BOOK: Lonesome Cowboy (2015)

Lonesome Cowboy Year: 2015 Author: Frank Lowe Length: 284 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** The book with the generic cowboy on the cover contains a relatively generic story inside. I wouldn't classify it as "Action/Adventure" due to a pretty significant omission of fight scenes. "Drama" would probably fit it better, since that's the main, driving force of this book. I will admit that, while being about a country singer, it doesn't focus too long on the "losses" in life (i.e. the guy lost his dog, his truck, his girl, et cetera). Of course, the types and magnitude of the successes of the main character do make the story hard to believe at times. Told in the third person, Lonesome Cowboy suffers from having a "telling" narrator instead of the characters "showing" their emotions. Consequently, even if the characters do show their emotions, the narrator telling the reader these emotions before they happen makes the whole bit seem repetitive and redundant. In fact, there's almost...
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BOOK: Smoke and Mirrors (2012)

Smoke and Mirrors Year: 2012 Author: Neil Gaiman Length: 636 minutes / 10.6 hours As someone who has to read many short story submissions for the anthology my writing group puts together each year, I can appreciate a well-written short story. I have not read much of Neil Gaiman, but in his collection of anthology short stories, Smoke and Mirrors, I was able to see what kinds of stories a professional writer writes for an anthology. While quite a few stories were interesting, not all of them were necessarily in genres I typically read. Then again, I consider erotica and stories submitted to Hustler as pornography, which is why I do not read these kinds of short stories. Furthermore, it is a little more uncomfortable listening to erotica, as was the case with this audiobook. Fortunately, Gilbert Gottfried did not read it, but it still is uncomfortable to hear it nonetheless. Sure, the concepts in these short stories were somewhat interesting, but the sex ruined...
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MOVIE: Matchstick Men (2003)

Matchstick Men Year: 2003 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours One of the lesser-known Ridley Scott films, Matchstick Men (2003) could have been just another heist film, and in some senses, it is. Upon watching the film again, one can easily pick up exactly when the "long con" starts up and which events lead toward the inevitable conclusion. So, perhaps it doesn't have the ability to demand repeat watchings (past about two) on its heist aspects. However, I believe the characters are what give this movie most of its charm. After all, characters make a story, and this one has some good ones. In one of his best "crazy person" roles, Nicholas Cage does an incredible job portraying Roy, a con-artist with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His performance is often difficult to watch and is cringe-worthy in the opening act. If this is what it's truly like living with OCD, I never want to joke about having it . . . ever. I'm almost...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Mahler 6

Symphony No. 6 in A minor Composer: Gustav Mahler Conductor: Josep Caballé-Domenech Date: April 22, 2017 Before going to see this performance, I knew very little about Gustav Mahler. Because of a Tom Lehrer song (see video below), I knew he was married to a woman named Alma, and I knew he composed a piece called "Das Lied von der Erde." And while I still know little about Gustav Mahler, I can make some interesting assumptions based on how he composed. After all, when a piece requires over 100 instruments, including two harps, two timpani, a celesta, and an instrument specially made for this singular symphony, you can tell Mahler didn't conform to traditional standards. I can practically hear him instructing his orchestra. I can hear him saying he wants more cowbell, because dang if there isn't plenty of cowbell in his 6th symphony. The richness and diversity of sound produced by this large orchestra leaves the listener with many instruments on which to focus. I'm sure repeated...
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BOOK: The Infinite Lawman (2016)

The Infinite Lawman Year: 2016 Author: E.M. Lockaby Length: 380 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I do have to admit that the cross-genre Cyberpunk/Western novel, The Infinite Lawman was an interesting idea. I hadn't seen these two genres combined before, so the combination certainly had an original feel to it, at least initially. There were certainly a few moments where some of its sources showed themselves, but the strength and pace of the story helped to alleviate these concerns. Although, if this is the first book in a series, I'm not entirely sure where it can go from here. Before I get any further into my review, I did find it odd that the margins were so enormous on this book. The page numbers were also all on the same side of each page (in the gutter for the left-hand pages), and the font was quite small (so as to fit in the small space provided by the enormous margins). I can only assume...
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BOOK: Amped (2012)

Amped Year: 2012 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 522 minutes / 8.7 hours Having read Where’s My Jetpack? and Robopocalypse from Daniel H. Wilson, I had some high hopes for this book. Clearly, Wilson has a depth of knowledge about current and upcoming technologies that allows him to write succinctly both non-fiction and fiction. He can fuse the science with either humor or action and maintain an accurate sense of it without having the details bog down the plot. In Amped, Wilson explores a world where humans use technology to assist their bodies, either to overcome a disability or to overcome their humanity. Unlike Robopocalypse, which was primarily a collection of intertwined vignettes, Amped follows a single individual through the effects of a fear-filled society charged by an inferiority complex. While the main thrust of the plot is about mental augmentation, there are mentions of other exciting technologies, including self-driving trucks and mechanical exoskeletons. Overwhelmingly, though, the brain-altering technology is the focus, as it hurtles...
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MOVIE: Passengers (2016)

Passengers Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours I have to admit that the plot presented in the trailers of this movie intrigued me. However, in its execution, Passengers (2016) left much to be desired. Of course, this was mostly due to the film using just enough “physics speak” to be partially accurate, but incredibly wrong. Those parts stuck out to me in this movie and I kept scratching my head while watching it and saying, “Wait a minute . . .” That being said, not all of Passengers was bad, just a pretty big chunk of it. I did appreciate the moral conundrum that Jim (Chris Pratt) encountered in the movie’s first act. It did add a bit of predictable drama to the characters, but depicting his struggle highlighted his humanity. In this plot with a clear three-act structure, this first act was the highlight that eventually devolved into a ridiculous setup for the final reveal. With each new character introduced,...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Hindemith: Mathis der Maler

Symphony Mathis der Maler Composer: Paul Hindemith Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: April 15, 2017 Contrary to what I initially thought, this piece was not by Gustav Mahler or even about Mahler (notice the absence of the "h" in the title). Instead, this symphony was an effective musical representation of an artist's work which itself had a hermit saint as its inspiration. Through the "behind the scenes" provided by the Philharmonic before playing the entire piece, I learned that Hindemith paid a lot of attention to the symmetry and mathematical balances in his music. From utilizing the golden ratio to palindromes to balanced and unbalanced movements, there was more to Hindemith symphony than met the ear. What was also interesting was the artist whose works were inspirations for this symphony (itself being part of a larger opera). Mathis Grunewald didn't have many works to his name, but the ones we do know about are certainly impactful. Just as an example, the piece included in this post was just one...
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BOOK: DreamLync (2015)

DreamLync Year: 2015 Author: K.A. Black Length: 122 pages I initially had my doubts about this book. There have been plenty of stories written about the challenges and cautions of a simulated society. From The Matrix (1999) to Sword Art Online, the blurred lines between the real world and a digital one are well within our reach as a global community. And while books like Ready Player One certainly have a nostalgic feel to their plotlines, DreamLync manages to flip the concept on its head and show how hard it is to pull oneself from a heavily digital social experience. While I would argue that the timeline for this book would be in the next 20-30 years, instead of more than 100 away (just look at Her (2013) for example), the same interpersonal problems will likely still exist. Told via the almost forgettable "everyman" John Adams (not to be confused with either U.S. President), DreamLync shows the reader a world that could easily be ours (without...
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BOOK: Goldfinger (1959)

Goldfinger Year: 1959 Author: Ian Fleming Length: 509 minutes / 8.48 hours For many years, I was aware that the James Bond series of books did not follow the same order as their respective films. Given the action/adventure spy thriller genre these books were written in, it is possible to mix them around and still have a good understanding of what’s going on, even if some of the references made within the novels could only be understood by having read the previous books in the series. In some respects, it is disappointing that the film franchise didn’t capitalize on a continuous narrative that the books provided. If the stories are out of order, then it 's hard to build up the constant battle between James Bond and the Soviet spy agency, SMERSH. Fortunately, since I had read a few of the first books in the James Bond series, I could appreciate Auric Goldfinger’s connection to the organization. That being said, I seemed to have jumped...
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