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After the short summary it gets a bit spoilery, so be careful if that is important to you. You can find it here on my RPG journal.
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Are linked to at the Memory Palace. Join in on sharing them and get a chance to win a nifty Steam-Powered themed gift pack!
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Steam•Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, an anthology edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft and published by Top Shelf, an imprint of Torquere Press Publishers.

This anthology consists of fifteen stories mixing lesbians and steampunk in various concentrations. For me, steampunk is mixing the untapped potential of the new sciences and technologies of the industrial age through the 1920s to the punk ethos from cyberpunk, in other words how the new technology changes and oppresses the world. By my definition, three of the stories do not fit into the steampunk genre but they are still quite interesting all the same.
Rest of the review )
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Short, non-spoiler version:

Go and watch it for the CGI world of Pandora and the Na’vi. An amazing realization of an alien environment, the best so far. Ignore as much as possible the ham-handed plot that lacks all subtly and shows that Cameron does not understand what science fiction is. My Grade: B- (and only because the CGI is so spectacular, apart from that it would drop a full letter)

For my spoiler-laded analysis of why it fails at being science fiction here.
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I had heard about this when it released, it was all over the Unknown Armies mailing list, but only recently saw it (thank you Netflix). Amazingly, The Lost Room is a SciFi original production and one of the best high weirdness pieces I have even seen.

Minor spoilers ahead )
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Finally managed to watch all of this in a marathon sitting last Sunday when BBC American showed it all in one block. The review contains spoilers and so is behind this cut )
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Not that I am much of a foodie really, but recently we have visited two of the places to eat in Athens' Five Points area and I wanted to give credit where credits is due.

The Royal Peasant, makes the attempt to be a British pub in Athens. The decor is nice, with a small outdoor area and an equally small inside area. Two tellies inside, one showing Dr No and the other Baseball (not cricket at all). Had Strongbow cider, a plus. The food was good but overpriced (considerably) for the portion size. I had fish and chips, Laura had bangers and mash. In both cases, the proportion of potatoes was annoyingly small (and mine only had fish and chips, no other veg at all). Still, the service was good and it is a nice atmosphere, if it was a better value for money I would go there often.

Two Story Coffeehouse, very nice location with a lovely enclosed patio area. The service was excellent, though it was not busy at all, though a little pricey (two 16 oz coffee drinks and a big brownie, just under $12). The drinks were very tasty, mocha for me and green tea latte for Laura, and the brownies was excellent. Very pleasant and we will definitely go back but maybe not when school is in session (when it looks like it would get very crowded).
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Again, more catching up.

The IT Crowd, Season 1 and 2, a comedy about the IT Department of a large corporation. It is a small depeartment, two people, classic computer geeks, and their supervisor, who knows almost nothing about computers. Very amusing, lots of geeks dealing with real world sort of humor as well as the insanity of corporation work. My Grade: B

Supernatural, Season 1, sibling monster hunters travelling across the US saving people from all sorts of occult dangers. Very amusing, would have benefitted from letting some stories last more than one episode as sometimes the conclusion is rushed. The filming and special effects are quite excellent and the plots are decent, if, as mentioned, occasionally rushed. A good resource for modern monster hunting games. My Grade: C+/B-

Mirrors, a Keifer Sutherland supernatural suspence movie. Interesting in that there was never any doubt that the weirdness Sutherland's character is supernatual in nature, never "of he is a recovering drunk and seeing things". Not bad, the major set (a fire damaged and abandoned department store) is very impressive. The ending is surprisingly good. My Grade: C/C+
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Finished the last of The Wire, Seasons 4 and 5. Still excellent, if not quite as good as the first three seasons. The primary focus is always with the police, but the secondary focus moves from the criminals to the politicians and schools (season 4) and politicians and newspapers (season 5). While changing focus is needed, the move from the yin/yang of cops and hoods loses that perfect balance. The reasoning is sound, the failure of politics and school leads to the criminals and the media ties everything together. But still, not quite as solid or compelling as the first three season, while still being just about the best television ever. Fair warning, it is rather depressing at times. My Grade: A-
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The Wire is set in Baltimore and follows the activities of a major crime unit that gathers information primarily through surviellence and wire taps (the wire of the series title). We are given views from that of the police as well as the criminals, and occasionally others who paths intersect with the story told. As my mother lives in Baltimore, it is also fun occaionally seeing places I have visited. (It is written by David Simon who also behind the superb Homicide: Life on the Streets.)

The story is intense, at times depressing and exceptionally well done. Each season is one 'case' from beginning to being handed over to the courts. In all of them so far, drugs have been the primary focus. The character are well drawn and real with flaws and weaknesses. The acting is superb, and the penultimate episode of season 3 has two of the best, most emotional charged scenes I have watched.

It is just an excellent series, the best of the HBO Series I have seen and they are pretty good overall. I cannot recommend it enough for those who enjoy police dramas. My Grade: A
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Just finished the Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. An immersive fantasy. I keep feeling that I should have liked this book more than I did, it has: a Roman-analog Empire, a loyal Agent of the Empire, a young man who must live by his wits, political intrigue and war! But they just do not fit well together. And there are little things that bothered me (door knobs in a Roman house? really?) and the magic system, well, it is interesting but not coherent.

The Alerans, the main culture in the book, are born with the ability to manipulate furies which are elementals (the usual four plus wood and metal) but most Alerans only one or two types at their command. The furies a character commands are usually named and have some vestigial
personality and the power level of these furies vary greatly from master to master. One of the main characters (the young man who must live by his wits) is the only Aleran ever not to have furies of his own, at least that is the impression the book gives. But for all this structure, the furies ultimately do what is needed by the plot not what they should be in a coherent structure and, but some unknown method, they can be bound into items so we can have magical flashlights and floodlights ("fury lamps"), which halfway make sense in the setting, and will destroying slave collars, which do not.

The plot is also very predictable. While it was an easy read and the battles at the end of the book are very intense, it is just very . . . standard. Every plot twist was telegraphed and played out as expected. Most of the villains barely had three dimensions though our heroes managed slightly better. Still, not a bad read, but not really engaging enough to make me want to read the second book. My Grade: C/C+
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Finished watching the Tudors, Season 2, which moves the timeline forward from (roughly) the divorce of Catherine of Aragon to the execution of Anne Boleyn. A bit more intense, as it deals with a lot of personal politics, and it includes lots of executions. Not anywhere near as much as in the first season that sent me scurrying to fact check. Peter O'Toole is delightful as Pope Paul III. Overall, enjoyable. My Grade: C/C+
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Yesterday was my birthday and being the answer to life, the universe and everything does not seem to be overly enlightening . . .

Spent a nice relaxing day. Part of it watching Coraline based on Neil Gaiman's book. It was in 3D which was slightly gimmicky (and raised ticket prices) and I am not convinced that it enhanced the movie, but it did not detract from it either. Delightful, entertaining, well done, all around enjoyable. One of the best crafted movies I have seen in ages, no missteps at all, and a beautiful classic fairy tale (as in a tale of fae and farie). The voice cast is excellent and the music is thematic (and includes a very short piece by They Might Be Giants!). If you like Gaiman or fae story, see Coraline. My Grade: A-
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Lots of catching up here . . . Organized from most recently watched to watched some time ago.

Road House recommended by [livejournal.com profile] nemloen. Stars Patrick Swayze as Dalton, the best Chiller (head bouncer) in the business, hired to clean up a bar he runs afoul of the man who runs the town. The first half, the how to clean up a bar part, was excellent, the second half was pretty standard 80s action movie. The fights were pretty good and Swayze was competent. Not the greatest movie but fun. My Grade: C/C+

Grey Knight (aka Killing Box and other titles), the version we watched was the Director's Cut which weighed in at 92-minutes (as opposed to the 80 of the other version). A horror story set during the American Civil War, the basic story is good but the execution and pacing is poor. The basic concept of undead roaming the edge of the Civil War is very clever but it does not hold up very well in this movie which is hampered by a limited budget (but has some good actors). Still, a valiant effort, even if it does not succeed. Good fodder for horror game (especially Deadlands). My Grade: C-/C

After the Fox, an Italian movie starring Peter Sellers who get to indulge in playing a master of disguise and multiple roles. Victor Mature is a good sport and parodies himself as "Tony Powell" and Britt Ekland is beautiful as the film obsessed "Gina Romantica". The film involved smuggling a huge amount of gold, conning an entire villain and much silliness. Fun and has some very cute scenes but rather uneven. My Grade: C

Layer Cake starring Daniel Craig as a successful criminal who just want to take his money and get out. Unfortunately, events conspire against him. Well written and plotted (except for the ending, the director had to have his "shock twist" at the end which was entirely unnecessary). Good source material for games involving criminals (like Shadowrun). My Grade: C+

Once Upon a Time in the West, one of the classic Westerns with several plot elements (the railroad vs settlers rights beging the primary) but too long and ponderous for my tastes. Interesting to see Henry Fonda as a villain though. My Grade: C/C+

Waiting for Guffman, an odd 'slice of life' comedy by Christopher Guest center on the music put on to celebrate a small Indiana town and the hopes of the cast members to be discovered. Amusing with some really funny moments and some not, the musical itself is quite humorous as well. My Grade: C
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Watched this over the last week or so, Mad Men, Season 1. Set at an advertising agency in New York in 1960, a very accurate period piece while also being a compelling drama. The show gets all of the period details right and uses actual advertising campaigns as the 'finished product' that the fiction firm turns out. Engaging characters, interesting plots, good production values though with some soap opera elements. Overall, an excellent show. My Grade: B/B+
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Three . . . Extremes, a set of three Asian 'horror' pieces by different directors, presented in this order:
Dumplings by far the most disturbing and sinister of the pieces (though they are all disturbing). What price beauty? A perfect piece for the Legend of the Five Rings setting, showing how people can be seduced and corrupted by dark promises. My Grade: C+/B-
Cut, the longest sequence, at least it feels the longest. Clever in that the main character is a director and obviously intended to be 'realistic' and 'edgy' but is ultimate pointless and stupid but engaging while watching because you hope that something will happen that will make it all make some sort of sense . . . but it does not at the end mean anything. I advise skipping this one entirely. My Grade: D
Box, the cinematography is amazing, it is beautifully filmed and what seems to be the story is disturbing and twisted (in many ways) but I found the twist ending, well, dumb, but [livejournal.com profile] doji_kumoko sort of liked it. So, your perception on that will determine how much you like this one. Still, visually a treat. My Grade: C+

My advice, skip Cut, and watch Box and then Dumplings. If you must watch all three, watch Cut first, so you can get the taste of stupid out of your mind by the end of it all. Overall grade: C-/C
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Trying to catch up a bit . . .

Seen on DVD:
Sukiyaki Western Django, a strange mix of western and samurai drama with HK action sensibilities. Not good but fun, the plot is a thin excuse to string together various Western/Samurai tropes and is quite amusing. Though it is in English, we found it worthwhile to watch with close captioning as the Japanese actors often do not speak clearly. My Grade: C

Diary of a Chambermaid, a strange French movie set between the wars about the life of a maid in the French countryside. It is well acted but goes nowhere. Nothing really resolves, and very little happens, throughout the movie. Just pointless. My Grade: C-

Khartoum, a historical drama based loosely on General Gorden's defense of Khartoum (in the Sudan) against the forces of the Mahdi. Not very historically accurate but very fun, Charlton Heston is brilliant as the driven Gorden, and Laurence Olivier is a sinister fanatic of a Mahdi. The battle scenes are well filmed, if not very bloody (though horses tumble left and right). My Grade: C+/B-

Hancock started off well as a tale of redemption but veered off into a strange story of super-powered immortals . . . which was a same as I was quite enjoying the redemption. Will Smith does well in the role overall and the special effects are very well done. It could have been great if it had focused on one storyline. My Grade: C-/C

On the theatre (yes, we actually made it to the theatre!):

The Tale of Despereaux, a delightful little story (though the opening is rather slow) well animated and with good voice acting from a lot of top talent (Matthew Broderick as Despereaux for example). A fun story and , mostly, well told. My Grade: C+/B-

January 2015

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