Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Shallows, Athena, Andromeda’s Rock

I saw the shark movie The Shallows, but this won’t be an actual movie review. I’ll just say there was a lot of blood, so if you don’t like the sight of that, you may want to avoid it.

I mainly went to see the movie for research purposes: It featured a woman trapped on a small rock in the sea. That was the predicament of Andromeda. You might remember she was a princess in Greek mythology who was chained to a rock, waiting for a sea monster to eat her. Usually she is portrayed as chained to a vertical rock face (and this is often just an excuse for artists to paint a naked woman).

But the Andromeda’s Rock is located off the coast of Israel. Yes, Greek myths could be rather far-flung. It is a horizontal bit of rock, and I think the flag is not much taller than a man.

photo by אני צילמתי 
Sorry, no nude art

Here is an excerpt from one of my Athena stories, where Athena and another immortal visit Andromeda, but not to rescue her.


They circled lower, towards a crude but level rock that barely jutted out of the sea. Water lapped at all sides. The rock was barely wide enough for a man to walk a few paces from one jagged edge to the other, but the figure who stood there was a woman. Not yet in her twentieth year, she faced the city and its shore, shoulders slumped in exhaustion, looking for help that refused to come.

When Athena had descended far enough, she flew within range of the woman’s vision, barely above the waves. She landed on the rock as slowly as she could. “Andromeda, don’t be afraid. I want to give you some comfort.”

Andromeda stared back at her, eyes wide. White flakes of salt encrusted her dark hair and her robe. Too stunned to reply, she stood tense and afraid. Then hope flared in her eyes. “You’ve come to rescue me! I won’t have to die! I won’t have to die!”

Her hands gestured wildly, but she couldn’t lift them above her waist. Chains led from her wrists to where they were fastened to cruel iron bands in the black rock beneath her feet. The chains were not meant to prevent her from escaping: No mortal would disobey the ban by rowing out here in a boat to rescue her. The iron links were to prevent her from being swept off the rock prematurely. She was meant to be a living sacrifice. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review of BrainDead

A lot of the creative talent for movies has gone into television in recent years, so I’ll start a new category of reviews: TV series. (If I ever get Wi-Fi, I’ll have to change the name.)

So a delightful new show is BrainDead, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tony Shalhoub. This was my favorite premier since the Battlestar Galactica mini-series in 2003. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Laurel Healey, a new congressional aide who has to learn fast the cynical ways of politics in the employ of her brother, Senator Healy. With an offer from Gareth (Aaron Tveit), an aide from the other side of the aisle, she has to run through Washington, D.C. to try to prevent a government shutdown.

She doesn’t succeed, because her side wants the government to shut down so they can blame the other side. A lot of whimsy that feels authentic goes into this, and the political humor is at the forefront, so the alien takeover of some people’s minds is more on the back burner.

Yes, a multitude of aliens in the form of tiny bugs are in town. They go into the human ear, like what happened to poor Chekhov in Star Trek II, and the people become strangely creepy, like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The funny thing is, Luke’s boss Senator Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub) becomes more efficient at cutthroat politics. He goes from a drunk who longs for a masseuse to being a glad-handing dealmaker who upturns Washington. This is bad for Gareth, since it makes Laurel think he’s a backstabber.

What Senator Wheatus done is normal, but you should see the evil look that Tony Shalhoub puts on his face as he does the scene. If you’ve never seen evil Tony Shalhoub before, you’re in for a treat.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the center of the show, and her face is fascinating to watch, whether she’s showing anxiety, bewilderment, concern, or whatever she’s feeling towards Luke.

BrainDead is on CBS on Monday nights at 10:00 pm. (Or you can figure out some way to catch up online.) The creators are Michelle King and Robert King, and the executive producer is Ridley Scott. Yes, the Ridley Scott of Alien.

As delightful as this premier was, there were some political mistakes. If political details make your eyes glaze over, of if you don’t like spoilers, do not press the Read More button.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book Purge V

Just stick that bookmark in the back of your throat and gag. (Book Purge IV somehow didn’t get posted, but Book Purge III is here.) These are books that I either liked but won’t read again, or was just disappointed in. This time there were 6 non-fiction hardcovers, 2 fiction hardcovers, 3 fiction trade paperbacks, and 4 fiction mass-market paperbacks.

I won’t show the fiction covers because I don’t want to offend the publishers

What they’re willing to pay is definitely going down. These books were in pristine condition, and I think that two years ago I would have been given $10 for half the quantity. This year I was only given $11. 

E-books are definitely having an impact. If you can get on Amazon The Martin Luther Collection for 1.99 or Through the Brazilian Wilderness by Theodore Roosevelt for free, that shows the pressure. Plus there are all those used books for $0.01 (plus $3.99 for shipping).

So if you do your own book purge and do not get offered much, please don’t gripe. The used bookstores are facing a frightening landscape. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bill Gates Memorized His Employees’ License Plates

So, you think your boss gets on you? Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was famous for the long hours he put in at work. But what if you worked for him and didn’t put in the same amount of time? He had a solution for that: Bill Gates MEMORIZED HIS EMPLOYEES’ LICENSE PLATES!

photo by Ricardo Stuckert/ABr 

That way he could look out his window and see who was in. This was from the man who memorized the moves of several chess games he had played.

He lightened up later on.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Movie Review: The Lobster—Overdone

This isn’t a full review, because I try to keep this blog a positive one. This is a matter of clearing up expectations. If you want to see a droll comedy that sends up society’s expectations concerning marriage, The Lobster isn’t it. It’s more of an art film that’s meant to mess with you.

And I can’t make sense of the poster, either

The premise is that David is suddenly single, and he has forty-five days to successfully find true love with a woman, or he will be changed into an animal. He chooses a lobster. Hence the title. But that’s just the first half of the movie. And although there are several references to these transformations, that element was not essential to the story. 

So if you want to see an artsy movie that has nonsensical dialog, grotesque sexuality, violence against animals, and long pauses, The Lobster may be for you. But it’s not for anyone who just wanted some hilarious social satire.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Drone Fly-By

So I was relaxing in a park in Bellevue (a suburb of Seattle) on Memorial Day when I heard a distant buzzing sound. Sure enough, when I looked up from the beach towel I was lying on, a drone was flying high above.

photo by Radosław Drożdżewski

(The actual drone was more yellow. I was too relaxed to take a picture.)

A couple nearby also spotted it and pointed upward. The woman was more disturbed about it than the man was.

To me, it’s just a part of life now. Seattle is now in the top twenty cities in the U.S. for drone usage. As a reminder, here’s how someone buzzed the Space Needle with a drone, which was legally questionable and should not be attempted.


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