Friday, September 24

Cannonball Read #1: Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Geez, it's almost October. I'm behind not because I don't read--I've read well over 52 books since last November--but because I don't write. I will rectify that. So I'm just starting with the first book in the pile in front of one of my bookshelves.

Cast in Shadow is the first in a fantasy series written by Michelle Sagara. I picked the book up because it was thick (500 page mass-market paperback) and I was going on vacation, and because the hero is female (and thus a heroine, I suppose).

Her name is Kaylin Neya, and she works for the Hawks, part of a sort of three-pronged law enforcement bureau for the city of Elantra. The Hawks seem to be the detective branch. Now, I must admit, there's a lot to absorb in the first couple of chapters. I've finished the book and I'm still not a hundred percent sure I've got a grasp on all the world's inhabitants: in addition to plain old humans, there are Leontines, with features just like what you'd assume based on the name, Aerians, who can fly, Barrani, who seem to be the Elantran equivalent to Brahmins, except more perfect. Or something like that. Oh, and Dragon Lords.

At the beginning of the book, Kaylin is called in to her superior's office, to get a new assignment and met her new partners, one of whom she attacks at first sight. His name is Severn, and while Kaylin and Severn share a history (and she obviously would like to seriously hurt the man) their shared history is left to unfold naturally, much later in the book. She is also partnered with Tiamaris, a Dragon Lord, which is in itself an oddity, as Dragon Lords rarely work for the Hawks, and Severn is on temporary loan from another department. They have a special assignment, however, that directly ties back to Kaylin's (and Severn's) past.

Seven years prior, children were found murdered (disemboweled and with symbols carved into them) in the neighborhood Kaylin grew up in, and it's happening again. Only this time, there is a living person with those same symbols--Kaylin herself--who has seemed to develop or derived power from them. It is up to her and her partners to get to the bottom of the murders, before the body count piles up as badly as it did seven years ago.

I knew nothing about the book or the series when I picked it up, and I kept reading it because of Kaylin. She is young, messy, and horribly unpunctual, but she loves her job and truly appreciates the people in her life, and I think she is truly a person of integrity and passion. She deeply cares about people--or at least the people she cares about--and to be frank, I was dying to know what the history with Severn was. The story kept me hooked because, even through all the information coming in about this world and the developing and unraveling mystery, the book is populated with a handful of characters that slowly reveal themselves to the reader, shedding light on relationships and presenting nuances of understanding that really made the book (and characters) open up as it went along. This particularly worked well in revealing the history between characters and in shedding light on their choices in the past and the present, as they continue to grow and deal with forces way beyond them. I definitely want to pick up the next book in the series, Cast in Courtlight, just in hopes of revisiting with some of them and watching relationships develop with others.

Wednesday, October 14

An now for an actual use!

Haven't posted a thing in over a year and a half, but I will now be using this for the Pajiba Cannonball Read, and maybe to randomly blog too, who knows. It beats using Twitter as a substitute for journaling. Although that remains the virtual food journal.

Time to get to reading!

Saturday, February 9

Celebrity Look-Alikes Experiment: Picture 5

Celebrity Look-Alikes Experiment: Picture 4

Celebrity Look-Alikes Experiment: Picture 3

Celebrity Look-Alikes Experiment: Picture 2

Celebrity Look-Alikes Experiment

So has a "Face Recognition" feature, where you can upload a picture of yourself and they will pick the celebrities that most match your features. I'm trying a number of different pictures and seeing if the results are in the least alike. Stay tuned.

Celebrity Look-Alikes Experiment: Picture 1

Monday, May 1

United 93

I approached the movie with heavy trepidation, hoping I wouldn't cry, scared to watch the events of 9/11 unfold again, worried that it would be too much for me.

There was no need to worry.

The movie itself, was interestingly enough, entertaining and well-crafted. The build-up was perfectly calculated: the blend of the normalcy of people at work in the airports, in the air traffic control towers, at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Northeast Air Defense Sector, slowly gave way to confusion and then built up to a chaotic crescendo that ends on a note of silence, heavy with all that came before it. Paul Greengrass, the director, keeps the focus evenly distributed amongst the different settings and characters, so that in watching United 93 we become participants, sharing the gripping events unfolding in real time with the individuals we're watching.

Except that they're not just characters and settings. These are real locations and real people, and the confusion, fear, and chaos are all part of the history this film is documenting. It is difficult to watch the passengers waiting for their flight and the flight attendants preparing the airplane. You want to shout at them to leave; you want to strike the terrorists down yourself before they reach the plane; you want to pull back the one passenger who almost, almost missed his flight, but caught it just in time. I felt like walking out at that point. But staying to see the entire film is worth it. Because while we all lived through 9/11, few of us were able to share so closely in this experience--many might question why we would want to share. But we already share a collective loss of innocence, security and idealism, and watching the actions and reactions depicted in United 93 provides a starting point for moving beyond it.

United 93 shows the moment of paralysis that took the entire country, and then shows all of these individuals moving beyond it, taking the best actions they could, the only actions they could, and unknowingly becoming hereos simply--though really, with excruciating difficulty--by going on. There is something cathartic in watching these passengers take a hold of their fear and control of their fate, deciding to take action knowing full well what may await them. In watching Ben Sliney, the operations manager for the FAA, react as best as he could with what information he had, and making momentous and unprecedented decisions. In watching the military at NEADS try again and again to figure out what response could possibly be made, and then try to get confirmation for the authority to make it. These people were forced to make choices in the worst of circumstances without the help of protocol or guidance, but the choices were made, and affected all of us. I was surprised that, besides the sadness I was expecting, the emotion I experienced was anger--there were so many things I never considered that day that the film forced me to notice. Other filmgoers said they just relived the emotions of that day, and were frustrated as much now as they were then at their helplessness. But reliving those crucial minutes, five years from the event, really calls into question our reactions and the changes in our country borne of 9/11.

If the film serves to give rise to questions about our country's response to such a tragic disaster, provides a window into details we never considered, or just serves as a vehicle for mourning the victims and events, without the immediate needs of that day diluting the grief, then United 93 with its simple retelling and lack of embellishment has probably given us more than we were ready for on that day. But the movie makes no such demand on the viewers. There is no message, no singling out of anyone or anything. Whatever chord, if any, that the movie strikes will vary from person to person. It's not too much; it's however much you can handle.

If nothing else, the moment of silence at the end, when the screen goes black and the only sounds in the theaters are the soft crying of some filmgoers, serves as a monument for these passengers, all the victims, and everything else lost on 9/11. It seems to me the time is always right for that.

Thursday, October 20

I finally gave in.

While procrastinating before finally dragging myself off to bed, I finally gave into the temptation of creating a blog. Rather late, I think, but there's something rather...alluring about the idea of what I say out there for all of cyberspace to see. Not that anyone knows about this blog at the moment. Not that more than a handful of people would care. But, thinking about sending off my opinions into space...

Alright, I'll bite.