Friday, June 24, 2016

2016 WIMBLEDON: Men's and Women's Draws Released


There is big news out of Great Britain today.... The 2016 Wimbledon Championships draw is out!

On the men's side, the projected quarterfinals are:

  • Novak Djokovic (1) versus Milos Raonic (6)
  • Roger Federer (3) versus Kei Nishikori (5)
  • Stan Wawrinka (4) versus Dominic Thiem (7)
  • Andy Murray (2) versus Richard Gasquet (8)
On the women's side the projected quarterfinals are:

  • Serena Williams (1) vs. Roberta Vinci (6)
  • Agnieska Radwanska (3) vs. Belinda Bencic (7)
  • Angelique Kerber (4) vs. Simona Halep (5)
  • Garbine Muguruza (2) vs. Venus Williams (8)
Serena and Djokovic are the defending champions, with Djokovic going for his 5th consecutive major win (and 3rd consecutive Wimbledon). Serena is trying to win her 22nd major title (6th Wimbledon) and has lost in the first two major finals she played this year.

Monday, June 20, 2016

EYE CANDY: Derek Keeton




Derek Keeton is a well-known African-American male model. According to the L'Homme Du Jour, he was born February 25, 1986 and according to his Red NYC Model page, he is 6-foot-1 but I see no weight listed.

He is definitely Eye Candy material!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

GAME OF THRONES: (S6E08) "No One"




Episode 8 of Season 6 (S6E04) of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "No One." This is clearly a reference to Arya and her attempts to join the guild of Faceless Men assassins in Braavos and become "no one" and give up her identity as a member of one of the key families in Westeros. But it is also a reference to identity and class, because in A Song of Ice and Fire, one's status in society is directly related to one's name, and so someone who is "No One" has no status, and if someone loses status (like Cersei has by losing her title of Queen, Queen Mother and Regent) then those people are being treated as "no one." And one of the key plot points is who gets to decide who has status and who does not, i.e. deciding who will become "no one."

Summary
One of the main themes of this episode was about honor and how people's sense of honor complicates their understanding of what "the right thing to do is." The Blackfish can't see past his sense of honor to survive the siege of Riverrun and escape with Brienne and would rather have an "honorable death" instead of helping his niece's daughter, Sansa regain her household home.

Catelyn Stark's brother, Lord Edmure Tully decides that it is better to surrender his ancestral home of Riverrun to the Lannister-Frey army and trust Jaime Lannister's honorable word that his wife and heir will not be harmed.

In King's Landing, the political intrigues continue with Cersei's son, King Tommen Barratheon outlawing trial by combat, which is the one thing that she was counting on saving her life in any trial that will be called by the High Septon to account for her crimes against the Faith. She has the reanimated Ser Gregor Clegane (The Mountain) to fight as her champion who can defeat any man in one-on-one combat, so the Septon outmaneuvers her to have the practice of trial by combat abolished by the King.

Meanwhile, Sandor Clegane is reunited with the Brotherhood without Banners, and he gets to see the murderous ruffians who slaughtered his friends in the previous episode "The Broken Man" (S6E07).
But he find out about "the real fight" against the white walkers from the North.

Back in Braavos, we finally get a showdown between the Waif and the Arya which turns into a thrilling Hollywood chase reminiscent of Jason Bourne. With corresponding Hollywood ending.

Highlights
The highlights of this episode were:
  • The best line of the episode went to Jaime Lannister, "The things we do for love" (which is  also what he had previously said way back in Season 1, Episode 1 when he kicked Brandon Stark off the ledge at Winterfell)
  • There were several other contenders for best line in this week's episode, starting with Cersei Lannister's "I choose violence," to Tyrion Lannister's "Most famous dwarf in the world" (line said to Varys), Bronn's "Do you think they're f***ing?" to Podrick Payne (talking about Brienne and Jaime) and Arya's "A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I'm going home!" 
  • The most exciting moment of the episode was when Arya blew out the candle in her hovel as she faced the Waif, and you immediately realized that despite the fact that she was bruised, bleeding and battered, she had turned the tables and would probably be the one girl walking out of their encounter alive, which is not what we would have expected to happen just a few second before. 
  • The second most exciting moment in the episode was the timely return of Daenerys to Mereen, just as the slavemasters of Essos have decided to burn the city down in spite of the pact they made with Tyrion to end hostilities over Daenery's abolition of slavery.
Lowlights
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  • Did we really need to se The Hound hack down four other people, replete with split heads and dripping human entrails?

Grade: 9/10.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Trident's Forge (Children of a Dead Earth, #2) by Patrick S. Tomlinson


Trident's Forge is the second book in The Children of the Dead Earth series by Patrick S. Tomlinson. I really loved the first book in the series, The Ark, because it was a fast-paced, funny mash-up of mystery-thriller and post-apocalyptic science fiction. It's sequel is a very different book, but with several familiar characters from the first book returning: Bryan "The Zero Hero" Benson, his wife Teresa, their former nemesis Chao Feng, and Bryan's sidekick Pavel Korolev.

Trident's Forge is set three years after the events of The Ark and now the 30,000-member strong remnants of humanity are settling down and surviving on the planet Gaia. It is more than 250 years after a black hole destroyed Earth and forced humanity to abandon our home planet and seek another. The planet we found is inhabited by aliens the humans call Atlantians (and who call themselves the G'tel). I didn't get a good image of the G'tel in my mind's eye but one interesting move by the author is to give the reader point-of-view chapters from the perspective of one of the aliens. The alien in particular, named Kexx, is a "truth-digger" which is an important role in G'tel society (sort of a cross between a religious leader and academic/intellectual). Because the aliens have three genders (although this is not really fully explained that well), Kexx uses the pronouns ze and zer instead of she/he and his/her to describe zer fellow Atlantians. 

Tomlinson has a way of combining action scenes with comedic situations that remind me of John Scalzi (Redshirts) and Wesley Chu (The Rebirths of Tao). I don't know if this is a compliment or a dis (your mileage may vary) but I intend it as a positive recommendation.

The reason why I loved The Ark so much was that the stakes for the characters were so high ( all of humanity is on one ship and the villains want to blow it up with nukes!) and one problem I had with Trident's Forge is that level of tension is not repeated. Yes, Benson is put in one incredibly dangerous situation after the other (and is actually declared dead at one point when his heart stops) but I never believed for a second that the Zero Hero would bite the dust. Thus I think Tomlinson realized he needed to find dramatic tension in different ways and he tried to do so by complicating the political situation at Shambhala, the main colony city for the former Ark residents, with a surprising assassination. 

The best part of Trident's Forge for me is in the interactions between Benson and the aliens as they uncover a sinister plot to exploit the planet Gaia and learn (grudgingly at times) to overcome their differences and suspicions in order to cooperate and survive against common enemies. 

I do love mash-ups, and Trident's Forge has a melange  of a plot combining alien first-contact, frontier intrigue, colony politics, fast-paced action, quirky and irreverent humor and some (minimal) mystery/thriller elements. I am definitely looking forward to the third book in the series, but I hope it is set far enough in the future that maybe Benson is no longer the main character. I also hope that we get a resolution about whether the black hole that destroyed the Earth was a deliberate act and if so, we get to meet those aliens. Now that would be raising the stakes!

Title: Trident's Forge.
Author: 
Patrick S. Tomlinson.
Paperback: 448 pages.
Publisher:
 Orbit.
Date Published: April 5, 2016.
Date Read: June 11, 2016.

GOODREADS RATING: ****. (4.25 STARS)

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

PLOT: A.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: A-.
WRITING: B+.

Monday, June 13, 2016

EYE CANDY: Edison Rivas





Edison Rivas is a male model who, according to his Model Mayhem page, is 28 years old and 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds. The pictures above were taken by Brian Taylor Johnson.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

GAME OF THRONES (S6E07): "The Broken Man"




Episode 4 of Season 6 (S6E07) of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "The Broken Man." Sometimes the titles of episodes are difficult to interpret but here it is clear that the "broken man" of the title is Gregor Clegane, also known as The Hound. The other prominent broken man in this episode is, of course, Theon Greyjoy. In addition to stories involving both these broken men, the plot advances nicely in King's Landing, in the Riverlands and in Braavos in this episode

Summary
This is one of the rare Game of Thrones episodes with what is known as a "cold open"--the action begins without seeing the title credits first. We see a very large axe, and then we see a very large man using that axe to chop wood and immediately recognize the man as Gregor Clegane, last seen being left to die by Arya Stark in (S4E07) "Mockingbird" after losing a battle with Brienne of Tarth. The Hound lives! Interestingly, he explains to the Septon who saved his life that what brought him back from the brink of death was "hate" and that he was bested by a woman (whether he means Arya or Brienne is not clear). There are multiple scenes with Clegane and after the Brotherhood with Banners massacres the entire group of people that were following the septon (and the septon himself) it is significant that the only thing he grabs as he departs is his axe. It's doubtful he will be using it to only chop wood.

The other broken man is Theon, who is still recovering from his abuse and torture as Ramsay Snow's plaything Reek. He and his sister Yara have stolen away with the fastest ships of the Ironborn. Yara is tired of the person her brother has become and basically bullies him into making a decision to "get over" his losses and fully support her and the Ironborn in their search for Daenerys Stormborn before their Uncle Euron or "to end it." Theon chooses life, but it is not clear to me that he is enthusiastic about it.

The other important events in the episode were: Jaime and the Blackfish meeting in the Riverlands as the Lannisters take over the siege of Riverrun from the incompetent Freys; Arya books passage to Westeros (with two hefty bags of coin) and then gets stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by the Waif; the High Sparrow urges Margaery Tyrell to convince her grandmother to join the Faith of the Seven; Margaery meets with Olenna and sneaks a piece of paper with House Tyrell's sigil on it as she urges her grandmother to leave King's Landing; Cersei Lannister and Olenna Tyrell have another exquisite war of words; Sansa, Jon and Ser Davos have limited success in convincing Northerners to join them in their attempt to recover Winterfell.

Highlights
The highlights of this episode were:
  • For the umpteenth time Lady Olenna Tyrell (i.e. The Queen of Thorns) has the best line of the episode when she tell Cersei "I think you are the most horrible person I have ever met" and "You’ve lost, Cersei—it’s the only joy I can find in all this misery." 
  • A close second-best line was delivered by the pacifist septon who says "Violence is a disease" and that you don't cure it by spreading it.
  • The discovery (or confirmation) that Yara Greyjoy is a lesbian (or at the very least likes to have sex with women)
  • The entire scene with Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island was a highlight, with the child actor (Bella Ramsey) completely stealing the scene from three important characters (Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and Ser Davos Seaworth)
  • Confirmation that Margaery's religious conversion is not as real as the High Sparrow seems to believe (although it is doubt that someone so sharp as he will truly fall for her deception) was great to see.
Lowlights
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  •  Arya's stabbing seemed totally unsurprising to me. Surely someone who knows that assassins can wear any face should have been more cautious when an unknown old lady approached her on the street.
Grade: 8/10.

Worst Mass Shooting In US History At Gay Nightclub in Orlando, Florida (50 Dead, 53 Injured)

The worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred late Saturday night at an LGBT nightclub called Pulse in Orlando, Florida. Omar Mateen, 29, has been identified as the person armed with an AR-15 and a handgun who killed 50 people and wounded 53 others.

President Barack Obama delivered a live address to the nation on the tragedy:
This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends -- our fellow Americans -- who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub -- it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.  So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American -- regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation -- is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans. Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.
A very sad day indeed!

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