Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Revisiting the Classics(?) -- Driving Blind

When I think of Ray Bradbury, I think science fiction. However, Driving Blind, published in 1997, proves that's not all he does. I thought it was sci-fi when I picked it up at a book store, but for the most part that's not what I got.

Driving Blind features 21 stories, some of which were inspired by events in Bradbury's life. Most of the stories take place in the 1940's and 50's in small-town America. I was expecting an anthology along the lines of Steven Spielberg's TV series Amazing Stories, but the tales in this book are far less fantastic. Driving Blind is more of a celebration of a simpler time, when television was in its infancy and people connected with each other on a more meaningful level. As Bradbury illustrates, our interactions with other people shape us, and can be either positive or negative experiences.

I feel this book could have benefited from more focus and less stories. Most of the stories only last a handful of pages before you're on to the next one, and I can't recall most of them off the top of my head. The ones that stand out best are the few that indulge in fantasy and sci-fi, like the man who is surprised to find he's been dead for several years and has inexplicably returned from the cemetery. One of the best of this collection is the titular story, "Driving Blind," about a man wearing a dark hood who is in search of an identity to call his own.

Driving Blind is strange, yet strange in the sense that most of these stories could actually happen (and according to Bradbury, some of them did). It's also well-written, but don't come into it expecting a lot of science fiction or fantasy, and don't hold out hope that the stories will make a lot of sense. Many of them end suddenly and lack resolution, but that's OK with me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Paris in the Twentieth Century

Today I'm taking a look back at the lost Jules Verne novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century. Rejected by his literary agent, the book wasn't published until 1994, so whether or not you consider it to be a classic is debatable.

As the title suggests, the story concerns what Verne imagined Paris would be like in the 1960's. In his version, the City of Lights has grown to encompass most of France. Large buildings tower over the city, and a sophisticated rail system, powered by compressed air and electromagnets, get Parisians where they need to go. Central to all of this is a school system owned by big business. Science and math are king, while journalism, literature and the arts have been largely forgotten. Michel, the young protagonist, has a talent for Latin, but in this overly-practical society that makes him an outcast, laughed at for his proficiency at "useless" endeavors. He yearns to write poetry and devour the literary classics, but struggles to find his place in a world that has moved beyond such things.

The name Jules Verne, along with the futuristic book cover, may lead you to believe this is mainly a science fiction story. In actuality, it is a celebration of French culture up to Verne's time. French authors, poets, journalists and scientists are named one after the other at rapid-fire speed. Verne couldn't list them fast enough. The soulless technology of 20th-century Paris stands in stark contrast to these dead heroes, a metaphor made complete by a cemetery scene at the end of the book.

I'm torn on Paris of the Twentieth Century. On the one hand, Verne eerily predicts future technological advancements such as the mass transit system, cars, instant messaging, defibrillators, and the electric chair. On the other hand, there isn't as much sci-fi in the story as I would have liked. Also, the main character is kinda whiny and the ending resolves nothing. Still, the book stands as a testament to Jules Verne's vision and imagination.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Music Review -- Bleach Berry Best

I wrote a review for the third Bleach OP/ED soundtrack, Bleach Berry Best, but for some reason Amazon won't publish it. So I decided to post it here:

This is the third Bleach OP/ED soundtrack featuring the full versions of the opening and ending themes. These songs cover roughly the last part of the Hueco Mundo arc to the Karakura Town battle. It features a number of different musical styles, from the guitar riffs of "Velonica" to romantic ballads such as "Tabidatsu Kimi e [On a Journey to You]". Long story short: if you watch Bleach, you probably already know whether or not you like these songs. I sure do.

Track list:
1.) "Velonica" by Aqua Timez
2.) "Hitohira no Hanabira" by Stereopony
3.) "Sky Chord ~Otona ni Naru Kimi e~" by Tsuji Shion
4.) "Shoujo S" by Scandal
5.) "Kimi o Mamotte, Kimi o Aishite" by Sambo Master
6.) "Mad Surfer" by Kenichi Asai
7.) "Anima Rossa" by Porno Graffitti
8.) "Sakurabito" by Sunset Swish
9.) "Tabidatsu Kimi e" by RSP
10.) "chAngE" by miwa
11.) "STAY BEAUTIFUL" by Diggy-MO'
12.) "Echoes" by Universe
13.) "Koyoi, Tsuki wa Miesu tomo [Bleach 3rd movie ending theme]" by Porno Graffitti