I’m not very religious or spiritual. Nonetheless, there is something incredibly satisfying about having good timing regarding just about…everything. Usually, my timing is terrible, but not so on this occasion.
Back in November of last year (you can read the post here) I offered the hope that I would be done with my latest Corrosive Knights novel, #6, by February.
Alas, this is not to be.
However, I just now finished the 6th Draft of the 6th Novel on the 29th of February of 2016, a February date that only comes around once every four years.
Mind you, I wasn’t “shooting” for finishing this draft on this date. Indeed, when I start up a new draft of any novel it is impossible to accurately predict how long it will take me to get through it. There might be unseen circumstances (illness, trips, get-togethers) that may slow me down. On the other hand, there may be days you’re moving like lightning and accomplish more than you thought you would…on that day.
Considering I was barely aware that this would be a “leap year” and February would have 29 days when I began the 6th draft of my latest novel, it is nonetheless a wonderful bit of timing to get it done on this particular day.
And I couldn’t be happier.
The sixth draft of this book brings me that much closer to finishing the novel, the closest I’ve been yet.
Book #6 (pardon me for keeping the title my own little secret still) runs, at this point, 96,138 words. There are still some things I have to deal with, particularly one major character reveal, but otherwise it reads pretty damn good and I believe -though I can’t absolutely promise- I might be only three or so drafts away from finishing it up.
Later today I print the book and tomorrow I begin the re-reading.
I’m the last person in the world to go to with regard to opinions about the Oscars.
These were the films nominated for Best Picture:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Of these, I saw a grand total of…wait…let me recount to make sure…just a second… aaaaand…
I saw exactly one of them: Mad Max: Fury Road (I have The Martian sitting next to my BluRay player and will get to that film, hopefully, tonight).
In my review of Mad Max: Fury Road (you can read it here) I overall liked the film but I have to say I didn’t come away as enraptured by the experience as so many others, including Ms. Trendacosta, did.
Understand, I’m a Mad Max fanatic. If pressed, I’d say 1981’s The Road Warrior, the second Mad Max film made, is my all time favorite action/adventure film ever made. I still recall the chills I felt in the theater when I went to see it. The film was rated “R” and I was in High School and too young to go into the film “unattended” yet managed to sneak in not once but twice to see it, a rarity for me to see films multiple times while they’re still in theaters. (The third time I tried, alas, I was turned away).
I was absolutely blown away by it each time.
I’ve seen the film so many times since and so much of it resonates still. It’s very difficult for me to watch the concluding/climactic car chase sequence because, dammit, I wound up caring so much for so many of the characters who SPOILERS FOR A THIRTY FIVE YEAR OLD FILM met their end (especially the noble Warrior Woman).
The Road Warrior was a film that was relentless and could be mean, but that was because the world it was depicting was mean. Good people were preyed upon and the focus of the story was on a once noble person (Max) and his journey back to nobility after losing his way.
God, I love that film.
Mad Max: Fury Road, while a good film, also confounded me. The main element of my confusion -and the thing that wound up irking me the most- was the fact that Max wasn’t the main character. But it was even more than that. Not only was he not the main character (despite the movie’s title) but the more I thought about it the more I realized the film would probably have been better if it had done away with the Max character entirely and focused exclusively on Furiosa’s journey.
She’s a great character and deserved to be front and center instead of having to make room for Max.
Thought I’m going to engage in a little “mind reading” here, I can’t help but think Director/Co-Writer George Miller started this project as a full fledged Mad Max film but, over time and as the screenplay was worked on, realized there was more meat to Furiosa’s story and therefore shifted the focus more and more towards her story.
As an author, I know how this goes: You begin a project thinking you’ll go a certain way but somewhere along the line realize there are more interesting paths to follow than you originally considered.
If I’m clever enough, I spot the movement and realize I have to make the changes necessary to improve the overall work. In my latest novel, for example, I spent some 30,000 words (quite a bit considering my novels usually clock in around 90,000-110,000 words) on elements I ultimately discarded.
Unfortunately, Director George Miller and company were clearly committed to making another “Mad Max” film and even as their story moved away from the character of Max they kept him in. Even as his purpose within the work proved minimal, they nonetheless kept him in.
Even when the film might have been better without him, as I stated above, they nonetheless kept him in.
Anyway, here’s another article, this time by Germain Lussier and (back for seconds!) Katherine Trendacosta first posted in January following the initial listing of Oscar nominees. In this posting, the authors discuss…
I’ve noted before I don’t like to talk politics. Often, no good comes of it. Those who disagree will disagree, those who agree will agree and lines will be drawn…
This election cycle feels so different from others, though. There is so much anger that’s been fostered for so very long and for so very little, IMHO. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m most certainly a liberal in most of my ideology, so those who are conservative will likely discount everything I have to say from this point onwards.
Unlike many others, I’ve had the opportunity to see first hand most (not all) political systems. I was born in a Soviet era communist country and my parents fled this. We landed in a European socialist style country. We then moved to what was a right winger’s “wet dream” of a country (very few regulations, almost no taxes, and a strong Catholic leaning), before moving permanently to the U.S., which I’ve felt works because it tended to find middle ground between politics and policy.
Of the systems I’ve seen first hand, clearly the worst was the communist style country, at least when it was that (With the fall of the Soviet Union, it gained its independence). The second worst, easily, is the right wing “wet dream” country. While its nice to not have to pay taxes to any great degree, it is most troublesome to experience: Large numbers of beggars (many of whom are nothing more than children) on the street. Wild dogs running wild (no taxes=no animal services). Shitty roads (no taxes=very little public works). Military often used for police (no taxes=very little public works). Spotty fire service (did I mention no taxes=very little public works?!).
Yet that seems to be where a sizable contingent of the conservative thought process wants to take us.
And the election of Barack Obama (twice!) has fanned flames of hatred that, at least to me, are hard to understand.
Especially given the fact that not all that long ago -and as I’ve mentioned several times before- Barack Obama would have been looked upon as a moderate Republican.
Which brings me back to this election cycle. One of the previous Republican candidates, Lindsey Graham, appeared at a roast yesterday and made some “humorous” comments regarding politics and his own party:
I’ve always felt the problem with Mr. Graham, and the reason he didn’t get anywhere near the nomination for president, was that he was too bland and didn’t appear to have much of a spine.
In this roast, however, he let almost all hang out. Not only did he jokingly state “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” but he also noted his party had gone “batshit crazy”.
While I believe joking about murdering someone, even someone you may not like at all, is in questionable taste, I agree with him regarding the later statement.
However, Mr. Graham, like all the other Republicans in his party who may feel the same as it now appears -of all people- Donald Trump might just be the Republican Presidential Candidate, bear great responsibility for the mess they’re in.
I suspect people are tired of the constant bickering and one-upsmanship many in the Republican party have engaged in in the recent past and this may be in part why Donald Trump looks to be on the verge of getting the nomination while “establishment” Republicans are having so much trouble doing the same.
Recently, when Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia passed away, was it really necessary for the Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell to, less than an hour after the official announcement of Scalia’s passing was made, to publicly state that as far as he and his fellow Republicans in the Senate were concerned President Barack Obama had no say in choosing his successor?
Considering Mr. Obama has almost a full year left of his term in office (11 months at that point) and was elected to do exactly that (ie pick Supreme Court judges which the Senate then has to approve), the statement appeared both absurd and, frankly, nasty. At that point and, indeed, even now, Mr. Obama has yet to nominate anyone to the bench and McConnell’s already stating this person will have no chance at all?
I know there will be those who say “well, if the shoe were on the other foot…” and, you know what?, you’re probably right.
Yet I don’t see the Democratic party doing something this…out there.
Lindsey Graham wonders why his party is acting so “batshit crazy”…maybe they’re finally reaping what they’ve sown.
In these times, where entertainment comes in all forms and at times feels on the verge (if not well past the point) of over-saturation, a once formidable company can suddenly find its fortunes turning. In the below article, written by Kim Masters and appearing on The Hollywood Reporter, Ms. Masters notes that while HBO still possesses and releases Game of Thrones, one of the most popular shows on TV, the network is dealing with difficulties regarding other quite costly shows, one already released (but not doing all that well) and a few others experiencing pre-production/production woes:
I linked up to the article, in particular, to point out the troubles with Jonathan Nolan’s Westworld. Mr. Nolan is not only the brains behind the wonderful Person of Interest, but he’s also the brother (and at times script writer) of mega-director Christopher (The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Inception, etc.) Nolan. This new series, based on one of my favorite Michael Crichton works, the 1973 film of the same name which was clearly reworked with dinosaurs for his later Jurassic Park books…
…had recently shut production after it was deemed some early episodes needed “tweaking”. While the people behind the show were trying to put a positive spin on this hiatus in filming/production (“it gives us time to work out the kinks”!), to me it suggested what’s been filmed so far was probably not very good. According to the article (I don’t mean to steal Ms. Masters’ thunder here) HBO brought in two more producers and two more writers to “help” Mr. Nolan get the project back on track.
As a writer, I can understand the pressures of creating a large amount of material and, especially if you’re doing it for a large company like HBO, the expectations of delivering quality and quantity.
I’m still curious to see what Mr. Nolan and company do with their version of Westworld even as a part of me, based on the delays and, more importantly, their causes, wonders if the project might eventually turn out to be not all that good.
Neither I nor anyone (that I’m aware of!) in my immediate family is a drug/alcohol abuser. Certainly none of them have struck me as needing to go in for some kind of rehab.
However, following reading the above article I have to admit to being surprised by the author’s conclusions regarding the validity -and truly, lack thereof- of Rehab Centers.
In my past life I studied and earned a degree in Psychology and one of the things that bothered me about the profession was that some of the theories regarding psychological treatment lacked rigorous scientific proof of its validity when used on clients.
Everyone knows of the “Freudian”-type clinician who sees symbolic elements to people’s actions. This is an intriguing concept but Freudian analysis/treatment -if memory serves- haven’t proved to be particularly effective to people suffering from various psychological ailments.
In fact -again, if memory serves- behavioral techniques have proven to be the most effective in curbing bad behaviors. In these cases, clients are “rewarded” for doing good while “punished” (this doesn’t mean they are physically harmed!) or given a “negative reinforcement” for doing bad.
The idea is that the individual will pursue the rewards and mitigate/eliminate the punishment/negative reinforcement.
While the field of Psychology, to its credit, has pursued a more scientific/result oriented basis for treatment, I’m rather surprised that the same may not be the case with Rehab Centers and this saddens me all the more.
People who decide they need to clean their lives up should walk into a Rehab Center, any Rehab Center, thinking the people there will help them in the long and at times painful process of cleaning themselves up.
But if, in the end, we’re dealing with something that doesn’t have that scientific backing and results, then how many of these poor people are simply throwing their money away on treatment that, at best, is only theoretically good?
And what of those, like Amy Winehouse, who went to Rehab according to the article not once but twice, yet still wound up dying because of their addictions? It is easy to blame the addict and say “they should have stuck with the rehab”, but if they went to it and it did nothing to curb their vice, could we also not at least to some degree point the finger at the rehab centers as well?
Years from now when a dissection of the 2016 election is made, people will have to look hard at the complete flameout that was Jeb! Bush’s now-aborted campaign.
I’ve seen some truly inept campaigns in my life (Dukakis and Mondale are two that immediately come to mind) but Jeb! Bush’s campaign has to be some kind of high water mark for a campaign that started so strong and fell on its proverbial face so quickly afterwards.
Amassing an astounding 100+ million dollar war chest even before he formally announced his candidacy (he did this to avoid campaign finance laws) many thought Jeb! Bush’s representation of the Republican Party in the 2016 Presidential race was a foregone conclusion.
But from the very beginning he faced -and was unable to surmount- the wicked tongue of one Donald Trump. If nothing else, Mr. Trump can pat himself on the back for totally destroying Jeb! Bush’s chances from the start.
Now that his campaign is no more and in “honor” of Jeb!’s astounding failure, the folks at Gawker.com asked their readers to provided commentary on the following:
Found this movie on cable last night, watched the opening minutes and, next thing I knew, I was in for the whole ride. And an interesting one it was!
Vincent Moon (Ice-T) summons a very large group of criminals, killers, and general no-good-nicks to a just built -but until these criminals arrive deserted- prison on the verge of being opened and tells them the place has been locked down and, before the day is done, they must fight their way through each other until only 3 are left. The prize for survival? 10 million dollars.
Following telling the group this, boxes filled with all manner of guns/weapons are thrown at the group’s feet. Then, boxes full of bullets.
Let the games…begin!
Mean Guns proved a fascinating watch. Pre-dating the film version of Battle Royale (a film which, in turn, one could argue “inspired” The Hunger Games) by three years, it is a stylish (!) “B” action film. There is plenty of death but nothing I would consider terribly graphic. There’s also great use of music and clever direction, along with at times very humorous dialogue, which keeps you into the film despite its obvious low budget.
What I also liked is the film doesn’t really have a single “protagonist”. For much of the film we’re essentially following two groups of combatants. The first, primary group, consists of -eventually- four people, two men and two women, led by Christopher Lambert’s on the edge Lou. Mr. Lambert, as usual, brings it to the table. He’s one of those actors who, even in terrible films, is always worth watching. While his presence may suggest he’s the “hero” of the piece, the filmmakers wisely keep his motivations closely guarded until the end.
Within that group is also Cam (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), the one woman who doesn’t appear to fit into the scenario at all. She isn’t a killer and, it would also appear, isn’t much of a criminal either.
The secondary group we follow consists of two hitmen whose banter is quite humorous and who, in time, link up to a female criminal…one who is very wily even if she spends most of the film without a weapon.
I don’t want to give away too much more but I will say this much: The film’s conclusion provides a good reason for why this whole exercise was initiated by the seemingly deranged Vincent Moon and, further, gives us an ending that makes a twisted kind of sense.
Unlike Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, these group of “contestants” are far from an innocent bunch so we are not shocked or horrified when they fall…and yet there is no denying we also -perversely- root for one or the other’s “success” even if we know they are ultimately almost all very, very bad people.
Considering this is an almost forgotten film, I was surprised by Mean Guns. It ain’t Citizen Kane but it is an enjoyable action flick.
During their ultimately very short career as a band (hard to believe between the release of their first album, Please Please Me in 1963 and their last official release, Let it Be in 1970), The Beatles revolutionized Rock ‘n Roll.
Seven years. An astonishing twelve albums (Including 1969’s Yellow Submarine, which was more like 1/2 Beatles and 1/2 producer George Martin album). Add to that a very large number of mind-bogglingly good singles, now collected in Past Masters Volume 1 and 2. And they also found time to write songs for other bands/artists.
Truly an incredible burst of creativity, given how many of the songs produced during that short time were absolute classics.
Another fascinating thing about The Beatles was their evolution. The early Beatles music owed a clear debt to the 1950’s rock scene but in and around the time of the release of Help! (1965) it was clear things within the band were changing and their musical direction, in my opinion, soared.
I happen to be a fan of the second half of The Beatles’ career more than the first, though there are some great songs to be found in the early going. With Help!, The Beatles displayed some early examples of that second stage brilliance. Within that album, which was actually a soundtrack plus for the film of the same name, you find such tracks as You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, Ticket to Ride, and Yesterday, among others.
Their follow up album, 1965’s Rubber Soul, is considered a stone cold classic and the one that follows it, 1966’s Revolver, is considered by many the all-time best Beatles album ever. (Incredibly, they would follow that album in 1967 with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band).
There are those that consider Rubber Soul and Revolver a “double album” that just happened to be released as two separate albums and I can’t argue the point.
Focusing on Revolver, that album featured some very strong works by the band, including such classic songs as Taxman, Tomorrow Never Knows, Yellow Submarine, and She Said She Said (one of my all time favorite Beatles songs).
There is another song on this album, Eleanor Rigby, which many consider one of the more unique -though still incredible- Beatles songs.
Hunter Davies wrote this article and presents a piece of an interview he conducted with Paul McCartney (the song’s primary writer) soon after the song was released about what went into the making of it and its possible meanings:
When I heard someone had described The Expanse books (to date there are 5 in the series and a few novellas) as a “science fiction version of Game of Thrones“, I knew the authors of the books must have done somersaults of sheer joy. (The novels are listed as being written by James S. A. Corey which is the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) .
It wasn’t all that long ago that some critic stated the then first appearing Twilight books were the next “Harry Potter”-type must-read series and you know where that went.
I haven’t read the books but I have, finally, seen the entire first season of the Sy-Fy Network produced The Expanse series and…
On the one hand, the series features many elements I really admire in good sci-fi programming: A sober handling of the material. A complex (but not complicated) plot. Good special effects. Appealing -for the most part- characters.
Having seen the ten episode season, I’m left liking it enough to justify giving a second season of the show a try while also being curiously unfulfilled.
The Expanse imagines a future society some two hundred years from now wherein humanity is divided between three solar system locations: Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt. The relations between those on either settings is very strained and it appears war is almost certain to come.
We start the series with an intriguing mystery: A woman we soon find named Julie Mao (Florence Faivre), is trapped within a spaceship and manages to break her way out of it, only to find the crew within all dead and a very strange crystalline structure growing within the ship.
From there we are presented the three main leads/groups:
On Earth we follow the political machinations of Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who works for the U.N. and worries recent events have pushed Earth and Mars on a course of war. However, she’s suspicious and careful…she doesn’t want to advocate war without first investigating what is causing the perceived Martian aggression and whether it is real or not. Mrs. Avasarala is also a political animal who is not above betraying her dearest friends in the search for the truth.
In the Asteroid Belt space station Ceres, Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is tasked with finding Julie Mao. We follow the cynical Miller around the station and while doing his work and find there is plenty of corruption and general human wear and tear to be found out in space. Ultimately, Detective Miller finds himself more involved in this case than he thought he would be.
Finally, we follow the crew of the ice trawler Canterbury as they pick up their latest load of ice and are heading back to port when they receive a distress call. The Captain and most of the officers fear the call is a fake and that Space Pirates (or worse) await them and therefore chose to ignore the signal. However, James Holden (Steven Strait), the just promoted Executive Officer of the ship, forces the Captain’s hand (without anyone else knowing) and the Canterbury sends a small rescue ship with Holden within it to check the distressed ship out.
It turns out the distress signal was a ruse and a mysterious vessel appears. It fires upon the Canterbury and destroys it. Because of the Canterbury’s debris field, Holden and the other four officers within the rescue vessel manage to evade the attackers but are left stranded in a nearly destroyed rescue vessel. They believe the Martians were to blame for this provocative act and, when they are eventually picked up by a Martian Battleship, they fear the worst.
However, it turns out the Martians didn’t destroy the Canterbury. It soon becomes very clear someone out there wants Earth to think they did.
Can war be averted? What is Julie Mao’s role in this mystery? And what is that strange crystalline material that took over her ship?
Most of the questions are answered in the first season of The Expanse but just because they’re answered doesn’t mean they’re resolved.
In fact, this is part of the reason the first season of this show left me so unsatisfied. We’re given this weird and interesting mystery and in the end we kinda/sorta know all the players but we’re still left wondering why all these elements are put into place.
There are also a host of little things that, for me, didn’t work as well as the show’s creators thought they would. For example, I never felt the fevered need for Detective Miller to push push push in resolving the mystery of Julie Mao. His character is probably the most cliched one in the show, your “cynical” detective who suddenly finds he cannot let something bad just go by. Perhaps because of the fractured nature of the storytelling Detective Miller’s change never felt natural.
Further, when another character tells him he pursues the mystery of Mao so feverishly because he’s “fallen in love” with her, I shook my head. By the show’s climax it felt like the show’s creators were indeed trying to prove this was the case but to me I never felt that to be the case. The storytelling here, in the end, was rather weak.
As for U.N. envoy Chrisjen Avasarala, her story never quite ties in as directly as that of Miller and Holden, who actually join forces together at the show’s climax. While it is true she is seeking information that relates to the behind the scenes elements that caused Mao’s disappearance, I felt her scenes were never as clever or engaging as those of Miller or Holden.
Finally, with regard to Holden and his motley crew, they proved to be the most interesting characters in the story but even their story line had some issues. I can buy they head to the derelict and witness the Canterbury’s destruction and narrowly escape the same fate but what follows proves harder and harder to swallow. I don’t want to get into too many SPOILERS here, but suffice to say mega-destruction follows in Holden and his group’s wake and after a while one couldn’t help but admire their incredible luck in avoiding annihilation so many times.
Finally, and as mentioned above, we really aren’t given much of a story resolution here. The first season of The Expanse feels like a prolonged introduction to events and people but ends without us knowing all that much as to what the heck is going on. Sure, we find out what Mao was up to. We find out what happened to her. But we don’t know any of the “whys” here and that’s frustrating. What’s up with the crystals? Why do certain people want there to be war between Mars and Earth? Why did they do what they did on Eros station?
It’s frustrating to spend nearly ten hours on a show and still have no idea about so many things.
Despite the negatives enumerated above, there was still enough intriguing material to warrant my catching a second season. I just hope we’re given more answers than were provided in the first ten episode arc. Otherwise, I might just give up.