Fall means Football (college football, please!)

Dogs MascotAlthough the pro players, owners, coaches, and (sometimes) games are in the news these days, I’ve always been far more interested in college football. There are several college programs in Georgia nowadays, but for decades the main focus has been on the largest university in the state (Georgia, also known as UGA, the Bulldogs, the Dawgs, etc.) and the lesser known but just as proud Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (with such monikers as the Ramblin’ Wreck and the Jackets.) When the two play each other, I root for the Dogs, but otherwise I love watching Tech take on foes in the ACC. Lately, I now have a very soft spot in my heart for Miami, having given the fabulous Coach Mark Richt a second chance at head coach, so now I also follow Miami (go ‘Canes!).

College football is better for a variety of reasons, but primarily it is all about entertainment. Folks like me, who never played football past grade school touch games with my male cousins, do not watch to relive glory days or to see how our bets come out. Nope, we watch to see the mascots do their thing, to watch the crazy get-ups worn by frat pledges, and to see the raw emotions of players in their late teens or early twenties. Because players are limited by eligibility and academic rules, there are always new stars rising, too. Football is a team sport, and college players go above and beyond for their teams. The cliché, “the good old college try” stems from that teamwork that makes college athletics special.

Go Dogs (and Jackets, and ‘Canes).

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Cord Cutting is getting better— but more expensive

TVHubby and I haven’t had cable in more than a decade, and we’ve been with without DirecTV for a while now. Instead, we have watched Netflix streaming (including the DVD feature) and Hulu. Then, there’s YouTube, which gets better and better, but those ads are oh, so annoying. A service that we seldom used at first, Amazon Prime, is getting better, and they are offering something quite interesting: channels ala carte. You can take a look at that here:

Join Amazon Channels Free Trial

My favorite service, still, is Netflix, but as original programming supplants purchased programing, I’m liking it less. Since we are fans of college football, I have been buying a subscription to SlingTV each fall. While it too is getting better, Sling has ads and a plethora of “infomercials” that can be watched on demand. Yep, I paid $40 for the full package, and I get the opportunity to watch ads, short and long. And, this year I keep seeing “your event is blacked out.” The on demand offerings seem quite arbitrary, as sometimes there are multiple episodes available, but on other days there are fewer. Needless to say, if this continues, I won’t even give Sling its seasonal run in the future.

Netflix is about $29 per month (for a family plan + DVDs), Hulu is $9 per month, and Sling is $40. Amazon offers benefits beyond streaming, so let’s add another $5 to the total. That makes $83 per month for online entertainment; each service overlaps a bit, yet each offers something unique. YouTube, HBOgo, CBS all-access, and others would love to have some monthly moola, so clearly there needs to be one service that provides everything (cable + DVR?) Disney has been teasing two different services in the future, one for entertainment and one for sports. If they do, the fracturing of the entertainment empire will probably get worse.

Right now, cord cutting is more and more in vogue, but one of the big players needs to add live sports. Whichever one can manage that will win enough customers to have more buying clout with networks. I’m not a gambler by nature, but I’d pick Amazon to win, Netflix to place, and Hulu to show.

Shameless self-promotion

From Goodreads.comDirtball Cover: “extremely unique”

From Amazon.com: “Well written”

Trina Cole McQueen, the middle child of a wealthy shipping family, had been doing her duty as a pilot in the Confederation Fleet, knowing that when her service was done, she would rejoin her family. One evening, while on liberty from her ship, Trina is abducted by agents of the Confederation’s arch enemy, and soon Trina is on a one-way trip to the most primitive planet she has ever seen.

Instead of being a fighter pilot, Trina is sold as a slave, on a world where a horse is the fastest means of transportation, and weapons have blades. Culture shock ensues, but Trina is a strong woman who has every intention of surviving her experience on “Planet Dirtball,” regardless of what she must do.

Kindle Unlimited readers can journey with Trina for free, but others will only have to pay $2.99 for the trip. Check Pilar Savage’s novel via Amazon:

Link to Once Upon a Dirtball on Amazon:

Steel World by B.V. Larson— quick review and commentary

Steel World cover(Okay, y’all, I am going to be straight with you; even my quick review contains a spoiler or two.)

When I began the Kindle version of Steel World, I was all set to hate it. The main character and action seemed to be lifted right out of one of the first-person shooter war games that my son loves and I don’t. Then, the main character, who was actually playing such a game, is rousted into reality by his mother. His sweet little life of being a bored student has just been interrupted by some economic woes. Then I got interested.

In some ways, this story is a re-tread of many combo “coming of age” stories, melded with some “gung-ho” military action. But, I rather liked this take on the soldier who never dies. Larson’s imagination is really clever, and he writes in such a way to bring the reader into his vision. The cast of characters is a bit flat, but often military yarns suffer from that malady. It’s hard, practically and emotionally, to get attached to people who will either be transferred or killed off, so relationships are a bit more shallow. Very real, but shallow, none-the-less.

The basic premise of this novel is that future mercenaries will be Planet Earth’s contribution to the Galactic economy, as humans are very good at making war. The Galactic Empire’s contribution is the machine that makes clones of the soldiers’ bodies. So, the “undying” part is that when the soldier bites the dust, under the proper circumstances, he can be transferred into a new body and sent back into the fray. This saves lots of training, of course, as experienced personnel are not lost nearly as often as if they stayed dead.

Steel World is the first in a series of novels, and I will probably pick up part two, as I really did enjoy B.V. Larson’s take on future warfare.

Beauty and the Beast— on DVD

Beauty
Perhaps you are like me—I was interested in the latest Disney cartoon classic to live action reboot, but not enough to plunk down the money to see it in the movie cinema. So, you waited, or might still be waiting. Worth seeing? Yes or no?

Maybe. Sorry, but that is my best answer, having rented Beauty and the Beast (2017)  recently. I remember watching the animated one (on VHS!) with family members, and I thought then that it was state of the art for that style of animation. It still is, I would think. But, Pixar type technologies have, for the most part, left traditional animation of feature films in the dust of entertainment history. So, to bring this film to a new generation, Disney decided to do a combination of live action and modern CGI for the beast.

This film is very, very true to the original. Fans of the music will have no gripes, and the sets are simply amazing. The live action part of the new movie is darned good, but it is so faithful to the previous effort that it seems just a bit too “cartoony” if that makes any sense. For instance, I enjoyed the CGI teapot much more than the live actress. The same is true for most of the characters. The CGI beast, however, was just a bit to phony looking, so I liked the prince better.

If any actors stand out in the new film, my picks are Luke Evans who plays Gaston to the hilt, even if he isn’t really “as big as a barge” as the lyrics state, and Kevin Kline as Maurice, who makes the father seem eccentric enough to need his daughter to take up for him. Emma Watson does a very good job as Belle, although I don’t think she looks the part. If the credits didn’t name Ewan McGregor as Lumière, then I don’t think I would have known him, although I’ve always admired his work. Those who have stated that Disney only made this film to make money are correct, but Disney is a corporation whose main mission is to make money for its share holders, so that is not exactly a valid criticism.

So, back to the original question. Should you see it? Sure, why not? But, I must say, if I wanted to share it with children, I’d go for the original, which is still available: Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition.

The Temporary Agent— review and commentary

Recently, I read the Kindle version of The Temporary Agent by Daniel Judson. While well-written, this novel didn’t grab me and keep my attention. One of the reasons that I (or most folks) read fiction is to get involved with some characters who are embroiled in conflict to see how those characters manage, thus entertaining me and providing some catharsis as well.

In The Temporary Agent, the opening scene has the reader immediately seeing that this is a novel of death and dire straits. “Cahill was no stranger to suffering…but the night he lost Erica was without a doubt the longest of his life.” This novel has really short chapters, and the first five comprise Part One where the exposition and action swiftly intertwine, and I was really getting interested. Then came Part Two, which changes the point of view character and the pace of the story. As the next fifty five chapters unfold (yes, that’s a lot of chapters) the pace does pick up, but the second POV character, who turns out to be the titular character, is not as interesting as the guy in part one. So…that is a huge flaw. Basically, the author grabbed me in part one, but let go of his grip in parts two, three, and four. Again, the novel is well-written with lots of interesting details and plenty of action, but I just didn’t care as much about the characters that came after those in the first part. And, for the reader to be really interested, the main characters have to be multi- dimensional and engaging, and it helps a lot of the secondary ones are fleshed out, too.

Fans of espionage novels, military action, or crime fiction will probably enjoy The Temporary Agent. While I did finish it, I kept thinking that it would have been a better story if the POV had stayed with Mr. Cahill and his lost love, Erica.

Dark Matter— review and commentary

Dark Matter from FBFor the most part, the SyFy channel has seemed more like the “Horror channel” to me. So many of their original works seemed to rely either on horror or even fantasy that I seldom watched it, back when we were cable subscribers. However, the series Dark Matter: Season 1 [Blu-ray] (which I’ve been binge watching lately) is certainly an exception to that. Here is a series which blends elements of hard and soft science fiction writing, plus some really good acting and nifty special effects, into an entertaining and occasionally thought provoking original science fiction series.

The initial premise is a fabulous launching point: Six people wake up from stasis pods on a ship, and none of them remembers their respective pasts. Action ensues almost immediately, as the ship’s android viciously attacks. Once the android is sorted out, then this motley crew sets about sorting out who they are and what the mission of this ship might be. All of the cast members do a good job with their parts, but Melissa O’Neil is particularly watchable as her “Two” character quickly becomes the center of this strong ensemble.

Each episode helps unravel the mysteries, while bringing in new characters and situations. As the series unfolds, most of the characters learn of unsavory bits in their past lives, which affects how they interact with each other and the characters they meet as they travel though space. Hard science fiction elements (the science part) include the technology of stasis, of artificial intelligence, faster than light space travel, and genetic engineering. Softer science fiction elements (the emotional and social aspects of technology) include how the characters react to their collective amnesia, how they interact with other cultures, the ethics of certain criminal activities, and how the politics of their time and space play out.

Among the players of this futuristic universe are large corporations, mostly depicted as being at war with each other. Government is largely a pawn of the corporations. Science fiction grand master Robert A. Heinlein played with similar themes in his novel, Friday, which also dealt with genetic engineering and the ethical dilemmas which accompany it. Science fiction requires good writing, as “fiction” is part of the term, and the writers of Dark Matter seldom disappoint. If there is a weakness, some of the space travel effects are a bit cheesy compared to modern movie making, but hey, it is a television show!

Science fiction is mythology for modern man. (I’d love to take credit for that, but I got the idea from reading about science fiction and mythology, including The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)  There is much to like in the series Dark Matter, which is on currently on the SyFy channel, as well as via streaming services and on DVD. I highly recommend it.