Friday, October 21, 2016

This over the top Halloween display makes me thankful that I don't live in a community that would tolerate this.

I think I'm thankful that I don't live in a community that would tolerate this mess of a light show. Sure, it's a fun video, but can you imagine this going for hours every single night until Halloween? Ugh. Why do people get so wrapped up in Halloween anyway? I blame Peter-Pan syndrome

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

While you were distracted by the looming November election scientists in Tennessee discovered how to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol with great efficiency.

While everyone was busy being disgusted at their fellow citizen's behavior as a result of the looming November election, something wonderful in the science world happened. And by wonderful, I mean it was one of the rare "happy accidents" that resulted in something that I think could be "game-changing" and give a lot of hope to a human race struggling with the inevitability of climate change.

According to the journal ChemistrySelect, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee discovered a chemical reaction that turns carbon dioxide into ethanol. The process can happen at room temperature (so doesn't require hardly any energy), and it can be started and stopped easily and with little cost. When combined with the electricity grid, it could take advantage of times when there is abundant electricity by using it to create ethanol for long-term energy storage (during times when there isn't enough electricity).

Then there's the whole fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so this process could potentially take some of the CO2 out of the air and turn it into energy to power all kinds of things. No matter where you stand on climate change (or if you believe it's a conspiracy invented by democrats), I think everyone can agree that turning carbon dioxide into ethanol is a win win for the entire human race.

Don't you think that's exciting? I'm excited. Science! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

I don't like westerns and I think it's because there's something I don't get about them.

I think I've given up on Westworld, but not because it wasn't high quality. It is exactly that. It's a high quality series that's well-written and showcases some of the best talent in Hollywood today. And it has an important message, not only about how we view the Turing test but about the dark depths of humanity's inner cravings. But every time it's on, I almost fall asleep on the couch. I just don't like Westerns. Living out here in Utah, I'm a standout. Out here, lots of people love Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Unforgiven." They love TV series like "Lonesome Dove" and they decorate their homes with antlers and guns. I think I'd just rather watch something that didn't have guns and horses in it. I like cowboy boots, but it's not enough to want to watch a Western just like it's not enough to listen to country music.

Westerns...I don't like the look of them. They're not colorful movies, are usually poorly lit, and are filmed on grimy sets. There always seems to be a holiness and heroism aspect to westerns with one guy standing out that has far superior skills to everyone else. And "the guy" is the epitome of western white ideals of masculinity that seek to walk a fine line between being unemotional and restrained with the ever present threat of gun violence. Of course, every western has to have some kind of storm. It wouldn't be complete without one (with the horses running scared, everyone getting wet, and ominous flashes of lightning). And there's the inevitable bromance that develops, and when it's interrupted when "the guy's" bro gets killed, it becomes a story of vengeance and justice (maybe with a woman crying her eyes out thrown somewhere in the mix). In a sentence, maybe it's because it glorifies redneck culture.

When I start watching Western movies, inevitably I look at the clock. It blows my mind that westerns used to be so popular. It says volumes about Michael Crichton that he wrote Westworld when I couldn't even contemplate positioning any kind of story in the Old West. Maybe they were so popular because in the early days of Hollywood, endless dull retellings of the great American frontier were easy to shoot.

Anyway, there's clearly something that I don't get about westerns.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The final trailer for Rogue One has sent chills down my spine and December 16th can't get here soon enough.

The final trailer for Rogue One recently hit the interwebs, and it gives me chills I tell ya. I think my favorite scene is this one, where Vader is totally marching (with menace) towards the dude in the white cloak. It gives me shivers, and it reminds me a lot of why Vader is so legitimately terrifying.
Still, the dialogue for this scene could very well go like this (putting on screen writer cap):

Vader: "I understand that you just had lunch...a BLT with that correct?

Poor Bastard: "Y-Yes L-Lord V-V-ader."

Vader: "I see. Now when you picked up this BLT with mayo...did you perchance bother to check for a name, written in large black letters on the bag?"

Poor Bastard: "L-Let me explain! It was a miss.... Gah!" (Vader raises his hand and points. Poor Bastard starts choking to death).

Vader: "This is a yes or no question...."

Hmm. So many feels about this trailer. How to sum them all up.

First: it looks and feels like Star Wars and yet also looks and feels like no Star Wars that's ever been. Anyone else getting that vibe?

Second: Is it just me, or is the most beautiful looking Star Wars movie yet? Maybe I just like all the summertime jungle shots or the Star Destroyers hovering against the sky or the Death Star coming up on the horizon of a planet looking like an awfully strange moon. It just tweaks all of my science fiction coolness buttons.

Third: The rock statue that looks like a fallen jedi reminds me of the ancient rock statues we saw all over the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember Peter Jackson saying, "We wanted the viewer to get a sense that there was this ancient civilization by showcasing its remains." It kinda has that "feel" to it, and I likes it...a lot.

Fourth: Does the trailer seem kind of dark to you? I could feel the oppression in the movie, and it may be a divisive film to Star Wars fans. I love darkness in films, so I think I'll be in the camp of those who feel it's just right. 

Five: It's possible that this film is more about the creator/engineer of the Death Star's super laser than of the vessel itself. That being said, I hope we get to see a rear view of the Death Star. I've long suspected that there are huge engines back there allowing it to go into hyperspace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Six things I absolutely loved from the premier of Supergirl on the CW.

Supergirl premiered on the CW for its second season Monday night, and of course I loved it. They didn't hold back on anything either. Right off the bat, Clark Kent (as Superman) showed up, and it was refreshing to see a more light-hearted version of the Supes (instead of the brooding dark one that we've seen in the movies destroying cities in practically every scene). Maybe we should all just admit that this series (and Benoist) are a national treasure. After all, her bursts of silliness are what all of us need this month leading up to the election.
So here are six things I loved: 1) the Flash cameo in the opening credits (because I can never get enough Grant Gustin), 2) the fact that even with Superman around the show managed to stay central to Kara Zor El, 3) Cat Grant was back (I heard a rumor that the actress that played her was thinking of moving on from the series, and I'm so glad that didn't happen),  4) Cat Grant yelling, "Miss Tescmacher!" was awesome (for those of you who don't know...Miss Tescmacher was Luthor's love interest/henchwoman from the 1978 Superman film, and she comes and goes in comics canon), 5) the idea of Cat Grant sending Clark Kent drunken sexts was the absolute best, and 6) an actor and writer got both Supers right. They managed to capture what makes Superman and Supergirl dynamic heroes. Case in point: after they save the rocket and are confronted by innocent bystanders, Kara says, "This is where I usually say hi," and he says the same. It's moments like these that build character.

All in all, this premiere episode felt like a reboot (or a pilot for a brand new series). It's got me excited, and I think Supergirl has found its home alongside all the rest of the DC lineup on the CW.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Great Wall movie by Zhang Yimou promises to be the valentine's gift I totally deserve.

I want to see The Great Wall movie that's coming out in February even though it's a Chinese spectacle that's somehow found it reasonable to cast American Matt Damon as its star. Just to be clear, I like Matt Damon, but I kind of think that it's a little strange to have an American in a title role for a Chinese film. Not too weird...but it gives me pause in the same way as Tilda Swinson's casting as the Ancient One in the upcoming movie, Doctor Strange. But...whatever.

Or maybe I'm just noticing Matt Damon being so important in the movie, because the movie is being marketed to American audiences. Gotta admit that this is probably the more likely explanation. In that case, never mind my above comments. We do have assurances from Matt Damon that him being cast is "not whitewashing."

I know most of you probably haven't even heard of this movie, so I'll embed the trailer below. And to tell you a little about it, the movie is from director Zhang Yimou (who made Hero), and it's a complete fantasy about giant monsters attacking the Great Wall of China in some ancient, alternate history. Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal are mercenaries fighting alongside the Chinese armies. And as usual, Zhang uses color really well.

If you get around to watching the clip, I do have a question for you: Did anyone else find it odd that Damon is playing a man from the West but has an American accent? Meanwhile Pedro gets to do a Spanish accent even though his real accent is decidedly American. That just seems odd and is probably something that not too many audiences will notice. But yeah, I noticed it so I'm pointing it out :)

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Insecure Writer's Support Group wants to know when a writer acknowledges that their story is ready.

I'm a few days late for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post, but at least I'm in the same week. I guess October snuck up on me, so I apologize to those who participate in the Insecure Writer's Support Group that came here on Wednesday looking for my answer to the question of the month.

So October's question was, "When do you know your story is ready?" I think I'm reading this question in two ways. It's either asking me when I know I'm done with the first draft or when do I know I'm ready to publish. So, I think I'll go ahead and answer both questions.

Q1: When do I know when I'm done with the first draft? I am a fairly traditional writer so I do a detailed outline that picks off the events that I want to accomplish and these all lead toward a climax. Once the climax is over, then it's usually just one chapter after that in which I finish. Fairly boring, right?

Q2: When do I know when I'm ready to publish? It's basically a feeling in that I'm sick of working on it, and I know I've taken it as far as I want to and I just want it done. I want it that I can get on with my life.

I may be different than some authors when I say that the most fun comes in writing the first draft. Revising and editing and formatting is tedium ad nauseum. There hasn't been a piece of writing I've finished yet in which I don't groan when a beta reader suggests a major change to a story plot piece that will entail hours of work.

To check out other bloggers participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group, go HERE and read their stuff.