Monday, July 25, 2005

Family Reunions Demonstrate Why We Don't Get Together More Often

So that's where I was the past couple of days. Ventured from Wisconsin all the way to South Dakota. It's the farthest I've been out of my state.

WEDNESDAY - Drove up there. Pretty much listened to my anime music and read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hilarious book and I should see the movie so I can whine and argue about it like the cool fanboys do.

THURSDAY - Argued about lunch, went to Barnes and Nobel, saw a nifty CLAMP artbook that I'll be too lazy to ever buy, it was really hot, blah, blah, blah.

FRIDAY - The Washington Center (a former High School) is a nifty place. The family got a tour of the place and we came across to the theater department, which made me insanely jealous. They actually have an auditorium that seats 1900, compared to our second gymnasium which seats, oh, 12. Maybe 15 if the school's feeling generous. 10 dressing rooms and a giant costume and props department. It ain't fair.

Had a brief tour of Augustana College, which seems like a nice place, I guess. OH GOD, THE HEAT. 104 degrees. When you have a wardrobe like mine, that's a recipe for disaster.

During the evening I went to see a seven-man production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Not as hot, and only one family member accompanied, both of which I am thankful for. The show was quite nice and pretty accurate. I still like my troupe's portrayal of the Rude Mechanicals better, of course. I'm rather quite proud of my Thisbe. At any rate, they did a good job for only seven people.

SATURDAY- I went and checked out the local shops. Found Dirt Boss and Optimus Prime at Wal-Mart, neither of which I got. My brother got Dirt Boss, who's okay I suppose. I'd give him a B-. And I guess Toa Iruini is out from the Bionicle line. Maybe I'll get him when I have extra cash.

Then there was a barbecue or something with the whole family. Wandered around outside, made a little small talk with family members I knew, ate and had cake. Spent most of the time holed up in the basement with a vintage N64.

SUNDAY- We left. Nothing really happened. Spent the ride home staring out the window contemplating a certain issue.

So all-in-all, it was a good time I suppose. I'm glad it ended when it did though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Spoilers? Of course there are spoilers, you twit!

Book Six: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
Oh dear, oh dear, where to start? I finished it Sunday evening, though I could have done it earlier as I was away all afternoon and evening and I had been pacing myself on Saturday. No matter, on with the reviewing.

For some reason, I really enjoyed Chapter 1. The interaction between the two Ministries was something I always wanted to see, and this didn't disappoint. The PM's reaction is understandable, and I loved the introduction of Rufus Scrimgeour.

I liked seeing Narcissa, for we never saw much of her, and it was a real treat to finally see Snape's bachelor pad. I was also happy to find out where the heck Wormtail had been for OotP.

Dumbledore's visit with the Dursleys was entertaining to read, and I was happy to know that Dumbledore was as normal as ever. I expected Harry to be a bit more downtrodden, but the prospect of leaving Privet Drive must have lifted his spirits. Horace Slughorn seemed to be a nice enough guy when we visit him, and I was glad to see that Harry wouldn't have too much trouble this time. From meeting Tonks, I was worried about her throughout most of the book.

The Burrow was it's usual place, even with Fleur around. I was happy to see her back and glad to know that she and Bill are happy. Fred and George's joke shop was a real treat. Loved thew whole scene and the twins were just as entertaining as ever. I didn't care for the Draco part, I thought Harry was just being paranoid, but I knew that there was something going on. Hermione's bluff was funny.

I was very happy to see Neville and Luna, but disappointed to see them in such small roles after OotP. We're introduced to Zabini, who was mentioned way back in PS. I was amazed at Draco's beating of Harry and relieved to see Tonks helping to guard him. I was pleasantly shocked when Snape got the DADA job and Slughorn took over Potions. I knew that would be trouble, and sure enough, Potions and DADA have reversed themselves on Harry's favorites list.

I was immediately interested in the Half-Blood Prince and theorized that he would be Tom Riddle, but I realized that the timeframe was wrong when the book's date was revealed. I didn't think to suspect Snape for some reason. I found the book to be a very interesting plot thread. I found it typical, rather than OoC, for Hermione to be angry with Harry, after all, Harry was, by her standards cheating.

Let's see, fast forward. The Quidditch match. I had fully believed that Harry had slipped Ron the potion, but then Harry proved me wrong. Very nice, however unfortunate that it results in the rift between Ron and Hermione. Lavender and Ron's resulting relationship felt very forced and from out of left field, but I suppose that's how it was for Ron as well. I pretty much yelled for the two of them to kiss and make up already. Oh yeah, Harry as Captain. Okay, I guess.

I was rather unhappy at the lack of any real classroom moments. Outside of the trio's hushed conversations we really didn't see much of the standard test-taking and homework woes. Not a big problem though. Harry's distrust of Malfoy bordered on obsessive, which somewhat annoyed me that Harry was so quick to judge, even if he did turn out to be right.

I was very interested in Dumbledore's "lessons" and was eager to see where exactly we'd go each time Harry was brought in. Quite an interesting, though rather predictable past our Tom Riddle had. I did like the scene where Dumbledore first meets Tom; much like Harry and Hagrid's first meeting.

I was surprised to see Hermione's reaction to Won-won. I had expected something more original, but she uses the old standby of jealousy. A shame. I was elated to see Harry take Luna to the party, for that was the couple I had been shipping. I didn't care for Hermione's absence over the holiday, but I liked seeing Percy and Rufus showing up. A shame Percy's still the way he was, but I've still got faith in the boy. Insightful into Rufu's character, his stroll was, and I had hoped for a more friendly sort of Minister, but he turned out somewhat like Fudge. Oh well.

Okay, Harry's like for Ginny came out of nowhere. I don't mind being wrong on a ship, but I would've liked more build-up. For some reason, Harry all of a sudden views Ginny in a different light. I'm sure there's some deaper hints I've missed, but I liked how the teenage romance part was handled. It seemed accurate enough.

I, like others, am somewhat confused as to why Dumbledore needed Slughorn's Horcrux memory, but I suppose he needed to see Tom's part of it. Harry's final attempt to get the memory was hilarious, as was any scene involving drunk professors. Intoxicated Trelawney was especially funny.

The Horcruxes are an interesting plot device. It makes the diary much more clearer, but it sort of seems like something thrown in for a quest plot. It feels almost like Pokemon, but it works well enough. I do like the mystery surrounding the remaining Horcruxes though, and am eager to find out what's been hiding Voldy this whole time.

Ron's poisoning could probably have been left out, though it adds more to the relationship with Hermione. Glad to see him break up with Lavender. Highly amusing, too.I found Draco's breakdown with Myrtle hard to take. It seemed rather OoC for him, but he was under the strain from the Dark Lord, I suppose. It was horrifying to see the true poer of Sectumsempra and even more terrifying to have Snape walk in. It seemed to turn out well enough, though, as Gryfindor won the game and Harry gets a kiss with Ginny. Luna as commentator was hilarious. Glad to see Ron's approval. I would hate to have another Ron/Harry schism.

Chapter 25 grabs you and doesn't let go. From the moment Harry finds Trelawney at the RoR, things get shot to hell. His desperate orders to his friends was oddly scary, as if he had only moments before a great battle.

Harry and Dumbledore's trip to the cave was a tense scene and Harry desperately trying to save Dumbledore was very suspenseful. I expected someone else to rescue them, but he made it. Worrysome scene upon their return. Dumbledore almost seems reinvigorated at the sight of his school and his students under the Dark Mark. Goes to show you his dedication and bravery.

Amazing scene with Draco, Harry and Dumbledore. I felt just like Harry, powerless to do anything but watch. Dumbledore attempts to help Draco, and for a moment, I thought he would falter. Hearing of the fallen body, I feared the worst for all my favorite characters until the Death-Eaters arrive and Snape hurries after them.

Powerful is the only way to describe what comes next. It's obvious from the evidence and clever use of words, that Snape didn't want to kill Dumbledore, but Dumbledore had told Snape that it was the only way. So with that, Harry's greatest protector and the best headmaster of Hogwarts falls. Snape is obviously left with no choice now and makes a run for it with the Death-Eaters. What becomes of Draco will indeed be interesting.

Snape vs. Harry, fleeting though it is, is done well. Snape's reveals himself as the Half-Blood Prince, which I honestly didn't fully expect. I was breathing heavily throughout these entire chapters, as if I had just ran alongside Harry. Great.

The heads of houses meeting is very somber and that's when the full impact of the death hits; especially when we see a new portrait of Albus, sleeping serenely as if nothing happened.

The funeral is done well. A bit of tears got through from me, as the whole meaning of Dumbledore's death culminates. So many people showed up and several cameos, as well. Ron and Hermione seem to finally have formed a relationship and Harry tries to push Ginny away. I have a feeling they're not completely over, though.

Fenrir Greyback is an interesting new villain. Bill getting bit by him was unexpected and I'm anxious to see what will become of him. It was wonderful to see that that didn't matter to Fleur and it looks like the wedding's still on.

I have little doubt that Hogwarts will reopen next year, and that somehow Harry will end up there again. This book leaves several questions including the identity of R.A.B. (not convinced it's Regulus), Snape and Draco's status, the remaining Horcruxes, the direction of the relationships and countless other unwrapped plot threads.

Well, it's going to be a hard wait for Book Seven, but I know I'll enjoy poring over the book and it's predecessors trying to figure out what JK Rowling is up to, and I have no doubt that she'll surprise me again.


Rating: A-

Current Book Ranking: (subject to changes at the author's wim)
1. Order of the Phoenix
2. Prisoner of Azkaban
3. Half-Blood Prince
4. Chamber of Secrets
5. Goblet of Fire
6. Sorcerer's Stone
Not that that means much, they're all good books. Heck, 1-4 might as well be a tie.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Pillar of Storge


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is out on Saturday. Cool. Can't wait to read it. I wonder if I can do it in one night?

Went to Best Buy, got Gundam SEED Vol. 9. One disc left now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Light Before We Land

Picked up Gunslinger Girl Volume 2 over the weekend. The show continues to rock. Episode 8 especially is very good; it introduces Angelica, quite possibly the most tragic of the girls.

Also got Cybertron Hot Shot. Decent mold, cool weapons and an articulate robot mode. B material.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Automated Vehicles and the Driving Thereof

So, I finally passed the Practice Road Test. Now I don't have to do any more school driving. And I can get the last 14 or so hours required by myself on my own terms.

It makes driving slightly more enjoyable and interesting. I still don't understand what all the kids get excited about.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Transform And Roll Out!

Just got back from Toys R Us, and they've got Cybertron out before any of my local areas. Wanted to get Vector Prime and Optimus, but they weren't on shelves. I even bothered an employee to check, but didn't get any results. I picked up two Deluxes and a Leader, while my brother assisted my pillaging by picking up a Voyager, formerly known as a mega.

The first of the two Deluxes and the only Autobot I got. Alt mode is a construction vehicle with a front shovel. The Cyber Key is put into the wheels, and little blades come out around it. Neat. Robot mode is good, with some nice poseability. Not bad for 10 bucks. B+

The other deluxe, his alt mode is a Jet. He's rather dissapointing. His robot mode is flimsy. His Cyber Key feature is a nifty gun that pops out of his back and forms one of his robot mode arms. Decent, but the worst of what I got. B-

The Voyager guy. His alt mode is a sort of futuristic racecar with a bulky back area. Very cool. Insert the Cyber Key in the back and two giant bazookas flip over accompanied by sound. Robot mode is big and bulky, bringing to mind the hired muscle of the Decepticons. Surprisingly sturdy and cool. Good for twenty bucks. B+

Ah, the forty dollar leader fig. Looks a bit silly, but is loads of fun once he's out of his cardboard prison. A bunch of colors throw off the evil-look, but the points and fins all over are cool. Three underwhelming Cyber Key features; gun pops out, spikes extend, and jets extend out with lights and sounds. The cool part? He transforms into the Batmobile. It looks just like it with the sweeping fins and large wheels. Very cool. It also transforms into a jet but it doesn't really change much from the car mode. All in all, the best Megatron out of Armada, Energon and Cybertron. A-

The Cybertron toyline looks to be off to a great start, and I can't wait to get my hands on Vector Prime and Optimus. I might also pick up Scourge, who looks very nice.

Mr. Anderson, welcome back. We've missed you.

Vacation was decidedly average.

Saturday - Got the Star Wars: ROTS artbook. Very nifty. Arrived up there, wandered around town for a bit, was astounded by the amount of roleplaying junk in the local book store. Nice. Also finished the Force Heretic trilogy. Boring most of the time, with spots of brilliance.

Sunday - What the hell happened that day? I don't even remember. Nothing must've happened

Monday - Went to a neighboring town, where in we looked at various shops. Cool big antique store with all manner of useless junk inside. Fun for window shopping. Went home just as the storm hit. And by hit, I mean really hit. Rain, wind, lightning, thunder, the works.

Tuesday - After much deliberation, I finally bought myself copies of the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual, both 3.5 edition. Cool stuff in there. Finished The Final Prophecy in the NJO. Excellent book. Sad to see Nen Yim get the axe.

Wednesday - Went horseback riding. Got to practice driving too and from the stables. Yup, still hate it.

Thursday - Went to Rhinelander. Checked the Wal-Mart. Nothing. Left Rhinelander.

Friday - Went Go-Karting, which I now am not a fan of. Meh. Finished The Unifying Force and the entire New Jedi Order. Fine conclusion, and a great EU series.

Saturday- Left.