Sunday, January 03, 2010

Well, that was nice

I slogged to the end of the year bone-tired, dropped into a week of vacation around the house (as wife's job does not allow vacation), living in jams and losing track of the transition from morn to noon to night.

Been a tough year at work; probably facing a worse one. The bad economy turned nearly everyone into a bad contestant on Survivor, so half of everyone's time is wasted putting up with everyone else's panic over possibly losing their job randomly in a layoff. So everyone's trying to look useful and taking on too much (as early retirement and other attrition has reduced staff), even stuff they've shouldn't be doing, and they do it badly because they don't know how. Never having been at the upper-management level where layoffs are decided, it seems futile to guess what the motives and decisions are based on who stays and who goes, so this Lord of the Flies environment is aggravating, because anyone who has paid attention - or been through it before - knows that treating everyone as a threat only makes things worse - and seemingly makes no difference with the HR ladies start escorting folks into conference rooms.

So, I settled into vacation with the happy surprise of getting Stephen King's new weight-lifting challenge (over a thousand pages) from the reservation list at the library on day one. That being Under the Dome.

It kicks off in grand form, and after getting past the "didn't I see this in the Simpson's movie?" dubiousness, it keeps the pedal on the floor for most of the duration; it dragged a bit in the 600 page range, but recovered and ended spectacularly. Glad I read it rather than eventually seeing the inevitable movie, because children die, and I can kind of handle reading about it, but can't face it in a movie.

The best way to describe it is the inverse of King's The Stand, where rather than facing grim survival in the wide open world, our pro- and antagonists face grim survival in a closed-off township terrarium. Also, King finally steps up and gives John Irving a run for his money, showing he can do quirky, funny, yet socially relevant commentary, too.

Not often have I spent the majority of a novel pissed off. (Vague memories of Crime and Punishment and one of the Dickens' melodramas where some guy falls in a well and dies for no reason other than the "isn't that sad?" factor, come to mind.)

The bad guy is drawn so clearly - we've all met this son of a bitch at some point in our lives - so each time he succeeds, it pisses you off. A lot. If I had ever been a smoker, I would've doubled my intake during this read. As it was, I had to put it down and decompress so I wouldn't snap at the kids. I bet many copies of this first printing get dashed on the floor a couple times.

I was honestly impressed at how King commanded the story, and how much it got to me. Put it on your list for the next time you've got time to spare - because it's hard to put down - and when your folks can manage you running a little hot under the collar for the duration.

Got a date night with my lovely wife to go see the new sensation: Avitar. It's everything they say it is.

Including the fact that it's three hours long. I can see why it's that length, because while a third of it is story development and character background, it would seem truncated and less rich if it were missing. And if you finally got the DVD with that extra hour reinserted, you'd be a little miffed you didn't get to see it in 3D.

Nonetheless, my wife and I did glance at each other about the two-hour mark and mentally sigh - even though we were enjoying ourselves at the time.

The plot is kind of The Abyss meets Dances with Wolves plus a quasi-famous (among sci-fi readers) short story about the concept of someone ensconced in a pod "driving" a grown, perfect, appropriate body for some large corporation. I will never remember the name of the story or the author, but basically this amazingly deformed woman is hired to drive an avatar of a beautiful Hollywood starlet (think Meagan Fox) and when the connection is severed, the man in love with the avatar goes looking for the actual person behind the puppet, only to discover the horror that raises from the pod to embrace him (because she loves him, after all) is so horrific, I believe he kills her reflexively. (If anyone can remember the story, help a brother out.)

Bladder issues and babysitting dues aside, it was one of those movie-going events you'll always remember, so get thee hence.

Happy New Year.

Hope it's a good one.


Whisky Prajer said...

I haven't read the story in question, but it sure sounds like a Harry Harrison concept -- or your man Harlan, for that matter.

I'm about as keen to see Avatar as I am to see anything, I suppose. I remember being surprised by rib-sticking moments in Titanic, despite a script that had me drumming my fingers on the arm rest (along with more than a few moments that were so ripe for satire they were falling off the tree). Still, the contrarian in me is leaning on the killjoy buzzer. He first reared his hoary head when everyone was lining up for E.T. -- a movie I still have no desire to see. Unless my daughters kick up a louder fuss, it could well be that Avatar will join the Contrarian's List.

Yahmdallah said...

I bet since you have kids now, you'd really like ET. I saw it before it was huge. Spielberg's previous flick (1941) had flopped, and he considered it a personal little film no one would likely see. He was blown away when it became the monster hit it was. So, when I saw it, it was the first week of release, and the theatre was empty. The only person I could talk into going with me was my mom, who I embarrassed because I actually teared up during one scene - I didn't expect it to be that moving.

Avatar is going to be the cultural event of the year. I bet your kids drag you along. You'll have fun.

Whisky Prajer said...

Hm. Lead-pipe cinch, that bet -- on both counts, I'm sure. I might as well admit defeat and be cheerful about it (although ET will remain unseen -- for now).

ThisHereGiraffe said...

Saw Avatar, and agree with your take. It was the first 3D film I'd seen, but plot-wise I was rolling my eyes fairly early. Do they hit you with a $4 hike to see 3D?

yahmdallah said...

It's $3 where I live, but yeah.