The Giver Movie Review

The Giver Movie Poster

My wife and I went on a date last weekend to see The Giver and we both really liked the movie.

It was a faithful adaption of the book and I felt it was a good movie on its own as well.

There are a few additions to the movie and a few things removed as well. Of course this sort of thing always happens in movie adaptions of books.

For example, Two scenes that I really enjoyed were not present in the movie, Jonas tossing an apple and seeing it turn red in the air, and a more direct explanation of precise language that Jonas receives from his parents.

In the book, Jonas says he is starving. His parents correct him and say that he is only hungry, not starving.

The movie skips that scene, but contains plenty of other pieces of dialogue that illustrate the precise use of language the people have developed in The Giver‘s utopia.

My wife was disappointed that the movie did not include the variety of gifts the children receive for each year of advancement. Only the bike at year nine is in the movie.

The special effects and acting in the movie were excellent. I loved that it switched back and forth between black and white and color. Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep were amazing as always and the young actors put forward impressive performances as well.

My wife’s major complaint (and I agree with her) was that the movie was too short. It’s only about an hour and a half long. The movie could’ve easily been lengthened and included all the things that we missed from the book.

I’d definitely recommend the movie for those who enjoyed the book or for people who get as excited about utopia/dystopia stories as I do.

Oh! And fair warning, Taylor Swift is in this movie and it utterly destroys your suspension of disbelief when she shows up.

-Mister Ed

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Public Persona

EEEEEEE! Gretchen Rubin emailed me! *faints*
EEEEEEE! Gretchen Rubin emailed me! *faints*

Previously I wrote about my reluctance to go public with my real name.

I ended up emailing Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. Reading that book was what gave me the idea to start this blog.

And I got a reply! Hurray!

The emails are in the picture above and I’ll repeat them in the text here. First, the email I initially sent to Gretchen.

“Dear Gretchen,

My wife got me The Happiness Project last year and I’ve enjoyed reading it slowly and applying your advice to my own life. One of your happiness projects was starting a blog. I liked the idea so much that I’ve started my own. The blog is called GoCorral and you can find it at gocorral.wordpress.com if you’re interested. Now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm of sorts with the blog I wanted to ask for a little help from you.

So far I’ve been running my blog and associated sites anonymously. I was worried about unwanted attention in my personal life if my blog ever took off to epic proportions like yours has. By maintaining anonymity I’ve kept the option open of disappearing in the future, but I fear I’m also alienating my audience by doing so. All the serious bloggers I’ve heard of use their real names. I get the feeling that personal identification naturally improves a blog because so much of the content is about the author’s personal life, thoughts, and experiences.

I wanted to get your opinion on using your real name and your family’s names in your writing.  I’m interested in the positives and the negatives. Do you ever feel uncomfortable using your real name instead of a pseudonym? How do your children and your husband feel about it? Have there ever been any real problems associated with having a public persona that you’ve encountered or heard of? What are some of the good things about going public with your name?

I’d appreciate anything you can tell me!

-Mister Ed”
And the reply I got back:
“Terrific!
I use my name online, but don’t use my family members’ names (though I do use those in my books).
I didn’t really ponder this, because I wanted my work to be associated with my name. Everything I write is with the expectation that it’s public.
I’ve never experienced a negative with it, nor has my family.
Good luck!”
And then my thank you note:
“Gretchen,

Wow! Thanks for your reply! I think I will go public with my name then. I appreciate your help.
-Isaac Shaker (Mister Ed)”
And now I am public on my blog!
For most of the people reading the blog this will mean almost nothing. My family and friends already know I’m writing this and access my blog through Facebook or Google+.
For everyone else? Still almost nothing. I’m still the same person and I’ll still write the same stuff. I’ll even keep writing Mister Ed at the end of each post.
The About Me section of the site is pretty much the only thing that’ll change.
That’s pretty much it. I’m no longer worried about any negative consequences. I’ve looked for them and they just don’t seem to be there. Steven King’s Misery really is as fictional as it seems.
-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

The Fault in Our Stars

I read The Fault in Our Stars next to my cat, Carmelita.
I read The Fault in Our Stars next to my cat, Carmelita.

This weekend I read a popular young adult fiction book, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

The book is written from the point of view of Hazel, a teenager with lung cancer (15% survival rate, likely higher for her specific case) who is always hooked up to a respirator.

She begins attending a support group for teenagers with cancer. At the support group she meets Isaac and his friend, Augustus.

Hazel begins dating Augustus, who has a a less lethal type of cancer than her (osteosarcoma, 80% survival rate).

The book explores how teenagers react to their own terminal illnesses, how their families and friends react, and what a cancer patient might want to be remembered for.

One of Hazel’s struggles is that she doesn’t want to only be known for having cancer.

She loves poetry and reading. The book acknowledges that she is even smart enough to be attending community college for some type of English degree.

Unfortunately, all of Hazel’s friends from before cancer only see her as a sick person, not someone who loves literature.

Sick of pity from her old friends, Hazel has withdrawn from public life and only interacts with her family and her new friends from the support group who personally understand her illness.

Hazel also withdraws because “she is a grenade.”

She fears her eventual death and doesn’t want to hurt anyone who gets attached to her. Thus, she avoids making such attachments.

I’d definitely recommend the book. It’s a quick read, well written if predictable, and on a topic worth learning more about.

There’s also a movie adaption coming out on June 6th 2014 in the USA. The book wasn’t enough, so I’ll be going to the movie to get more even if the story is the same.

I’ll probably check out more of John Green’s work too.

-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

Dawn of Worlds

The cover on the 12 page PDF of the rules for Dawn of Worlds
The cover on the twelve page PDF of the rules for Dawn of Worlds.

Dawn of Worlds is an interesting game my friends and I have played a few times. The rules can be found at the website of Legends, the creator, if you’re interested.

Most games have a set goal to win the game. Having all the money in Monopoly, having the highest score in Scrabble, getting all your pawns home in Sorry, etc.

Dawn of Worlds is… different.

The game was designed not to be competitive or even really to be fun. The goal of the game is to create a fantasy world as a setting for a novel or a roleplaying campaign world.

My friends and I used this to create the world for our next campaign.

How does the game work? It’s really simply actually.

Each turn you get 2d6 points to spend on the world. There are ways to get bonus points as well.

The points are used to add things to the world or to influence already existing entities in the world. I can use my points to add a mountain range. On my next turn I could also use my points to infest the mountain range with dragons.

Everyone else is using their points to create or change things in the world as well.

The game has three ages. Different actions cost different amounts during the different ages.

The first age makes creating terrain features cheap and makes other actions expensive. You’re supposed to be building the physical world at this point.

The second age makes creating races and cities cheap. You build up a civilization during this age.

The third age makes changing races and cities cheap. The game encourages conflict between the players at this point.

The third age is probably the most interesting due to the conflict between parts, but this conflict is different than other games.

In Scrabble I fight with my opponent for the triple word score bonuses at the edge of the board.

In Dawn of Worlds, the conflicts aren’t really about having my civilization “win.” I just want a more interesting story for the game.

I found myself most often in conflict with one of my buddies whose internet name is Throgg. He developed a civilization of humans while I developed dwarves.

Throughout the whole game the humans and the dwarves fought. In the end neither side won the war, it was still ongoing when we ended the game.

Why would we end the game with the conflict unresolved?

Because that was the point! Now when we play D&D within the world there are issues threatening the peace and security of the world. Issues that our characters can attempt to solve, avoid, or survive.

Will our characters try to end the conflict between the dwarves and humans? Will they try to repel the undead scourge coming out of the north? Will they journey into the southern jungles looking for the first civilizations of the bird people?

We could eventually do all these things over a series of different campaigns. But Dawn of Worlds allowed us to create a world together with a history that we all know and had some impact on.

Gurutama is the name of the world we created. I think we’ll enjoy playing in Gurutama much more than in any other campaign world because it’ll no longer be a world where only the DM has the full picture. Now everyone will have some input.

I plan on posting more about Gurutama for awhile. The basics of the world were fleshed out in our playing of Dawn of Worlds, but there are many specifics to still fill in. I’m going to use this blog as a tool for writing down those specifics and getting input from the general public as well if there is any input to give.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed