Friday, November 30, 2007

Go Suns!

Jack McCallum spent a year with the Phoenix Suns and wrote about it in his outstanding book :07 Seconds or Less. My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns. This wonderful book shows what it is like to play professional basketball in the NBA. Players and coaches all appear in this book and it is a great way to see what happens behind the scenes, and the work that the average fan doesn't see. The fact that coaches spend up to 18 hours a day in each others company talking basketball for seven months of the year, the trainer whose job it is to make sure players equipment, bags and the such get from city to city, and the great job of making sure players don't get into trouble on days off.
You also see the pain, and pressure players are put under when they play for a championship contender.

Overall a great read, it's taken me about a day to finish it. One for basketball fans, and sports fans. By the way the title refers to how long the Suns are expected to pass the ball around in offence before taking a shot.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Assassin's Creed by Ubisoft Montreal is an amazing game that takes predominately takes place in the Holy Lands in the year 1191 during the Third Crusade.
The character you play Altair (الطائر, Arabic, "The Flying One"), a member of the Hashshashin cult, is tasked with killing nine prominent people who are propagating the crusade.

The story takes place in Acre, Jerusalem, Damascus and Masyaf. Each city is accurately depicted and true to the period the game is set in. Also all the people that Altair assassinates are historical figures who either died or disappeared in 1191, though not necessarily through assassination.

The game itself is outstanding, and the producers should be highly praised for the inventiveness shown in this game. The way Altair interacts with the environment and the slowly unfolding conspiracy all point to the amount of work the programmers have put into this product. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

And if you are looking for more information on the Hashshashin cult try reading The Assassins. A radical sect in Islam by Bernard Lewis.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Now that the dust has settled and a new government has been swept into power its time to think about the process we just went through. Politics in Australia has degenerated, like in many other countries, to a battle for the middle ground. Safe politics were you don't have to stand for anything, therefore your platform is an amorphous blob as well as a 'small target'.
I demand more from the people I want running my country, I want them to stand for something, I want them to make a difference. Instead my cynicism is in full blown attack mode as another centre party takes the stage. This election campaign has been BEIGE and I'm sick of beige politics.
It's clear in my mind that right and left have no meaning in discussions of political ideology anymore. I find the terms limiting and blinkered, and lead to 'turf' wars that avoid solutions and focus on terminology. We should be encouraging our politicians to try and be forces for change, and innovation, not sound bites that have to stay 'on message'.
There are some obvious problems facing Australia's future, and they don't have anything to do with interest rates, unemployment, and the economy. Indigenous Australians and the environment are two challenges for the future. Our new PM has promised to apologise to Aborigines and sign Kyoto. I hope his plans go deeper than that, both these issues are complex and need leadership to start the process for improving the situation, and for too long they have been ignored by major politicians and deserve more than symbolic actions to set them right.
As you have probably guessed I haven't voted for a major party since I voted for Paul Keating. (He was never beige).
So, keep watching your elected reps. closely and make sure they are striving to make this country better.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Saga of Seven Suns

Kevin J Anderson writes science fiction. He writes different types of science fiction. He is at his best when he is writing space opera though, and the Saga of Seven Suns is just that.
Starting in book one called, Hidden Empire, the series is at least six books long now with no signs of finishing yet.

If you like large series with lots of characters, political intrigue, dangerous actions and general skulduggery, then this is what you are after. Anderson likes to work on a large stage, and the Saga of the Seven Suns is a LARGE stage. Be prepared to remember lots of character names, and places.

Overall though I do like these books and can say fans of science fiction should enjoy them as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Desert War

Reading Robin Neilland's Eighth Army has given me a greater appreciation of what my grandfather did in the Second World War.
My grandfather lowered his age and joined up and was sent to training in Palestine, before fighting against the Vichy French in Syria, and the Germans in North Africa. My grandfather was a stretcher bearer, and the Australian forces he served with were part of the Eighth Army.

Neilland's book follows the Eighth Army from its beginnings in North Africa until the end of the war in Italy, and focuses on the battles it fought in, and the units that made it up.

One of the great things about the Eighth Army was its multicultural nature, units from Australia, England, Scotland, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Poland, France and Italy all fought in it at one time or another.

This has been a great read, that has plenty of interviews with soldiers involved with the Eighth Army which helps to bring out the character of this important moment in World War Two history.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Death

I recently re-read The Death of Superman and it reminded me of what a big deal it was. Sure superheros had died before, but here was the first, and greatest, dead.
The story itself is not to bad, Superman sacrifices himself to protect Metropolis from Doomsday, after the JLA are swept aside by this new foe.

News services around the world reported about the death of Superman, and no comic event since has generated this amount of interest. One of the most recognisable icons in the world was dead.

Of course he came back, three days later in fact, highlighting the similarities with the Christ story.

Have a look and see that heroes can die.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Playing Video games

OK, I'll admit it, I like to play video/console games. For some reason mainstream society cannot seem to admit that this is an acceptable pastime and yet and some point nearly all of us have played one.
And the industry has come a long way since Pong, Space Invaders and Frogger. More and more designers are trying to push the boundaries of how computer games work, trying to increase the immersiveness, and trying to tell interesting stories.
One major hurdle to this is the lack of a proper rating system for games in this country. The government repeatedly refuses to bring in a system similar to movies that would include an R rating, rather than banning games it considers to be too violent etc. Statistics show that the average age of gamers is 25-35 and getting older, yet these adults cannot chose for themselves whether they would like to play certain games. Who said censorship was dead?
But, I can hear you saying, violent video games lead to violent children! This old canard has been brought out many times, yet there is no concrete evidence to support it. But you will continue to hear it. Using myself as an example I've killed millions of people/aliens/robots and God knows what else and feel no urges to go on a killing spree. In fact I think I'm calmer because of this. I've also driven thousands of cars at high speeds, and through pedestrians (in Carmageddon), and have yet to incur a speeding ticket, or be involved in an accident.
I consider myself a fairly average member of society, and I can tell the difference between reality and fiction, just like the millions of other people who play video games.
Now I'll get off my high horse and tell you about some great blogging that's being done about games. One of the best, and one I'll add to my blog roll, is by N'Gai Croal and called Level Up.
Croal is a great writer whose passion for his chosen topic is evident in every post, and it is a great way to find out what is happening in the world of video games.
So approach gamers, and video games with an open mind and you may just be surprised.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Go Forth ...

This series of weekly picks were found reading One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre, while listerning to The Who Live at Leeds.
They then read New York. Life in the Big City by Will Eisner.


Ever wondered what it feels like to be a professional sports star in America? Then check out Gilbert Arenas' blog called Agent Zero (after the number he wears).
Arenas is a superstar in the basketball world and a genuine character, he calls out 'Hibatchi' when he shoots 3 pointers.

He has a great sense of humour, and is one of the few players to wear low cut sneakers.

Anyway check out his blog and enjoy the fun, and madness.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Moore and the Swamp

I have been recently reading Alan Moore's run on The Saga of the Swamp Thing, and marveling at his writing. Moore has always been an impressive writer, but there are times when he constructs a phrase that stops you cold, and you have to read it again.
For example in this run Moore describes the Flash like this, "a man who moves so fast that his life is an endless gallery of statues." One sentence and Moore has cut to the heart of the character.
The Swamp Thing is another tragic character who is at first searching for his humanity, but later learns to accept what he has become, an earth elemental tasked with protecting the Parliament of Trees. (The group consciousness of all plants on Earth.)
Moore's writing is great and i found myself wanting to read just one more page before putting it down. Moore will also make you think, as this series is a long discussion about what makes a person human, and what makes a person a hero.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

English History

Warren Ellis has written an account of the battle of Crecy, which has great black and white art from Raulo Caceres and is called Crecy.
The narrator is one of the nameless archers who make up the English army, and by the end of this graphic novel you will know a lot about archery. The battle itself is famous for really beginning the decline of the knight as a weapon of war.

12,000 English faced 86,000 French knights and mercenaries. By the end of the battle somewhere between 40 and 400 English soldiers had been killed, while the French lost 30,000 troops. This figure included eleven princes, 1,200 knights, King Philip's brother Charles, and King John of Bohemia.

The English longbow had triumphed and would pave the way for other missile weapons which still dominate battlefields today.

The story itself is well told and only takes up around 44 pages, and the narrator is an interesting fellow who is almost outside time as he looks to the future, and the past.

If you wanted to be critical you could say that it is an English writer looking back to a time when England actually mattered in the world, but I wont. Overall a great read.