiting for years for the last or next book in a series that you really like (I’m looking at you Kingkiller Chronicles book 3). The current and recent shows we have been enjoying include: How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Rec, Modern Family, Supernatural, Grimm, Dr Who, Orphan Black, Sherlock, True Detective, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Haven, Sleepy Hollow… Like I said we watch A LOT of television.

We like to treat our watching as research though, and several of the shows like Supernatural and Modern Family we like to watch several times because they are awesome or funny and when we write our own show we want it to be awesome and funny too. For Christmas I got some Screenwriting software called, Script It. My wife has had aspirations of being a television writer for quite some time and I need to write more in general so we loaded it up on a laptop and have been working on ideas and writing ever since. We hope to make this a regular occurrence during 2015 and write several Spec Scripts for current shows that are on the air and an original pilot or two. There are quite a few contests that you can enter original and Spec Scripts into and we have aspirations of at least getting feedback on our writing and perhaps even placing in one or two of them.

So in keeping with the theme of writing and everyday and researching the craft we want to excel in we are going to start a re-watch of the classic sitcom Friends and blog the experience. My wonderful, and vastly superior writer of a Wife will be joining me for the duration of this re-watch and giving her two cents about each episode as well. This was one of my favorite shows growing up and was at the height of it’s popularity during my teenage years, my wife is a little younger but it is still one of her favorite shows as well. If not for Seinfeld and Buffy this would probably be my favorite show of the 90’s.

We will be having a standard format for each of our entries as seen below.

Episode:  1×01 “Pilot”

Description:  Rachel leaves Barry at the alter and moves in with Monica. Monica goes on a date with Paul the wine guy, who turns out to be less than sincere. Ross is depressed about his failed marriage. Joey compares women to ice cream. Everyone watches Spanish soaps. Ross reveals his high school crush on Rachel.

Ellie

Overall thoughts:

Best joke:

Grade:

Joe

Overall thoughts:

Best joke:

Grade: