Sunday, May 30, 2010

Do Replicants Dream of Electric Blade Runners

I am usually pretty apprehensive about movies or television shows being based off of books. I mean, I understand that for the sake of time things need to be condensed and edited, but sometimes stories are just completely changed, using only characters' names and locations from the book (e.g., every version of The Three Musketeers I've ever seen or that horrible piece of shit “Legend of the Seeker” which destroyed Terry Goodkind's masterful Sword of Truth series). There have been some notable exceptions, such as Peter Jackson's rendition of The Lord of the Rings and the more recent Chronicles of Narnia movie adaptations which actually seem to follow the books fairly closely. Typically, I've found that seeing the movie before reading the book is the better way to go, as it makes the book that much better (and also helps with visualization at times). However, years ago I watched the movie “Blade Runner” and until recently had been unable to find a copy of the book it was based upon due to it apparently being out of print. Thankfully, the folks at The Science-Fiction Book Club, along with Dell Publishing, have re-released Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. After reading the book, I found a desire to dust off my DVD of “Blade Runner” and compare the two as I remembered the movie seeming to have more action than the novel, which seemed a more cerebral endeavor.

Upon actually sitting down and watching the movie again this morning, I realized how very different “Blade Runner” is from the novel that inspired it. I sat down with pen and pad in hand to make notes, but five minutes in abandoned that notion and just sat back and enjoyed the movie. The differences were that vast. The “replicants” in the film were completely different and much more sinister than the androids, or “andys” in the book. The protagonist is single in the film, but married in the book – although he does fall in love/have an affair with one of the replicants/andys in both. There are entire characters and scenes in the movie that the book never even implies, and the population in the movie is much more vast than the post-apocalyptic society presented in the novel. I could go on and on.

The point is, why does Hollywood always manage to take a perfectly good story and muck it up? Granted, in this case, if Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was produced word-for-word as a movie, it would be pretty boring (the book is less action and more written to make you think). However, it always seems that films based on books or short stories regularly make over arching changes that are unnecessary. There are a few exceptions (as I mentioned above) but even in those exceptions there are still scenes left out or even inserted.

I love a good movie, but honestly, a good book is infinitely better. When a good book is made into a good movie, that's awesome. When a good book is made into a mediocre movie, it makes me sad. So, I'm not really sure how I feel about the “Blade Runner” versus Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep dynamic because I liked both of them, even though saying the movie is based on the book is a bit of a stretch; inspired by would be a better description. At any rate, it does reenforce my convictions that Hollywood is running out of ideas for movies and television and justifies my love of books.

~ JC

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Puff The Magic Dragon

I doubt anyone reading this would disagree that smoking is bad, MmKay? Well, quitting smoking really sucks! In the last ten years or so, I've attempted to quit smoking with mostly failed attempts. The last time I tried to quit “cold turkey” I became such a grumpy ass that I actually had co-workers begging me to start again. I wish I could go back in time and try to convince that fourteen year old kid not to even start, but I can't. I have, however, finally found a device that may just finally be the ticket to quitting smoking for good. A few weeks ago a couple of people I work with found an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, while attending a gun show. It is called Red Dragon (hence the catchy title of this blog). After taking a couple of puffs off of one of their Red Dragon e-cigarette, I decided to order one for myself once I received my income tax refund. Now, I have to admit that the initial investment in a Red Dragon e-cigarette isn't cheap; I ordered the eight piece starter kit, four extra cartridges and a carrying case the total cost of which came to around $120 with express shipping. But, after only a couple of weeks I have managed to reduce the amount that I actually smoke real cigarettes my half or more. The e-cigarette emits vaporized liquid nicotine rather than smoke, so there is no tar, carbon monoxide or other harmful chemicals. So, it may not be a “safe cigarette” but it is safer. There is also no foul odor or second hand smoke, so I can use this indoors and in the car without having to roll down the windows. Because the Red Dragon looks and feels like a real cigarette, I feel like I'm getting smoking satisfaction, and because it does contain nicotine (unlike some other electronic cigarettes I've seen) it actually helps with the cravings. I really like that the cartridges are available in four strengths of nicotine, ranging from high to none so that I can step-down how much nicotine I'm getting over time to eventually break the addiction.

Not only is the Red Dragon e-cigarette less harmful, but it is also more cost effective, at least in the long term. Now I know what you're thinking; you're thinking that I said it cost me $120. That's true. The initial cost is kind of high, but the cost of the cartridges themselves actually ends up potentially being less than buying regular cigarettes. One cartridge is roughly the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. So, if I buy a pack of four cartridges at $12, that is like buying four packs of cigarettes. I don't know about you, but I can't buy regular cigarettes for that price, unless I buy the super cheap, super disgusting off brands, which frankly I refuse to do. I mean, if I'm going to smoke, it's going to be Marlboro or Camel. Those cheap brands burn my throat, and they burn up so much faster than the name brands that I don't really feel like I've saved anything in terms of money. Not only are the e-cigarette cartridges mathematically more cost effective, but I have also found a site called Johnson Creek Original Smoke Juice, which sells liquid nicotine. So, even though Red Dragon doesn't really recommend it, I can refill my used cartridges myself for an even bigger cost savings.

- Initial Cost is rather expensive depending on the kit ordered
- Currently no retail outlets where I live, which means I have to pay for shipping plus have to order well in advance to insure I don't run out
- Battery could go dead while away from home or cartridge could run out without a way to obtain a fresh one if I didn't remember to bring an extra

- No tar or carbon monoxide poisoning
- No odor or second hand smoke means I can smoke in the house and inside my favorite coffee shop again instead of outside in the heat, cold or rain
- Cartridges and smoke juice for DIY refills actually much less expensive than real cigarettes (comparatively speaking)
- Red Dragon boasts 25 different flavors (such as Regular, Menthol, Vanilla, Cherry, etc)
- Ability to vary the amount of nicotine even all the way down to none to help step-down the addiction
- It looks and feels like a real cigarette, which helps with the psychosomatic aspect of smoking addiction

~ JC

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Day All You Mothers!

Today is Mother's Day in the U.S. That special day invented by the Hallmark company to buy cards and flowers for Mom. All tongue in cheek comments aside, to everyone out there who's a Mom, Happy Mother's Day. To everyone who has a Mom - call/text/email/carrier pigeon your Mom to tell her how much you love her and how much she means to you. My Mom got her gift early because (I hate to admit this) I might not have time today to see her. I'll be heading to my Gramma's a little later today, and at some point will be taking my Mother-in-law-to-be out for dinner and trying to find a moment to see my sister and niece too. And all while recovering from a slight hangover from going out for beers with my best friend last night.

See ya next week!

~ JC

Topics in the works: my political views, RPG dice and how they're used, enjoying the simple things in life, and many more... so stay tuned.