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gnashfink

GnashFink

UNITED STATES

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Picture of a movie: Galaxy Quest
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Galaxy Quest
2000
The sci-fi television series "Galaxy Quest", which took place aboard the intergalactic spaceship NSEA Protector, starred Jason Nesmith as suave Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, Gwen DeMarco as sexy communications person Lt. Tawny Madison (a role which consisted solely of repeating what the computer stated, much to Gwen's chagrin), Shakespearean trained Sir Alexander Dane as alien Dr. Lazarus, Fred Kwan as engineer Tech Sergeant Chen, and Tommy Webber as child pilot Laredo. Eighteen years after the series last aired, it lives on in the hearts of its rabid fans. However, it lives on in infamy for its stars, who have not been able to find meaningful acting work since. Their current lives revolve around cashing in on however those roles will afford, which usually entails attending fan conventions or worse, such as electronic store openings. Only Jason seems to relish his lot in life, until he finds out that his co-stars detest him because of his superior attitude as "the Commander", and much of the public considers him a laughing stock. Their lives change when Jason is approached by who he thinks are convention fans asking for help. They are in reality an alien race called Thermians, led by Mathesar, who have modeled their existence after the series, which they believe to be real. When Jason and then the rest of his co-stars (along with Guy Fleegman, who was killed off before the opening credits in only one episode) go along with the Thermians, Jason's co-stars who believe they are off to yet another paying gig, they learn that they have to portray their roles for real. Without screenwriters to get them to a happy and heroic ending, they have to trust that their play acting will work, especially in dealing with the Thermians' nemesis, General Sarris. Guy in particular fears that he will go the way his character did on the series. But when they run across technical issues that they as actors didn't care anything about during the filming of the series and thus now don't know how to deal with, they need to find someone who should know what to do.
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Picture of a book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Books
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick
I could say that I love Dick, but that would be weird. I do very much enjoy Philip K. Dick's writing and though this is not one of his best, the "Pizza and Sex Rule" applies to him; ie. just as even bad pizza and / or sex is still pretty good, bad PKD is as well. And this is not bad at all. The first mistake that a new reader would make is to watch Blade Runner and expect a novelization of that film; it was LOOSELY based upon the book. I'm a big fan of the Ridley Scott film starring Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, but the movie diverged from Phillip K. Dick's literature early on. The book is far more bleak than the film, if you can believe that, and much more intricate and complicated. Blade Runner benefits from a simplified storyline. The author was far ahead of his time both in the complexity of his story and the perspective from which he writes. There are elements of Brave New World, I, Robot, and Dune; but the author has a unique voice and the story is an original. It is not an excellent work, as there are gaps and inconsistencies and many loose ends that are never tied in, but the concept and provocation are superb.One element of the book that was completely left out of the film was a sub-plot involving a Christ-like messiah and a faith system based upon what could have been a hoax. First published in 1968, this was one of his more theological based novels, and a trend that would continue steadily becoming more frequent and invasive until the end of his writing.A MUST read for PKD fans as well as SF/F fans period.
Picture of a book: The Stranger
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Books
The Stranger
Albert Camus
I don’t know what to do with these stars anymore. I give stars to books and then I think, ‘god, you give five stars to everything, people will think you are terribly undiscriminating’ – so then I give four stars or even three stars to some books. Then I look back and it turns out that that I’ve given four stars to Of Human Bondage and honestly, how could I possibly have thought it was a good idea to give that book less than five stars? It is the absurdity of human conventions that has us doing such things.Now, that is what is called a segue, from the Italian ‘seguire’ – to follow. For the last thirty years I have studiously avoided reading this book. I have done that because for the last thirty years I have known exactly what this book is about and there just didn’t seem any point in reading it. In high school friends (one of them even became my ex-wife) told me it was a great book about a man condemned to die because he was an outsider. Later I was told that this book was a story about something much like the Azaria Chamberlain case. A case where someone does not react in a way that is considered to be ‘socially appropriate’ and is therefore condemned.But after 30 years of avoiding reading this book I have finally relented and read it. At first I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it. It didn’t really get off to the raciest of starts and the character's voice – it is told in first person – was a bit dull. He is a man who lives entirely in the present, how terribly Buddhist of him – although, really there doesn’t seem to be all that much to him.My opinion of the book began to change at his mother’s funeral. I particularly liked the man who kept falling behind in the march to the cemetery and would take short cuts. Okay, so it is black humour, but Camus was more or less French – so black humour is more or less obligatory.I really hadn’t expected this book to be nearly so funny as it turned out. I’d always been told it was a ponderous philosophical text – and so, to be honest, I was expecting to be bored out of my skull. I wasn’t in the least bit bored.A constant theme in my life at present is that I read ‘classics’ expecting them to be about something and they end up being about something completely different. And given I’ve called this a ‘constant’ theme then you might think I would be less than surprised when a read a new ‘classic’ and it turns out to be completely different to my expectations. I’m a little more upset about this one than some of the others, as I’ve been told about this one before, repeatedly, and by people I’d have taken as ‘reputable sources’ – although, frankly, how well one should trust one’s ex-wife in such matters is moot.I had gotten the distinct impression from all of my previous discussions about this book that the guy ends up dead. In fact, this is not the case – he ends up at the point in his life where he has no idea if he will be freed or not. The Priest who comes to him at the end is actually quite certain that he will be freed. Let’s face it, he is only guilty of having murdered an Arab, and as we have daily evidence, Westerners can murder Arabs with complete impunity. The main point of the book to me is when he realises he is no longer ‘free’. He needs this explained to him – because life up until then had been about ‘getting used to things’ and one can 'get used to just about anything'. But the prison guard helpfully informs him that he is being ‘punished’ and the manifestation of that punishment is the removal of his ‘freedom’. Interestingly, he didn’t notice the difference between his past ‘free’ life and his current ‘unfree’ one. The most interesting part of the book to me was the very end, the conversation with the priest. The religious often make the mistake of thinking that Atheists are one thing – I’ve no idea how they ever came to make this mistake, but make it they do. Given that there are thousands upon thousands of different shades of Christians – from Jesuit Catholics to Anti-Disney Episcopalians – it should be fairly obvious that something like Atheism (without any ‘organised’ church or even system of beliefs) could not be in anyway ‘homogeneous’.I am definitely not the same kind of Atheist as Camus. To Camus there is no truth, the world is essentially absurd and all that exists is the relative truth an individual places on events and ideas. This makes the conversation with the priest fascinatingly interesting. To the priest the prisoner who is facing death is – by necessity – someone who is interested in God. You can play around with ideas like the non-existence of God when it doesn’t seem to matter (life is long and blasphemy can seem fun) – but surely when confronted with the stark truth of the human condition any man would turn away from their disbelief and see the shining light.Not this little black duck. Now, if I was in that cell I would have argued with the priest too – but I would not have argued in the same way that Meursault argues. No, I do not believe in God, but I do believe in truth, and so Camus’ arguments are barred to me.Meursault essentially says, “Look, I’m bored, I’m totally uninterested in the rubbish you are talking – now go away”. Now, this is a reasonable response. What is very interesting is that the priest cannot accept this as an answer. The world is not allowed to have such a person in it – if such a person really did exist then it would be a fundamental challenge to the core beliefs of the priest. So, he has to assume Meursault is either lying to him or is trying to taunt him. But it is much worse – he is absolutely sincere, he is not interested in this ‘truth’.I don’t know that the world is completely meaningless, it is conventional rather than meaningless. That those conventions are arbitrary (decided by the culture we grew up in) doesn’t make them meaningless, it makes them conventional. I don’t think I would like to live in a world where people go up and kill Arabs pretty much at random and with impunity, but then again, we have already established this is precisely the world I do live in. My point is that it would be better if we did adhere to some sort of moral principles and that these should be better principles than ‘he should be killed because he didn’t cry at his mum’s funeral’. Camus is seeking to say that all of our ‘moral principles’ in the end come to be as meaningless as that – we judge on the basis of what we see from the framework of our own limited experience. And look, yes, there is much to this – but this ends up being too easy.The thing I like most about Existentialism, though it isn’t really as evident in this book as it is in the actual philosophy – although this is something that Meursault is supposed to have grown to understand (sorry, just one more sub-clause) even though this wasn’t something I noticed at all while reading the book, was the notion of responsibility. I didn’t think in the end Meursault was all that much more ‘responsible’ for his actions than he had been at the start. But I do think that ‘responsibility’ is a key concept in morality and one that seems increasingly to be ignored.Better by far that we feel responsible for too much in our lives than too little – better by far that we take responsibility for the actions of our governments (say) than to call these governments ‘them’. I’m not advocating believing in The Secret - but that if one must err, better to err on the side of believing you have too much responsibility for how your life has turned out, rather than too little.So, what can I say? I enjoyed this much more than I expected – but I’m still glad I waited before reading it, I really don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of it at 15 as I did now.
Picture of a book: Anansi Boys
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Books
Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman
I laughed out loud. While reading. In a Japanese rice bowl joint. Okay, so maybe it was more of a chortle, but it was definitely out loud. And more than just the once. Patrons quietly minding their own business while slogging through their Number Three Specials With Extra Tokyo Beef would be startled into wakefulness to see me - chopsticks in one hand, book in the other - as my grizzled maw broke forth with guffaws and irrepressible smiles.Really, Anansi Boys may be the first thing I've read from Neil Gaiman that I liked. I never got into Sandman (though I'm told I should have persevered). I never finished American Gods (though I'm told I should have persevered). I never finished 1602 (despite guessing that I should have persevered).Still, not only did I like it but I loved it. Enough that I gave my copy to someone else to read and purchased a second copy for another friend. And I'm certain they'll want to do similar things with the book.Anansi Boys is at all times funny, adventurous, and charming. And several other over-used adjectives. In fact, Anansi Boys may be the prototype from which overused adjectives should have come - before they were overused. I'm not sure that Anansi Boys is great literature and I'm not sure that it isn't. What I am certain of beyond any shadow of doubtfulness is that Anansi Boys may be the most fun I have ever had reading a novel.There may be others that I enjoyed more but my experience of this book was such that it pushed (if even momentarily) all other books from my mind. Someone on the back suggests that the book will make you love and be grateful for spiders. Critics and the things they say, huh? Well, I don't love spiders, but dang was this book good.The end.p.s. Anyone thinking of reading Blue like Jazz or Against Christianity or something by Karl Barth should definitely read this first. 'Cuz I mean what if you died after finishing the next book on your queue? It would be an all time tragedy to have wasted hours reading Donald Miller when there is something like Anansi Boys out there. Plus, it's just as spiritual.
Picture of a book: Fight Club
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Books
Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk
You do not talk about Fight Club, but...Upon winning the Oregon Book Award for best novel and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, Chuck Palahniuk’s visionary debut novel, Fight Club, was shot to the veins of mainstream fiction. Following the success of its 1999 film adaptation directed by David Fincher, Fight Club gained cult classic status and has become a disturbingly accurate interpretation of our modern world.The unnamed male narrator, suffering from a long streak of insomnia, finds cure by attending cancer support groups. But when Marla Singer—a sallow, heavy-smoking nihilist—enters the evening meetings and mirrors his own fraud, his insomnia returns, so he confronts Singer to split schedules with him.On the night when his condominium mysteriously blows up, he calls Tyler Durden, whom he had previously met—under strange circumstances—on a beach. They agree to meet at a bar, where, after drinking, Durden asks him a favor, “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” The narrator swings the punch that cradled Fight Club into the world. Shortly, a multitude of men with white-collar jobs join them. Every weekend, in the parking lots and basements of bars, they hold these late-hour no-holds-barred-and-barefisted fights that “go on as long as they have to.”These one-on-one melees curiously evoke psychotherapeutic effects—resembling that of enlightenment—within the men: they are reborn from their entombed lives.Fight Club soon evolves into Project Mayhem, an anarchic army led by Durden, who seeks to fulfill his visions of global enlightenment through organized chaos, public unrest, and demolition.Fight Club is a social satire on the dehumanizing effects of consumerism: alienation brought by chronic materialism, illusory comforts, overindulgence, and career and lifestyle obsessions fueled by advertising. “The modern world is for business—not for the people,” as what the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung said.“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.” Skillfully fusing Zen elements with Durden’s extremist ideologies, Palahniuk has written a provocative expression of metaphysical rebellion. The collective revolt against the existential vacuum is Durden’s nucleus and what draws men toward him.Fight Club’s noir ambience and the solid economy of its prose are reminiscent of Albert Camus’s The Stranger, but with the sharp nonlinear narration executing its plot; inheriting Kurt Vonnegut’s dark humor, Chuck Palahniuk is among today’s distinct and intriguing voices.
Picture of a book: Cloud Atlas
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Books
Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell
A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profund as it is playful. Now in his new novel, David Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . .Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.
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