Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope

infinitiesanewhope16 years later, I finally read Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope.  If you’re not familiar with the title, the Infinities series is basically a “What If” series of comics published by Dark Horse in the early 2000’s, starting with A New Hope in 2001.

I first picked up issues 2, 3, and 4 – probably 16 years ago – based on the cover of the books; at the time, I couldn’t find issue #1 in the comic book shop, so I never read the books.  Finally, this year, I found the first issue and got to reading.

Overall, I’d give the series a 3.5/5.  The first issue is definitely the weakest, starting off with a quick summary of what really happened in A Ne w Hope, with some narration boxes saying…”what if something changed” (I paraphrase)?  In the case of SWI:ANH (my abbreviation), the detail that changes is Luke’s torpedoes fail to destroy the Death Star.

What follows is that the Rebel Base gets mostly destroyed, but the Rebels  manage to escape…for a few minutes.  Han and Luke believe that Leia is dead, triggering a massive angry outburst from Luke.  They manage to escape, and on starts this new saga.

I think the best part of this story has to be the depiction of Coruscant as the seat of the Empire, taking familiar locations from Episodes I and II and flipping them around.  For instance, the artists draw the Jedi Tower almost exactly as it appears in the prequel films, but use it as the Emperor’s private residence.  It’s a very fitting place for the Emperor to set up shop, really.  But the artist team get the details perfect, including the landing platforms that are used as well.  I recognize them all from the prequel trilogy.

Overall the writing is pretty sharp and tight.  I recently read the Dark Empire series from Dark Horse, and didn’t really enjoy the writing in that series.  However, the story progresses well for Infinities and the character choices make sense.  Well, Han doesn’t really have much to do other than shuttle Luke around – but I liked the sequence where Han, Luke and Chewie head to Dagobah.  That part does work.

If you can track the series down at some point, I definitely recommend it.  I’m going to look for the other Infinities series soon – hopefully they’re just as good.  Next up though, I have the first 12 volumes of the new Darth Vader series on the way to my mailbox, so I’m looking forward to getting started with that.

Public Domain Images from New York Public Library

Categorize this as super cool.  I found out via The Verge that the New York Public Library uploaded somewhere around 200,000 images that can be used freely by anyone.

The NYPL website can be found here – and there’s a lot to explore.  Not sure exactly how to do it yet, but I will definitely have to do some exploring soon for some neat images.  The featured image of this post comes from a ‘then-and-now‘ section of the archive, which compares images from 1911 5th Avenue to 2015 5th Avenue.  I really like that kind of photo comparison, I find it neat to see how much has stayed the same.

There’s some really cool images of American history to be found here – so take some time to check it out!

Looking Back at Old Reviews

For some reason while writing yesterday’s post, I went looking at older posts from my old blog.  One thing that struck me immediately was that I wrote very prolifically, and with just about the same enthusiasm as I am with this blog.  A lot of the early posts are reviews of different pieces of media I’ve consumed recently, and my overall thoughts about them.

With one of my goals for 2017 being to read more, I thought I would have a look at some of the things I’ve read over the years.  I’ve identified a few things that I want to have another look at, based on my original reactions and the fact that I don’t remember what they’re about anymore.

Hunter by Wil Wheaton.  This appears to be an eBook that Wil Wheaton originally released as a pay-what-you-can title.  You can pick it up from Amazon for 75 cents, and apparently I really liked it the last time I read it, so that sounds like a steal.  According to this post, I originally paid $1.00.  Well worth it.

I, Robot by Cory Doctorow.  From the same post I reviewed Hunter, I reviewed I, Robot as well.  These two stories sound like they would make a good sci-fi double-header and darn it all, I wish I knew what twist I was talking about!

I wasn’t getting why it was titled “I, Robot” until the payoff at the very end.

World of Wonders by Robertson Davies.  I don’t think I ever finished this novel, the third and final piece of the Deptford Trilogy.  In fact I might want to re-read Fifth Business and The Manticore before I come back to World of Wonders.  This might be on the back-burner, as I have several other novels I want to read through this year.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  I read his latest novel Armada last year, and liked it a lot.  It’s been in the back of my head to re-read Ready Player One for a while, so maybe I’ll do that at some point.

I think that’s all I need to revisit for now.  I thought there might have been more, but I don’t have time to read through all my old posts at the moment.

Goals For 2017

open-road-757949_1280Cloudy Open Road – Original photo: https://pixabay.com/p-757949/?no_redirect

I hesitate to make these kinds of posts because then it (technically) means I need to publicly follow up on them.  But I recognized that I didn’t actually set any goals for myself this year, so in search of content, this seems to be a good place and time to set them.

  1. Remain organized.
    Sometime over a year and a half ago, I started a Bullet Journal because I needed a way to become organized – something that I couldn’t figure out digitally despite all the available tools.  I’ve found the Bullet Journal system to be amazingly helpful, and have molded it to be useful particularly to me.  My first journal is almost complete, so the goal this year is to just keep it up.  I’m not worried about adding complexities to it, but will probably change things up a bit in my new book.
  2. Be a positive example.
    Too often we are quick to complain and vent on social media.  This isn’t something I do a lot, but am completely guilty of it from time to time.  The reason this came to mind – last week I had a poor experience at a fast food restaurant, and considered posting about it in comparison to my experiences working in fast food.  I decided not to.  I want to be more willing to forgive, and be more patient, putting things in perspective.  If I’m driven enough to complain, then I should go through official channels and do so (such as company surveys, etc.).
  3. Lose the weight.
    This one is simple.  I lost quite a bit of weight in the past, but I’ve put it back on.  The goal is to take it off, and keep it off.  This will always be a struggle.
  4. Learn more about driving social media engagement.
    I’d like to get more engagement from social media for both my podcast and this blog.  My goal for this blog specifically is to get people reading my stuff and talking to me / asking questions.
  5. Write more.
    This is the general purpose of this blog.  There will be some things I’ll write that won’t see the light of day on the blog, because I write them in a notebook, but I’ll do my best to transpose anything that I don’t type to this space.  Currently I am posting something at least once every day, and I’m a day ahead.  That won’t last forever – there will be some days that will have either really short entries or no entries.  Just trying to maintain momentum right now.
  6. Read more.
    Technically speaking, I met my reading goal last year according to Goodreads.  Great, but I’ve been stuck reading the same book since April of last year.  Yikes.  So most of the “read more” goal is more about making time to read, rather than just reading more.

Follow-up on these items will take place quarterly – next update being sometime in April.  Heck, let’s mark it.  April 18th, 2017.  I’ll start a draft post as a reminder.

Next Generation Memories

I mentioned in a previous post the Mission Log Podcast; currently they’re covering THE NEXT GENERATION (and in a recent episode, indicated they should be getting to the movies in about a year).  It got me thinking about the episodes I remember most fondly compared to the episodes that I appreciate today.

I don’t clearly remember too many episodes from the first three seasons of TNG; in fact I’m pretty sure I never watched season 1’s first run on a regular basis – though I think I can remember an episode where Klingons escaped from the brig by taking their uniform apart.  Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what happened in that episode.  Season 2 is a bit spotty for me as well, but I remember some bits like Elementary, Dear Data and The Big Goodbye (and my memory fails me even now – I just remembered that’s a season 1 episode!).

Season 3 is a little clearer – I still don’t remember all of it (and that’s not surprising – it aired in the 1989-1990 season, so I would have been only 5 and 6 years old), but one of the standouts was Yesterday’s Enterprise, and of course The Best of Both Worlds.  Looking back at the episode list, some of them seem familiar in premise only.  I remember watching Geordi and a Romulan find their way off a stormy planet (The Enemy); Data builds a daughter (The Offspring); and the Ferengi kidnapping Riker and the Troi’s (Melange A Trois).  But watching season 3 in order revealed a lot of things I don’t remember seeing before.

I don’t think I have clear memories of TNG until Season 5 (Darmok being a favourite), but going back to my original point: the episodes I remember really liking were gimmicky shows.  Geordi and Ro are thought dead, but really they’re “phased”; Scotty comes back and drinks something green!  Worf fights a bunch of Datas in the Holodeck as a cowboy.  The crew of the Enterprise travel back in time to the early 20th century.  Data dreams of Troi as a cake.  Q takes Picard back to his academy days.  Stuff like that.

But it strikes me that I’ve learned to appreciate episodes like Family or The Inner Light more than I would have growing up.  I think these concepts would have gone straight over my head when I was younger, because I was more interested in the action-y bits.  But through my teenage to adult years, I became more interested in story and writing, which is why I got into DEEP SPACE NINE so heavily and it’s still my favourite series.  So I now appreciate those deeper TNG episodes.

But while some people contest that the gimmick shows don’t really hold up (and they don’t, as good stories or Star Trek), I still really like them.  I’m able to look past their flaws and still get a kick out of Geordi sending a Romulan through the window, even while asking “well why don’t their feet fall through the floor?”.

Controller Drop

There’s not much more satisfying than playing a really close-matched hockey game and coming out on top.

NHL 15 for PS3

This past weekend I played two of the better games I’ve had against the CPU player in my Be A GM Mode. The first was against Montreal. My team – Ottawa – is dead last in the Eastern Conference in March, so not much to play for. 

Before I continue, allow me to digress a bit. I’ve played EA’s NHL series since NHL 98 and this is the most challenging and realistic version I’ve played yet. In previous years, even the most difficult mode would become the easiest once you figured out the ins and outs of the game. I still haven’t moved up to the hardest level, because the CPU is actually challenging (and not because they get cheap goals, though that happens sometimes too). Which is why my team is last place in the East. 

Anyway, I traded most of my good players away for draft picks in order to improve my team through the draft. I knew I wouldn’t be able to outgun Montreal, so I played conservatively. The Canadiens scored early, but I was able to hold them to a 1 goal through 2. I tied the game and eventually took the lead, holding a one goal lead to the last minute when I scored an empty net goal to seal it. 

That game was so close even the shots were identical for both sides. It was a good match, and that made the win feel extra good. It’s after games like that when I just turn off the PS3 and do something else, because I sure as heck won’t top it.

Arrested Development Season 5?

I just read on Thursday that the full cast of Arrested Development has signed on for Season 5, an article that opened with:

““Arrested Development” fans, prepare yourselves: Season 5 is all but inevitable.”

OK, but do we really need another season?  It sounds like the producers are working hard to create a season that is a little more “organic” than the last season in 2013…the gist I get out of it is that it will likely end up being closer to the first three seasons in terms of scope, rather than the slightly disjointed season 4.

I liked season 4, but I understand why some people didn’t.  It had a very similar style to the original show, but deviated in that it was presented out of order with a lot of information purposefully withheld until the later episodes.  If you were expecting something identical to seasons 1-3, you’d be disappointed.

Frankly I thought it was smart to try something different.  I heard that there was an edit in the works that presented the series in chronological order, but based on the way it was filmed/edited originally, I’m not sure that’s even possible.  I think it might have been boring if it had used the same formula as the previous seasons.  In fact, I would have been happy if they ended it with season 3.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed with that ending.

I won’t be rushing to watch it but likely will if it’s a shorter season.  I think season 4 ended up being a bit on the long side.

Playing Photographer

I’ve always had a fascination with photography.  I can’t say whether it comes from my Dad taking pictures all the time while we were growing up, or if it’s just something I’m drawn to.  But it’s a thing I like to dabble in.

I’m limited by the equipment that I have, for the most part.  But I feel like I have a good eye for composing a nice shot.  The featured image is one that I really like.  I really wish I had the money for a nice camera, but photography can be an expensive hobby that I just don’t want to put money into.  So I do my research and read about how to take a good photo, using the equipment that I have.  Which right now is a Sony Cybershot DSC-H300, and my Samsung Galaxy S7 edge smartphone.

dsc00941
The Moon – I think this is the best I’ve ever captured the moon on camera.

I don’t think one camera is necessarily better than the other.  They certainly excel in different situations.  If I have the time to stop and compose a shot, the Sony DSC is my number one choice.  However, the S7 edge is way more portable, and is certainly capable of composing some great photos.  So most of my pictures are taken from my S7 edge.

The main difference is that the S7 edge provides a lot of tools to make good shots for you. For example, there are numerous plugins you can download for the Samsung Camera, including the awesome “Selective Focus” or “Portrait”.   Whereas with the Sony DSC-H300, I have to think about what I’m doing and make setting changes with a little more thought behind it.

I like to have the option to do both.  Like I said, my phone is inherently more portable than the Sony camera, and I almost always have it on me.  And I’ve taken some great pictures with it – the Pro mode is amazing.  But if I plan for it, I love playing with the Sony Cybershot.

20161126_140432
Woodpecker – I would never have captured this guy if not for my smartphone.

My favourite subject is always going to be the Moon.  Since learning how to manipulate the camera settings I’ve been getting better and better pictures of it.  One day…I’ll figure out shot composition and playing around with photoshop, etc. to make an amazing shot.

What’s your best photo / photo subject?

Podcasts For 2017

I consider podcasts to be one of my areas of expertise.  I’ve been listening to them for over 10 years, and have hosted one for almost as long.  I listen to podcasts almost every day, and subscribe to a lot of them – so I’m always adding or subtracting from my active subscriptions.

Here are three recommendations for 2017 – some of these are older and have been around for a while, and others are a little more recent.  I’m 99% sure that most of these will NOT show up in your typical Buzzfeed list of “most popular podcasts”.

  • The Night Time Podcast – This is a Canadian-produced show based on mysteries and other strange occurrences, mainly in Atlantic Canada, but also stories across the country.  Host Jordan Bonaparte has strong focus on The Curse of Oak Island and Emma Fillipoff and gets some good guests for discussion.  If you were ever a fan of ABC’s Unsolved Mysteries, you’ll like this one.  Can be rough around the edges but Jordan is growing into his hosting duties.
  • Harry Potter & The Sacred Text – OK, this one might show up in one of those “top 10 podcast” lists as it’s been gaining a lot of momentum since it launched sometime in 2016.  The hosts of this show aim to analyze and discuss the Harry Potter book as they would a religious text.  The result is some different view points while reading through the book that I may not have considered before.
  • Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast – This is one that ends up on my lists all the time.  The mission statement is simple: the hosts watch each and every episode of Star Trek (including the animated series – they’re on TNG Season 5 right now), and discuss the morals, meanings, and messages presented.  You don’t need to watch the episodes alongside – they do a great recap – but I highly recommend it, because I know I’ve missed a lot of things I hadn’t noticed before when watching casually.

I subscribe to many more, but a lot of them are even more niche than the ones I recommended above.  If you want some more good ones, ask in the comments!