Kirst Words

They only sound cursed.

January 31st, 2016

It’s the end of the month and I haven’t posted anything which really only means I didn’t see any movies since Force Awakens.

I started off the month taking the CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional) test in order to renew my CCNP certification. I debated letting the cert expire but discovered I needed them when the city’s changed the Police IT pay plan for 2016 and told us with 3 days left in 2015. I had an old Maron gathering where I inquired about jobs (they’re available) in case the city’s pay change falls through. Also at work we started playing board games during our Friday lunch hour. So far we’ve played Ticket to Ride, Tsuro, King of Tokyo/NY, Sushi Go and Forbidden Island.

I had book club in Chicago at Rachel’s place where I was conscripted into her C2E2 Princess Jedi cosplay group. I will be Russel from Up. When I jokingly suggested it there were squeals and high pitched communications and instantly had several facebook notifications indicating I would do this. I have subsequently purchased a Karate gi which I plan to dye yellow, hair extensions to use as my padawan braid and a toy light sabre. Danielle skipped that book club but the group saw her for her wedding on the 17th. The book we picked for next club: On A Wicked Dawn a romance novel and Valentine’s tie-in. I think the girls thought it was funny to see Steve squirm at the thought of reading a romance novel. I had admitted to reading them before. Virgin River was not very raunchy but Never Seduce a Scoundrel made up for it. Wicked Dawn is also kinda raunchy.

This week was kind of busy. I was on call through Tuesday evening and went out Wednesday through Friday. Drawing night was Wednesday, James Rollins at Andersons on Thursday, and Monthly Meat night at Twin Anchors on Friday. I was up until 3AM Friday night/Saturday morning and didn’t do much Saturday but had dim sum with my mother and sister at the newly opened Ming Hin in Naperville. My boss at work is a big dim sum fan and I also went there for lunch last Wednesday.

December 18th, 2015

I have not finished Pendergast 15 yet but will certainly do so. As I’m on call the 12/23-30 it is unlikely I will see any more films but will append the list if needed.

Books
The Big Over Easy (Fforde)
*Bonk (Mary Roach) *book club:read half
Ettiquette & Espionage (Gail Carriger)
The First 15 Lives of Harry August (Claire North)
The Girl On a Train (Paula Hawkins)
The Girl With All The Gifts (M. R. Carey)
*Lady Chatterly’s Lover (Lawrence) *book club:read some and then read “cliff notes”
The Lexicon (Max Barry)
The Martian (Andy Weir)
Mr. Penubra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan)
The Nightengale (Kristen Hannah)
*Paprika (Yasutaka Tsutsui) *book club:didn’t read at all — watched anime
Pendergast 14:Blue Labyrinth (Preston & Child)
Pendergast 15:Crimson Shore (Preston & Child)
The Princess Bride (W.M. Goldman)
The Thief of Always (Barker)
*Trigger Warning (Gaiman) *short stories-partial reading

Movies (seen in theater)
American Ultra
Ant Man
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Crimson Peak
Ex Machina
Fantastic Four
Furious 7
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt 2
Inside Out
Jurrassic World
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Mr. Holmes
My Fair Lady
Pitch Perfect 2
Rifftrax: The Room
Seventh Son
Spectre
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Terminator Genisys

December 18th, 2015

I have strep throat. I get it at least every other year but no more than once a year. This is my second bout with strep in three months. You may recall I had it when I went to see the wonderful A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder back in October. Discovering this one was pure luck.

I had a doctor’s appointment Thursday, I felt completely fine Wednesday but woke up with slightly sore tonsils. No aches, no pains, nothing. Anyway I show up for my doctor appointment. We talk for a few minutes – I’m in pretty good shape for a diabetic, so much so my doctor is considering lowering my meds. But there’s not much to talk about after a few minutes so I mention my tonsils and he swabs them. There are two types of step, one that can be determined in 5 minutes and one that takes a day to confirm. I had the 5 minute variety. I still felt great and figure it must have just happened that night because I never felt sick and still don’t feel sick.

I had taken both Thursday and Friday off. In addition to the doctor’s appointment that Thursday I had also planned to have dim sum (Chinese dumpling lunch, kinda like tapas) in Chinatown with Pat and book-club Rachel who is literally between jobs. Her new one starts early next year and she’s off for these last few weeks of 2015 but always takes a California holiday with the family at Christmas so this Thursday was one of the few days I would be able to include her. I also had book club that evening which Rachel was hosting and I’m sure I would find something to do in between dim sum and club. It’s Chicago.

So I get in touch with Pat and cancel — unless he’s up for risking getting strep… Which he would be but rightly thinks I should rest. However I can’t reach Rachel. I even end up calling! I don’t want her showing up and not having anyone there. I also don’t want to go and not have anyone there. Eventually we touch base and as much as she’s interested in going for it and I’m eager for her company, I don’t want her sick on her vacation. Book club ended up being shifted to after her vacation. I probably could have made it through dim sum but would have suffered for it. I did sleep through most of Thursday afternoon and felt much better for it.

I also mentioned I took Friday off. There’s a movie that opened Friday (I’m writing this on Friday if my tenses get a bit screwy) and I intended to see it. Early. I like early films. One theater had a 5:30 AM but that was a bit too early. Everyone else was 9:00AM earliest. So I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens at 9:00 AM.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star-Wars-Force-Awakens

I’m gonna keep this short and relatively spoiler free. It was very good. Where it is strongest is in it’s two leads, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega.) Rey is a modern woman — independent, strong and entirely self-sufficient. She is ready for adventure but a desperate longing keeps her from moving forward. Finn is an ex-Storm Trooper on the run from the Empire. He has skills but is afraid of his past. They each follow the “Hero With a Thousand Faces” journey with great exactness.

There is a strong nostalgia component the film plays off of and it does so without shame but as a fan it didn’t matter. There is one moment in the film, the scene shown above, where they discuss “garbage.” This is the point where I laughed, cried and was certain the film would not let me down. It’s relatively early on and allowed me to relax into the film.

My only complaint is in Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) who (deliberately?) looks like bad CG work. It has to be deliberate, I’ve seen better rendering on a Nintendo Gameboy. But it was so bad it took me out of the film. That and my early fascination with BB8 being done practically. But that’s only because I knew it was done practically. The droid’s not distracting in any way and even a strong character.

If you like Star Wars, The Force Awakens has the franchise headed in a good direction. My first screening was at the Canter 17 RPX theater. If I see it again it will be via 3D IMAX but that’s still just a maybe.

November 20th, 2015

mockingjay_2_jennifer_lawrence
So let’s get this out of the way. If you’ve watched all the other films you’re in on this one and won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t seen any of them it’s not going to make much sense but you still might like it.

I have not remembered Mockingjay, the book, very well — at least if the movie adaptation is even semi-faithful. This is not surprising as, after two nearly identical books, I wanted more of the same and as of this writing still am not a fan of the third. But I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, maybe even more because I was surprised by the story which hit the points I sort of remembered but certainly not some of the motivations. For my review of Mockingjay pt 1 I stated the book did not need to be broken into two parts. With Mockingjay pt 2 I don’t know that Part 1 could have been integrated into this film but I still don’t know that there’s enough in the predecessor to justify its existence.

Mockingjay pt 2 picks up almost immediately after Part 1 starting with a doctor examining the bruised throat of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence.) She was strangled by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who, in the climax of Part 1, was rescued from and discovered to have been brainwashed by the Capital. While the first film focused on drama with a good deal of world and character building this one is strong on the action though politics do play a strong part. Katniss wants to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland) but rebellion President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants to keep her close. Katniss is too valuable as a tool for Coin and too unpredictable out in field. If the rebels are successful, Katniss may be dangerous to Coin’s political aspirations so she wants to keep Katniss close and under control. Katniss, of course, has other ideas.

hunger-games-mockingjay-part-2-jennifer-lawrence
Everyone’s political motivations are quite obvious. Katniss is portrayed as a simple politically and everything gets spelled out for her and we, the audience. It was nice to see how Coin grew from, not a leader, but a very by-the-numbers manager of the rebels in Part 1 to a true political leader who could motivate and manipulate the people. For most of this story she seemed to have eclipsed her teacher, Plutarch (Phillip Seymore Hoffman,) though there is a point near the end where it is discovered he may have been playing a much deeper game.

Katniss and Peeta’s romance has always been one of those things I have been up in the air about. Perhaps it’s due to wanting the triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) to last as long as possible. And while Katniss, as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) would say, is not very likable personality-wise it’s her simplicity and directness which we as an audience find appealing, especially as a story focus. Though I’ll take Johanna (Jena Malone) any day.

I did not expect nor stay for any potential stingers. I saw this Friday (today) at 9:00 AM while I was supposed to be in training. No one thinks anyone would skip the morning part of the last day of a 5 day training and then show up for the afternoon portion but that’s exactly what I did. Despite being behind, I figured the morning would not get past a portion that I was well familiar with. And they didn’t. Also a Saturday viewing was less of an option because I’m on call and there is a potential snowstorm on the way.

November 7th, 2015

The last time I went to the SOFA (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) Expo at Navy Pier was in 2011. The show is essentially an Artist Gallery convention. Everyone sets up a small gallery to show things off and sell. Yes, sell. Each piece is priced — I think the lowest I saw was $500 but the most expensive was somewhere around 80K. (Yes, $80,000) You can get a little paranoid thinking “if I break something…” In 2011 there was a special section on outsider art but nothing like that this year.

The majority of the show is glass or ceramic sculpture but there were many disciplines being displayed from paintings and mosaics, wood and metal sculptures, as well as displays set up by schools which were interactive. I uploaded all my photos to facebook hopefully here. If not they’re all under the SOFA 2015 album.

It cost $20 for tickets, $20 for parking and $20 for a catalog where I got another Chubb Financial reusable grocery bag. (I’d been wondering where it came from since I recently started using reusable bags.) I had lunch at Riva, a seafood joint at Navy Pier. I had an excellent crab cake and good, but nothing special, fish and chips. They were haddock and $19 so overall not worth it. The crab cake was worth every penny of its $15.

I was at Navy Pier for around 3.5 hours and stopped by Challengers after. I was going to hit Cat and Mouse but Armitage was undergoing some sort of utility work and there was no parking. At Challengers I bought two statues: a “Spear and Magic Helmet” Elmer Fudd and a “Brunhilda” Bugs from the cartoon What’s Opera Doc? Donovan and I joked about how lovely Brunhilda was and that “she knows it, she can’t help it.” We also lamented not having a statue of the giant horse bugs rode.
OperaDocHorse

November 7th, 2015

spectre-banner-3
Spectre is a perfectly serviceable entry in the Bond canon. Unfortunately that’s all it is. Director Sam Mendes loves James Bond. He said as much in the Skyfall commentary. Much like Bryan Singer with Superman Returns, perhaps Mendes is a little too close to his subject this time. Though Spectre is no where near as much a failure as Superman Returns. The film pays homage to all the moments people love from Bond’s past. The chase through the parade in Thunderball is evoked in the teaser. Hinx (Dave Bautista) is very reminiscent of Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. And so on.

Spectre is so involved in maintaining it’s continuity from the other Daniel Craig entries it becomes too convoluted. Too convoluted is a weird thing to say for a spy film. But as convoluted as they usually are, they tend to wipe the slate clean each time. Past references are hinted at and not major plot points. In addition to that, in Spectre they are inventing even more past for Bond. I mean does Blofeld (Christoph Waltz – there, I said it!) also need to be Bond’s step-brother? No, because there’s no emotional past for the viewer. I LOVE James Bond films and have watched every film multiple times (though I’ve only read The Man With The Golden Gun) and even sat through commentaries and I had no idea about step brothers. If I didn’t know, who would? Nobody. They made it up for the movie. So it becomes a moot point. He would be no less frightening or evil if we did not have that backstory.

Still, the 148 minute run time didn’t feel like a two and a half hour movie and the teaser was spectacular. If you’re a Bond fan, see it — you won’t love it but you won’t be disappointed either. If not I highly recommend Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation as a great take on secret agents which has many overlapping themes with Spectre.

October 25th, 2015

Pat and I returned to the City Lit theater after nine years to see The Seven Percent Solution adapted from the novel by Nicholas Meyer. While I own the novel, it falls into that 95+ percent of unread books. The story’s presumption is Holmes became addicted to cocaine and needed help to become free its grip. This involved tricking him to go visit Dr. Sigmund Freud who, like most of Europe, knew of Holmes and was more than willing to treat him. There was a mystery as well involving a plot to start World War I early. It was well acted and made inventive use of props and imagination to present complex action scenes.

We ate at Nookies Edgwater. Pat had a lemon chicken dish and I had one of the best steaks, their New York Strip, I’ve ever had. My first bite had me going and I offered Pat a taste and he loved it as well. After we went to Matt Streets’ going away party at Lago.

I’m almost done with my Jim Lee drawing. These are final inks and mostly finished colors.
ink-color

October 18th, 2015

Crimson-Peak-1
I love the director, the actors and the dry, British period piece but Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak really didn’t do it for me and it came down to the film failing on two levels. I didn’t find it scary (and I scare easily) nor did I believe the romance between Edith (Mia Wasikowska) and Thomas (Tom Hiddleston.) Since it’s billed as a Gothic Romance this can be a problem, though I am not fluent in my Brontes, Shelleys or Whartons readings and perhaps I missed out on a trope with which I’m unfamiliar.

The movie is about Edith, an aspiring Gothic novelist and daughter of a wealthy, New York industrialist, who has a chance encounter with Baronet Thomas Sharpe and is immediately attracted to him and he to her. She ends up marrying him and moving to England where he and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain,) live in Allerdale Hall, a supremely creepy gothic mansion with red clay that stains the falling snow red — making it a crimson peak. Now Edith has had the occasional encounter with ghosts and the ghosts of Allerdale appear to her. Edith takes their appearance seriously though their appearance is dismissed by the siblings.

Edith’s perception of ghosts is something you have to accept. Like the romance, that’s what the movie fails to convey. By the time I understood that Edith was the only one who could see ghosts and that they were really ghosts (even though, in retrospect, it was kinda spelled out for me) the movie and the necessity for ghosts were nearly done. As for the romance, perhaps the restrictions of Victorian society prevented me from perceiving the subtle nuances that clearly showed they were in love. Maybe she accoutered herself with too much bustle or showed her ankle at some point that I missed which would have told everyone fluent in Victorian romance she was in love with him because neither Edith or Thomas showed it any other way.

my-fair-lady
The only reason I went to see Crimson Peak was because it got out just before a showing of the 50th anniversary re-release of My Fair Lady. My Fair Lady is one of my favorite films of all time and while the sound was not as loud as it could have been, the picture did not encompass the full screen and rumblings of explosions from the film in the theater one over were present throughout the showing, I loved it. I loved every second of the almost three hour run time and I may even see it again, though at another theater.

October 15th, 2015

LeeBat2
Another 2 hours. Getting closer. I made some changes some due to me just wanting to simplify things and some due to not being able to interpret some of the pencils. I have a low quality printout I’m working on and some of the finer detail was lost. I just looked at the better picture and saw a couple things I totally misinterpreted.

October 14th, 2015

LeeBat
This is the start of my inks for the Jim Lee exclusive cover for Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Jim’s pencil art, which he posted on the internet was changed to blue line and printed out on 11×17 bristol. So far almost all linework was done with a Pentel Tradio Stylo which has an unique nib which is similar to the Pentel Pulaman if you seen one of those. If not, look it up. They’re worth seeing. Large areas of black were done with a large tip Faber Castel Pitt Pen. We’ll see if I finish — Pat’s having this as a Challengers Assemble theme in a few weeks.