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06 May 201101:48PMlifereview

Of stuff! Which I did! Which I've been meaning to reviewwrite snarky and/or random and/or irrelevant observations about! (Then again, what Yahtzee does is apparently reviewing these days, so colour me confused.(And that is totally the way to spell colour- NO DON'T REDUNDERLINE IT cue five minutes of screwing around in settings boxes ))

Okay, I'm back. Let's begin.

Stranger in a Strange Land. You can tell when this was written. Actually, hold on, when was this written? Because it feels like it should be the sixties. checks Wikipedia Yeah, it was. (1961, just so's you know). Basically, not to put to fine a point on it, it's revolutionary anti-capitalist, anti-everything, free-love hippie counterculture IN SPACE. Or, er... with a martian. Or a human, raised on mars, to become the next Jesus, by bringing transcendent psychic hippie sex to a Clarkeian quasi-(u)/(dys)topian future earth. You get the idea. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It does an excellent job of being all these things. It's just that it looks a bit dated, and it's definitely the squishiest soft- sci-fi I've read for a while. For some reason, the thing I want to compare it to most is Stephen Baxter's Manifold series, which I'd call a 21st century version of the same thing, but with quantum mechanics and time-travelling ascended human-descendants instead of alien psychic brain unlocking and martians.

So yeah, probably not as mind-blowing as it would've been in the sixties, but still a decent read of its own accord, and definitely worth reading as an origin point for a huge number of SF tropes. I wouldn't be surprised if the 'so alien it can't be described' variety of ascendant alien, and probably most significantly, the word grok. Grok is probably one of the most successful invented SF words to enter the common (or at least internet) lexicon, to the point where most of those who use it have never read the book, or even know which book it came from. Probably because it neatly fills a gap in the language for a word which describes an intuitive internalised understanding... or... something. It's one of those words that you instinctively know how to use but can't define, much like it is in the book. So that was pretty neat.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 So not a review, yet, but an expression of cautious optimism, contrary to my previous sentiment. (which, oddly enough, didn't hold for Toy Story either. Go figure). I like the direction they're taking the franchise, away from a trilogy and into a proper series. Now that they've ditched Will and Elizabeth for Penelope Cruz, I can see this working the same way James Bond works, or Doctor Who even- an ongoing series around a main character (Jack) and with a selection of sidekicks to draw from. We have Penelope Cruz and Barbossa this time, and maybe for the next one two, then maybe a new companion, and then perhaps Will's as a companion. They could bring back will for a 15 minutes "Jack needs a favour" cameo, but probably not as a full time character. What I'm saying is, it could work. I'll give it a shot.

Stargate: Universe (Wait, 'stargate' is a word but 'colour-with-a-U' isn't?) More of a eulogy than a review, but I'm sad that the show got canned. Especially since in the last few episodes it's really hit it's swing. The cast is getting to really work well together, with most of the tension and angst of the first season worked out into fairly static rivalries and friendships- but as a team, they're starting to gel. And, the show's picked up that trademark Stargate sense of humour - the 2001 theme, and the Futura-is-a-font gags are classic Stargate, and Twin Destinies (and what happens next) is one of the best pieces of TV I've seen since Firefly.

Portal 2 Brilliant.

Linux Mint The Ubuntu install on my netbook was getting a little crufty, and cause of some dodgy graphics drivers, every time Ubuntu updated its kernel, the graphics would stop working. And Ubuntu updates its kernel a lot. I heard Mint has a much more conservative update schedule, but remains binary compatible with Ubuntu, which is important because aforementioned flaky graphics drivers only work with Ubuntu. About an hour later, I'd ditched Ubuntu on my laptop too. I think it has to do with all the 'integration' Ubuntu tries to do- the moment you deviate from their set of integrated programs the entire system stops working as intended. If you're like me and prefer Pidgin to Empathy, Banshee over Rhythmbox, and Chrome over Firefox (though that's a fairly recent development- I'd avoided Chrome on principle until I realised how well it worked.) then Mint is much slicker. And the Mint Menu is niiiiice. It works better, it looks better, and the system doesn't fall apart when you use something other than the default apps. So that's nice.

Doctor Who Doctor Who's started again. From the looks of things they're going for a more serialised narrative. Which is interesting, we'll see how it works. And, c'mon, a cliffhanger on the first episode? That's just mean. Oh and on the subject of Doctor Who...

Best shirt ever. Got the design from here, had it printed here using a promo where I only paid for shipping. It's awesome. Totally made my week.

Customer Service Speaking of aforementioned shirt, here's a quick lesson on customer service. Vistaprint: Shirt ordered. Then I get an email- it shipped early! Then it arrived even before that! Brilliant Amazon: They call me. They send me a new Kindle, free, express shipped. I send the old one back. They pay the shipping. Australia Post: Refuses to send aforementioned Kindle, as it has a lithium battery. Despite it not being illegal, and despite it being able to be shipped through private contractors on the same plane, or even through AusPost if you have a contract with them, and despite it being legal on every other postal service in the world, and there being a decision by the International Postal Union that they're okay. So I put 'electronics' on the declaration and crossed my fingers. Fail.

Source Code It's a pretty good movie. Not quite as good as Moon, but then again, Moon amazing. The main thing we seemed to see coming out of it was the serious ethical issues it raised. Never mind keeping a horrifically maimed guy alive to relive someone else's final moments over and over again (spoilers, btw.), we're talking much bigger. If you subscribe to the Sam Hughes model of multiple history ethics:

"This means you can go back in time and change history. Easily. But that act creates a new and different timeline. You can never return to the timeline where you originally started, because going forwards in time just leaves you in the timeline two and going backwards in time for a second attempt would leave you in a _third timeline. The net effect in your home timeline is that you have simply disappeared forever. If you go back in time to kill Hitler, you don't undo the Second World War, it stays happened, _you just give everybody involved a chance to die all over again.___" _

The 'twist' was obvious, from the minute he left the carriage. If a memory was being replayed, he wouldn't be able to go outside anything his host memory didn't experience. Thus, every repeat, not just the final one, created a new universe, a new train full of people to die. Not projections, real people, with paralell, but real lives. Killed again, and again, and again. The operators of the source code program are culpable for the entire bombing dozens of times over. But that's not the worst part. Because as we see at the end, each of these alternate universes has its own source code project. When their train blows up, they'll send their own version of the protagonist into their own source code, creating another few dozen trainloads of people to die, each of which will spark another source code project and so on. It's a recursive loop. By activating the source code project, they've caused an infinite number of deaths.

And then there's that one iteration where everyone lives- oh wait, except for the person whose body, life, and girl you just stole. What happened to him?

So there's some serious ethical issues there, in universe. As a movie, it was solid... I would've liked it if they'd played with those ethics a bit more than just Jake Gyllenhaal angsting over someone else's girl. But solid. I hope that between this and Inception filmmakers can see the feasibility of going for action movies with a little more intellectual meat to them- not enough to make them inaccessible, but enough to get people talking and thinking and arguing the way we did afterwards.

And I just checked my list o' reviewables, and that's everything. I can go watch Shrek now. Which I know all the words to. Now if there was ever a movie which irrevocably warped my childhood...

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