Friday, May 15, 2015

'Salems Lot

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King:

As amazing as this book is, the more amazing thing is that it is only King's second book.

Carrie is good, but the difference between these two books is stunning.  It's almost like it was written by someone else.

Don't get me wrong Salem's Lot is definintely a King book, steeped in his personal style and tone, but it is so much fuller and complete than Carrie.

If you somehow don't know, the book concerns the events that take place when vampires start to take over a small town in Maine.

It is downright creepy in all the best ways.

I've never actually seen all of the movie that was based on the book [1], but I've seen a few scenes from it and those have been good and creepy as well.  It's my understanding that the movie is well worth the watch. [2]

I can confirm for you that the book is well worth the read.

It is firmly couched in all of the standard vampire tropes, but also has some less known ideas about these creatures of the night that, if not actually drawn from actual myths, feel like they should be becaus they fit so well with the established ones.

One thing I don't like about the book is the bleak ending.  I know that King said when he originally started to write it, he meant for the vampires to win in the end, but as the writing progressed the story changed.  While the good guys do "win", it isn't much of a victory and I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

Another interesting side note is how one of the main-ish character's end story is never resolved.  At some point, he shuffles out of the town and you don't hear from him again.  Which is interesting because nearly thirty years later King picks up the thread in an entirely different set of books almost as if he had known all those years before what he was doing.  [3]

The only other thing about the book that isn't the best, in my opinion, is how easily the main vampire dies.  Everything up to that point comes hard and costly to the protagonists, it's almost a let down the ease with which they finally do succeed.

Honestly, if you haven't ever read this book, you should give it a shot.

Salems Lot: A

[1] - Something I hope to rectify in the near future.
[2] - Which is often not true for King movies.
[3] - More likely the loose end in Salem's Lot was just that, which was just fortuitous serendipity years later.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Smart Phones

Smart Phones:

I currently have in my pocket the entirety of recorded human knowledge.

Okay, so maybe not the entire entirety, but pretty darn close.

And while I know the following comparison has been made before, that isn't going to stop me from making it again.

If you go back not terribly far in time you can find the TV show Star Trek.  We can stop pretty much anywhere along the timeline of Star Trek.  We can go all the way back to just before my arrival on this planet to the original series, or we can choose any of the later shows as well.

One of the cool things that the crew members all had was a communicator.  In the original series it looked like a non-streamlined flip phone.  In later series it was a part of the badge on their uniforms.  But either way it was sci-fi and "from the future".

Only now, everyone has such a device and the ones we have are much, much cooler. [1]

When the Star Trek crew would beam down to a planet, one member of the away crew would be lucky enough to carry a tri-corder.  Using this device they [2] could get information about the world around them.

I have to assume that the reason only one person was allowed to carry this was because it was either very expensive or very complicated to use.

If that original crew was to beam down to the sidewalk in any area in the U.S. today they would be woefully under-teched.  Essentially every person they saw would have a better device then the squad of people from the far future [3] and that includes the ten year old listening to the latest Taylor Swift song that they just downloaded two seconds earlier. [4]

Of course the Star Trek guys all had phasers, but let's be honest, they aren't going to shoot anyone anyway.  And if they did, it would just be to stun them.  So, they end up just being glorified tasers after all.

Smart Phones are an astonishing bit of modern life that we already take for granted.  It wasn't that long ago that they didn't even exist.  It's only a few years back and your best phone doesn't even connect to the Internet.  A few years before that and they don't even text.  A few years more and the device you use to stay connected when you are away from home is a pager [5] and when you are at home the top end phone will let you roam about, just as long as you don't get too far away from the base unit.  And finally a few more years back and the only phone you've got is connected to the kitchen wall with a twirly cord that's a knotted mess. [6]

Today's smart phone does it all.  In fact, if I have one complaint about them it's that we really need a new name for them.  Because of all the things that they do, acting as a phone is probably the one we use the least.

My Internet Surfing, texting, photo taking, music playing, memo writing, game playing, weather telling, news reporting, shopping center, dictionary, pedometer, electronic book, movie taking, flashlight, compass, video playing device that incidentally also works as a phone: A+

[1] - Actually I'm not sure if anyone actually sells cell phones that look like Star Trek badges.  I'm going to have to assume that it is possible.  After all we have people walking around with widgets stuffed in their ears looking like they are conversing with Lando. How hard would it be to add a speaker and pin it on your shirt.
[2] - Often Bones in the Original Series.
[3] - Okay not every person.  They would still have my mom outclassed, but what can you do?
[4] - While one of their crew is bent over a device three times bigger trying to peer into the view finder.
[5] - It's a thing.  Look it up and be astonished.
[6] - And let's not even go back that final step to a rotary phone.