Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bywatches: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Bilbo is a special snowflake.

(spoilers alert)

As I write this, I'm listening to "The Last Goodbye", the credit song for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, for the nth time.

I think the lyrics embody all this movie means for me. It ends with the words "I bid you all a very fond farewell", which is what Bilbo tells the assembled hobbits at his 111st birthday party at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, so while this movie is likely the last we'll ever see of Peter Jackson's cinematic version of the Tolkien legendarium, it's not truly an end. The movie even ends when a very old friend of a now elderly Bilbo comes knocking on the day of his famous birthday party...

Which is not to say that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is entirely a movie of sad goodbyes and bittersweet reflection. Far from it. For the first two hours, in other words the meat of the film, this is the climax we've been groaning for since the 45-minute opening of An Unexpected Journey. From the dramatic slaying of Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced dragon Smaug to the inevitable coming of the Eagles at the end of the battle, there is barely a moment taken to draw breath.

And you know what? I loved it. If you were let down by the leaden pace of An Unexpected Journey or the unsatisfying cliffhanger ending of The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson makes a full repentance for those here. If nothing else, Battle of the Five Armies is the perfect companion for a large tub of popcorn and a stormy night. Or a clear night. Or hell, even a small tub of popcorn. It's pretty good.

All right boys, higher, HIGHER, I want to hear that glass BREAK!

Now of course there are the problems that seem to affect any movie with a high enough budget: plot holes (couldn't the Orcs just have used the giant worms to dig into the Mountain and catch everyone in the back?)  and unfinished threads: want to know what happened to everyone except Bilbo? Pony up yet more money for the Extended Edition in a year's time! (Or, you know, read the book.)

Nevertheless, I don't think my enjoyment of the film was at all dented by these complaints. I didn't go in expecting something on the order of Citizen Kane or even Interstellar, and I was thoroughly entertained. I don't regret spending the time or the money I did on this movie, and I am definitely looking forward to picking up the Extended Edition for some more closure on the fate of the Lonely Mountain, Dale, and so on.

Goodbye, Peter Jackson, and thank you for taking us with you to Middle-earth, one last time.

Rating: 4.5/5

Coming soon:
Bywatches: Exodus: Gods and Kings
Byreads: The Way of Kings, Excalibur

Monday, December 22, 2014

My first ever Christmas present

Welcome, friends and Romans, to The Cosmic Bystander!

Well, yesterday I received my first Christmas present.

Now, you're probably doing a double take. A nice Jewish boy like me getting Christmas presents? Am I high on sufganiya sugar? Has the Cosmic Bystander finally assimilated?

Well, no. It's from a guy in Ramat Gan.

At the beginning of the month, a friend and I decided to sign up for the Reddit Secret Santa 2014 exchange. This involves sending a Christmas present to another Redditor (who doesn't know who or where you are) and getting one from a different one.

Being the cheap, cosmic bastard I am, I didn't check 'international shipping' so I got some guy in Tel Aviv to ship to. Sunday two weeks ago I sent him a Rick & Morty mug and a Star Wars book. He got it about a week later and seemed happy.

Now last Tuesday an already great day (I'd booked tickets for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) was improved by an email notification that my Secret Santa had sent my gift.

And yesterday it arrived!

What has it got in its pocketses, precious?

Two! Two PS3 games for the Bystander, precious!

Thank you Secret Santa for giving a nice Jewish boy his first taste of Christmas.

It might as well be Saturnalia, though. They're all celebrations of the winter solstice. Although with global warming, we'll probably end up calling it the summer-lite solstice.

Coming up soon on The Cosmic Bystander!

Bywatches: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Exodus: Gods and Kings
Byreads: The Way of Kings

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Blogus Oritum

I have returned. Look on my blog, ye mighty, and take hope.

So, my faithful readers, when not praying to the old gods and the new for my return, have you wondered: "What is the Lord of the Blog doing?"

Now you will know.

So in the interim I've written an 8,300+ word novelette entitled: "Once More Into Shadow" which is about a Bnei Akiva shevet who goes on a Shabbat Shevet... and it doesn't turn out well. I call it: "My Crystallization Part One". This is (INFODUMP ACTIVATE!) because it's my first story to which I am dumping everything I hate about the 'society' I live in- namely  teenage Jewish 'Dati Leumi' (National Religious) teens in Israel. In those stories, at least one of the protagonists is a guy like me, i.e. shy, introspective, bookish, has zero real success with girls, is surrounded by guys who are better-looking, have long, possibly deep talks with girls who actually text them first, etc. The sad thing is, they don't even really 'win' in either story, because that would be too sugary, etc.

I won't be posting Once More any time soon, since it's really in 0.75 draft because although I've gotten to the end, there are many things that need adding, clarifying, possibly removing before it works on any level as a story.

Which brings me to "Crystallization Part Two" which doesn't have a real title yet. But it does have a concept, that's for sure.

It's a story I've been meaning to do since September, around the time of last Rosh Hashana.

It's about, yes, you guessed, a teenage guy who's lonely, shy, introspective, et friggin' cetra. This time he's off on the Bnei Akiva Mahane Sayarim. For those who don't know, it's a "summer camp" Bnei Akiva has for the age group that's between 9th and 10th grade. It's held in the end of July, early August (at least it was last summer when I went) in Ein Zeitim (if I recall correctly). So I wouldn't exactly say it was a "traumatic" experience. I wasn't abused by anyone nor did I get any real injuries.

I just feel I have to talk about it. When I finish the first draft of "Crystallization Part Two" I'll post it here, and if you read it, I think you'll know why. And before you ask, no one really disappeared from our Mahane Sayarim to the best of my knowledge. You'll have to dig deeper (if not too much deeper) to find out.

See you guys soon!

New theme music for this blog :
You MUST listen to Woodward's songs. They're awesome, moody, and FREE!

Words of "Wisdom": Kid-oriented movies encourage the narcissism so prevalent in our digital age. Don't believe me? Count how many times they say: "Believe in yourself!" in those movies.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On The Table For February

Hello again, denizens of the Web!

Here's what I've got on the table for this month, as far as writing, reading, and other, irrelevant pursuits go:

HASTEIN- not the final title. It's an AAR (After Action Report)  for an awesome game called Crusader Kings II, heartily recommended. An AAR is basically a player recounting a game experience. Actually, this one is more of a novella loosely based on a short game of Crusader Kings II, as a Viking called Hastein. Hastein was a Viking raider who raided Spain, Germany, and France and England in the first half of the ninth century. In the 867 start of Crusader Kings II, he controls a part of Brittany known as the county of Nantes (the map is divided into counties, which form duchies, which form kingdoms, which form empires). I have decided to write and edit to a second draft the whole novella before posting it on the Paradox Plaza forum.

However, exclusive to those who come here to contemplate Life! The Universe! And Everything! is:

the privilege of reading each chapter as it exists in the first draft. Here is the first chapter which has already been written. All comments and critiques are welcome and encouraged!

It's a bit of a busy month.

First up is WAR AND REMEMBRANCE by Herman Wouk. I recently finished the "prologue" as Wouk terms it in the introduction to REMEMBRANCE, actually a 960 page tome called THE WINDS OF WAR (not THE WINDS OF WINTER, unfortunately), for an English book report. So far it's great, and at over 1100 pages in the paperback edition I borrowed from the library, looking to be an engaging read.

Second up: MOTH by Daniel Arenson. Now, you may not have heard of this chap. I nearly didn't. I recently Googled "advice for fantasy writers" and somehow Daniel Arenson, a pretty much obscure self-published fantasy writer is at the top of the results. I looked at his advice, and it looked pretty solid. That's when I noticed he seemed to be entirely self-published, and so I decided I'd look elsewhere for advice. I randomly looked him up on Facebook and liked him, though.

Fast forward a few days. Bored and listless and too shiftless to write, I was looking up and down my Facebook feed and there was a post from Arenson saying he was giving out 20 review e-copies of MOTH, one of his books. I naturally jumped at the chance to read a free book and express my opinion on it, so I messaged him and within minutes received copies in two formats. Despite not having a smartphone or an e-reader, I downloaded Kindle for PC and started reading.

I won't tell you what I think of it so far (review forthcoming, I feel I have a moral obligation to finish and review the book since it was a review copy I recieved) but I'm around 30% in according to the Kindle program.

Good night, people of the Web, and happy reading of HASTEIN Chapter I. Don't forget to post all thoughts and comments in the comments section of this post!

Thought of the Unspecified Random Time Period: Always send your madmen to asylums. They may know the truth.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Lady is off!

Yes, my friends, after precisely four weeks of work, the third and final draft of ELIZABETH  has been dropped at the inbox of an unsuspecting Paradox Books. Thanks to everyone who read and especially those who commented on the second draft, it was much appreciated!

The three winner of the Paradox Short Story Contest 2014 will be posted on February 28. Until then, in the words of George R. R. Martin: "We cannot know. We can only hope." (a sentiment many of his fans would echo).

What's next? We'll see, next time when we all reconvene to ponder Life! The Universe! and Nothing in Particular!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Revisionist (alternate) History

So this might be totally hypocritical considering the timing of this post, but the deadline for commenting on the second draft of ELIZABETH has ended (52 hours ago).

Thank you for reading and (some of you) giving helpful suggestions.

Re-reading the second draft, I have come to the conclusion that a different ending is needed. For those slowpokes or lazy people or internet spambots who have not yet bothered to read the story as posted previously, I will not spoil it, because the Lord of this Blog is a merciful Lord. However, I think it is a bit of a deus ex machina, John's actions and character not really contributing to the course of the story.

Therefore, before I finally submit ELIZABETH to the Paradox Books Short Story Contest, I will completely rewrite the ending. I have finally hit upon one I think works with the overall theme of the story, and with John's personality. I will have to change some things earlier on in the story to accommodate this change, but I don't think it will upset things too much.

I will not  be posting the resulting third draft on this blog. Once I have completed it I am going to submit it to the gods of Paradox Books for their all-knowing judgements.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for further exciting announcements from this endlessly chaotic world composed of Life! The Universe! and Nothing in Particular!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Protest Too Much: The Lady is Here!

This is the moment you've been waiting for!
For the past eight days, you've been anxiously checking the blog for news on ELIZABETH, the story that will represent Yours Truly in the Paradox Books Short Story Contest. You've been composing complaints in your head, putting off posting them for hope that today there will be news.

Wait no more! Exclusive to readers of Life, the Universe, and Nothing In Particular, is the full text of the second draft of ELIZABETH by Yonatan Alexander. It can be read here and now here!

The fun doesn't stop here! Not only can you be among the first to read ELIZABETH, you can actually influence how it will (hopefully) appear in print in the Paradox Books alternate history anthology that will be published sometime this year! From this moment until 7:00 PM Israel time on  Monday, January 20, 2014, you can send in your thoughts, (constructive) criticisms, and suggestions by commenting on this post! After that deadline has passed, I will incorporate any suggestions and redress criticisms I think are legitimate and can be implemented in the story without changing it significantly. I will also try to respond to all comments between now and the deadline.

You can, of course, comment after the deadline (and it will be appreciated) but you are strongly encouraged to do so before the deadline.

So what are you waiting for? Click on the link, read the saga of Lady Elizabeth Marsham and Sir John Wrexham, and be sure to post your thoughts in comments on this post!

See you soon!

 Thought of the Day: History isn't written by the victors. It's written by Wikipedia.