Project X – B

For all the bionic details about what led to the Creation of Project X, please visit the Intro Post. It’s totally worth six million bionic dollars.

LIKE
Bananas

I like bananas. Almost as much as apples in fact. Bananas make a fantastic breakfast for someone who isn’t a breakfast person. Sweet, easy on the stomach and not filling or weighing you down, bananas are God’s gift to those who get up early and take a while to get going.

DISLIKE
Bots

Those frakking bots, especially the spanisho ones! While I’ve obviously ranted about bots before, I’d just like to take a minute and think some horribly nasty thoughts towards the people who created them ….. there, nasty thoughts thought. Mission Accomplished! Feel free in joining me after this post in burning those people at the stake!


And thus today’s tutorial on the Letter B is complete. Stay tuned for our next thrilling episode, featuring a Mystery Letter that you’ll never C coming! Same bat channel, same bat time!

Yotsuba&! Vol. 10 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 10
Series: Yotsuba&! #10
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 224
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Playtime

Yotsuba & Pancakes

Yotsuba & Jumbo

Yotsuba & the Electronics Store

Yotsuba & Home Appliances

Yotsuba & Lies

Yotsuba & the Re-encounter

My Thoughts:

5 stars. Bravo. Fun, fun, fun. I’m tired. So you get a picture and that’s that.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

The Great Muppet Caper is the second (as far as I can tell) in the Muppet movie franchise.

The basic plot is that twin reporters, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, miss a jewel heist happening right in front them, get fired and end up going to England to try to interview Lady Holiday and to recover her jewels, thus ensuring a triumphant return to their jobs.

The self-awareness of this film is even more deliberate, even sharper and more 4th wall breaking than in The Muppet Movie. I found it highly amusing at the beginning but by the end of the movie the charm of it had rubbed off and it felt overused, like a 3 day old sardine out of its tin. Ok, not that bad but it had definitely stopped being amusing by the end.

Once again, there were musical numbers out the wazoo. And once again, it was quite different from The Muppet Movie. Where I was humming, singing and tapping my metaphorical toe in the first movie, these numbers were much more group oriented, almost felt like broadway chorus songs. I didn’t find myself entranced by the music at all. Psychic Grandma wouldn’t have tried to convert any of these into belgian boom wave, not even into 7/92 tempo!

The silly, over the top, zany humor, situations and physical comedy were just the same however. Miss Piggy is as bipolar as ever between Bashful Debutante and Kungfu Queen. Fozzie is clueless, Gonzo is suicidal (in a very “I wonder what X would be like” rather than a depressed and anxious way) and Kermit is the glue that binds every character together. The human cast did an admirable job of playing to the Muppets but my goodness, they were even more shallow and ridiculous than Doc Hopper and his Frog Hunter in the first movie. The Love Triangle between the Jewel Thief, Kermit and Miss Piggy is as developed as a can of playdo and is used as an excuse to A: further the plot and B: make comments about it doing nothing but furthering the plot. I have to admit though, just thinking about it all still brings a smile to my face.

While this had some differences from the first movie that didn’t work for me, I still laughed and smiled while watching this. And since that is ALL I expect from this franchise, it’s a solid success. I guess my final verdict is a thumbs up.

Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time #8) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Path of Daggers
Series: The Wheel of Time #8
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 562
Words: 228.5K



Synopsis:

From Tarvalon.net & authored by Toral Delvar

The four rulers of the Borderlands form a pact for unknown purposes and take a huge army south. Verin uses what she knows of Compulsion on Aes Sedai prisoners to encourage them to swear fealty to Rand. Moridin demonstrates his insanity. Hanlon visits Mili Skane and sees Carridin killed. Mili also has Falion captured, and claims to have another Aes Sedai.

Nynaeve warns one of the Tower embassy about the Black Ajah and Moghedien, but is not taken seriously. The girls leave Ebou Dar with the other Aes Sedai, the Knitting Circle and twenty Windfinders, leaving Mat behind to look for Olver. After moving through the gateway, Aviendha sees Moridin, so she unweaves it. This is something the Aes Sedai, as well as Moridin himself, thought impossible. Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve look for angreal amongst the things found with the Bowl. They are told of Martine Janata, the last Aes Sedai to study ter’angreal, who was burned out twenty five years previously, despite being careful.

The group arrives at the retreat run by the Kin, where the sight of Aes Sedai faces causes panic. Alise manages to calm everyone down. They continue searching through the things found with the Bowl while waiting to see if anyone is strong enough to join the circle. They find three angreal.

The girls, along with the most powerful memebers of the Kin and the Windfinders, use the Bowl, with the circle led by one of the Windfinders. The Bowl unexpectadly draws saidin. It also causes the Power to behave strangely. The Windfinders try to keep the Bowl and one of the angreal, but Alise puts a stop to it.

The use of the Bowl has exhausted them all, but they have to flee when the Seanchan attack. Elayne makes the gateway to Travel and tries to unweave it as Aviendha did, but fails, and it explodes, destroying everything around it. Aviendha and Elayne decide to adopt each other as first-sisters.

One of the Kin is revealed as a novice who ran away seventy years previously, and another admits to running away almost three hundred years before. Adeleas and Ispan are both murdered, apparently by someone they trust. Elayne takes the palace and sits in front of the Lion Throne. She meets Dyelin, who says she will support Elayne’s claim to the throne. Elayne amuses her by telling her of her plans for Rand.

Sevanna uses an Oath Rod on Galina to make her swear to obey her, Therava, and the rest of the Wise Ones. The Wise Ones tell Sevanna she is no longer in control of them.

In Ghealdan, Perrin sends Berelain to meet Alliandre. He rescues Morgase and her party, who are traveling under false names. Faile takes them into her service after Morgase learns of Perrin’s connection to the Dragon Reborn. Perrin again encounters Elyas, who advises him on living with a Saldaean.

Berelain returns with Alliandre, who swears fealty to Perrin and grants him all her lands and titles. He tells her she can rule for him as his faithful vassal. Perrin goes to meet Masema and instructs him to gather his people and go meet Rand. Masema is obviously mad. Faile is captured by the Shaido, but Berelain escapes.

Graendal is visited by Moghedien and a girl called Cyndane, who is stronger than Graendal in the Power. They tell her to go see Moridin. They turn off the lights, and, believing it a trap, she drops a web of Compulsion on them. She is forced to free them by Shaidar Haran.

In the Tower, the Aes Sedai deny the possibility that damane could exist. Alviarin continues to use the fiasco of Rand’s kidnapping to make Elaida give bad orders. She makes Elaida accept penance. Mesaana teaches Alviarin Traveling. The Ajahs are barely speaking to one another. Seaine and Pevara use the Oath Rod to force Aes Sedai they believe may have told a lie into obeying them. They discover rebel agents spreading rumors of Logain and the Red Ajah. They are interrupted by a group of Sitters, one from each Ajah. All but one of these swears on the Oath Rod that they are not a Darkfriend. The last, (Talene Minly), refuses, thus exposing herself as Black Ajah.

Logain leads a group of Asha’man to capture one of the parties of Aes Sedai who were intending to destroy the Black Tower. He bonds Toveine in something that resembles a Warder bond. One of the other Asha’man states Taim will not be pleased. Logain says he thinks Taim would rather he was dead.

Egwene has a dream. She learns an army of Murandians and Andorans plan to stop rebel Aes Sedai moving through Andor. She arranges to meet them. Lelaine and Romanda both demand that they be given control over negotiations with the nobles. Siuan believes she sees a pattern in the Sitters ages – they are too young. Sheriam is beaten by someone using the Power. Egwene uses the meeting to make public announcements that the Hall cannot overrule, such that women of any age will be allowed to become Aes Sedai and that the army is to wait a month where they are. She talks to Talmanes, who says he can feel Mat needing him and he wants to stay. He is going to try and help King Roedran unify the country. Aran’gar kills two of Egwene’s maids. Egwene horrifies Siuan by revealing she wants to free Aes Sedai of the Three Oaths.

Egwene calls a meeting of the Hall and convinces them to declare war on Elaida, which gives her total control over anything involving the war. They wait a month, and then Travel to Tar Valon to begin the siege.

Sorilea and Cadsuane agree to cooperate with regards to Rand. Sorilea teaches Cadsuane Traveling. Torval tells Rand of deserters and insanity amongst the Asha’man. Narishma is sent to fetch Callandor. Rand takes some Asha’man to fight the Seanchan. Rand is attacked by Illianers. Two of the noblewomen with him appear to be discussing whether or not to kill him.

Suroth has Liandrin as a slave and another Aes Sedai as damane. Rand captures damane and sul’dam. They proceed to a spot outside of Ebou Dar, where saidin is difficult to handle, and damane become ill. Bashere suggests retreat as they are heavily outnumbered by the Seanchan. Rand draws Callandor, but is unable to control it and Bashere is forced to stop him. Adley is killed. Rand and the Seanchan both withdraw.

Rand returns to Cairhien, where Dobraine is in charge. Merana and Rafela reveal the details of the Sea Folk bargain, which is not to Rand’s liking. He calms down when Merana reminds him everything was going in his favor until he left. Three Maidens give Rand a beating. Rand asks Cadsuane to be his advisor in Illian. She demands an apology for his rude behavior. She tells him Callandor is dangerous and shouldn’t be used. He gets upset when he learns that Elayne tore his banners down. Sorilea brings five of the prisoner Aes Sedai, Elza, Nesune, Sarene, Beldeine and Erian, who swear fealty to Rand. Min sees visions around them, including one that they will serve him in their own way, Sorilea included.

He leaves the throne room just before it is destroyed. He sees Dashiva, Gedwyn and Rochaid in the ruins. They attack him. He survives the attack and they leave. Morr goes mad and Rand is forced to poison him. Rand tells Min that they are leaving.

My Thoughts:

You can tell this was one of the shortest Wheel of Time books, not only because of the page count of the book but because the synopis by good ol’ Delvar isn’t 7 pages long. It’s only 3 😉

This was the first Wheel of Time book I read back in the 90’s that I had had to wait for. I hadn’t gotten into the series until Crown of Swords was released and I have to admit, I am extremely thankful for that. My recollections of this are of it being wicked slow and nothing happening.

How wrong I was. This ranks right up there with the first book in my opinion. Part of it is it is the shortest book and so Jordan HAD to make stuff happen. The Bowl of Winds fixing the weather? I had completely forgotten how that changed things everywhere so radically and so quickly. Going from an oppressive summer to a wicked bad winter in the space of a week or three? It definitely made things tough for the characters.

Jordan also pretty much shut Nynaeve up for the entire book and everything was better for it. While it didn’t happen in Sanderson’s ending, I’m beginning to wonder if Jordan was setting up Nynaeve to become one of the new Forsaken. Why else would he make her such a horrible person and on the same level, in terms of characteristics, as the other Forsaken? It would have explained a lot.

At this point the number of story threads is out of control. While I enjoyed the book, there is just too much going on and Jordan continues to introduce yet new threads. He’s like a kid with a brand new glitter gun and is putting glitter on EVERYTHING whether it should have it or not.

Path of Daggers was originally published in ’98 and I read it upon publication and then again in 2000 and again in 2011. Each time it has been a very different read and that says more about me changing over the years than it does about the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Currently Reading & Quote: The Diamond Throne

Sparhawk shook his head. ‘Just a bath and a warm bed.’ He turned to his horse, who stood dozing with one hind leg cocked slightly so that his hoof rested on its tip. ‘Wake up, Faran,’ he told the animal.

Faran opened his eyes and gave him a flat, unfriendly stare.

‘Go with this knight,’ Sparhawk instructed firmly. ‘Don’t try to bite him, or kick him, or pin him against the side of the stall with your rump – and don’t step on his feet, either.’

The big roan briefly laid back his ears and then sighed.

~Chapter 1

Hahahahahahaa! Ahhhhhh, how can you not love that? Of course, that is about the third time that the word “flat” or “flatly” has been used and it’s only chapter 1. I’d forgotten that aspect of this trilogy.

Gulag Archipelago, Vol 2 ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Gulag Archipelago, Vol 2
Series: Gulag Archipelago
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 648
Words: 276.5K



Synopsis:

Containing Parts III & IV of Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago.

From Wikipedia.com

Structurally, the text comprises seven sections divided (in most printed editions) into three volumes: parts 1–2, parts 3–4, and parts 5–7. At one level, the Gulag Archipelago traces the history of the system of forced labor camps that existed in the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1956. Solzhenitsyn begins with V. I. Lenin’s original decrees which were made shortly after the October Revolution; they established the legal and practical framework for a series of camps where political prisoners and ordinary criminals would be sentenced to forced labor. The book then describes and discusses the waves of purges and the assembling of show trials in the context of the development of the greater Gulag system; Solzhenitsyn gives particular attention to its purposive legal and bureaucratic development.

The narrative ends in 1956 at the time of Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech (“On the Personality Cult and its Consequences”). Khrushchev gave the speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, denouncing Stalin’s personality cult, his autocratic power, and the surveillance that pervaded the Stalin era. Although Khrushchev’s speech was not published in the Soviet Union for a long time, it was a break with the most atrocious practices of the Gulag system.

Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront the legacy of the Gulag, the realities of the camps remained a taboo subject until the 1980s. Solzhenitsyn was also aware that although many practices had been stopped, the basic structure of the system had survived and it could be revived and expanded by future leaders. While Khrushchev, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union’s supporters in the West viewed the Gulag as a deviation of Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and many among the opposition tended to view it as a systemic fault of Soviet political culture – an inevitable outcome of the Bolshevik political project.

Parallel to this historical and legal narrative, Solzhenitsyn follows the typical course of a zek (a slang term for an inmate), derived from the widely used abbreviation “z/k” for “zakliuchennyi” (prisoner) through the Gulag, starting with arrest, show trial, and initial internment; transport to the “archipelago”; the treatment of prisoners and their general living conditions; slave labor gangs and the technical prison camp system; camp rebellions and strikes (see Kengir uprising); the practice of internal exile following the completion of the original prison sentence; and the ultimate (but not guaranteed) release of the prisoner. Along the way, Solzhenitsyn’s examination details the trivial and commonplace events of an average prisoner’s life, as well as specific and noteworthy events during the history of the Gulag system, including revolts and uprisings.

Solzhenitsyn also states:

Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes…. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations… Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.

— The Gulag Archipelago, Chapter 4, p. 173

There had been works about the Soviet prison/camp system before, and its existence had been known to the Western public since the 1930s. However, never before had the general reading public been brought face to face with the horrors of the Gulag in this way. The controversy surrounding this text, in particular, was largely due to the way Solzhenitsyn definitively and painstakingly laid the theoretical, legal, and practical origins of the Gulag system at Lenin’s feet, not Stalin’s. According to Solzhenitsyn’s testimony, Stalin merely amplified a concentration camp system that was already in place. This is significant, as many Western intellectuals viewed the Soviet concentration camp system as a “Stalinist aberration”

My Thoughts:

Where Volume 1 seemed mainly to be about the process of how the (fictional) legalities came into being that led to arrests and about the arrests and early detainment, this volume was all about the camps and the various kinds of people in the Gulag. The first 65% dealt exclusively with the camps, what went on in them, how the prisoners existed, how they lived (and died) what uses the camps were put too.

This was grueling. I started this particular volume back in August of last year and am just now finishing it up. So 5 months?

I wish I had profound things to write here but I don’t. Solzhenitsyn simply chronicles what has gone on and shows how some of it happened (people turning a blind eye, people letting it happen because it was happening to someone else, people letting it happen because they were afraid of it happening to them, people letting it happen because it was happening to a group they didn’t like) and the absolutely horrific costs of the camps. Make no mistake, the Gulags were death camps as sure as the Nazi camps were.

Solzhenitsyn also lets his own personality and biases show through quite a bit when he talks about the various kinds of people in the last part of the book. Any time a “thief” is mentioned (ie, a non-political offender for some actual crime), he really goes off against them. He makes no bones about how he survived his time (becoming an informer in the camps) and describes the very few kind of people who would refuse that (Christians being the main group).

Besides the weighty content, what also slowed me down was the references to things or people that I simply had no idea about or anyway to put them into context. Many times whole passages held almost no meaning for me because I didn’t know the people being talked about or the brand of Russian humor went winging its way over my head. Solzhenitsyn did have a dry, sarcastic kind of humor and I appreciated what I could understand. Whenever he talked about the language and how particular words grew out of the Gulag, he lost me there too.

I won’t go into the politics beyond to say that what we are seeing now in terms of our media organizations in lockstep with the current administration will be very familiar to anyone who has read this.

I am going to be taking an extended break before attempting Volume 3. I’ve got a bunch of other non-fiction books that have been just sitting on my kindle so it’s time to pay them some attention. And I can’t face another volume like this for awhile, it’s just too much.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

#Stopthestealing Me Lucky Charms!

It has come to my attention that there are Leprechauns among us, trying to steal our Lucky Charms.

I am here to assert my rights to defend my Lucky Charms with Maximum Force.

If Steven Seagal won’t protect our National Treasure, then it falls upon my shoulders to bear this burden. My fingers are on the big red button, don’t think I won’t do it. If Lucky the Leprechaun keeps on assaulting the sovereignty of my cereal bowl, there will be deadly repercussions!

#stopthestealing

The Ghost ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Ghost
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 23
Words: 6K



Synopsis:

Publishers Description

The gold strike which led the fortune-hunters to Murrayville brought with them the usual proportion of bad men and outlaws. Three months after the rush started, a bandit appeared so consummate in skill and so cool in daring that all other offenders against the law disappeared in the shade of his reputation. He was a public dread. His comings were unannounced; his goings left no track. Men lowered their voices when they spoke of him. His knowledge of affairs in the town was so uncanny that people called him the ‘Ghost.’

My Thoughts:

Oh, this was a fun little story! The town drunk is just playing a part but it’s obvious from the getgo so no spoilers there. What makes this really interesting is how he manipulates the townsfolks and the manhunter hired to catch him. It is masterfully done and you can hear the laughter in the background the whole time.

These short stories of Brand’s are working out perfectly for me. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

#6Degrees – Redhead By the Side of the Road to …..

This month we are starting with Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. Tyler needs to get a new agent if they allowed this cover to grace her pwecious wittle baby.


That is the world’s most boring cover ever! I went looking to find some other version that did’t put me to sleep and you know what? THIS cover was the least boring of all the ones I found. How pathetic is that? This book was published by Knopf publishing. Shame on you Knopf!



Knopf also published the overhyped, overblown and pretty much horribly written Inheritance Cycle by Paolini. He was too young, too much influenced by Lord of the Rings and by Star Wars. Thankfully, the source material is still good stuff!



And even when Star Wars is Shakespeare’ized, it is still good stuff! While my experience with Shakespeare hasn’t been all puppy dogs and roses, I have read one or two decent tales from the Bard.


King John is where my Shakespeare journey seemed to really take off. His comedies, his Ancient Histories, well, they were all hit or miss. But these Histories, well, so far every one has been great! Sometimes an author doesn’t hit their groove but when they do, whoowhee!


Speaking of groovitude, is this cover groovy or what? Wylie and Balmer wrote a great duology with their Bronson Beta books and it’s great early SF if you’re looking for some pre-1950’s stuff. Probably time to add these to my TBR again because some books are just worth reading again and again and again. Of course, not all books are like that.


In fact, some books aren’t worth reading in the first place but you don’t know that until you’ve finished the blasted thing. Bios was just such a book. I wished I had dnf’d it but at least I avoided any more by the author. DNF’ing is a long and honored tradition here in Bookstoogelandia.


The Web of the Witch World by Andre Norton is my first recorded DNF back in 2001. I’m sure it was a wrenching experience for young me back then but the pain of that first DNF has faded over the years as I’ve become jaded and almost neglible about such things. I am glad young me can’t see what a casual DNF’er I am now. I’m sure it would break his heart.

And that is how you go from the Redhead by the Side of the Road to Web of the Witch World.

If you’d like to participate in the #6degrees series of posts, head over to #6Degrees Meme to find out the starting point for each month. They’re not always punctual, so sometimes you have to wait until a week into the month, even though I have noticed they’ve been doing better about this.

Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2) ★✬☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Children of Ruin
Series: Children of Time #2
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 480
Words: 155K



Synopsis:

A terraforming ship of humans discover 2 worlds and begin terraforming one of them. Then the great catastrophe from Old Earth strikes and they barely survive. One of the scientists plays god with octopi and has them taking over one of the world. The other world ends up being the host of a organism that takes over everything it comes into contact with. It reaches the Octopi world and drives them into space.

Where a spaceship from the Human/Spider coalition find them. And everybody tries to communicate with everybody else and succeed and way in the future everyone is one giant happy family of sentient beings.

My Thoughts:

If this hadn’t been by Adrian Tchaikovsky, I would have DNF’d this at the 50% mark when I made my Currently Reading post. As it is, he is now off my list of “must read” authors.

This was boring. This wasn’t fun. This felt like him playing with himself and his “clever” idea about how sentient octopi might communicate. If you’re into that kind of thing, then have at this book. You go play with yourself, you sicko. But for everyone else, kick this to the curb. I was severely disappointed in this even though I thought I had set my expectations to almost zero. To summarize, this was fething stupid and I hated it.

Children of Time is an excellent standalone book that didn’t need a sequel nor should it have had one. This book, Children of Ruin, was a disgrace and a slap in the face. How could the same guy write this drivel AND the excellent Private Life of Elder Things? It just boggles my mind.

What else boggles my mind is praise and acclaim this seems to have accrued to itself. Doesn’t anyone have standards and principles anymore? I hate the publishers for pushing for a sequel. I hate Tchaikovsky for writing a sequel. I hate the fans for enabling a sequel. I sentence them all to the eternal stygian darkness!

So there.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.