The Martian Movie Review

The-Martian-movie-poster

I tried to go see The Martian a week after it opened but it was sold out. I went home and watched Time Lapse instead.

I have since been able to see it. I was squished into the corner seats of a full theater, but I got to see it!

As you’ve probably already guessed, a movie that continues to sell out show times two weeks after they’ve opened are probably worth a look.

In The Martian, Mark Watney is trapped on Mars. He went there with five other astronauts to do astronaut stuff. Due to a storm the team needed to do an emergency evacuation while on the red planet. Mark was hit by some debris, blown away, and his biomonitor goes black. The team presumes he is dead and rockets off the planet, leaving Mark behind.

Mark awakes with a broken biomonitor and a suit leaking oxygen into Mars’ thin atmosphere.

The rest of the movie is two parallel storylines. On Mars, Mark struggles to survive on a planet that is essentially unihabitable. He deals with getting oxygen, water, food, and a radio up and running to contact Earth.

On Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is still alive and they come up with several plans to rescue him (one of which succeeds, surprise!).

The movie is all about how space exploration works and the dangers associated with it. Everything has to be just right to get to Mars. Everything has to be just right once you’re there. As Mark says, “Without the water reclaimer, I die of thirst. Without the oxygen reclaimer, I suffocate. Without food, I slowly starve to death. And without shelter from the atmosphere, I’d just sort of implode and die.”

The movie is all about how Mark prevents those things from happening; but, of course, things break over time. That’s why NASA has to rush to save him.

The movie contains many technical aspects about space and planetary eporation. I only felt lost when Mark described how to turn hydrazine fuel into water.

I think that’s a big part of why the movie is so successful. It’s able to describe how space travel to Mars would work in an easily understood manner.

A lot of people are focused on landing a human being on Mars as the next big space mission, with projects like Mars One in the works. That interest also contributed to the film’s success.

Plus, Matt Damon is just on point throughout the movie.

I picked up the novel written by Andy Weir that the movie is based off of. The writing style is technical and gets into Mark Watney’s flow of consciousness. The plot of getting a supplies and a rocket to Mark takes a backseat in the book which also leads to little character interaction. Just Mark against Mars.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far Weir’s writing has reminded me of CS Forester. If you liked the Hornblower series, The Martian might be the right book for you.

If you liked the movie… I think the movie is better so far. It removes very little from the book, but adds a lot of emotion and feeling that can’t be captured well in written prose. I am still enjoying reading the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else would like it as much as I am.

As for seeing the movie, I’d recommend that to everyone. I would’ve loved to see this as a kid imagining being an astronaut. And The Martian makes all the principles behind space travel simple enough that I think everyone, incuding five year-old GoCorral, can learn something.

-GoCorral

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Birthday Dinner Party at M.Y. China

Martin Yan is the older guy on the left. He sat next to my wife! Eeeeee! *faints*
Martin Yan is the older guy on the left. He sat next to my wife! Eeeeee! *faints*

I went to a birthday party for a friend at a restaurant called M.Y. China.

At first I was sketpical as the restaurant is inside a mall in San Francisco.

Once we got there my face lit up and I got really excited. There was a sign out front of the restaurant that said, “Head chef Martin Yan is personally in the restaurant tonight.”

Martin Yan is a famous Chinese chef who’s hosted cooking shows for the last 30 years. He’s also written cookbooks, one of which I’ve bought in the past.

So M.Y. China isn’t some weird way of spelling My China. It’s “Martin Yan China!”

I got even more excited once we got in the restaurant because apparently the birthday girl’s dad is Martin Yan’s dentist. She is the dental hygienist who cleans his kid’s teeth when they go to the dentist.

Because of that we got a personal visit to our table from Martin Yan and some pictures! And when he talked to the table he put his hand on my back. I got touched by a famous person! Oh Boy!

The food was obviously excellent. We got a bunch of different dishes to share.

There was an amazing tofu dish in a thick soy sauce. There was sweet and sour pork. The pork was breaded like usual, but with something with the texture of bacon included in the breading.

There were scissor cut noodles with soy sauce covering them.

There was rice with soy sauce. That really pointed out to me how good the soy sauce was. It included peppers in it or something to make it taste way better than the normal Kikkoman soy sauce that everyone else uses.

There were sea food dumplings with peppers on top of them as well.

My mouth is watering while writing this. Unfortunately, I’m not a food critic so I can’t do the restaurant justice in this post. The food was amazing.

There were plenty of other dishes, but sadly not very many vegetarian ones. My wife got to eat some rice with spicy green beans. The green beans were good, but not as extraordinary as everything else at the restaurant.

Overall a great restaurant with great food!

-Mister Ed

Favorite Books

There’s this thing going around Facebook over the past couple weeks that finally reached me. No, not the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’m talking about a list of your top ten books.

Someone posts on their timeline and tags you in it. The copy and pasted section of the status reads:

“In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books or great books of literature, just ones that affected you in some way. Tag 10(ish) friends including me so I can see your list.”

I got tagged by my sister and here is my list:

Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Game of Thrones – George Martin
Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein
Shade’s Children – Garth Nix
1984 – George Orwell
Dark Prince – Russell Moon
The Iron Ring – Lloyd Alexander
Nine Princes in Amber – Roger Zelazny
Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Obviously there are a lot of great books that I can think of that I didn’t include on here. Dune and Harry Potter for example.

I felt the list was supposed to be composed somewhat impulsively, so I stuck with what I first thought of.

So why did I pick these?

Hyperion is possibly one of the best space opera novels ever written. Dan Simmons is an excellent writer in nearly every genre. The story follows seven travelers in a space ship on a pilgrimage to the fictional Hyperion planet where a great monster, the Shrike, awaits them. The Shrike will grant a wish to one of the travelers and kill the other six. The travelers spend their voyage telling stories like in The Canterbury Tales (every story where characters sit around and tell stories now officially based off of Canterbury Tales). The stories focus on the travelers’ past lives and why they are going to get a wish. I put Hyperion on this list because it was the first book that made me realize I love fragmented stories. Like in TV shows where there’s an A plot and a B plot. I love that in books as well. Hyperion has three sequels that I’ve read as well, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Rise of Endymion.

Game of Thrones is the latest craze. I got into the series right before book 5 came out and consumed them at a rate of about one book per month. They’re good, they’re sexy, and they’re one of my favorite genres, medieval fantasy. Plus, it has a fragmented story line! Perfect!

Lord of the Rings is also a great book. My dad spent years reading me bits and pieces as bedtime stories. We started with The Hobbit when I was six and didn’t finish until I was eleven. The Lord of the Rings also inspired my favorite hobby, Dungeons and Dragons. So this one’s got too amazing things going for it. AND FRAGMENTED ACTION  ONCE AGAIN!

Shade’s Children was my first dystopia book. It’s fairly awful as far as complex themes go. Some robots from an alternate dimension invade Earth and start hunting humans for sport. The humans hide underground, but their society is kept alive by the robots or something? Sounds like a Matrix ripoff. Still, I loved it. Also, I was eight around the time I read it and there is the barest hint of sex in the book. I’m pretty sure it was my first exposure to sex, so it is significant for that reason as well.

1984 is the quintessential dystopian novel. Also, its by Orwell who is an amazing author. I loved this book and I still love it. I love the genre. Putting Shade’s Children on my list reminded me of 1984 so I put it on as well. Like I said, I didn’t think much about the list.

Dark Prince is probably one of the weirder ones on this list. It is the last book in a trilogy. The first book is called Witch Boy. The author, Russell Moon, has only written one other book. I’m not sure why he stopped writing because his stuff is quite good (or at least I remember it being good). The book tells the story of a teenage boy who suddenly discovers he is a witch and accidentally kills his girlfriend with his newfound magical powers. He then discovers that she was part of some weird witch cult which plans to use him in a plot to take over the world or something. My memory of the book is hazy, but I do remember loving it at the time.

The Iron Ring is a story that imitates Indian fairy tales. My dad read Grimm’s Fairy Tales to me when I was a kid and I loved them.  This was a continuation of that, but in an entirely different way. The stories were vaguely familiar because they used the same themes, plot devices, and stock characters, but they were also very different due to the setting for the story. Rajas instead of kings. Rakshasas instead of the Devil. It was really cool!

Nine Princes in Amber is amazing and everyone should read it. The book is the first in a series of ten books split into two halves of five books. The series details a titanic struggle between order and chaos across all dimensions. The center of order is called Amber. The series is extremely well written. One of my favorite parts is how Zelazny handles sexual or crude stuff in the books. He always alludes, but never mentions stuff explicitly. A character curses instead of “He exclaimed, ‘Shit!'” It’s very well done and I’d recommend it to everyone as long as you don’t require female characters. There aren’t very many of them…

Gates of Fire is a historical novel about the Greek defense of the Hot Gates of Thermopylae from the Persians. The story is stunningly realistic. The Spartans fight until their swords, spears, and shields are broken. All that’s left is their hands and they fight on against the Persians. I’ve always loved reading and learning more about the ancient Greeks and Romans. This novel gave me a means to do that in a more mature way.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy always makes me laugh. I loved the books and they are one of the few novels that I have read more than once. A few of the others on this list are also in that exalted category. The book is absurdist humor in a space opera setting, both of which appeal to me greatly. The Hitchhiker’s Guide was originally a radio show which I own a recording of and listen to occasionally in the car. If you like absurdist humor you should check it out!

Let me know what your ten would be in the comments!

-Mister Ed

Game of Thrones Spoilers

One of my friends hasn’t read the latest Game of Thrones books yet.

So whenever we try and talk about the books he’ll shout out, “No spoilers!” and then cover his ears.

I’ve heard about this sort of thing happening more and more since the TV show became popular.

People watch the show, but don’t read the books.

So you could be talking with someone about Game of Thrones stuff and then casually mention something from Dance with Dragons. The book came out three years ago right? You can’t say spoilers in response to a three year old plot twist can you?

Apparently you can.

I guess I’m a little surprised by that.

When I was reading Harry Potter this sort of thing didn’t happen.

If you were interested in talking about the series it was assumed that you’d read all of the books that were published.

The movies came out afterwards, but from my own experience very few people watched the movies that didn’t also read the books.

Why is Game of Thrones different?

At first I thought maybe book size, but both Harry Potter and Game of Thrones books are massive.

Adult content might be it, but why?

The TV show has more sexual content and violence than the book. That’s also the main reason why I don’t watch the show.

I already know what’s going to happen, so there’s no plot mystery.

But the added sexual content just makes me uncomfortable.

My opinion on sex in TV shows and movies comes from an early filmmaker named Ernst Lubitsch.

Sex couldn’t be shown on screen and you couldn’t show someone in their underwear either.

Lubitsch represented sex by holding the camera on a closed door.

That was all.

And it worked! People knew exactly what was happening on the other side of the door, but you didn’t need to show it.

Game of Thrones goes way too far on this for my taste. Many of the scenes seem like they’d fit in a porn movie better than a high fantasy TV show.

But maybe that’s what’s attracting people to the show, but not the books.

The show has more sex scenes and they’re obviously more visual than those in the book ever will be.

So maybe more people watch the Game of Thrones show than read the books because its a guilt free way to get some softcore porn.

Or maybe its some other reason, but I’ve run out of space.

-Mister Ed

Current Library Book

The collection of fantasy short stories I got from the library.
The collection of fantasy short stories I got from the library.

Since my wife and I moved in together in Davis we’ve been going to the library a lot more.

I used to go to the library all the time when I was a kid.

I stopped going when my family moved.

Getting a library card in the new city was silently frustrating for me.

I think I got a new library card in my new hometown three different times.

Each time I’d get it, rent one thing, return it, then forget about the library for several years.

When I went back my card had expired, so I’d need to get a new one. And the process repeated itself.

My wife goes a lot more because she wants  specific children’s book for one of her lessons or a movie to watch or something like that.

I’ve been going with her and renting out one thing at a time to read or listen to (I like audiobooks).

I have Legends II rented out right now.

It’s a collection of short stories by notable fantasy authors put together by Robert Silverberg.

I liked most of the stories in this book and the previous one, Legends.

The only exception is strangely Robert Silverberg himself. I don’t like his writing style.

I originally got the book because it contains a short story by George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones series.

Martin has a short story series set in the same fictional world as Game of Thrones, but taking place one hundred years before the events of his novels.

The short story series is called The Adventures of Dunk and Egg.

Dunk is a seven foot tall knight and Egg is his squire with a shaved head.

I read the Dunk and Egg story first in Legends and in Legends II.

The other stories are also really great. Legends II has some ghost stories I’ve really enjoyed along with an Alvin Maker story.

Alvin Maker is the main character in a series of the same name written by Orson Scott Card, the same man who wrote the Ender’s Game series.

Alvin Maker is a traveling wizard in the pre-Civil War period of the USA.

The dialogue, setting, and topics in the Alvin Maker books are a lot like Mark Twain’s books. I’ve probably enjoyed the Alvin Maker stories the most out of all the short stories in the two Legends books.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed

Jordan Davis Case

One of my friends posted this on Facebook today.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/02/17/no-justice-for-jordan-davis-more-worry-for-parents-of-black-children/

I found it pretty interesting. I followed the Trayvon Martin case and this one is very similar. A young black teenager is killed in supposed self defense. The court system supposedly commits errors. And the accused walks away.

Of course both cases are more complex than that. In the Martin/Zimmerman case the justice system did commit errors. The police checked Martin’s body for signs of drug use, but conducted no such tests for Zimmerman. The police also let Zimmerman walk free for a month after the killing based only on his own word that it was in self defense. The police most likely did this because Martin was black and Zimmerman was not.

I do believe the correct verdict was reached in the Martin/Zimmerman case. The physical evidence reported clearly shows that Zimmerman was attacked. Zimmerman had several injuries while Martin had one. Zimmerman stated that Martin saw Zimmerman’s gun and that Martin then said, “I’m going to kill you.” If that was true, then stand your ground laws would certainly apply. The incident would not have happened if Zimmerman had not profiled Martin as a troublemaker, but that doesn’t excuse Martin’s decision to attack Zimmerman and threaten to kill him.

The Jordan Davis case suffers from the same problem of racially profiling the deceased. Dunn clearly saw Davis and his friends as “thugs” because of their race.

Let’s talk about the word “thug” for a minute. I haven’t experienced the word’s usage myself that much in my sheltered suburban life, but it is beginning to have the same racial connotations as nigger. When used in an offensive way thug will almost always mean a young black man who is making too much noise, carrying a weapon, selling drugs, etc. Any crime in a neighborhood will be explained away, “Oh, the thugs did it.” Meaning that the young black men did it.

So when Dunn calls Davis and his friends thugs, he’s already setting himself up as the committer of a hate crime. Davis and his friends were playing loud rap music at a convenience store. Dunn got out of his car and told them to turn it down. A reasonable enough request. They did and he went in to shop. Upon coming out they turned the music back up, presumable thinking he wouldn’t mind as he was leaving. He told them to turn it down again and they refused.

This is where the witness reports conflict. Dunn said that he saw a shotgun stick out the window of Davis’ car. No one else saw that. None of Davis’ friends saw that. Dunn’s wife didn’t see that. No one in the convenience store saw that. No shotgun was found in the car and none of the Davis’ friends owned one that mysteriously went missing. Dunn reacted to the imaginary shotgun by grabbing his pistol from his glovebox and firing on the teens before driving away. Davis was killed and his three friends drove away fearing for their lives. Dunn turned himself into the police soon afterward.

The trial just concluded and Dunn was found guilty of attempted second degree murder for Davis’ three friends. A mistrial was declared on a first degree murder charge for the killing of Davis. In order to deliver a verdict in a murder case, the jury must be unanimous, but they apparently weren’t for the murder of Davis. This isn’t particularly unusual. I imagine that it is very stressful to decide cases of life and death as a juror. The prosecution is appealing the case.

My personal opinion, Dunn is not guilty of first degree murder. He’s guilty of second degree murder. First degree murder is premeditated. Second degree murder is committed in the moment. The state views first degree murder as worse because most people will not choose to kill someone after thinking about it.

Did Dunn think about killing Davis? I seriously doubt that. Additional evidence makes it clear that Dunn hated black people, but he no evidence suggests that he went to that convenience store with the intent of killing someone. He went there to get some wine and chips. I hope the appeal court decides Dunn is guilty of second degree murder as that appears to be the truth to me.

The Davis/Dunn case is a great example of how complicated our justice system can get. More importantly, its an example of how racist my country continues to be.

-Mister Ed