The Coldest City vs Atomic Blonde

***Spoiler Alert***

If you haven’t watched the movie or read the graphic novel, come back later.

Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 spy tasked with unmasking the secrets of double agent Satchel/Stachel in Cold War Berlin. Set during the days leading to the fall of The Wall in 1989, our heroine must locate a list with the names of the secret agents in the area. When the British lose control over the material, they fear it will pop up in Moscow or the Black Market. Satchel/Stachel may be the broker of the information but he/she may also be the reason for the leak. Who can you trust in a city full of duplicitous intent?

Atomic Blonde borrows from the original story to give us an action packed, girl power romp, full of suspense, 80s cosplay, and intrigue. However, the original character was not blonde, was not associated with the CIA, and is not involved in as many car chases and staircase hands on combat as Charlize Theron’s version. The graphic novel is in black and white, blending the environment in the background without having to be bothered with the music and cultural accoutrements of the times. Whereas the movie is all 1980s neon noir, the novel is dark, crisp and sleek. It is about the narrative, not the visuals. The spies should blend in, not stand out, to perform their jobs successfully.

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For the most part the story flows in the same direction. Perceval is not a punk/counter cultural young gun but rather an old and distinguished station leader. With a more subdued demeanor, it is neither hard nor easy to read malicious intent in his words. Not enough info is there to pass judgement early on and claim he is a double agent, much less leader of any gang or Ice Men. If Lorraine ever had physical proof that he was the leak, she burnt it or disposed of it, just like in the movie. We learn of this after the briefing ends and closer to the end of the book with no further action or interaction with the Russians. It ends with the twist, which may be hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film prior to reading the material.

The entire Spyglass storyline is used as a distraction in the novel but has a bit more meat in the screenplay. He knew the names, proof that the list was real and tangible, vs in the novel where he never actually confirms he even handled it. The character fades into the background quickly, and is assassinated to prove a point: Lorraine and Perceval have been made. French agent Pierre Lasalle comes into the fray claiming to have proof of Perceval’s betrayal, but we soon we are shown that the perpetrator of the double cross had been our Atomic Blonde all along.

It is worth mentioning that Delphine’s character was supposed to be Pierre but it was updated to make the story a bit more unique. Again, the movie was about the visual component of the story, and it needed a bit more flair to stand out from the pack of love stories that accompany the 007 rhetoric. Also, there is no apparent romantic link between James Gascoine (the agent that is killed during the opening sequence) and Lorraine in the novel. She isn’t ties down to a man, family or any other element that would explain her origin story or motivation. You are not given any information about who she is and what drives her. The director had carte blanche to develop her on screen as he saw fit, and he made her three times more fierce than drawn.

There are other minor differences that don’t change the storyline too much. Some of the extra conspirators, like the kids in East Berlin are added to expand on the atmosphere of the times and provide some historical commentary. They also provided a means to add German actor Til Schweiger into the plot which is always a treat for the movie buffs and nerds. (See the blog post on Atomic Blonde for more info on the movie.)

In the end, both versions are entertaining in their formats. Overall, an avid reader and movie buff as myself can get through both in an evening. I was not disappointed by either nor have reserved criticism for the sake of argument. I found both formats entertaining and relevant. Girl Power all the way. Enjoy Atomic Blonde, The Coldest City and prequel The Coldest Winter if you are interested in researching the subject further.

Happy hunting! 😎

 

Ozark (Netflix)

“Their last resort.” A clever tagline for a show that keeps painting its main characters into a corner. It isn’t enough that the Byrde family had to flee Chicago to save their lives from Mexican Cartel lord Del Rio; their arrival at the Ozarks got them more drama than they could handle.The bad luck never stopped following them, and as a family, now they have to figure out how to launder 8 million dollars to save their own hides.

MV5BODIyNzk5NDg5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE5NjA5MjI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Marty (Jason Bateman) made a deal with the devil and now his accounting skills can’t save him from his own ambitious plans. Thinking that the vacationing town could provide a decent money laundering front, he sets for the promise land only to find it was a bust. The local poppy farmers have cornered the illegal business market forcing Marty to change his approach. A hotel, strip club, a church, and a funeral home later, his scheming is so convoluted that even the FBI can’t figure out his strategy.

Ozark also stars Esai Morales as Del Rio, Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde. It is streaming now on Netflix.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

A few years ago I met a guy that works at JPL. We all treated him like a rock star and with reason: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is every engineering nerds dream job, right up there with Skunk Works and Disney’s Imagineers. My pal has pictures with every actor and director involved in space movies, as their mock ups are borrowed and used in films like Interstellar and Armageddon. Shortly after meeting him, his team told me they were hiring. Had I read Donna Shirley’s Managing Martians sooner, I would have been all in, even if it meant moving to Pasadena, CA.

Asking around, I knew there had to be more stories about the women that worked there. What I wasn’t expecting was that there would be so many! You see, depending on the statistics and who you ask, there is at least 18% of women in engineering. Companies like GE want to #BalanceTheEquation and hire over 20,000 women into leadership positions. The cool part is JPL has been hiring women since the age of the human computers, and one of these women, Sue Finley, has actually been there so long she is one of NASA’s longest tenured employees. 50+ until her retirement in 2016.

The book itself features the story of a few of the women following them from the moment they got hired through multiple pregnancies, and rehirings. Women didn’t have the luxury of maternity leave so their opportunity to serve ended the moment they started to show. Barbara Paulson, Helen Ling, Macie, Margie, Sue, Silvia and Ginny stand out off the top of my head, with many more serving their country and science valiantly. Check out their stories and the cool satellite images inside the book. Nathalia Holt did a wonderful job relaying the story of these marvelous women. The Rocket Girls will always reign supreme; we honor their memory reaching for the stars, building atop their legacy.

To infinity and beyond!

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

Tropes are akin to stereotypes, except they are in reference to literature. As the book explains in its additional content, the rhetoric of some stories makes one feel as if we have already read it, even if we haven’t before. Damsel in distress, hero on a quest, magical characters that help you on your journey, and even the roles of characters in a fantasy world have been so overused that you already know where everything is going to end. Not original, and not cool.

This book aims to explore tropes to turn them upside down or actually give them a better perspective. The staff that curated the book even lists the stories and their tropes to help the reader understand every aspect of the narrative. The editors included pieces of poetry, sci-fi, fantasy and horror, not focusing on just one storytelling genre nor confining tropes to only one type of fiction. It is very entertaining to read the pages of non sequitur stories. Not one is alike another.

Take a look at the content pages and let me know what you think! I was very impressed with the quality of the writing and the twists and turns the stories took to represent global diversity and inclusion of all types of genders, age groups and races. That is the magic of writing to combat tropes, you have to use everything in your arsenal to build a complete and meaningful picture of the characters and events. There is something for everyone in its pages. A nice change of pace for avid readers, who like me, are tired of the same types of developments and endings.

Enjoy!

7 Things To Consider When Watching Game of Thrones (HBO)

The world of Westeros and the fourteen seas is unique in nature. Whatever occurs in that world is guided by a few misunderstood or overlooked principles. To be able to introduce magic, dragons and the undead, George R.R. Martin had to forgo traditional concepts, which was easier to do by using a medieval setting for his fantasy horror story. Such as:

1. The physics of A Song of Ice and Fire are unlike our own.

For winter to come and stay so long, the planet’s path around their sun is nearly impossible to calculate and ponder. When only half of the world is under snow, and in the reach of the white walkers, you have to realize it is only convenient for the storytelling. Therefore…

2. Magic exists in Westeros and Essos, and beyond its borders.

The Lord of Light being just one example of how faith and it can intersect to form powerful religions and rebellion. Traditional norms become a hindrance for the populace. Even those in chains now have a chance to be free. Which makes sense because…

3. The rulers of Westeros are men, thus patriarchal in nature.

The rise of Daenerys and Cersei as ruling Queens, and the presence of Oleanna, Margery, Arya and Ellaria as strong strategists and warriors, challenges the status quo. In a wat, George decided to bring the patriarchy down by employing women in power as the antidote to the quarrels of men. Ruthless and cruel, their methods surpass those of their male counterparts and inspire fear and respect in ways never considered for the women of that world. Even Gilly has surprised viewers with her awareness of the situation, leading Sam down the right path. Which reminds me…

4. Because there is magic, unexplained, the medical progress and technology are still behind the times.

Salves, prayers, forbidden books. Medicine in Westeros is not existent. Short of Maesters experimenting with techniques, there is no cooperative effort to further healing or treatments of ailments with magic or science. Education is left to the men and elite only, which is why it takes such a long time to come up with saving graces. Sam’s initiative may have saved a Lord, but so many more could have been saved if the people of the Seven Kingdoms were better acquainted with the science of their world.

5. Dragons can be commanded by more than one person.

Assuming Drogon stays loyal to Dany, Viserion or Rhaegal can abdicate and join forces with another dragon rider. It was common in the olden days to have both male and female riders, and depending on the training, the dragons could be used in battle to coordinate tactical attacks. There is a chance that there could be a dragon with the Night King’s army but so far, that is only a fan theory.

6. Don’t forget that George promised death and destruction as the end of the series.

For years, George has declared that in the end everyone dies, which either results in all folks becoming white walkers, or a few people escaping to Essos if winter doesn’t extend over there. Expect the death and gore to escalate, until we are more horrified than content with the subject matter.

7. The prophesy of the Prince was ammended to keep the ending open to any possibilities.

In the books there is talk about one of Rhaegon’s children being left alive. The story arc there was to marry the surviving nephew with Daenerys, way before it was revealed that Jon Snow was a Targaryen. The problem here is that Jon is very much a bastard either way, so he has no claim to any throne. Most likely Sansa will have to assume the role of Warden of the North, while the rest of the women fight to rule without a king by their side. The ultimate feminist dream. A world ruled by women.

Note: With no wildfire or care for the White Walkers, Cersei will play a role in getting everyone distracted from the real issues. It will be interesting to see if women are the cure for the strife in Westeros and beyond or if under their thumb it will burn and consume itself.

Enjoy!

“We all made it to Hall H”

Comic Con International at San Diego is the stuff legends are made out of; people line up by the thousands to earn a spot at the coveted panels, signings and celebrity appearances. Marvel and DC shell out big bucks to let everyone know they are the biggest games in town on paper and film, backed up by the Disney and Warner Bros studios posses, respectively.

Because the SDCC is full of marketing and exclusive news and previews about everything comic and book related, attendees go through great lengths to maximize their experience. “We all made it to Hall H” is the mantra chanted by all, attendees, writers, producers, directors, cast and crew, all alike, all as proud to be there. Everyone at the Con does their best to make the journey memorable since we are all in!

There are a few hacks and tricks you can use to ensure a spot at the coveted line, especially for Friday and Saturday. These are the days were most bombs are dropped and the fans are treated to never seen before antics, trailers, previews, and announcements. It’s not easy but with some effort and cunning, you can make this dream come true.

1. Procure a badge at all cost.

If you haven’t qualified through the lottery system, see Badge FAQ for details, there are people who will sell them to you online and on-site. Fair warning, the badges are non transferable and someone who sells them must provide you with the paper ticket and RFID badge to gain entry. If for some reason you get asked for your ID and it doesn’t match the name, the staff can remove/ban you and ban the person who is named on the badge. Some guests resort to sharing the same badge with family members and friends so they can go in and out the main hall during the day. Be careful and don’t draw attention to yourself if you are going to do so, and remember that only those with a badge can get wrist bands to reserve their spot in line for Hall H.

2. Share the responsibility of standing in line with a group of people.

Since you need a badge to get the wristband, people in line have to ensure they save the spot in line continuously for up to 24 hrs before the doors open. However, you are in luck! Comic Con is notorious for altruistic gestures and people are willing to cooperate to secure a seat in the coveted Hall H. If you have a small entourage, or are on your own, tweet, send FB posts, and attempt to gather allies via social media to take shifts. One human can save the place in line for up to 5 humans total, so there is no need to be there at all times. Just make sure no one leaves the site unattended, and that you are all present by 7:30pm the night before the event to get the band. Everyone must be in line again by 7:30am to be let in during the first seating. Miss this deadline and you will need to…

3. Have a good cover story to be able to rejoin the line or reenter the Hall H line and area if you missed the queue and have the band.

I admit my friends and I had to step away from the line and Hall for different reasons, and we all got back in through different methods. Ask a supervisor if you missed your group in line and they will help you only if you have a band. If you don’t and got into the hall anyway, make sure you get a pass to leave the area and return or they will not grant you access. Hall H is so popular people line up after it has filled up with the hope of filling up the spots of those who vacate the premises. Some people leave and trade the badge, with the exit pass, so someone else can enjoy a panel. This is done as a thank you for helping with the line or just cause. If they catch you though, the consequences will be dire for all involved. Proceed with caution.

4. Bring cash or food. It is a long haul.

Because you cannot easily procure food in Hall H or go outside and come back with sustenance, you will need to either suck it up or bring your own food into the place. If you have kids, make sure you equip yourself with whatever you need to survive, and drop off minors under 12 at the daycare. You can get a pass to tend to your kids amid breaks. It’s doable but you need to keep track of time or they will not let you back inside.

5. If all else fails, volunteer or get a job running security.

You may not get assigned to Hall H on your first run but if you network and prove your worth, you may get a shot. Check which company the convention center has hired for security and join the staff. There’s not a lot of other options past this other than…

6. Getting a pro or press pass.

If all else fails, become a bona fide member of the press or star in/create content that becomes popular and gains you notoriety worthy of a pass. Blogs, articles and freelance writers can request passes to the event, or they can apply for a table at artists ally or the exhibitor hall. You will need to prove your worth so plan accordingly. If you are there with the power players chances are you will score reserved seating.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Sunlan Star Wars Lego Exhibit – Portland, June 1 to Sept 1

We went to North Portland for brunch at Miss Delta’s (which was closed for a staff event) and we ended up at Radar. While we waited, we walked around the corner and found this gem at Sunlan:

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Made as a tribute to Ira James Newell, the friend that helped him build all the Lego Star Wars sets featured on the shop’s windows, Dennis had this collection set up for the enjoyment of the public. My 13 year old nephew wanted to see an AT-AT Lego walker and when we saw it he was overjoyed!

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Please swing by, enjoy this display, and sponsor the store. 🙂 Star Wars geeks must spread the word!

Hawken (PS4)

As a PS+ member, I like to look for value titles to justify paying the yearly subscription and Hawken didn’t disappoint. Set in some soet of post apocalyptic or future world where everyone can pilot a robot (or so I think, it wasn’t clear to me), you get combat peers and AI to earn points and credits to purchase and upgrade your mechs. Touted as an easy trophy game, with about 8 to 10 hours worth of effort, it is an entertaining mech shooting game playable online. (In less than 4hrs playtime you can be at a 70% completion rate.)

The short time span to get the trophies won’t rob you of replay value as the mindless exchange of gunfire and explosive weaponry is highly entertaining with really cool mechanics. The robots are really easy to maneuver.

You start with the CR-T, a trainer robot, and are tossed into the firefight without any training. (See PSN Trophies – Hawken for tips and information.) Once you survive the first couple of rounds, the AI lets you go back to the main screen to customize your robot and train it. You can unlock many mech types with the in game currency you win or by purchasing currency. PS+ members have access to a package that includes the Nief, a small and fast attack bot that is a crowd favorite due to its firepower and bargain status. Experienced players recommend that you work your way towards the Reaper and Marauder classes to be able to obtain all the achievements with the minimum time and cost. Time is money after all…

Enjoy!

Introverts Can Make The Best Historian

I have spent my entire life documenting events, observations, experiments and knowledge in general. Written articles, videos, pictures, social media posts and collectibles, each piece of information is catalogued and stored in the vaults of my mind waiting for the day they are summoned. Each neuron takes its job very seriously preserving, as much of the moment as humanly possible, linking it to all the tangible proof in my keepsake boxes.

My mastery of keeping records was born from a need to treasure those items that would remind an older version of myself where I had been and where I was heading. Shy and not as photogenic with my unruly hair and Hermione-esque demeanor, I didn’t feel fully comfortable in front of the lens. Pictures may be worth a thousand words but a ticket stub or graduation program can hold dates, times and the names of those present when a shot couldn’t. The more inputs surrounding a milestone, the more reliable the memory of it. What would be the point of retaining all this data if it was incomplete? Half truths can be as worse as a full-fledged lie.

Armed with my camera, now smartphone, and an eye for catching people off guard (al naturel), I was invited to document most of my early years. Many kids have pictures from the parent’s point of view, except me. Most of the prints we have at home were taken through the lens of my equipment. All the smiles, giggles and hand gestures were directed at moi. That was the funniest and exhilarating part of my job as a historian. Getting the right reaction to match the importance of the light caught on film. Later in life I was summoned to unofficially capture weddings, showers, birthdays, get togethers, Halloween costumes, trips, Christmases and holidays. My data store of pictures runs into the hundreds of Gigabytes. (Which are back up in quadruplicate just in case.)

Because of this extensive library of recorded facts, opinions and data, my friends contact me when no one else can recall a particular moment or action. You’d be surprised as to how easily I have been able to track down a teacher, friend or witness to any of their past deeds. Pals joke I should work for the FBI, NSA or CIA. For the life of me I cannot remember a single occurrence of someone thinking I didn’t know, even when I was clueless, because somehow they thought I had all the answers. (Google helps locate what I may be missing, solidifying the myth that I do know everything.)

My new house is decorated with many of those wonderful stops along the way. This blog is also wrought with many of the knowledge, wisdom, sorrow and joy of the events that shaped who we are today. An entire generation grew up with me, savoring the same morsels of technological improvement, and we had the opportunity to set it all in modern tech stone. Although some memories can be painful to relive and access they are all valued as part of our journey together. My story doesn’t stand alone which is why it was important to preserve as much of it as I could. Growing up is never easy but having recollection of how we got to where we are can help us steer the ship in the right direction.

Please back up your data in any way, shape, form and method you can think of. It is the only evidence that we have lived; that we endured.

Hugs!

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