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by PopMatters Staff

8 Jan 2009

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I cried because I was hoping so bad that they would show a real alien, and then they did. I couldn’t believe they went there. God bless.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Mutt Williams from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I thought I hated Shia LeBeouf going into this movie, but I changed my mind real quick. When he was swinging from the vines with the monkeys, that was right up my alley.

3. The greatest album, ever?
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull soundtrack. I was so pumped that they got John Williams back to do the compositions for this soundtrack, just like with the first three movies. There’s some amazing and pioneering usage of a continuum on this album. “Ants!” is the type of tune I could never sick of, it makes feel good when things aren’t going so well. “Secret Doors and Scorpions” is another banger, such a a summer jam.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I haven’t seen any Star Trek, plus Star Wars has Harrison Ford in it and was created by George Lucas. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had Harrison Ford in it and was created by George Lucas.

5. Your ideal brain food?
I’ve never had it but monkey brains.

by David Pullar

8 Jan 2009

Anyone with a passion for language has them—those pesky words or constructions that turn your blood to at least a simmer, if not a boil.  There are plenty of places to vent this frustration: talk radio, letters to the editor, the entire blogosphere and the Lake Superior State University List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

This year’s list, the 34th annual collation, is heavily influenced by political fads: “maverick” is there, as are “first dude” and “bailout”.  The environment has had its day for many, with “green” and “carbon footprint” leading the poll for overuse and annoyance value.  I’m surprised that “working families” wasn’t included.  Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the phrase so ubiquitous in 2008 that even Barack Obama’s speechwriters started to adopt it, a rare case of eastward cultural transmission across the Pacific.

Naturally, we can criticise the pundits and politicians for their inane phrases, but sometimes the truth hits a little closer to home.  For book reviewers, even more so than book writers, clichés are an occupational hazard.  Churning out a thousand words on a volume that failed to stir you in any way is a challenge – even books evoking passion can be hard to describe without falling back on stock phrases and comparisons.

Emre Peker at The Millions Book Review did a clever Google study of common phrases in book reviews.  A quick Google search of my own work showed that I have so far been innocent of these particular banalities, but I have committed the NY Times’ sins of using “compelling” and “eschew” in reviews (“Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing”).

The danger is that once you are aware of your own clichés and idiosyncrasies, you can become shy of using almost any colourful phrase.  A level of introspection is good for any writer, but crippling self-criticism does no one any favours.

Do your reviews and blog posts about books tend to use the same stock phrases?  Do you scan through the thesaurus for an alternative to “incandescent”?  Is there a good way of describing a second major work without using the word “sophomore”?  What words are you keen to abolish?

by Jamie Lynn Dunston

7 Jan 2009

Dear Supreme Ruler 2020,

I don’t think we should see each other any more. 

You’ve probably seen this coming for a long time now.  Ever since you came into my life back in July, things have been somewhat strained between us.  I thought I could handle your eighty pages of documentation—after all, who actually reads that stuff anyway?  After a cursory glance at the table of contents, I was eager to get to know you, and after I navigated your tutorials, I thought I understood you pretty well.  But when we started getting serious, it didn’t take me long to realize that there is far more to you than meets the eye. 

It’s not you, SR2020, it’s me.  You’re a real catch, with your lovely graphics, excellent ambient musical score, and your substantially varied level design.  You deserve a gamer who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated—with the respect and devotion a game like you requires.  I’m just not looking for a serious gaming relationship right now. 

There’s so much to love about you, SR2020.  You’re a fantastically in-depth turn-based strategy with a well-constructed and believable, historically-based backstory.  I thought that you would be a perfect match for someone like me, with a Master’s degree in US History, or anyone with an interest in military history, international diplomacy, or combat strategy.  And I think that there are gamers out there for you.  I know there are.  But I’m not one of them, I’m sorry.  It’s a personal failing of mine that I can’t keep straight the difference between an A4D and an A3J, and I’m working through this. 

You’ve got to believe me, SR2020, I gave it my best shot.  I read the entire user manual.  I played the tutorials, which I have to admit left me a bit cold.  I was okay with that, because you seemed to have such promise.  And then I played a vehicle-transport level, and everything was great.  But when I tried to defend the borders of the US against simultaneous attacks from Canada and Mexico, things really started to break down.  Maybe things would be better if we tried again with the help of the Supreme Wiki.  It’s constantly expanding and has grown considerably since last time I saw you.  But I just feel like I need some time off right now, to cry and learn and grow. 

So, SR2020, I guess this is goodbye.  I’ll never regret our time together, and I’ll always remember you with affection.  I know you’ll make some lucky wargamer very happy someday. 

I hope we can still be friends. 

Always,

by Randy Haecker

7 Jan 2009

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James Allan of Glasvegas

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Glasvegas

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No, it’s not Joe Strummer. It’s James Allan from Glasvegas.

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Rab Allan, Caroline McKay, James Allan and Paul Donoghue of Glasvegas

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James Allan gives a hand to the crowd.

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James Allan and Paul Donoghue of Glasvegas

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Glasvegas

See more of Randy Haecker’s photos on Flickr.

by Bill Gibron

7 Jan 2009

Yes, SE&L has been a little lax in its updates the last couple of weeks, what with awards season screenings and end of the year Best Ofs to contend with, but we will be back. After a short, well earned vacation, our staff will start off 2009 by offering a couple of new features - “Off the Shelf”: a look at DVD titles we’ve purchased but never played, and “Signature Statements”: films by producers, directors, stars, and significant crew that mark their lasting cinematic legacy. We’ll also continue our irreverent, sometimes controversial commentary on all things cinema. 

On Monday, 12 January, we will return with another “Leftoverture” update (a round up of un-reviewed specialty titles from December), a peek at Dragon Dynasty’s 2 Disc Super Cop DVD, a look ahead at the most anticipated films of Spring 2009, and a discussion about directors who could really use a career renaissance. Things will get back to normal within a few days, a Friday Film Focus and the typical weekend look at the latest digital offerings a weekly given.

So while we rest up and recharge our critical batteries, free free to click on any of our categorical links and check out our efforts from blog posts past. You’ll be glad you did.

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