Sunday 9 March 2014 21:00 EDT Channel 17.1 (FOX HD)
What follows are just notes I made. The series stands on its own merits.
-- There was an opening intro by President Barack Obama, which was clipped. Really FOX?
-- Carl Sagan's voice. "The Universe is everything that ever was and ever will be."
-- Switch to HD and Neil Degrasse Tyson begins. "A generation ago."
-- 1 adventure with many heroes.
-- A recitation of the Scientific Method.
-- Opening credits include Ann Druyan (Mrs. Carl Sagan) and Seth McFarlane (Yes, of Family Guy -- he helped jumpstart this.)
-- The Ship of the Imagination. Carl Sagan used this device -- Neil's has a window in the floor to the past and in the ceiling for the future. Very shiny, looks like the alien ship in Mission To Mars.
-- Putting us in our place. Earth, Sun, Mercury, Venus...
-- Mars has as much land mass as Earth.
-- Jupiter has more mass than all the other planets combined. The Red Spot is three times larger than Earth.
-- Saturn, the crown jewel. Uranus and Neptune, the outer planets, because Neil helped demote Pluto.
-- Beyond are 10s of 1000s of small frozen worlds. Pluto is one.
-- Voyager 1... farthest manmade object out there.
Sponsored by Samsung Galaxy. No-brainer there.
-- Oort Cloud. Leftover bits from formation of solar system. No one has seen it because so diffuse. Bits are about 1B miles apart -- distance between Earth and Saturn.
-- Empty space beyond? In the visible. But in the IR (infrared), a different story.
-- A rogue planet. A world w/o a sun. Molten core, frozen surface.
-- The Milky Way in IR.
-- Our Cosmic Address:
Milky Way Galaxy
-- Limit: Cosmic Horizon. More than 13.8B LY away, light hasn't had time to get here.
-- We may be just one bubble in a huge multiverse. Worlds without end.
-- Cosmic perspective new since 400 years ago, before no telescopes.
-- One man envisions a grander universe. And on New Year's Eve 1600, he's in prison.
-- 16th century, idea of belonging to something greater than ourselves.
-- Copernicus, Earth not center of Universe.
-- 1st of a series of animations (one friend said Carl Sagan didn't use anime -- another said consider the target audience), of Bruno.
-- Reads a forbidden book: Lucretius, On The Nature Of Things. Argues for a universe unbounded.
-- Bruno assumes God is infinite, so should His creation.
-- For this he is excommunicated, thrown out of Italy, Switzerland, Germany and England.
COSMOS is shown Sundays at 9pm EDT on FOX (and NatGeo) and Mondays at 10pm on NatGeo. So if you missed this, you've got another chance.
-- Recklessly Bruno returns to Italy, taken by The Inquisition (Thought Police). 8 years in confinement. Guilty of questioning the Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ. Burned at stake. (The anime at the end is a bit much.)
-- 10 years later, Galileo has a telescope.
-- Bruno was no scientist, lucky guess. Glimpsed the vastness of space, but not of time, in a vision. Galileo had telescopic observations.
-- 13.8 thousand million years. Too big to comprehend.
-- Resurrects Carl's 13.8BY = 1 Calendar Year.
-- Every month ~ 1BY. Every day ~ 40MY.
-- January 1st, Big Bang. (Neil dons sunglasses.)
-- Evidence includes the amount of helium and background radio waves.
-- January 10th 1st stars ignite. January 13th stars coalesce into 1st small galaxies.
-- Small galaxies merge to form bigger ones. Milky Way in March.
-- Our Sun will arise from the death of other stars.
-- Stellar nurseries. Source of oxygen and other higher elements in the Periodic Table.
-- We are made of star stuff.
-- August, our Sun.
-- Moon formed, 100x brighter because closer.
-- September 21, life begins 3½BY ago.
-- November 9, life was breathing, eating. Microbes invent sex.
-- December 17, explosion of life onto land. December 28, 1st flower blooms.
-- Thick layers of dead vegetation form coal 300MY later. And we're using it all up very quickly.
-- 6:24am December 30th, asteroid. For 100MY dinosaurs ruled. Extreme contingency, chance of nature. No doubt that asteroid was nudged just enough long ago to arrive now.
-- December 31st, 11:59:46pm, all of recorded history in last 14 seconds.
-- We are newcomers to the universe. 9:45pm New Year's Eve, first footprints. Once we stood up, could look up.
-- 40,000 generations of wanderers, hunter-gatherers, all in last hour.
-- 1st paintings 60 seconds to go. Astronomy invented.
-- 10,000YA, revolution in how we lived. Domesticate plants, animals.
-- 14 seconds (6000YA), writing to record more stuff than we could carry.
-- Budha 6 seconds, Jesus 4 seconds, Mohammed 3 seconds to go.
-- Finally the two halves of the Earth discover each other.
-- Carl Sagan predicted methane lakes on Titan. Played a major role in every early planetary probe.
-- 1975 diary. Appointment with a 17 year old Neil Tyson. He spent a snowy day in Ithaca NY to meet Carl at Cornell. Sagan reached out to so many.
OVERALL: Great beginning. Crisp graphics. Mrs. Dr. Phil worries that so much CGI will convince naysayers that this is all lies, as they already believe. Nice homage to Carl Sagan the man and to COSMOS 1.0.
Later I'll tell you about Carl Sagan and Cornell and me.
Sun, Mar. 9th, 2014, 03:47 pm
Do Not Call At 9-10pm TonightCosmos
returns to the small-ish screen tonight. The original Cosmos
, the personal journey by Carl Sagan was a landmark in popular science literacy television. Sure it suffered with too many lingering looks at Carl's face as he gazed at the wonders of the universe, but even if Carl Sagan could be a smug bastard, he was sincere. Yes, the "billions and billions" jokes almost wrote themselves, and line sketch animation does not "prove" evolution, but still week after week we were enthralled by the near infinite expanse and grandeur of the cosmos.
The new Cosmos
is being brought back by one of the few legitimate rock stars of science today, Neil Degrasse Tyson. Oh sure, he's the guy who helped demote Pluto to less-than-planet status, but like the infernal designated hitter rule, I can live with it. The man's a professional astrophysicist and has a good sense of humor about it.
By using the imprimatur of Cosmos
, he's not trying to ride on Carl Sagan's coattails, but connect with a good segment of the public. Realize that many parents today were exposed to Cosmos
in their youth. Capturing some of that fire might encourage these parents to sit their children down tonight and bask in the badly needed update to Sagan. Because this is 2014 and there's been so much science since then. And so much retreat FROM science.
Given the latter, it is almost impossible that the new Cosmos
is happening as a consortium of National Geographic and others... with FOX Television. Indeed, the 13 parts are being simulcasted on quite a number of different channels. Including, according to our paper, FOX Sports 1?
On general principles alone, I might choose to watch Cosmos
on NatGeo, except I will be on channel 17.1 FOX, for the simple reason that it's one of the few HD channels we get. (grin)
I do so hope they do a good job. A lot is riding on this.As Opposed To The Abandonment...
... by NBC of the Paralympics. Essentially no daytime coverage today. Odd smatterings of coverage starting late night where it shows up during the week, and a couple hours on Sunday.
Sun, Mar. 9th, 2014, 03:42 pm
I don't often link to other reviews, but this review by valya_dl for the play Of Dice And Men
sounds seriously awesome.
Broken down simply, "Of Dice and Men" is about a group of six friends on the edge of dramatic changes in their lives. They are Dungeons & Dragons players, and many of them have been playing together since high school, sharing life's ups and downs while throwing the polyhedral dice. These are not caricatures of gamers/geeks, they are authentic, well-rounded characters, clearly envisioned by a writer who knows and loves that world so well.
It's playing in Chicago through March. Check the links above.
Oh, and there's a movie coming out
OF DICE AND MEN is a new dramedy feature film by Cavegirl Productions that completed principal photography in September 2013. It is based on the play about tabletop roleplaying gamers written by Cameron McNary. Since its premiere to a packed house of 550 at the PAX Prime gaming convention, the play has played to rave reviews at professional theaters in New York, Berkeley, Atlanta, and several other cities.
McNary, along with award-winning screenwriter Francis Abbey, have transformed the play into a hilarious and poignant “High Fidelity meets Dragonslayer” film script that will appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.
It's a small movie, don't know when/if it might play anywhere. IMDb says opens 1 March 2014. Another online source says April.
Nothing like getting teased. But the trailer looks cool.
NOTE: The title Of Dice And Men seems to be popular -- I found at least six usages in thirty seconds of Googling.
Two weeks ago the 2014 Winter Olympic Games ended in Сочи, Россия. It was a spectacular Olympics. Sure, there were issues with snow, but there always are. There were issues with American speed skating uniforms. How many times has the American team promised total victory and fallen flat? Come on, this is the Olympics -- all the other competitors are there to compete, too. It's bad enough I have to put up with rah-rah homerism by NBC rather than revel in the international once-in-four-years...
Oh poop -- I am not going to go all frothy about the Olympics.
It is so refreshing to see all this competition with minimal invasiveness by commercial concerns. Sure, equipment is plastered with names and logos. But the venues are clean. You can watch kilometers of cross-country skiing and see only Olympic rings, Сочи and Sochi 2014, and pastel colored wraps -- in the future you'll be able to instantly distinguish Sochi footage from Vancouver, Torino, Albertville, etc.
And everyone pushes so hard. Latvian bobsledders never won a medal under the Latvian flag? Take that white four-man missile down the ice. Canada takes hockey and curling gold... four times? (G)O Canada. Forty-one year old Noriaki Kasai of Japan pulls a silver medal out of the air in ski jumping, twenty years after his last medal? He will be back in four years. The home town Russians got some spectacular victories in skating, cross-country, etc. Though the venues were not all full, the crowds were Olympic crowds -- we personally saw this in Atlanta in 1996 -- you applaud all the efforts.
We ended up not watching much of the Closing Ceremonies. I later saw a photo showing that the Russians were good sports and played homage to the poor 4½ Olympic Rings of the Opening. I'm sure the audience roared with amused appreciation.
I love the Olympics -- Winter, Summer, doesn't matter. It was a glorious two weeks.
Look, the world does not stop for the Olympics, as lovely as an ideal that sounds. Never has, never will.
So things will happen during the Olympics. Venezuela, Kiev...
But really. Beating Pussy Riot with Cossacks wielding horse whips in Sochi? "Invading" Ukraine?
I mean, there were already comparisons to Putin/Hitler doing Russia/Soviet Union/Germany and your response is to fast forward from 1936 to 1938-39 in days?
What were you thinking? Putin, you've just got a lock on 2014 Jerk of the Year and you have embarrassed Russia and hurt Ukraine for no good reason.
And we are back today in Сочи, Россия for the Paralympics Games. NBCsports is giving limited coverage, but I caught the end of the women's biathlon. Amazing. I think we get slide hockey at 1am.
Don't ruin the moment, Putin.
In the category of things that needed to be done but I didn't know would be this week -- electronic paperwork for some of the 2014 conferences.
Friday was the deadline for nominations for Detcon 1's groundbreaking-take-that-Hugos YA fiction awards. My reading of 2013 titles was limited last year, but it occurred to me that Allegiant
, which I had just reviewed, was a 2013 imprint date. So last evening I trotted onto the Detcon 1 website.
To make a nomination you need to be registered and have a PIN. I requested a PIN and was told one had been sent to me. Okay. I remember getting an email about the YA award, but since I already knew about it, I probably tossed it. No problem, click on Recover PIN. But I never got an email with the PIN. In case it was a weirdness with the Silk browser on the Kindle Fire HD, I switched to SUMMER and Firefox 25.0.1 under XP Pro SP2. Same thing.
Finally sent an email to the web manager. This morning I got nice emails from several people apologizing for the error and promising that they'd printed a paper ballot for me and recorded my nomination.
Also from Detcon 1 were emails about music programming -- strange until I realized I had probably talked about movie soundtracks and writing music -- and invited to regular programming panels. Hopefully I'll do enough panels AND sufficient of you come to Detroit in July that I can make my reimbursement. (grin) My income for 2013 took a big hit with that whole hospital thing.
You can still register for Detcon 1, get hotel rooms and get on panels, if you haven't been moved to do so yet.
But before Detcon 1, there's WisCon 38 in Madison WI the end of May. Their deadlines for volunteering for panels and request a reading are, I believe, 17 and 16 March 2014 respectively.
As usual, WisCon is very organised. They've lots of panels described and there are radio buttons for level of interest to be on the panel and check boxes if you want to moderate or just attend the panel. The latter is so WisCon can judge interest and try to reduce scheduling conflicts.
Frankly I can pretty much attend any session, but managed to nurture my enthusiasm to a reasonable number of choices. Much like the Iron Chef Flash Fiction at Chicon 7 in 2012, they have a panel with suggestions for a plot to come up with in ninety seconds -- sounds like fun. After all, I lost only to 2013 Campbell tiara winner Mur Lafferty. (double-grin) Maybe I can get on that one.
Readings are batched with multiple authors in 75 minute blocks. Introductions and four readings, budgeted at fifteen minutes each -- basically 10 minutes of actual reading. Short, but grouped readings are fun. And much more likely to get some audience.
Then there's WindyCon 41 Grimm Tales on 14-16 November 2014. Haven't decided about that one yet, but the most excellent Westin Lombard Yorktown Center hotel reservations are open -- $109/night and the best steakhouse I've been in. I might make a reservation and wait on registration. If I go and Mrs. Dr. Phil doesn't go, it's possible I might need a roommate to help get my AFO brace and shoes on, if nothing happens between now and November.
Anyway, up to lots of professional noodling around. Come join us.
Yesterday was so very beautiful. Crisp and in the 20s in the morning, ultimately one of our thermometers late in the day made it up to 48°F. Gas, of course, jumped from $3.60.9/gal to $3.79.9/gal. No doubt because OMG PUTIN IS HITLER AND IT'S WW II ALL OVER AGAIN SO WE HAVE TO RAISE THE PRICE ON ALREADY REFINED GASOLINE RIGHT NOW. Ahem.
Not sure it dropped below freezing last night. Today it's 35°F late in the afternoon -- the melt continues on at a civilized pace. Even on the back roads, the pavement is mainly dry, with only an occasional dribble of water. Just now the driveway's mat was squishy and there was water in the tread marks as the Bravada had made its way -- I had been on a run of my own in the Blazer and to both our surprise we got home at the same time. There are traces of a back yard.
Of course being on break all week makes you kind of crazy. I kept thinking yesterday was Saturday and so tomorrow would be class, but that's off by a day.
Thursday and Friday the birds were all atwitter, even on the morning when it was still 10°F. The Spring bird migrations must be all confused between 2013 and 2014. It'll be some time before any plants get uncovered and we're not out of the woods with respect to winter. But the daylight hours have gotten longer, though that's about to get fucked over by DST2007.
It's been mostly a pleasant week. Lot's of little projects done, not much writing. But I'll take it.
Fri, Mar. 7th, 2014, 04:57 pm
Borg For A Day
Two of my errands had to do with the same thing -- the ONE instance of a heart arrhythmia that I had when I was very sick in the Butterworth ICU back the first week in hospital, May 2013. They slapped me into the cardiac ICU for a day or two and put me on a bunch of heart medications. Which I am still on. Of course the cardiologist doesn't want me off them. I do -- especially the blood thinners which have made me SO cold this winter. Their logic was that I needed to be on them because of my previous cardiac history. What cardiac history? Oh, no? No -- does that change anything? Uh, no, we want to keep you on the drugs for about a year. Why? Uh, because. So why did you care if I had a cardiac history? (crickets) (Technically, there's more, but you can see where I'm going with this.)
Anyway, back in December or so, we scheduled a chemical heart stress test for Spring Break -- to determine the ACTUAL status rather than rumor and innuendo. The coolest part is that this is an outpatient nuclear medicine procedure that uses technetium
, an element that was a pesky hole in the middle of the periodic table for a long time. Element 43, the lowest numbered element with no stable isotopes.
Last Friday they called and said that I needed to come in before Wednesday's procedure and get a portable heart monitor for 48 hours. So I got that on Monday afternoon. I had electrodes stuck on me for some two months in the hospital, hooked up to a wireless transmitter that tucked into a pocket of my hospital gown. For the record, the only abnormalities detected was when one of the electrodes came off.
I told the tech he was going to have to shave around the contact areas or the electrodes would never stay on. He did on two of the five patches, but not enough. You can see where this is leading. The data recorder was programmed to shutdown after 48 hours. You could put it in your pocket, really?, but I opted for the neck strap. They gave me a storage box and five replacement adhesive pads. Also a sheet to record any events I would have. Oh yeah, I don't have those, do I.
The plan was no food or drink, other than little sips of water, for 24 hours prior to the Wednesday 10am appointment. The wires were uncomfortable and the unit hanging from my neck smelled of disinfectant. I kept a shirt on to sleep to try to keep the wires and electrodes in place.
Before I went to bed at 3:15am Monday/Tuesday, one of the pads had already come off and glued itself to the shirt. A second pad had to be replaced on Tuesday. The first site needed a second replacement Wednesday morning at 11.
Of course by then it was all moot. A call late in the afternoon on Tuesday had to cancel the procedure because their one tech was sick. Since they have to order the nuclear medicine a day or two ahead, wonder if it got wasted. Anyway, we were out on Wednesday because I had to take the monitor back and Mrs. Dr. Phil and I got a play date because she'd already arranged the time off.
No doubt the data from March will be no good in May or whenever I reschedule, so I'll have to go through all this again. With all the snow and snow-ish days, I am not taking more time away from class.
Meanwhile, the ol' heart keeps time... time... time...
We went to the movies on Wednesday afternoon -- a wonderful bright blue sunny afternoon. Our theatre of choice was Celebration Woodland, the second run multiplex in the Jack Loeks chain. Don't go there very often.
Indeed, this is the first to Woodland since I got the handicapped parking sticker. Outside, it's a bit of a fail. Not quite 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon, only four handicapped spaces, all full. And no door opening buttons? Come on, this is not an old complex and it's 2014. Inside it isn't bad. Theatre 13 has a single door which leads you onto the mid-deck, which has three pairs of seats and wide spaces for wheelchairs and foot up armrests. I rolled in with my walker and plunked down in the center pair of seats -- right in front of the only other people in the theatre at the time. Adequate seats, terrific view.
The movie we really wanted to see was 12 Years a Slave
, but it's not playing anywhere we could find. Just like the run up to the Oscars. So we caught up on another movie we'd missed.The Book Thief [PG-13]Celebration Cinema Woodland Theatre #13 2:05pm 2x$5.00
This film starts out very white. Clouds. An overhead view of a European steam train wending its way through bright white snow. An overhead view of a 1930s car driving through a stark white countryside, you can barely see where the road is. The car enters a crowded neighborhood of cobblestone streets. We briefly see inside the train. Someone dies and is buried. The story finally begins.
It's no secret that the narrator is Death. Does that make this genre? Spec fic? Fantasy? Not necessarily. Death is mainly an observer. He is curious and confused about people, not particularly an agent in what transpires. But this movie is really about the love and humor and strength of people -- our "book thief" Liesel, Rudy, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Max, the wife of the burgermeister.
Mrs. Dr. Phil has read the book, I have not. She reports that the movie is faithful and does no damage to the story.
I mention dystopias in the post title. I wrote about the Divergent trilogy the other day. It's situation and violence is man-made, and not real. Living in Stuttgart, Germany, in WW II was a real dystopia, also of man's making. We rarely see the ordinary home front inside Germany in film.
And Nazis. The big bad bogeymen of the twentieth century. They terrorized everyone, including their own people. Including their own children. It is frightening to see schoolchildren singing about the hatred of other people, bullying each other, burning books. Wearing the swastika on their school uniform.
And yet... people were willing to risk everything to help those demonized by Hitler. Having never lived under such conditions, I have no idea what I would have done -- I fear I would have done what was needed to survive. Not particularly heroic, but there you are. A soft, privileged first world life.
Like Kate Winslet in The Reader
, one wonders how widespread illiteracy was in prewar Germany. And fascinated by the power of books.
The cast is superb. Everyone is perfect, I found no wrong notes by anyone. The kids are outstanding. Geoffrey Rush is a joy to watch, the cinematography exceptional. The banter and lighthearted accusations are spontaneous, believable. And people have depth. They don't have just one note. Well, except for the cowardly bullies.
I cannot imagine living like that. Which, I suppose, is why films like The Book Thief
are important, even if they are small and quiet films. I've seen the Blitz in London portrayed dozens of times. It's hard to be on the ground side of the bombing of Stuttgart -- those are Allied planes and bombs. But then war, even when enthusiastically embraced at first, isn't fair.HIGHLY RecommendedTrailers:
Only two trailers of note. On the cute end is Disneynature's Bears
about... bears. Specifically a mother and her two cubs. Then there's the grittier Gimme Shelter
about a teen abandoned by an unreliable mother and exhausted by the being in The System. Until she meets James Earl Jones (who looks to be a preacher connected to a foster house) and gets pregnant, in some order.
Seoul Garden, a Korean-Chinese-Japanese restaurant, opened just north of Woodland Mall off East Beltline in 1992 -- just about when we arrived in West Michigan. We ate there a number of times. Mostly we ordered the Korean tasting menu, which came in bunches of little dishes you could assemble with seaweed paper or lettuce wrappers. The Korean owners were always happy to serve it as most of their American clientele ate the very good Chinese they were familiar with. I interviewed for a Chemistry position at nearby Calvin College once and was taken to dinner -- had a very nice orange chicken dish from the Chinese menu.
Then they moved to a new location on the east side of Woodland Mall, across the outer ring road from what is now the Celebration Woodland movie theatre.
But we really don't go to SE 28th Street very much and almost never go to Woodland Mall. And I am sad to say, that though it was about ten years ago that they moved, we've never eaten at the new Seoul Garden. (We tried once, but they are closed on Sundays.) We remedied that.
Despite it being 2014, Seoul Garden has no website. And while I don't trust online reviews, the ones I saw were glowing -- one said that Seoul Garden had the best sushi bar in the city. Perhaps, but that's for another day. We were after Korean.
Alas, the Korean tasting menu is gone. As I long suspected, not enough people ordered it. Worse, according to our very genial and helpful host, people didn't understand all the wonderful types of kimchi and fermented beans, leaving far too much waste. (We always needed to ask for more seaweed papers and kimchi and hot chili paste.) So they cut back on the Korean part of the menu.
5pm on a Wednesday in March wasn't very busy. One nearby diner was a Korean American from the other side of the state. He asked if there was a lot of Koreans in Grand Rapids -- no, not really. I noticed he was taking cellphone pics of his dishes.
Our host suggested two entrees he thought we might like -- later he was pleased that we'd not only taken his advice, but that we'd ordered both. Our server recommended a very dry sake to Mrs. Dr. Phil. Osiki Dry Sake
turns out to be a domestic California sake -- who knew? Nice nutty aftertaste, which paired very well with our meal. I tasted, but primarly drink Coke in restaurants.
Steamed Beef & Vegetable Pot Stickers
(Served with, rice, kimchi & various seasonal side dishes)
Stone Bi Bim Bop
A heated stone bowl filled with rice, beef, egg, and various seasonal vegetables.
Do Ru Chi Gi
Sliced tender pork stir-fried with with Kimchi & clear noodles.
Our appetizer was four huge pot stickers. We've had steamed pot stickers in plenty of places where an order of six was smaller and had less flavor. The hot stone bowl dish had the fried egg on top, then diced into the mixture. The rice on the bottom caramelizes and becomes crispy -- it is not "burnt" in the traditional sense. The pork disk added slices of silken tofu on the side. We asked for extra seaweed paper wraps.
And I had the Nikon D100 and 28-80mmG lens with me.I find that I have too few pictures of me, because I'm always on the other side of the camera. So I wanted everyone to see that I'm doing fine these days. (grin)
(Click on photo for larger.)©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)While we were waiting for our food, I glanced at this painting from across the restaurant. You can tell where my head lives -- from my glance I didn't see an Asian building, but an alien world with a probe's parabolic communications antenna pointing straight up. (double-look-grin) I boosted the ISO setting up to 1600, the maximum before you get to the two very noisy HI-1 and HI-2 settings, and shot the rest of the evening without flash.
(Click on photo for larger.)©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)Missed the appetizers, but here is our spread. Yum!
(Click on photo for larger.)©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)Mrs. Dr. Phil concentrating on assembling a lovely seaweed paper wrap.
(Click on photo for larger.)©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)We ate all the stone bowl dish and the kimchi and pickled radish and ginger, plus the miso soup. We left a little of the sliced pork dish for Mrs. Dr. Phil's lunch -- she has wonderful leftovers for lunch. Jealous yet?
(Click on photo for larger.)©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
We were brought two flutes with just a taste of a Japanese Fuji apple sweet dessert sake to finish. I didn't know they made such a thing. It was lovely, but a generous thimbleful was quite sufficient. On our way out we admired a display of all their sakes -- in order as the menu. I had packed up the camera by then, I should've taken a picture. I was particularly amused how they stood some of the shorter squat bottles on upsidedown sake cups to even up the heights.
As I said, we'll back sometime for the sushi and maybe Mrs. Dr. Phil will try one of the sake flights.
Excellent meal. If you're in the G.R. area, you should try Seoul Garden. And yes, they do take-out.
Over Christmas break Mrs. Dr. Phil brought home a GVSU library book called Divergent
by Veronica Ross. After she read it, I devoured it in a day or so. Captivating dystopian SF, certainly a worthy next read for The Hunger Games set. In and around then we saw a movie trailer for Divergent
-- looked terrific and it has Kate Winslet! You KNOW I am going to see it.
Turns out this is the first book of a trilogy. I finally got around to ordering a boxed set of the hardcovers for $25 -- YA titles have a tendency to be price pointed lower than more mainstream books, and I plowed through Insurgent
in a day each.
How did I not know of these books? Well, it took awhile for me to hear of The Hunger Games or Uglies series. The sad fact is that YA isn't covered as well, despite its enormous popularity. And dammit, just as teens can read "real" books, there is nothing wrong with adults reading young adult books. Indeed, I've heard from a number of people that they find YA more interesting than more mainstream genre books.
As for the whole New York Times bestseller part, there was a time when I read through the fiction and nonfiction lists every week in the Sunday paper. But after they decided to ghetto-ize YA so that they could remove Harry Potter from the ranks of REAL literature, I stopped.
And somehow I didn't hear of the amazing first novels by a young 22-year-old woman writer. Surely they were mentioned in the pages of LOCUS, but they apparently didn't register.
And... none of my Physics students brought Divergent
in as a potential Topic 1 Science Literacy Paper book. Well, until this semester, after I'd read Divergent
and since the student had also already read Divergent
, I told them to read Insurgent
and get back to me. (The paper works better if you haven't read the book before, so you can read with a more critical eye.)
But I'm not the only one. Divergent
the movie was greenlit before the novel came out, so they snuck into a hit property.Divergent
/ Veronica Roth (2011)
Dystopian, I've already mentioned. Like The Hunger Games, this is one of those How The Hell Did This Get Started things. A wrecked Chicago, still connected by the El -- the elevated train system. A population divided into five factions -- each with a different philosophy and emphasis. But starting at age 16, everyone gets to choose their own faction. You know what age Beatrice is. And it really is a choice -- no helicoptoring parents choosing for you. If only college were like this.
Beatrice was raised in Abnegation (The Selfless), a faction dedicated to serve others and to lead, since they don't aspire to. Of course the Choosing isn't done blindly. You are tested in a VR like mind reading machine, where you are given simulations and the tester can see what you see. Beatrice turns out to be Divergent -- That Which Is Not Talked About -- because tests for an affinity for more than two factions. She chooses Dauntless (The Fearless) and becomes Tris, while her brother goes Erudite (The Intelligent). Neither outcome has been expected by their parents.
There is a fascinating and casual mix of ultra high tech and the mundane low tech. It is a world that is both familiar and damned difficult to imagine surviving in.
Dauntless initiation is thorough, rapid and brutal. And Tris has to grow up fast.
And then things get really complicated. It is very clear that everything is not as it seems.
One of the great failures of SF, and I'm looking at you Star Trek, is the bad idea of homogeneous cultures, with maybe one deviant character. Whole planets all dressed alike with the same mindset. In the hands of a lesser writer, Divergent
could easily fall into that pattern, even with five homogeneous factions. But they aren't just five factions. They are five factions made up of individuals and even if you still want to make them into a box of chocolates all the same, the individuals in a faction can come from any of the five, so there's a box of assorted chocolates which has some diversity and differing longitudinal slices. You may belong to Dauntless now, but you bring your old faction with you.
It's a clever way to create a character blender.
I have heard people complain that Katniss in The Hunger Games merely reacts to each situation. That she responds, but doesn't create the chaos. Tris is much more headstrong. This series is about choice and by gum, Tris chooses. Rapidly and on the fly.
And the romance elements feel real here -- they are young, inexperienced and constantly being interrupted. Complicated, just like real life.Insurgent
/ Veronica Roth (2012)
There is a real Luke I Am Your Father moment, where we really have to start questioning things. Like the new FOX TV show Almost Human
, there is a sort of a wall and an outside to the city that we -- including Tris and her friends -- know nothing about.
Also, there aren't just five factions. It's five factions and the factionless -- those who washed out of their chosen faction's initiation. It's a caste system. And by being unfair, it's not only realistic, but drives conflict. And hence story.
It's another theme to this series. Trust, lies, secrets, forgiveness. The unforgivable.
If things fell apart in Divergent
, they REALLY fall apart in Insurgent
/ Veronica Roth (2013)
If you build it, they will come. If they build it, it will fall.
Try to break the back of the faction system and you'll give rise to a new faction.
There is a sense that this is like the anime The Big O
, where an entire population has lost its memory, but now seems to be on a path to repeat the disaster that got them there.
If you know Chicago, there is a richer and deeper enjoyment to this series. The first book features the Hancock Tower, the second the sprawling Merchandise Mart. And Allegiant
partly takes place in O'Hare.
This third book is structured differently. With the fractured storyline, Roth switches from one POV character to two. It changes things, adds in a tension as you want to scream some sense at these people and crack their heads together. Complications abound.
I am not about to post spoliers here, but you may hear rumors that some people HATE the ending. Do not let that deter you. It is what it is. Personally, I think it ends on the right note. Ultimately this is a story about choice -- who gets to choose, why you choose and living with the consequences. And most emphatically, who does NOT get to choose. A parable for certain real life political persuasions to consider...
The boxed set includes a booklet The World of Veronica Roth's Divergent Series
. Part of it is lightweight fare, interviews and What Faction Are You Quiz straight out of Facebook, I imagine. But the real value for me is the five faction manifestos. We gets bits and pieces of these in the books, but they stand in stark contrast to each other when all spelled out. Besides the philosophy of the factions, each of them is written in a style consistent with their philosophy and worldview. One is written in parable form. They even include additions and deletions and alternative texts. Just as if they were real living documents. Well played.
The booklet appears to have written for Insurgent
, so there are no ruinous spoilers for the results. I read it after the third book, but if you get the boxed set, you could read it anytime after the first book, in my estimation.
This a refreshing and packed series -- not just action, but characters and philosophy, too.HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDDivergent
The movie opens on Friday 21 March 2014. And La Kate is delighted to be playing the heavy.