Wednesday, November 6, 2019

For the November IWSG I'm saying Antarctica is the wierdest thing I've googled in the name of story research.

It's nanowrimo month (I'm not participating), but that also means the calendar has rolled over again. Being Wednesday, I'm going to tackle the Insecure Writer's Support Group's question of the month. If you too would like to participate, then go to this LINK and sign-up. It happens once a month, and was started a long time ago by Alex Cavanaugh.

November 6 question - What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story? 

It's not really all that strange, but I wanted to find out how people actually get to visit Antarctica. I found out that you can't just go there. If you are in the United States, you need to get the go-ahead from the National Science Foundation (NSF) first.

You see, everyone that goes to Antarctica has to be doing something, or they won't let you go. So (in other words) everyone has a reason for being there as well as having a job to do at the research station. However, your reasons for going can be pretty relaxed. I read a blog where one person was allowed to go because they wanted to write a book of poetry about Antarctica and about penguins or something like that. Their request was accepted, and they were allowed to go for six months, and they had a pretty pleasant experience. Antarctica has a lot more activity than most people realize, from parties and beer pong to people sitting on couches outside and watching television just because they can.

One book I read about the topic had an author who said, "Going to Antarctica is always the trump card in any conversation. If you are at a bar, and some guy is talking about all of his travels, you can play the Antarctica card and instantly 'steal' the spotlight, because everyone always has questions about Antarctica." Anyway, that's probably the weirdest thing I've googled. Pretty tame, right?

We are getting into "The Holidays" now, so I'm going to winterize my blog until the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post of January 2020. If you are a regular reader, thank you for all your support, and I'll see you in the new year. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 4, 2019

When I finally got SEE to stream on the Apple TV Plus service it was worth most of the trouble I'd gone to.

This weekend, I got a pleasant surprise. Two years ago, I purchased an iPhone 8 plus and at the time, I purchased the two-year Apple Care. Well with two years of use, being dropped, etc. it kind of wore out quite a bit and wasn't functioning like it should. I took it into the Apple Store here in Salt Lake City, and I used my Apple Care to get an exchange with a brand new iPhone 8 plus for zero dollars. The new phone has been working incredibly well, so I've got no complaints. I would have been completely satisfied with that by itself, but I got a text/notification from Apple that with a brand new phone purchase, I qualified for one year of Apple TV plus for free. So basically, Apple assumed my phone was new, even though it was "technically" an exchange. I was kind of overjoyed, because I don't like subscribing to new streaming services, and this was like a total freebie that came out of nowhere. And it's not one of those, "try this for a week and then we'll start charging you money." No it was a whole year for free.

So the first thing I started to try and watch was the Jason Momoa movie, "See." I thought it would be just a matter of going to a website and trying to watch it, but Apple has got some issues with their technology, meaning they are very cutting edge and unaccepting of older technologies because (in their mind) people should just "get with the program." Sure, I could watch it on my iPhone and my iPad, but I kind of crave something "bigger" if you know what I mean? Those screens are very small.

The first thing I tried to do was cast my phone's screen to my LG OLED Smart TV. This didn't work because my four-year old LG TV doesn't have AirPlay 2 on it. The next thing I tried was seeing if LG had an app I could download from the LG store called "Apple TV." I think the new ones have this app, but there was not one that was downloadable from the LG store for my older t.v. Okay then. What about seeing if I could download an Apple TV app from the Microsoft store for Windows 10? I checked, and that was a no go too.

Next I tried to go to the website and try to watch it in a browser (which the Apple website said was okay to do). Maybe because it was launch day or some other thing, I couldn't get it to stream in any browser but Firefox (I tried Google Chrome and Edge first). And the stream would periodically crash so that I had to reload it, and then it would never remember where I left off. So I ended up having to fast forward it to the point that I last remembered, watch it for twenty minutes, and then it would crash again. Sigh.

In any event, I made it through two episodes of "See" this way before switching to "Titans" and watching this week's episode with no hitches at all. And as of the writing of this blog post (which is happening on Sunday night), I was able to stream "See" in Google Chrome, so maybe Apple got the issue fixed and just had launch day jitters or something.

The two episodes that I did watch of "See" were an interesting story. It's weird watching a show in which all the actors are supposed to be blind, and I think the most compelling thing about it was to observe how well they get around and even fight while blind. One of the things I don't like about the show are the time jumps. Central to the story are two babies who are born who do have the "power to see" and in order to bring them into the story, they are about twelve years old by the time the second episode ends. That means there's a ton of time that passes in which nothing occurs other than daily life around a village.

This isn't the kind of story that really pulls me in, because I kind of detest big time jumps. It's what turned me off the Starz story of the White Queen, which I found compelling until the story immediately jumped years and years to satisfy certain things in which it wanted to concentrate.

Anyway, I do intend to continue to watch "See," and I'm hoping that a patch comes out to make it easier to view the Apple TV Plus streaming titles. I am reminded though (in my negative experience in using it), how cutting edge Apple tends to be. They are the epitome of a company that uses "planned obsolescence" as a bludgeon by which to browbeat consumers. I just find it dismaying that a television which is still beautiful to me that is now four years old, is purposely being pushed toward obsolescence by app makers who are making things available for everything bought this year...but doing very little for those things purchased in the very recent past. I guess that's just the way capitalism works.

Anyone else watching, "See" with Jason Momoa? The cinematography is gorgeous and there are many visually delightful scenes, which seems at odds with the premise of the story. It kind of reminded me of "Clan of the Cave Bear," only with blind people...which I think is strange now that I think of it. Oh, and no young Daryl Hannah, unless Jason Momoa counts as eye-candy (which he totally does in my book). 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A prequel money grab that didn't need to happen got canceled by HBO

When Game of Thrones ended, five possible prequel series got announced. Now it's down to one...tentatively...about Targaryens. I'm not sure who the intended audience is, but maybe there's just people who want to know more about Targaryens. However, the series that got canceled was going to tell the story of the Long Night and the Doom of Valyria...basically all the stuff I even had a remote interest in to begin with. Now, the only series that seems to be getting a "go ahead" signal of any kind is the one with the blond-headed imperialists riding dragons.

To be honest though, I'm not overly sad that the prequel series (set thousands of years before Game of Thrones's timeline) got canceled. Nothing about the show made any sense from the get-go. The events that happened 10,000 years in the past (from the perspective of the series) are pretty much irrelevant. It was a vague background window dressing at best. There would be no King's Landing court intrigue, no dragons, and only one or two major houses at best.

People might say, "Oh...but what about the White Walkers?"

Well the thing is...we have most of that mystery solved. We already know what the White Walkers are and where they came there's no use going into that unless someone wants to tell that story again (I would recommend against it). The Children of the Forest are basically Native American placeholders or the standard "elf" in most fantasy literature...and everything else can be summed up as a bunch of petty feudal lords squabbling with each other.

So (in my opinion) why did the prequel in particular get canceled? Word is they even filmed a pilot for it, so they were pretty serious, right? How does this make any sense? Here's my theory: it turned out to be a lot more expensive than they thought. Also, studio execs got scared that going forward, there was going to be even greater expense due to the magical bronze age element of all the things. Money is usually what kills projects, so this is where I'm placing my bets on what exactly happened.

I'm actually more excited for the Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon is doing than anything taking place in GRRM's world from A Song of Ice and Fire. I think I'm pretty done with that story (and its offshoots). What say you?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Will Doctor Sleep be any good?

I'm probably (most likely) going to a Fandango early release of Doctor Sleep this Wednesday, October 30. The thing is, I'm wondering if it will be any good. Early viewers of the movie have said this:

"Crafts visceral, disquieting dread not too dissimilar to Kubrick's masterpiece."

"Doctor Sleep is great...But bloody graphic with the violence in parts and very upsetting but so well done."

And then Stephen King weighed in as well by saying, "Mike Flanagan is a talented director, but he's also an excellent storyteller. The movie is a good thing. You'll like this if you liked THE SHINING, but you'll also like it if you liked SHAWSHANK. It's immersive."

The thing is, Stanley Kubrik was a legend in his own time, and he's kind of grown from there after his death. 2001: A Space Odyssey, which announced the experimentalism of new Hollywood at the same time that it created a different playbook for visual effects kind of defines who he was as a director. But it was a different age, with a bar that was far less crowded with people who didn't go to film school to learn all of the techniques to tell a visual story. I'm not even sure a director can even impress us these days, because the audiences have seen everything.

The fact that King is giving props to Flanagan (however) is good, especially given King's notorious dislike for The Shining's original depiction in film.

I'm going to try and keep an open mind, but I'm inevitably wondering if Doctor Sleep is going to be any good. I guess I'll find out.

Friday, October 25, 2019

If you want to give your kids the best chance at success in life you should strive to raise them free of all personality disorders.

I don’t think there is enough research going on between personality disorders and how those who have them are prone to use drugs and prone to end up in poverty or homelessness. However, there are lots of studies that go the other way. In other words, lots of people blame poverty and homelessness on creating personality disorders. But in my humble opinion, I think that kind of thinking is putting the horse before the cart. I think personality disorders are the cause (the root of the problem as it were) and the problems growing from this toxic root are poverty, drug use, and homelessness.

According to various psychology outlets and papers, there are ten kinds of personality disorders. They are as follows: 1) Paranoid personality disorder, 2) Shizoid personality disorder, 3) Schizotypal disorder, 4) Antisocial personality disorder, 5) Borderline personality disorder, 6) Histrionic personality disorder, 7) Narcissistic personality disorder, 8) Avoidant personality disorder, 9) Dependent personality disorder, and 10) Obsessive Compulsive personality disorder. If a person gets even one of these into their heads (let alone a whole bucketful) I think it increases a person’s chance that they will 1) get into illegal drugs in their adult life, or 2) end up unable to support themselves as an adult, or 3) both. It’s strange to think about, right?

So, why then did I start thinking about this? Let’s chalk it up to personal experience. I work and associate with a lot of people who struggle to “independently” support themselves, and I’ve noticed a trend: a lot of them are assholes. Many of them are terrible communicators, and this terrible-ness extends to avoiding communication altogether, ghosting, or lack of explanation and follow-through. Many of them exhibit toxic levels of narcissism by “splaining” away on various topics as if I were an uneducated slob. They can be bossy and rude. Many of them post a ton on social media, are very active on Instagram, as if every aspect of their lives was celebrity-worthy. Many post antagonistic things on social media as if begging others, “Come fight me, bro!” I suppose this behavior could be called, “Trolling,” but I’d also say it comes from a place of bitterness. Many of them cannot be counted upon to help out with manual labor requests, even though they have all the time in the world to do so. Many of them ask to borrow money with no intention of paying it back. Many of them are perfectionists, meaning nothing is ever good enough for them. They find a way to criticize just about anything. Many of them are ungrateful and undependable. And many of them act entitled as if they were prima donna’s in their own opera. Many of them are okay with casual exploitation. Quite a few measure value in physical appearance only, and this is usually because they have come to value this about themselves for whatever reasons.

This idea of mine grew out of all of the above experiences and with me asking a question: why are my interactions with people who struggle to support themselves so profoundly negative? You see, this flies in the face of what I was taught: that poor people were humble. I have found over and over and over that this is not the case at all. Then I picked up a report about homelessness and read a line that I had previously encountered before (and just never processed what it was actually saying to me): “Personality disorders in the homeless population are two to four times as prominent as those found in the general population.” This wasn’t a “new” thing, but my understanding of what that one line said was like a light bulb turning on in my head. It’s the personality disorder that created the homelessness, and not the other way around. I thought poverty and homelessness was the trauma that resulted in the personality disorder, but I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on here. And it makes so much sense with regard to the reality in which I live.

For example, no one I know (including myself) has fun working with people who have personality disorders, because (for want of a term that encapsulates what this means in practice) they are assholes. To explain it another way, it’s hard to work with a “jerk” (using another synonym), because they are abusive. It takes a very special person to sign-up to being psychologically and emotionally abused every day by another person. So these people with personality disorders end up being unsuitable for the workplace (and for a lot of life actually), which leads to casual and illegal drug use and the partying lifestyle (and generally heading straight for “rock bottom”).

In other words, I think personality disorders in adults are a gateway to illegal drug use and unemployment. And the thing is, no one talks about treating personality disorders as a solution (or nipping budding personality disorders in young people). What I see are people trying to address the symptoms, i.e., things like housing, donations, and the drug trade. But it also makes me think that this is all we can do as a society, because personality disorders are very difficult to cure or treat. For example, professionals are not even on the same page as to the cause of personality disorders in the first place, because it (potentially) can be anything in the environment. Is it parenting? Is it a social group that forms around a child at school? Is it commercialism and capitalism? Is it competition? Is it bullying? Or is it all of the above? Is it something I haven’t listed? If I were to give any advice to a parent, it would be this: raise a child to adulthood without any personality disorders, and you will give your child the best chance you possibly can for them to succeed. But as my friend has pointed out, when I told her my observation and idea, “How the hell do you do that in today’s world?” This comes from a mom who did everything she could to raise her daughter right, and guess what? Her daughter is brimming with personality disorders. Because of these personality disorders, the daughter is probably (and unfortunately) headed for rock bottom at some point. It’s like you can see the train wreck coming, and there’s no way to correct the course.

I do know people who are (to my knowledge) free of personality disorders, and they are a delight to be around and all of them are successful by every measure we have today to view such things. Is it a coincidence? I think not. And the fact that I know people who are free of personality disorders makes me believe that it’s possible to raise children to adulthood without them. I just can’t tell you how to do it. However, it seems like an awfully important goal to strive for, and one that (I believe) is not talked about enough when it comes to what it takes to independently support oneself in today’s society and to achieve some measure of fulfillment with regard to one’s life. “Don’t get infected with any personality disorders, folks,” is easier said than done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The online reactions to the final The Rise of Skywalker trailer are all over the board.

Star Wars is a beloved franchise, which I suppose means that reactions to it are going to be all over the board. Some love it, some hate it, and many seem to post something akin to "I have very low expectations for this film." Is "the bar" looking pretty weathered at this point? Are people still complaining about The Last Jedi? Yes, yes they are. Here are a few of the reactions I read that struck me as interesting:

"The sequel trilogy has NOT worked for me, but I bleed Star Wars through and through, so I'll see the shit outta this on general principle. I just wish this story and these characters worked for me more."

"If Reylo does not happen I am done forever with Star Wars. I will never buy anything Star Wars or Disney. Why did they bother even setting it up in TLJ?"

"I have very low expectations of this trailer for the final episode...Mainly wanted more of the Mother of All Space Battles. Rey vs Kylo duel? Haven't we seen that a few times before? I'll be there on opening day, but I expect to be disappointed."

"I'm still incredibly miffed at the fact there's been zero in-film explanation of how we got from the end of Episode VI to VII. I have no idea where the First Order came from, or why the apparent victory at the end of Episode VI ended up in the way we are now."

"I, too, have low expectations for this film. I've also found that I'm fine with that. The movie will probably be mediocre, but there will be another Star Wars soon afterwards, and another one, until the heat death of the universe, so whatever really. I've either disconnected emotionally at some point, or discovered that I never really cared in the first place."

"And in the original trilogy you had no clue why Boba Fett was a badass bounty hunter. Or where the Emperor came from or how he rose to power. Or how the original Death Star was able to be rebuilt or partially destroyed when you saw it explode into dust with your own eyes. Or how Jabba was a big bad gangster with so much power. Or what the Kessel run even was, and so on and so forth. Sometimes just accept that everything doesn't need to be shown and explained to you in a tidy way. People don't want to watch movies and the stories they tell. People want to watch fan-fiction and have their subjective imaginations beats confirmed."

And last (but not least) here is what I have to say regarding the last trailer for the last of the "Star Wars Saga":

For what it's worth, this throne in the trailer looks really cool. I'm sure someone good actually sits in it; the thing doesn't look evil at all (snicker).
Any opinions out there regarding "The Rise of Skywalker?" Is it totally going to suck? Is it going to be amazing? Do you have Star Wars fatigue? Is Disney just beating a dead horse? Is there any story left to tell? What say you?

Monday, October 21, 2019

The last two episodes of Titans have been great because they introduced a perfectly cast Superboy.

Superboy joined the Titans on DC Universe, and has been present more or less in the last two episodes. The first episode that introduced him, called Conner, was really good. And bonus...we got Krypto the Wonder Dog as well. Why am I excited? It's kind of fun seeing the dog shoot heat vision beams out of its eyes. Played by Australian actor Joshua Orpin, I think that the casting for Superboy is absolutely perfect.

***Spoiler alert if you are planning on watching the series***

Okay, if you have made it this far, then you probably have either seen the episodes or don't really care. Either way is good. So the way "Conner" (who is Superboy) gets introduced is a bit jarring and messes with the pacing of season 2 just a bit. However, it pays off because Conner is in the right place to scoop Jason Todd out of the air to keep him alive a bit longer (see "A Death in the Family" for more of Jason Todd's ultimate fate). It seems "hamfisted" just a bit. However, I'm so glad they went there. It was really embracing the whole "superhero comic book show" theme. Plus, I think live-action Superboy is better than any of his animated doppelgangers have been.

The introduction of "Conner" feels like a great new direction for the show. Now if we could just get Koriandr to fly around I think I might be a bit more satisfied.