Friday, February 20, 2009

A few days ago, I finished The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson.

Subtitled English and how it got that way, it actually has a lot about language in general, the ways languages change over time and comparisons about language. While the book is quite fun to read, it seems Bryson's handle on the facts is a little looser than one might like. I did learn a lot about the history of the language, and hopefully that is mostly accurate.

Monday, February 16, 2009

We went and saw Coraline today, the new animated movie based on the Neil Gaiman book.

I haven't read the book, so I can't compare them, but it is an excellent movie. It's much darker and scarier than most children's movies, so I wouldn't recommend it for young children or easily frightened older children, but most adults will enjoy it.

We saw it in RealD 3D, which is a significant advance over other 3D systems. The glasses needed are unobtrusive and the effect is quite vivid. Thankfully, it wasn't used for silly jumping out of the screen shots, but just to bring the whole movie to a new level of depth. There were some obvious screen artifacts visible at times but otherwise no issues. The main drawback I can see is that the polarized glasses do dim the picture significantly.
I just finished Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind, the third book in his Sword of Truth series.

I wrote about the second book in the series here. Blood of the Fold is an improvement. First, it's shorter, and feels shorter. The scenes don't feel bloated and over-written. Second, it feels less derivative. It's still not innovative in any real sense, but it didn't feel as familiar to other fantasy works as the previous book. Third, the fact that it is the third book in a series gives the author a chance to develop more, in terms of making the world feel richer and more interesting.

Another strength of this series is becoming evident - instead of telling one long story, broken up at arbitrary points, like many of the epic fantasy series, each of these books feels like a complete story, even though there is an ongoing story going on as well.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Last night, we went and saw John Reischman and the Jaybirds, with opening act Kitchen Help at the Freight and Salvage as part of the SF Bluegrass and Oldtime Festival.

I have a bunch of friends in Kitchen Help, so it was nice to see them get to play in front of a good crowd at the Freight. They did a very good job - good song selection, good singing, good breaks and even a few good jokes.

The Jaybirds are an amazingly talented band, with a great selection of original bluegrass songs. They are more on the progressive side of bluegrass, which isn't always to my taste, but they do an excellent job of mixing new ideas in without giving up the core ingredients of what makes bluegrass work - the interplay between the banjo and fiddle over the rhythm of the guitar, mandolin and bass.