Renaissance News Vol. 2 Issue 2

The newly reborn Renaissance News rolls along for its second issue. Many of you (and by many I mean the three people including my wife who read this) may wonder about the title. I shamelessly stole it from a good friend’s online ID as the title perhaps eight years ago when I first started the email version of the newsletter. I find it rather snobby and elitist in a Frasier sort of way, which segues nicely into me being snarky about-what is in the grand scheme of life-trivial news. So let’s get to it!

  • For those of you who enjoy the LEGO video games (LEGO Star Wars is among my favorite 360 games…just keep in mind I’m 12), there’s going to be a lot more coming. Warner Bros. who own developer Traveler’s Tales, extended an agreement to keep producing the games through 2016. LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 will be hitting shelves in June.
  • Burt Reynolds has been released from a Florida hospital after a planned heart bypass operation. The mustache/actor is 74.
  • In one of those rare instances where comics news makes the mainstream press, you may have caught that in an upcoming issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker will be fired from his job, joining those Americans in the ranks of the unemployed.
  • It looks like Wolverine 2 will begin filming in January and will focus on the Japanese adventures of the X-Man.
  • Neil Patrick Harris is starring in the Smurfs movie. Do with that what you will.
  • Harrison Ford says there’s a germ of a story for Indiana Jones 5. That will relieve all of us who noted the absence of one in Indiana Jones 4.
  • Ben Stiller has confirmed that Zoolander 2 is in the works and the movie will take place 10 years after the original.
  • Here are 2 sequels no one needs but they are still making: Death Race 2 and Big Momma’s House 3. Yes. 3.
  • Angelina Joile has pulled out of Wanted 2, but writer Mark Millar is still hopeful the movie will be made without her. I don’t want to spoil Wanted for you, but there’s a specific reason bringing Joile back would have required a lot of creativity. Joile will instead be starring in an adaptation of Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels.
  • Guillermo del Toro is working on plans to bring The Hobbit to the screen in 3-D.
  • Matt Damon says the Borne franchise is dead at least as far as he and director Paul Greengrass are concerned, though he said he’s fine with the franchise continuing with other actors (psst, I’m not).
  • The new frontrunner to direct the next Superman film (a title held now by half of Hollywood) is Jonah Nolan, brother of Chris Nolan, who has scripted Memento, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige, but would be making his directorial debut. David Goyer, who wrote Batman Begins, is attached to write the screenplay.
  • HBO has greenlit the pilot and 9 episodes based on the A Saga of Fire and Ice novels of George RR Martin. The project starring Sean Bean and Lena Headley will adapt one novel per season from the epic which is currently awaiting the publication of book 5. If you haven’t read the novels, they’re probably the most influential fantasy published since Tolkien, so pick them up immediately!
  • Rolling Stone Album Charts
    1. “Soldier of Love” by Sade
    2. “Need You Know” by Lady Antebellum
    3. “America VI: Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash
    4. “The E.N.D.” by Black Eyed Peas
    5. “Fame” by Lady Gaga
  • New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers
    1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    2. Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    3. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
    4. Poor Little Bitch Girl by Jackie Collins
    5. Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah
  • Worldwide Video Game Sales
    1. Aliens vs. Predator XBOX 360
    2. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
    3. Wii Sports Wii
    4. Aliens vs. Predator PS3
    5. BioShock 2 XBOX 360
  • Box Office
    1. Shutter Island $22.2 million
    2. Cop Out $18.6 million
    3. The Crazies $16.7 million
    4. Avatar $13.7 million (passed $700 million domestic take)
    5. Percy Jackson $9.8 million

The Magicians

Magic ruins people for real life. There’s a large portion of us, especially the last two generations, that’s never quite gotten over the fact that we’ve never stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia, no invitation from Hogwarts appeared via owl, and no wizard with a magic ring ever sent us on a quest to save the world. We cannot deal with reality, because after all is said and done, reality is dull. It’s small moments of abject terror surrounded by islands of boredom. It’s not unique. We’re not unique. Somehow when we were reading those books and visiting those other worlds a part, just a bit, of ourselves began to think that maybe something would come along and save us from a future of taxes, traffic jams, and antidepressants. I feel this way, so I was very intrigued to pick up The Magicians, because that is exactly the place in which we find the book’s central character: disillusioned, out of place, and clinically unhappy as he makes his way to an interview for Princeton.

Quentin has been obsessed with fantasy and magic his entire life and, in particular, a sequence of junior fantasy novels about a magical world named Fillory (which is a clear substitute and commentary on C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia). When his interview ends rather abruptly, Quentin finds himself instead enrolled in a college for magical pedagogy (clearly analogous to Harry Potter, but really only in setting, Grossman’s major influence and comment is on the Narnia books). What follows is a coming of age story set in extraordinary settings; from Brakebills School for Magical Pedagogy, to the Antarctic, back to reality, and even to the not-quite-so fictional world of Fillory.

The book covers an enormous amount of time and material in 420 pages or so. Grossman could have easily made this a series of seven or eight books and I almost wish he would have. There are some plot lines that disappear for too long (or entirely) and aspects of the fantastic that I would have loved more time to explore. Character development also suffers to some degree, but the book moves so quickly you don’t really realize it until it’s over. Grossman’s main problem is that Quentin is a bit of a douche. He comes off as whiny and unlikable and when that’s your main character, that’s a bit of an issue. His supporting cast is much more interesting and hence my desire to have seen them fleshed out more. I read the book in one day, but that’s me so it’s hard to use that as a fair basis for comparison.

Grossman’s throwing out some big ideas here, not only handling the normal coming of age issues like love, sex, purpose, morals, etc. but also magic, how magic works in his world (which is clever and rather practical), whether humans are better off without magic, and the nature of power and its effect on those who wield it. But the primary theme of the novel is happiness. Quentin is unhappy before magic visits his life and finds a way to remain unhappy no matter how fantastic his circumstances become. I think a lot of us do that to ourselves whether its because we never got to battle orcs or wield a magic want or because we don’t have “enough money” or the right job. Its this examination that made the novel so compelling a read for me, but it also works as a novel and as an exploration of the fantastic. This was one of my favorite books of 2009 and is worth a pick up of any of this resonates with your constantly yapping inner 10 year-old.


Law Abiding Citizen

I had no intention of ever seeing this, but the trailer was on a DVD I watched recently and it caught my eye. The premise is that Gerard Butler’s family was murdered and Jamie Foxx plays the ADA who made a deal that let one of the two murderers off with a light prison sentence. Ten years after the fact, people surrounding the case begin to die in highly creative ways and Butler’s character not only admits to doing it, but brings the entire city of Philadelphia to its knees as he tries to put the justice system on trial for his personal loss.

The movie is at its best when Butler is matching wits with Foxx and is three steps ahead of everyone. The movie is not good when it revels in the acts of violence themselves sometimes to the point of bordering on torture porn. Both actors are much better than the material, especially Foxx, who shouldn’t be wasting time in a movie like this. It’s an average movie with a few clever parts that, had they been expanded upon and made the film’s epicenter, could have raised this to an excellent thriller.


Olympic Thoughts III: Vancouver 2010

The games have ended and now I have a 60 hour a week time commitment that I can fill with other things…possibly sleeping again is on the agenda. Kudos to Vancouver to finishing strongly after a rough first week. Having expounded at length on the Olympics in general in my first two posts on this, I think we’ll just throw out some bullet points for wrap-up.

  • Excellent closing ceremony. Oftentimes these can be dreary or out-of-control as the athletes have a tendency to go a bit berserk if they’re not herded properly. This one was concise and joyous. Extra props for making fun of themselves for their error in the Opening Ceremony by having the clown mime-hoist the fourth plinth into the torch arrangement and letting the poor torchlighter who got shafted in the Opening Ceremony, light the cauldron one last time. Canada should have brought more of their sense of humor into the ceremonies and it was a fantastic way to kick off the closing affair.
  • Though I’m disappointed the US lost, you could not ask for a better gold medal hockey game than Sunday’s battle between US and Canada. If the NHL played hockey by the Olympic rules, they wouldn’t be struggling to survive.
  • Best Olympic Winter Team Ever! The US brought home 37 medals, breaking the record for an all-time winter medal haul and winning the medal count for the first time since Lake Placid in 1932.
  • Best story of the Olympics: Joannie Rochette. To lose your mother and go out and skate in front of an extremely emotional home crowd was victory enough, but to win a bronze medal in what most experts agree was the best female field in history, was astounding. Watching the grace and poise with which she handled her grief was humbling. Astonishing woman.
  • Apollo Ohno becomes the most decorated US Winter Olympian ever with 8 medals. He should have had 9 but for a bogus DQ in the 500m. Bonnie Blair had 6 and all but one was gold and Eric Heiden won 5 in a single Olympics, and both are more impressive to me, but you can’t deny Ohno’s place in Olympic history.

That closes the games, folks. I call upon the couch potatoes of the world to gather four years from now as we watch tape delayed coverage of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia!


I am an admitted gadget junkie. I like technology. I won’t buy myself pants, but I own a Kindle. I will not pay someone to wash my car, but I will pay for Microsoft points so my avatar can have a lightsaber (which is pretty bitchin’…check it out, gamertag “sleeplessdave”). With the exception of cell phones, which I loathe and will not ever enjoy using, if it’s technology, I want it. That being said, I could probably live without most of it. I remember life before it. The exception would be my iPod. I do not recall the last time I left my house without the DavePod. Yes, I named it the DavePod. Actually it’s the DavePod 3.0 because it’s my third in eight or nine years. It’s a 120GB of instant entertainment that gets me through work, my commute, travel, life, the universe, and everything. I have 5500 songs on there and 2600 movie scenes that I’ve used software of dubious legality to lift from DVDs. I watch Lost on my iPod. Yes I have a TV that is perfectly functional, but in the same way that I bristle at being told on what day to love my spouse, I get irritated having to plan my day around TV viewership. If you have a pod yourself, are you listening to podcasts? If not, why not?!? There are a ton of great podcasts out there on every subject imaginable and they are free! Just to give a quick plug to three of the best that some may not know about:
1. The Bugle-An Audio Newspaper for a Video World: a weekly audio newspaper by The Daily Show’s John Oliver and his friend Andy Zaltzman. Consistently one of the funniest things in all of media and completely overlooked.
2. MYSS-Movies You Should See: for movie lovers this is a great treat. It’s a group of British friends who pick a movie each week and dissect it at length. It’s funny and the films are almost always fantastic. Even when you disagree with them, it’s engaging and makes you feel like you’re talking about movies with a bunch of friends.
3. PTI-Pardon the Interruption: Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser’s sports talk show has been on ESPN for eight years and I’ve either watched or listened to it since the beginning. This is actually how I get 90% of my sports news these days. Both are outstanding sportswriters and have a great rapport on air.

Are you addicted to your pod? What podcasts do you listen to?

Movie Reviews, Trailers, Polls, Lists, and More!!!

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