Saturday, February 20, 2010

And now, something new...

I'm going to my very first SFF/comics convention today. It's a tiny one, perfect for dipping one's toes.

Full report on Monday(ish).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Trees in the rain

Trees in the rain
Originally uploaded by digitalis_vitae
This is one I'd thought I lost, taken during a flash thunderstorm this past summer.

Pitch contest (sort of)

For all those aspiring screenwriters, has a currently open pitch competition.

I've looked over the entries so far, and many of them are hitting those 'screenwriting peeves' that I mentioned ages and ages ago, particularly the 'writing about oneself as either a struggling or ridiculously successful writer'.

Will they ever learn?

Probably not - but that's good news for you! It means out of those pitches (there were about 120 when I looked) two of them didn't sound completely awful. Of those two, one knew how to spell.

Makes the competition look a whole lot less competitive, doesn't it?

Remember - you're not actually competing against other people. I'll explain that one later, as it needs a blog of its own.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What I learned from Eli -WARNING SPOILERS

Yeah, I didn't love the movie, but it'll be a great party/popcorn rental to laugh at. For those frightening people who claim to have learned something from this 'deep' and 'thoughtful' film, I figured I'd make a list of things that I learned from this film:

1. Kmart has some amazing martial arts classes.

2.Memorizing the Bible turns you into a ninja.

3. Gas masks are only needed in forests, then disappear after that.

4. Cats are evil. I'm not sure how or why, they just are.

5. If you're a hot girl, you get coated in teflon. (That's the only explanation I can give of how she can wander the desert and remain shower fresh.)

6. After the apocalypse, the first thing people will do is find and burn all copies of the Bible. Somehow. I wonder if they started with every hotel version of Gideon's?

7. Burning this book takes precedence over finding food and shelter, apparently.

8. Evil overlords NEED a bible to control their minions, even though they seem to be doing just fine beforehand.

9. The great nuclear flash blinded everyone who was alive at the time. Except when it didn't.

10. Saying grace in front of an illiterate with no knowledge of God will immediately infuse them with awe and faith.

11. Blind people are crack shots.

12. While water is rare and precious, gasoline is common and readily available.

13. Bullets only hurt if they hit you in the stomach.

14. Ipods run perfectly 30 years after the end of the world.

15. Need an arsenal? Look no further than a couch! (Actually, this bit was pretty cool.)

16. Armored cars cannot overtake two people on foot.

17. Driving at night somehow makes you even refuse to do it.

18. Girls without a clue somehow become uber assassins when it's convenient.

19. When the entire world is rubble, only Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge will remain.

20. Women are generally useless.

21. When rowing a boat, bullet wounds in the stomach are only mildly annoying.

22. Everyone in the future will be issued a pair of designer sunglasses.

23. Post apocalyptic futures are yellowish green.

24. Girls can magic through locked doors.

25. A hand written bible is about 25,000 bigger than the braille version.

Truth in Cannibalism

Something that came up in Book of Eli, but not exclusive to that movie:

A person's hand is checked for the shakes to see if they're a cannibal. I've seen it before in the post apocalyptic genre of films, so of course, I had to see where it came from.

While not a full proof test, this little tidbit does have a factual basis.

Kuru disease, discovered in the 1950's, is a fatal brain disease that can come from cannibalism. (Only transmitted through cannibalism, though there is no guarantee of contracting it.)

It's a relative of Mad Cow disease, which is believed to have come about from feeding cows, well, cows.

It kinda works the same way - the little bugger eats your brain, creating loss of muscle control, insanity, and eventually death.

One of the onset symptoms is the tremors in extremeties, namely the hands and feet.

I like it when a trope has basis in fact, and this one is true.

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

Link in the title.

I wish this movie had been about a half hour shorter - getting tired of bloated, padded films with scenes that make no sense in the narrative, or have me dozing.

Oh - a brief synopsis would probably be helpful, wouldn't it? Ok, here we go.

We meet our hero, Eli in a forest using a human corpse as bait to catch a hairless cat. He's wearing a gas mask and using a recurve bow. (that info is important to this rant.)

The world as we know it has ended, and we find Eli on a journey 'West' - to bring the last existing bible somewhere, with only his Ipod for company. (yeah, I started giggling about there.)

As spoiler-free as possible:

Denzel Washington is Eli, a devout bible reader and NINJA!! It seems implied that he has divine protection, as he fights off hordes effortlessly, bullets either miss by miles or magically hit him and do no least for a while. Ummm, yeah...

Gary Oldman takes up the reins left by Tina Turner, as the villainous overlord of a post apocalyptic shanty town. (Alas, there is no Thunderdome.) Oldman is the educated type of villain, as it seems he is the only survivor of the 'Flash' who can read.

Or think, but we'll get to that later.

In order to spread his biker gang of world domination, Carnegie (Oldman) is seeking a particular, special book to control the minds of the masses - because the location of the only clean water supply in the area just isn't enough. So, he sends out illiterate punks to look for it (a point so nonsensical, it's even mentioned IN the movie). Apparently, Oprah's magazine and the Da Vinci Code just won't do...

The plot synopsis mentions the book that will 'save all mankind', so you kinda know where this is heading.

Fair enough. I'm not anti-Christian - I'm not really anti any religeous group, really. Were the story handled elegantly, I'd be cheering right along with it.

The problem with the biblical bits in this movie, is that they're so ham-handed it feels like the Hulk wrote this script by throwing a neverending line of tanks at a keyboard. But they're far from the only problem script wise - the committee of monkeys who wrote this thing never paused long enough in their poo slinging adventures to learn what a plot hole is.

They did watch a ton of other post apocalyptic movies though - taking every 'that's cool' from every film you can think of, and shoehorning the concepts in without rhyme or reason.

Visually, the film is nice. Nothing inspiring, but nice - shots, sfx, design (besides a few glaring bits). The fight scenes, choreographed by Dan Iosanto are stunning - more or less buyable, stylish, and engaging. This is the first movie where I've watched Gary Oldman, and found myself thinking: 'Less talking! More fighting!"

The performances themselves are all solid, if uninspiring. Even Washington and Oldman couldn't save this pap - but the actors themselves did the best they could have with the material given. And there are a couple of cool cameos - Tom Waits and Malcom McDowell appear.

While Eli doesn't reveal his name until about 20 minutes in, I didn't have a problem with that - being that his name is in the title of the movie and all.

There are some leaps in believability that just had me giggling right in the theater. One of Eli's weapons is a recurve bow. That's not the issue. I'm dying to know where he puts it when not using the thing - it magically appears in particular scenes, the string has no recoil, and it somehow fits into a small backpack when he doesn't need it. Would it have been that hard to see it on his person when not in use?

One of the more ham-handed moments had Eli saying grace over food with Solara (though he didn't appear to do it when alone, but that's a different issue). The next morning, Solara is somehow so moved by the words that she runs to tell them to her mother. Huh?

In a land of illiterate idiots, somehow only one book will do to control the masses. Really? I'm sure anyone who could gain this type of power could use any number of books to aid them - Grimm's Fairy Tales, for instance - anything with moral parables in it. Couldn't buy it.

I can't honestly remember any of the other bible conversations word for word - I was too busy laughing at them. I do recall that one slow moving conversation felt so overtly heavy handed that I said, out loud: 'this message has been brought to you by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints'. They really need a disclaimer on this film.

Another thing that was touched on initially well, went to crap in the costume department. Eli uses wet-naps as a form of currency at one point, and at another, a huge deal is made about a bottle of shampoo. Now this, I liked - desert situation, no water, no resources - these items would be at a premium.

The problem appears with the spotlessly clean and made-up Solara. Somehow, in this land of filth and dust, she magically has makeup, and shiny, bouncy hair. And while the rest of the cast is rather ragged, including the lead villain, her wardrobe walked right off a fashion magazine cover without a spot or tear to be found - even after traveling in the desert. Maybe God infused her clothes with magical fashion powers?

The other thing that drove me nuts was the misogyny. Every female character in this movie is either murdered, a rape victim, a prostitute, or some other subservient foil. Really? I know plenty of women who would not only be more likely to survive this situation than a dude, but you're telling me that in 30 years not one woman has figured out how to be anything but a convenient hole? C'mon. Not one knows how to use a knife, let alone a gun, or take care of themselves in any way - including those that were BORN into this world. Gimme a freakin' break. As if beating misquoted scripture into the heads of the viewing masses weren't enough, we're going to keep trying to spread this stereotype as well? Made me miss Conan's crew and Tina Turner yet again.

And remember, those were 1980's movies! Talk about taking a huge step back.

I did read some other commentary and reviews online. A few frightened me - those that claimed this piece of popcorn silliness was 'thought provoking' or 'made me think'. If THIS drivel induces thought, it really scares me to wonder how those individuals conduct their daily lives.

If you're watching with friends, the action is fun, and the dialogue is good for quite a few giggles, but see this one second run, or rent - it's really not worth the ten bucks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Looking up pictures of squid for a logo design made me think of the Turkey City Lexicon, and the Squid in Mouth entry.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vanity or self?

The argument goes round and round over what's self published, and what's vanity pubbed.

I feel there are two ends of the spectrum, with a great deal of grey in between.

At one end, you have a person who doesn't realized they've vanity published, just spent wads of cash to have a press design the book, and are sitting around waiting for their name to show up on the best seller list.

On the other, is the person who registers the business name, does all of the design/formatting/cover contracts, deals with the printer themselves, and does all the legwork to be shelved/placed/promoted.

As you can see, there's a LOT of room in between.

After some headache inducing research, I've found one definitive answer:

Who owns the ISBN?

If you bought it, and have all the control, you're technically self published. If the press owns it, vanity.

This has no bearing on my personal thoughts about vanity OR self publishing, it's just an easy and clear measuring stick.

So that guy/gal who has books printed to sell in the back of the lecture hall - could be either. As with any other method of distribution.

Doesn't say whether one way or another is better for you personally, either. That really isn't up to me (or anyone else) - just a matter of how many headaches you want to take on yourself.

Question answered?

Sort of. Man, this can be a confusing industry.