The Noah Ginex Puppet Company was on the WGN Morning News this morning to sing a Neil Diamond song with Jeff Hoover (happy birthday, Neil!). There isn’t always a lot of time to set up or rehearse these bits, but we’ve been coming and doing them for long enough now that we and they are learning some lessons that I think really paid off in the staging of this piece this morning. I know for me, it was probably the best work I’ve done with Ron the Snake—I got some fun dancing tail bits in there.

Also, there’s a brief closeup of what I think is the first public appearance of Fuzzy Erica—a new puppet that Noah made for Erica. She’s the blue one with the green feather hair.

Monument With Standing Snow

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Monument With Standing Beast

Monument with Standing Beast”, the sculpture out in front of the Thompson Center downtown, has always had a special place in my heart, even though stark white is a terrible color for a sculpture in Chicago—it’s often a little grimy around the edges. And when I pulled into my parking spot at work today, I realized perhaps where some of that affection comes from. Others might think it represents a tree or a standing animal, but I know it’s a lovely interpretation of the snow sculptures that accumulate at the edges of parking lots and sidewalks, once pristine snow edged with the black of Chicago asphalt.

The snow of Chicago The snow of Chicago The snow of Chicago The snow of Chicago

All this reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of art in the city: Snow Sculpture for Chicago. (A funny postscript to that photo in that blog post is that eight years later I ended up working with Martha at Time Out Chicago. Chicago is such a small town.)

Video Games 2015

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My old criteria for whether I “finished” a game was very much in the console mode—games I’ve played all the way through the story mode, if it had one. I’ve played a lot more mobile games this year, and games that don’t really have an ending, but this list is still in that old-fashioned mode:

  • Botanicula
  • Far Cry 4
  • Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
  • Far Cry 3
  • Gone Home
  • Dishonored
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Little Inferno
  • Bioshock 2
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Thief

Movies 2015

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The 41 movies I watched in 2015, with arbitrary grades and occasional short comments:

  • 7 Up - A
  • The Institute - both a documentary about, and a continuance of, an experiential theater installation and events - A
  • 7 + 7 (14 Up) - A-
  • I Know That Voice
  • First Position
  • Lavender Hill Mob - That was Audrey Hepburn. I wish he could have gotten away with it - A-
  • Snowpiercer - B+
  • Horns - A
  • Ghostbusters - B+
  • Hotel Transylvania - C+
  • The Equalizer - A
  • John Wick - A
  • Get Carter - damn the ’70s were dark - A-
  • Mr. Nobody - weird. And story telling is about choices. - A-
  • Pitch Perfect - B+
  • The Ladykillers (1955) - of it’s time, but excellent - A
  • Once Upon a Time in the West
  • Mad Max: Fury Road - A+
  • Gravity - A
  • To Be Takei - A-
  • The Other One - A
  • The Ladykillers (2004) - Rather disappointing from the Coen Brothers and Tom Hanks - B
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot - A-
  • Big Hero Six - A+
  • Jurassic Park - A
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service - B+
  • Jupiter Ascending: C+
  • Wet Hot American Summer - A
  • They Came Together - A
  • Ballet 422 - A
  • What We Do in the Shadows - A
  • Theatre of Blood - C+++
  • Nightmare Before Christmas - A+
  • Dude, Where’s My Car - C+
  • Spy - B+
  • The Jerk - has not aged well - C+
  • Stranger Than Paradise - if you like movies where nothing happens - A
  • Star Trek Into Darkness - B+
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens - A
  • Sisters - Could use an edit to trim like 20 minutes off - B+
  • Trainwreck - A

Ancillary Justice

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I came into Ancillary Justice just knowing that it was associated with some recent controversies in scifi because an element of the book is that the main character’s native language doesn’t include gendered pronouns and the gender-neutral pronoun is represented here by “she” pronouns. And sure, that’s there and it definitely made me think about language and my assumptions about what gender a person might be. But I’ve seen the book described several places as though that was the only plot element of the book. And that’s ridiculous. This is a star-spanning, multi-millennial story whose protagonist is the sole remaining body of a once starship controlling AI. It’s one of the best scifi books I’ve read in years. Reducing it to an interesting linguistic choice is dumb.

FuzzyCo grade: A+

Magician: Apprentice

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The first third or so of Magician: Apprentice lulls you into thinking it’s going to be a small story of a young man, Pug, and his titular apprenticeship to become a magician in a fantasy world. But events pickup, the entire world is threatened, and the scope expands rapidly. Events occur in this first book of a series that it’s obvious won’t pay off for books to come (at least, I assume—I haven’t read the rest of the series yet). That’s good if you like grand stories, but a hair frustrating for my favor for compact narrative.

FuzzyCo grade: A-

Hatchet

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Hatchet is a young adult novel of unexpected wilderness survival. It’s got some time compression and coincidences for narrative compactness, and our young protagonist is perhaps a little more competent than he might really be. But he has successes and failures that feel realistic within that structure and keep the reader invested. And, you know, as an adult reader I read the thing in an evening.

FuzzyCo grade: A-

Lock In

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Lock In has two main elements that are both strengths and weaknesses.

The first is that John Scalzi has put quite a bit of detail into the back story of his scenario: a disease has ravaged the world and left vast swathes of the population locked into their own bodies, but with technological advances that also let them communicate online and through robot bodies. It’s good because you never feel that sort of hand-wavy pseudo-science of, say, a second rate scifi movie, but on the other hand, with all the scaffolding in plain view, it seems like a very coincidental set of circumstances to arrive at the same sort of scenario as one of those movies (sort of telepathy! robot bodies!).

The second is the plot itself, a murder mystery set in this new world and featuring a detective (a new FBI agent) who is himself a victim of this disease. Scalzi is good at nerd-friendly heroes who are very clever and achieve clever victories over their foes, which can be very satisfying to a puzzle-solving brain (like, indeed, my own). But again, there sometimes seems something just a little pat about the ending like the one this book has.

I see that the book is now described as book one of the “Lock In” series, but I’m happy to report that my cliff-hanger pet peeve was not triggered—the book stands along just fine.

FuzzyCo grade: A-