Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2008, Part Fourteen: Liz Henry

Hello! I'd like to offer a grab bag of music, games, books, movies, and other great stuff that I came across this year.

me with stickers


Here are a couple of albums that the artists have made available for free download.

Jane Jensen - Comic Book Whore : Link to download Comic Book Whore (there are annoying ads; just click through them) Lush, layered, loud, obnoxious.

Gangstagrass - Gangstagrass album. Hip hop bluegrass. A nice clean site to download from!

And here's The Large Hadron Rap, by Katherine McAlpine.


Galcon. This is a fun, fast-moving iPhone game. I played Galcon Lite for free one night. In the morning I bought the full game for 5 bucks for the iPod Touch. It is sort of "space Risk" and has the feel of old play-by-email games. You start out with a planet with 100 population. Using the touch screen, you drag ships from your planet to colonize neutral planets or conquer the planets of your enemies. It's a good game against the AI, with many increasing levels of difficulty. Playing the networked game, with whatever other players are on the server, or locally with friends, is fiercely addictive. Scary eat-your-life addictive. Call me Admiral!

Trap! is a free game for the G1 Android. It starts with 5 balls bouncing around; you control the drawing of lines which trap them into small spaces. Once you master the physical skill of this game you can try to max out the various bonuses and multipliers. This simple game has kept me engaged for a couple of months.

Carcassonne - This game isn't new, but it continues to be great. I prefer the Hunter-Gatherers version to the original, but I haven't played the more recent variants.

Hey! That's My Fish! A silly board game of penguins greedily eating all the fish while icebegs melt underneath them. Good for kids maybe 5 and up. Not boring for grownups (this is so crucial !)

Zar - A fast paced, simple card game good for 2-9 players. Not boring, but still suitable for tiny children and drunk people as well as people with brains. When a game is enjoyable by tiny children, drunks, and brainiacs all at the same time, someone's doing something right. (Zar, Fluxx, and Ice Towers are all good for that mix!) Dragons, peacocks, wasps, frogs, moons, stars, and galaxies give the game a really nice fantasy/sf flavor. Here's the site:

Movies and TV

The Wire. This is the best TV show I've ever seen. It's stunning. I watched the DVDs of the first four seasons this year. It builds an incredibly complicated story with characters who have great depth. Its presentation of differing social classes and of race is just great. I will say I noted that it focuses very much on men and masculinity, and men's relationships with each other. While there are strong and interesting female characters who give the feeling of having dimensions to their lives, they are not the focus.

Dhoom 2. This is a Bollywood action movie. It has James Bond-ish action scenes, goofy and rather annoying romance, and musical numbers that manage to combine the two. I am especially appreciative of the following dance number, which expresses the spirit of the movie fairly well:


Legend of the Shadowless Sword (Muyong geom)

This is a movie made in South Korea, a fun historical drama with romantic and comedic elements. It had a ton of great action scenes -- non stop combat, very well choreographed. There are several good female characters. It is notable when a woman heads up a band of, well, they were either bandits or warrior monks or all of that, anyway a band, but when a woman heads up a band of warrior monks and isn't the only woman in the band, that's rare and cool. I can't say more about the main female character without spoilers, but she was great -- tough, kick ass, dedicated, able to stare anyone down like Michelle Yeoh, a good actress, and great with her sword. The political and historical details are quite interesting. Here's the Wikipedia description for Muyong geom, which has lengthy spoilers and some background. Here's the trailer!

Cycler - A book about being an awkward teenager -- one who switches gender for a few days each month. The gender switch is a medical condition, not something that happens because of magic. I read a lot of kids' and YA fiction. This fit the teen-angst tropes perfectly, but with mind-blowing gender related twists.

Victory of Eagles Fifth in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, and my favorite so far. Novik continues to explore ideas of slavery, rights, personal loyalty, politics, war, and gender.

Blood in the Fruit & Stretto. I can't do them justice here! They need a long review. But I was very, very happy to get the last two volumes to the Marq'ssan Series this year. It's very intense. I am still thinking over the politics and of the stories it tells of the relationships and the politics of women.

Fun Home - Alison Bechdel. Fantastic!

I Am A Cat - Soseki Natsume. A 1905 novel, or trilogy, told from the point of view of a cat.

Genesis: An Epic Poem - about the terraforming and colonization of Mars.

Amelia Earhart - Maureen Owen. This is an out of print poem cycle. I love it deeply! Here are a few excerpts from AE, and a sample for you here:
At breakfast the question    of nuclear weapons in space

Now the voices were faded they sang to her Her own
name in bits Underneath 2556 miles of water whistled
shore tunes it's soft clapping a comfort & a horror
The plane is the point at which the fog & the sea would meet.
A koan is a puzzle that cannot be answered in ordinary ways.
All my
Electrons Lord! all my protons neutrons leptons
mesons haryons all my Gravitons! "this will be
the secret of my disappearance A massless particle
is a particle of zero rest mass all of its energy is energy

of motion"


The Computer History Museum I visited the Computer History Museum in Mountainview. The old computers are so beautiful! And I got to see a demonstration of a working Difference Engine. I took photos of many of the exhibit signs in the huge "warehouse of really old computers" room, went home, and looked up all the computers in online archives and Wikipedia for a lovely, geeky evening.

Discussion in comments of Always Coming Home
One of the best blog discussions I had this year was over on Feminist SF: The Blog! as many people weighed in at length in response to my post on Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home. Frowner and Yonmei's discussion was great. I noticed that several people I talked with who grew up outside the U.S. did not know at all that the Kesh or the other people in Always Coming Home were based on or used elements of various Native American cultures.

Yuletide just blows me away. I recommend that you start with their elegant, useful quicksearch page and scan over the listed fandoms. I'm slowly working my way down the alphabet and taking notes for a big review post with links to my favorite Yuletide fic. I will be evil, though, and throw you all a link to an extremely silly NC-17 Galaxy Quest story, By Grabthar's Hammer. And just one more... Laura Ingalls starring in this very nicely done story, LIttle Settlement on the Moon. I would not only read that entire novel, I'd devour the whole series. There is a missed opportunity here!

- Liz Henry


Nancy Jane Moore said...

Hooray! Another fan of The Wire.

Haddayr said...

oh! I'm so glad you mentioned gangstagrass. I'd been planning to do it on mine and somehow forgot.