Jul 142005

Despite profoundly hating Cornwell’s previous book, bought the newest Scarpetta-tale from an early summer sale.

While not exactly good on any criteria, it’s not as total disaster as Blowfly.

Still uses the very confusing and stilted impersonal third person viewpoint in passive present tense. Still introduces a large number of characters into the story, and fails to do much with most. Still leaves a lot of plot strands completely unresolved (the plights of Fielding and Marcus are not followed up at all), but fortunately Trace is a single-volume book and thus the main storyline is tied up though its motive nor actual execution are not explained at all. And the ending is very anticlimactic, as the 460+ pages of the novel are wrapped up on a single page, and the eponymous Trace (evidence) is not expanded upon at all. Very disappointing plot-wise.

Yes, it’s readable, but not even close to a compulsive page-turner as the first six or so of her novels were. The main characters – working on two separate plots remain distant as ever, and the supporting cast fails to convince (mainly due to their susceptible stupidity). The CSI-bits are pretty much the only decent part of the story, and they are spread out way too thin.

It’s far too thick a book, and most of the add-on pages feel like such. Needless exposition that does not add details to the storylines, meandering about the validity of frontier justice, a plot that does not really move, angst piled on almost every character, and indeed, characters that fail to convince and engage. A small plus sign for Cornwell for not continuing the Blowfly-saga at all, or even referring to the still at large antagonist at all.

In a word: avoid.

Jul 132005

Aponogeton cf. AW, the magazine put together by the Aqua-Web community is of very high quality. Heavily recommended.

The site does not seem to have a dedicated page for the magazine yet, so here are links to the issues published thus far: june/05 and may/05.

Beats the perplexingly sucky Akvaariomaailma by a mile, and gives Akvaristi a good run for its money.

Jul 132005

Spielberg’s new movie was pretty much what I expected: an old science fiction story used as background for unifying a splintered family.

It’s not a bad movie, by any means, but not very good either.

The aliens’ machinery is portrayed in chillingly ruthless fashion, but the aliens themselves look like 3rd rate rejects from the Men in Black franchise. And that’s not a good thing.

Tom Cruise is decent as the estranged father, but Dakota Fanning as his multi-challenged daughter steals the show. Tim Robbins isn’t bad either, and clearly relishes his role as the more than slightly bonkers farmer. Miranda Otto is criminally under-used, and the guy portraying Cruise’s son seems oddly familiar, but can’t recall from where. And the protagonist himself is not convincing at all, and that’s a big minus – though the script itself doesn’t give that much room to maneuver from a reckless blue collar worker to a reliable father figure.

The story has been updated from its victorian origin – the armed forces are frequently seen, and references to terrorists abound in the first half (like the use of grey dust as remnant from the initial alien attack / ground zero on 9/11). The ending is as abrupt as it is in the novel, I much preferred Alan Moore’s version of the proceedings in the second volume of the League of Extra-ordinary Gentlemen.

Some of the visual elements have been done with good care: the red algae fields (that seem to grow really fast), the river on which the dead float, the flaming train on the crossing, and of course the tripods themselves.

A further hefty demerit for the movie is the use of an omniscient narrator. And using that voice only in the very beginning and end of the tale. Maximally annoying, and additional use of the voice would have eliminated some of the occasionally quite heavy-handed plot movements by minor characters.

It’s hard to speculate what really went wrong with the movie – somehow neither the compressed time scale (whatever it takes to go from New York to Boston) nor the extremely limited viewpoint (what the Ferrier family sees) add to the proceedings. Thus, it would have taken a major rewrite (and then some) to get a higher score.

Jul 132005

Second novel in the Rebus-sequence, which is surprisingly long, and I’m obviously just getting started.

Not as personal a story like the first novel (Noughts and Crosses), but then again, few tales are.

A tale that contrasts the twin sides of rapidly growing Edinburgh – a dilapidated area that squatters have taken over and that owned by the old boys’ network of high-placed businessmen. Some of the topics seem a bit too well glued-on: occultism for one was an aspect that could easily been left by the wayside.

Story suffers a little from being translated, as the key clue of the story is very much language-dependent. Other than that, the translation is effortless, and no misunderstandings or logical errors leap at the reader.

A pleasant read, and one that’ll definitely keep me seeking out later Rebus stories.

Jul 112005

Outside: +28, and probably shooting up to +30 even before noon.

Inside: +31, and hopefully not going up any more. Top floor of the house, one that gets direct sunlight for the whole day, this means that heat will build up.

Can’t do anything about the former, but definitely will buy an electric fan to offset the effects of the latter.

Jul 102005

Since summer’s the prime season for devouring novels about crimes and solving them, decided to briefly review the books fitting that description as I read them.

First up is Reijo Mäki‘s second-newest (I think) novel: Huhtikuun Tytöt.

And the very first Vares-novel that I have read. Surprisingly have missed pretty much the whole series. The first exposure was the last summer’s eponymous movie.

And the book is not that different from the movie. A rapidly flowing narrative, sprinkled with mostly decent one-liners, repetitive drinking, and rather well-defined characters (only some of which are explicitly humorous). The story itself, however, is not perfect – it mixes up several plots, and the resolution of the main line is done in quite haphazard way. Not being familiar with the author’s other books it’s hard to say whether this is specific for this book, or a more common occurrence.

Perfect summer reading – the plot moves along well, without getting stuck on needless details. Was worth it, and will seek out other Vares-novels. And the book shows that the quality of the movie – both plot- and characters-wise – was no fluke, and the sixteen-some Vares-novels published thus far would allow for quite a few sequels.

Jul 102005

Midnight sun

Visited relatives in Nivala over the weekend.

Travelling by train, including my very first trip on a Pendolino train on the return leg.

A lot of home-grown pork, red wine and speculation on how long the heat wave will last, wood-heated sauna, abundance of bugs (horsefly [probably not the exact species name] bites are still painful). All in all an execllent chill-out session, one that’s been an annual standard for years, and hopefully will continue to be so.

On the trip back the train travelled in two halves. Yours truly, according to Murphy’s Law, in the latter, of course. The halving was due to some coupling difficulties. But the train caught up in an admirable fashion. 30+ minutes delayed in Ylivieska, about 10 in Helsinki. Probably the speed was very reason why the info-monitors were silent. And badly unused even when they were working.

Jul 072005

Fantomas on stage at Tavastia
Saw Fantomas at Tavastia.

Probably the weirdest concert I’ve ever been to. Mike Patton (ex-Faith No More/Mr. Bungle/many others) does not really use his vocal cords for singing, rather than making noises. Noises, whose range and expressivity causes admiration for the versaility, but worry about the longevity. From shrill screaming to guttural rumbles in seconds, via imitation of mechanically troubled engine – that’s Mr. Patton’s range for you.

Did not really rcognize any “songs”. Apart from the chorus of Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills sung with an extreme operatic pathos.

Tavastia was sold out, and the atmosphere was quietly worshipful. Even with the minimal interaction with audience, the band utterly captivated the attention of 700+ people.

The stage layout would have required a better picture than what the phone provides at an extreme range. Among other things, the image does no justice to the humongous drum kit, nor shows the two dolls tied to mike stands (and used as excuses for further noise-production).

Dave Lombardo was absent (touring with Slayer), but apparently very adequately replaced by Terry Bozzio.

Definitely worth seeing, but an hour was probably the maximum duration for the show. For both the audience and the band. So, when America, Fuck Yeah was put on the platter to mark the end of the gig, pretty much everybody was relieved. And sure, I’d go see them again. Given enough time to recuperate from this concert.

Jul 062005

Iron Maiden live
Saw Iron Maiden on their Early Days / Eddie Rips Up Europe / Whatever tour. Playing nothing but material from their four first albums, it was not your average Maiden-gig.

Some of the songs were very familiar and expected (Run to the Hills, Number of the Beast), some not played at all on previous few tours (Where Eagles Dare, Drifter). Hallowed be thy name was my personal highlight, though Phantom of the Opera was excellent as well. Was expecting Charlotte, Flight of the Icarus and Prisoner, but nope. And no Women in Uniform either.

Didn’t draft a set list, but one can be approximated from the relevant thread in imperiumi.net.

Audience participation was on a very high level, the place (at some 14k tickets) was sold out two consecutive nights. Next year (following a new studio album) they expect to play in a “bigger place”, which probably refers to the olympic stadium currently unavailable due to renovation work for the Athletics World Championships in august.

Extra bonuses for Dickinson for rubbing London’s successful 2012 olympic bid over the french. Chirac got a personal trouncing for disrespecting finnish and british food. To loud applause.

Played for ~100 minutes, the gig was very much on the enjoyable side, but something was missing. Perhaps I’ve just seen the same songs too many times, seen Janick Gers steal too much stage space with his antics, but I’m sure I’ll join the next tour as well.

Mastodon, the warm-up band was OK – didn’t expect anything special, and sure didn’t get any. Somewhere between hard rock and metal, with some stoner-aspects for extra spice. Covered a Melvins’ song which was a surprise.

T-shirts and other loot was very highly priced. 35 euros for a normal shirt is robbery. And charging 15 for a single wristband is ever worse.

Jul 062005

The European Parliament was almost unanimous in rejecting the long-disputed software patents directive. With 648 against, and only 14 for, this proposal won’ see daylight again anytime soon.

Three cheers. And the finnish MEPs who promised to vote against seemingly did, across the party divisions. Multiple cheers to that, too. What on earth is the world coming to, when you can actually rely on politicians…

Perhaps Nancy Reagan was indeed right, a perfectly timed “NO!” is a powerful weapon.

Jul 062005

Had completely missed this, a newish on-line magazine.

Interesting content, though certainly a lot on the “just scratching the surface here”, but it’d be unfair to expect anything more since the content is pretty much on par with equivalent paper magazines, but price isn’t – this baby’s free. More aggressive linking to things covered would be beneficial though. Especially on subjects that bring in zillions of hits in google – pre-sorting wheat from chaff would be much appreciated (and some articles are very well-linked anyhow).

Jul 052005

Tossed frisbee in daytime heat, with expectedly long breaks in the action. No forehead catches this time, and seem to be making progress with a decent forehead throw, though the finger placement under the disk does not feel completely natural.

And it’s not just the days that are warm, but nights as well. It was still +22 around 1:30.

Regular daily updates will cease here, since the vacation seems to have gotten off to a good start.

Jul 042005

Restaurant Nerone on Pursimiehenkatu has been closed (in finnish, search for “nerone”) by the Helsinki environmental board due to multiple hygiene violations.

Never brought home any unexpected illnesses, and had many a good pizza there in the late nineties. Seems that the place had gone rapidly downhill during the last couple of years. And it’s been a long while since my last visit, so it’s really not fair to guesstimate how bad things had evolved.

Jul 042005

Swan family with chicks
Temperature around +25, with some clouding and a light breeze. Exactly how it should be.

Walked around Seurasaari, and noted that there are paths that I’ve utterly forgotten – didn’t recall that there’s quite a pond system on the island. Put the phone camera to good use, but haven’t yet bothered to pull the images out. Stay tuned.

Had one of the official rites of summer – the classically simple vanilla ice cream from the small kiosk outside the island. Manufactured by an independent vendor and unavailable pretty much anywhere else. Plain vanilla, but gloriously good.

Noted that mosquito bites are as scratchy this year as they have always been. Note to self: bring proper trousers to long garden parties.

Wooden bridge in Seurasaari Duck and chicks

Jul 032005

The GCC (and rest of the toolchain) summit was held last weekend in Ottawa. The proceedings are available, as is Dan Kegel’s diary of the event.

A lot of the material is, of course, way too technical for general interest, but some of the articles are good introductions on topics that are definitely going mainstream in the short term (eg. peculiarities of the Cell architecture).

Jul 032005

Töölönlahti around midnight

Missed the entire Live8 bunch of concerts yesterday. Missed, of course, as in did not watch them on television.

Forgot about it during the afternoon, and headed to a friend’s appropriately tv-less birthday party held in a garden. And by the time I got home, there was no more music on yle teema.

So, missed the second coming of Pink Floyd, missed the nth coming of the Who, missed Sarah McLachlan, missed the biggest gig by velvet revolver ever, and altogether seem to have missed quite a big chunk of culture.

Let’s hope the dvds come out fast. Or that there are decent streams available on the web.

Jul 022005

The Science magazine puts forth a set of big topics indeed, ranging from astronomy to psychology. First fifth of them explored at length, the rest only get a sentence or two worth of a problem statement.

Would probably make good summer reading, have to check whether the bookstores stock this baby.

Jul 022005

New record, Dirty Diamonds, is out. Officially on monday, but Tunnelin Levy had it in stock already. And it seems that it’ll be a while before it’s released in the US.

Didn’t even know he had recorded new songs.

Haven’t yet given it a spin, so no idea what the material is like. The previous album, Eyes of Alice Cooper was a nice throwback garagerock album after the quite metallic previous duo.

EDIT 23.8.2009: The news link is outdated, obviously.