Monday, July 28, 2014

Hot Girls You Don't Know About: Tara Lynne Barr


This'll be a short one because I really have no idea what this girl's done except for one movie which she was awesome in. Everything else has been indie movies or minor roles. I hope it's because the girl's getting herself a good education and planning for a long career. She reminds me of Maisie Williams.


That movie she was awesome in is "God Bless America" - the best satire/black comedy I've ever seen. Most times they cast someone who looks the part but can't hack it for the role. Not the case here. It's very reminiscent of Leon: The Professional, but it's not a copy. It's all the best parts put into something else.


Other than that, I don't got much. There's a handful of TV guest spots and indie movies. I mostly put her here because of bangs. I love bangs -- Mandy Moore, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Emma Stone, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sandra Bullock, most robot girls.



That and her eyes. She has some amazing lime-green/hazel eyes. The kind I've never seen any girl fore nor hence.




  • Wikipedia
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    Is this her now?
  • Thursday, July 17, 2014

    Some Questions About the First Episode of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

    You know I love ninja turtles. My daughters love ninja turtles. They watch the new cartoons, but for some reason, keep asking to watch my DVD of the first five episodes of the 80's version. Specifically the one where where "April calls them the wrong names" (the first episode). So I've had a chance to review the pilot of a phenom a few times.


    Now, when you're eight years old, logic has no place. Suspension of disbelief is high in younglings.  You're not going to question things because you simply don't know a lot about the world. Maybe things that don't make sense are there for comic relief -- it's hard to tell the difference. Plus it's a cartoon. Cartoons never need to make sense. That's why we have movies like "Rock-a-Doodle" and "Rover Dangerfield".

    But then you grow up, and a hundred, perfectly logical questions come to mind, like:

    What is April's plan when she tells her crew that they're going to hang out in front of the tech company waiting for the ninjas to appear. Is she even going to try hiding somewhere? Or sit there on a stool like Atticus outside the prison, waiting for something to happen? Why does she think this tech company is next on the list? There must be, like, a hundred in New York City. Whatever insider information she got, it must have paid off because his gang of lowest-bidder goons go after her. Too bad she couldn't have let the audience in on it.


    Why does Shredder send his street gang after April instead of footbots. Granted, you may have wanted it to look like a random mugging, but I know which one would be more efficient. Geez, even the movie wasn't this stupid.

    When the Bebop and Rocksteady's gang follows April into the sewers, how are the turtles RIGHT WHERE THEY NEED TO BE? The sewers in New York City must be the length of the distance to the moon! They had no idea who April was or why she was there. Were they just close by, doing training exercises? Did they hear the commotion and run to the fray? Do they patrol the sewers regularly, waiting for innocent reporters who are somehow thin enough to slide into a curb sewer grate despite a hefty rack?

    When they go hunting for clues about the "mysterious street gang" that attacked April, they find a matchbook with "the clue that will lead them to the heart of the evil ninja empire" and decide to go up to the surface. This sounds like it's the first time ever, after fifteen years of seclusion and lack of sunlight, they attempt to foray into the world they've hidden from there entire lives. And the only thing needed to motivate them is a little matchbook and a hot reporter who's not even the same species. The only catalyst is the awareness that there's pizza on the surface. And it's not like it's the first time they've ever set their eyes on pizza.

    Did someone build this table?  Does Donatello have carpentry skills too?

    What was the point of all those ninja stores? Ninja shoe repair? Ninja dry cleaners? Was this like a chain? Did the Shredder have something to do with this? Was this a commentary on fashionability of ninjas? I think we were supposed to understand that all these stores were fronts for the Shredder, but what was his plan? Just monitor them? Who was responsible for maintaining them? It's like in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil is told his businesses are worth more than any money he seeks.

    Who ordered the sashimi pizza? In the ninja pizzeria, they order one sashimi pizza and three whipped cream pizzas. The whipped cream pizzas, I understand (this was a thing the turtles did). But this is one commercial break away from Donatello saying "How can you eat raw fish?" about Splinter's sushi. So I'm assuming it wasn't him, although all the turtles seemed to share the same sentiment. In the same line, that's one pizza for each of them? That's almost 1,000 calories a piece! They are athletic training, so that may not be abnormal.

    What happened to all the cool ninja/tech weapons they used in the rooftop fight? They had homing ninja stars, a tractor beam fan, laser guns. Do they ever use them ever again? No, it's just Shredder using whatever the chemical or gem of the week, and Bebop and Rocksteady firing their Stormtrooper-brand ray guns.

    And what is this he's holding?  A flail?

    Who was that ugly secretary for "Manhattan Security Systems"? Was she an employee hired through normal channels? Did the Shredder hire her? Did she have an interview? Was she just a hired thug like Bebop and Rocksteady's gang? Did she know what was going on? (I mean, that the foot soldiers were robots) Did she drown when the building flooded? Did she die when the building collapsed? Were there any other humans in that giant skyscraper besides her? If she didn't die, did she get another job afterwards?

    Daniela Morello - Missing, presumed dead
    How did Shredder get those cameras everywhere? It seems like every time the plot needs him to "see" something, there's a camera right where he needs it. Even in the sewer where HIS NEMESIS HAMATO YOSHI LIVES. He has the ability to put cameras there, but not to send a hundred billion foot soldiers into? Or a bomb? Or set up a laptop gun? How did Shredder know where Yoshi was in the first place, to put cameras there? AND to put the mutagen there? Did he just pour some down into a random grate and hope for the best?

    For that matter, why does Hamato Yoshi live in the sewers, instead of the streets like a normal homeless person? Was there something about the real world that just wasn't to his liking? So much that he thought living on the river bank of human feces was a better option? Has anyone tested this guy's mental stability? Granted, it's a legitimate destination, but still... sewers and subways are only where the most desperate homeless go. Usually to avoid the vampire/werewolf war on the surface.

    Sweet mana from heaven!  Human urine and garbage water!

    And furthermore, what exactly was Shredder's plan with the mutagen? Let's say he knows where Yoshi is. Let's say he's got this mutagen from Krang, from Dimension X, this super awesome chemical weapon. So... what does he expect to have happen? Does he know what the mutagen is supposed to do? That it combines animal and human DNA to create humanoid creatures with animal strengths and characteristics? He knows enough to make a "mutant of the week" in each episode, so it's hard to believe he doesn't. Does he expect Yoshi to die? Because he sure didn't, and I'd be pissed as hell at Krang for selling me something that did other than the expected purpose. Instead of suffering an agonizing death a la Ebola virus, he gains the reflexes and heightened senses of one of Earth's greatest survivors. And what was the point? Shredder already succeeded in dishonoring him and gaining control of the Foot Clan for life? Was he expecting Yoshi's comeback tour?


    Where do the turtles get the money to pay for their pizza? They make six or seven entire pies over the course of this one episode. They're good guys so I assume they're not thieves. So what? Do they scrounge the money that falls in sewer grates? And they don't always buy delivery. Where do they get the ingredients to make it? They need at least cheese, bread/dough/flour+yeast+water, and tomatoes. Where does that come from? Does it fall off the grocery truck? Do they take tips for saving the populace of New York City? ("This ain't exactly the March of Dimes here.") Where does Splinter's sushi come from? I'm pretty any fish living near the sewer is not terribly sanitary.



    Last but not least, what was the deal with that bat mutant? I know it's not the same episode, but I had to mention it here. TMNTPedia says his name's Scrag but that's news to me. He pops up a few times in various episodes, sometimes mutated, sometimes not. Was he supposed to be Wingnut? He's part of R & B's gang, but never gets any lines or roles. He seems to be the utility mutant -- the guy you need when you're testing a retromutagen ray. I'd think he'd be a smarter addition than the two bumbling gang-bangers.  In my perfect universe, he's with Ace Duck sitting on the couch with a beer, laughing each time Donatello calls something "highly unstable."

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    Monday, July 14, 2014

    The Books I Read: May - June 2014


    vN by Madeline Ashby

    In the first chapter, a five-year-old child robot eats her estranged grandmother, python-style, and goes from kindergartner to adult in an instant from the additional biomass.

    Good opening, and there are some interesting WTF circumstances (like robots were created to fill out the Earth after the rapture) but the rest stagnates. Once again, it's a book where the robots don't act like robots. They act like people.  The only difference is they know they were artificially created. But other than that, they eat, they fall in love, they procreate. You can't tell the difference. The interesting things are just background -- they don't come into play with the plot and don't even make plausible sense in the scheme of the world.

    The story is about programming as parenting. The problem is it felt more like a summer blockbuster action piece with chase sequences and romances that don't blossom until the end, and for me, those just don't work in a book format. It was a sludge to get through. It's a promising idea, and it does use some tropes like the existence of smart "gray goo" and robots in/as families in new ways. I can see this appealing to those few who liked A.I. and Brazil.


    Finding Laura Buggs by Stanley Gordon West

    This is a YA historical fiction novel, a rare breed. It takes place in 1950's Minnesota, the time when all those MST3K shorts and movies take place. The main plot is about a high school senior who just found out she's adopted (really a black market baby) and wants to find her birth parents. I don't know why any adopted kid would want to do that because there's no way it won't be a disappointment (there's a reason they were given up), but I'm not adopted so I can't say. Maybe I'm just made it's a common plot catalyst.  In between sleuthings, she visits an old folks home, goes out with her friends doing things you saw in American Graffiti, laments about the effects of war, and generally putzes around.

    I feel like the story did a lot of pandering to Minnesota native. It makes sure to mention that it's the Snelling streetcar, not just the streetcar that everyone knows and no one needs to mention by name. Also, it takes a long time to get events moving. The first third of the novel, Laura Buggs is trying to get info out of the ninety-year-old lawyer that served as the intermediary. After this she learns that old people are actually kind of cool, like in Recess episode 112 (57a).

    On the other hand, it also made me wish I was there, eating chocolate malts and riding streetcars without parents to helicopter. It's an enjoyable read, but I don't feel particularly satisfied after it.  There's a real disconnect between the happy optimism of the first 75% and the whip-turn ending.  I think it's audience is more for Minnesota senior citizens who will appreciate the old times and a good mystery.


    Kendra by Coe Booth

    In the ghetto, if a boy does anal sex on you, it means he's ready for a relationship.

    This feels like Pride and Prejudice in the PJ's. This was another of John Green's recommendations of great books that aren't bestsellers, but I'm not sure what he found in this one. It reads like a generic YA romance but with the trappings of so many early 90's "gangsta" movies. Kind of. The main conflict is that Kendra's mother is back after her post-graduate degree, and Kendra's hoping she'll finally take her away from the neighborhood and the strict-ass grandmother who's been raising her for sixteen years.

    But the bigger crux of the book is her boy crushes and her sexually acting out as a result of this negligence. Kendra's better than that, but the past is repeating herself as she waffles between the nice guy and the bad boy player, as cliche dictates. Of course, as far as generic YA romance goes, it ends there. Kendra pulls away from sex with the bad boy at the last second, cautious of losing her virginity (for disciplinary and moral reasons). He doesn't force himself or respect her wishes or grow resentful -- he's "going to need something". That devolves into booty calls in the closet after school leading to the butt sex so she can remain "chaste".

    And after all that, the fudge packer confesses affectionate feelings for her. And they start going out together. Is this a realistic scenario? Yes. Maturity rides up fast in risky situations. Does it send a good message to American youth? No, it does not. I'm not going to say that a writer can't write what he/she wants, but I'm a believer that books "teach you that dragons can be killed".  This moral seems to be, if you give up the rough enough, love is just around the corner.


    The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff

    The most John Greeny of the John Green recommendations that I've gone through so far. It seems like the subject manner is mild-mannered, but in fact, it's awfully intense. To the point where I wanted to reach through the book and strangle some characters.

    It takes place in the 70's-80's, following a young Jewish boy, the middle child in a very Jewish family, growing from kid to adult. His father is some kind of theater-director/entertainer and his mother is/was a SAHM until she wants to go to college. And there's an older brother who's his best buddy, but grows more rebellious and treats him like an older brother does.  Kinda like The Wonder Years without the Vietnam backdrop.

    But the big character is the father -- the overbearing, Woody Allen-loving, temper-tantrum-having, overall-horrible human being father. Example: the very first scene is a moving-in party, where he drags every member of his family out in front of everyone for huge embarrassing introductions, like singing and dancing monkeys, showing them off like part of an act. Example: his son has a learning disability, but the father won't accept that his son just isn't trying hard enough.  He sings praises of him to other people, but when the doors are closed, he rants and raves like a sarcastic, insulting baby.  His father goes ballistic as the son keeps screwing up the Bar Mitzvah thank you cards with each try, because of the pressure. This causes an intense blow-up in the middle of the book where the father finally gets some people standing up to him.

    The back of the book makes it seems like a dramedy, like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower". It's not. It's about a dysfunctional family, and a mentally abusive father, combined with some coming-of-age and Jewish themes. It's better than just "drunk dad beats his kid" a la Radio Flyer.


    The End Games by T. Michael Martin

    This is the book with the "Everything not saved will be lost -- Nintendo message" epigraph. It sounded promising, but did not deliver. The beginning was better than anything after it. Then it just becomes typical zombie story with typical "humans are the real enemy" plot. The characters are stock zombie tropes.

    It's about a teenager and his little brother trying to survive the apocalypse. But the teenager has to frame the experience as a game, because the little brother is only five and will freak out if he thinks his life is in danger. Their goal to find their mother fades away after you get through the first act. On one hand, it's nice to have the caretaker relationship between brothers. On the other hand, the book is mostly about survival, not plot points, like The Boy at the End of the World.

    I was hoping the video game metaphor extended through the book, but it doesn't. It acts more as a hook, and becomes weedy partway through. The book is really just a horror novel.


    Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

    I don't usually include comic books/graphic novels in these reviews, but I'm trying to catch up in this scene, and there's a lot of good stuff I missed. This is one of them.

    It's an apocalypse scenario, not superheroes or science fiction, . Simply put, all the men on Earth suddenly die, except for one. What happens next is so intriguing as he travels the world and sees how it copes. Simply put, it's not all nurturing and caring. If men disappeared, the world would not become a haven. You still deal with Mad Max biker gangs, religious zealots, and desperate civilians.

    I love this story. It's heart-wrenching and realistic. It has characters, it has plot points. It doesn't answer all the questions.  It's not about finding the goal, it's about the journey to it, and what's learned along the way. It's about gender dynamics and group politics and what people do when their backs are against the wall, and the best thing of all -- people solve things through cleverness and determination, not brute force.


    Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome by John Scalzi

    Scalzi released this as a companion novella to his upcoming book. You can buy it for a few dollars from Amazon or Nook or get it from Tor.com for free, which I did.

    It's not so much a piece of fiction as a simple timeline of the backstory up to when I presume Lock-In starts. It's kinda dry. It feels more interested in imparting information than creating a story or memorable characters. Like Scalzi took his story bible and turned it into a novella. Which I don't blame him for -- I'd do the same thing. Good promotional material.

    Unfortunately, I don't know how necessary it is to read this if you plan to read Lock-In. Scalzi says it isn't, but it feels like there's a lot of key details in this that lead up to something. But that something (people being able to enter others bodies and control them) may or may not be relevant. On its own though, it feels skippable.


    Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody

    Hmph, another book with a Minnesota setting. A vastly different subject matter, but still...

    Diablo Cody (the person who wrote Juno and fine-tuned The Evil Dead remake) displays her humble beginnings with a memoir of her experience as an outsider in the live-action sex industry. I've read books from people inside, but they've grown bitter and resentful of the field. I read those as research for Black Hole Son, but I should have read this one first. I was afraid it would be too perky and positive, and I wanted gritty.

    But this book is neither, it's somewhere in-between. She writes with the same style in Juno, meaning quirky, creative metaphors that take sixty words to illustrate. I've never had to use my eReader's dictionary function so much. Half the content is similes about her situation. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them, but at a certain point, it's ridiculous.  But damned if it doesn't get the point across in an entertaining way.

    Some people criticized her for being too filthy or see the book as validation for her career choice. I don't. I found it page-turning, and more informative than the other stripper books I've read (there seems to be an astonishing lack of good books about the sex industry). I know she didn't become a stripper so she could write a book, but her motivations seem a little ambiguous. Still, she proves that she's more together than lots of the other working girls.

    I liked how she was able to examine differences at each kind of strip club, from high end to low end to sex store peep shows. And she talks about the girls she met, the boredom and thrills, and how her personal life affected her stripper life. It's not strictly anthropological. It's a little more like a LiveJournal made into a book. It's sharp and witty, and even without the Minnesota ties I recognized, I would have enjoyed it. It reminds me of pre-Lena Dunham.


    Vegan Vampire Vaginas by Wol-vriey
    (unfinished)

    The biggest problem with this book is that it's more about the sex than the story. It has bizarro elements, but really it's just sex. Sex, sex, sex. Mostly bizarre sex -- transsexual sex, vagina in a hand, living dildos. The plot stops as it takes multiple chapters to describe everyone's sex life between days. If you're into that, fine. It's not the sex that bothers me -- I'm a hard man to offend -- but it has nothing to do with the story. Nothing moves forward.

    Besides that, the characters don't have distinguishable personalities. I can't tell one name from the other. They play roles, not personalities. It's like character soup, so it's hard to figure out who wants what and where the story is going.

    It's like a portal fantasy, but I'm never quite sure of what the goal is supposed to be. For example, the main character is brought to the king because he (or his other personality, I dunno) knows where some stolen gold is. But the first thing they ask the truth-telling vagina-in-the-hand has nothing to do with this. It's not lazily written, but it seems the plot is missing fundamentals of story-telling - characterization of the lead, character wants something, goes through obstacles to get it.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Late to the Game: Assassin's Creed


    This game is simply not that good. I do not know how it got a dozen sequels out of it, but playing the first did not make me want to play any others. It's too repetitive and colorless.

    First thing I gotta complain about is the poor PC port. Couldn't see the opening movie, but could hear it. Took forever to figure out a way to get my XBox controller emulator with it, and then it wouldn't save the configuration. I ended up just leaving the game on all the time, so now Steam thinks I've played Assassin's Creed for 142 hours. Either the data miners at Valve are going to think I frickin' love staring at sand-gray buildings or I'm really bad at the game.

    Weather Report: Brown with scattered taupe
    That, coupled with the fact it takes about ten minutes to shut down the program. First you press escape, then exit. Except it's "Exit Memory", not exit game. You go back to the animus (more about that later) which does it's hi-tech, green-blue thing. Then you need to exit animus. Then you slooowly get out. Then you have to press start and say Exit Game. Except you don't. Now you're back at the main menu, which forces you to select your save profile again to get to the screen where you can finally get back to Windows.

    Hmm, now how do I get down?  Ah, I got it -- a 50,000 foot drop into a hay bale should be okay.

    OK, a bad UI can be forgiven--game designers may not be savvy about intuitive interfaces. So then the game starts, and you get plunged into a small tutorial level taking place in Heaven. It shows you all the skills you're not going to need to get through the next level, which is some cave. Except you don't know who the hell you are, or where you're trying to get to or who you are. And this is kinda more important here than in most games, because you're really some poor schmoe bartender being transported back via "genetic memory" in some kind of time-travel/hyperbaric chamber. So identity is thematic here.


    Speaking of the animus (the horizontal TARDIS) what the hell is the point of this machine? There is no gameplay associated with this framing device. You slowly walk to your bed, then walk back to the chamber, then back to bed, then back to the chamber. All this place does is serve as exposition. It's just a little break between assassinations. I played Candy Crush Saga on my iPod while they were going on.

    And you need those breaks because the gameplay is repetitive. Every mission is the same. Go into a city, run madly through the streets and rooftops until you reach one of the three destinations where you do some mini-game that is either "assassinate 1-3 guys without triggering a witness", "pickpocket someone", or "sit on a bench". They give you way more of these than you need to complete the mission, but every one is the same thing. No eye-opening story tidbits or easter eggs, no leveling up (you only get new abilities after each mission). Just gameplay extending, meaningless collectibles.

    Fifty citizens need to be saved, held by the exact same guys, saying the exact same things each time.  I was expecting one of them to tell me about their arrow to the knee.

    I was hoping from something close to Dishonored, but it's really Prince of Persia: Open World. It doesn't matter how stealthy you are, or how patient you are, nearly every objective is the same -- fight some guys. And the combat is ridiculous. It's not designed to be the core mechanic, but there's so much of it (all the Save Citizen missions, and all the other times you trip combat). It's sluggishly slow, consists of single sword strokes against single opponents (even though they surround you and take potshots). It doesn't let you throw knives or do a sneak-behind throat slash or use any of the tools you gain throughout. The actual gameplay is more based on parkour -- how can you run efficiently so you can climb walls and jump gaps.


    And then, after I went through all that, hours and minutes of gameplay more monotonous than an arcade game from 1985, it ends on a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger?! All I wanted to find out was why anyone cared about shoving this Joe Blow in Michael Jackson's old oxygen tent. And after all that you still don't know. They make you play the second game. Fuck that, Ubisoft. YouTube was invented for a reason.


    Monday, July 07, 2014

    Cinderella's Ending is Bullshit


    Am I the only one who realizes that the ending to Cinderella is bullshit? I'm talking about the Disney movie. There's no way that shit would hold up in any court.


    You know what happens? Cinderella is the last person in the kingdom. Lady Tremaine trips the bumbling assistant. He stumbles and the glass slipper goes crashing into a million, billion pieces. That should be the end of the story. We can't try the slipper on anyone else.

    But then Cinderella says everything's all right. "You see, I have the other one." And they put it on her and it fits and happily ever after.

    Why, look at this conveniently duplicated slipper I happen to have with me.

    How do they know she didn't have that glass slipper all along? Why couldn't she have her glassmaker friend whip up something, knowing her exact dimensions and slip it to her for a piece of land and a few serfs to be named later? But no one questions it. No one wonders why she has a perfect duplicate of the glass slipper that EVERYONE in the kingdom knows that the prince is looking for. Hasn't the prince ever heard of forgery? There's no better con than the long con.

    You know what would work better as a legal defense? Since Cinderella's the last person in the kingdom who hasn't tried on the slipper, by process of elimination, she must be the one.

    And by the way, what would this even feel like?  Aren't heels bad enough?  I imagine glass sneakers wouldn't feel very good.

    Tuesday, July 01, 2014

    Observation of the Day

    The same people who complain that kids today don't pick up a newspaper, or know important things like who the newly elected leader of Brazil is, are the same people who don't know how to upgrade their browsers and then need the neighbor kid to figure out why their email doesn't work.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

    Update

    Defender Draft 3 has started. I'm working with 94,000 words and it'd be nice to whittle that down to under 90K, but I won't weep if it doesn't.

    What disappoints me is my reading. I used to love reading, but now it feels like I'm reading just to get the books done. Just to diminish the "to-read" list on Goodreads or claim that I've read "a classic". But through the list, I just haven't found anything that reminds me of why it's so good to read. The last one I remember is Eleanor & Park, and before that Looking for Alaska.

    And there are days when I feel like, huh, gotta write again. Man, I wish I was doing something other than this. I wish I was doing something fun. It could be because I'm revising, not composing, and I'm more in the cleaning up phase than the creating phase. But it's not like I'm sick of the story. Not yet. So that's not the issue. It's just being back into the groove. My lunch hours dedicated to this instead of going out to eat or taking a walk around the lake or watching TV.

    Some days I have to resist turning into a slug. Some days I just want to forget about the writing I want to accomplish, the goals that seem so far away, and just play video games and drink whiskey. Then I become a consumer, not a producer. Like a caterpillar that just eats and eats and eats leaves and only serves as food for some higher-up animal. One that never turns into a butterfly to help pollinate the flowers it would previously destroy.



    So it's a struggle. It's like trying to stay away from alcohol after going through the steps. It looks so good, so easy to fall into, but you have to resist it because there are bigger things than personal indulgence.