Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Book Review - The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

I really enjoyed this book. It's a mystery/suspense/action novel which includes hidden messages in Leonardo Da Vinci's art, an actual 1000 year old secret society, an actual (and rather bazaar) Catholic Order and the Holy Grail. There are some more even stranger elements, but they are important surprise story elements so I won't say any more.

Anyway, it really grabbed me from the start and I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it: The Da Vinci Code

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Avast! It's Talk Like A Pirate Day!

There be not much fur me t' say, mateys. This 'ere web site speaks fur itself: Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19

Friday, September 12, 2003

College: The place to learn how to be unethical

Two news stories today demonstrate how bad it's getting in US universities. The first is a survey of college student's attitudes about downloading music. The majority don't have a problem with it because they don't think they'll get caught. When asked about stealing outside of cyberspace they said they didn't do that because they think they'll get caught. Free Downloading Not Freeloading, College Students Say. So what we have here is the attitude that if you can get away with it then it's okay and if you're likely to get caught then don't do it. This is just another example of the erosion of the concepts of right and wrong, a goal announced in the late 1940's by the president of the World Federation of Mental Health. The field of education was one of the main areas targeted by the WFMH psychiatrists and as can be seen from this survey they've succeeded.

The other story is about "binge drinking" which is practiced by about 40% of college students: Study Links College Binge-Drinking to Marketing.

College is supposed to be where you go to learn the skills you need for your future career. It is supposed to be where our future leaders are educated. But it turns out that college is the place you go to learn how to get drunk and steal music off the Internet. Where you learn that "right" is what you can get away with and that "wrong" is getting caught.

Perhaps we should change the much used "God Bless America" to "God Help America."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

File Swapping - The new revolution

The irresponsible attitude of file swappers is bad enough, "I didn't know it was illegal," "CDs are too expensive," "I didn't know my kids were doing this," etc., etc. (You have to wonder at the parents who "didn't know." What else are their kids doing on the Internet that they "don't know" about? Viewing porn? Being stalked by pedophiles?). But what really gets me is a quote I saw in the LA Times from a file swapping proponent who uttered this inanity: "The record companies are in their death throws. The new revolution is here." What revolution? Destroying musicians by stealing their livelihood is the new revolution?

What do these idiots think is going to happen if they continue to promote and facilitate the theft of music? Do they think musicians are going to continue to create music so a bunch of criminals can then steal it and pay the musician nothing for all that work? The end product of "the new revolution" is no new music. If it isn't stopped, file swapping will destroy not the music industry but music itself.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Well, In a word: Disappointing, whiny, tedious and much too long.

I was really looking forward to the new book. I loved the first four books; they kept me enthralled. Number 5 is the first one I've been able to put down.. In the middle I got so fed up with Harry's whining, yelling at people and outbursts of pointless and illogical anger that I put it down and read a couple of other books. Eventually I got back to it but then, near the end I got fed up with the pointless diversions off the main line of the story and started reading another book. I actually haven't finished Order of the Phoenix yet but I will eventually, just to see if it improves.

I hate to sound so negative, but after the first four books I was expecting another great book so the disappointment is all the greater.

Things I liked in the book:

While Harry seems to be "immaturing" most of the other characters are maturing. Ron and Neville especially.

Things I didn't like:

1. Harry's constant whining and angry outbursts and the same whiny antagonistic attitude of some other characters (such as Sirius). For example, at one point Harry and the Weasly twins attack Malfoy because he said something nasty about their mothers. This angry outburst was so inappropriate (how many times has Malfoy said the same thing in the past? Aren't they used to him by now? Plus the twins never reacted like that before - they normally just bad-mouth back) that it was obviously a ploy to get Harry and the twins banned from playing Quidditch.

2. People doing totally stupid things for no apparent reason or behaving inconsistently. Most of these were poorly disguised ways to create certain situations and plot elements.

3. Putting things in the story that were pointless or obviously put there just so they could be used later as part of another situation. An example of pointless additions was a scene where Harry and co. have to get into a particular part of a building. They have to find the right door out of hundreds. Harry knows that the light on the other side of the door he wants is bluish and flickering. He opens a door, the light is bright and not flickering. He's in a big hurry because he's trying to save someone, so what does he do? He steps in and takes a look around and we get a couple of pages about this room. Then he steps out and opens another door and it also has the wrong type of light so what does he do? He steps in and looks around. It makes no sense at all and actually gets annoying.

4. Finally the book is much too long. If all the unnecessary detail and pointless elements were removed it would be about a third of the size and a much better read.

J.K. needs to read some Louis L'Amour and take a few tips from him. His books are never boring, the behavior of his characters is consistent and he gives you what is needed to move the story along while still providing interesting surrounding color.

Anyway, if you still want to read it after my lousy review here's a link: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Friday, September 05, 2003

Music Review - Space Metal by Star One

Star One is another brilliant creation of Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the genius behind Ayreon.

If you like Ayreon you'll love Star One. The Space Metal album is composed of songs by Arjen based on his favorite Science Fiction movies and TV shows. The cast of vocalists in itself is impressive (Russel Allen from Symphony X to name one) and the album has the same kind of character based vocals as the Ayreon album "Into the Electric Castle" but with the more metal oriented musical style of "Flight of the Migrator".

If you are not familiar with Ayreon then Star One is melodic progressive metal with several singers. Each song is the story from a Sci-Fi movie and the four vocalists each take the part of a character from the movie. The vocals are great and the music is never less than gripping.

One thing I really like about Space Metal (and every album I've ever heard by Arjen Lucassen) is that you can understand the vocals, they are not drowned by the music and the vocalists are of such quality that every word comes across clearly. The other thing I like is that even with the metal guitar driving the beat, the melody is not lost and the keyboards (which play a major part in the music) are not relegated to a secondary position.

If you like good music then you'll love Space Metal by Star One.