Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Killing Monsters

Tuesday, September 7th, 2004

Before my one night stand with Just a Geek I spent much of the week reading Killing Monsters; Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence by Gerard Jones. This is a fascinating book that talks about some of the uses children have for fantasy and play violence in their lives. In a world that constantly points its finger and TV, movies and video games for all the problems with today’s youth, it is refreshing to read a book that tries to examine why children enjoy make-believe violence and what, if any, benefits it might have. While Jones’ work is more anecdotal than scientific, he does raise some very interesting points that are well worth considering. I am a bit biased because many of his viewpoints coincide with some of my long-held beliefs, but he presents them far more eloquently and persuasively than I have ever managed.

I’ve always been interested in the debate about media violence. I grew up with video games, comic books and action movies and enjoyed them a great deal. But I have always been a very non-violent person. For that and other reasons, I was an easy target and got into more than a few fights in elementary and high school. I eventually learned how to defend myself, but I disliked violence so much that any time I hit anyone I would subconciously bite my lip. The harder I hit someone, the harder I would bite. So every fight would end up the same way, me with a bloody lip regardless of whether my tormentors even landed a blow.

And while my experiences are obviously that of one individual, whenever I read another accusation leveled at the entertainment industry, I take it a bit personally. It was a big part of my growing up (along with sports and reading) and every time I hear a criticism at some level I take it as a criticism of my development. And I think I turned out pretty well. I’ve got problems just like everyone else, but for the most part I’m pretty well-adjusted (thanks Mom and Dad) Now, I can’t account for all the crap that gets released these days – and a lot of it makes itself pretty hard to defend – but blind condemnation of video games, TV or action movies makes me crazy. The inescapable fact is that there are millions of kids who play video games or watch action movies, and the percentages of those children who are violent remains pretty small. And I have yet to read a convincing study determining a causal relationship between real-world and make-believe violence. Yet “Video games are unhealthy” and “TV rots the mind” are statements that are taken as absolute truths by too many people.

As I said, my rhetoric is unpracticed and not particularly convincing. But if you are at all interested in the debate, I’d highly recommend reading Killing Monsters.


Tuesday, September 7th, 2004

I haven’t been posting as much recently (duh!). I’m been suffering a bit from blog and poker burnout. As any of my fellow bloggers can attest to, both activities can suck up a significant amount of time. Usually I end up writing most of a post before I hit the sack for the night, but obviously my energy is ebbing at that point and often I leave a half-written post that I need to wrap up some time during my work day. Since I’m at work, I once again have little time or energy to devote to pumping out a quality post. This has meant that the quality of my posts has not been what I intended when I started this site. One of the myriad reasons I started this blog was so that I could get back to writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing and used to write quite a lot when I was younger. But somewhere halfway through university I lost the edge. Time, inspiration, ability, something was missing, and I just stopped putting pen to page. When I started this blog, not only was it an attempt to connect with a community that shares a hobby I enjoy (poker, for those of you who somehow missed that) it was also a way to force myself to write on a regular basis and seek to regain that spark which I had lost years ago and have missed since. I haven’t quite recaptured it yet, but my posts had been falling into a dangerous pattern of writing just enough to qualify as a post. Just briefly outlining the salient points of my recent poker experiences and delivering it unembellished to the world. It’s got to make for some pretty boring reading, but it’s equally as unsatisfying to me. So I am going to try to make a commitment to writing a bit more instead of merely listing experiences. I’m not always going to be successful, but at least I will be attempting to recapture the whole purpose of this endeavor in the first place.

And what prompted this bout of introspection? Well, it’s likely the story of a celebrity blogger (famous more now for his blogging than his stardom, which I’m sure he enjoys) who recaptured his own authorly instincts in much the same way that I am seeking to with my blog. Of course I’m referring to Wil Wheaton‘s second book, Just a Geek. In truth, I also recently read his first book, Dancing Barefoot, which acted as a small appetizer for his larger autobiographical work. I actually devoured the whole book in one sitting instead of getting a decent night’s sleep yesterday. It is very easy to relate with his struggle for identity and happiness in an evolving self. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s also a great writer. So, thanks Wil, and keep up the good work (you never know when someone in the blogosphere may stumble across this).

NOTE: I have signed up as an affiliate with both Amazon and Indigo for any Canadian readers who don’t want to use Amazon (though I’ve yet to have my affiliate status with Indigo finalized). My book recommendations have sparked interest with some readers in the past, so I thought it might not be a bad way to subsidize my book habit. You may start seeing more book or movie reviews up on this site, but that was a personal commitment I made to get myself writing more, and not based on any financial decision. I don’t expect to get more than a few referrals anyways, so it likely won’t be a huge deal, but I wanted to be up front about any ways I might make a profit pocket change from this site. It’s just a personal site and it feels a bit crass to be commercializing it in any way, but if the links are being followed and purchases are being made, there doesn’t seem to be much reason not to take a piece of Amazon’s profit.


Tuesday, June 15th, 2004

Not much new to report here. Hit quad aces last night and was able to extract some money from them. That was in the middle of two hours or so of pretty solid, if a bit cautious, 25PL play. Then I managed to throw away most of my profit in 10 minutes of truly foolish play.

I read the second volume of 100 Bullets last night and it was even better than the first, if only because many more aspects of the mystery are revealed and many more questions posed.

I also watched the season finale of Deadwood last night. A truly excellent show. At the end of the episode when the camera briefly touched on all the characters, highlighting various relationships, you had to admire the excellent job the cast and crew has done in establishing the thriving community of Deadwood in the minds of the audience. A remarkable task.

Excellent read

Monday, June 14th, 2004

I just read Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s first volume of their comic series 100 Bullets. I had opened it up to read just one chapter before bed, but I was unable to put down the tales about Dizzy Cordova and Lee Dolan and quickly devoured the whole thing.

Now, I don’t know which side most people fall on the graphic novel debate, but I have read a number of compelling pieces of fiction in this format and am a huge fan of the artform. I guess 100 Bullets would best be classified as conspiracy noir.
The premise is that a shadowy figure enters the life of our protagonists and offers them a briefcase with an untraceable gun and the titular 100 bullets along with the evidence against someone who has wronged them – in quite serious ways – in their past. The protagonist is then left to decide how best to act with this new-gained knowledge and means. The internal and external conflicts experienced by the main characters ring true, even if the situations are extreme, and this is probably the greatest strength of the series. But while the individual stories of the gun’s recipients are fascinating, there is the also the underlying conspiracy behind the provision of the weapon and the lengths these mysterious forces can go to in preventing police involvement. I am looking forward to putting the puzzle pieces together as I read the further volumes in the series.

Azzarello’s feel for dialogue, particularly the prevalent street-level slang, is uncanny. And Risso’s dark and moody art – of which I was not a huge fan, at first – suits the tone of the stories perfectly. When the action leaves street level, where much of the story is grounded, and moves to the high-powered business world, the artwork makes a similar shift to brighter colors and sharper lines that demonstrate why the graphic novel can be a powerful storytelling form. Highly recommended.


Wednesday, March 17th, 2004

I’ve now officially been on my diet for a full week. I’ve lost 8 pounds, but that is just weight I’ve put on since my last push. And the weight always comes off quickly when I start eating healthy again. Then I hit the wall (as I did at the beginning of the week) and things stay constant for a few days before the loss slowly begins again. There will probably be a small relapse because of St. Patrick’s Day today, but it’ll be back to the grind tomorrow. I want to get back to fighting shape for sports this summer. Not that I’ve every really been in fighting shape (in terms of weight) but if I can play sports at the level I do now, dropping another 20 pounds will do a lot towards stepping it up.

I had my usual Tuesday night ultimate game last night and we played very solid for a convincing victory. I had an old teammate subbing for us and it was great to get to play with her again. The familiarity between us and another player on my team made for some great plays. I’m going to have to start seriously thinking about what I’m going to do for ultimate in the summer however, as my usual team has fragmented somewhat.

I swung by the bookstore on my way home and discovered a new book by Guy Gavriel Kay while making my usual circuit. Kay is one of my favourite authors and his Finovar Tapestry trilogy is perhaps my favourite book. It is always a pleasure to find a new novel of his on the shelf. I also broke down and picked up the hardcover of The Da Vinci Code. I’ve been hearing good things about this book forever and I devoured his previous two novels when I tracked them down in paperback, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this. I thought I’d have the patience to purchase the paperback, but with 30% off, plus an additional 10% with my discount card, I couldn’t resist. I also saw the trade for Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and added that to my bag as well. I came very close to grabbing the hardcover of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, but it didn’t have that 30% off sticker, so I held back. Of course, I just checked online now and Indigo has it listed online as 30% off, so I may have to order if after finishing this post.

Of course, the reason why I stopped into the bookstore on my way back from ultimate was to check to see if they had the most recent issue of Canadian Poker Player. I figured the magazine’s title summed me up pretty well, so I decided to pick it up and give it a read. This is the third issue, and the first available at retail outlets – the first two were distributed only at casinos. Some of it was good, some not so good. And it was nice to see a listing of all the legal poker rooms in Canada – not too many of them.

Played a few more hours on True Poker last night as well. Was running pretty well, but then my connection died – after a raise with a premium starting hand, with my all-in protection having been used about 23 hour previously – and my fortunes began to turn. This time I can pinpoint most of the bad play that cost me money, though I had my share of bad luck as well. I was actually down to 7$ of the 49$ I came to the table with at one point.

But for the second night in a row I buckled down after some bad play and started playing solid poker. I think I’ve been associating the True Poker interface with the type of play I saw at the tournament in the back of my mind, and haven’t been playing correctly on tables where 6 people may call my pre-flop raise. My big hand was an AKs that turned into trip aces on the flop. Oddly enough there were two people in the hand, one of which raised a bet ahead of me. I was worried about the made boat, but I’ve been too paranoid recently so I re-raised and the bettor and raiser called. The raiser leads the bet on the turn, a blank that gave me a four-flush. I raised it up and the other two called again. On the river (made my ace-high flush)it was checked around to me and I extracted a single bet from each of them. The raiser ended up having pocket tens while the other had A7o. It felt real good to drag that 20.5BB pot, my biggest in quite some time.

I fought on for another hour or so after that, but it was getting late and I called it a night down 2.5BB. But I did unlock the next 10$ of my bonus, so I turned a small profit. I should be beating these games straight though. There are a lot of fish willing to pay me off. I just have to be careful not to grow fins myself every once in a while.

SNG success

Saturday, February 14th, 2004

I just installed the new Pokertracker patch and finally got my tournament from last night successfully imported. At the 5+1 limit SNGs at Party and Empire, I’ve got 5 1st place finishes, and 4th+. Helps reaffirm my impression that I am a little smarter than the average bear in the world of low stakes online poker. After the weekend’s pounding, I was beginning to think that perhaps I had just been riding a lucky streak. I also have a 3rd place in a limit 10+1, and 3rd in a PL 5+1. And then 3 non-places in some PL 10+1’s I played to warm up for a home tournament I hosted last Friday (in which I finished third after a painful river suck out followed by an unfortunate set of 7s that slaughtered my all-in pair of kings).

So, in 13 tournaments, I’ve placed in 7 (in 5 of those I finished 1st), for a profit of 57 bucks. Not too bad considering the limits I’m playing at. And if it wasn’t for the practice PL games, it would have been 90.

On a unrelated note, I just finished From a Buick 8 by Stephen King on the subway ride home from a friend’s birthday party. Far from his best book, but it was still oddly satisfying. I managed to exchange my strange copy of Positively Fifth Street at Indigo today, so I’m looking forward to digging into that next. I could not find a copy of Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide however, even after hitting a few different stores. I should really have thought to check the stock online this morning, as I was hoping to get a copy from my friend for her birthday, since she just finished reading the excellent Speaker for the Dead.