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2012.01.01 The king is dead… long live the king.

It has been a year and half since this site has seen a new post, and twice that long since brian has made his presence felt. I have been hanging on to bipolar, thinking that one day I would resume posting again, but now I believe its time has passed.

As with most things in which I've been involved online, I'll endeavour to keep bipolar up in perpetuity, as an archive of times past.

If you want to catch up with me, head over to MatthewRasnake.com, which is a window into just about every aspect of my online life.

Brian, bipolar, and friendly readers, thanks for the memories!

chicago road trip, 2000

brian and matt

2009.05.11 Star Trek the New Old Generation:

I loved the new Star Trek. Let's just get that out of the way at the beginning, then continue.

I am a huge Trek fan, from way back (not WAY way back, like the 60's way back, but way back, like from the 80's). I used to watch Original Series reruns on TV as a kid (in the 70's), I went to see the first Star Trek movie in the theater (not that I really remember it, but my parents have reminded me), then stopped watching Star Trek altogether when Wrath of Khan came out because the little brain-worm-things scared the shit out of me. I got back into it when Next Gen started, and just went nuts over it. You ask me how dilithium crystals work in a warp drive, and I can probably give you an explanation without doing any research.

There are tons of reasons why I enjoyed the original series (and Next Gen, and DS9, and occasionally Enterprise), and I'd love to tell you that it was because of the hopeful and optimistic vision of the future, and the way it portrayed humanity as having overcome greed and prejudice and having dedicated themselves as a race to bettering themselves and fighting the just and righteous fight for freedom and cooperation. But really, I loved it because of the characters. The sometimes quirky, sometimes absurd, sometimes hyper-real, sometimes bizarrely unrealistic characters and relationships that populated the show. I loved it because of the stories, and the campy humor, and the glorious over-acting. And, I loved it because it sometimes asked deep philosophical questions, and other times it paraded around in front of you wearing a Nazi uniform. I don't think I really grasped the historical, philosophical, and sociological ramifications of the Trek universe until later.

But, we're here to talk about the new Star Trek movie, aren't we?

Taken on its own merits, I think this is a phenomenal movie. There are issues of science and issues of execution of course, but overall it is exciting, and fun, and touching, and very Star Trek in lots of the right ways.

I think Chris Pine made a great Kirk. All the characters were written (and directed, I assume) somewhat… over-the-top, and very earnest. I felt that, though Pine also suffered this, he had a presence and subtlety that really befitted the character, and that I can see serving him very well in subsequent outings. There was at least one scene (and I've been trying to remember exactly where it occurred, but nevertheless) where I remember thinking to myself… "There's Kirk. That's Kirk. That was right on." And I think it was just a single word, or very short line, delivered with a certain mixture of joy and self-awareness that I think captured the spirit of "The Kirk," and channeled a bit of the old Shatner magic. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this new Kirk.

There were certain Kirk moments from a story/plot perspective and from a characterization perspective that I didn't like, but those would be difficult to elucidate without spoilage.

Quinto's Spock also had a lot to offer. Maybe he played it a little too close to the chest at times, and maybe he played it a little too "smirky" at times, but neither of those are entirely un-Spock-like qualities. I thought the father/son and the mother/son things were well written and well played, but I did feel that this Spock, somewhat interestingly, was representative of the Spock we came to understand over the last ~40 years, rather than the Spock we met in the first Original Series episode. Our Spock started out (well, after Where No Man Has Gone Before, anyway) as an emotionless, purely logical, and imperceptibly conflicted character who had very much chosen his Vulcan side over his Human one. That was not the Spock we got in this movie. In and of itself, that's not a bad thing, and I did really enjoy this Spock, but I also felt that this new Spock didn't represent where our Spock would have been at this point in his life. It didn't kill my enjoyment of the character, but it stood out to me as a point of unnecessary disunity.

Ultimately though, I thought Quinto's Spock was fantastic. He enabled you to become invested in the character very quickly, and he brought you along for the… yes, emotional ride through the rest of the movie.

The supporting cast was also varying degrees of good.

Karl Urban's doctor was good, but I felt that he was trying too hard to imitate the wonderful DeForest Kelley. I also felt that the writers did him a disservice by restricting his dialogue almost exclusively (I felt) to classic "Bones" catch-phrases. Dixon over at Shelfbound considered that this may simply be the way McCoy talks, which is an interesting thought, but one I don't necessarily agree with. McCoy (the "real" McCoy, you might say buh-doom-tsh!) had plenty of aphorisms and metaphors to go around, but his dialogue was never so heavy with catch-phrases. Ultimately, it's forgivable, but it was irksome.

As an aside, I absolutely adored the way they introduced McCoy's nickname. It was a bit awkward, perhaps, but I loved it.

Simon Pegg as Scotty was a real treat. The character was fun, and lively, and seemed to come off as both brilliant and moronic at the same time. I like Pegg, he's fun. Unfortunately, I never believed he was Scotty. Doohan's Scotty was brilliant but subdued, earthy but not offensive, and excitable but responsible. Pegg's Scotty was mystified, frenetic, and frequently out-of-his-depth. Also unfortunately, Scotty didn't get enough good screen-time to further establish the character. Perhaps there's more to him than this situation allowed to come through.

Uhura was good. Her character had strength, conviction, self-confidence, and power. It is a testament to the actress (and the writers as well) that they were able to establish this, because she was woefully lacking many really meaty scenes.

Sulu was also good, and I felt he fared a bit better than Uhura, scene-wise. He didn't try (unlike Urban) to mimic his predecessor, but inhabited the character he was given. I don't think that I ever really felt he was Sulu, but rather that he was some entirely separate character.

The Christopher Pike character was really great. I felt he got shortchanged in the leadership department in a few spots, but that ties into some movie-wide problems and more potential spoilage. Still, I really liked this character.

Finally, we get to Checkov. What to say… I did really enjoy his introductory moments in the movie, but ultimately I found his character to be very annoying. I also felt that this character was the farthest from the original source material. I won't go so far as to say I didn't like the new Checkov—because he was entertaining, to a point—but he's just not Checkov. However, maybe he is just another casualty of the way the characters were generally over-played. If he'd been more subdued, perhaps he would have fit perfectly. Who knows?

Well, I said "finally, we get to Checkov," but really, the Enterprise is the last (or first?) major character in the Original Series, and we should talk about her as well.

I really liked the new Starfleet ship exteriors, and felt they were true enough to the original. The bridge, on the other hand, was a different story. The old bridge was spacious, and austere but powerful, and it felt comfortable and open. This new bridge was bright, flashy, and claustrophobic. So much of the old Star Trek took place on the bridge—perhaps this is an indicator that the bridge will no longer be the central story-telling vantage point. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in future movies.

At last, we get to the story itself. As I mentioned, it was enjoyable and exciting. Unfortunately, I felt it was also, like most of the rest of the movie, a bit over-blown. It was as if they tried to make every single moment just as tense and dramatic as possible—tried to give the story as much weight as it could possibly carry. The good thing is that it delivered. The question is, is that a good thing? Personally, I prefer my Star Trek a little more cerebral, and a little less "wagon train." Maybe that's the Next Gen era initiate in me, I dunno. I just think there's a line between sci-fi action/thriller and sci-fi action/drama that this movie played too often on the wrong side of.

At this point, I'm not sure how much more i can say without really getting into specifics of plot. I definitely have more thoughts on specific aspects of the movie, and also generally about what it means that we now have this New old generation of characters.

As I've mentioned in other venues, to other people, I loved it, but I also hated it.

- 02:30 am - PL :: 2 Comments
categories ::  Cool Links - Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Movies - Nostalgia - Pop Culture - TV - Upset/Dislike

 

2009.04.24 hold on there:

A couple buddies of mine recently launched their awesome new website—Shelfbound—where they're currently talking mostly about comics (but eventually about books, music, and movies as well, I believe). On Friday of their first week, they posted a discussion about their personal histories relating to comics, which I felt compelled to comment on.

That post, coupled with the call I received from the comic shop I (used to) frequent—asking if I was actually going to come pick up my (7 months worth of) holds, or if he should put them back and delete my holds list— got me started thinking about my own comics history, such as it is.

At some point in the not too distant past, I was an absolute nut with an active holds list of more than 20 titles, and an average of over 33 books purchased per month. I thought it might be entertaining to air out the dirty laundry of my former addiction, by way of some lists comparing then versus now.

Going through my collection (at least, those books that actually made it up to comicbookdb.com before I stopped entering them), I came up with the following list of titles that, at one time or another, was a regular purchase. Mind you, these were not ALL on my list at the same time, but a LOT of them were.

The "long-time" list consists of books that I purchased (usually consecutively) for more than a year.
The "short-time" list consists of long-running titles that I picked up and dropped, or bought off-and-on, or which were longer-running mini-series.

Long-Time Collections
Amazing Spider-Girl
Amazing Spider-Man
Batman
Batman Confidential
Batman: Gotham Knights
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Batman (various mini-series)
Captain America
Captain Marvel
Catwoman
Daredevil
Detective Comics
Harley Quinn
Incredible Hulk
JLA
Marvel Knights Spider-Man
New X-Men (Morrison run + a few)
Peter Parker: Spider-Man
Powers
The Punisher
The Spectre
Spider-Girl
Spider-Man
Spider-Man (various mini-series)
Superman/Batman
Transmetropolitan
Ultimate Fantastic Four
Ultimate Spider-Man
Ultimate X-Men
The Ultimates (2002 & 2005)
Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man
Wonder Woman
X-Statix (X-Force)
Short-Time collections
All-Star Batman & Robin
All-Star Superman
Army of Darkness
Dark Tower
Elektra
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
Green Arrow (kevin smith run + a few)
Marvel Knights
The Pulse
Sensational Spider-Man
Spectacular Spider-Man
Spider-Woman
Superman (off and on)
U.S. War Machine

And finally, after a few years of increasingly sporadic trips to the comic shop, and the cancellation (Spider-Girl) or ruination (Spider-Man) of some favorite titles, I've whittled down my holds list to the following:

Current holds list
Batman
Daredevil
Detective Comics
Powers
Superman/Batman
Ultimate Spider-Man

So, from 30+ titles every month I'm down to 6 (well, five plus Powers, which is apparently not even close to monthly anymore). Depending on the quality of the last 7 months, I may yet drop Superman/Batman, and I was considering dropping Daredevil (though the guy in the store said it'd been pretty good of late, so i dunno… i may just selectively pick up arcs, if they look good).

Of course, I just saw on Diamond's site that Dynamite Ent. is coming out with a new Buck Rogers comic, which I have to at least get the first issue of; and the guy at the store told me there's a rumor my girl (Spider-Girl, that is) may be re-launched. So, I may be back up to 8 titles in the near future… but for now, at least, it's a little more reasonable.

- 11:54 pm - PL :: 4 Comments
categories ::  Comics - Cool Links - Friends - Happy/Love - Pop Culture

 

2009.01.09 concentrate:

Aside from my preternatural skills of procrastination, one of my biggest obstacles to writing is focus. Sometimes, you run across a piece of advice that speaks directly to you, and this is one of those times.

Don't research
Researching isn't writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don't. Don't give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day's idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type "TK" where your fact should go, as in "The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite." "TK" appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is "Atkins") so a quick search through your document for "TK" will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.

from a post by Cory Doctorow

I've not done much actual writing (mostly outlining and, more often, NOT outlining—see procrastination, above) but when I was attempting to write that sci-fi novel I started in 2005, I was horribly horribly derailed by researching the position of mars in the night sky, from the mountains of northern california. In my defense, it gave me dialogue i might not have otherwise had, but still… distracted! The above is great advice for countering this, which I hope I can actually put into practice.

- 04:30 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Cool Links - NaNoWriMo - Personal Projects - Pleased/Like - Writing

 

2009.01.03 windblown review:

Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 by Jack Kerouac


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
It was always somewhat unclear, in the works dealing with Kerouac's life and methods, just how much he was beholden to classic literature and literary theory. The most famous story, of course, was always about the benzedrine, caffeine, and nicotine fueled three-day writing binge that resulted in "On The Road." And Kerouac himself, with his later works, and his articles and essays about writing, became a vocal proponent of "automatic" or "stream of consciousness" writing, further muddying the waters of his influences. In reading many of the biographies about Kerouac, we can get something of a feel for his abiding love of literature, and his almost reverent regard for certain writers who most inspired him.

In this book, a collection of journals–in whole and in part–taking the form of a mixture of working writing journals, and personal diary-type entries, his interests and desires are made clear.

Especially in regards to his first novel, Kerouac is keenly interested in creating a work of import and gravity, to be held among the works of his admired influences. He discusses the great efforts to maintain his momentum, and to edit and re-arrange his work. His fluctuating emotional connection to his own work sees him moving from the depths of despair that he will never be able to finish to his satisfaction, to the height of narcissistic belief that it will be a greater work than anything else in his time. This journal enlightens us to his struggles just to *be* a writer–which is a far cry from that image of Kerouac as the mindless typist cranking out words in a drug-fueled haze.

Later entries shine a light on his most famous novel "On The Road" that it rarely receives–showing "On The Road" as a careful work, which goes through several conceptual changes, not to mention numerous drafts.

Much of these journals are also notes from the journeys that actually appear in the finished novel, so we are able to see, in a way, how Kerouac captures his raw material.

These journals are a fantastic opportunity for Kerouac fans to get an internal glipmse at the reality behind the fiction we've come to love. For those who aren't fans, but who are interested in the act and art of writing–and of *creating*, in general–it is a window on the extraordinary struggles of a man attempting to leave his mark.

View all my reviews.

- 07:33 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Cool Links - Pleased/Like - Writing

 

2008.07.18 Love ya right back:

found this via the official unofficial Mudhoney fan site—a video wherein the boys of Mudhoney talk about how much they enjoyed their visit to my lovely louisville. <tear>

now, the really funny part of this story, and something I had previously decided *not* to post about after much debate, was the fact that, during the show and much to his embarrassment, Mark Arm gave a great shout out to the place and people of… lexington. it was a pretty funny incident that had him stumbling over himself trying to save face. perhaps it was the chorus of boos and surprised laughter that clued him in.

that's ok Mark, we love you too!

- 11:12 am - PL ::
categories ::  Cool Links - Happy/Love - Local/Louisville - Music - Society - Uncategorized

 

2008.06.27 a nutshell:

so, i've had this problem for a while now… i say problem but really… i've had this annoyance for a while now. y'know how people ask if you have a website, or you sign up for thousands of profiles on thousands of different sites online and they all have a place for you to put your web address, right? well, me, being the guy i am, i pretty much always fill that bit in… and i pretty much always use bipolar. that's fine, but it's always kind of bothered me. i mean obviously i like brian and all, but it's always just seemed a little weird that my go-to site, my site that is kind of the champion of my online identity, is one that i share with another guy.

i think originally the idea was sparked in my head by the inimitable merlin mann with a 43folders.com post about personal status pages. then a couple months ago, my daily web travels brought me to something that got me thinking about it again, in a slightly different light. here're some links in roughly chronological order:

obviously, these guys are talking about something much bigger than a personal status page, tossing around words like ownership and portability. still, this fueled the fire, and got me working.

i think it was about two weeks later (which is like superman speed for me), i'd thrown together a design and finished the page—matthewrasnake.com.

this is a one-page site, which is basically just an overview of my entire web-world. a centralized me. all the data still lives on my various decentralized profiles, so this doesn't address—or even consider, really—data portability, but instead relies on RSS feeds and APIs from and through which i can gather together my various bits.

so, if you're looking for me online, or wondering what i've been up to, now there's a quick easy place to go. also, probably more importantly, now i have something to enter in all those form fields without feeling weird about it.

here's a couple other links that are related, but didn't really fit in with those above…

2007.04.04 slow news day:

don't have a lot to talk about today, so it seems like a great time to work in a mention of the puffin's latest blogging co-venture (now with his lovely wife, Allison), wherein he waxes poetic about the latest inspiring (and uninspiring) works in the comic book industry, she waxes poetic about high-falutin' sciency stuff, and they both entreat you with their occasional musings on the music scene and their own interesting undertakings.

appropriately enough, they've called it nerd [heart] geek.

oh, and in other news, i've just switched over from bloglines to our benevolent information overlords' "Reader" thingy. thanks to a conversation i was having with neil this afternoon where i was telling him about the two online feed readers, and where i convinced myself to go ahead and make the google plunge.

like my buddy Charlie has said… i wouldn't bow to our great and glorious overlords, except that they make such darned useful, usable stuff!

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- 11:39 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Computers/Tech - Cool Links - Friends - Local/Louisville - Pleased/Like - Pop Culture

 

2007.03.31 a gathering of old men and their ladies:

last night, after a two year absence from the stage, saw the re-emergence of Louisville's own Old Man. It was a great show, with some old classics and new hot ones from the album that's in the offing.

The Rud was much the same as I remember (my band also hasn't had a show in quite some time, and we haven't played the Rud for quite some time besides), but now they've settled on the "back stage," which i think is a major improvement from the "mid" stage. The sound is still mushy as ever. I think the Rud's sound system (or sound guys, i'm not sure which) is better suited for simpler acts, like… well, mainly vocalists, poets, plays, etc. I think you throw some guitars and drums in the mix, and the system has to work beyond it's limits to get the sound out there. Which is not to say that it's bad, just that there's some color to it. I still think the Rud is a great place to play, and a great place to see a show.

so Old Man rocked it out, did a superb job, and i enjoyed it thoroughly. oh, and there was a song with neil on the harmonica, putting the folk into "punk/folk." very cool.

following Old Man was an actual old man, alone on stage with his acoustic, strapless guitar, and his haunting voice and often nonsensical lyrics. i think everyone was pretty much alternately astounded and confounded by the performance. some of the lyrics i couldn't make out, and the ones that i could, well, some didn't seem to make any sense at all, as if they were just words stuck together for no particular reason, others made complete sense, but perhaps the most interesting part was that there was a deepness of emotion behind every lyric. in the end, the only pronouncement i could make was, "it wasn't good, but it was awesome." oh, and i told neil somebody should do a study on the guy, see how his brain works.

most of the rest of the evening was spent hanging out with friends, some of whom i haven't seen in several months. it was good to catch up, hell, it was good just to be around them again. it also gave the prick an opportunity to talk about finally making use of the practice space we've had for a month now. hopefully this week, we'll at least be able to get our stuff moved in, which will act as a catalyst towards getting us to the practice space at least once a week to *use* that stuff. i'm looking forward to it. i'm excited by the idea of a "new beginning" for the band, and have been itching to strum the strings for a while. (i'm a terrible guitar player, if i'm not at practice, i hardly ever touch the thing, except to move it from one spot to another.) if all goes well, perhaps we'll be ready for our resurgence party in 6 months or so.

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2006.12.08 lazy day in old st. lou:

so, i'm up here with my lovely wife, doing her res. interview at WashU. i'm just chillin in the hotel room, shooting at my co-workers with the 2006 Power Treecam—a brilliant idea by yours truly, brilliantly embellished and executed by our boy ben.

i've run over to the St. Louis Bread Co., where I got the skinny on the fact that the national chain Panera Bread (as known to most of us) was actually originally the aforementioned St. Louis Bread Co. I picked up my breakfast there (croissant, cinnamon roll, and coffee) and they gave me a soufflé for free.

I've spent most of the morning upgrading our WordPress installation to 2.0.5, and just installed the wordpressReports plugin, so we can see just how many people aren't coming to visit the site to enjoy the dearth of updates.

and now, i'm going to watch the Special Edition DVD of Star Trek III, which my buddy nate so thoughtfully gave to me on my most recent birthday. thanks again, nate!


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