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Life, Tech and Unimportant Minutiae

2014 - Second Half

Created by cmiles on 1/11/2015.

My time in second half of the year was consumed by hiking/running and my site - but as the end of the year came closer I eventually deeply missed making notes on what I was consuming - a long post to catch up...

Vikings Season 2 - Actually picked this up not realizing it was season 2 - and the 'right into it' start of the show didn't tip me off that it was season 2 (I actually mentally applauded that the show just got right to it and dispensed with needless exposition - I was actually a little horrified when ADT told me that there was an entire season before this...). In the end I didn't like this at all - much like Sons of Anarchy I found myself not liking any of the characters or what they are doing, maybe this is a reflection of the 'historic' basis for the series, but... Rating 2 of 5.

Interstellar (2014) - While I might frequently disagree with the Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for a movie I can often guess how my rating will compare to Rotten Tomatoes - in the case of Interstellar the critic rating stands at 73% today and I am mystified, I thought this was an absolutely fantastic movie and I am completely floored by the poor critical reception. Rating 5 of 5.

Helix Season 1 - Sci-fi and monsters, nice to find a sci-fi series but didn't find this tremendously special. Rating: 3 of 5.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - It's probably pretty fair to say that these movies finally realize a childhood dream of seeing super-hero stories well told as movies. These movies seem to bring together the tech and style needed with an effortlessness that I think is lacking with many previous super-hero films - it is actually pretty amazing that these movies are so smooth and slick now! Seeing these easily executed reminded me that you really never escape the need for great plot with great acting - I think these both fell short. Rating: 2 of 5.

Wings of Desire (1987) - clearly interesting with some great visual details, didn't stay interested at all. Rating 3 of 5.

Kontroll (2003) - If this had been an American film in a familiar-to-me setting I have no idea what I would have thought about it (and surely there were many subtleties lost in translation) - but add a strangely interesting plot to the foreignness of this film and setting and I was definitely enthralled! Rating: 4 of 5.

Divergent (2014) - Can't argue with the smart timing of this movie with it's similarity to the Hunger Games - but I don't think I am the target audience for this... Rating: 2 of 5.

The Maze Runner (2014) - A bit different which I liked and appreciated - but I think I would have been happier with a little more uniqueness/world building/maze/strangeness and a little less Lord of the Flies. Rating: 2 of 5.

Rebecca Litchfield - Fine Art Photographer - I found her thru Soviet Ghosts, a glance thru the collections on the site and you might be tempted because of the similarities to stop looking, but there are gems in every collection! Rating: 4 of 5.

Meditations on Moloch - Truly I am in over my head here in trying to really understand the context/references/material - and much of Slate Star Codex is like that, but isn't the real trick to find things that stretch and interest you without being so far over your head/out of your interests that they loose you? Rating: 4 of 5.

Faith is Torment - I don't remember what post first brought me to this blog - it was good enough to add to my feed reader, at first I just found it 'ok', over the past few months I have come to value having a quick place to look at art/design that I have never seen - sometimes it is great and sometimes it doesn't touch me at all, but now I just appreciate new delivered right to me. Rating: 4 of 5.

Giant Steps, John Coltrane - I am slightly more drawn to Jazz these days and having been enjoying this album tremendously, this is a well known classic - not some hidden gem - but really I am - personally - just finding it. Rating: 4 of 5.

Time Out, Dave Brubeck - This is an album I have known for years and years, but for whatever reason felt the need to listen to it again in the past few months -really amazing and unique. Rating: 5 of 5.

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book for Digital Photographers (Voices That Matter), Scott Kelby - My relationship to photography is interesting, it isn't something that consumes my soul - but I have a sort of vision for what I want to do, especially in regards to, and photography is a big part of that. This book had quite a few practical details and helped me kick off another round of learning that I think has already improved what I was able to do with the camera. Rating: 3 of 5.

Use of Weapons (A Culture Novel Book 3)Iain M. Banks - I want to say that the Culture novels are not a huge draw for me, which I guess is 'true', but somehow I always seem to read another. I wasn't drawn to the violence in this novel and almost put it down a number of times - but their were plot and scifi elements that really drew me in. I think I recognize this as typical of my reaction to the Ian Banks novels - some part of what he writes about I don't connect with at all, and part is pure genius. Rating: 3 of 5.

The Peripheral, William Gibson: I have read Gibson for over 20 years now - I imagine I am tied to him partly because of timing and culture, I am not sure someone born in the 1990s would have the same take on his work? This novel was a miss for me - the central idea of time travel has some interesting twists and perhaps some mystery opening the door to another novel, but I was not thrilled/awed/fascinated/mystified/delighted - still a good scifi read, no doubt about that, just not the connection I have had to other works. Rating: 3 of 5.

Permutation City, Greg Egan: WOW - amazing to find a science fiction writer with such amazing ideas. I know there is a practical infinity of books that I don't know, but still quite surprised and happy to have found Greg Egan. Rating: 4 of 5.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: StoriesKaren Russell - Impossible not to enjoy the originality of these stories, but there was something here that didn't draw me in, but I can't quite say why. Rating: 3 of 5.

TranscendentalJames Gunn:  A pretty interesting scifi story - journey, paranoia and great twists. Rating: 3 of 5.

On the Steel Breeze (Poseidon's Children Book 2)Alastair Reynolds - The sequel to Blue Earth Remembered. What I loved about this was that the scale was grand and there was deep imagination, but there were some plot details/moments/characters that I didn't love as much. I am not sure where it would go but I hope there is another book in this series. Rating: 3 of 5.

Michael Frye Photography and Jack Dykinga - I have known Jack Dykinga's work for sometime, but oddly last month was the first time I looked him up on the web (?no idea... a mystery as to why) - grouped these together because they are both notable landscape and nature photographers, and also because I find it fascinating to be in the part of the learning curve where I don't even know who to take note of! Rating: 4 of 5.

Exposure for the Outdoor Photographer, Michael Frye: I got a lot from this book - I have a feeling that there is really nothing that I haven't read before - but presented specifically towards what I want to do, and with lovely format, this was very much worth the price. Rating: 4 of 5.

Craft and Vision - I found this site when purchasing Michael Frye's Exposure for Outdoor Photography. Something I have noticed on the internet is that there seems to be an inexhaustible number of beautiful and interesting photographic resources - but 'useful' and accessible to me is really a different thing altogether and harder to find. With a certain beauty to the site, mission as an education company, concentration on PDFs and affordable pricing this is really a find! Rating: 5 of 5.

The Strain (Season 1) - With Guillermo del Toro involved it seemed like an interesting bet and the series started off pretty strong, but for me slowed faltered a bit towards the end (while the series is clearly original it may have slowed down a bit once they basically established this was a vampire (or maybe vampire/zombie combination) show). Rating: 3 of 5.

Fargo TV Series (Season 1) - Decent, certainly didn't want to stop before the end of the season - some strange/fun/original sections, maybe I lacked enthusiasm for this because it was close enough in tone to my memory of the movie that it didn't quite have an original hook? Rating: 3 of 5.

American Horror Story - Coven (Season 3) - Another good season of this show. While the plot had some great details what I really love is seeing many of the same people pulling off a different show/theme/plot each season - why is this so unique in TV? Rating: 4 of 5

True Detective (Season 1) - This was fantastic - truly fantastic - the atmosphere, mood, sets, plot, characters and acting are all outstanding. This may be really one of the best things I have seen this year - pretty surprised that it is a detective show that I am saying that about... Rating: 5 of 5.

True Blood (Season 7) - The final season, I was pretty disappointed that they didn't go over the top for this season with more of the blood and sex this series is known for - although either way I think this show had really run out of steam so better just to wrap it up. Rating: 3 of 5.

Time Out (2001) - This movie was 'good' enough that it was actually painful to watch - I even started to wonder what I might do like this... Rating: 4 of 5.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) - I did not enjoy the 'live action' style/look (I am impressed that they could sustain the look and mix in generated elements) and didn't find this compelling at all. It would be fair to mention that I didn't see the first 2 in the series, so it could be that I wasn't really primed for this one - but I really don't think that was the problem. Also, having recently seen interstellar it was so much more interesting to watch a story where violence wasn't a core element in the story. Rating: 1 of 5.

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