Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Hardspear's Gautrain Bus Ride - Born Slippy

I have not posted in foreva.  I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea travel on the Gautrain everyday from Pretoria to Johannesburg. 

One morning I had Born Slippy by Underworld (Trainspotting) playing on the iPod and I was looking out of the window as I was travelling through JHB CBD.  The music and scenere struck me as way meta, so the next morning I filmed the trip with my Blackberry and then I slapped Born Slippy on top of it and voilla, I have my first youtube video ever!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Hardspear Reviews Audible Book Brasyl by Ian McDonald

Complex Cyber Punk Quantum Romp through a Multiverse Past, Present & Future Brazil. 

Have you ever eaten an exotic dish and bitten into a cardamom pod?  If you have, you’ll know that it literally explodes with mysteriously complex flavours and sexy, heady perfumes.  Reading, or listening, to Brasyl by Ian McDonald induces a much similar sense.

There are three main threads in the book, each with a distinct time- and geographical setting.  The three threads each also follow a different protagonist.  In the present (2006) we have Marcelina Hoffman, a rather shallow, Brazilian martial arts arse kicking producer of trashy reality programmes for a controversial TV Station in Rio de Janeiro.  The second protagonist, Edson Jesus Oliveira de Freitas lives in a near-futuristic (2032) Big Brother-esque Sao Paulo.  Edson goes by a few different aliases and his pursuits, monetary and otherwise, are not always strictly legal.  Despite this, Edson is a very likeable character.  Edson and some of the other characters in his part of the universe are near Anime-like in appearance and conduct – slender boyish boys and girlish girls or girlish boys and boyish girls, you know what I mean.  In 1732 the Black half-Irish Jesuit Priest Father Luis Quinn, a learned man of strong character wades through the Amazonian rivers and rain forests, his mission turning out quite differently from that which he first anticipated…

Cyberpunk, biopunk, alternate history, quantum computers, travel between multiple universes, Doppelgängers, wearable computers, mind expanding drugs are all mixed with the wonderful and strange sights, colours, sounds & smells of a bygone, contemporary and an imaginary yet to come Brazil as the three threads starts intersecting.  Myth, fact, religion, sexuality - this is modern speculative fiction at its best!

This is the first Audible Book I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea, listened to where the voice actor is British.  For us non-British English speakers from South Africa, North America, Australia & New Zealand there is a certain charm to British English.  Nigel Pilkington’s narration lends integrity to both the text and characters.  I looked up his profile on the web and found that he was born in Lancashire.  One can hear the Northern England influence in his accent, but it is not too strong and I had no difficulty following the narration.  He does however use different accents for different characters and for the different strands in the book.  (It is very quaint the way he – as Edson - drops t’s, elongates vowels and puts k’s after words ending in –ng.)  Mr. Pilkington reads Brasyl with flair and fluency, his voice matching the said sights, colours, sounds & smells of the prose word for word.

The only reason why I gave ‘Overall Experience’ 4 instead of 5, is:  I gather in the printed form of this book there is additional content which include a glossary with Brazilian Portuguese slang and other unfamiliar words & terms.  It also includes a playlist, suggested reading etc.  Audible should find a way to make this available to anyone who purchases this recording.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Hardspear reviews Redshirts by John Scalzi (Audible Version)

Dr. McCoy Disproven
As to the genre…  I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea don’t “get” the whole science fiction slash satire or fantasy slash satire thing.  Or usually I don’t.  I don’t “get” Douglas Adams.  I don’t “get” Terry Pratchet.  Howevurrr…  Redshirts by John Scalzi is different.  It is meta.  Maybe meta is different from satire.  As I started to listen to the Audible version of Redshirts, I thought, “Oh no.  Here we go again”.  Before long though, I became totally enmeshed in a geek get-off sort of way.  It is impossible not to if you have any affinity for Star Trek.

As to the plot…  In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more...only one of each of us”.  -Dr. McCoy, Star Trek, “Balance of Terror”.  

Well… not according to John Scalzi!  According to John Scalzi, in some weird alternative time-line there CAN be more than one of us.  Just ask Ensign Andy Dahl and his other low ranking, red-shirted compatriots. 

The Three Codas…  Towards the end, the cadence of the book changes from a fast paced and funny warp 9 to a slower, thoughtful, thrusters only velocity.  As I liked things nicely wrapped up, I would not have minded six or even more codas.

The narrative and the narration…  Wil Wheaton reads with élan and gusto and excitement.  The last coda he reads with emotion and compassion.  Many of the Audible reviews comment on the distraction of the overuse of character perspective indication.  It’s complicated… How do I explain.  In the narration there are conversations between characters where the sentences are short and all of them end in “he said, she said” or “Dahl said, Duval said.  This is especially rampant at the start of the book, but grows less.  I have not seen the complaint in reviews of people who read the book as opposed to listened to it.  Maybe the book is written to read like the script of a TV episode, I don’t know.  I just thought it added to the book’s overall quirkiness.

As to quality, yes it is worth to use your monthly free credit.  As to length, it was a bit short.  I usually try to get more minutes for my money.  (Remember, my monthly Audible subscription costs 130 South African Rands)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Hardspear Reviews the Audible version of Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Listen to Me, Read Me, Reamde.

On the topic of fiction novels where a large part of a book is set within a computer game, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Reamde by Neal Stephenson come to mind readily.  As opposed to the (near) futuristic dystopia in which Ready Player One is set, the backdrop to Reamde is a very realistic present. The lion’s share of Ready Player One takes place within the virtual reality of a computer quest-like game.  In Reamde, the percentage of the story that takes place within the World-of-Warcraft-like game called T’Rain is significantly smaller.  From here the differences between the two books just grows wider.  In the end, it is greatly unfair to even try to compare the two books.

It is difficult for me, J. Hardspear de la Azotea to pen down just how much I enjoyed the Audible audiobook version of Reamde.  It may just be the most entertaining and gratifying Techno-Thriller I have ever read/listened to.  As this is the first book by Mr. Stephenson I have had the pleasure to consume, I can only really comment on this book as it is, having no reference in terms of his other books.

Despite being classified as a Techno-Thriller, the narration is unbelievably funny at times.  There is one scene involving the Fantasy writers of the background to T’Rain referred to the ‘Apostropocalypse’ which had me crying with laughter.

The book is also about girl-power.  Zula Forthrast is one of the most quick-witted protagonists one can hope to encounter in a book.  The supporting characters of Olivia Halifax-Lin and Xian Yuxia positively delights.

The male characters, more specifically the “good guys” (sometimes the lines between good guys & bad guys gets a bit blurry, especially in the case of Solokov) are easy to relate to, with all their heroism and all of their fallibilities.

The book is long, VERY detailed and yet very fast-paced.  I listened to it on the plane, in the car, in bed before I go to sleep, first thing when I woke up, whilst I washed dishes etc, etc.

The matter of fact tone of the narration by Malcolm Hillgartner suits the story fantastically.  His accents runs from good (British) to bad (Scottish) but it is much better than I can do and still gets 100% for effort.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Hunger Games Movie

As the other me said in a facebook update, I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea have had neither the benefit nor the drawback of having read the book ‘The Hunger Games’ therefor I went into the cinema not knowing what to expect.  I asked my Heavy Number Two (brother-in-law 2) to accompany me and off we went.

I was totally blown away!!!  I have not enjoyed a movie this much in a very long time.  I quickly picked up on the Greek Mythology theme of the story of Theseus, the Labyrinth and Ariadne’s Thread.  From the desperation of the people in the districts to the decadence of the citizens and rulers of the Capitol hegemony and eventually to the events in the Arena, the movie is one big visual stimulating experience.  I wanna see it again.

Effie Trinket & Katniss

I also cannot wait to get hold of the books.  I cannot understand why I have not yet read it, but will remedy this omission promptly.  (Maybe in my mind I was expecting something similar to the Twilight Saga, which I cannot stand.  I have said before – the whole teenage-angst-and-vampire theme does not work for me.)

Friday, 13 April 2012

Hardspear's Master Cleanse: Day 7 - Friday

I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea, am proud to declare that I have lasted 6 days on the Master Cleanse (Lemonade Diet).  I did aim for 10 days, but alas, for someone who thinks food, have a passion for cooking, who reads recipe- and cookbooks for leisure, who lives for and dreams of the next culinary success, to NOT eat for 6 days is a major fait accompli.  I also did stop smoking in the process.

So what happened?  It was late afternoon on Day 6 and I sat in an important meeting in which our team was discussing an important deadline for Monday.  I was feeling very low on energy and my concentration was totally shot.  All I heard was blah, blah, blah – Hardspear needs to blah, blah, blah and Hardspear has agreed to blah, blah, blah before close of business.  It was someone’s going away function earlier the day and there was some snacks left in our open plan office.  I got up in the middle of the meeting, walked out of the boardroom, went to the office ate a LITTLE of the snacks, drank a cup of coffee and re-joined the meeting.  I surreptitiously ascertained what the blah, blah, blah was and started executing on the blah, blah, blah.  I simply cannot afford not to have all my wits in one place from now till Monday.

In the evening I had a bowl of the lovely vegetable soup which I made earlier in the week.  Delicious.  I could feel the goodness seeping into every molecule of my body.  I also had a cup of yoghurt and a gut-flora tablet to re-establish and start re-populate all the good bacteria necessary for a healthy digestive system.
I walk away from this:
·         Feeling lighter
·         Feeling happier
·         Having lost 5 kilos
·         Tummy shrunk noticeably
·         Clothes fit looser
·         Stopped Smoking
·         Determined to continue henceforth eating healthier and smaller portions
·         Determined to start exercising.
So what to do with the left over Maple Syrup?  Well, I am already devising a recipe for Caramel Pecan Cupcakes with Maple Syrup, Mascarpone & Pistachio Icing.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Hardspear's Master Cleanse: Day 6 - Thursday

I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea nearly went mad last night.  I craved food so bad, I nearly lost it.  In the end I had to make a choice…  Either I quit, or I try some workaround to preserve my sanity.  I decided on the workaround.  I put a teaspoon of Bovril into a cup of hot water and drank the resulting lovely salty and savoury broth.  Immediately the Giant Pizzas stopped floating in front of my eyes.  I am not happy that I ‘cheated’ but I still feel good that I haven’t quit…  After today, only four more days… Then two days to ‘come off’ of the diet and then I am getting myself a gourmet pizza from Piza e Vino or Doppio Zero!

My concentration is all over the place – I have not taken Ritalin in 6 days.  Of course this does not bother me, but I can see I get to my colleagues a bit…  Luckily they think I am wonky because of the diet.

Oh… before I forget… Day 6 – Weighing in at 105.