Monday, July 23, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

I'm taking a break from my normal rantings about books and video games to let the English Muffin Power Hour community know that the NFL is a mere 43 days away! That also means that Iron Dirigible football is right around the corner. Most importantly, this means that all the stuff I meant to write about last year is finally current again! I'm very excited about proving, with math, how terrible Bean is at fantasy football. Also, my beloved Braves made headlines today by trading for Ryan Dempster. Dempster is currently leading the entirety of Major League baseball in ERA. The only thing I dislike about this trade is that we gave up a 22 year old for a 35 year old, and we made a deal with Theo Epstein. Historically, that means that Delgado will become some kind of a superstar. Even so, the Braves have a very real shot of winning the division this year and Dempster has very solid numbers, even without this year's phenomenal work.

If you mention "Braves", I have to stop what I'm doing and talk about them. It's a real problem.

My favorite thing about this deal is it means we can take Jurjjens out of the lineup until he gets his head on straight. Jurrjens got shellacked in his last two starts and the Braves blew an excellent opportunity to steal momentum from the division leading Nationals this weekend. Now that they've added Dempster to the rotation and Ben Sheets has returned from the grave to pitch like Cy Young contender that he was three years ago, the Braves have a really strong rotation. Hudson, Sheets, and Dempster are all good enough to be the #1 pitcher on your average ball club, and the Braves have put them all in one line up. The last team to do that was the Philadelphia Phillies and look at where it got them! They failed to win a World Series and then imploded the next year from injuries and old age! Bad example, but it's not like players turn to garbage as soon as they join the Braves. Look at Dan Uggla or Mark Teixeira or OH MY GOD WE'RE DOOMED!!!!

I mean, optimism! Ignoring the almost supernatural level of bad mojo this deal has, I really like it on paper. But at the end of the day, our best pitchers are 37, 35, and 34. However, it's been 7 years since the Braves won a division title. They haven't been to the World Series since 1999. They haven't won a game in the World Series since 1996. They haven't even advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2001. They haven't even won two games in a single postseason since 2004! My point is maybe the Braves should try to win today for a change.

We need to go back to what works: karate kicking people in the face.

P.S. What I mean to say is, in short, there will be a good deal more talk about baseball and football on the blog. I will share my thoughts on the Hunger Games... somehow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

For Want of a Brain: A Review of the Novel "Feed" by Mira Grant

Astute readers will recall I've been promising to review the Hunger Games trilogy as well as the feature film since April. But Feed has zombies in it and I've been reading it at the beach this past week (by "reading" I mean "alternating between it and three other books"). Also, Hunger Games has about a million images to choose from and Feed has very few, which means I can write this review and then watch to sun set over the Gulf of Mexico without having to worry about whether or not I've done service to Gale's immaculate biceps. Also, Feed has zombies in it. End of debate.

Now if Katniss shot zombies with her bow, then it'd be a different story. Specifically, she'd be a female Daryll from The Walking Dead. Imagine if she traveled back in time to the zombie apocalypse and met Daryll and they bonded over their love of archery and rural Appalachia. Then they had kids who would be super good at archery and would shoot all the walkers and... Excuse me, I have to go write this fanfic.

Feed takes place 25 years after the Great Zombie Outbreak of 2014 (although most of the story takes place in 2040, which is 26 years later, but there are more important things to discuss than conversational mathematics). The conceit (and double entendre) of Feed is that bloggers played a vital role is spreading word of the zombie apocalypse and were hailed as the real heroes of the zombie war (get it, like an RSS Feed and how zombies have an insatiable hunger for the flesh of the living). Three 22 year old bloggers are assigned to cover the presidential campaign of Senator John Ryman, but little do they know they are about to uncover a conspiracy that will shake the world as they know it.

Is that good? Have I done enough of the PR Spiel to actually talk about the book now? I hope that familiarized all my unfamiliar readers with the premise of the book. I know for a fact that I blew up at least two of my friends' phones with about 15 consecutive tweets about this book. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I only read 150 of the 400 pages and then consulted Wikipedia for the ending. I really wanted to get through the book before I wrote about it, but there was just so much to say. As the old saying goes, one does not have to eat the whole egg to know its rotten (and covered in zombie virus).

It's the Apocalypse, what could go wrong?

In a sentence, the problem with Feed is that it gets zombies, politics, and blogging wrong and that nothing that happens makes any sense and that the characters are all one dimensional & boring and that the whole world building exercise falls to pieces as soon as you think about it and that the entire universe the book is set in is more like Left Wing California Wish Fulfillment Apocalypse than anything based in reality. So you see, nothing too serious. The tragedy is that this is a super interesting time period that seldom gets talked about. Society isn't being destroyed but it's also not able to overpower the Undead Menace. If properly developed, this book could have like a Cold War style to it (albeit with more explosions and less diplomatic intrigue),

One of the problems inherent with any post-apocalyptic story is the ease with which you can punish people you personally find offensive. The best post-apocalyptic stories (such as The Road Warrior and A Boy and his Dog or Fallout 3 if you want me to cite video games) avoid this completely and generally paint the bad guys in broad strokes (usually to the tune of them being well intentioned people driven mad by power or by lack of power [e.g. the impotent underground people in A Boy and his Dog]) and that makes the hero more awesome because he/she doesn't succumb to that corruption. In bad post-apocalyptic films (think The Left Behind series), people are specifically targeted because of their beliefs. In Feed, the victims are picked because Mira Grant doesn't like them and it's done in a super obvious, illogical fashion.

The Zombies have more Brains than the Author

I'll start with the first example to book hits us with. Our three heroes are recording footage of zombies in the overrun town of Santa Cruz, California, getting footage of Shaun (get it? GET IT?! IS IT NOT AN OBVIOUS ENOUGH REFERENCE TO THE HIT ZOMBIE MOVIE "SHAUN OF THE DEAD"?) bothering zombies to upload to YouTube so their blog will get more hits. Because, obviously, after a global nightmare in which billions perished, people want to see adventurous types needlessly risking life and limb. There is no way this has already been done before in the 25 years zombies have been around. Santa Cruz was one of the first cities to fall to the zombies because it is densely populated and is a college town and is also in California, where gun ownership is marginalized and treated with suspicion (so, yeah, this makes perfect sense actually. Good job!). Well, in the course of pissing off zombies, a group of zombies is alerted and gets all up in our heroes' collective grills. In an escape that makes for a thrilling first ten minutes of a TV Pilot, the heroes barely escape the hordes of the undead and drive away to safety in Berkley, California. Which is also a densely populated college town. And has no natural barriers between it and Santa Cruz. So how is it safe again? Also, I wonder which branch of the University of California Mira Grant went to and which branch was her least favorite. I honestly have no way of inferring this knowledge from such a subtle and well thought out universe.