Week in review, week ending 1/25/15

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I asked What makes a good character? and Wednesday saw the continuation of the countdown of my five favorite westerns with #3 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. WordPress ate my Friday post, so that will make an appearance sometime later. I also had a couple posts over on 210Sports.

From the folks I follow…
Blondewritemore has a humorous list of Useful tips on how to survive being married to a blogger. I need to send that link to my wife…
The Talkative Writer (AKA Karen Miller) has a feature called Spotlight on … Terry Pratchett. For some reason I was hesitant to add her posts to my links before. No idea why. Now that I have take some time and look at her older posts. Some great stuff there. (I should add a link to her blog to the menu on the right too).
Drunken Dragon Reviews looks at one of sci-fi’s great books, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Classic story that still reads well today.
The Credible Hulk has Comic Book Bios: Barbara Gordon (Batgirl I / Oracle). I have a very nice copy of Detective Comics #359. I’m a huge Carmine Infantino fan.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Lizzyreadsbooks talks about The authors who write really awesome female characters. Good list there.
OKPotato has Top 5 Female Protagonists: Pantheon Candidates. Check out their #1. My readers will see something familiar.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

My top 5 favorite westerns: #3 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a few weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’re taking a look at my five favorite westerns, and at #4 we had The Magnificent Seven. This week Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly comes in at #3.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the third film in the “Man with No Name Trilogy”, with A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More being the first two to be released. The events in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly take place before what happens in the other two movies, making the last movie in the series really the first movie. In my opinion, it’s the best of the three by a good margin.

The one thing that detracts from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and most other Spaghetti Western is the voice dubbing is pretty bad. The actors all performed in their native languages and then has voices dubbed to match the language of the country the film was released in. Getting by the bad dubbing was easy for me, but I could see how it could turn others off from the movie.

One of the things I like about the movie is for the first ten minutes or so there is no dialogue. It really does set the tone for the entire movie. Leone does a masterful job of filmmaking in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and it really is one of the best westerns out there.

Directed by Sergio Leone
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Screenplay by Age & Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone, Sergio Donati (uncredited)
English Version by Mickey Knox
Story by Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone
Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffre, Mario Brega, and Eli Wallach
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli
Edited by Eugenio Alabiso and Nino Baragli
Release date December, 15 1966 (Italy)
Running time 177 minutes
Budget $1.2 million
Box office $25.1 million

What makes a good character?

I started this post as “What makes a good hero?” with the idea that I would do a follow-up later this week called “What makes a good hero?”. The only problem was that as I started typing I realized that the posts would be almost identical, and then not very long at that. To me what makes a good hero also hold true for villains, and it’s something that for me is really important for every character in any fiction story: they have to be believable.

If I can’t believe in what a character is doing, good or bad, than for me that’s not a good character. It annoys me to no end when an author can’t have characters doing logical things based on what the character has done previously. I see that as a sign of a lazy author. It’s as if they had a story idea but couldn’t come up with a reason why a character would do that action, so they just have them do it for some random reason. Even the most evil person doesn’t do things randomly, there’s always needs to be a reason for what they’re going. Just doing stuff to do stuff is poor writing in my opinion.

Authors having characters do (or think) things for no apparent reason is unfortunately pretty common in the mystery/crime genre. Suddenly out of the blue the protagonist will make this jump in logic that reveals the antagonist in what turns out to be a rushed ending that rarely follows the path the author was originally taking. You’ll see that the established writers rarely fall into that trap, and very often an author’s first book, which has likely been rewritten numerous times, seldom has that problem. But in the second book it creeps into the plot an awful lot.

So now I ask you, what in your mind makes a good character?

Week in review, week ending 1/18/15

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
Monday I had A look back: “Kushiel’s Legacy” by Jacqueline Carey, Wednesday saw My top 5 favorite westerns: #4 The Magnificent Seven, and Friday another one of those “question” posts with ‘Bout This Blogger. I also had a couple posts over on 210Sports.

From the folks I follow…
Thoughtfultomes has her Top 5 Pirate Novels. I’ve only read two of her choices (#1 and #3), and liked them both.
Blondwritemore has The power of a ‘Chick Flick’ film. My wife loves every movie listed there, so that must mean something.
The Credible Hulk with his Top 5 Let Downs of 2014. I never gave thought to such a list. May be a back-burner thing for this year. He also has a great post Comic Speculation – The Fall of the Industry. I used to buy ton of comics, but haven’t bought any in years.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
No time this week for stumbling into stuff, hopefully I’ll do better next week.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

‘Bout This Blogger

Was sent this list of questions by a friend via email, and despite me asking when people send me stuff to include where it came from this one didn’t include the original site. If this was your list let me know and I’ll happily add a link to your blog/post.

1. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging a very long time ago when I was covering the first American Hockey League team to call my city its home, the Worcester IceCats. I used to make longish posts on a couple for hockey forums when I was approached by a friend to write for his site. I did that, and pretty much from that point on I’ve had at least two different blogs I wrote for. Right now, I have three: this one, Sharkspage.com where I cover the Worcester Sharks, and on New Year’s day I started 210Sports which is all sports.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
It’s “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” because that’s what it was originally going to be; just a spot where I blogged about whatever crossed my mind. From lack of posting about anything else it sort of morphed into a blog where I wrote solely about books, but now I’m heading back toward the “Random” part with posts about movies and eventually it will likely settle on mostly entertainment based stuff.

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging? (Pictures! We demand pictures!)
On WordPress I’ve had two. The current one I use is called “The Big Brother Theme”. I just scrolled through the free themes trying to figure out which one my old one was, but I couldn’t find it. I remember the font being a lot smaller and in general the theme being a lot “blockier”. I like this current one so odds are good I’ll be sticking with it. 210Sports uses the “The Penscratch Theme”. I like that one a lot too.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms? What made you move? If you haven’t ever changed…why?
For the “free” sites, I switched once. My wife and I had a blog on Blogger, and when we virtually stopped blogging there I switched to this one on WordPress, where unless something drastically changes I’ll be staying. For the hosted blogs I’ve written for they were whatever the owner was using, although almost all of them have switched to the WordPress platform.

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What’s your postly process like?
It really depends. Lots of times I just start writing and see what I end up with. I usually have a half dozen unfinished posts in the draft folder, and then edit them slowly into something I eventually either post or discard. The easiest posts are my “week in review” ones, where I just copy the links of stuff I liked over the week. As a whole a post here takes a few days from start to posting, although it’s 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post? Why? What was it?
No, not really. I post what I want and if no one likes it, that’s fine. But I always figure if I was interested enough to write it folks somewhere will be interested enough to read it.

7. Do you have a blogging schedule?
In theory it’s Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday here, and Tuesday/Thursday plus the occasional “special” post over on 210Sports. On Sharkspage it’s postgame, usually the morning after. I don’t get all bothered if I miss a day because something came up, but I do get annoyed with myself if it’s just laziness that caused me to miss a day.

8. Do you tell people In-Real-Life about your blog? Their reactions?
Everyone knows. I post links on my Facebook and Twitter pages, and talk about it whenever anyone asks. In fact, as I noted above, this post and a few like it were emailed to me by friends knowing I’d likely use them in a posting. I am careful not to bother people about blogging that I know wouldn’t be interested.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most! Go! Go!
There’s a partial listing in the right margin. That list changes every so often, so make sure to take note of the new ones!

10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?
I get lots of comments on Facebook and Twitter but very few on the actual posts here. I guess the one change I’d like is to have those comments show up here. I’ve noticed that no one seems to like to be the first to comment, but once there’s one several often follow it.

My top 5 favorite westerns: #4 The Magnificent Seven

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a few weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’re taking a look at my five favorite westerns, and at #5 we had True Grit. This week it’s #4 with John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven.

This is one of those movies I don’t understand why people don’t like it. Now granted I haven’t come across many that don’t, but The Magnificent Seven really is one of the better westerns ever made. Yes, it’s a rip-off of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, but it’s done so well it does really stand on its own right. It’s basically the perfect western. Good guys in white hats (although not literally), bad guys in black ones. There’s no phony plot twist, and no fake ending to make sure the good guys win. It’s a solid story with an outcome that’s not ordinarily what you’d get from a western.

When I first saw it I was on a Charles Bronson kick, so it was an easy rental back in the day. I’d heard of Yul Brynner but didn’t really know anything about him, but the other selling point was Steve McQueen. I had seen a ton of his movies and really like the action stuff he was in. Although I didn’t know it before watching The Magnificent Seven, I did come to find out Eli Wallach plays a great bad-guy.

I remember watching The Magnificent Seven on a weekday evening (probably was a Tuesday), and I watched it at least three times that night. I was hooked. It’s one of the first movies I ever bought on VHS and then again one of the first on DVD. I don’t buy a ton of Blu-rays, but of I see it I’m probably going to buy it. The Magnificent Seven comes in at #4 in my countdown, but it’s really 1c in a top four that would be 1,1a,1b,1c.

Directed by John Sturges
Produced by John Sturges
Written by William Roberts (Walter Newman & Walter Bernstein are uncredited)
Based on Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Horst Buchholz
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by Charles Lang
Edited by Ferris Webster
Release date October 23, 1960
Running time 128 minutes
Budget $2 million
Box office $5 million

A look back: Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey

This posting contains no spoilers.

With Tor Books rereleasing the original Kushiel trilogy in the trade paperback format starting Tuesday (January 13) with Kushiel’s Dart, I thought this would be a good time for me to point out how important this series was to me as a reader. As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that before picking up both Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey I generally didn’t read books by female authors. It wasn’t that I refused to for some made up reason I’d come up with to justify that fact, I just didn’t. At that point in my reading I read mostly thrillers and “harder” science fiction, and even today those are two genres dominated by male authors.

I clearly remember the day I bought those two books too. My wife and I were at BJ’s Wholesale club doing some shopping and I always spent time looking at the books they had. Back then they had a huge selection of not only best sellers but other stuff that bookstores would consider “stock”. Looking through the stacks of newer stuff I’d grabbed a couple things, and as I moved down the tables I saw they had stacks of stuff that were just tossed together. On top of one stack was The Wayfarer Redemption and Enchanter by Sara Douglas, and the stack next to it was Kushiel’s Dart.

I have no idea why I picked Kushiel’s Dart off the stack. The cover, while gorgeous, is not something that at the time indicated it would be something I’d like to read. And yet, I did pick it up and read the back. What it said had me hooked:

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

It went right into my cart. Kushiel’s Chosen was under it in the stack, so I grabbed that one too. Then I picked up the two Douglass’ books and added tem to the cart. I then spent a half hour (or more) going through all the piles of books, but nothing else made it into my cart that day.

I soon learned there was a third book out for the series in hardcover called Kushiel’s Avatar, and as I like to read series all together I put the two I had on my to-read shelf (which at the time was really just a shelf, it was not the bookcase filled list it is today). Within a few days of Kushiel’s Avatar coming out in paperback I started the series. I couldn’t put them down.

Kushiel’s Dart is a tough read, I believe mostly because Carey didn’t have the experience of writing novels to know some of the things she could have done better. It’s still a very good book, and the lessons she obviously learned writing it are clearly evident in Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar. Those three books, called the “Phedre Trilogy”, rank up there with the best fantasy stories ever written.

The second three books are called the “Imriel Trilogy”, and without spoiling any of the plots of the first three books cover events that (obviously) take place after the first trilogy, and continue along the plotlines of the first three books centering around Imriel instead of Phedre being the main character. They are every bit as good as the first three. The (so far) final three books are refereed to as the “Moirin Trilogy”, and while good they don’t approach the first six books in quality. They’re set far in the future from the other two trilogies and in my opinion lost a lot of the magic the first six books had. Despite that fact if Carey announced a new trilogy in the universe I’d unhesitatingly purchase it.

I highly recommend this series, and now with the rerelease of the books they’ll be easy to find. The new covers look a lot more like 50 Shades of Grey as opposed to the same flavor as the older covers, which I suspect will cause some consternation from fans of the series (to say why will spoil some of the plotlines), but the new covers are fine with me. It will, hopefully, get more people to enjoy this series.