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Lathe of Heaven

Lathe of Heaven is a very cerebral book and an equally rewarding film. It has a non existent budget, being filmed for WNET in 1979, but it hides it well. It's a great idea and there are some pretty great twists and turns. This is a movie that I can't believe hasn't been remade with a massive budget.

But this version is very well written and just omits expensive scenes as best as possible. the budget is not a distraction at all, and it's a great story.

The Lathe of Heaven is a 1980 film adaptation of the 1971 science fiction novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was produced in 1979 as part of New York City public television station WNET's Experimental TV Lab project, and directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. Le Guin, by her own account, was involved in the casting, script planning, re-writing, and filming of the production.
The film stars Bruce Davison as protagonist George Orr, Kevin Conway as Dr. William Haber, and Margaret Avery as lawyer Heather LeLache.

It is the story of a young man who has the ability to change the future when he dreams. His doctor, Haber begins to use Orr's "effective dreams" to first create a prestigious, well-funded institute run by himself, then to attempt to solve various social problems.

These solutions unravel quickly: Haber suggests that Orr dream of a solution to overpopulation. This results in a plague which wipes out three-fourths of the human population. The end to all conflict on Earth, which results in an alien invasion uniting mankind, and an end to racism. This has the effect of a world where everyone's skin becomes a uniform shade of gray.

It is immensely satisfying and Ursula K. Le Guin is rarely a disappointment.

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New to Koontz

I know that Dean Koontz is popular, and I have seen his books in the bookstore, yet I never had the desire to pick one up. "It isn't my genre" I would say and walk past them. For some reason that changed earlier in the year. The reason for the transition was "The Silent Corner" and "The Whispering Room" the first two books in the Jane Hawk series and from there the Odd Thomas series. The first two "Odd Thomas" books were really good. And what I have noticed is that the Odd Thomas series is very different from his other books.

After that I picked up "Phantoms" which was great. And I was creeped out all the way through the book. The idea to use fungus/gigantic organism under the earth as the monster was an interesting idea. While it was good all of the way through I figured it out about half way in, still it's a nightmarish page turner.

I stayed up all night reading it, though I doubt that I could have slept afterwards. It's apparently one of Koontz's least favorite books of his, go figure. I think he didn't like it because, despite it's success, it un-intentionally placed him in the horror genre, when he is actually more of a mystery/sci-fi writer.

Something that I have noticed about a couple of the other books.

Unfortunately, writing endings seems to be his weakness.

I feel like he writes the beginning, then the end, and fills in the blanks later. Though I have been told that Velocity is one of his tightest books with a great ending and some Koontz fans have recommend because it "truly keeps you on the edge of your seat." As well as being "a masterfully written suspense novel." So it is on my list. Koontz really works in nice biblical references into his books and stories so I am happy about that.

I think he's better at character when he lets himself write longer books or series. A lot of times it's like the plot drives him faster than his potential for good dialog. That being said, the guy comes up with great ideas and paces his stories well.

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That’s Odd Thomas

I really love the Odd Thomas series and after finishing the last book I haven’t been able to pick up another book. I am really interested in all the other characters that Odd encounters along the way. His powers and the responsibility that goes with them are immense but he just takes it in stride and acts as if saving lives is the most mundane thing in the world. When I got to that twist ending in the first book it was like getting punched in the face. I still remember putting the book down and just thinking on it. And realizing the foreshadowing leading up to it. I’m normally not caught off guard with twist endings, that one definitely got me. If you want to get the most out of it the only hint that I will say is pay attention to all the little aspects of the book because they call back to them through out the series. If you do that the ending is beautiful. The atmosphere and characters that Koontz brings to life have just always enthralled me since picking up the Jane Hawk books. You could try and read them out of order; the books in the Odd Thomas series stand alone well, but if you want to really carry the overall tone the books carry with them I’d start at the beginning. There is a sense of foreboding that builds through the series and Odd does go through a series of realizations that build upon each other. In a very real sense the entire idea that Stormy (Odd’s true love from book one) put forth about life being a boot camp plays kind of a big underlying role in the underlying themes of the series. Skipping around may lose some of that effect.

The Movie

As a big fan of the books I was skeptical before watching the movie. I was not disappointed. I thought it was a fantastic movie, and I think I’ve watched it 4 times already. I think this is a new and interesting take on the genre. This is something of a love story combined supernatural thriller. The best part about movies like this is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They do inject a bit of humor. Anton Yelchin plays a clairvoyant short order cook. But not clairvoyant in the palm reading, Taro card sense. He has a gift for communicating with the murdered victims that allows him to help solve their case. At the same time, he is in no sense a detective. He likes the quiet life of a short order cook. But dark forces have other ideas. There is no way I can describe it in a way that would give you a good sense of the movie. If you like independent films, you will like this. If you are remotely into the horror genre, you will like this. If you like good suspense and mystery, you will like this. However, if you are entrenched in Hollywood Blockbuster fair, then you will still like the movie, just not as well. I think I would easily rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
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Michael Connely’s Bosch

I am brushing up on my Bosch after watching the show of the same name by novelist Michael Connelly who was a crime reporter in LA, which makes his work seems very authentic. There is nothing world changing but there are many stories and many reoccurring characters, and you can see them grow and change though their lives because the stories take place over many years of their lives. The early ones are the best (Black Ice, Black Echo, The Concrete Blond). Definitely read them chronologically. The later ones are good too, but the first 3 or 4 Bosch books are my favorite. It’s said in introductory journalism classes that the best writing is that which doesn’t call attention to itself, and that’s the case here. Connelly isn’t flashy prose-wise, but his characters are three-dimensional, his pacing is impeccable and has that infectious thing where you end up reading far later into the night than you initially intended, and his plots (and associated plot twists) are legitimately surprising and intriguing. Bosch is not a warm character, though he cares in his own way. Rather he is cold, abrupt, judgmental and the ultimate pessimist. Harry Bosch sees Los Angeles the same way that his namesake Hieronymus Bosch saw The Garden of Earthly Delights – a human stew of crime and degradation. And it is role, his identity, to find and bring to justice the worst of worst, the ones who commit murder. All victims matter. Equally. Either everyone matters or no one matters, that is the conclusion he came to after the police failed to investigate the murder of Bosch’s mother because she was only a prostitute. A cop show is a cop show. There’s only so much that can be done to vary things up, but its’ an above average cop shop. Yet, the show seems to be working hard to stay true to the books. Connelly wrote the character so as to age ‘in real time’ – as a consequence the Harry in the first books is a good twenty years younger than the Harry in the more recent ones. As such, the way the character reacts to certain events / situations will change, as he himself changes. They’re not ground breaking – Connelly is no Dashiell Hammett, nor is Bosch a Sam Spade for modern times. That said, they’re perfectly enjoyable, fast, reads. As it is the series is fun for light reading, yet they still have compelling narratives. Fans of the books going to the show, they’ve made Harry more likable – though I found him hard to get over at first when I started reading the books. ~XO
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Horror Movie Binge

I have been on a horror movie binge for a while now, mostly since I sprained my ankle and have been resting it. Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you that part. But now you know. I have also been putting a list together as I go. I love Netflix, it is easy to enjoy a movie and then go back and see what you liked and didn’t. I have been watching two or three a night when I get home from work. So far my list contains:
  1. The Woman in Black
  2. The Orphanage
  3. Grave Encounters
  4. 1408
  5. Paranormal Activity 3
  6. Insidious 1, 2 and 3
  7. The Conjuring
  8. Dead Silence
  9. Sinister
I was told I should try Lake Mungo (2008), but it left me cold. Out of all of the movies I have watched recently it was the one that made my least favorite list. The reason that I tried it was purely off of the positive comments I’ve seen about it and was unfortunately disappointed with it. I liked the documentary feel to it, and I did think it worked well in eliciting empathy for the family. It was un-engaging and the ending was just sort of there.
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Green Eyes Continued

I find eye color fascinating, and yet many people take it for granted. In fact eye color is usually dumbed down into two categories, Dominant traits vs Recessive traits. Blue eyes are a recessive trait along with other unusual colors such as green, amber, hazel, grey, etc. You can also be a carrier for other colors which is based on your genetic makeup. Let us try and example to clarify, say Dad has brown eyes, but he’s a carrier for blue, green, hazel. Mom has brown eyes as well, and a carrier for blue, and amber. Brown is a dominant trait and all other colors are recessive. Odds are their children will most likely have brown eyes as well, but since they’re both carriers of the recessive blue, there’s a chance that their children could have blue eyes. When both parents have blue eyes, and you have green eyes. Technically blue and green are both recessive traits, so your parents are both carriers of the green eye color and it just happened to come out in you. For comparison, my dad has blue eyes, mother brown. I have blue/grey eyes, my sister has blue and my brother has hazel. Because my dad has a recessive eye color, he doesn’t have the brown (dominant) trait, and a carrier of at least green, grey and hazel And my mother was a carrier of blue, grey and hazel as well. Keep in mind that eye color, hair color, etc. are a bit more complicated than just dominant vs. recessive but this is how basic biology explains it. Here in the US, where 1 in 6 people have blue eyes, having green eyes becomes rare.
They (Green eyes) are most common in Northern and Central Europe. They can also be found in Southern Europe and North Africa. In fact, Turkey, at 20%, is the country with the largest percentage of green eyes. In Iceland, 89% of women and 87% of men have either blue or green eye color. A study of Icelandic and Dutch adults found green eyes to be much more prevalent in women than in men. Among European Americans, green eyes are most common among those of recent Celtic and Germanic ancestry, about 16%. Source
So countries that have a higher percentage of fair eye color also have more people with green eyes. I might be rare here, but in Scotland for example, I could blend in.
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Warriors Re-read

When I was about 14-16 I read all of the current Warrior books. That would be:
  • Warriors: The Prophecies Begin (2003–2004)
  • Warriors: The New Prophecy (2005–2006)
Each series had six books (six from six authors). I would say that I found them great at the time, I was a huge fan at first. I have since read all of the books in the different Warriors series. But my fandom level has dropped and I find them tedious, though the The Prophecies Begin and The New Prophecy were held in my memory, cherished as only a teen could. I skip all the “traveling” chapters now. Journeys were boring even before they became an overused plot device. Even early on in The New Prophecy when it was a new thing, I remember being really disappointed that they still hadn’t made it back to the Clans by the end of Moonrise after nearly two books of being on a journey. When I get to one I just roll my eyes because they are all so similar. There are a lot of reused plot devices in the series a couple that I recognized when I first read the books were:
  • Flirting between cats from different clans
  • “Can Starclan see me so far from home?”
  • Catching rats in a barn
  • Riverclan cat teaches others to fish
  • Older cat makes some reference to the Great Journey
  • Sheep, cows, or horses
And yet the book series seems to have so many of these obligatory plot devices to fill pages. Here are some of the obligatory elements that I have encountered:
  1. filler pages describing the environment
  2. trek into a twoleg place where you are guaranteed to meet: dogs, hostile rogues/kittypets, or kittypet/loner
  3. 2 pages dedicated to every instance in which the characters are trying to cross a Thunderpath (at one point, one of the characters will just barely avoid being hit by a monster)
  4. a conversation with a loner/kittypet/rogue in which said loner/kittypet/rogue asks a question or makes a remark which prompts the character/s to explain what clans are, explain that they are clan cats, etc., usually resulting in the loner/kittypet/rogue expressing wonder, confusion, fear, or wariness
  5. encounter with a friendly kittypet/loner
    • The encounter is often used to save the characters from some sort of threat, thus acting like a Deus Ex Machina tool that is employed. Though the kittypet/loner trope is one of the series’ biggest McGuffens.
  6. encounter with hostile rogues/kittypets
    • The encounter is usually as a simple means to progress the story. It can either happen as a result of or be the result of one of the characters speaking with a rogue/kittypet. They will either need directions or hints as to the whereabouts of x or y that is or is not important to the core plot.
  7. the characters get temporarily separated by a threat
  8. encounter with a dog/dogs
  9. encounter with a fox
  10. eagle attack when they go into the mountains
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My Favorite Crichton Book

I really enjoyed The Andromeda Strain, which is one of his earlier books. I wish that I could go back and read it for the first time again. It has all of the exceptional things that you want out of a Crichton book. Including dangerous science fiction tech issue, the unlikeable characters that die and you’re happy about it, and people making mistakes that make the problem bigger. In fact, one of the things that still stands out to me after all these years is the part where Crichton is describing someone’s actions and basically states that this is the point where he made a mistake. If he did the other thing, it would have ended. But he didn’t and it all gets out of hand. Jurassic Park is an epic classic of course. I also liked Congo and Sphere. Congo was one of his books that freaked me out. ~XO
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Non-paranormal Horror Movies

While I enjoy a good paranormal movie, I have watched my share for sure, anything with ghosts, zombies, spirits, and haunted houses do not scare me at all. I know that the people that are really frightened are those that “believe” in them, but that isn’t how I work. They can be fun when they are well made but it doesn’t go much further than that.
  • Frozen (Not the Disney movie)
    • Frozen is both haunting and effective for a budget indie. Too bab more people don’t know about it.
  • Eden Lake
  • Hunger
  • Session 9
    • It also has this perfectly delivered line from David Caruso.
  • In My Skin
  • Vacancy
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation – really more comedy than anything else, but definitely worth watching
  • An American Crime
  • Boxing Helena
  • Jacob’s Ladder
I wouldn’t call A Clockwork Orange horror though it is more horrifying, more disturbing and demented than horror, it is too real.
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Agatha Christie’s Poirot

I love Agatha Christie, I have been reading since I was a kid. Not that they came out when I was a kid mind you! For me, Poirot will always be number 1 because of his heart, and his flaws. He’s extremely observant and has a profound understanding of human behavior but he’s also immensely compassionate. Sherlock Holmes was brilliant at interpreting physical and materialistic evidence but Poirot was a master at understanding people’s thought processes using astute psychology and intuition. He can interact with victims, suspects and murderers in a way that probably wouldn’t occur to e.g. Holmes. No offence to Sherlock, but Poirot’s game is to not just catch the culprit but to clear and support the ones who are innocent and who have to go on living with what’s happened. He never hesitates to talk about hope, faith and redemption, and that sets him apart to me. And it’s remarkable how he manages to be so kind and so (often comically) arrogant at the same time. Poirot makes for a much more engaging and stimulating murder mystery for me. And for fans of the series it is always rewarding when Poirot explains how he made progress in the investigation at the conclusion of each book spot on. I haven’t read the books in a very long time but I think Agatha Christie’s Poirot relied heavily on characters to solve the murder and thus we were often left in awe of how well Poirot understood what went on in people’s mind, an arduous task to say the least, and how he sometimes used what he knew to artfully extract information instead of any scientific knowledge be it by: chemistry, anatomy, or any of his other abilities. I also like how he is an outsider in more than one respect. He is obviously very much alone “at the top” with his cognitive abilities but it’s interesting how he is originally also a refugee of WW1 and how he subsequently sets up his practice in London. How he approaches English society. The language, the customs, the laws, and how he befriends Hastings, Lemon, Japp and Ariadne. It’s very much a success story and he’s a perfect character to drop into vastly different contexts. David Suchet is my favorite actor in this role, by the way. I think he nails both Poirot’s stern and warm sides, and he can convincingly play him as both passionate and subtle. I also love the humor and relationships between him, Japp and Hastings. Poirot often worked without evidence, clues, patterns, and tracks and also solved crimes without visiting the crime scene and I can’t say the same for Holmes. Also, I personally don’t believe any of Sherlock’s best plots were nearly as intricate as Poirot’s best. But this is probably a personal bias. ~XO