Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The IWSG asks why do I write and I answer in my last post for 2020. Happy Holidays and all that.

It is November 2020, and it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. This is a welcome distraction to an election season that I haven't liked one bit. So here is the purpose of this particular blog fest:

"To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through he fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds."

If that sounds like something you'd like to participate in, you should go and sign-up at this blog located HERE. 

The November 4th question (that is optional) is as follows:

"Albert Camus once said, 'The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.' Flannery O'Conner said, 'I write to discover what I know.' Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?"

This is such a good question. I think that I write so that I can take a dream or a figment or an idea and make it into a movie that plays in my head. Writing is the cheap process by which I can hire all the best actors, where I can imagine a scene playing out, and I can laugh or simply enjoy the possibilities. It is a place where I can enjoy myself without spending any money and where I can explore vistas without a sense of danger to me. Instead, all of that danger is borne by the protagonists of my stories.

Now I'm off to take a look at how all of you answered. If you are participating in NanoWrimo this year, good luck on your progress.

As for me, I'm going to shut the blog down until the first Wednesday of January (which is the first IWSG post for 2021). Happy Holidays. May your Christmas and New Years be bright.

Monday, November 2, 2020

The season two premiere of the Mandalorian answered two questions I had from my childhood.

So, The Mandalorian is back on Disney Plus. I knew about a couple months ago that it was going to start up again on October 30th. However, between then and now I kind of forgot that the premiere was going to be last week. So, it was a surprise on Friday evening when I was looking for something to watch besides the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery and episode one of season two of The Mandalorian popped onto my radar. That was serendipitous, and it made my evening of watching at home a nice one.

If you haven't watched that episode yet, then this is your spoiler warning, because I want to unpack the episode because a lot happened in it that was really quite cool.

First off, the episode took us back to Tattooine. I was wondering why we were going back to that old sand ball, as I thought that most of the stories anyone had to tell about Tattooine were already done. However, I obviously had forgotten my Star Wars history. But the kid in me remembered as soon as the director started taking me down this path of unanswered questions that I had as a child. One of the unanswered questions was about a Krayt Dragon. I see a skeleton of one in the Dune Sea in the first Star Wars movie called "A New Hope." Threepio and R2 walk right past one, and the thing is enormous. I remember wondering, "What is that thing?" but it was just window dressing. You saw the skeleton and that's it. You never went back to it.

And then later in that same movie, Ben Kenobi uses the sound of a Krayt Dragon to scare off the Sand People who are menacing Luke Skywalker. Okay then, but you never see this dragon, and to a kid who is seven years old, a Krayt Dragon just sounds unbelievably awesome, especially given that I was obsessed with dinosaurs at that age (I hear this is a common thing among children). Anyway, lo and behold, the episode is about a community of people way out on the edge of the Dune Sea who are being menaced by a Krayt Dragon, and it's about how they deal with it, forging an alliance with the Sand People. It's a great episode, but if that wasn't everything, there's another payoff.

This one came from another question I had (when I was a kid) about Boba Fett. He always looked really mysterious in his armor (you didn't get to see his face until you saw him in The Clone Wars). So, to a teenager, he was pretty much irresistible to not like. The world-building for Star Wars is pretty great, right? But Boba Fett fell into the Sarlacc Pit and that was pretty much it for that guy (referencing The Return of the Jedi). Or so we thought. It turns out that I think he got out of the Sarlacc. That's why the armor shown in the movie was so was Boba Fett's armor. One of the colonists at the mining village being menaced by the Krayt Dragon was wearing it and acting as the sheriff (essentially). However, it absolutely was Boba Fett's armor. His story...that he got it in trade from some a great tale. And if you think about Boba Fett being inside that giant monster in the Dune Sea, it makes sense that it was so corroded and beat up.

So, the guy you see standing on the bluff at the end of the episode watching The Mandalorian leave is (in fact) Boba Fett. I wonder what this means for the trajectory of the story. With only one episode, the show has got me completely hooked for another season. It's just brilliant.

Anyone else excited that The Mandalorian is back?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

In a year we all get to watch another Godzilla animated movie on Netflix.

I really like Toho animation. It's escapism at some of its best, and it tends to have that classic nostalgic feel that some of the 1960's (is that the Showa era?) Godzilla movies evoke within me when I see them on tv. So, you can imagine my excitement when Netflix announced (this week) an exclusive called Godzilla: Singular Point. It is directed by Atsushi Takahashi, which actually means nothing to me. However, it's a Godzilla movie. So if it has other kaiju bashing it out--and the trailer does feature the giant transforming robot Jet Jaguar--well then...I'm sold.

That being said, there is one name I do recognize in this project. There is a brand new Godzilla design from Eiji Yamamori who (I think) is in charge of kaiju design. He is a rather legendary Studio Ghibli animator, with about 17 films to his credit, including being the "key animator" in Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, House-Hunting, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There, Mary and the Witch's Flower, and Doraemon the Movie. It's obvious that the guy is an expert and a renowned artist in his particular field.

The movie isn't due out for another year, so this is way ahead of its November 2021 release. In the trailer (which I have included below), there is no dialogue. It's just music. The two-horned pteranadon creature is probably Rodan, and the spikey dinosaur/anklyosaurus thing is probably Anguirus. There are two other kaiju either shown or hinted at, but I have no idea what they are. So your guess is as good as mine.  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Now that the Meg 2 has been greenlit I've got questions.

The Meg
, which is a show about prehistoric giant sharks unleashed into a modern ecosystem, is getting a sequel. I really enjoyed the movie, mostly because I like shark movies, and I tend to watch all shark movies. In the rankings of shark movies overall, it is in my top ten. And honestly, that's not saying much as Jaws will always be a masterpiece, and the rest are just hot garbage. But I do like hot garbage from time to time.

That said, I'm curious to see if the sequel will bring back Li Bingbing and continue the interesting romance between her and action superstar, Jason Statham. I like Jason Statham. And by "interesting," I like that there was one in the first place. Most made with/for China movies never features any romance between the Chinese female lead and the American male lead. Sometimes one character will note how they think the Chinese woman is good looking, but it's always a one-way street that never goes anywhere. There are probably a number of sociopolitical reasons to explain this. And in today's world, there's a lot of China hate coming from America (being broadcast with a megaphone) even as we continue to purchase and use their products because things made in America are too expensive, i.e,. wages are too low in America to afford to buy American.

I was actually surprised by The Meg. It was immediately different, with one scene of Li Bingbing ogling a naked-but-for-a-towel Jason Statham. It qualifies as very thirsty on screen stuff. Do you like the word "thirsty" used in this context? I do love the ever evolving English language. Anyway, Li Bingbing did make it clear that she liked what she was seeing, and then there was lots of reinforcement from other cast members in the film saying things like, "You two should really be a couple." I think it would be awesome if we saw more of that headed toward something in a sequel.

It was also a movie that dared to kill a dog. Or at least sort of...we all thought the dog "Pippin" got eaten by the shark, but we do see it later in the movie alive and well. It was still goofy fun. The Meg never took itself seriously, which made it an awesome popcorn film.

And here's another musing: I wonder how a megalodon with actually "real world" physics would fare against a pod of modern adult Orcas. I think (despite the size of the shark) that the Orcas would kill it. They seem to have incredible intelligence and capability to coordinate attacks for killing things in the ocean.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League is redefining what a director's cut for a movie actually is.

Just when exactly did getting a cut of some previously released film mean that you could shoot new footage and somehow rework an entire story? Was it George Lucas that started this? In asking this question of myself (and before I posed it to you) I started to think...yeah...I bet it was George. But at the time when I watched the Star Wars movies re-released and with updated new footage, I didn't think it was any kind of "cut." I thought it was just a guy who may have had a vision that technology of the time couldn't produce. So, it seemed to make sense that for a work of passion (which Star Wars obviously is) that we should cut the guy a break.

Fast forward to 2020, and all the news I read about the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League makes me think of the many re-releases of the original trilogy of Star Wars, and I'm finding myself in this weird boat where I was okay in cutting George Lucas some slack, but I think Snyder should just shoot a whole new movie? I don't's just so weird as to what's going on with his Justice League cut that it doesn't even sound like it will be the same movie. is that a cut?

A cut is when you have to take things out of a movie to make a film fit within a certain time limit. It can also be something that you take out of a film in order to meet a certain standard for reviewing, or to meet a rating requirement for a wider theatrical audience, right? But what Snyder is doing is bringing back actors to film more footage. For example, Jared Leto is reprising his role as the Joker from Suicide Squad (his performance wasn't all that great and I guess his antics on set included sending used condoms to his castmates). Then there is Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Amber Heard who are also reprising their DC roles for new footage in Zack's cut. We already know that there's going to be at least one appearance of Darkseid, but in what capacity, I don't think anyone (but Zack Snyder) is sure. Am I interested in seeing the Snyder cut of Justice League? Absolutely. Is it the same Justice League that I saw a few years ago? It doesn't sound like it will be at all.

Look, this seems to be a situation where it's kind of a matter of perspective. A Justice League film was released in theaters, so the movie's done as far as specific values of "done" are concerned. This new Snyder-cut that people have been clamoring for years to see (I think) never existed. But clearly Snyder wanted to make a certain kind of movie, and now he's been given a budget and enthusiastic actors who are ready to splice and dice this thing into whatever version of Justice League that Snyder wants. So he gets to decide that if he wants to write and shoot something brand new...well that's what's going to happen.

Just to be clear...there was no Snyder cut until there was. This seems oddly like some kind of philosophical argument like figuring out through a time loop that the reason trees have fallen in a forest is because you actually had to cut them down and just never got around to time traveling yet to make that happen. I guess we call this platform evangelism, which can bring us things like the sixth season of Community.

I have no idea what type of story this movie is trying to tell. I guess I'll find out next year. What about you? Do any of you out there have opinions on the Snyder cut of Justice League?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery is back for season 3 and the first episode gave us a lot to love about the far future.

Yay! As the third season of Star Trek: Discovery got underway last week, we all got news from CBS that they've already officially granted a fourth season to this incredible series. Discovery and the new wave of shows that have popped up in its wake like Lower Decks and Picard have been a real treat in these troubled Covid times. Not only are they exciting to watch, but the overall message of hope and wonder and people just being nice to one another is the kind of comfort food that I need right now. And this is especially true with an election going on. I can just tune out all the noise and watch Michael Burnham overcome the struggles she's dealing with in her world. As an aside, Discovery taught me that the name "Michael" could be gender neutral. At first, I had a bit of trouble with it as my own name is Michael. However, it grew on me, and now I can easily see naming a girl, Michael.

I'm sure my sentiments on Discovery would enrage the Trekker Proud Boy conspiracy theorists on YouTube, if it were to catch their attention (which it won't as my blog is small). These are the guys that pound taking the "red pill" and how Discovery, because of its diverse cast which includes strong women and queer characters are ruining Trek. But those people are just dinosaurs marching off to their tar pits. Additionally, season 3 is expanding into the exploration side that resulted from a spectacular season two, which had a really clever mystery that unfolded with epic universe-ending consequences.

And the opener to season 3 was a pretty wild ride, which is typical for this show. We got wormholes, shootouts, drugs, new aliens, and new worlds. I did have a few observations that I'm going to write down, and they are spoilers, so if you haven't watched the season 3 premiere, you should probably stop reading now. observations of season 3 episode 1:

1) The character Book is very interesting, and he pretty quickly intuited that Michael (Sonequa) was a time traveler.

2) Seeing Burman get high from the truth drug was very entertaining. Sonequa is a wonderful actress.

3) Where is Discovery? This is a mystery that has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an answer.

4) What are they going to do to update Discovery? What kind of new starship tech is there going to be? And is there going to be a big bad for this season?

5) It was really moving to see Burnam make the guy holding down the fort in the deserted Federation station into a Starfleet officer. And then they hung up the United Federation of Planets flag. I really liked that.

And that's it for my observations. Did anyone else watch the premiere? Anyone else want to weigh in?

Friday, October 16, 2020

David Attenborough's A Life On Our Planet will probably win the Oscar for Best Documentary simply because it has to.

Have you watched David Attenborough's A Life on Our Planet? The documentary, which he calls his witness statement, is about how human caused climate change is wrecking our planet in a startling short time, and what we can do about it. There are moments where he is obviously vexed by the disastrous course humanity is taking, and how it will ultimately lead to our extinction if we don't take drastic steps. It's all backed up by science of course, and I one hundred percent believe everything he is saying.

But we live in a world where a lot of selfish people can steer the course of our civilization. And it is so very difficult to understand the kind of self-fulfilling idiocy that humans seem to own in spades. For example, these troublemakers in our society can hold up a glass and say, "Hey, this is shattered!" If you disagree, they smack it against something and shatter it and then say, "Told you so! It was broken all along. It just didn't know it was broken!" do you argue with that? It's like a textbook example of someone declaring the election a fraud and then doing everything in their power to make the election a fraud. I've never seen anything like it. But more to the point, this childishness isn't the kind of thing that is going to solve the very frightening reality of climate change. Everyone is going to need to be on the same page, and that doesn't seem possible. I don't know if humanity can actually right this train. It seems we might just go right off the cliff and into whatever awaits us.

We may have once walked on the moon, but I think the great issues of our time will prove our undoing. That being said, I do have a useless prediction about David Attenborough's documentary: it will win the Academy Award for Best Documentary. And it isn't that it will win this honor because it is an extremely well-done documentary. It's just an old man in his nineties, having lived an ultra-privileged life that is exceptional even for white males, standing in the ruins of a town near Chernobyl and talking about the death of biodiversity, and then suggesting a course of how we can turn it all around. It will win, because it must win. It will win, Obama with the Nobel Peace is the issue and the spotlight that matter, and not so much that the documentary is better than anything else for which a documentary is made. And that is my prediction. David Attenborough's documentary will stand alone, because it must stand alone. And everyone who watches it will see that for themselves.

So if you haven't watched A Life on Our Planet, I do recommend that you do so. In his own words, the world no longer needs intelligence. It needs wisdom, and that is going to start with all of us, or at least, all of us that give a damn. Whether that is enough, only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Expanse season 5 trailer reveals that they are following the story arc of Nemesis Games rather closely.

Last week, The Expanse season five trailer dropped. For fans of the books and in particular, Nemesis Games, there were some great one second glimpses of incredible events that take place in that story. If you haven't read Nemesis Games or you are behind on The Expanse and want to catch up, then this is your <<SPOILER WARNING>>

Nemesis Games is the book that starts a whole new story arc for The Expanse. Interwoven into season four, you got your introduction to the big bad villain, Marco Inaros, who also happens to be Naomi's ex. In Nemesis Games and I expect season five of The Expanse...Marco and his group of extremist followers wage war on Earth by sending asteroids covered in stealth paint to bombard the planet. Earth in the time of Nemesis Games has a population of 40 billion. If I remember correctly, after Marco's attacks there is only a population of 10 billion who manage to survive. Just think about that a moment, and you can imagine what season five is going to have in store for us.

The book describes cataclysmic tidal waves, earthquakes, name it. The storyline pushes all of The Expanse crew to the limit. Amos actually gets trapped on Earth, because he goes there to take care of some personal business and to visit Peaches (Clarissa Mao) who is in a high-security prison there deep underground. It actually ends up being the only reason they survive.

Meanwhile, in space Naomi gets caught up in a reunion of sorts with Marco and she has to confront full-on that her ex is a mass-murdering psychopath and terrorist. The struggle she goes through just to survive this, much less to try and save her son from being sucked into Marco's world, is some riveting reading.

And then there's Avasarala. Nemesis Games and Babylon's Ashes are at the core of her story. She is going to be involved in so many scenes as the crisis just keeps amping up for Earth, and the leadership of the U.N. and all of Earth is in tatters. There are so many edge-of-the-seat "nail-biting" scenes involving Avasarala, I just hope they can do this thing justice (I have no doubt that I will be pleased, truthfully). To give Amazon credit, they created a spectacular season 4 on the alien planet of Ilus. Anyway, if you haven't watched the trailer yet, please check it out below.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

With three months to go in 2020 the IWSG asks us what a working writer looks like.

Today being October 7th means that there are only 12 or so weeks left before the end of the year. Huzzah! As you can tell, I'm really looking forward to 2021, mostly because I want to leave the dumpster fire that is 2020 in the past. This has been a difficult year for too many reasons. However, I'm optimistic that it can only get better from here. And being the first Wednesday of the month, October 7th just also happens to be Insecure Writer's Support Group day. This is the day when all us writers out here get to express something about writing that we maybe feel insecure about, or to answer the monthly question that appears on the IWSG blog located HERE (consequently where you can also sign up).

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!
October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

At this point in my personal story arc, I see myself as a hobbyist. This means that I pay all of my bills through my main job, which is working for the State of Utah. And this in turn affords me the ability to craft stories or to make books and write things that are essentially for an audience of me and anyone who is like me (it's frightening, but there are quite a few people out there who are like yours truly). So it's not entirely a miniscule market. However, there aren't enough people who are like me to ever make a living from as I'm into a few niche and unique things (like nearly everyone else). And there's nothing wrong with that.

My writing journey has taught me a lot about myself, about what I like, what I dislike, and it has been a great vehicle through which I discovered who I was as a person. It definitely taught me to respect the writing process, and it taught me how difficult an endeavor it is to actually finish a story. Knowing exactly what I wanted from life (and who I was as a person) enabled me to set healthy boundaries with folks both in my family and in my friendship circle. Saying things like, "You know, I'm going to say no to that," has pissed off family and friends. I had to learn that this isn't on me. I'm not responsible for how other people feel when I reject them with a boundary. But, it was the start of healthy conversations in which I wished them well on what they wanted to do, but that I had my own things I wanted to do too that are more important. In other words, I absolutely was not going to people please so that I could get their approval. There are powerful narcissists in my family, and putting a stop to the people-pleasing was and continues to be challenging. However, it makes my life better, and the air is sweeter to breathe.

You might ask: how exactly did writing help you overcome people pleasing? Well, it has to do with finding your audience. Some authors will write to try and please an audience. I decided a while ago that I was no longer going to do that. Instead, I was going to be happy about writing things for people like me, and I wasn't going to care if others (who are not in that audience) hated and did not support my work. If you think about it, the whole concept of a review is to people please. If you get a bad review, it means that you did not please a person, and the entirety of the bad review, is them admonishing you for not catering to what they like. I'm so done with that, so I don't care if I get bad reviews.

Writing a book is kind of like living in a house. Most people like the neighborhoods with the HOA's that have the manicured front lawns and the houses that all have the tree out front in the same place and where none of the houses look all that different from the next. That's okay. I'm just the person whose house in this fictional scenario is painted navy blue and white, has too many flowers in the front lawn, who doesn't spray for insects, and who grows tons of vegetables and has drip lines everywhere. I'm that house that sticks out like a sore thumb. Where the walls inside are painted yellow and white or blue and white, and where appliances look like Easter eggs because they are bright and colorful. I'm the house that people accuse of bringing down their home values because its weird and eclectic. But that's okay, you just need to set healthy boundaries and tell people, "If you don't like it...move along. You can find people who are more like you. I don't need to conform to your standards."

So now I'll answer the question: what does a working writer look like to you? A working writer is someone who has to work to support themselves so they can afford to write what they want to write. It doesn't matter if they are a hobbyist or incredibly serious. In both situations, the audience they sell to is not yet (or maybe never will be) large enough to support them. And with the rising cost of living, especially in the United States, I don't see how writing will ever be enough to support anyone unless you can sell enough books to make six figures a year. It just costs too dang much to live (and to retire) in this country. A lot of that is (of course) housing. I know the middle class houses around here (in SLC) cost around half a million for a third acre plot. How does anyone make enough to afford a 30-year mortgage for half a million? Answer: they don't, and they end up renting for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say about that."

Monday, October 5, 2020

In watching the Boys on Amazon Prime I keep thinking that all this stuff is way too real.

The second season of The Boys is almost over, having aired its seventh episode this last week. This season, the storyline of The Boys added a new character called "Stormfront," whose name is taken right from a website touting white supremacy. Wikipedia writes:

"Stormfront" is a white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denialist, and neo-Nazi internet forum, and the Web's first major racial hate site. In addition to its promotion of Holocaust denial, "Stormfront" has increasingly become active in the propagation of Islamophobia."

In the show, the character of Stormfront is a sociopath whose end goal is to usher in an age of supremacy for white superheroes (called "supes" in the series). This character uses social media to drum up fear about non-Whites invading America (and "un-American" is clearly code for being "non-White"). 

The seventh episode opens by following a man who becomes radicalized by consuming Stormfront's sub-textual and racist rhetoric about how Americans are under attack and in danger from outsiders. His whole worldview changes over just a few minutes of compressed time, until these internalized hatreds all boil over when he blows away a non-White convenience store clerk because he thought that the guy might be a super terrorist (and therefore bulletproof) and he was hellbent on exposing this. Note that this was a clerk he'd visited a countless number of times, and who always treated him with respect. But he became the enemy and "bam," was murdered by this newly-minted "domestic terrorist," who had taken it upon himself to defend America. What's even more cartoonish is that the shooter seemed to experience real remorse once he realizes he just murdered someone. In the real world, shooters don't seem to have any remorse over the things they have done. Truth is stranger than fiction, right?

But let's take a moment and think about this whole scenario I've outlined above. What does this sound like to you? If you are thinking of organizers like Unite the Right and individuals like Kyle Rittenhouse, then you're in the same camp as me.

It also doesn't stop there. After the guy's murder, Stormfront (the actual Nazi who is in a thinly-veiled disguise) condemns the shooting, adding that their (meaning her's and Homelander's) thoughts and prayers are with the shooting victim's family. It's said with enough casualness to show they understand how empty and meaningless those words are, but they also seem to be powerful and useful to project an aura of caring (which is difficult for a sociopath to do).

The Boys feels like a twisted mirror reflecting what I see as 2020 American reality. The hypocrisies uttered by the main characters are dwarfed by the enthusiasm of a crowd that applauds their every word. And despite having all the power in the world--there is a part during the second season when Homelander acknowledges fully to his pre-teen son that they are "gods"--they manage to convince normal, powerless people that they are the victims.

I'd say it's too much isn't. It feels real. I won't ever understand how a person who knows they are untouchable and recognizes that they are, in fact, a god could ever play the victim. Or that anyone would actually buy the story that they are a victim. But I don't need to understand why this happens. All I need to know is that it does happen every single day. America's poor and helpless absolutely love to coddle its rich and powerful and continue to sacrifice to ensure that their priorities and goals are well satisfied.

It's just all too real, peeps.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Stargirl's first season was only the latest story arc featuring villains with all the good intentions.

The first season of Stargirl ended a couple months ago with villains that had good intentions. In the narrative of the story, we learned that the big bad who was called Icicle had a wife who died because of an illness brought on by a company dumping chemicals into the local water supply. Of course (capitalist dystopia), no one at the chemical company actually took responsibility for her death. This sent the villain on a quest to create a wonderful liberal utopia that could only happen if a lot of people died along the way.

Icicle was head of the Injustice Society of America, and they had a big bad evil plan. Members of the Injustice Society were Brainwave, Icicle, Tigress, Sportsmaster, and the Gambler. They killed people, even kids, with no regard...all to accomplish this: a progressive agenda that would shame even Bernie Sanders. You see, they wanted to combat global warming by forcing people to embrace solar and wind power. They were going to eliminate discrimination over race, religion, and sexual orientation. And they were going to provide universal healthcare. When I realized that this was what the Injustice Society stood for, I was like, what the hell? Those are good things, right? But the method by which they were going to accomplish these things was through brutality, violence, and mind control that would end up killing so many people...oh so many. It reminded me (a bit) of Thanos...

Which brings me to this point: we are getting some very interesting villains in our fictional stories these days. Villains that you can actually sympathize with because, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Where have we seen this before, other than with Thanos, who (as a reminder) killed off half the universe to restore the ecosystem of the universe? Here's the list I came up with.

1) Killmonger in Black Panther just wanted an end to racism and the effects of colonization.

2) Ozymandias in Watchmen wanted to prevent another World War from happening. He wanted to save billions by triggering genocide so that they would unite against a common enemy. You can't have world peace without breaking some eggs, right?

3) Magneto wanted a life of dignity free of discrimination for his kind. In order to accomplish this, he just needed to kill all the humans.

4) Darth Vader just wanted to save his family, starting with his wife. He was an incredibly powerful child shunned by the Jedi because they thought he might turn evil. 

5) Syndrome from the Incredibles wanted an egalitarian society where no one is superior than another. That's not so bad, right?

Do you have any you would add to this list?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Dragonlance Chronicles would be a great movie if done right but that's a risk many people aren't willing to make.

The Dragonlance Chronicles, i.e., Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Winter Night, and Spring Dawning would make an excellent television series. I've been re-reading them as of late, and this is my professional opinion. It also seems to be shared by Joe Manganiello, which I should have suspected, but never realized. Admittedly, this picture embedded below is already three years old (from Joe's twitter account). However, that isn't to say that it won't happen. It's just that people are talking about it, and talk can take years as we've seen from other intellectual properties.
I would (of course) love to see three movies come out with the kind of attention to detail that lavished The Lord of the Rings and most of a Game of Thrones. Krynn (the world of Dragonlance) is richly detailed, does a lot of really good things with Dungeons & Dragons's intellectual property (which honestly can be a bit goofy at times), and has surprisingly deep characters. It's a true epic. Every character is crucial to the plot as a whole, and everything seems to be carefully constructed with a clear finale in mind. It goes without saying that someone of Joe Manganiello's influence might be able to actually make this thing happen. However, there are interesting roadblocks that Tracy Hickman has written about in terms of what he calls, "The Original Bad Deal."

Here's the gist: Tracy and Laura Hickman and Margaret Weiss had to sign away any rights or copyrights to their Dragonlance creations in order to get the opportunity to create Dragonlance (keep in mind that this was 1981 and publishers had a lot more power than they do today). So, as far as the Dragonlance Intellectual Property goes, it belongs with a company that is very risk averse (Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro). They seem to have decided that the risk of damaging their intellectual property by making them into a film that tanks is worth less money to them than simply leaving them as books. Shrug. So it may never happen.

It is an interesting lesson though, right? The intersection of art and making money/profit is a fascinating one. If only every studio could afford to take a risk. Imagine the possibilities of all the great and probably terrible shows we could have. It would definitely make things more entertaining.

Monday, September 28, 2020

You can always count on a few people to ruin everything for the rest of us.


It occurs to me that we live in a kind of science-fiction dystopia. Elections and politics aside, a very small group of people can and do frequently bring ruin to the lives of all the rest of us. Why is this allowed to happen? Because our society is enormous, and there are a ton of people on this planet. Because of this sheer fact, it is impossible not to be affected by the things that a few bad apples do. Case in point:

1) Hackers. Hackers go after everything from regular email to banks to smart devices like thermostats and coffee makers. They lock up your pc with ransomware and steal your information. The result that we all pay for comes in the form of sky-high security with two-factor authentication, facial recognition, passwords a mile long that need to be changed once a month, security questions, secondary emails that passwords can be sent to, registrations within your smart phone so that text security messages can be sent there, and the list goes on and on. Have you seen an old person try to use a device once they've forgotten a password to access something? Have you ever been confronted by an iPad that bricked itself, because too many wrong password guesses were entered? Welcome to the realities of the 21st century. In my own life, I keep track of my aging father's monthly expenses for his nursing home. When his bank that handles his money upgraded to a new website with enhanced security, it literally took me one hour from start to finish to get access to his account to verify that everything was okay.

2) Covid 19 and masks. Probably 90% of people I know wear masks. Then there's the 10% that yell, "Don't tread on me!" and "It's against the Constitution" and blah blah blah. So what is the price that all of us pay for this? Well, our passports are worthless now, 200,000 people have died from this disease, and we can't stop the numbers from growing. It's impossible, and our country is in meltdown. Okay then...seems pretty obvious that a few bad apples have spoiled everything for everyone.

3) Comfort animals on airplanes. It used to be a lot simpler to be able to bring your dog onto the plane. Now, you've got to jump through a ton of hoops because a few people decided they would bring their ducks, their snakes, their rats, and whatever else that they decided was a thing that lowered their anxiety. So what used to be easy is now hard for those with legitimate disabilities to be able to qualify for in order to fly a plane.

4) Renting. I'm old enough to remember when you didn't have to sign a lease for an apartment. People just trusted you to take care of their property, and you know what? The people that moved into that place actually did take care of the property. Signing a lease, paying for first and last month's rent, and requiring deposits all came about because somebody somewhere got screwed by another person, and to try and prevent that, other landlords started putting in safeguards. Now, new people will have to sign their life away in triplicate and have their credit checked and have references just to find a "temporary" and "grotesquely expensive" place to live.

5) Children playing outside. I'm also old enough to remember when kids could play outside safely, and when parents wouldn't panic that their child was out in a park unsupervised. A few kids nationwide met with terrible ends, and it scared the crap out of folks everywhere. Look...I know that's unfortunate and sad and awful. But the backlash has been helicopter parenting, and I don't think children have actually been (statistically) any safer because family can suck just as badly as the random dangerous stranger.

6) Prenuptial Agreements. This didn't used to be a thing, except for the very rich. But now, no one trusts anyone because of a few horrific divorces. I literally have friends who (when getting married) have insisted that their fiancé sign one of these things. That's so romantic, don't you think? It's just another example of how a few bad apples spoiled the bunch.

I could probably go on, but my whole point is that it sucks when we allow a few people who do very bad things completely derail and/or change the way we live. I also don't have any answers as to how you do otherwise. It's simply an observation and a commentary. I suppose my personal philosophy is that a few bad people do indeed ruin life for everyone else. So knowing this fact of life...we should always proceed with the assumption that we are going to get screwed collectively by a few bad people doing bad things, and just try as hard as we can to minimize the damage on our end. Seems reasonable, right?

Welcome to dystopia.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Look at this dragon and feel dragon fear for the first time.

Dungeons & Dragons, which is a tabletop roleplaying game that I play, makes miniatures to enhance the tabletop experience. I collect said miniatures. That being said, they have now officially licensed a unique "miniature" for a red dragon that is so enormous, it is being called a statue. I thought for a moment that this was just a collector's item. But I soon learned that this unique statue is (in fact) to scale and meant to be used in the tabletop game, should players really need a challenge. I thought to myself, why is it so large? It is several times larger than even the largest dragon present within the lore of the game. Here's a picture of what I'm talking about. Keep in mind, that the minis in the foreground are the size of a quarter.
The red dragon in back is technically the largest dragon characters should
ever face in the game of D&D. The character closest to the camera in blue
is about the size of a quarter. This is supposed to be the biggest dragon, the
biggest threat. But as you can see, it isn't. Interesting right?

So what is going on with the enormous red dragon that is in the above picture, with the silhouette of a 6-foot tall man standing behind it for comparison? Well, it turns out that Dungeons & Dragons has an in-game explanation. The dragon's name is Klauth, and he's so old that he technically should have died of old age (which is usually not a thing that long-lived dragons need to worry about). Being supremely evil, Klauth has resisted death by using black magic on red dragon eggs (he's a cannibal, go figure), and this magic combined with eating his own kind has not only extended his life, but allowed him to swell to sizes previously not encountered by anyone in the realms in which he dwells.

Anyway, this dragon is something I can pre-order now, and I'm strongly considering it. For one it's just an epic piece that I could display in my house. Additionally, it would awe just about anyone that was playing in one of my games if I slapped that thing down on the table and declared, "This is what you see on the mountaintop." That alone might be worth the reactions. There's a few more pics of it below, and please note that it does light up, so I think it has batteries.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Examining J.K. Rowling's views is a good way to understand how to live in a world filled with hatred.

Since Sony had a splashy PlayStation 5 showcase event, and a long rumored video game called Hogwart's Legacy debuted, I decided that I wanted to take a look at the author that has made the most money from writing that the world has ever seen, i.e., J.K. Rowling. Specifically, I wanted to catalogue her transgender hatred/mental meltdown for myself regarding trans people, just so I could wrap my head around her nutso stance a bit (and maybe establish a timeline). And it honestly seems appropriate since Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and the United States is about to become Gilead from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. So why not look at hatred? It doth seem to be everywhere these days. If you want to take this journey with me, well just read on, friend. Aren't you the lucky one :)?

First off, Rowling positioned herself as a progressive on representation. Okay, then. Do as I say, not as I do, right? For the record, this is not a new thing. There are lots of people who want to establish themselves as progressive so that they can cash in on the liberal money making machine and appease Hollywood types. Honestly, maybe the worst thing about the modern world is that we overshare and over "know" to much about people.

Back in 2007, the original Harry Potter universe ended with Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore absolutely had no signs of being gay in the books. Then she retconned her way to this by announcing that Dumbledore was gay. I guess that is sort of inclusive, right? I honestly don't know what to make of that, and still don't. Okay then.

In 2016, Rowling published The History of Magic in North America by stereotyping Native Americans by associating them with a history of animal and plant magic. I guess Europeans were the only ones smart enough to make wands. It seems kind of shallow to me. Later she writes that wizards who came to America fleeing the authorities ran into the "friendly native" stereotype. That's nice. And then she appropriated the whole skin walker thing so that she could make villains, not really being respectful of Native American beliefs and traditions regarding these things. 

In 2019, Rowling supported Maya Forstater, whose contract position at the Centre for Global Development was not renewed after she used offensive and hateful language against transgender people on social media.

In 2020, Rowling penned a huge essay about her reasons for speaking out on sex and gender issues, and it's long, and a lot of it doesn't make sense to me. You can read it HERE. She espouses debunked lies about the existence of transgender people and supports fellow bigots who she claims have been "canceled" for their beliefs. Okay, then.

Now (present) she's released a book under the pen name Robert Galbraith that perpetuates the stereotype that transwomen are men disguising themselves to prey on cisgender women.

Oh well, I (for one) believe that most of the people in this world are terrible. So I'm particularly suited to not be bothered by a person's art despite the fact that the person who created it sucks. I also don't think that cancel culture really works, because (again) there are too many terrible people. We can't get people to wear masks during a pandemic. Do we really think we can crush the bottom line of Chick-Fil-A? They're doing just fine. So is J.K. Rowling, with her billion dollar empire.

So I'll continue to appreciate the Harry Potter things. I'll still love David Eddings' Belgariad despite the fact that I know he and Leigh Eddings were child abusers, were sent to prison for a year because of it, and then went on to write some lovely novels that I think are amazing.

Will I still watch Woody Allen movies? Yup. Do I still think Gone With the Wind is a book worthy of a Pulitzer Prize? It sure is. Evil, evil, everywhere. Running from it or trying to cancel it is useless. I think learning to live with it is the best that we can do, like living with climate change. It's here and it's upon us and nobody cares. So living with it seems like the only option.

And thus I raise a glass to you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You are gone and now evil will take your place far an entire generation, and there's not a damn thing me or anyone else who thinks like me can do about it. Salut. My arms are too short to punch god. We will try to learn to live with all the evil that's coming down the pipe, and take the victories we can until they no longer matter (because at that point I'd imagine we'd be in Civil War). It's not a thing I want, but I can see it coming on the horizon. To twist a Chinese proverb just a little bit for all our benefit, I wish every single one of us lived in less interesting times.

Friday, September 18, 2020

I think Frank Herbert would be proud and excited by the Dennis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune.

Dennis Villeneuve makes good movies. Now, he's bringing Dune to life in a two-part movie adaptation, and I really love it. Dune is a seminal work that has influenced a hundred things that came after it, whether it be Star Wars, Warhammer 40,000, or Robotech. Many of the things that we like in our nerd niches owe a bow here and there to Dune. It even influenced some of my early writing. I remember drafting a novel in college and sharing pages with my critique group. One of them (who went by J.C.) was very critical because I used a Dune-like intro to each of my chapters explaining this or that before the actual text started. J.C. hated that. "It works for Dune, but it doesn't work here. Cut it out." And so I did.

I can't explain for others why Dune is so cool. On paper, the majority of it takes place on a desert planet with no features at all except for sand dunes and some big earth worms. But for me, I've always enjoyed desert adventures and desert things, similar to an early childhood fascination with ancient Egypt. And Dune as a work seems to strike all of those archeology Indiana Jones-esque buttons that make my imagination light on fire. Of course, added to the mix is a kind of magic, both in the form of the Spice Melange and with the orders of the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats, and characters like Doctor Yueh with his Suk training to make sure he is completely loyal (which obviously means that he must be the bad guy, right?) No one makes mention of a wall that is insurmountable in a story if they don't fully intend to make it tumble down at some point.

Another thing that really draws me into the story is being in Paul's head. Honestly, even though he's the Atreides heir and very educated, he knows next to nothing about how the universe works. He also has a relatively solid moral compass, and it's easy inhabiting his thoughts. It is because he knows nothing though that makes the book so good. You learn as he learns, you figure out things as he seems to be figuring them out whether it be the Gom Jabbar or seeing a sand worm for the first time or interacting with the space-faring guild or a Harkonnen. The fact that Herbert had these things in his head is pretty incredible, and he sets the table for his story extremely well by immersing us in political backstabbing theater of the highest order, and then providing us with a protagonist that is not only sympathetic, but has the ability to call upon superhuman powers due to his breeding.

And then of course there is the Spice itself. This thing is as unknowable as The Force is for Star Wars, which is probably where Lucas got the idea to be honest. The Fremen have been around the Spice all of their lives, but they don't know everything that it can do. And layers just keep getting added to those who use the Spice in different ways. In some sense, it is this thing that the author could add a power to later on down the road if they so desired, just saying, "the Spice caused this unknown mutation and it resulted in this and voila...a new thing happened." It's a useful trick for anyone crafting a story, and it keeps the Miracle Exemptions that one requires a reader to absorb to a manageable level so as to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, I'm so looking forward to seeing this adaptation of Dune. This is a movie that I will risk going to theaters to see even if Covid is raging the countryside. If you are unfamiliar with the remake or haven't seen the trailer, I'm placing it below.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I'm enjoying my re-read of the Dragonlance Chronicles from the 1980's.


I'm re-reading the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I usually don't go back and re-read things, but nostalgia for the past and seeking out things that provide comfort seem to be the norm during 2020. So why shouldn't I indulge just a little bit? Truthfully though, it has been about thirty or so years since I last read these books, so I'd forgotten just about everything except the biggest plot details and the names of one or two characters (at most). Additionally, I don't think I appreciated the work and creative talent that went into the Dragonlance storyline when I was a teen. But now that I'm much older, I see that they are (in fact) works of great brilliance.

If you don't know, the Dragonlance books are based on a tabletop roleplaying game called Dungeons & Dragons. Now D&D is an incredibly fun game, but it is also really goofy. I like to tell people that a session is kind of like participating in some really bad improv. D&D is a hodgepodge of all the fantasy tropes. It is a huge mixing bowl filled with everything from Oni to hobgoblins to wizards to dragons to gods and to minotaurs. It pulls from every culture indiscriminately, and in many cases, it is the granddaddy of the term "cultural appropriation." You can have ki-rin in the same game session as you have a pyramid based on ancient Egypt. You can have kung-fu in the same story as Gandalf and Sauron. The words "one of these things is not like the other" does not apply to Dungeons and Dragons. Yet, somehow, with all of these goofy potentials, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis pulled off something remarkable: a beautiful story in a world (Krynn) that essentially has all of these elements and somehow manages to take them seriously and give them respect. That is no small feat.

I half expected to hate these books on a re-read, and find them utterly unreadable. Instead, I'm marveling at how well the authors negotiate the different character classes and manage to integrate the monsters as well as pay homage to a lot of what makes the game of Dungeons and Dragons fun to play. It's all there, down to the spells that Raistlin Majere casts (taken from the Player's Handbook) and to the abilities that several of the characters in the story manifest. The clerics feel like D&D clerics and the equipment they use feels very much akin to how leveling feels like when I play this game. It's a fascinating thing, and yes, they manage to make it just as high fantasy and feel just as epic as anything that Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings.

Honestly, I'm enjoying this re-read quite a bit. In a post Game of Thrones world, I would love to see Dragonlance turned into a high quality movie. The story is definitely there, as are the characters. They are as well-developed as anything that was turned out by George R.R. Martin. I've heard that there are some legal issues to making this kind of thing a reality. However, if it happens in my lifetime, I will gladly give the ones that bring it to the movies a fistful of cash.

My one complaint is that there are no good hardcover editions of the individual Dragonlance books that I can purchase for my shelves. Of course there are electronic books, audiobooks, and special edition omnibuses (which I hate because they are so unwieldy). Omnibus editions really should be restricted to either electronic book or audiobook format. Who wants to try and balance a huge hardcover book in their hands? Not I. And I found some weird overpriced handmade editions on Etsy (how is that even legal?) I didn't buy was just a curiosity and way too expensive.

Anyone else out there a fan of Dragonlance? Are you giving them a re-read or are you reading them for the first time? If it's been a while, but you have a favorite character, please let me know in the comments. I think my favorite character is Tasslehoff Burrfoot. I didn't use to like him, but in this re-read, I can see how brilliant the character is, and it's easily the funnest one, pulling the whole party into his adventures. Plus, the way he sees the world is just too special. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Raised by Wolves wasn't anything like I expected it to be.

 I watched Raised By Wolves this weekend. I thought it was good, but definitely more of a "watch this one time" thing and not something that I'd ever consider re-watching. For one, even though it has this rather high concept science fiction premise--a schism between religious people and atheists results in an apocalyptic nuclear war that renders Earth a smoking ruin--the "on location" filming feels very small with a hut being a central location and then a desert as another. Like...I feel it was filmed very cheaply...that it could literally be filmed in Utah because how much does a mud hut run these days?

Even the costuming is sparse with the religious people dressed like Dungeons & Dragons clerics in white robes with stars on their chests (they worship Sol), and with the children dressed in rags and with the androids wearing onesie neoprene suits. And that never changes, so yeah...wardrobing seems...easy? What do I know of filming? But Prometheus this is not, even if the android designs come straight out of the Alien-verse with the white milk being the android blood and the organs on the inside of the Android being bulbous plastic things surrounded my more milk. As a side note--I always wondered why the androids in the Alien-verse had white milk flowing through them aside from "it looks gross," which may be the entire intent behind the design.

Behind this guy is the android with Superman powers. None of the humans can deal with
this thing as it is too powerful, so they can just run if they want to live. The human running
is wearing the uniform of the religious zealots in this show. It looks like how a cleric might
dress in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

There's also this whole "atheists" had a war with "zealots" thing, which seems like a heavy-handed modern commentary that smacks of Fox News's decades long "War on Christmas" segment that you see about every October through December. It's not that I don't appreciate the allegory, but I'm also rather tired of it.'s a dead horse that has been beaten over and over by conservative media pundits and as far as I's baseless. However, this doesn't mean that Raised By Wolves is about Christians. For some reason, the Earth people followed Sol or worshiped Sol, and there seemed to be a lot of unity about the religion as a whole, which also strikes me as odd since there are hundreds of religions on Earth. Yet the one that built the "Arks" (a biblical term that has nothing to do with any being called Sol) is the one with all of the religious people worshiping the same deity, and there were no other religions that apparently escaped Earth's destruction.

So the premise of the show is that humans are at the edge of extinction, unless I've misinterpreted something. The androids of the show are programmed to raise children to be atheists and to create an atheist society to "prevent the war that destroyed the parental civilization." Okay then. But the kids all want to start praying, which is a thing I'm not sure I understand but...okay. And then the religious people on the ark who arrive at this same planet are not morally good. They take things by force from those who can't stop them, they arrived with a rapist who impregnated underage girls while they were in stasis, and they are led by a person referred to as "your eminence" who makes his zealot followers carry him through the desert of this alien planet on a palanquin. They literally have no food, very little water, and it's a sand desert, and they have to carry this guy around like he's some kind of emperor. Like...what the hell? Oh, and you also find out that they created the superhuman android raising the children who destroys the ark...she's called a necromancer...and she apparently has powers that are similar to Superman. Like...the religious people on Earth created these "necromancers" to kill atheists in droves. They're basically god-like in their power. However, they don't worship these god-like necromancers. Rather, they worship a thing called Sol, which (from what I've observed) can do nothing for them. It's just really weird.

Ridley Scott seems to be stuck on asking these questions about the relationship between a creator and their creation. It is an interesting question, but it seems to be getting kind of old. We saw this in Prometheus as Elizabeth Shaw lost her faith when she came face to face with (presumably) the Engineers who created the human race (there are no definitive answers to this question, but it's my hot take). There is also the strong suggestion in Prometheus that the reason the Engineers were going to wipe out the human race with the black goo bombs is because they killed one of the Engineers two-thousand years ago, putting the timeline at about the same period when Jesus Christ would have walked the Earth. So maybe, Jesus was an Engineer? Again, this question is not answered by Scott, and he's probably too afraid to answer it truthfully at the risk of insulting influential Christians and having his career ruined. So instead, we get ambiguousness.

Well, we get this kind of thing again in Raised by Wolves. We have humans and androids doing this kind of "creation" dance. It ultimately comes to a head when the religious people realize that it is one of their own creations that they cannot deal with that is on this planet. Furthermore, it is this self-same creation that will be their complete undoing unless they can find some manner to deal with "superman" with nothing but rocks and sticks.

In the end, Raised by Wolves is more a show that is entertaining for those who like to watch survival porn. In other words, there's a Bear Grylls kind of fascination to watching humans struggle and overcome challenges when forced to live on a deserted alien planet with hostile life forms and an inhospitable environment. But once you get past the whole "Naked and Afraid" appeal of the thing, the five episodes I watched simply traveled between a mud hut in a desert to the actual deep desert with real sand dunes where they find a huge pentagonal-shaped rock. The "eminence" figure of the religious order of Sol proclaims the thing as being "intelligently designed." Well, he dies shortly after when he's set on fire by a heat wave from the object and someone else fills his place as "the eminence." Then they pack up and leave the object. They never gain entrance to it, nothing is ever explained about it, they don't find food or water there. They just go, find it, pray before it (and are warmed by it when the night is cold), and then travel back the way they came through the desert to go and find the androids raising kids in a mud hut again. And that's pretty much it. They just wander through the desert like Moses did when he left Pharoah.

Anyway, like I said earlier in all of this, it's not something I'd re-watch, but it did have entertaining moments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

I'm in shock over how extreme our climate is becoming out here in the West.

 An extreme weather event blew through Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The area effected was all the way to northern Utah, with winds reaching 100 miles per hour. On Saturday we were 100 degrees here. Now it's like forty degrees outside. I have always believed that humans are causing the climate to change incredibly fast, but these extreme weather events have even taken me (a natural pessimist and believer that humans are by and large terrible) by surprise. My neighbors to the far west in California are constantly on fire, our air here in Utah is always smoky (during the summer and fall) these days, and our summers are getting extremely hot. I think we had ten days in a row in July with temps over 100 degrees, and in some cases around 110. This. Isn't. Normal. This was the hottest summer Utah has ever experienced since records were kept. What makes it strange is that I believe, next year will also be the hottest summer Utah has ever experienced since records were kept. And so on and so forth. Wildfires explode with such intensity that they've created a new name for them. They call them "gigafires," because they burn down 1000 acres in just a few hours. This didn't used to happen.

Anyway, here are a few pictures from around the valley of things that happened due to the extreme wind storm. Tons of big trees fell in one of the parks not far from my house. However, nothing bad happened to my house. Just a ton of debris in the yard, and my two big planters on my porch that weigh probably 100 pounds each filled with wet soil and plants ended up on the sidewalk (yeah...the wind was that strong). As I'm writing this, there are 100,000 people out of power in the Salt Lake area. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, especially since temps are plummeting. It's going to be in the low 20's in Park City tonight, which is only 15 miles from me. Again, we were 100 degrees just two days ago.

Anyone else noticing extreme weather? Anyone else even care? If there are climate change deniers who read my blog...are any of you at all worried about the world you are leaving to your children and grandchildren? Another day in paradise I guess.

Friday, September 4, 2020

I really love it when Ridley Scott indulges his bent for science fiction.

Ridley Scott is a great director. Even so, it's questionable whether he gets total creative control over his projects. Other directors who landed in the same boat are famous names like David Lynch, who calls his Dune adaptation done in the eighties as a great sadness in his life (because he was unable to realize his own vision of the book and had to bend to what the studio execs desired). The same can be said of Ridley, who started out with an Alien prequel series known as Prometheus and ended up having to film some hot garbage called Alien: Covenant, because the studio was cratering to fandom demand that the xenomorph be prominently featured.

So now we are stuck with a narrative that doesn't make sense, i.e., Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, none of which directly ties to the fossilized space jockey the crew of the original film found on the moon LV-426. And we probably won't get any answers, because the latter film did poorly, and the studio called 20th Century Fox was acquired by Disney and the franchise of "Alien" doesn't exactly scream "Disney Princess." So...there it a nutshell. Nevermind, that there is apparently a whole movie missing between Covenant and Prometheus that explains exactly why David turned on Elizabeth Shaw, or why she even decided to piece him together, or why David decided to vivisect Shaw (which is apparent from the outtakes) and then create the first face hugger using the fingers of Elizabeth Shaw's own hand. I can't even understand David's logic in doing so, nor how we get from that apparent muckery to a spaceship piloted by a Space Jockey (one of the engineers) apparently loaded with these leathery eggs from a species that the android David apparently made by experimenting with the black goo, even though we saw him annihilate the Engineer homeworld in Covenant. Yeah...none of it makes sense.

However, this doesn't mean that I don't appreciate Ridley Scott's mind. In fact, Prometheus and Covenant both look like notes in a notebook to me...only they filmed it before a cohesive plot could actually be done.'s what writers do before they get beta readers to come in and say, "Hey...none of these things tie together but you've got some really interesting ideas here." Which is to say (as a compliment) that I love it when Ridley Scott decides to indulge his science fiction bone...the one that says, "hey...let's do something that looks really cool!"

So, Ridley Scott is once again doing this kind of thing with a new series called Raised by Wolves that is about a very advanced synthetic lifeform kind of reminiscent of the androids in Alien who are tasked with raising human children on a planet far from Earth. It looks very cool, and I gotta say, I'm interested in seeing where this goes. No doubt, the android will be the bad guy here (as is the case with most synthetic lifeforms in Scott movies). I'm just curious as to what kind of questions he's going to be asking of the audience in thinking about artificial intelligence, and whether or not something synthetic could actually parent and thereby raise humans to treat each other differently than what we see on Earth. If you haven't heard of this series, check out the trailer below.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

What author would you pick to be your beta reader if you could have anyone?

Yay! There's only four months left in 2020. This year has been the longest one in my living memory. At least we have the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share together online. Haven't heard about it? Well let me fix that right now. This is a copy/paste from their sign-up page which can be found right HERE.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

September 2 question - If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

I'm going to stretch the traditional view of what we consider an "author" and name movie director, Guillermo del Toro Gomez. If you aren't familiar with his absolutely brilliant work, Guillermo is a Mexican filmmaker, author, actor, and former special effects makeup artist. He has won Oscars for both Best Director and Best Picture. He has been my favorite director for about twenty years.

With Chuck Hogan, he co-authored The Strain trilogy of novels, which were adapted for a terrible television series (you can't win 'em all). His work has been characterized by a strong connection to fairy tales and horror, with an effort to infuse visual or poetic beauty into the grotesque. He's also had a lifelong fascination with monsters, which he considers symbols of great power.

I think del Toro just resonates with me. I write weird and unsettling stories that make people have gut reactions of "gross" or "this is just too out there." My writings are influenced by Lovecraftian-type things, and del Toro loves those kinds of strange and weird tales too. You see it in his films like Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, and Shape of Water.

As a beta partner for my writing, I think that del Toro would be perfect. That he'd give me the kind of criticisms that I desire in order to hit my target audience (which honestly is probably similar to those who love del Toro's work). Anyone (for example) who feels that they'd love a del Toro production of Lovecraft's "Into the Mountains of Madness" would probably get something out of my work as well.

Now I'm off to see what authors other people have chosen. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Umbrella Academy's greatest strength may just be its choice of music.

A lot of people like Umbrella Academy. I am one of them. I started watching the second season of it on Netflix this weekend, and it occurred to me that there are a lot of shows out there that fill this niche. And by "this niche," I'm saying comic book movies with real characters that have problems and issues and are very flawed and relatable. So why then is the Umbrella Academy even good? Well, there are several reasons that make it a standout.

It does have a nice budget and the C.G.I. that they do for the main cast is on par with things that I've seen come out of Hollywood. In particular, I thought the talking ape character was really well done. Additionally, Umbrella Academy takes a page from Snyder, who used big letters to spell out locations and timelines that were angled in ways to make them appear as part of the storytelling panel (I'm specifically thinking of the movie, Watchmen, here). This gives it a comfortable, almost nostalgic vibe of professionalism that I like.

However, this answer left me wanting, so I continued to think about Umbrella Academy. What I landed on as a viewer (as an answer to my own question) is the choice of music, which is very important to the show. Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance is the creator of the show, and presumably spends a lot of time on it since his band broke up (I'm still upset about this by the way).

My Chemical Romance is probably my favorite band that came out of the early 2000's. Their music was so good, and just had fantastic (great) lyrics and tone that (I think) is comparable to the early albums U2 put out in their career. The music of My Chemical Romance to this day feels surreal, personal, cathartic, kinetic, and it's just fun to listen to. Additionally, the story just gets the viewer into the good stuff right away. You don't have to figure out how someone got their powers. Instead, you are off and running with an apocalyptic plot and trying to figure out who is what and why should anyone care? Additionally, the characters are very strange, consisting of a gorilla man living on the moon and another man who talks to dead people (just to name a few).

Anyway, those are my thoughts. So anyone out there a fan of Umbrella Academy? If so, would you agree that the music in it seems to be carefully chosen and serves the narrative on the screen rather well?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Here are three Mondo posters that I like.

 Every once in a while, I head over to Mondoshop and look at their new posters they have for sale. One of these days, when I come into monies, I'm going to buy a bunch of these and have them framed. But in lieu of that day, here are a bunch that I do like. Hey...I can always comfort myself knowing that while I struggle with money, at least the sleezebag Jerry Falwell gets a $10 million dollar payday for being actually fired from Liberty University. If I got fired from a place, I'd just get my last paycheck is all. Somedays, life just doesn't seem fair...or all the days really. Anyway...favorite posters.

I love the color in this shot for some reason. It's very eye catching.
This looks like a comic book, which is why I love it.

I've never actually watched, "A Quiet Place," because it's not my kind of movie.
However, I am familiar with the plot and I love how graphs of sound are used
to great effect as a topographical landscape the characters must navigate.