The Lost Symbol review (yawn)

Shamlessy borrowed from http://www.gogeometry.com/english/dan_brown_lost_symbol_word_cloud.htmDan Brown writes enjoyable works of fiction. Chapters play like scenes in a summer blockbuster movie. Before you start reading, just remember, as with cinema fodder, disengage your brain and let the story carry you to the end.

The Lost Symbol follows our favourite symbolgist on an adventure around Washington. This time we’re chasing the secrets of the Masons. At first glance the plot outline sounds like a refreshing change – no mention of the Catholic church whatsoever. However, the story quickly dives into religious history and we’re again being told we should be questioning our faith. DB goes further and ends up calling us gods ourselves.

Sigh. By the final 10 pages I was rolling my eyes so much I was experiencing motion sickness.

It’s not the subject matter I take issue with, it’s that Dan Brown’s novels combine fact with fiction as though they are the same. It feels like he wrote the book with one eye on Wikipedia and the other on random conspiracy websites. And yet, the book opens with a statement that this is based on fact.

It’s a shame really. This will make an enjoyable film when it is inevitably released. But I get the feeling the audience will feel like we’ve seen this all before…

The best and worst of 2009

Zero nine was a rubbish year for new media. Shit music, shit movies and shitty endings to well loved TV shows. There was more entertainment to be found following the cult of celebrity and the trashy tabloids. This while significantly sums up the decade of the naughties, here are my significant media moments of the year that was.

Best Movies of 2009
Only 4 movies make my list of 10. This is James Cameron’s fault. Had he not caught be off guard and helped me realise how much I had settled for less than satisfactory cinimatic distraction I might have included others.

  1. Avatar
    A cinimatic experience. From the get-go you can see that Avatar was made to be a movie event. It suffers from none of the tranlation issue that plague novella adaption (Watchmen). The story works and never drags. It is also significant for the advances in technology. This is the first film I have seen where I could not see the seams between CG and reality. Bravo.
  2. Moon
  3. District 9
  4. Sherlock Holmes

Best TV of 2009

  1. Lost
    Time travel, Dharma and Star Wars! The penultimate season of Lost was a slow beginner. But by the time we reached episode 8 (LaFleur), the writers were back in the swing of things and mysteries were unravelled. A shortened season due to the writer’s block strike of 2008, the finale is one of the most memorable. Honestly… we could have ended the show right there and I would have been happy.
  2. Dexter
    The show was at the risk of visiting the same old story lines after the carbon copies of seasons 2 & 3. But this year the writers really pulled one out of the bag with a villain that was genuinely disturbing and a whole new lifestyle for Dexter to deal with. There were a couple of duff episodes in which not a lot happened (a first for Dexter) which keeps this from being my favourite for the second year running.
  3. Battlestar Galactica
    With only half a season to wrap up the story, you could see the writers were tearing the story up at the seams. The last handful of episodes felt like a rushed job. Character arcs were resolved and we had a definitive ending (which I enjoyed). However, I did finish watching the show with a sense that I’d been cheated of a proper ending. And can someone tell me what the hell happened to Starbuck?!?!
  4. Honorable mentions
    Fringe is growing on me. But I’ve still to see season 2. Family Guy is enjoyably creative. “Road to the Multiverse” is one of the most memorable episodes I’ve ever seen. However the remainder of the season, including the Star Wars spoof have been very forgettable. And who the hell thought the Cleveland Show was a good idea???

Best PC Games of 2009

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
    Batman delivers. End of.
  2. Men of War
    War is hell. And fun! So I went back and played it again, twice!
  3. Plants vs. Zombies
    Games are supposed to be fun. There was nothing choris about PvZ.
  4. Fallout 3
    There were a lot of naysayers baying at FO3 for lack atmosphere and direction. It oozed with it! If you couldn’t     enjoy this game then perhaps you should return to your basement and rewrite your own text adventure.
  5. The Sims 3
    Not for me, but my family have ruined my gaming cred on my Xfire profile! More than half a month has been spent wasted on this game.
  6. Grand Theft Auto IV
    Was released in 2008, but I couldn’t get it working on my PC until 2009 (after installing Vista no less!!!). A significant game with oodles of polish.
  7. Mirror’s Edge
    Unique and artistic. I only wish it included multiplayer.
  8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
    A diamond in the rough, 10 times better than the movie.

Best Websites of 2009

  1. Big Picture
    A well presented picture blog detailing current events from around the world.
  2. reasons why it’s worth to be a pcgamer
    Forgive the broken English title. Adrian Werner has been collating the most thorough list of worthwhile PC games for 3 years now.
  3. Dropbox
    Synchronising your documents and folders has NEVER been so easy!
  4. Google apps
    It’s a no brainer really. Messages, calendars, docs, spreadsheets and photos. Google manages them all neatly in the cloud.
  5. Rock, Paper, Shotgun
    Four of my 5 favourite games journalists writing about PC games in one place.
  6. Lifehacker
    The many, the proud, the geeky. Want to know what antivirus is most popular these days? Want to find out the cheapest route to a Windows 7 upgrade? Want to know how to make your own gummi bears? Lifehacker has it all.
  7. LogMeIn
    Control your home PC from anywhere in the world. Even with New Zealand’s attrocious connection speeds, LogMeIn handles it with ease.
  8. WordPress.com
    Saved me $100 in hosting costs…
  9. Newzbin
    Ahem.
  10. Failblog
    If you ever need to feel good about yourself, just spend a few minutes browsing the fail blog.

In a nutshell

2008 was a tough one. Resolutions revolved around making 09 a little less crap. Did we succeed?

A difficult start to the year. Bashed the car on Jan 2nd. Insurance were assholes with the repairs. Car lasted a month before going back and having the job done properly. The onus is on us to do the chasing and negotiating. Why the fuck am I paying my premiums?

Moved home in Feb. Some say there’s no place like it. Big garden, small house, nice neighbours, close to amenities, Em’s happy, kids are thrilled. Job well done.

Jack took up rugby in Term 2. Rough and tumble, but no broken bones. He won some awards and met the Crusaders. This year is a toss up between codes. Rugby or Footy? Still to be decided.

Bella started horse riding. A great experience. Included kitting up, grooming and caring for the beasts. Then she decided she wanted a rabbit rather than a pony. “Billy Jazz Matthews” introduced to the family in July. Family loves him. He hates me. The only rabbit I’ve ever heard growl…

Millie started kindergarten. Loved every moment. New teachers still don’t remember her name? She doesn’t mind – she’s made friends with everyone else (except the boys of course).

Lulu saw the year through in leaps and bounds. Went from crawling to cruising to walking to running and there’s no stopping her. Started speaking her mind toward the end. Thoughts revolve around food, knock knock jokes and Dora.

Em kicked off with a sponsored 12km run in March. 1:17:30 was her finish time. Aims to shave 10 minutes of that in 3 months. Had her first earthquake in July, queue panicked text messages received from UK amid reports of tsunami warnings. Then she really picked up the slack when I was out of work. Pulled double and triple shifts for nearly 3 months. Saw us through our most difficult patch. Can’t express how proud I am of my wife.

Personal journey was a short one. Cruised until October. Then employers sold the business from right under me. Three months of job hunting. Was the 1 of 80 who filled my position in the end. New employers are solid. Benefits are grand. Happy to land on my feet.

In other news, one brother returned from England, then moved to Hamilton (trading down much?). Another left from Blighty to be with bride to be. Pop had a stroke in August. Long road to recovery still ongoing. Family pray for him every day. Now we pray for peace of mind and spirit. Dad started out recovering from major back op. Nerves in legs still tickled, but at least he no longer needs support. Big brother Alex visited with nephew Louis in July. In-laws invaded in November for 3 month occupation. All are welcome and company has been greatly enjoyed.

The year finished as it started, with the car off the road. This time it’s a blown head. A new engine is the likely outcome. Significant costs make this a long-term project. But we’re blessed with friends with big hearts and spare cars.

We wanted oh nine to be better than the year before. We succeeded. New Zealand is now a place we can call home – as long as Em’s residency is accepted…

Twenty ten significantly commemorates 10 years for Em and I together. So my goal this year is to pour favours of love on my beautiful wife. Every day at a time.

Movie Mix Up

CrashesBeing the movie aficionado that I am, I keep a wish list of flicks to hand for catching up on when I have the time. Some of the movies on this list include classics as well as modern art-house affairs.

I recently sat down to watch Crash. A critically acclaimed movie about a traffic intersection. Yeah, did I mention Emily and other film fans have absolutely no interest in any movies on this list?

Anyway, I grabbed a copy of Crash this week and sat down to see what all the fuss was about. Within the first 5 minutes I had been subjected to two graphic sex scenes and not a lot of intersections… eventually it transpires that the film is in fact about a group of weirdos who get off on car accidents. There’s plenty more sex and genitalia on display too. I was starting to wonder what the critical acclaim was all about. In the end I turned to movie off (it looked like I was about to get to watch a homosexual encounter, and I’d reached my threshold for bad taste). I recalled the movie to Emily who was bemused that someone as tolerant as myself could not sit through such a distasteful movie.

Later I looked the film up on IMDb to see where all the acclaim came from. Imagine my surprise when I discovered 2 films listed named Crash. My snuff flick was released in 1996 by the sycophant, David Cronenberg. It was even deemed too offensive for release in Britain!

The film I had been intending to watch was in fact released in 2004, starring Matt Dillon and Sandra Bullock. I’m still a bit too shell shocked to sit down and watch the correct film as intended. In fact, I think I’ll go double check the rest of the titles on my list to ensure I don’t get any more surprises!

Big Day for the Wee Man

birthday boyJack turned six today and it’s been a busy year for our boy. He started school on his fifth birthday as is the tradition in NZ. In these 12 months he’s had his head stuffed with mathematical equations, linguistical structures and playground politics. Jack played his first season of Rugby for Shirley U6 and it now looks like swimming will be the chosen sport of summer.

Jack’s growing into a right little entertainer too. Always up for making his sisters laugh. He’s known as a bit of a class clown too. As with all our kids, we’re playing it by ear for what he wants to do this next year. I’m hoping to teach him some survivalist skills. Camping, fishing and gun saftey – all to prepare him for next year, when he learns to drive a car ;)

Disposable movie moment

You don't want to see what happens nextI recently sat down and watched Observe and Report, a comedy that feels like it’s straight out of the Judd Apatow house of laughs. It recycles the usual jokes from any Seth Rogen film – asian man swearing, mocking the disabled and male nudity. But one joke left me distinctly uncomfortable and on reflection, morally outraged.

In the scene, our hero – Ronnie Barnhardt takes his dream girl on a date. After watching her consume a quantity of alcohol and his prescription drugs, Ronnie takes the lass back to her house. She has obviously lost control of her facilities, evident when she vomits on the front lawn… but then he kisses her and in the next scene is having sex with the near comatose girl.

I asked myself, did Seth Rogen just try to make a joke out of rape? I wonder, how many frat boys are going to watch this and think this makes it okay to have a go with the inebriated tart they just met at the club? I’m all for having a laugh at movies… but someone needs to teach Mr Rogen and co some social responsibility!