Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Take on Peyton Manning

Last year's Superbowl was perfectly awesome for us living in the midwest, Especially for us living in Central Illinois. Really, being a resident of Illinois, you pretty much have to root for da Bears, and then in my hometown, which is only a 2 hour drive from Indianapolis, you've got your Colts fans.
Keep in mind, I'm not really a sports fan, but I can have fun.

During the Superbowl party I attended I was pretending to be a Bears fan just to annoy the Colts fans in attendance, when in actuality, I just thought it was cool to have 2 Midwest teams playing.

Okay what does this have to do with now? Well I found this website, that is a must visit for all sports fans (regardless of your team affiliation). It's mannings mind. com This site is perfect for sitting at work with idle time, or anytime you feel like showing off your smarts, and you want to challenge Peyton Manning. It gives fans the chance to match wits with one of the fastest brains in football via an online quiz game. The site lets fans test their NFL knowledge and the speed of that knowledge against Peyton Manning. Mano a mano. Armchair quarterback vs. champion quarterback. Every second counts as you try to answer each question correctly and march your team downfield, complete with hologram players running across an illuminated game table. Manning is “alive” across the illuminated game table, jeering and interacting with opponents who dare to take him on.

You answer trivia questions such as: “Jason Elam's 63-yarder tied who's career record? Tom Dempsey, Mark Moseley, Wade Tollison” If you don't answer in time you'll get responses back such as: “You're going to have to be faster than that,” followed with a written message saying: “Take on the fastest brain in football.” Other responses include for correct answers, “Not bad for a rookie, I'll be waiting for you,” or for a wrong response, “That would be right if it wasn't so wrong.” Other messaging included in textual form include, “As soon as he thinks it, you see it.”

Forget about fantasy football, this site includes a standings page, rules page and players can send challenges to their friends.

Here's a youtube video for the tv spot:

Check it out:

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posted by Gil T. @ 12:52 PM Comments: 0

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book Review: “The Broken Bubble” by Philip K. Dick

While this may be yet another Philip K. Dick Novel, it is just a plain novel. Can you believe that? I was taken aback at first, I mean c’mon, this is the guy that brought us “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “A Scanner Darkly” and more. I was not aware of PKD writing anything non-science-fiction, but “The Broken Bubble” is not sci-fi. I will admit once I found that out I was almost ready to stop reading. I’m glad I didn’t. It turned out to be a very nice read.

“The Broken Bubble,” published in 1988, is the only “mainstream” novel of his to have been published. It was published posthumously, so maybe there will be more of these treasures discovered and released.

This novel is about 1950s San Francisco, and weaves in many characters showing how our lives are affected not only by those around us, but by even those we don’t know.

The part that kept me reading was the lead character, Jim Briskin. Jim is a DJ for radio station KOIF in San Francisco. Being an on-air personality at a radio station, myself, I really felt “in-tune” with the goings on in the character of Jim Briskin. However Jim has many life changing events that take place in the story that keep the reader rooting for this “everyman.”
It starts out with a sales manager selling an ad for one of those “crazy” used car dealers, “Loony Luke.” Luke wants to run his commercials every hour even during the classical music portion of the station’s programming. Looking at that almighty dollar the sales manager sees the sale and jumps on it. The next day when the commercials are set to air the fun begins.

Jim Briskin is the afternoon and evening DJ for KOIF. During the afternoons he runs a show called “Club 17” which plays the pop music for teens (realize this is 1956 and that this music is “rock-n-roll” what will lead to a cultural rebellion in teenagers), during the evenings it’s classical music for “the old ladies.” After running the “Looney Luke” commercial several times already (the commercial is one of those typical used car dealer yelling commercials, but this is the time in radio when most commercials are read live so Jim has to act like he’s enthused) it’s time to run the spot in the classical music program. At this point Jim says (live and on the air) “I can’t do this, I’m tired of this commercial.’ This act of defiance gets him suspended for 30 days and the adventures begin.

In this novel we are introduced to many characters that all become intertwined in a very touch human story. It’s funny but the main theme from this book is discovering true love and deciding when it is true.
Jim and his ex-wife Pat meet with a teenage married couple (fans of Jims show) Art and Rachel. Art leaves Rachel to have a whirlwind affair with Pat, and Jim Feels obligated to take care of Rachel (who is pregnant with Art’s child).

Many other characters become intertwined demonstrating the idea of how our lives are touched by more than is realized. The teenagers on the point of launching a rebellion, all gather around a central figure that seems to be a socialist and has a radio controlled car called “The Horch” which is used to create destruction.

The book gets its name from a side character Thisbe Holt. Thisbe is a stripper that entertains by becoming totally nude and crawling inside a huge bubble, like an adult version of a hamster ball. She then is rolled around among the men in an orgy of spectacle. The encounter which creates the broken bubble is one in which she is performing for a convention of optometrists and they get a bit rowdy. This scene is funny yet disturbing in many ways.

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posted by Gil T. @ 3:34 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

DVD Movie Review: "The Hoax"

I've got a question for all you writer's out there. How far would you go to make that big book deal? Would you lie, cheat and steal?

Well as told in "The Hoax," Clifford Irving did just that in order to sell a book. He had just been turned down by McGraw-Hill and was on his last leg, they even repossessed his couch. So during a weekend vacation which was originally scheduled to celebrate the book deal that didn't happen, Clifford and his friend, Dick Suskind get booted out of their hotel along with hundreds of other residents, just so Howard Hughes can stay in his hotel. This gives Clifford the idea to write Hughes' autobiography, the problem is that Howard Hughes doesn't know this is going to happen.

This is the story behind the story. The movie "The Hoax" follows the life of Clifford Irving from the moment he decides to write that fictional autobiography to getting caught and going to prison. I'm sorry to ruin the ending for you, but i think, like most historical movies, the ending is known. Just like in the movie Titanic, we all knew the boat would sink, it was the getting there that took us away from our real lives for awhile.

The movie creates the feel of the times with some great scenes with Richard Gere (Irving) and Alfred Molina (Suskind). Molina portrays Suskind as an unwilling participant, his nervousness makes for some very humorous scenes. But at the same time the tension of almost getting caught pulling the wool over the eyes of the publisher and Life Magazine feel very real to the viewer. Even though you know they got caught in real life, you're still on the edge of your seat actually hoping they don't.

One of the aspects throughout the movie are the loss of grasp of reality that Clifford Irving seems to have. Througout the movie we are seeing through his eyes. At times there are some mysterious communications that seem to happen betwee Howard Hughes (or his people) and Clifford Irving. But you never really know if they are real or not. This makes for the real fun in this movie. Not knowing at times if it really happened or not, and that is what makes this a must see movie. Oh that, and a little history lesson on Richard Nixon/ Watergate and Howard Hughes. This conspiracy aspect makes the movie something that you will talk long after the dvd is over.

The movie stars:

  • Richard Gere - Clifford Irving

  • Alfred Molina - Dick Suskind

  • Hope Davis - Andrea Tate

  • Marcia Gay Harden - Edith Irving

  • Stanley Tucci - Shelton Fisher

  • Julie Delpy - Nina Van Pallandt (Richard Gere appeared with the real Nina Van Pallandt in the movie American Gigolo (1980).

  • Eli Wallach - Noah Dietrich

  • John Carter - Harold McGraw

  • Christopher Evan Welch - Albert Vanderkamp

  • Zeljko Ivanek - Ralph Graves

Another aspect of this movie was the makeup used to make Richard Gere look like Clifford Irving the make up effects are subtle yet effective.

Okay with most dvds there are Easter Eggs, hidden little links that show some extra scene or whatever. This dvd is no different. If you go to the Bonus Features menu and highlight the top item in that menu, push your left arrow on your dvd remote. You will then see a Republican Elephant icon. If you then click on that you will get a picture of a tape recorder when you push play you can hear the opening titles theme song.

Also a little side, since you really can't get the book that Clifford Irving wrote and was almost published, you can download some excerpts of it from Clifford Irvings website.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:37 PM Comments: 0

Monday, October 22, 2007

Books and Beverages Book Review: "Sphere of Influence" by Kyle Mills

Get your Tassimo brewer ready and brew yourself up a nice Gevalia Cappuchino, because this book is going to keep you up all night, so might as well brew up the extra caffeine so your body can keep up.

After interviewing Kyle Mills I got a bit of an insight as to what makes FBI Agent, Mark Beamon tick. This book proves my thoughts. Mark Beamon is an unconventional FBI agent, putting the truth ahead of political expediency have resulted in a dead-end job in the Phoenix office. At least that's where we start out in this book which happens to be book four in Kyle Mills' "Beamonverse."

A new terrorist threat brings Beamon back from the desk job. A videotape proves that Al Qaeda is in the United States and has access to modern missile technology. The FBI suspects there is a connection between the Mob and the fanatics, and sends Beamon undercover with a fellow agent. When the other agent is brutally murdered, Beamon's attempts to trace the man who fingered them lead him into an international criminal conspiracy that may have roots in the CIA. As events plunge him into a river of deceit, he is forced to address the most important question of his life. What makes a crime a crime?

Beamon joins forces with with a master world criminal with unlimited power, Christian Volkov, and seems like a rogue/renegade FBI agent. After all, the mysterious force behind the Al Qaeda has made sure that Beamon is wanted in the US for the murder of Afghanis that were smuggling drugs to sell to the Mob. At times it seems as though Beamon himself doesn't know whose side he's on. But don't get discouraged, the hero is still a hero and Beamon comes out alright.

I think one of the fascinating things about this book was that it was originally completed 5 days before 9/11 and Kyle's editor sent the book back because by the time he had got to the manuscript 9/11 had happened. So Kyle had to go and do some rewrites and cut out some sections which closely resembled the attacks. In his "Beamonverse," Osama Bin Laden has been killed, but his second in command has taken over.

This book carries with it some great suspense, action, intrigue, espionage, basically everything you could want in a thriller. On his website, Kyle Mills says this may be his best book. Now, so far, I've only read this one and "Darkness Falls," and I'll have to agree that it could be either one of the books I've read. While "Darkness Falls" had you thinking this could happen, this book provides that and the fun of some global hopping and undercover crime fighting. I would love to see this book made into a movie and have Jeremy Irons as Christian Volkov and maybe Bruce Willis as Mark Beamon. I think that would be perfect.

Take another sip of that creamy cappuchino and enjoy this non-stop action thriller.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:38 PM Comments: 0

"300" the movie DVD Review

300 was was based on a five-issue comic book limited series by Frank Miller and Dark Horse Comics, the first issue published in May 1998. The issues were titled Honor, Duty, Glory, Combat and Victory. The series won three Eisner Awards in 1999: "Best Limited Series", "Best Writer/Artist" for Frank Miller and "Best Colorist" for Lynn Varley. The work was collected as a hardcover volume in 1999.

The comic was a very graphic depiction of the Greek/Persian Battle of Thermopylae in 480 b.c. This battle consisted of an alliance of Greek city-states who fought the invading Persian Empire at the pass of Thermopylae (Hot Gates) in central Greece. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the Persians for three days in one of history's most famous last stands. A small force led by King Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only road through which the massive army of Xerxes I of Persia (Xerxes the Great) could pass. After three days of battle, a local resident named Ephialtes is believed to have betrayed the Greeks by revealing a goat path that led behind the Greek lines.

The Greeks were represented by 300 hundred Spartan armed men who had had sons so their bloodline could be carried on. The Greek army also consisted of one thousand from Tegea and Mantinea, half from each place; one hundred and twenty from Orchomenus in Arcadia and one thousand from the rest of Arcadia; that many Arcadians, four hundred from Corinth, two hundred from Phlius, and eighty Mycenaeans. These were the Peloponnesians present; from Boeotia there were seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans. In the final battle, when it became clear that the Persians were going to win, most of the Greek allies retreated but Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers stayed to fight. Though they "knew that they must die at the hands of , they displayed the greatest strength they had.

The comic was criticized by some as having some historical errors, but I'd chalk that up to a little poetic license. After all it was a comic book and not a history book.
Also the comic and the movie focused on the 300 Spartans (thus the title) and the rest of the battle was pushed aside a little.

The movie stars:
* Gerard Butler as King Leonidas: King of Sparta
* Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo: Leonidas' wife
* David Wenham as Dilios: Narrator and Spartan soldier
* Dominic West as Theron: A corrupt Spartan politician
* Michael Fassbender as Stelios: Young and spirited Spartan soldier
* Vincent Regan as Captain Artemis: Leonidas' loyal captain and friend
* Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes: King of Persia
* Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes: Deformed Spartan outcast
* Andrew Pleavin as Daxos: Arcadian soldier
* Tom Wisdom as Astinos: Captain Artemis' eldest son
* Giovani Cimmino as Pleistarchos: Leonidas' son
* Stephen McHattie as The Loyalist: A loyal Spartan politician
* Peter Mensah as Persian messenger
* Kelly Craig as Oracle girl
* Tyler Neitzel as Young Leonidas
* Robert Maillet as Über Immortal (Giant)
(source IMDB)

One of the aspects of the movie I loved is that the cinematography kept to the comic book look. For those of you that read the books to Frank Miller's "Sin City" and saw the film you know that the surreal quality of the scenes was striking about that film. "300" is no exception, In fact many of the scenes were exact replicas of frames from the comic books. The filmed to be very yellow, everything was colored with a yellow hue. It really made the eye focus on several scenes, especially when in contrast to the red capes of the spartans.

I'm not sure what it is but when doing a Frank Miller book to movie staying with the look created by the comic book makes the film work. The process for this movie to keep that look to stay in the film meant that there was a lot of blue screen type filming done and lots of digitized effects. Knowing this somehow makes it so that I appreciate the acting just that much more.

The acting of course was superb, lots of fighting and action, but at the same time some world history involved. Many world history classes discuss the Battle of Thermopylae but seeing it in action really made the learning a little fun. Oops, I said learning. This is just supposed to be a movie. Well it can be that also.

So to sum up this film is a fun, dramatic, action, historical, artistic romp. A word of warning though, this is not for the kiddies. There are some nude scenes, and some gory battle scenes. At least the movie strayed some from the comic here, in that in the comic the Spartans were nude except for their helmets, shields, capes and swords, but for the movie they wore tunics.

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posted by Gil T. @ 4:03 AM Comments: 0

Friday, October 19, 2007

Book Review: Audio book "Minority Report and other Stories" by Philip K. Dick

In my search for more and more books by PKD, I ran across this audio book and had to give it a listen. During the reading/listening of this book I've come to discover how much I love audio books. I'll explain that in a minute, but first let me talk to you about the beauty of audio books and today's mp3 / iPod players. When I first saw this in the library it was all on CD. I didn't really want to have to lug around a CD player, after all I have an mp3 player and an iPod shuffle. So I first converted the book to mp3 format then imported to iTunes and converted to iPod's audio book format. I could have just imported it into iTunes but was at first going to play on my regular mp3 player, that is until I discovered a secret to iPods. That secret is that when you stop the audio book and then go to listen again iPod will start where you left off as if inserting a bookmark. On my mp3 player it would have taken me searching through the tracks to find where I left off. So then I converted to audio book (aac) format and I was off.

I really have found out how much I love audio books because of their versatility. I listened to this book while driving to and from work, during my mile (sometimes 2 miles) walk in the park, while showering, while doing laundry (yes I'm a 21st century man and share the housework, although it's never enough for my wife to appreciate. How did "housewives" do it all these years?) and I listened while mowing the lawn. So I was never without a book.

Okay now let's talk about this book. This is an audio book format only book; however you can get the stories in other collections, only this one has these stories together. I think it was released just after the movie "The Minority Report" because it has that movies star, Tom Cruise on the cover and that is one of the stories in the book. The book consists of 5 stories, 4 of which have been made into movies. I'll review the stories separately, so here goes.

In "The Minority Report," a special unit that employs those with the power of precognition to prevent crimes proves itself less than reliable. This story was the basis of the feature film Minority Report which starred Tom Cruise. This story covers the aspect that future crimes are prevented by a system of 3 precogs. They each file a “report” as to what will happen if 2 agree that is a “Majority Report” and the police are dispatched and arrest the would be criminal. However sometimes a “Minority Report” is filed and this is usually overlooked. Each precog has their view of an alternate future. This story brings up the concept of if we know the future can we change it. Some great twists & turns here. This story can also be found in the book (actual hardcopy book) “Minority Report” which consists of 9 short stories by PKD.

In, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," an everyman’s yearning for more exciting "memories" places him in a danger he never could have imagined. This story was the basis of the feature film Total Recall which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, I didn't see the movie because I never liked his films, I'm going to have to rent it and watch it now. Basically Douglas Quail wants to go to Mars because he has a boring life as a clerk. So he goes to Rekal, a company that can implant memories so you think you actually did something, such as take a trip to Mars as a secret agent. When the company is implanting the memory they find out that Quail actually did go to Mars as a secret agent. Interplan, the agency that sent Quail, does not want this secret to be known, and the fun begins. This story is also available in the book “The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol 2: We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”

In "Paycheck," a mechanic who has no memory of the previous two years of his life finds that a bag of seemingly worthless and unrelated objects can actually unlock the secret of his recent past, and insure that he has a future. This story was the basis of the feature film Paycheck, which starred Ben Affleck. The story involves an engineer, who, after working two years on a secret project, had those two years erased from his memory. He wakes up to find he traded away his paycheck for an envelope full of seemingly unrelated personal items. Each item serves a particular purpose or gets him through a situation that he saw in advance. The items are: A length of fine wire, A bus token , A ticket , A green strip of cloth, A code key , Half a broken poker chip and A parcel receipt. The fun is trying to figure how he will use each items to get back into the company he worked for and how he got the items in the first place. A little hint: Time Travel.

In "Second Variety," the UN's technological advances to win a global war veer out of control, threatening to destroy all of humankind. This story was the basis of the feature film Screamers which starred Peter Weller (Buckaroo Bonsai). This one gets really creepy. Basically the Russians have invaded; the UN has escaped to the moon leaving only armed forces and some factories on Earth. The factories create automated robots to destroy the Russians. Now the factory has created new varieties of killing machines and all humans are at risk. This story can also be found in “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3, The Father-Thing”

And "The Eyes Have It" is a whimsical, laugh-out-loud play on the words of the title. No movie was made of this story, and I really don't see how it could. I laughed so much listening to this one. This story is about a man who thinks aliens are invading because of something he's reading. It's never clear what he's reading but I think it's just a book. In this book simple descriptions like “All eyes were on her as she entered the room.” Create a thought in the reader’s head that aliens with removable eyes have invaded. And the plays on words get even funnier. This story can also be found in “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3, The Father-Thing”

One final note about all these stories, I think if they were to be submitted to publishers today, most would turn them down. They all feature a sneaky little twist at the end of the story, which made the TV series “The Twilight Zone” so popular.

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posted by Gil T. @ 3:31 AM Comments: 0

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Serj Tankian Elect the dead

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posted by Gil T. @ 2:05 AM Comments: 0

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" By Philip K. Dick

Yes I'm still on my PKD will be my Kyle Mills trend, but anyway, I'm continually amazed at the writings of PKD. (Yes, I've also learned to use his initials to make things easy.) His books have been used as the basis of many movies I'm now wishing that someone would make more from his other stories, including this book.

Before we get into the review first get that Tassimo beverage maker ready to roll, today we're going to brew up some herbal teas. At this point I'm having a difficulty in deciding which tea to go along with the book so I'll give you some choices and you decide which you need at which point. Now keep it herbal, because this book is dealing with some psychedelic material. You could start with Twinings® Green Tea and cleanse the body, but then you may need that extra boost to keep your body up with your not wanting to put the book down, so try Twinings® Chai Tea Latte or once again a soothing Twinings® Camomile Herbal Tea to relax when reality finally settles in.

Wow, where to start. First of all this book is yet again set in the future where Earth has problems and Mars has been colonized. But unlike other PKD stories, there's a twist. No one really wants to go to Mars, yet Earth's surface temperature has risen to where no one goes out during the day unless well insulated and Antarctica is a choice vacation spot. To get more colonists to Mars the UN has instituted a draft. When your number comes up you must emigrate.

Now in order to be able to tolerate the horrible, boring life on Mars the colonists have taken to a recreational drug called Can-D. This is known as a translation drug in which the user can translate themselves from their monotonous, labor intensive lives to a perfect world. The fun part of this is that they are translated into what are called layouts. The layouts are pretty much dolls in which the fantasy takes place. The dolls are Perky Pat and Walt. In a not-unlike Barbie world, the colonists escape to a beach house and live out the lives of the dolls.

While the drug is illegal, on Mars it seems to be overlooked to keep the colonists happy. Major business on Earth is conducted through a company called P.P. Layouts, whose sole function is to create accessories for the Perky Pat doll. The future of the company is decided through Pre-cogs (people who have pre-cognitive ability to predict what fashions will work for Perky Pat.) P.P. Layouts is run by Leo Bulero. His hired pre-cogs are Barney Mayerson and Roni Fugate.

In a humorous aside that is a good representation of some of PKD's humor, is that Barney and Roni have looked into the future and saw that they will be a couple so they just go to bed together and skip all formalities.

Now enter Palmer Eldritch. Palmer has returned from the Prox system and has returned with an alternative to Can-D. A substance he calls Chew-Z. Chew-Z gets approved by the UN and threatens to destroy Leo Bulero's business. So Leo goes to stop Palmer Eldritch. Leo is intercepted and is given Chew-Z intraveneously and this is where the psychedelia begins.

It seems Palmer Eldritch rules all hallucinations created by Chew-Z, and Chew-Z may enable the user to travel time. At this point the story twists and turns and really becomes one of the most magical drug induced hallucinations I've read since William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch." (this was written before "Naked Lunch.")

Throughout the rest of the book the fine line between hallucination and reality become so intertwined that I'm not even sure if PKD could tell you which was which. However I will say that Bulero attempts to kill Eldritch and then tries to stop him through the courts, but we never really know who wins.

Sip the tea, relax and enjoy, this book is full of some great twists and turns.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:12 PM Comments: 0

Interview with Kyle Mills author of "Darkness Falls"

Kyle mills published his first book in 1995, "Rising Phoenix" and has gone on to write about one book per year since. His latest book "Darkness Falls" features the character Mark Beamon who has been 3 other books ("Storming Heaven," "Sphere of Influence," and "Free Fall")besides his first book "Rising Phoenix."

I had a chance to talk with Kyle about the book "Darkness Falls" and we talked about the book, the environment and a little Rock Climbing.

You can read my review of "Darkness Falls" at:

Gil T. Wilson: First of all "Darkness Falls" is an awesome book.

Kyle Mills: Well, thanks alot, glad you enjoyed it.

GW: You had me checking the gas prices everyday.

KM: Still not $20[per gallon]?

GW: This book tackles the problem the world's diminishing oil supply...except you give it a little boost by injecting an oil eating bacteria. How did you come across that idea?

KM: well primarily i wanted to explore the world's reliance on oil, there's alot of information out there about peak oil, which is these people that largely think that the reduction in oil supply is going to be a huge disaster for the world. I don't really agree with but if you did it FAST, then it would be a major disaster. So I wanted to destroy the world's oil supply in a short period of time. And then I had to figure out how to do it. It was a pretty hard task, you're talking about 4,000 producing wells across the world and you couldn't just go sabotage them. I came up with this idea because I had read somewhere about oil eating bacteria that they used to clean up oil spills. And I wondered, well, could you modify a bacteria to live in a well and destroy a well. I found out those bacteria you don't have to do anything with and they actually do destroy wells. There's really a real-world counterpart to this it's called Geobacillus thermodenirificans, and it was found in a Chinese oil well. The Chinese had actually sequenced it's DNA to clean up spills. It's a tough little bug, that lives entirely on oil and can survive in temperatures up to 160 degrees. It can now be modified to do whatever suits the person doing the modifying.

GW: So which came first your idea of this or did you do the research and discover this was the way to destroy the oil?

KM: First I came up with the idea that a bacteria would work really well, and deals with all my problems, being so many wells and everything. But the question was is that possible or feasible, and then that's when the research came into it and I discovered it wasn't only feasible but was that it was happening. I mentioned in the book problems in the Hawtaw Trend in Saudi Arabia with bacterial contamination damaging their machinery, that actually happened, I didn't make that up.

GW: The book brings back the character of Mark Beamon an FBI agent, who appeared first in "Rising Phoenix" and then in "Heaven", "Sphere of Influence", and "Free Fall". In this book he is now working for Homeland Security, not to give too much away, but after the world has changed in your book, we've lost almost all the oil, are you going to be bringing him back again? His world has changed.

KW: Tom Clancy has a word for it the "Ryanverse," he has this whole alternate reality where Baltimore's been blown up. I don't know, I could, certainly, I honestly don't think that given a lengthy time to adapt, that our lifestyles would change all that much, air travel would be problematic. Cars, well I drive a Prius, even with that technology, which is not particularly advanced, gas prices are irrelevant, it gets 50 miles to the gallon, if it went up to $20 / gallon then it would be bad but wouldn't kill me.
And with electric cars.
I hadn't really considered that when I did the book and wasn't sure how it was going to end. It's hard to imagine never writing another book with him, he's been with me for so long. It'll be complicated.

GW: If you ever did bring him back you would be bordering on the science-fiction genre, this book 10 years ago could have been viewed as science fiction. Have you ever thought of writing science-fiction.

KM: Yeah, well I always feel like that thriller writers write really near time science-fiction. Because 2 years into the future is this is what's going to happen. That's kind of what I'm shooting for. Of course, I could always write a book with him that is really pulled in, like him investigating a murder in a small town, where the rest of the world wouldn't be part of the setting.

GW: Mark Beamon is the central character in this book, more focus seems to be on the scientist Erin Neal and the destruction of oil, yet Mark is the one that fixes everything and whose character you care most about. Was Erin Neal the intended focus.

KM: That was intended. Honestly, when I started this book Erin was intended to be the lead character, and Mark would be a strong secondary character. In the end it sort of balances out and it probably depends on how much you like each character and which one is the lead character. But, the idea was that Mark would be secondary.

GW: If a movie is ever made featuring one the Mark Beamon books, who do you see playing Mark Beamon?

KM: That's such a hard question. You know I always that that at this time, I wouldn't mind Bruce Willis, if he didn't mind putting on 40 or 50 pounds. He's funny and sarcastic and I think you need that to bring that to Mark or else he can come off being really dark.

GW: This book seems to have a bit of an environmental message to it. How much of that was intended and how much just developed out of writing the story?

KM: Yes because it has become a big issue. A Bizarre issue, in that it has become sort of religious. You've got the believers and the non-believers. I feel it should be a scientific debate. It should be dispassionate, you do this and it benefits you and you don't it could harm. It has become such a polarizing issue, Al Gore is such a polarizing figure, not necessarily his fault but he is. There is a lot of of misinformation out there. I'm always interested in that. I wrote a book about the Tobacco Industry ["Smoke Screen"]almost for the same reason, that it gave me the opportunity to wade through all this interesting subject where there's a lot of misinformation and to try to kind of weed out the truth. That is pretty much what I wanted to do here because it's such an interesting subject. Again pretty much everything I said was true. That's what I like are thrillers where it is true and you just do aslight twist on it. There are a lot of thriller writers that write much more fanciful stuff, you know stuff where the guy keeps shooting and never run out of bullets. People love it and people write them really well. It's not really my style. I've always loved those books where like you said "make you check the gas prices," where you think, "yeah this could really happen tomorrow."

GW: You said you drive a Prius, how far off the grid do you live?

KM: Not far off, my other car is a '52 Chevy pickup and gets about 4 miles to the gallon and belches smoke everywhere.

GW: Do you think you could ever get off the grid? Because that is a "worst case scenario" in the book, that those that could get off the grid easily would survive.

KM: I read a book on building "Off Grid Houses" because obviously this guy [Erin Neal] lived in one. Honestly I was fascinated, I seemed it could be fun.

GW: You live in Wyoming, I imagine winters would be really hard to live "off grid"

KM: I know people that do it. You'd have a pretty small house with a pretty big wood stove. It's amazing when you really start thinking about what you need. There's a theory, which I think is true, that says the more energy you have the more energy you need. If you have a ton of electricity you invent stuff like iPods. And I'm guilty of this, I could live without my iPod, I have 2 of them. But if electricity was expensive or wasn't available you simply wouldn't have items like that. But it sort of continues to grow. Which is a problem for the environmental movement, as it's structured now. You have people like Al Gore who seem to be preaching austerity, though unfortunately he's preaching from a 10,000 square foot house and a private jet. And that is never going to work.

GW: You in fact touch on that in this book in that the character Erin Neal wrote a book about how the environmental movement will never work unless it becomes profitable.

KM: And strangely, I just discovered that THAT book was written by somebody, and I'm in the process of reading it. The environmental movement did not start because the environment was being damaged. During the industrial revolution, we damaged environment like crazy. What caused it was affluence. People suddenly said, "It's irritating that the river keeps catching on fire. Why don't we clean it up? We have the money, the time and we're not starving to death. Let's Do it." If you take away the affluence, well, a hungry person doesn't care what they throw in a river. So It's really creating industries, I think is what's going to solve it. People can make money and also benefit the environment. Telling people they have to ride their bike to work, I don't think too many people are going to want to do that.

GW: How and when did you decide to become a writer?

KM: I kind of came into it in a weird way. I worked for a bank, and didn't feel I did anything creative. I was into athletics, so I was physical and worked with numbers just not creative. So I decided I was going to build furniture. My wife realized that that was going to take up the whole garage. It gets really cold here in the winter and she was thinking about having to shovel her car out every day, so she said "Couldn't you just buy a computer and write a novel?" and I said "Yeah, that would be kind of fun." So I bought all these books about how to write a novel and read them all and bought a computer and hammered out "Rising Phoenix." With no real expectation that it would ever be published. Everyone tells you it's impossible to get published, and it is really hard. So I thought if I went into it thinking I was going to be a rich and famous author, it wouldn't be too much fun. But to do it as an intellectual exercise and exercise in creativity was really fun. I've never had as much fun writing a book as writing that one. Because there's no pressure, no deadline and nobody has to really like it. I finished it and let some people read it that I thought wouldn't be critical of me. In fact I told a couple that a friend of mine wrote it, so they could be critical of it. Everyone seemed to like it. I'd ask them, "Does this seem like a real book to you?" So I started trying to get it published and it took forever and it eventually became really successful, so I went on to sign a 2 book deal and many many since then. Actually 9 books, "Darkness Falls" was titled "Book 9" for a long time.

GW: Your other books are "Second Horseman"(FBI), "Fade"(Homeland Security), "Burn Factor" (FBI), and "Smoke Screen" (Tobacco Industry), why is it that government agencies (especially the fbi) are the subject matter of your writing?

KM: Well lazines probably. My father was and FBI agent for 25 years and went on to be director of Interpol in the US. I grew up in an FBI family and I have known alot of FBI agents and it's a world that I'm really familiar with and I don't have to work hard to be authentic in.

GW: What do you do when you are not writing?

KM: Mostly Rock climbing, I've been obsessed with it forever. I always thought I'd outgrow it, someday I think I will. I go on a few climbing trips every year still and probably climb 2 or 3 times a week.

GW: What are you working on now?

KM: I'm working on a book about Africa. I spent a lot of time in Africa, I lived there a lot in winters, because it's so cold here [Wyoming]. I've always wanted to write a book about Africa, It's such a fascinating place. I've never really quite figured out the right story. It's gotta be a thriller, but I like to also deal issues in my books. I finally thought up a story that I thought would work, be exciting and interesting and hopefully informative so I'm working on that now.

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posted by Gil T. @ 2:05 AM Comments: 0

Monday, October 15, 2007

Books and Beverages Book Review: "Darkness Falls" by Kyle Mills

Mark Beamon is back. For any of you that are familiar with Kyle Mills' novels you are probably familiar with his recurring character, FBI Agent, Mark Beamon.
In "Darkness Falls" Agent Beamon now works for Homeland Security in energy security. Agent Beamon is about to tackle a case that will not only test his abilities, but may destroy society planet wide.

With this book you may need to sit back with a Gil T's Mochaccino. The hot chocolate/espresso mix will comfort you throughout this book while at the same time give you that extra caffeine boost you may need, because you won't want to put this book down. At the end of the review I'll give you the directions on how to make this mochaccino using 3 t-discs on your Tassimo brewer.

All the oil in the world is finite, meaning when it's gone it's gone. Ask any environmentalist or Saudi and they will tell you that's true. As it stands right now, the earth's oil supply may be depleted by the year 2050. So that's not too bad, plenty of time to discover/develop alternative fuels, right? What if that date was moved up to say maybe the year 2010? or this year? What would you do? That's exactly what could be happening in "Darkness Falls."

A mysterious bacteria has infected the oil drilling operations in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the largest drilling facility in Saudi Arabia. This bacteria is a hydrocarbon eating bacteria, which is to say, it eats oil, and leaves nothing usable behind. In comes Erin Neal. Erin has been living a secluded life, off the grid in the Arizona desert since the death of his girlfriend, and fellow scientist Jenna, and let's just say, he isn't happy when an oil company executive appears on his doorstep. A number of important Saudi oil wells have stopped producing and Erin is the world's foremost expert in analyzing and preventing oil field disasters. In fact after his years of environmental activism he went to work for Saudi companies but has now retired and wants to be left alone in his self sustaining adobe structure.

Mark Beamon, former FBI agent, now working with Homeland Security, just wants to settle down, get married and retire from government work. However, Mark's unique no holds barred, tell it like it is investigation procedures make him the prime agent on this case. He also soon realizes that if this is not stopped life on Earth will completely change. Erin & Mark quickly find themselves stuck in the Saudi desert studying a new bacteria with a voracious appetite for oil and also an ability to corrode drilling equipment. Worst of all is its ability to spread.

It soon becomes clear that if this contagion isn't stopped, it will infiltrate the planet's petroleum reserves and cut the industrial world off from the energy that provides the heat, food, and transportation necessary for survival. As the scale of the coming disaster continues to grow, Erin realizes that there's something familiar about this bacteria. And that it couldn't possibly have evolved on its own.

Throughout the reading of this book, I "became aware" of how much I and society depend on oil, and even found myself checking gas prices. In the book they go up to $12US / gallon and after reading several chapters I would have to verify that gas was still Under $5US. Whew, talk about getting lost in a story, this book will definitely do suck you in.

In a book that about 10 years ago could have been labeled science-fiction, you will find yourself wanting to stay up all night to find out what happens next. There are 2 things that help with that. First, the book is filled with several short chapters that allow you to stop and go online to check the local gas prices...or maybe to watch a few minutes of news to verify we are okay (so far). Second is the great Gil T's Mochaccino.

Here's your recipe for your Tassimo brewer:
You will need 3 discs, 2 of which come with any Tassimo cappuccino mix, I prefer the Gevalia Cappuccino mix. The 3rd disc is Hot Chocolate, Suchard Hot Chocolate
was what I used.

First get a large cup, place the Suchard Hot Chocolate disc in the machine and let it brew. Second you will put in the espresso disc that comes with the cappuccino. And finally top it off with the foaming milk disc from the cappuccino mix. mix and drink. This will be a nice comforting hot chocolate taste with some espresso boost to get you through.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I'll be posting my Interview with "Darkness Falls" author Kyle Mills. We'll find out what makes him tick and where the character Mark Beamon comes from.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:05 AM Comments: 0

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Book & Beverage: "Martian Time-Slip" By Philip K. Dick

It's time to break out the Tassimo brewer and sit back with a novel. This time around I recommend that you use your brewer to brew up a little "Twinnings Chamomile herbal Tea" because you are going to need the relaxation after the stress of dealing with some very complex actions going on in this book.

First of all the master of Science Fiction, Philip K. Dick. returns to Mars for the Setting of "Martian Time-Slip." In this near future version of Mars, Settlements have moved in to tame the wilderness. Society is limited to survival only near the canals of Mars. The rest of the planet is a dry desert. Mars does, however have it's natives, here the Martians are called Bleekmen. The Bleekmen are very human but were settled on Mars at the same time humans began life on Earth. Dick doesn't really go into too much explanation as to where they came from, just that they are. They are not unlike the Aboriginal people of Australia, in that they are dark-skinned and have a rock which holds a religious importance to them.

The settlers on mars have repeated the ideals of the settlers in the new world of North America in the beginnings of the USA, in that they have somewhat enslaved some of the Bleekmen. In the case where a Bleekman is in service of the settlers they are referred to as "tamed Bleekmen." Many of the colonies have a connection to nations on earth, Israel and the United States being the largest and the United Nations is maintaining firm control over the colonies of Mars and due to the constant threat that the Earth could be blown up at any time through nuclear war.

In another aspect of the novel, Dick takes a bit of a jab at the psychiatric community and even claims psychoanalysis as "vainglorious foolishness." Many of the characters of this book could be seen as mentally ill in some form or another, in fact the main character Jack Bohlen is schizophrenic. The schools on Mars are very strict about teaching to those that are in any way mentally ill and it is the Israeli colony that houses a special school / camp for the mentally ill. Here is where the main theme of the book takes off.

One of the mentally ill children is thought to be out of sync with time. One greedy man, Arnie Kott, wants to take advantage of this and use the child, Manfred Steiner, to predict the future. The rumor is that the U.N. will be developing housing for new settlers in the Franklin D. Roosevelt mountains on Mars. The Bleekmen that live there are moving out because this has already started. So Arnie through the help of Jack Bohlen and Manfred Steiner gets sent back 3 weeks in time to prevent this from being a U.N. venture and one of his own ventures so he gets rich from it. But true destiny and fate cannot be changed, at least not in Arnie's sense.

Throughout the book the physics of time travel rise up to make you wonder if it is possible or not. Here's where the chamomile tea comes in to place. You may need to rest your brain after all that trying to figure out time travel. In fact there are sections that are repeated with only little changes that show that you cannot deviate too much from the timestream, so as you are reading the book and you get to a point where you say to yourself, "I have already read this," either you are time-slipping yourself or it's just Philip K. Dick's creative venture of describing time travel. Either way sip the tea and relax.

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posted by Gil T. @ 2:52 PM Comments: 0

Monday, October 01, 2007

"A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick

Okay, so sue me...I'm on a Philip K. Dick trend. I recently discovered the creative and philosophical writings in his stories and am hooked. This recent book is yet another Dick story that has been turned into a movie. The movie "A Scanner Darkly" was released last year and had mild success but the beauty in the movie was the creativeness in the filmmaking process.

But just like any other book turned movie, there are some missing points and of course the books are just plain and simply better.

This book is a very interesting look at the drug culture, but done in a sci-fi view. This poignant, at times, story takes place in a near future dystopian California. In this culture the police work mostly undercover to track down dealers. The idea is not to bust the small time dealer but to reach their source. Here lies also a bit of a corporate twist on things. It seems that the drug of choice that is wiping out people's free will, not to mention brain functions, is Substance D. Substance D addicts when gone to far experience a split in their brain hemispheres where they then suffer from shared delusions, thus losing all hopes of being a functioning member of society. Then they seek recovery from New Path, a facility which specializes in substance D patients.

Throughout most of the the source of Substance D is thought to be imported from Russia. But as it turns out Substance D has a darker secret.

The title is a reference to a passage in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13, which states:

"For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

The scanner part of the title is that the main character Agent Fred is ordered to keep a close eye on Bob Arctur, who is suspected of being high up in the eschelon of dealers. Well, the twist is that Agent Fred's undercover self IS Bob Arctur. He wonders if the scanners will see him clearly or darkly. In Chapter Eleven of the novel, Bob Arctor / Fred, thinks to himself:

"What does a scanner see? I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner … see into me — into us — clearly or darkly? I hope it does see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too."

This book is full of some really funny stuff at times. Many of the "drug induced" conversations between Bob Arctur and his stoner roommates are just hilarious, such as when one buys a 10 speed bike from a "street vendor." They count only 7 gears so how can it be a 10 speed? 2 in front and 5 in back, 7. They then have to go out on the street to ask a "neutral" party how many they count, this neutral party explains the process, but the conversation beforehand is simply hilarious.

The book also has many poignant sections, especially when dealing with those who have succombed to the finality of Substance D. One of my favorite quotes here is when Bob Arctur is taken to New Path due to destroying his brain, he is called a loser by the staff. Donna, Bob's girlfriend, then tells the staff, "It is easy to win."

The book is also based loosely on the author's real life experience and at the end the book is dedicated to Philip K. Dick's friends that "didn't make it." At this point he lists his friends by name and how they were affected by drugs...most of them deceased.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:22 PM Comments: 0