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Wave your cowboy hat at my better half

A South Bend radio station has done a profile of Pokagon State Park in northeast Indiana:


Part of their profile includes the Pokagon Saddle Barn, where my wife works. She's only on screen briefly: She's the woman in the cowboy hat saying "My name is Emily, but if you forget you can call me Horse Lady". I think I'm going to call her Horse Lady from now on!

In this photo (which I took while trying not to fall of a horse myself) Horse Lady is in front, looking around for the coyote that just crossed the trail.

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Print Book or Audio Book? Or both?

Last year I did a review of Neil Gaiman's American Gods:


Emily and I listened to it on audiobook while driving back and forth to Missouri and other places over the summer. It was only the second fiction audiobook I ever listened to, the first being Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy. I read that print book first, and was disappointed in the audio version, which was abridged and in my opinion not dramatized well. (However, I've never been disappointed in non-fiction audiobooks.)

American Gods was just a reading, rather than a dramatization; maybe that's what did it for me, but I loved it. Then the TV series based on the book came out, and got my interest enough to try reading the book myself. The audiobook narrator did such an awesome job that it seemed the print version would be weaker.

It wasn't. It seems there's no version of American Gods that isn't awesome, including the TV show.

There are places for both, of course--for instance, my wife really hates it when I read and drive. What's your preference, if you have one? Audio or print? And maybe I should tackle the graphic novel next.

Maybe someday we'll even get to "see" some of my books on audio.

The two versions do seem oddly similar, somehow.

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movie review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Scott Lang is just a normal guy who used to be a superhero, until he broke the law and the law made him a deal: Two years of home detention, a few more on probation, and he's a free man. Oh, as long as he never again puts on that Ant-Man super suit. Now he's only days from getting his detention bracelet removed, so all he has to do is relax, play with his daughter, and he's home free.

I think we all know Scott's not free.

"So ... Ant-Man is also the giant guy? Does he have to change his name?"

Suddenly he's reunited with Dr. Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne, both still mad Scott used the suit they gave him to go fight the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. It seems they've discovered a way to rescue someone they thought long lost, and they need Scott to do it. But in advancing their mission, the trio runs afoul of the Feds, mobsters, and a mysterious figure whose powers can be predicted from their name: Ghost.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is one of those projects--like most Marvel movies--that was only doable in recent years, when special effects finally caught up with the vision of movie makers and comic creators. Not that movies haven't managed without it before: check out The Incredible Shrinking Man, from 1957. But when modern effects are successfully balanced with story and character, the results can be spectacular.

Ant-Man and the Wasp manages that pretty well. We get giants menacing ships, quantum level adventures, and everything in between, including one in which a Pez dispenser is used as a weapon, and a big Hot Wheels product placement that fits into a fun and somewhat unusual chase scene. No matter how good they might have made anything else, I just don't see how they could have pulled this story off without modern effects.

"Wait a minute. I have wings and a stinger, and he gets first billing?"

Having said that, they do pretty well otherwise, too. A lot of that is thanks to a solid cast including Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as the title characters, and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Look for Michael Pena having a lot of fun, Randall Park as a befuddled FBI agent, Hannah John-Kamen as one of the more tragic figures, and little Abby Ryder Fortson, who tended to steal her scenes through shear cuteness as Scott's daughter.

Do NOT stay for the two mid/after credit scenes. They change the tone of the whole movie from fun to depression, although they do fit the movie into the Marvel Universe.

Seeing Douglas, Laurence Fishburne, and Michelle Pfeiffer makes me wonder at how much more willing the big quality names in Hollywood are to do comic book movies, now. (Of course, Pfeiffer once visited the DC universe.) The wide net of fantasy/SF will probably always get snubbed by the Hollywood elite even as they're scooping cash out of the cows (not literally--ew); but the genre's being taken more seriously than when I was a kid.

"This scene feels a little drawn out."

My score:

Entertainment Value: 3 3/4 out of 4 M&M's. No ... thinking back on the scene with Michael Pena's character under truth serum, sent that up to a full four.

Oscar Potential: 2 1/2 out of 4 M&M's. There were some good performances here, not that the Academy would ever stoop to acknowledge them, but mostly there should be some consideration for effects.

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