Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea

I'm a huge science-fiction fan. I've read sci-fi books and magazines since I was a little kid, and I'm showing no signs of slowing down now that I'm an adult. The list of great sci-fi writers is certainly a long one. I wouldn't try to list them all - I'm sure I'd leave someone out. But if I could list them all, Ursula K. Le Guin would be in among them. She is a uniquely original writer, who is unafraid of dealing with the unfamiliar. The characters in her stories are complex, yet easy to identify with, and they often deal with serious moral issues that have no simple solutions. No matter what unusual or far-flung elements she chooses to introduce, she always seems to focus on themes that are deeply, poignantly human.

Needless to say I really became excited when I saw that The Sci-Fi Channel was making a miniseries based on her Earthsea novels. I loved the Earthsea novels, which are set in a fantasy setting and written in a simple direct prose that makes them a great read for children and adults alike. Typical to Le Guin's style, these short novels are easy to read and understand, but are filled with genuinely involving characters who are wrought with serious moral dilemmas. Throughout the stories the characters always have to deal with the consquences of their actions, and although they grow, mature, and become wiser, there are never any perfect solutions or completely happy endings. (They're an uplifting read nonetheless.)

The Sci-Fi miniseries Legends of Earthsea, which aired earlier this week, boasted a cast of quality actors. It obviously received a more than adequate budget as the sets, costumes, and special effects were great. What it lacked were screenwriters and a director who had ever read the books or understood them in the least. I fully accept that when converting a book to the screen, many changes must be made. Some items must be left out, others added, and often elements must be altered in order to convey the message or theme more effectively. I never expected the miniseries to be just like the books or even be as good as the books, but the miniseries so completely lacked the feel of the original stories as to make me wonder why they bothered to call it Earthsea at all. None of the scenes were really true to the books. If they had just changed the names of the characters it would have been such a divergence from the original stories that I wonder if Le Guin could have sued for copyright infringement had they not paid her for the rights. It's not that it was completely lacking in entertainment value, but the characters were all goodie-goodies or super-evil, the resolutions all perfect and complete, and the magic so Harry Potterish that it seemed to contradict the actual intent of the original books.

I guess my only real complaint is that someone who watched the miniseries might actually think they got a glimpse of the great works of Ursula K. Le Guin. In the books the heroes make serious mistakes, the vilians have real human motivations, and even the fantasy elements of magic and dragons have 'realistic' components and consequences. Ultimately, the miniseries was simply its own thing and not at all representative of the books.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Keeping Up With It

I finally downloaded and started using Mozilla Firefox as my default browser. I'd been meaning to for quite some time. So far I really like it. It's sort of a minimalist browser that works similar to IE but without all the extra clutter. I've also been trying to learn bits about web programming for the last few months from sites like W3Schools. Not that I want to become a Web programmer, I just want to maintain my computer literacy skills.
For instance, a few weeks ago I made some minor adjustments to the default template for this blog, mostly resizing the margins so that the posts take up more of the screen. Less wasted space that way. It's set so it should adjust to the size of the window and hopefully it should look about the same regardless of what browser you use. Let me know if you like/dislike how it looks (or if you can even notice).
Once I get my new computer built I will probably make a partition or get an extra harddrive so I can learn how to use Linux. (Something else I've been meaning to do for quite some time.) I'm not ready to abandon Windows - I play too many games, but versatility is important. The other thing I would like to learn is how to program in Flash, but who knows when I'll get around to that.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

My New Rig

For the last several weeks I've been spending a small portion of my paychecks at newegg buying independent components in my never-ending quest to build the ultimate computer. I decided that buying my new computer piecemeal was the only way I would be able to afford a top-of-the-line computer. I've tried to be selective in my purchases, carefully weighing cost and performance. The regular reviews I found at Anandtech have been exceptionally helpful in the decision making process, and I think I've been able to select the best possible components at reasonable prices. Right now I have all the components to comprise the main computer itself, but I still am not ready to put it all together. My goal is to create a solid gaming rig that can also be used to edit and process digital video. (I have delusions of grandeur about someday becoming a Hollywood movie director.) Unfortunately, I'll be spending all of my expendable funds on Xmas gifts for the next few weeks. I probably won't get my weekly 'new component' fixation until the new year so I'll just write about components instead.

Here's what I have so far:
  • AMD Athlon 64 3500+, 512K, L2 Cache, Socket 939 Windows Compatible 64-bit Processor

  • MSI "K8N Neo2 Platinum" NVIDIA nForce3 ULTRA Chipset Motherboard

  • 1GB(512MBx2) 184-Pin DDR PC-3200 OCZ EL Platinum Revision 2 Dual Channel Memory

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional With Service Pack 2 Operating System

  • Western Digital Raptor 74GB 10,000RPM SATA Hard Drive (Model WD740GD)

  • Silver NEC 16X Double Layer DVD±RW Drive (Model ND-3500A S)
Theoretically, all that is enough to make a working computer, but I still need to get a case, monitor, keyboard w/mouse, and security software (at a minimum) before I'll put it all together. I could test it out now if I canabalize this computer but I'd rather wait since I'm giving this one to my wife. Of course, once I do get a few more components, I won't stop there. I also want a good video card, speakers, scanner, printer, camera, video software . . .