AndyHat (andyhat) wrote,
AndyHat
andyhat

I don't usually bother to say anything about movies I see, as there are countless reviewers out there already covering the relatively small number of movies released. But I can always make arbitrary exceptions. Last night I watched Donnie Darko, a DVD I picked up at Best Buy last week when I saw it for $9.99 based on a vague recollection of having read a favorable review somewhere (which I believe was Lawrence Person's at Locus Online). I'm glad I did. Granted, the plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but if you accept that it's just a surreal fantasy, it's one of the better movies I've seen recently. It's creepy, it's funny, and it's got a guy dressed up as a 6-foot tall bunny rabbit. And the original soundtrack is good enough that I'll have to go buy that now, too.

Earlier last week, I accomplished something that has become increasingly rare for me: I finished a video game. Specifically, Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat on Xbox. It's your basic pirate action-adventure. Sail from island to island fighting ship-to-ship and ship-to-fort cannon battles, and then exploring the islands on foot searching for maps and chartstones. On land, there is the usual assortment of enemies: pirates, wolves, gorillas, witch doctors, etc. Kat's main weapon is, of course, a sword, supplemented with throwing knives, poison darts, explosives and magical tikis. Nothing terribly original, and it's actually rather repetitive, but it's all very smoothly implemented and more fun than I would have expected. Most important, the game structure (20 or so self-contained islands, most of which can be fully explored in 1-2 hours) was quite convenient for my very occasional play sessions, and I actually reached the end. Of course, I found every buried treasure chest and scrapbook shell along the way, just because I can't stand to finish a game without finding absolutely everything.

Recent reading:

  • Donald Barr. "Sam". In F&SF 6/02. Short Story.
    • Sam is fired from his job at the mysterious Principe Organization, and as he fades from the memories of his coworkers, he fades out of existence in the real world as well. An enjoyable story, though not particularly memorable.
  • Steven Popkes. "Fable for Savior and Reptile". In Realms of Fantasy 2/02. Short Story.
    • Here's a story guaranteed to get the religious fundamentalists riled up. A 500-year old talking tortoise witnesses the three wise men going past on the road, and follows them to the east, where after several years he finds and befriends a young Jesus. They meet several times over the course of Jesus' life, as Jesus seeks counsel and consolation from his friend. Thus, we hear about Jesus' cousin John, who has fallen in with a band of freedom fighters. We hear about Jesus' flight to Egypt where he learns to be a doctor, and we hear how, because of their inferior medicine, the Hebrews ascribe miraculous cures to this physician upon his return. And so on, as various events and teachings from the Gospels are explained in entirely non-divine ways, in very different contexts. So, is it a good story? Sort of. Preachy atheism is not any more interesting than preachy fundamentalism, and this story comes close to being overly didactic. But there's just enough fantasy and humor to it that it's at least an amusing read.
  • James Van Pelt. "Origin of the Species". In Weird Tales Fall 2002. Short Story.
    • Starting with the premise that magical races once existed in human ancestry, and the genes are occasionally still expressed, this is the tale of a high school boy dealing with the onset of puberty and the onset of a mild form of lycanthropy. He's forced to cancel his date to the senior prom because it falls on the night of the full moon, and his palnned date instead goes with a boy who is part troll. It's potentially a really fun premise, but the actual story ends up falling short, as the plot follows a predictable course and could have been used almost unchanged with an entirely unmagical background.
  • Dale Bailey. "In Green's Dominion". In Sci Fiction 6/02. Novella.
    • A tear-jerker of a story about a retired college English professor, now facing her last years alone and unloved, and the choices she made in her life to eschew love and magic in favor of the conventional and mundane. It does get a bit sappy and sentimental, but there's some beautiful writing, and a nice bittersweet ending. I quite enjoyed it.
  • Kevin Brockmeier. "The Ceiling". In The O. Henry Prize Stories: 2002. Short Story.
    • This, the first-prize winner for 2002, is, rather surprisingly, a fantasy story. In it, a mysterious black square appears in the sky, slowly descending until it forms a ceiling over the whole town. It's well-written, with some nicely developed characters, but the whole premise was just so absurd (why didn't they all just leave their doomed town?) that I didn't really care for it.
  • Mark Ray Lewis. "Scordatura". In The O. Henry Prize Stories: 2002.
    • Generally, I hate stories written in second-person. However, this one is about an organist with a predilection for Bach, which helped to make its second-person less jarring than usual. More specifically, this story is about Oral, the gay son of a Texas Baptist preacher who escaped to New York City and is now returning home to re-evaluate his life after the death of his lover from AIDS. He plays Bach at the church and enjoys the comforts of home, but at the price of keeping up the lie of who he is. Wonderfully written (once past the second-person thing), and with a cast of interesting characters, I definitely enjoyed this one.
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