Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oedipus update

I have a couple new developments to report about Oedipus.

Firstly, the 1st LDD rough draft of the computer is complete.  Here are pics of him in action.

Practicing his Iron Man/kung-fu/whatever you want to call it.

Hand details.  His thumb is on the bottom.  He doesn't have a wrist.  Notice the gun built into his hand (flashlight if you want to think of something more G-rated).
Leg details.  Part of his "organs" are exposed.  His foot can move separately from the rest of the leg.

Remember in the story how the computer was constructed out of various different computer parts?  Some details of how that description plays into the Lego version of the computer.
That black box in the middle of his forearm is a computer.
In his armpit he has that microchip/panel thingie that you can find whenever you open most computers.  Although it doesn't look like one, that slope on his arm is a speaker.
His head, of course, is an oversized monitor.
Minifig to the computer size comparison.  This is a rather unfortunate flaw in my model of the computer. See, in the story, the computer was about 2.5 to 3x the height of a man.  Here he's taller than 4 of them...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fahrenheit 451

The temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns...

Recently, I got to Fahrenheit 451, a classic of American literature if ever there was one.  In Ray Bradbury's futuristic tale, firemen have the job of starting fires, although in multiple ways Fahrenheit 451 is no longer so futuristic.  Sure we aren't burning books yet, but how many of us are reading them?  Would the majority of America's population rather read a good novel or watch an innocent program on their big-screen TV?

In F. 451, books are illegal and "firemen" are tasked with the job of burning them and the houses which contain them (above a member of the RDA corporation takes a torch to Fahrenheit 451 in the beautiful rocky Pandora mountains.  Yahoo, Whoopeee!!).  The goverment's idea is that books make people think about weighty topics, and weighty topics make people argue.  When people argue, they become unhappy.  How do you get rid of this unhappiness?  Burn the books.  Social equality is also important.  "You always dread the unfamiliar," says Beatty, a fireman.  "Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally 'bright', did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him.  And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours?  Of course it was.  We must all be alike.  Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal.  Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against... White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Burn it.  Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs?  The cigarette people are weeping?  Burn the book.  Serenity, Montag.  Peace, Montag.  Take your fight outside.  Better yet, into the incinerator."

Guy Montag, another fireman and the central character of the book, is taught by Beatty that books are pointless and an evil obstacle to all men's goal of happiness.  Guy has never questioned the system of the firemen until he meets a young woman, who talks about old times when firemen supposedly put out fires instead of starting them.  Then, one night, Guy finds himself stealing a book from a house.  He attempts to read it with his wife, who represents the modern day, clueless, media-obsessed twit.  Ray Bradbury does a fantastic job of making the reader detest the wife and her friends just as much as Guy does.

The book is a treasure chest of quotes, figurative speech (which I found a little distracting at times), and themes to ponder.  Some of my favorite quotes:

"It was pretty silly, quoting poetry around free and easy like that...Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he's the Lord of all creation.  You think you can walk on water with your books."

"He stepped into the bedroom and fired twice and the twin beds went up in a great simmering whisper, with more heat and passion and light than he would have supposed them to contain.  He burnt the bedroom walls and the cosmetics chest because he wanted to change everything, the chairs, the tables, and in the dining room the silverware and plastic dishes, everything that showed that he had lived here in this empty house with a strange woman who would forget him tomorrow, who had gone and quite forgotten him already, listening to her Seashell Radio pour in on her and in on her as she rode across town, alone."

"Peace, Montag.  Give the people contests they can win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year.  Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information.  Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving.  And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change.  Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with.  That way lies melancholy..."

I lost most interest in the book a little bit after Beatty, to me the most interesting character in the book and in a lot of literature, exited (did anybody draw Satan/Bible as Beatty/books connections?), but the novel is very worth a read to fans of sci-fi or dystopian literature.  4.51 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Computer – LDD rough draft

Remember that story Oedipus I made such a big deal about?  Do you remember the Frankenstein monster cop-out character in it called "the computer"?  Well, now the computer is being recreated in real life, not by Oedipus, the fictional man behind its invention, but by that person who created both Oedipus and the computer.  Me.  And it's being built in Lego.  That's right.  I've been using a wonderful little program made by Lego to construct the computer with virtual bricks on, well, my computer.  "Lego Digital Designer"is completely free, so if you love building your own custom Lego models I highly recommend downloading it here.

Unfortunately, your not-so-virtual custom Lego models are not-so-free if you wish to order them and build them in real life.  In fact, custom models built in Lego Digital Designer cost about 2.5x as much as regular Lego models, which presents quite a problem if I want to order the computer and build him in real life (I do).  I'm almost finished with the 1st rough draft of the computer (as you can see, he's still missing hands), and the price Lego's asking from me is just about $60.  6000 divided by 250 pieces is 24 cents per piece says my calculator...

Here are some pics of the computer taken in LDD.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My favorite books

A notice: This list is seriously outdated as of 2013 and may or may not be refreshed at some future point.

My top 10 (in no particular order after the Bible)
The Bible
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (especially Mockingjay)
Harry Potter and the ___ by J.K. Rowling (especially The Deathly Hallows)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
LOTR by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles (Especially Oedipus Rex)
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Also a good movie)
Holes by Louis Sachar (The movie, scripted by the author himself, is even better than the book!)
The Giver by Lois Lowry

* The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles - Sophocles is the Shakespeare of ancient Greece.  The characters of his plays are full of sarcasm and wit.  It's no wonder Oedipus Rex inspired me to write the sci-fi drama Oedipus.
* The Odyssey of Homer
* The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
* The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis- "Readable" Christian literature.  Written in a curious format.
(In order of favoritism) Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare


* The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
* Coraline by Neil Gaiman
* The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster- In the same weird, playfully illogical genre of Alice in Wonderland, this is actually better than Lewis Carroll's classic.
* The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan (particularly the 1st five books)- The Rangers are like the Batmen of medieval times.  Strong, stealthy, agile, intelligent.  15 year old orphan Will wishes to be a warrior like his father, but he's too small for the job.  Instead, he's taken in as an apprentice to the gloomy Ranger Halt.  Halt trains Will all the arts of the Rangers: archery, stealth, horseriding.  I particularly like the way that the author develops the characters in the story.  Books 1 and 2 were definitely the best, book 3 was just depressing, book 4 was an utterly pointless action novel (but enjoyable if you're into medieval fantasy warfare), book 5 was good, and book 6 was just okay.  I stopped reading after book 6 because I got the impression that this series, unlike Harry Potter or LOTR, was never going to end.  Will is always going to have another adventure, another bad guy to fight...
* Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
* The Prydain Chronicles
 * Animal Farm by George Orwell


* The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins- Won't be everbody's cup of tea.  Every year, 12 districts of Panem, a country built over the ruins of America, are forced to send into an arena 2 teenagers each who will fight for fame, fortune, but mostly for the entertainment of the the capitol of Panem (think of Theseus and the Minotaur, or the Romans' cruel exploitation of Christians and slaves in the Coliseum).  There can only be one victor/survivor, and the gladiators must use every bit of their resourcefulness, courage, and strength to become that person.  In the year of the 74th Hunger Games, a 16 year old girl Katniss Everdeen from district 12 substitutes herself for her younger sister when she is chosen as a tribute.  The violence in the arena is brutal, much of the action is nightmarishly realistic, and there's some mild romancey stuff here and there.  Definitely expect a PG-13 rating when the movie comes out.  So I don't recommend the book for young readers, although 12+ year olds shouldn't have a problem with it.  The most distinguishing thing about the series is probably the strong themes of heroism and selflessness that the author creates.  When the characters are supposed to be admirable, they come across as heroes to the readers.  The 2nd book in the trilogy, Catching Fire, is even better than the 1st.  The 3rd and final installment, Mockingjay, has a far different tone than the others and is much more philosophical.  Obviously it's my favorite, but all the books are good.
* Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card- This is a brilliant story about child geniuses who are forced to go through military training in space because humanity needs to find the next Mazer Rackham, a man who in his youth saved Earth from an alien conquest by "The Buggers".  A very thought-provoking book.  Begs the reader to think about serious questions like "should we use the abilities of individual humans to help humanity as a whole, or are the lives of the individuals more important than the masses'?".  Or "should we make war against a civilization with which we cannot communicate".
* 1984 by George Orwell
* Jurassic Park, Sphere, and State of Fear by Michael Crichton

* None.  I don't think I've even read a true romance book, unless you count the 2nd and 3rd Eragon books (which by the way are not on my favorites list). : /

* Holes by Louis Sachar- One of the greatest kid books ever written, and, as I said earlier, the movie is one of the very few which has matched or surpassed its source novel.
* Schooled by Gordon Korman

* The Halo Enyclopedia (reviewed here)
* The Book Thief (also reviewed here)