Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Crazy Month

I already wrote a post with NaNoWriMo in the title so I thought I'd address the reality of this endeavour by calling it like it is: crazy.  A 50k (at minimum) novel in 30 days?  Yes, I think everyone involved in the project considers it crazy.

What's crazier is my declaration of my participation in public.  It means that I have to come up with SOMETHING in November, or risk shaming myself for not at least attempting the challenge.  And yet here I am - so please put the public shaming on hold for at least a couple of months.  Please?

Right, so here is the very brief synopsis of the story I will be writing from November 1-30:
Larry is just trying to get through high school with as few bruises as possible when he finds an old pocketwatch that allows him to travel through time. He uses the it to climb the rungs of the social ladder - until he witnesses his future self being expelled after pulling off a seemingly innocent prank. Will Larry suffer the consequences of meddling with time, or will he fix everything before he ruins his future?
Larry is honestly a temporary name, but as I wrote in my notes, it's growing on me due to having (re-)watched The Big Lebowski recently.  I don't even have a title for this thing, but that's really not important.  I bet it has something to do with the word "time".  Maybe I'll go a different direction entirely and call it "The Pocketwatch".  Actually, I rather like "The Pocketwatch".  Maybe I should use that as a working title.

And here is where I declare my intentions.  Emphasis on the word "intentions", because what I intend to do and what I actually do will be different things indeed.

I intend to:
  • Write 2,000 words per day.  This will equate to 60,000 words in total, and is above the recommended 1,667 words per day that totals up to about 50k.
  • Post an edited excerpt of the novel on December 1st on this blog
  • Do a one-pass edit to make sure the story works and cut out word padding (which will happen, for sure), terrible writing (also inevitable), etc.
  • Do one more edit for grammar and spelling.  I expect most of the spelling to be caught by spell-check, but I doubt the grammar will be 100%.
  • Do one of A) shop it around to an e-publisher or B) self-publish.
The reason I say 'e-publisher' is because that way I don't have to spend money printing and mailing manuscripts.  Public shaming only applies if I don't complete the novel & edit, not the publishing bit.  Just FYI.  Well maybe just the novel completion bit, I mean editing is a lot more daunting than writing.

I think that settles everything.  Looking forward to November!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Battlestar Galactica Season 4, Episodes 9 & 10

In my continuing series of reviews of the episodic Television programme known as Battlestar Galactica, I have watched the next two episodes - The Hub and Revelations - and correspondingly have reviews to share.

9. The Hub
- I liked the way they approached the continuation of this one, showing us what happened prior to finding all those destroyed base ships and the wrecked Raptor.
- They've unboxed Deanna - good.  Hopefully this means we'll get some answers out of her!
- I particularly enjoyed the moment when she "revealed" that the President was a Cylon.  It was a moment where my line of thought was, "Okay, she's gotta be joking!  They're playing up the suspensful music too!" and it turns out that was indeed the case.  I like that they didn't take a commercial break to reveal that she was just joshin'
- Not sure what to make of Roslin in this episode.  Her visions, her decision to save Baltar...I just don't know.
- Speaking of Baltar - for some reason I thought he already revealed that he gave up the access codes.  Good to know he's not feeling guilty about that anymore, that he's moved on.  Just trying to figure out what he was getting at as far as telling the Centurion about the Cylon God and whatnot.

10. Revelations
- You can feel the apprehension from the Four in the fleet when Deanna announced she wanted them to come forward.  Though I don't understand why Tori was there - at least the other three had reason to be on the flight deck.
- I think Tori must be programmed differently than the other three.  She at least seems the most "Cylon" of the four of them.
- Holy crap, Tigh is actually revealing himself to Adama?  This is nuts.  I seriously stopped the video right after he revealed himself and suggested sticking him in an airlock.  I am in unbelievable suspense.
- Wow.  President Adama (Apollo) has some balls.  I understand though - they probably all feel betrayed so being so callous when it comes to killing a Cylon who you thought was human is easy.  He would have sent Tigh out the air lock if Kara didn't stop him.
- I didn't think they'd actually get to Earth already!  I was thinking it's an end-of-the-show type of goal.  But now that they're there, it's in ruins.
- Which means the rest of the season should be devoted to answering tons of questions, which hopefully means they'll still have some exciting episodes left.  This was the best episode yet this season, I hope not to be let down.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review:: Easy A

I've split this review into parts in keeping with one of the movie's themes.  In Part 1, I give a general review which contains no spoilers.  In Part 2, I will reveal my post-viewing critical thoughts of the movie that back up my general opinion in Part 1, but MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.  Ye be warned.

Part 1

Let's not split hairs: this is a teenager / high school movie, and is aimed at said audience.  Maybe even the college kids who aren't too far removed from their glory days are in that audience.  Having said that, it is still enjoyable for people like me who are 26 and several years removed from either high school or college.

The story is as it looks in the previews: Olive helps out a gay friend by pretending to have sex with him at a party, and then continues to help other students by having fake sex.  It all inevitably spirals out of control, which is where the conflict comes in.  It's a pretty funny movie with only a few negatives (at least, negatives from my perspective), but for Easy A, getting an A is not so easy (haha, see what I did there?  Oh yeah, there are some wonderful puns in this movie too); I give it a B, which would have been a B- if it hadn't been for the really clever opening/end credit sequence.

On to Part 2 - where there might be some spoilers.  But for this kind of movie, I don't think being spoiled is that big of a deal.  Other people might think so, hence my generous warning.

Part 2: Why I gave Easy A a B OR this part is also really long so hang in there please

The top reason for why I didn't give it a higher grade is because I didn't know what movie this was trying to be.  For the first half of the movie, it had its own identity and stood fairly evenly on its own legs.  Near the end, it becomes a pastiche of John Hughes homages and the movie loses itself.  By "loses itself" I don't mean to say that it becomes a bad movie, but that its legs give out and the movie has to use a Hughes-Crutch to make it to the finish line.  Oh man, I am just picturing Felix Gaeta hobbling to the finish line in a track meet.  Okay sorry, no Battlestar Galactica in here.

The self-referential bits begin early in the film - acknowledging how fitting it is that in every movie the book they study in class has a significant relevance to the events in the movie, yadda yadda yadda.  Alright, I can excuse that because we know from the beginning that Olive is narrating From the Future, and It's Funny To Say That We're Not In a Movie But The Events Are Exactly Like a Movie.  Or something.

But then Olive brings up John Hughes movies (clips are even shown to us), and the final sequences are direct homages to those same movies.  This is the point where I get confused about what kind of movie this is, and I think I would have preferred it if it tried to reach the end without getting Hughes to prop it up.

I believe that the reason I have a problem with the Hughes-crutch is not that I don't like Hughes - far from it.  It's more than just because I think the movie could have done well on its own; it's because I also think it doesn't make any sense.

I assume that Olive is either 17, or about to turn 18 during this movie.  That places her birth at 1992.  Sure lists a bunch of writing credits in the early 2000s, but Hughes' last actual movie was Curly Sue in 1991.  The movies Olive talks about were made between 1984 and 1986, 1988 tops.  Is the movie trying to tell me these movies are actually relevant to teenagers these days?  I'm 26 and even I haven't watched all of his movies, nor do I have any strong desire to do so.

This tells me that the movie is simply a vehicle for the writers to re-live their memories of their favourite John Hughes movies, and it got green-lit because it was something edgy that the teenagers would like anyway.  And maybe they'll look into these movies they mentioned along the way (probably not).

In my opinion this movie would have been better served by paying homage with subtelty.  The movie-goers who would appreciate the references would feel excited and smart for pointing them out to their friends (I know I would).

Wow all that and I didn't even mention that I didn't like Olive's parents.  Way too liberal for my tastes - but I don't think they were meant to be real in any sense.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In which I seek help with NaNoWriMo 2010

The blog posts here automatically get ported to Facebook (at a snail's pace, but they get there) so there might be some people reading this that don't know what "NaNoWriMo" is beyond thinking it's some sort of comically miniature organization.  Not quite - it's a rather lengthy acronym for National Novel Writing Month.  I guess it should really be InterNaNoWriMo because it really is an international event that gets publicity all over the Internet.  Either way, it shall be known from here on as "NaNo" for (even) short(er).

I've participated a couple of times - the first few times when it was a smaller event, I don't think I even got a word of a story on the page.  Last year was my most successful attempt, though I still didn't reach the 50,000 word landmark to "win" the "competition".  There is a very simple reason for this: I procrastinate and make excuses for not finding the time to write.

There is another reason, and it's also why I am going back and forth in my head about my participation in the 2010 edition of NaNo.  I've discovered in the last few months that I am much more attuned to writing non-fiction than fiction.  Sure, I know critically what makes a good story, but I have difficulty writing a good story.  Sure, I could practice and get better, but I find it more natural to write non-fiction and communicate from my perspective instead of a made-up character's perspective.

When I read an article or essay I've written, I can often look back at it with pride, knowing that I think it's good.  When I read a story I've written, I don't usually react the same way.  I think it's not good enough, that I could do better. 

I also struggle with editing fiction.  It just doesn't come as easily as editing, for instance, an essay.  With fiction, it's like I've written something in French and am trying to correct the grammar.  I can get by, but it will still look a little sloppy.

Still, NaNo is tempting.  If you win - that is, write 50k words in 30 days - you get a lot of goodies.  One of them is a free proof of your book at CreateSpace.  It's not the most professional looking thing, and definitely not the same as getting published, but for my writing level it's a pretty neat thing.  This is why I always think about taking part in the grueling task that is forcing yourself to write 50k words.

What should I do?  I have some ideas for a novel if I were to take part.  If I do this, I don't think I would do any kind of planning ahead of time - just wing it.  As long as I write 1,667 words a day, that's all that matters for this undertaking.  Opinions, anybody?

Monday, September 20, 2010

World of Wonders

I keep wanting to discuss this book with everyone but I don't want to keep making blog posts.  So I thought I'd keep track of my thoughts as I read in a draft post.  Here's what I wrote recently on a forum, after being 7 chapters in:

So far it is a captivating enough story, but I'm not sure I see the point. It seems like it would be better read in quick succession of Fifth Business and Manticore, rather than waiting several years after reading Manticore. I haven't gotten to the point of putting the book down in frustration, as I did with Philip K. Dick's We Can Build You, but the book is definitely walking on a tight rope with me right now. Especially since I just picked up Spook Country for $2 and am itching to read that.

I wrote the above about a month ago.  I kinda gave up on reading World of Wonders, because I wasn't staying very interested in it.  Progress on Spook Country is going slowly as I am currently trying to get through some old TV shows (Battlestar Galactica, going to get caught up on Stargate Universe, and so forth).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Battlestar Galactica Episodes 7 & 8

I've watched another two episodes since last week - and they're dealing less with the religion crap and telling more action stories.  Good in my books, because that's what turned me away from BSG for a bit.

7. Guess What's Coming to Dinner?
- The humans and the rebel Cylons are set to start an alliance in order to destroy the resurrection hub, which means that the Cylons would no longer be able to come back to life.
- The Cylons also want to "unbox" the 3s (played by Xena) so they can find the Final Five.  I don't think I've ever seen Tigh so terrified in the lifetime of the series.  The funny thing is that his suggestion to just "blow up the whole thing" is still quite in character, while at the same time hiding his identity as a Cylon.
- I really wish Tori was never introduced as a character.  I don't care that she's one of the Final Five...I don't like her character.
- I feel bad for Mr. Gaeta.  I didn't really think it would come to losing his leg, but then again, it was probably hella infected because he was lying with a gunshot wound for what...10 hours or something?  Maybe it was 4.  Anyway also crazy that he didn't want to be put under while they removed his leg...that's just weird and freaky.

8. Sine Qua Non
- I keep wanting to type that out as Sine Qua Nom Nom Nom
- Admiral Adama is the man in this episode - Thank God. Oh sorry, I meant Thank Gods.  Gotta keep in line with the show.  Anyway the point is it's nice to see The Old Man finally getting some decent screen time.
- Wait what?  Caprica 6 is pregnant with Tigh's child?  That is crazy.  ALTHOUGH if I'm not mistaken he is halucinating / seeing his dead wife's face instead of the 6's.  So that might have something to do with it.
- I'm starting to get the idea that Tigh's wife might be the final model.  But I don't think that's right because the final unrevealed Cylon is purportedly still in the fleet.  Maybe it's Geata?
- It's interesting to see Adama recognize that he is no longer objective about the rescue mission - I say that because I recently watched the season 1 episode where he sacrifices resources to rescue one pilot and refuses to give up.  It's nice to see some growth.
- Also I am more than sure that it's going to be the Caprica 6 that steals Hera from Athena.  She shot the wrong model.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

After deciding the other day that Linkin Park is my new guilty musical pleasure, I decided to check out their new offering: A Thousand Suns.  Here are my thoughts on the album.

Having not listened to any of their previous albums (that's coming soon), just their singles, it sounds as though this album is a departure from their "norm".  There are samples galore in this album, with a heavier emphasis on rapping in the songs.  There are maybe two-three songs that conform more to what they are known for.

Overall the album plays as one long piece - I can't say that I've really noticed any "track breaks" between the songs when I listened to it.  They all merged together quite nicely, and I have to say I enjoyed the album.  I don't know which track is my favourite, but I did like "Robot Boy", "Waiting for the End", and "Blackout".  No surprise that those are some of the more "traditional" type tracks.

Of the "departure" tracks, I think "Burning in the Skies" is pretty solid, as is "Wretches and Kings".  The best thing out of all of it is that none of the tracks sound like the songs at the end of the Transformers movies (which was one of my previous gripes about Linkin Park - that many of their songs sound similar).

Friday, September 10, 2010

BSG Season 4, Episode 6 - "Faith"

The second half of "The Road Less Traveled", there's a lot more action happening in this episode.  And a lot less Baltar.  This is all good in my books, and the episode was definitely a good one.

- I particularly enjoyed that this episode advanced the plot.  It didn't seem like last week's episode was doing much, if anything at all - in fact I feel that they could have edited the sequences of "The Road ..." into "Faith" and still gotten the same results.
- Nana Visitor was in this episode!  I suppose it's the Ronald Moore connection?  Anyway it was nice to see Major Kira again, even if she was just playing a one-off cancer patient.
- Adama was in about 2 minutes of screen time in both of these episodes combined.  It seemed out of place for him to suddenly show up at the end of the episode.
- So I think this means that the Colonial fleet will now have a Base Star at their disposal?  Albeit a damaged one, it still gives them an extra means of protection.

I've got one more episode ready to go, and then I have to download the rest of the season (and convert it to ipod friendly formats).  I'm glad I decided to do this!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

NHL Slapshot Review

I finally got the game - after trading in something like 8 games, I was able to purchase NHL Slapshot for $12 and change.  Pretty sweet, considering my aversion to paying $70.  So how does the game measure up?

Admittedly, I haven't played too much of the game yet.  I jumped into a quick exhibition game, pitting my favourite Ottawa Senators against the despised Toronto Maple Leafs (which, for some reason, have a rating of 86 compared to Ottawa's 85).  This was after spending about 15 minutes trying to put the stick peripheral together, which is not very well documented in either the game manual or the accompanying training video.

I then decided to play the new mode for this game, Peewee to Pro.  It's exactly what it sounds like - you take a player (which you can either create or select from existing players) from the Peewee leagues all the way up to the NHL.  Thankfully you can start at any level: Peewee, Bantam, Junior, or Pro; I say thankfully because the Peewee games can get a little tedious - thank goodness for 2 minute periods!  However the games do get a little challenging after a few games, and gives you a good learning curve for playing with the stick.  It's also beneficial that in both Peewee and Bantam there are no penalties or play stoppages, so you can get even more used to the controls.

There's no mode available to take full control of a team over the course of several seasons, but that's mostly because this game is not aimed at the people who would want to play NHL 11 (which unfortunately is me).  Even more indicative of that is the ability to skip the season and jump right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is actually a feature that disappeared from previous iterations of the NHL franchise, so I appreciate it.

And in thinking about it, I really don't mind not being able to build a team the way you can in the regular NHL series.  There will be online roster updates, and the ability is there to edit rosters, so it's still customizeable.  I generally don't play more than a few seasons anyway, and the peewee to pro mode fills that gap well enough.

The soundtrack for this game is amazing (the Olé song notwithstanding).  There are gems like The Final Countdown (yes, THAT song), The Twilight Zone, and Shipping Up to Boston.  Overall, fun and awesome tunes.

As for graphics - well, they're standard EA graphics.  Good player models, and great animations.  The gameplay is good too, even if it does lean more toward arcade hockey.  I can tell you it is certainly a lot of fun setting up goals (more so than scoring them - which is also a lot of fun!).

If you're hard-up for hockey realism, you're probably better off with NHL 2K11 for the wii - or NHL 11 if you have a PS3 or xbox.  But if you prefer a fun game with great graphics and gameplay, NHL Slapshot is the game to go with.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NHL Slapshot

I rarely get excited about video games, because for the longest time I owned only a PS2.  For a while that was still okay - I had a current-generation machine, up until the PS3 came out.  Even then after a year or so the PS2 was still a fairly popular console.  But these days, nobody really cares for it.  Even after I got a Wii last year (which I won in a contest - woohoo!), I'm still a little blazé about new titles because I stopped following them.

If only EA Sports' NHL series was available for the Wii...then I would be excited about video games.  Well, NHL Slapshot is the next best thing!  It's produced by a separate team at EA Sports, but apparently uses the same player database as the PS3/xbox counterparts.  The graphics look like they're up to par as well, even though the Wii is a less powerful console.  So it's safe to say that I'm pretty excited about this game!

Unfortunately it's $69.99 before taxes so I'm going to have to wait a bit (I hate spending $70 on games.  Maybe that's why I never upgraded my console...), but I will have NHL Slapshot and provide an actual review.  Maybe I can figure out how to take screen captures of the game while I play.  Or I'll just use my digital camera.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Story Idea: Don't Look Up

I got this picture of a short story in my head this morning, and wrote out what I could remember:

A man is sitting at a metal table in a white room. There is a sign that says "Don't look up". Skip forward, two men in suits find him dead (skull crushed or something, don't know); "I guess he looked up."

What I'm picturing here (I think) is some sort of interrogation room for the place that houses the "don't look up" sign.  There's just one question I have for this idea, which would help me figure out what the actual story is:

What the heck kind of place is this that requires someone not to look up or else face death?

If I can answer that, I have a story.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 -_Possible Spoilers_-

Despite the fact that this show has been over for more than a year now, I still haven't finished watching season 4.  I last watched episode 4, where SPOILERS Callie is blown out of the airlock by one of the Final Five.  I'm now onto episode 5; the fifth Cylon is still unrevealed, incidentally.  Way to drag it out guys.

Anyway I'm going to do an episode-by-episode account of my thoughts.  Here we go, for The Road Less Travelled.

- Never have I been more appreciative of a "last time on..." sequence before an episode.  I was partially concerned that I might not remember what transpired in the last 4 episodes.  The good news is, I don't have to sit through 4 extra episodes of Baltar being Priest Gaius, and they showed me all I need to know.
- The bad news is that I remember why I didn't worry too much about watching the rest of the show.  This episode so far is a lot of theological nonsense from Baltar and the reactions of the crew on board the Demetrius realizing (or remembering?) that Starbuck is insane.
- Speaking of insane, half the good pilots are on this mission to find Earth.  What would happen if Galactica was attacked?
- The one bit of continuity that I really like from season 1 through to now is how much the Leoben model messes with Cara's head.  I mean, nothing's more evident of that than during their "marriage" in season 3, but the two of them have some sort of connection - and it's been there since the first season.  It's a nice touch.
- I really hope the Baltar stuff is going in an interesting direction, because so far it is absolutely the most boring part of this episode for me. 
- Thank goodness Helo grew a backbone.  All episode long he's been caving to Starbuck's demands and doing the whole "following orders" bit, but he finally stood up for what he thinks is right.  I'm glad, because I've found his character can be a tad whiney and a bit of a pushover.

To be continued eh?  I think I'm going to save the next episode for next week, so I can appreciate the build-up.