Thursday, December 31, 2009

Song for the New Year

Blue Moon

A lovely image from DeviantArt.

It's the first new year's eve to see a blue moon since 1990 -if you believe in such a thing. There is some discussion about how exactly to define the occurrence of a "blue moon" and various schools of thought have formed.

The numerological school attributes two full moons in a single month to qualify as "blue", but if you listen to farmers, it is either a 13th full moon at the end of the year or the 3rd moon in any particular season.

As those who work the land have been known to do, their ideas are borrowed from ancient practice. The appearances of full moons set the date of important religious observances, such as Easter, and designating any extra moons as blue kept ecclesiastical calendars on track.

Turning to the cooler heads of science, we find a literalist interpretation. In order for a blue moon to occur, the atmosphere must contain particles that are bigger than usual. These chunky bits floating in the air scatter red light and give the moon a bluish tint. The last time such conditions existed was in 1883 when Krakatoa erupted, so unless Dick Cheney's latest outburst counts, there probably isn't enough polluted spew in the air this year to alter Luna's color.

Happy new year -whether your moon is blue, green, paisley or plaid, may it be a blessed event for you and yours.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Outstanding Blogs of 2009!

Here they are, folks who made a good year even better (according to me, anyhow) by providing laughter, insight, and appreciation of the finer things in life, listed in no particular order but on display so that you can check out the outstanding blogs of 2009:

Apocalypse Blog

Blazing Minds

CAP News

Comedy Plus

Earth to Holly

The Half Life of Linoleum

Margie and Edna's Basement

New Psalmanazar


Poetic Shutterbug

Robot Armageddon

Secret Forest

The Way I See It

Toronto City Life

The Virtual Dime Museum

Wii Mommies

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Speechless Tuesday (Holiday Edition)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dances with Smurfs

James Cameron's Avatar is a long movie about a soldier at the end of his rope who falls in love with an oppressed tribe and fights to protect them from his own war-like, culturally-insensitive peoples. Does this sound like another overlong blockbuster? I might have been the only person in the theater wondering if there would be a Kevin Costner cameo, because this film is very similar to his Dances with Wolves, another tale of a soldier who goes native.

That said, if you go to Avatar for the story, you are going for entirely the wrong reason. This is a visual film. The narrative structure exists in service to lush, black-light jungles, incredible flying beasties and floating mountains straight off a Roger Dean album cover. James Cameron waited ten years for the right technology to showcase his ideas -and it shows.

My biggest gripe is length. The sustain of one visual bonanza after another gets to be too much of a good thing. Running nearly three hours in length, having a more substantial tale to tell would have helped, like, say, Dance with Wolves. Emotional investment is missing from Avatar, pretty much from the start we all know exactly how the story will end. Not that Dances with Wolves has a twist ending, yet it told a familiar tale with unexpected poignancy in scenes and characters that exceeded our expectations.

See Avatar for the visuals. They will blow you away. The 3-D effects are top-notch, so subtle you are barely aware of them but that fully immerse you in a fantastic new world.

It also doesn't hurt to admit from the get-go that this is a film about smurfs. Sure, the ham-handed allegory of Iraq makes it seem that our heroes are ripped straight off the headlines -the military in Avatar has a mission, and I quote, of shock and awe, and is determined to fight "terror with terror" (lazy writing or self-loathing?) -the noble tribe are in truth magical beings of love and togetherness, and the "jarhead clan" is run by none other than Gargamel in camo gear, intent on nothing more complicated than smash-kill-explode-rinse-repeat. Dances with Smurfs is a freebie for Seth McFarlane or whoever*; it is also the level of seriousness that should be brought to Avatar. See it for the eye candy, not the brain candy.

*I've been informed that Dances with Smurfs originates from a South Park episode. Who knew?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Song

Includes the lyric, one of my favorites, "Even Siberia goes through the motions":

Friday, December 18, 2009

Final Friday of 2009!

It's the last Friday of the Naughties, as our Briton friends like to say. This was a good end to the decade and '09 was a huge improvement over the previous year: I have no real gripes here at the end, especially seeing that 2010 is set to be an even better year.

Many thanks to readers who offered advice how I should proceed in selling my manuscript!

My old friend, Mr Woolcott, made the wry suggestion that I approach potential agents with a firearm -as leverage, naturally. I may resort to this should the year not go as planned.

Glynis advised me to establish a blog for my novel, which was echoed by Jen. The ladies, I have to admit, got me all fired up to take this approach.

Keep an eye out next month for a new blog. I'm devising one that will start out as platform for my shorter works of fiction, of which there are plenty, with the idea that it could be open to contributions from other writers. What do you think, sound nuts?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wish Upon a (Wandering) Star

This kind of "star" is welcome on my holiday tree any year; Portishead's Wandering Star always sounds best during the frenzied, gone-before-you-know-it month of December.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

I had the totally random urge to see an image of Jack Skellington looking cheerful in his Santa disguise, and why would I keep something like that to myself?

To be honest, this isn't my favorite time of year. While I do like the season, and hearing bells echo through downtown is pleasurable -I don't even mind carolers, because when else do folks with (sometimes) decent singing voices get to gather in public and be so freaking joyful in song? -but celebrating the harvest is where my heart truly comes alive. That magical transition from Aestival is the peak of the year, until the ground solidifies and skies weep. Yuletide arrives just at the cusp of the dark months, and though I'm not prone to being other than my ordinary mopey self, neither am I prone to giddiness when lavished with gifts from family and friends. I feel guilty receiving presents. There, I said it. Receiving presents is inevitably accompanied by feelings of guilt. Why this is I leave to the head shrinkers, but the effect is a curtailment of joy in what others truly enjoy and take pleasure from, both the receiving and giving of gifts.

Perhaps this is why the image of Jack resonates with me. I laugh along with my loved ones, but feel in doing so that I'm a skeleton in disguise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Speechless Tuesday

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New TRON LEGACY Visuals!

A year is too long to wait, but here's some tidbits to tide us over, plus a preview of the videogame that promises to bridge the original with the new film, TRON EVOLUTION:

Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund looking all shiny:

The one-sheet, appearing on the walls of theaters soon:

I presume this is an upgrade of the Solar Sailer Simulation:

Friday, December 11, 2009

How to get Published?!?

With this manuscript of mine and a vow to sell it next year come hell or high tide, I wonder what are the best ways to pursue this goal. I've been told to definitely post chapters online and to definitely not post them online; some say get an agent first, but others advise going straight to the publishers and getting an agent only after the manuscript is sold. With this month set aside for strategies just how I'm going to get this sucker bought, I'm asking anyone reading this to offer any tips that might have worked for you or an author you know. Anything is helpful, I'm an ignorant cuss when it comes to stuff like this.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Caprica Starts in January

This ad for Caprica provokes a mixed reaction. Nice use of Christian imagery, but an apparently unclothed teenager seems like a blatant invitation to controversy. Does anyone remember the blowup over Miley Cyrus' photo in Vanity Fair earlier this year? That controversy was stoked by teens and irate mothers who took issue with her bare back and shoulder. We get the same in this ad. Caprica isn't aimed at a teenage audience, but that makes this image more not less disturbing: is it acceptable to lure adult audiences with this kind of cheesecake? I'm not a prude by any measure; nevertheless, I wonder if they couldn't have gone with something else to promote the show.

Maybe I am a prude. This is the tamer version of the wider release ad, which shows the lead actress' full torso. I debated even including this one, but thought the better of it knowing that she is not actually a teenager, she only plays one on cable tv.

But let's get to the real reason I'm posting, to share my excitement about Caprica! You can read about the upcoming season at Airlock Alpha to get details. The two-hour pilot released on dvd earlier this year was excellent and laid the groundwork for what could be a fantastic series. Any fan of Battlestar Galactica would be remiss to not check this out. By the same token, it's clearly aiming for a general audience, not just scifi fanatics like me. For the uninitiated, allow me to recommend the Wikipedia entry for all you need to know before checking out the series premiere on January 22nd.

Musics for Writing

What do you listen to while writing? Possibly you prefer silence, or working in a coffeehouse where the ambience sharpens your mind, or the airy environment of the library, where infrequent whispers and shufflings only linger at the fringes of audibility. I'd love to hear what other writers like, it's always fascinating what enables the writing mind to operate at its best.

As I mentioned in a prior post, I'm a musics man when it comes to the audiodrome. Here's a few selections that best accompany my writing sessions:

Godspeed! You Black Emperor, F#A#

The Future Sound of London
, Lifeforms

Orbital, Snivilisation

Peter Gabriel, Passion

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Speechless Tuesday

Andrew Wyeth's "Otherworld" is one of my favorite paintings and the desktop background on my new netbook, offered as today's example of something you encounter that renders speech useless.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Grenade Casualty

If you haven't played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or for that matter any first person shooter, this still may provoke a chuckle. Without schadenfreude, what are we?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Netbook Bonanza!

I've been gifted with a netbook bonanza! Not only can I unequivocally count myself a member of the twenty-first century, this week I'll be diving into the manuscript with gusto. This is the publishing tool I've been waiting for, yeehaw!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Assassin's Creed 2

I've been needed lately in 15th century Italy. The Templar conspiracy has heated up and my fellow Assassin guildsfolk are racing to retrieve pieces of the Apple of Eden before they are snatched up by our ancient foes. If this was everything on my plate, I'd have loads of free time, but there is my Monteriggioni villa to consider: it requires upkeep and new paintings to adorn its walls, not to mention my mother is weeping in an upstairs room until I'm able to collect enough feathers to solve the mystery of our family's execution -it was the Templars, we know that much. However, there's been a recent breakthrough that makes me hopeful. Though I've been travelling a lot, bouncing between Florence and Venice, it hasn't kept me away from my good friend Leonardo Da Vinci. In fact, I'm on my way to see him today. He's finished decoding some old codex pages I found hidden in Tuscany and wants to share his findings. There's some kind of flying machine he keeps talking about, but there's no way he'd ever let me use it...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gentlemen Broncos

I went in hoping against hope it was a hidden comedy gem, but if Gentlemen Broncos is misunderstood, I have to count myself among the ignorant. Moments of hilarity are scattered throughout the movie like "peanuts in crap" (references to "crap" abound), and I'd love to make a minisode capturing them. Problem is, you have to sit through a lot of awkwardness to reach the good stuff. I spent most of the viewing incredibly tense and wishing I knew what the point was. When you watch actors like Jemaine Clement and Sam Rockwell saying and doing corny things, there is enjoyment to be had. Yet overall the movie is so self-consciously bad you end up wondering why anybody bothered. Sure, I went through an Ed Wood phase like everybody else. What fascinates there is how Wood could be so sincerely misguided. In the case of Gentlemen Broncos, writer/director Jared Hess knows the script and production are awful. I was robbed even of mystification, which has comedy value, it really does.

Jared Hess wrote and directed Napoleon Dynamite, another awkward comedy. Vastly popular, it connected with the audience by being weird and entertaining. I still laugh at Uncle Rick saying he'll throw a football over the mountains. Hess must have used his reputation with this box office success to make more movies. I haven't seen his second, Nacho Libre, thanks to Jack Black fatigue, but it didn't do well and couldn't be the reason actors signed on for Gentlemen Broncos. Maybe he plied them with narcotics and prostitutes? There must be some rational explanation.

Best quote of the movie unsurprisingly comes from Jemaine Clement, pitching a new idea for a novel to his publisher, who is threatening to "let him go" (a funny idea sadly unexplored) unless he comes up with another blockbuster sci-fi trilogy. He has made his fame as Dr Ronald Chevalier writing about cyber harpies with mammory cannons. "There's a fetus," he says earnestly into the phone, "discovered on the moon. A moon fetus." He waits pensively, knowing the idea is crap but counting on his reputation to make it work. The publisher doesn't respond but just hangs up on him. I wish I could have hung up on this movie.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Magnificent Seventh

I'm feeling good about this draft, can you tell? It's consuming all hours of day and night, and in the seventh draft the manuscript is really coming into its own. I couldn't be happier! Hopefully this feeling will last... The emotional oscillation that comes with pounding away at a novel is nothing to be underestimated. In that spirit, I take this moment to shout and dance.

In a future post, I'll write about the book's soundtrack. Yes, I created a soundtrack to accompany reading it. Probably I'm not the first or even tenth person to do this, but it will make a good subject. There's the soundtrack, too, that accompanies composition, currently made up of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, Arvo Part's Tabula Rasa (a perennial), Orbital 2 and Snivilisation, and Explosion in the Sky's Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die. Musics and reading/writing go together in perfect harmony when you find the right accompaniment, a topic to which I'll return soon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Still Writing...

I'll have a fresh post soon, but for now a moment of sympathy vis a vis the immortal Calvin and Hobbes:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

Halloween was a blast! A friend photoshopped this pic of my costume that I have to share:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Speechless Tuesday

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Palace of the Fine Arts

One of the blogs I visit every day is Poetic Shutterbug, where consistently gorgeous images are posted, usually from that city of dreams, San Francisco. Check out this week's featured photographs from one of my favorite places on the planet: the Palace of Fine Arts, which celebrates its centennial in just a few short years.