April 2017

April 2017



The Founder (2016)

“Based on a true story” so I put this one into fiction.

McDonald’s next to Coca Cola is probably one of the most iconic American brands out there. They are pretty much everywhere. When the cold war ended McDonald’s opened up a restaurant in Moscow and the lineup was tremendous. I doubt there are many people in any major city or semi-developed country who haven’t seen or even been in a McDonald’s.

So it is interesting to see a movie that tells the not so nice origin story of today’s McDonald’s.

Michael Keaton as Ray Crock is decent, though you never get the evil vibe that many would like to associate with his character, but this is probably what the real Crock was like. Likewise Nick Offerman as Richard “Dick” McDonald also delivers, though I can’t quite help and feel he was a bit type cast from his Parks & Recreation days.

Overall, if you don’t know the background, it makes for an entertaining watch.


Betting on Zero (2017)

It is amazing to me that in this day and age Multi-level Marketing is still a thing in this day and age, but so is internet spam and it seems to work in both cases.

Betting on Zero is an attempt at a hero story with the hero being an investment banker. It centres around the company Herbalife which runs a major MLM approach and so far has gotten away with it.

If you look around online both sides claim to speak the truth and accuse each other of lying.

Having said that, my impression at the end was that whatever Ackman’s motives are, Herbalife is definitely not the good guy.

Worth a watch.


Bill Burr — Walk Your Way Out

Bill Burr is one of those comedians that seems to still take “the hard line” instead of trying to play to an audience as large as possible (looking at you Louis C.K., though maybe with your latest special you redeem yourself a bit).

Much like George Carlin (RIP) he continues to have no problem in being offensive to anything he considers the status quo. And so in this special as well. From fat people, to Hitler to people teaching a gorilla to speak, everybody is fair game. Including himself.


Louis C.K. — 2017

So Louis C. K. had a new special and…. it actually wasn’t that bad at all. I had given up a bit of hope on him after the last two seasons of Louis, though it seems the creative break was good for him.

I still think the Bill Burr piece was better, but Louis does manage to entertain, even though he still suffers from a bit of American Myopia, in that he projects his experience of the world onto the entire world.

I think that’s the big change from the older stuff, back then he pretty much spoke only about how he perceived the world and how he experienced it. These days he has a tendency to equate that with the state of the world as a whole.

Meanwhile, this is a pretty good analysis on how he constructs his jokes:

Trial & Error — 2017

Good comedy shows are hard to find and often from one season to the next they can turn from awesome to horrible. Community comes to mind.

One of the more successful comedy shows in the last few years was “Parks & Recreation”, which often lived off of it’s characters. So it is no real surprise that NBC would try to copy that formula since the Park & Rec. is off the air. This gives us “Trial & Error”.

Quite frankly I would probably not have bothered with watching it if it wouldn’t have been for John Lithgow who plays am eccentric College Professor who is accused of having killed his wife.

Unfortunately that is pretty much all the good that can be said about the show. The overall setting has a huge “Park & Rec” vibe in as far as the different characters are concerned, the small town setting with the weirdos essentially.

Unfortunately it never really escapes that comparison and the scripts are weak, even for Lithgow who still manages to deliver at least an enjoyable character. The rest though are outright forgettable.



The Empire's Corps - Book 13 - Culture Shock — By Christopher Nuttall

This has been a rather long running series of Military Sci-Fi. The first six books or so dealt with the falling of the Empire, told through a couple of chore characters, one of them being a professor who got banished from Earth for being critical of the Empire, as well as a group of Marines who finds themselves stranded far from their home base on earth as things fall apart.

In the later books we get to see how individual systems have fared during the decline and fall of the Empire. In “Culture Shock” we get a look at Arthur’s Seat. A small community that suddenly finds itself flooded with refugees that get unceremoniously dumped on the planet by what’s left of the Imperial Navy. The refugees are akin to the Amish in our world, they reject modern culture and technology to a large part and try to live their lives like it’s still the 1890s. Unlike the Amish though there is a subset in the group, the young, angry men, who are determined to get their piece of land and when the planetary Government does not appear to do their bidding conflict is pre-programmed and quickly comes to pass.

The book is an interesting commentary on the debate that is happening in Europe around all the Syrian and other refugees and Nuttall being British the tone is somewhere between stiff upper lip and town crier.

Ark Royal - Book 9 - We Lead — By Christopher Nuttall

Double whammy this month. Nuttall is also back with a new “Ark Royal” book. Much like the Empire’s Corps series it falls into the military Sci-Fi category. What makes this series stand out a bit is that it’s centred around the British military and not the American, but that is more or less where the departure ends.

This is the third trilogy is in the Ark Royal canon and once again we go to war, this time against a new enemy. Once again too people and aliens alike will die, some people will have some insights into their life over other people’s death and destruction and…. Well, it’s well and entertaining put together. I think the series itself though has run it’s course, but we’ll see if he tries for another trilogy.

Overall, the series was entertaining, just don’t expect it be high literature.

Here Comes Earth — Trilogy — By William Lee Gordon

This was a bit… weird.

It starts out with Aliens showing up on Earth and Mankind realizing that we are not alone in the Universe. We receive a glance of a multi-layered galactic civilization where all the aliens are basically human, with the difference that their lifespans are much longer than the average Earthers.

We then get to find out that people on Earth were genetically manipulated and as a side effect our lifetimes were shortened, drastically.

But as we are Earthers, we have our own way and so in book two we set out to create our own Dynasty.

In book three this Dynasty comes under attack from other houses and very quickly we learn what makes humans so special. Then the book jumps a few thousand years into the future and we get a two page summary as to what has happened in the meantime.

So… without going too much into detail on what makes us special, the whole thing strikes me as an after thought. As “I have the idea that humans are special but not yet sure why”, only to then come up with something…. well, lame is maybe not the right term, but definitely not what I would expect from a modern Sci-Fi novel. Which is probably where the biggest problem with these books lies: They don’t really know what they want to be and this becomes really clear in the third book when things get very quickly wound up, with the finale essentially being a cop out.

Shame, there were some interesting ideas there, but the execution falls seriously flat.

For We are Many — Bobiverse, Book 2 — By Dennis E. Taylor

The first book in the series was a surprise, see my review in January of it. Interestingly enough the second book literally picks up where the first one stopped. No “previously”, no re-establishing of the universe. We basically pick the dialogue up where it stopped in the previous book.

The Bobs have managed to find a few more planets for humanity to settle on and also to befriend the Australian probe, the Brazilian meanwhile has it’s own ideas and then there are the new aliens that want to eat everything, including the Bobs.

Taylor’s view on the universe through his different Bobs continues to be entertaining and anybody who appreciates a dry humour will appreciate the book. If you need something light to read and want to laugh, the Bobs are your men.

Change Agent — By Daniel Suarez

A few years ago Suarez wrote a trilogy of books that dealt with modern computer technology and how it was in our lives, without most of us seeing it. I greatly enjoyed the series because it was technically sound and didn’t really treat technology as magic.

Now a few years later he is back and this time he is dealing with biotechnology.

What if you could alter the DNA of your child in Utero so that he or she is of genius level intelligence or able to develop strong, lean musculature? What if the Governments would ban it? Would you still do it? What if suddenly, someone would have figured out how to rewrite an adults DNA to make them look like someone else?

All of this is something Interpol Analyst Kenneth Durand has to deal with in 2045 after he finds himself stung by someone on the subway only to wake up to discover that he had been transformed in one of Interpol’s most wanted: Wycks, the leader of a gang that specializes in DNA editing, for a price.

“Change Agent” is fast paced, with just enough explanation of the technology used to make it sound believable. Of course it stretches reality, the idea of changing the DNA of a living organism late in life is something we cannot do and may never be able to do, but the editing of embryos is something that we are already doing in the lab on animals and we can do DNA sequencing to figure out if an embryo has certain genetic defects, before it fully develops.

So the jump Suarez takes here is not as giant as it may first appear and although his world makes you think, he does not come off a preachy.


Joe Ledger - Book 9 - Dogs of War

The Joe Ledger series is the kind of Hollywood action blockbuster Hollywood doesn’t really make any more.

Joe Ledger is the name of an ongoing series of bio-terrorism thriller books written by Jonathan Maberry, beginning with the 2009 Patient Zero. The series also includes several short stories, audio originals and novellas.

In Dogs of war Joe and his team gets pulled in yet another “end of the world” scenario, this time perpetrated in no small part by killer robots, in dog and pigeon form.

The book is fast paced, the science is at least plausible and the dialogue is… cheesy. But it is a fun, fast read and I found more engaging than most similar fare on TV or in theatres these days.

Fun, fast read. If you like this kind of stuff you’ll enjoy it.

Galactic Liberation — Book 1 — Starship Liberator by B.V. Larson and David vanDyke

Larson and vanDyke are a bit the Stephen Kings of Military style Sci-Fi. They must be knocking each out a book every other month and are similarly “formulaic” as what King does in the Horror genre.

Having said that, this new series is actually fun, they paint on a somewhat larger canvas than usual and pacing is pretty fast without leapfrogging over a lot of story development like other books in the genre tend to do. Having said that, it’s not overly creative story telling or writing, but it’s fresh enough to be engaging and I am curious to see where the series goes.

Star Carrier — Book 7 - Dark Mind by Ian Douglas

I have a bit of a “love / hate” type of relationship with the Star Carrier series. The early books were fun and fast paced, but about the middle of the series it goes a bit…. well, American. This shouldn’t be too surprising I guess as Ian Douglas is a former US Navy guy, but like a lot of the military Sci-Fi out there this day it is often stuck in a kind of cold war / US vs. the rest of the world kind of mentality. Which is really utterly bizarre the moment you look at the story and finding Earth as a whole being under attack from an outside force. Maybe it’s my optimism. But I somewhat doubt that humanity would still fight each other while also facing annihilation by an external force.

So with this out of the way, I was a bit apprehensive about the new book in the series and… well, it’s a step up. He (mostly) buried the inter human conflict and is now setting the stage for a new, larger enemy that, at least by the end of the book, hints at some rather large and scary things “coming our way”. I am cautiously optimistic as to where the story goes.

If you’ve read the series so far, this is a good new entry, if you haven’t, give the early books a try, it’s not bad Military Sci-Fi, it’s just very…. American.


The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World — By Brad Stone

“Discruptor” is what many “new” businesses are trying to call themselves. The idea that the way we have done things is obsolete, that technology has a better way. Often these ideas are peppered with slogans trying to convince consumers that “they now have the power”. Mix this with the “sharing economy” and you end up with entities like Uber or AirBnB. Two companies that already had an impact on the status quo. Whereas the companies would like to portrait themselves as forces of positive change, a lot of people would disagree.

The Upstarts chronicles the rise of both Uber and AirBnB and the people behind it. It’s a fascinating look into this “world”, especially if you are not in the technology field yourself.

Having said that, it definitely didn’t do anything to convince me that either Uber or AirBnB are “forces for good”, they are just a bit last blatant about what they’re doing than Juicero.


Jamiroquai — Automaton

Jamiroquai is an artist that only grew on me as I got older. His stuff in the ‘90s I couldn’t connect to. It wasn’t until the end of the naughties that I actually started appreciating his music, something that also happened to me with the Beatles.

So now here we are with a new Album and…. It is both more than I expected and less, namely, it still sounds like Jamiroquai, I did not get a sense that he was “reinventing himself” with the album. This is actually surprisingly refreshing considering how many artists have beaten new paths in the last few years trying to reinvent themselves.


Gorillaz — Humanz (Deluxe)

Oh boy, so what I said about Jamiroquai I can’t really say about the newest Gorillaz, I always liked their sound but they have lost me with the newest one. The sound is decidedly no longer towards the “Brit Pop” type and more towards the Hip-Hop arena and that is one kind of music I never really got access to. It’s a shame, there are some nice tunes in it, but overall it is a disappointment to me.

Still, give it a listen, it may click with you.