Thursday, December 29, 2005

Harry Potter and Rob's Annoying Music of 2005

I finally got around to seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over the Christmas weekend. I thought it started out pretty slowly, but once it picked the story flew by very quickly. I am surprised by how much I liked Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, I think he pulled it off very well. However, this really shouldn’t be a surprise, of the movies I’ve seen him in, I thought he acted very well.

It has been about five years since I read the book, but I don’t recall Snape being such a non-presence in this story. I’m not too worried, this changes in the later books. Film wise, this really started to set-up the strong relationship between Harry and Dumbledore and I think this was what worked best in the film. The special effects were very good, too. A lot of the fantastical monsters and creatures looked pretty real.

All told, I thought this was better than the second movie, but the third is still my favorite.

And now, for the music Rob found the most annoying, cringe-inducing, and overplayed this past year:

Green DayAmerican Idiot
I know, technically, this was a 2004 release, but I just couldn’t escape songs from this album this year. I just don’t understand why this is so heavily and widely praised. I get they are making a political statement on this punk-rock concept album, but as musicians, shouldn’t the music be listenable? Wake Me Up When September Ends has to be one of the most cringe-inducing songs I’ve heard this year. Well, except for maybe the atrocious Boulevard of Broken Dreams with its awful lulling bounce that makes me want to pound my head with a hammer. Anything I’ve heard from this album does nothing more than annoy me, and gets the automatic turn of the dial on the radio.

Why this band sells albums is beyond me. Their singer, Chad Kroeger, has about the worst voice in all of rock music, it is nasally and whiny and makes me want to stick a fork in my ear. To call their song Photograph music is an insult to anybody who ever picked up an instrument and the only song that makes me change the dial quicker than Green Day’s September Ends. All I hear whenever Nickelback is on the radio is a cacophony of noise with no harmony, no collective sound, no structure and no coherence.

I’ll pick this album since it is the most recent, but every song I’ve heard from them is like a whinier, crappier more painful version of any Oasis song.

Gwen Stefani
Hollaback Girl has to be one of the 5 most annoying songs of all time. Again, most of the pain-inducing “music” heard this year from her was from her 2004 album, it was still tough to avoid.

And five “classics” that make me cringe...

The Who
Who Are You? I’ll just go with that one, but just about any of their songs. At one time I liked the Who, I saw Tommy and loved it. But now, this band is overplayed beyond reason. Why the song Who Are You is even allowed on radio request hours when you can hear it three times a day if you watch CSI is beyond me.

Lynyrd Skynyrd & The Allman Brothers
Really, they just represent 95% of Southern Rock for me. At least where I live, an hour doesn’t go by without one of these two overplayed bands receiving some sort of airplay on one of the three major rock stations in the NY/NJ area. Just like Who Are You?, Sweet Home Alabama should be banned from all caller request radio shows. I know the Allmans have a big following, I just don’t get why their music is so great.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Another hugely popular band whose music makes me want to stick hot pokers in my ears. Aside from their cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, anything I’ve heard from them makes me want to automatically change the radio station. However, I do acknowledge Flea’s superb bass-playing skills and liked him in Back to the Future movies.

The Clash
Particularly Rock the Casbah. Ugh. UGH. Great, they were punk rock pioneers.

And remember, GO JOIN/VOTE at SFFWORLD for your favorite FSF book of 2005!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fröhliche Weinachten!

Because when Santa runs into trouble on Christmas Eve, he calls on Superman. This comic is one of my favorites, and has been a part of my collection for many years. I remember picking it up, along with a number of the old DC Comics Presents issues, over the period of a couple years at an old shop the next town over from where I grew up. The shop itself was a bit …interesting. It was an old electronics repair shop, which also sold back issues of many comics. Most of the comics were from the late 70s and early 80s, which considering I was about 10 or 12 in the mid eighties, made sense. I still pull this one out and skim over it. I wish I could go back to that store now and rifle through the boxes of comics, I think the highest priced comics were one dollar.

I’ve got this one too. Or at least I did. Over the summer my parents moved into a new house, so I’m not sure if this record made the move with them. I also had some of those old Power rcomics/records, too.

But this picture really begs the question, what is more ridiculous, Superman wearing a Santa hat or Batman wearing a fake Santa’s beard? I’ll go with Bruce in the beard, but let Robin to tell him that. As for Wonder Woman in Santa’s hat, well, that’s a different story.

OK, enough Superhero-Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Festivus!

Fröhliche Weinachten

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Christmas Beer-Feast

I tried this beer last week whilst decorating my Christmas tree and was very happy. Brewed by Bethlehem Brew Works, it has all the spicy goodness associated with Christmas – nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. In sum, it leaves my belly feeling real nice even if it isn’t quite as smooth as Harpoon’s Winter Warmer. In terms of flavor and robustness, it is pretty close. It only comes in 20 oz. bottles and I think it is only available here in NJ as well as NY and PA.

I finished up A Feast for Crows a couple of days ago and it left me wanting more. I re-read the whole series in preparation for the Feast, so Following up A Storm of Swords was a difficult task and ultimately, the two were simply different books.

If you don’t want the book spoiled, stop reading now.

Are you sure you don’t want anything spoiled?

Fine then.

Here goes…

Many people have been judging Feast on what it could have been or should have been, not on what it was. I liked getting in Cersei's head, but gods I thought Tyrion had some daddy issues. He's got nothing on his sweet sister.

Following Jaime's character evolution over the past two books has been one of the strengths of the series. Watching him crumble Cersei's letter near the end of Feast was a powerful scene in which illustrated the culmination of this evolution. He is almost a man without a country and it will be very interesting to see the paths he takes as the series progresses.

One thing I've learned in reading this series, unless the body is in plain view of a town of people, don't consider any character dead - and I wouldn't be surprised (perhaps disappointed) if Ned actually did return. At no point did I (when reading) or do I know think the Clegane brothers are dead. Whether or not they eventually clash is another story, and one that may not even happen. However, both of their stories are incomplete at this point, despite the Hound and the Mountain being indisposed.

Brienne has to be alive, like all have said, much of this book would be useless fodder if she were to have died at's hands. Littlefinger is proving to be perhaps, the most interesting player in the game of thrones.

One thing I've taken as an overriding theme of this particular volume is that of Identity. For example, Arya changed names/identities quite a few times. Granted that's been her M.O. throughout the majority of the series, but it came more into the light here. Sansa is now Ariana, the hound is no more, but we all know Sandor lives. Brienne goes by a couple of names and Samwell of course has a couple of nicknames.

In conclusion, I have to say it was an excellent book - not the strongest volume in the saga, but definitely worthy. Now all I want is more.

And remember, GO JOIN/VOTE at SFFWORLD for your favorite FSF book of 2005!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

SFFWORLD - Best Reads 2005

I know some of my millions--AND MILLIONS--of readers are also members of the SFFWorld Forums I moderate. Yesterday, we began our annual reader poll for Best Reads of 2005. If you are a member, go over and vote for the 2005 book(s) you enjoyed the most.

If you aren't a member and enjoy reading Fantasy and Science Fiction, now is a great opportunity to become a member. Like many forums, it costs nothing and you will meet some interesting people. The only downfall will likely be a marked increase in your reading pile, or the list of books you want to buy and read.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Silver Screen & Screaming Nonesene

I posted my review of Justina Robson's debut novel, Silver Screen today. This one made me think quite a bit. Good stuff, read my review and get more of my indepth thoughts.

Speaking of silver screens, I'm hoping to finally see the new Harry Potter flick this weekend. The last movie I saw in theaters was Batman Begins.

I'm sure people who read my blog have already seen the 534th incarnation of Fantasy is for low-brow idiots and Science Fiction is where the good stuff is at. Scott Lynch, for the most part, said everything that needed to be said.

And lastly, best of luck La Gringa!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Stern Comics and Winter Beer

This is the last week Howard Stern will be on terrestrial radio, and mornings simply will not be the same. You can’t really escape Stern anywhere in the media right now, he’s on the late night talk shows, 60 Minutes and tonight he will be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It is even harder to ignore him here in the NJ/NY area. I’ve been listening for the past 10 or 15 years, and through most of those years, he and his crew have made me laugh. When Opie and Anthony came on the NY radio scene in 1998, I became an instant fan of their show and enjoyed it more than Stern, they were more entertaining and you felt more a part of the show. Still, during my morning commute, Stern would be on the radio. Granted, for the past year or so, he’s been a little more self-absorbed than usual, but funny at times. I really loved the show he had on local NJ channel 9, out of Secaucus, NJ.* I really enjoyed his book and movie, Private Parts, and I remember an old friend had the Butt-Bongo fiesta video. So with this Friday as his last day on 92.3 KROCK, I will be a little sad. However, when I get a new car, hopefully next year, I’ll be getting XM so I can listen to O&A and Ron and Fez.

In other news, last weekend we had the first big snow of the season. As big as the storm was, I didn’t get the sense that the local media was going as apocalyptic as they usually do for these storms. Still, with a driveway that is about 125’ x 10’, I spent a lot of Friday shoveling so I got more of a taste of the snow than I ever did living in the old townhouse.

Some comics-related linkage...

Forbes recently ran a piece on the Fictional Fifteen Richest people. As a follow-up, they recently did a very clever article on the rivalry between Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne.

As is usual in the middle of the month, DC Comics tells us what they are publishing in three months/March. In addition/as a result of the Infinite Crisis, they are pushing storylines ahead one year. Most notable on this list is the writer of both Batman and Detective Comics: James Robinson. His Starman is considered one of the best 90’s superhero books, I absolutely loved what he did with the JSA in The Golden Age mini-series and he helped to revive that group’s ongoing series, as well as Hawkman’s ongoing series. His film-making career, well that’s a different story. All that said, I’m really looking forward to what he does with Batman. I may also pick up the new Blue Beetle series, as well as Busiek’s first issue of Aquaman.

Lastly, with the Christmas season in full swing, I was very happy to have my first bottle of Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig beer over the weekend. This beer is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season. I also love Harpoon’s Winter Warmer; however, Harpoon’s is easier to get. The only way to get the Old Fezziwig is through the Winter Classics Mix Pack. Mmm… Beer.

*I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I attended a taping of the old Richard Bey show there, just about anyone in the NY/NJ area will remember that trash-a-thon of a show.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dimebag & Jaarfindor

One year ago, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbot was murdered in cold blood, performing his music for his fans. Today is also the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, while a great tragedy, doesn’t affect me as much as Dimebag’s death. I grew up with Pantera's music as part of my soundtrack and I saw the band live, maybe 10 years ago, and it was great. Dimebag’s more recent band, Damageplan, was one of the opening acts when I saw Disturbed last year. I was shocked then and every once in a while the senselessness of it just makes me ask why.

On a much more happy note, I just posted my review of Sean Wright's impressive novel, The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

Long December

With December upon us, I can officially state I wasn't NaNoWriMo "winner.” However, I can say I started a novel that I am enjoying writing and I’m 25K closer to seeing this story idea through to the end than I was before I started in November. The basic plot device/elements of this novel started gestating in my head a number of years ago, it was something I felt I could write about and I hope it will appeal to other people as well. I’m thinking of re-working a short story I wrote a couple of years ago into the novel and perhaps submitting the reworked story for publication. There are many writers who start their publishing careers with novels and just as many with short stories to get their name out there. I’m not certain which of these two camps I will fall into right now, all I care about at the moment is telling the story through to the end. Both have their merits, and writers who published both ways will espouse the benefits.

December also marks the time of year when Year in Review and Best of … lists start to appear in various places. SFFWorld will be no different, though it may come more towards the end of the month. I am working on a piece, or rather will start in earnest to work on such a piece with the ever-intrepid Hobbit of SFFWorld shortly.

December is also a great time to plan out reading habits for the next year, as publishers make available more information for books they hope people like me and the readers who visit forums such as SFFWorld and Frameshift will buy and read. I thought 2005 was a great year, but 2006 looks to be pretty impressive, as well. Most of the books are set to publish, with the manuscript at their respective editors. Without further ado:

The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch, BantamSpectra June 2006 (Gollancz UK July)
Scott's name is probably very familiar to a lot of people. Most people (i.e. bloggers and Live Journal users) know his story and now we are all looking forward to what will likely be the debut novel of 2006. Early indications are that this book is incredible. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read Scott's Live Journal, his writing voice is unique and very assured. For a sampling of how well he writes, check out his superlative review of Matt Stover’s Heroes Die.

The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford, Golden Gryphon April 2006
I have yet to be disappointed by anything my fellow New Jersey native has written. His Well-Built City trilogy is one of my favorite series, three books more full of inspired imagination than single volume novels twice the length of this entire trilogy. His award winning short-story collection The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant was probably one of the two or three best books I read this year. Yes I know it came out in 2002, I’m just getting on the short story bandwagon.

Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell, Tor, February 2006
I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of short stories from this very active blogger. Tobias is doing an incredible job of self-promoting his book and recently launched the official Web site for the book. The Earth is in the distant past to inhabitants of a world humans discovered through a worm-hole, it seems like an interesting blending of Fantasy and Science Fiction. And besides, with an incredible cover by Todd Lockwood depicting what look to be pirates on floating vessels, how can you go wrong?

Her Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, Del Rey March 2006
I’ve only recently seen things about Novik’s debut novel, but what I’ve seen impresses me. From what Rick Kleffel says, Del Rey is putting forth a very impressive marketing effort on this one, not the least of which is a blurb from Stephen King! Perhaps the most impressive thing about this book is that the two subsequent books in the trilogy will follow in each subsequent month. This is a blending of Fantasy and Alternate History, as Novik inserts dragons into the Napoleonic Wars. Novik has a cool background too, having worked on the popular Neverwinter Nights game. Like many authors, Novik keeps a LiveJournal giving a peek into her process.

Dusk by Tim Lebbon, BantamSpectra January 2006
This looks like a epic fantasy with a very dark horrific element. Hobbit reviewed for SFFWorld and had many good things to say. Lebbon has been very well-received in Horror circles and his foray into Epic Fantasy should be very interesting. Tim has a Web site specifically for Noreela, the world of Dusk.

Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology edited by Steve Saville and Alethea Kontis, Tor, June 2006
Steve's official author forums are hosted by SFFWorld and is very knowledgeable about the genre. All proceeds from this book go to Save The Children's Tsunami Relief, contributors include: Arthur C. Clarke, Lynn Flewelling, Martha Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Sean Williams, Brian Aldiss, Tim Lebbon, and Michael Marshall Smith. There are more authors, but these are the writers with whom I am most familiar.

Vellum by Hal Duncan, Del Rey April 2006
Yeah, yeah, I know this has officially been published, but I live in America so I’m sticking with the American publishers. The first of a duology, this mixes heavens, hells, the multiverse, angels and technology. My only fear is that all of the very high positive response (or hype, if you will) is setting me up for a let down. Hal keeps a very cool blog at

Continuing Series
Of course, some series I’ve been reading will see installments publishing next year. One I’m very eager to get my hands on is The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes , the penultimate installment of his thus far fantastic Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone saga. If things go as planned, George R.R. Martin will publish A Dance with Dragons next year. E.E. Knight jumps to Hardcover with his next Vampire Earth novel, Valentine’s Exile. Locus is listing a date for the UK version of Lynn Flewelling’s The Oracle’s Queen, the concluding volume in her Tamir Trilogy. I read the first two in fairly quick succession a couple of years ago and really liked them. Peter F. Hamilton’s Judas Unchained comes out in January, the sequel to Pandora’s Star. I thought his Fallen Dragon one of the best SF books I’ve read in the past 5 years or so, but didn’t pick up Pandora’s Star, I was waiting for both books of the duology to be released.

However, the one I am most looking forward to reading is Matt Stover’s Caine Black Knife. Of course Matt is still writing it so there isn’t even a publication date. As I said with GRRM, let Matt take the time he needs to make CBK the book he wants it to be.

I know there are probably more books I am forgetting, but I think this is a good enough base of 2006 releases to whet my appetite.