Monday, December 30, 2013

Mind Sieve 12/30/13

I can't believe 2013 is almost OVER! Dang...

Fan Fun

This guy was just in the 47 Ronin. I'd thought he was wearing makeup, but it's the other way. Eek! (But this vid is cool!)

Transcendence Trailer 1 - SF - Gave me chills!  Looks awesome!

The Best Offer Trailer - this looks FANTASTIC! (I can't find a release date near me - noooo! NY on Jan 2, 2014!)

Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond - BBC America series trailer. This looks fun!

Social Media/Author Platform

26 Ways to Make Pinterest Work for Your Business by Debbie Hemley. Some of these are fabulous suggestion! Now to work out how to use a couple of these. :P

How to Customize Your Social Share Buttons for Increased Traffic by Angie Pascale. Holy molly, need to do this too. If I can scrounge up a couple of hours of my life for it. Ugh. (Need a clone!)


Nice post from Jami Gold about writing - Are You Waiting For Permission?

What It Takes: Never Hold Your Best Stuff by Shawn Coyne.

Hope you have a great Monday (I know I'll be going to work kicking and screaming. :P)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Virtual Tourist - Star Wars The Old Republic 12/29/13

Morning everyone~!

Star Wars The Old Republic
Jedi Consular

A walking tree and its baby. Ugly yet totally adorable at the same time. :P

Some new plants cropped up. Hubby saw them too, so it wasn't just the fact I changed my video settings. :P

The compound the insane Hutt is hiding. He believes his compound will survive the destruction of the core. 

I'm thinking here's proof that he's not. Heh. 

Nice fountain decor.

Even a vine draped trellis! Nice

Feral mutations and the people who've been fed to them. :(

Mutations the Hutt is using for part of his security detail in the inner areas.

More evidence his place is NOT going to survive what's coming.

Funky Hutt flags and a nice view of the statue I've been seeing here and there on Makeb.

A Golden Mechanical Chocobo (I kid you not!) Click to see the larger view. (Someone has spent way too much time playing Final Fantasy - Hah!) The insane Hutt is to the left. 
The Chocobo kicked out buns multiple times. We're going to wait another level and come back!

Weirdest helmet EVER!

Yep, we had to go back. Hoping to get our level from these side missions before going back to kick some Chocobo buns.

Look at that sky!

Imperial location now held by the Republic

Weirdest warehouse ever! Had to plant listening devices. The fog and darkness would suddenly have a ring of red from security scans. Suckers were hard to avoid.

Double tiered tram tracks. 

Hope everyone had a good set of holidays! 2014 is almost here!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review - 47 Ronin

47 Ronin

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada, Shū Nakajima, Togo Igawa, and more.

Directed by: Carl Rinsch Screenplay by: Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini Screen Story by: Chris Morgan and Walter Hamada Cinematography by: John Mathieson Music by: Ilan Eshkeri

Premise: After being tricked into disgracing himself, Lord Asano of Ako must commit ritual suicide. He pleads with his second in command not to take immediate revenge on the underhanded Lord Kira, as this would doom all in Ako to death. Instead, he asks that they lay down their weapons and became ronin, masterless samurai, and await a better time to exact their revenge and regain Asano's honor. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: There were a lot of familiar and talented faces in this film. Keanu Reeves plays a half-breed believed to have been trained by Tengu (a type of Japanese demon), and who escaped his masters while still a boy. Keanu did a good job appearing subservient and also grateful to Lord Asano despite his outcast status. Hiroyuki Sanada showed great range as Ōishi, Lord Asano's second in command and the one carrying the weight of regaining his dead lord's honor. Rinko Kikuchi was a lot of fun as Kira's witch.

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The special effects of the film were awesome. I loved the change sequences of the witch, especially the ones where they integrated the fluid floating cloth into her kimono. The demon the hunting party is pursuing at the beginning of the film also looked great. The pulling of Kira's greed/poison from his body to create a white spider will give you the creeps it looks so good. But the one effect I truly loved was that used for the Tengu Lord. The detail on his avian face and eyes was amazing.

3) Story/Plot - Thumbs Up: The legend of the 47 Ronin, as was mentioned in the film, is a tale considered to show all the best attributes of those following the teachings of 'bushido', the way of the warrior. While this rendition of the tale has added elements not present in thelegend, I was quite surprised and pleased that they kept all the major points the same, especially the end.

In this version of Japan, magic and the supernatural are real. There's also the added characters of Kai, the half-breed/outcast, and Asano's daughter, Mika. However, by the addition of the two characters, even more Japanese culture was imparted in the tale, so it worked out.

There were also some odd changes with regards to "kabuki" and some of the women's dress and styles hair. It's hard to say if these were done in order to point out it was an alternate Japan or something else. For most viewers of the film, however, I doubt it will make much difference.

The one spot that seemed truly odd was how they rendered the Dutch slavers section of the film. Nothing in that sequence was a true portrayal, but it did make for some great fight scenes.

4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Filmed in the UK and Budapest, there was a nice diversity of locations both real and imagined. The bitter and cold look of Kira's realm, the serene, green beauty of Ako, and many lovely shots of mountains and moon filled nights, did much to set the mood in each of their scenes.

5) Costuming/Makeup - Thumbs Up: I went back and forth on my opinions in this area. I loved the way the tattooed Dutch slaver came out -- he was a masterful work of art and looked fantastic. Most of the male Japanese costumes were pretty accurate, except for possibly the Shogun's and Kira's. Yet pretty much everything worn by Mika, except when shown as a young girl, did not conform to normal medieval Japanese wear. Even the witch's costume was more accurate than the majority of Mika's ensembles. The hairstyles of the women too tended to extremes and were odd. The reasoning for the variation wasn't made clear.

Conclusion: "47 Ronin" is an enjoyable, 'spiced up' retelling of the famous Japanese legend. Some liberties were taken with costumes and hairstyles, but the spirit of the legend is all there. The attack on Kira's castle was made of perfection.

Rating: 4 out 5 (Hubby's Rating: Would Pay Full Price to See Again)

Shameless PLUG: If you go see and enjoy this film, you might also like to take a look at my novel In the Service of Samurai. The book is set in a fictional Japan were the supernatural exists. And mine has undead samurai and ninja! So go take a look. :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Picture Kaleidoscope 12/25/13

Morning all!
The best thing I love when hubby drives...I might actually get a chance to take pics! Bwahahaha!

Truly looks like there's a giant fire, doesn't it?

Some really awesome colors on this sunset. Mmmm

I almost missed this one. Trying to flip the camera and take a pic while on the freeway with hubbins avoiding traffic makes this less easy than you'd think. lol. Love that red!

The building there was reflecting the sun's light as it set. Sadly, though I tried taking several pics, the rough road would not let the focus work right. :(

That came out rather cool!

This one is an accident, but I like it!

Amazing colors the last few weeks! Yay!

So calming...

Panoramic attempt of doom!

The sky was very stratified. Cool looking too.

I have to say I did get some weird effects I wasn't planning on. lol.

Finally - a decent one! I was clicking like mad. lol.

I'll quit torturing you now.

May you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mind Sieve 12/23/13

Greetings, all!
Life is still in utter chaos mode. Let's see how far I can get. :P

Fan Fun

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Trailer 2 - looks totally awesome!

Intersterllar Teaser Trailer - Oooo wormhole travel.

Welcome to Yesterday Trailer - Time Travel for the Win!

Yep, figured this would be a short one. Sorry guys!
Will hopefully do better next week. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Movie Review - Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks

Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Bigham, Kathy Baker, Melanie Paxson, Rachel Griffiths, and more.

Directed by: John Lee Hancock Written by: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith Cinematography by: John Schwartzman Music by: Thomas Newman

Premise: After a twenty year pursuit to get the rights to the character of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney finally has managed to get author Pamela Travers to come to LA. Despite money troubles, however, the last thing the author wants to do is give her treasured character away. As the battle of wills continues, a secondary story unfolds giving a deeper insight of why and what has shaped these two great people into who they are. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Emma Thompson was a force of nature as the indomitable Mrs. Travers. Throughout the film she gives the audience little visuals cues which help the audience learn more about who she really is. As events proceed, it is easily visible as she opens herself more and more to the world again. Tom Hanks gave an excellent performance as Walt Disney. Colin Farrell was superb as Mr. Goff - just the right amounts of dreamer, father, and eventually broken man. Ruth Wilson too was quite excellent as Mrs. Goff - she had few lines, but her face and expressions told so many things. Annie Rose Buckley was too delightful as the free spririted Ginty. Paul Giamatti as Ralph added such an extra nice touch to everything. To be honest, all the actors, regardless of the size of their roles, added so very much to every single scene they should all be applauded.

2) Story - Total Thumbs Up: One of the things I totally loved about this film was the fact they took the mantra every writer must follow - "Show, don't tell". Because half the film is from the point of view of a young girl, there's a lot of information the audience needs which is given to us visually. This placed more than the usual weight on the actors, but they pulled it all off perfectly.

There were also some wonderful parallels between Mr. Goff, Mrs. Travers, and Ginty. Mrs. Travers has survived, but also hidden her true self so deep down, she's almost dead in everything but fact. The film also centered a lot around what makes us who we are. Adversity can make us push harder, do better, as well as crush us. The different results are there for all to see.

This is not a movie for kids. It's most definitely for adults. But for all those who've ever seen the film "Mary Poppins" the nostalgia levels will be very high. This makes the watching of the film all the more poignant as we discover all the background and effort and lifetimes that made "Mary Poppins" what it was.

Even the film's title holds multiple pieces of significance. This was a very multifaceted film. Kudos.

3) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Following the strictures of "show, don't tell" the locations played a very important part in conveying the story. The original Goff house as the Goff family departs, and the eventual arrival at their "new" home but the first of many visual clues. Just seeing the two locations imparted a tremendous amount of information to the audience.

The recreations of the 1960's Disney World and the production offices were great. And the hotel room where Mrs. Travers stayed at - the extreme attempt made to try to make her feel welcome - it screamed of desperation. Lovely.

4) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: From the clothing in 1906 Australia to 1961-1964 Los Angeles, there was an awesome amount of attention to detail. You never doubted which of the two timelines you were watching at any given time.

Conclusion: "Saving Mr. Banks" is a great film. I think it is a "must see" for anyone who's ever loved or seen "Mary Poppins". However, this is not a film for kids. It's a serious film with serious topics. It will, however, definitely enhance your appreciation for the 1964 film. If you get in the least bit emotional at movies, take tissues with you! I guarantee that you'll need them. Also, make sure to sit through most of the credits - between the photos and a recording they shared, it clinched the whole experience.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Movie Review - The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Roger Allam, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, and more.

Directed by: Brian Percival Novel Adaptation by: Michael Petroni Based on the Novel by: Markus Zusak Cinematography by: Florian Ballhaus Music by: John Williams

Premise: Death becomes intrigued by a young german girl called Liesel. So he narrates her story so we too can see why he found her so very interesting. We follow her life during the years leading up to and during World War II. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Sophie Nélisse made a very compelling Liesel. Her big, expressive eyes will charm just about anyone. Geoffrey Rush was fun as the laidback, mostly out of work, Hans. Emily Watson was even more fun as his dour, yet slowly defrosting wife. Nico Liersch glowed as Liesel's best friend Rudy.

2) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: I've not read the book the movie is based on, so can add little from that perspective. I will say though that within a minute, the film had me enthralled. From the previews I'd seen, Death was never mentioned. So having him as the narrator of the story was very surprising, and quite intriguing. While the film would have been fine its own, having Death as the narrator, gave it just that extra bit of spice to make the experience that much more of a treat.

The pace was a little slow in places, but this was overridden by the fascinating look at a small German village and the ways their culture started changing, the peer pressure, the rising sense of fear in some, or ardent fervor in others as change took over the land. It's definitely a side of the war no one hears much about. The themes circled a lot around family - what it is to have it, and how to sometimes make your own. Even better were the hints of the depth in the people around you - the assumptions we made in those first few moments, yet by looking deeper, we find they're totally different, even more than we ever thought.

3) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: From the long stretch of snow covered fields, to the cozy and worn look of Heaven street, the locations for the film were outstanding. The cinematography, too, did much to enhance the experience with slow swooping passes down the streets and the occasional odd angle for a different point of view, almost as if what was being seen all came through Death's own eyes.

4) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: The story used clothing to tell a lot of little things through what Liesel and others wore. Rosa dressed and acted quite dourly, and though her initial impression upon the audience is quite unfavorable, it was the little things that gave her away as someone who cared a lot. Liesel's clothes were always better than hers, better cared for and colorful than hers, but nothing too obvious. A lot like the kindnesses from the woman herself.

Conclusion: The Book Thief was an entertaining tale of an unusual time, narrated by the most unlikely of story tellers. Quite delightful. Shows what the power of words and books can mean to those who read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Paying Full Price of Admission to See Again)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Picture Kaleidoscope 12/18/13

Yeppers, I'm late!
Been a super heavy week at work. Ugh.

Had some pics I'd not shared previously. I think. :P

Just giving you a couple. Need to backtrack and make sure. Heh

Ooo! The colors on this! Black Whirlwind by Jun Zuo at He's got more lovely pics at his flicker account. 

This one looks oddly surreal - almost like a Van Gogh? First Snow by R Peyton Hale at 

R Peyton Hale is a freelance photographer. More lovely pics at his site. Motto is "Have Camera, Will Travel" Nice SF reference. Heh heh.

Got to go. Have an awesome day!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mind Sieve 12/16/13

Morning, all!

Fan Fun

Simon's Cat - Christmas Presence (part 1) - These are always so cute!

Jupiter Ascending - SF - COOL!

Edge of Tomorrow - more awesome SF! YES!

Godzilla Official Trailer - yeah, they're trying again. Wonder how it will be.

Social Media/Author Platform

3 Ways Responsive Design Can Benefit Your Blog from Social Media Examiner, article by Rachel Spring. I've been hearing a lot about this type of design lately! Ugh more stuff to learn.

Instagram Direct: This Week in Social Media from Cindy King at the Social Media Examiner.

Writing Advice

From Chuck (NSFW) Wendig - Writing vs. Publishing (Or: No More Half Measures, Walter") - great post. And yes, I totally agree that once you publish, you definitely want to make sure it is the best it can be regardless of who the "published" part was achieved. Go, Beard!

Expectations and Reality - Making a Better, Happier, and Stronger You from Kristen Lamb. Dang, girl, dang!

Have a great week!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Virtual Tourist - Dishonored 12/15/13

Last week the computer wouldn't paste screen shots, so I'm running a little dry for this week as we didn't get to play yesterday. (Sadly during the two days of Icemaggedon I didn't play either, mostly working from home. Work is just way too behind to goof off! Wahhhhh)

Extra Missions
Master Assassin POV

View of the bay. You can see two whales partially dragged into the butchering bays. They are still alive, poor things.

One of the whaling ships. You can see a whale still installed above it. Urgh.

High in the first section of the butcher factory. Loved the lovely rays of sunshine. The only bright thing in this ugly place.

A fellow assassin. She appears occasionally to impart information. She may not look it, but she's a woman. I get the feeling that she doesn't like this place. Can't blame her, I don't either. There's a lot wrong here. More than just the evil being done to the whales. Shudder.

A whale on the line. The poor thing is alive. The process demands them to be. Seemingly the magical oil requires it. Not a pretty sight. I do plan to put the poor thing out of its misery when I get more of this place cleaned out. 

Everyone is here for something. And none of it good. She was pretending to organize the workers being abused here. But she's actually a spy for another butcher company.

Delilah is a ship!

One of the mad butchers. Those saws are nasty! These guys are fanatics and will cut down whales or people. Totally crazy.

Honestly a lot of weird stuff going down. I can see why the chaos man has sent the assassin to investigate all this.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie Review - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dean O'Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Fry, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, and more.

Directed by: Peter Jackson Screenplay by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro Based on the Novel by: J.R.R. Tolkien Cinematography by: Andrew Lesnie Music by: Howard Shore

Premise: Still pursued by orcs, the company of dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo continue towards the old mountain kingdom. As Bilbo learns about the ancient feud between the elves and the dwarves, and they run into more trouble, he also begins to grasp that there's something not quite right with the ring he took from the orc caves. Gandalf, too, comes to realize that an ancient evil is once more loose upon the world. And none of them have yet figured out how they plan to deal with the dragon. (Rated PG -13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Martin Freeman more than amply proves again why he was the perfect choice to play Bilbo Baggins. Though his part in the second film is not quite as extensive as in the first, he still brings so much to the film as to be invaluable. Freeman even has several comedic moments were just a few gestures totally made the scene. Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, and Lee Pace were great additions to the cast. Lee Pace gave the High Elf Thranduil a wonderful edge, as if the character were swaying back and forth between possible madness.

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: There are a ton of special effects, and just about all of them looked fabulous. I loved the interpretation of Mirkwood forest. The creepy, almost rotting inside later contrasted nicely with the gorgeous top of the canopy. The way they show trouble is coming while he was up there was quite clever. The flip sides of the forest, very much hint of the very things which are happening within the underground palace of the elves. The combat sequences with the CGI orcs and the actors were fantastic. You'd hardly believe they weren't really there. You'll also see a barrel used as a deadly weapon - fabulous.

There is a neat magic bout literally between light and dark, and the film bled all color away, which was a nice touch which showed the two extremes colliding. The CGI work on Smaug was awesome - add in Benedict Cumberbatch's voice - and one could not ask for better. Make sure to look at the dwarves' hands. Not sure how they did it, but they're different enough from a normal human hand to really help the audience believe Thorin's band are indeed a different race from the norm.

3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: I'll warn you now, you'll grit your teeth at where they leave off the film. But at least they do give you a fun, fabulous ride before yanking it on you. The pace is fast, so the two hours and forty minutes fly by. Some tweaking to the original story by adding elements not in the book, but in general it seemed to stick to it pretty faithfully. Definitely felt better put together than the first film.

4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of closeup battle scenes between elves, orcs, dwarves, giant spiders, and one hobbit. A ton of great moments during the fights, too. It's almost a contest to see who can kill whom in the most surprising manner. However they worked the stand-ins for the CGI orcs and other creatures to battle the others, it was an amazing job.

5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: There were a lot of new and fantastical places to see in this second film. The cinematography did a great job in letting us get a look at them, and sometimes doing so from unexpected directions, which let us get even more out of the view. The shot from the top of the tree canopy in Mirkwood is absolutely breathtaking. The elven grounds, the palace under the mountain, the hideout of the orcs, even the sad human town, all perfect set locations.

Conclusion: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is fast paced and a ton of fun. They leave you hanging at a bad spot, so reconcile yourself to this before going to see it. Sadly, there were no previews or extra items in the credits. But if you have time, I definitely recommend going to the main site and then clicking on the web experiment. Fun stuff.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Paying Full Price to See Again)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Picture Kaleidoscope 12/11/13 - The Icemaggedon Edition!

Yes, last weekend was Dallas/Ft Worth Icemaggedon!
And I have a few pics of the event to share.

It started innocently enough. Thursday temps started to go down and the sleet started to fall. Noticed it collecting on the car at work. Left a little early and had to defrost the car and scrap it off so I could drive.

By the next morning, this was what we had!

Saturday we tried to clear the steps. This chunk shows we had over 2 inches of ice/sleet accumulate! Mind boggling in Texas.

Icicles from our roof. (Yeah, I know all you Northerners are laughing - but we just don't get this kind of thing often and NEVER this severe.) 

The highway was in decent shape so we went looking.

The ice collected on only one side of these threes, but the weight was enough to disfigure them.

Lots and lots of ice covered bushes and leaves. I think a lot of plants won't survive this. Downed power lines and tree branches from too much ice weight.

Ice Wonderland.

This freaked us OUT!

There's a new golf place in The Colony. They have giant poles to hold up nets to catch the balls. The ice stuck to mesh and made the fabric a solid wall. Between the weight and the high winds, it BENT the giant struts! BENT THEM! 


Coming back was harder than going. Eek! First and only time we ventured out into the world. Heh heh.

And it will all probably be gone by this point.

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