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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dreams and Ideas

Seeds of ideas can often be found in our subconscious.

When I was small, I remember having a dream journal, where I would write down what I dreamed of the night before so as not to forget. As I've gotten older, that earlier training allows me to remember at least the more notable ones. I no longer keep a journal, nor do I remember everything, but once in a while something just sticks with me.

Last night I dreamed I was a guest on a talk show, wearing my hot sauce pajamas. And I was trying to sew on the top of my head with an ivory needle, but couldn't find any thread. So I kept asking for thread between interview questions, while holding the top of my head in place.

I have no idea what it means, but I'm sure I can use some of that somewhere.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

There's only one thing more annoying than psuedo science

Sloppy sloppy writing. UGH.

I have just finished watching the only two seasons of Dead Like Me, which, being an absolutely brilliant, innovative and well-written show, was cancelled within a year. It's rare that a television show makes me even smile inwardly, let alone laugh out loud; even rarer where I feel for the characters at all. There's a genuine tear jerker episode near the end of season two.

After exhausting the entertainment of first round viewing of both this and The Dresden Files (not quite so brilliant, but then again, only a single season) I went on a brief search to find my next set of background noise.

(I tend to listen to t.v. shows while drawing on the computer or photo editing, listen to music while writing.)

Enter 'Fringe'. J.J. Abrams has gotten so much positive press that it's even reached the rock under which I live, no mean feat. Plus, the 'cover copy' as it were, implies that the show is more or less 'X-Files: Take 2', which I also enjoyed(at least the earlier seasons).

Not even close. Beyond some of the leaps of logic taken by the 'brilliant' scientist, beyond even some of the head-bleeding psuedo-science that (beyond making no sense) are shot off in such a way as to induce pure what the fuckery, beyond even alternately making the characters rogue geniuses in one scene and making them Too Stupid To Live in the next for sake of forwarding the plot...

SLOPPY SLOPPY WRITING.

I've watched one episode, and the beginning of another, and the stumbling is enough to pull me right out of the narrative and rant at my computer like a querulous old man.

To wit - a 14 year old boy is going on an (understandable) crime spree with the help of drug induced mind control powers. Fair enough. When the TSTL characters get into his computer, they find he's been searching 20 year old car wrecks, to see if his mother actually died in them, as he was told.

What-wait a second. 20 year old car wrecks? This woman somehow birthed a child SIX YEARS AFTER HER DEATH? Let's hear it for zombie ovum.

Next issue in the 'drove me bonkers' category - to stop the kid's mind powers, the genius scientist finds a toy from the MC's childhood, which emits a recording of a mother's heartbeat from the womb. This sound is suspected to nullify the kid's power - that part is fair enough. What drives me completely mad, is that over and over, the recording is referred to as 'white noise'.

That is NOT white noise. Not even a little. White noise is a signal with a flat power output within the auditory bandwidth, i.e. un-eq'd static. The very act of hearing the heart beat negates the sound EVER being white noise. If the character were half as clever as he were supposed to be, he'd know that.

There were plenty of other 'gimme a break' moments within the episode, but both of those could have easily been avoided by having a clue, or doing one second of research/proof reading.

Another throwaway bit - the business head of a huge tech firm is writing an email or letter at the end of the show to someone...on an APPLE II. Little green screen and everything. If the show were created in 1985, I could let it slide. I honestly couldn't tell you what she was writing or to whom if quizzed; I was far too busy ranting about the six inch monochrome screen.


Within two minutes of watching the next episode, I wanted to hit someone in the head, preferably whomever chose this prop...


So there's this alien observer dude, watching people in the park with folding opera glasses. They also sell these at sporting events; you can buy them online in a plastic version new, or with a bit of looking around, in a metal case used. They run between five and fifteen dollars in most cases.

A veteran comes up to alien dude, saying 'I've never seen something like those before.'

Alien dude replies. 'that's because they're from somewhere else.'

REALLY?? C'MON. Talk about insulting your audience. I find it hard to believe a vet with a white beard has never been to any sort of show or sporting event, watched enough movies, or seen enough things in passing to recognize something like that.

'From somewhere else'???? You mean the stadium down the street? Or maybe the concessions stand at the Met? I'm not sure who to blame for this one, but someone thinks the viewing public is mentally impaired.

Furthermore (and this might have made me the craziest) it's pretty easy to tell what someone is viewing by looking at the direction of their head. This guy is not bird watching. You're telling me that a veteran soldier isn't in any way suspicious of what some bizarre looking dude is watching?

As a whole, the performances themselves in this show are stellar, the editing is slick, and what caught my attention in the first episode I watched were the elegant supertitles - cool at first, but I see the gimmick wearing thin quickly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Research - House M.D

I think I've mentioned loving this show before. What boggles the mind, is that someone has done play by play reviews of all the medical information in EVERY SHOW.

http://www.politedissent.com/house_pd.html

Interestingly enough, they tend to get the weird stuff right, and flub the basics.

Useful terms defined: #1 Checkov's Gun

"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."
— Playwright Anton Chekhov (From S. Shchukin, Memoirs. 1911.)


Often confused with foreshadowing (which can be about practically anything) Checkov's Gun refers to specific items to which you call attention while writing. You can leave them alone for a bit, but be darn sure you use that element while it is at least a dim memory in the reader's mind.

In fantasy, this is the amulet that grants a power, the hithero useless sidekick that does something brilliant, etc.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Putting the work away for a while

I was cleaning up an older short I had written for submission, and much of my original perception of it had changed.

The dialog was far stronger than I remembered (go me!) and flowed believably and beautifully - what a thrill!

On the other hand, the descriptive and action passages clunked harder than an engine with no oil - right before it throws a rod, leaving you stranded on the side of the interstate at three a.m.

When I originally wrote this piece, I was under the mistaken impression that both aspects were decent, if not glowing. Surprise...

It's always a good idea to put that piece away for a little while after you write it. The good bits are never quite as good, and the bad never quite so horrid, as they first appear.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ophelia the Coffee Cup

I'm not normally one to name inanimate objects (other than '%&$^ thing I tripped over), particularly not coffee cups - which I lose with alarming regularity. Particularly when I've worked several eighteen hour days in a row...but that's another story for another time.

I have one coffee cup that I've never lost, for some reason. It was a freebie, from Willoughby's Coffee and Tea in New Haven, CT. It's been all over the country with me, and remained relatively unscathed until this past autumn.

While resting on a plinth near the production truck, it took it upon itself to take a suicidal dive into a nearby stream. I was not there to witness the events. One of my coworkers heroically fished the erstwhile travel mug from it's otherwise certain watery demise (my hero!). A bit of the lid broke off, and it bathed in mud and gravel, but was otherwise unscathed. And a bit of a scar adds character, no?

Another co-worker informed me of the adventure by telling me that the cup had changed it's name to Ophelia.

I used my mug as a puppet to quote Shakespeare for the rest of the week.

Things like that are why I love my job.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Baobob trees!


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Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
As promised, some of the photos I took while on my California trip. I'm pretty happy with quite a few of them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Backstage at the Arm of the Sea


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Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
I did a photoshoot for an educational puppet troupe! Too much fun. I'll have a couple more of these for my portfolio, and I shot almost 400 photos of two performances for them.

My favorite photo from this shoot


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Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae