Corrosive Knights, a 12/9/19 Update…!

Big news, for those interested: I have finished up the first draft of Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series.

I suppose I should once again -and for the last time- show this graphic:

Why for the last time? Because I’ve got to upgrade it. Book #8 is NOT going to be the Epilogue to the series.

But if you’ve been reading my updates, you know this already.

Still, I’ll point it out again: As things worked out and I created more and more Corrosive Knights novels, I came up with a way to conclude the main story line with book #7, Legacy of the Argus.

However, there was still one story I had tucked in my proverbial back pocket, a story that was essentially written out, which I felt would serve as a lovely “finale” -or epilogue- for the Corrosive Knights series.

However, redux, releasing that story meant I would wrap up the Corrosive Knights series and move on into other stories unrelated to it.

It seemed the right thing to do. While writing the final two books in the series, I was feeling the first twinges of what can only be described as fatigue. It’s not easy to juggle so many balls in the air, creatively, and come up with something you feel is worth releasing which adds to the series while never screwing with whatever came before.

I was elated as the end drew near, that countless re-writes and revisions were almost over. I would finish the series, in my mind, wonderfully with Legacy of the Argus then do a few revisions on and release the Epilogue before moving on to other things.

Only… when I actually finished Legacy of the Argus, I not only felt relief that I “stuck the landing” and created a great seven part book series, I also realized the fatigue I felt -perhaps something bordering on being burnt out- was lifted.

Gone.

Completely.

I was so proud and happy of my accomplishments. As I moved on to that Epilogue story, I was hit with waves of second thoughts.

Did I really have to end this series?

I wondered.

Another part of me asked, where do I go from here?

I pulled up the Epilogue and considered it. It was very short, only some 20,000 words long (my novels tend to be 100,000+ words). I worked on a new introduction to it, a way to expand the story and provide some exciting new material.

My mind wandered. New ideas worked their way into my head. Ideas for another story.

It was the first time in quite a while I started up a novel with no clear view of what I wanted to do with it. It was equally clear that I didn’t want to release that Epilogue story.

At least not yet.

So I worked and worked. If I were a sculptor, it would be like getting this massive slab of marble and chipping away at it here and there, not having a clear idea of the statue you were creating, but coming up with concepts that moved you closer to that end result.

Over the past week, and after writing a considerable amount of material, it all came together. I had my ending and it was solid.

More than that: I thought it was terrific.

I was busy these past few weeks, with family over and things to do for Thanksgiving. I likely won’t have too much time to work on the book between now and New Years, as there will be much family fare to do as well.

Nonetheless I printed the whole thing out yesterday and, as time allows, I’ll work on what is now the second draft of this book. I’ll be reading through this massive printout and cutting it down to size before adding stuff that isn’t there which should be.

There’s a lot of work yet to be done but it feels like I’m further ahead than usual. I’m certain this book will be ready sometime in the new year.

And you know what?

I can’t wait.

Biggest Bombs of 2019

Hot on the heels of writing about some critics’ favorite films of 2019 comes this fascinating article by Ian Sandwell and found on digitalspy.com focusing on…

The Biggest Movie Flops of 2019

Unlike many of the films listed as top quality releases last year, I’ve actually seen one of the films on this list, Terminator: Dark Fate. Further to that, I’m familiar with pretty much all the films on this list, with the exception of Missing Link and Ugly Dolls.

The one that really surprised me was Captive State. I recall seeing the trailer for it and then promptly forgot the film existed! Not only did it exist, it apparently came and went without much of a ripple!

Others on the list, like Charlie’s Angels, The Goldfinch, and X:Men Dark Phoenix were pretty well known to me, even if I didn’t see the films.

Of note is the fact that some of these “flops” seem to have made a decent amount of money but it was only a little over their budget. When one takes into account the amount spent on advertising, etc. I suppose the loses become greater… either that or creative accounting takes over!

For example, X:Men: Dark Phoenix, according to this article, had a budget of $200,000,000. HUGE number, I grant you, and according to the article it took in $252,000,000, ie about $52 million over its budget. Yet that’s enough to make it a flop because -again I’m guessing- you have to factor in other expenses besides those that relate to the actual budget of making the film.

Similarly, Terminator: Dark Fate had a budget of $185,000,000 and drew in just north of $255,000,000 at the box office yet it too is considered a flop.

As I said, that’s the only film in this group I saw and, frankly, I liked it well enough.

But in the end, my opinion is but one of many or, in this case, perhaps one of too few!

Ah well.

Best Movies of 2019

It’s getting to be that time of year once again when people look back at what came before and decide to make lists about it.

Yep, we’re talking “Best Movie” lists of 2019!

First up, we have Dana Stevens at Slate.com offering this take…

The best movies of 2019, plus the best of the Decade

Oh yeah, we’re about to enter a new Decade! Why not add that?

And looking over the list I have to say… I haven’t seen a single one of the films listed. Neither for the year of Decade!

Sheesh!

I do have the movie Us recorded, though, and I do intend to see it eventually, so at least there’s that…

Kristen Acuna at theinsider.com offers this list:

The best movies of 2019 so far you need to see

Once again, I’ve seen… none of ’em. There’s Us here, as well as critical and commercial hits The Joker, Avengers: Endgame, The Lighthouse, Parasite. I have to admit, I’m curious to see all these films and even have Endgame in my digital collection.

Perhaps I will see some of these in time?

The Irishman is also finding its way to lists like these but, I have to be dead honest: I’m not interested in seeing this film, despite the Scorcese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci combo. Four hours of movie based on what is likely a totally fabricated story? I dunno.

Finally, Vulture.com offers three of their critics’ Top 10 lists…

The Best Movies of 2019

Another intriguing batch of films, though these feel more “high brow” than some of the other lists.

Anyway, if you’ve seen more than I have (I’ve seen none, sadly!), I hope you find/found them good, and if you’re intrigued by some of the rest, give ’em a try.

If I had the free time, I would too!

😉

Completely Wireless iPhones?

Found this article over at cnbc.com and written by Annie Palmer:

Apple is killing the charging plug on its highest-end phones by 2021, top analyst predicts

It’s an intriguing idea and, at least for the iPhones, one that doesn’t bother me much. At this point in time I hardly ever “plug in” my own iPhone much, charging it in the car wirelessly or, if I need to at home, likewise. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I had to actually plug the thing in to charge it.

HOWEVER…

I also use an iPad -quite extensively in fact- and there are often times the battery is very low and I need to plug it in to continue working/playing/whatever-I’m-doing on it.

Similarly, my daughters, who have iPhones as well, use them pretty much for everything and are often finding them low. They plug them in quite a bit to keep doing whatever they’re doing on them while charging them up.

Which begs the question: If Apple is planning to do away with the charging plug, will they have some system that will allow people who are low to charge them while still working on the phone? Or will they have to put the phone in a wireless charger of some type which will be connected to a socket so they can keep using them while charging up?

It seems to me they need to do something like that.

Unless, of course, they’ve figured out a way to get even more life out of batteries and figure people will simply charge their phone when they’re sleeping.

Again: I’m not against the idea of wireless charging an iPhone, but what isn’t inconvenient to me might be for someone else!

The Predator (2018) a (mildly) Belated Review

I’ve mentioned it before so indulge me as I mention it again: When I was younger and I was eager to have a career as a writer, one of my dreams was to write the Batman comic books.

Mind you, back then (we’re talking the late 1970’s and into the early-middle 1980’s) Batman wasn’t THE BATMAN, multi-billion corporate sold platinum/gold character. Back then, the books were doing decently but most people knew of the character from the purposely cheesy TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward or perhaps some of the cartoons released in the 1970’s. (You’d have to be really into culture to recall the two serials made prior to the TV show!).

Since that time and roughly beginning with the release of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Tim Burton’s Batman, the character has become part of the global culture and is rightly one of DC Comic’s prized characters.

So if you have any dream of writing the character, be prepared to have plenty of editors/management/investors looking over your shoulder and making sure you don’t do anything bad with the character. Further to that, expect to be told (often) that you have to do this or that with your stories. And if fans express any disappointment in your work, chances are pretty good you’ll get the axe.

The point is: The character is corporate now.

I realized this and, further, realized the way I write requires me to have absolute freedom to do “my thing”. That and plenty of time to get the story “right”. The books I currently have available for audiences to read are, for better or worse, my creations from the very first word to the last. Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to those books, they’re mine.

With that realization came the realization that I really can’t see myself becoming a contract writer for a character as big as a Batman or considerably smaller/less known. I have my way of doing things and unless given total freedom, I can’t see myself doing these characters with others looking over my shoulder and/or deadlines pushing me to hurry through the creative process.

I mention all this because having seen The Predator, I get the very strong feeling that if I were to make a film featuring a prominent character and under those tight deadlines and with corporate types hovering over me expecting me to do this or that and facing tight deadlines, that’s the type of sloppy film I’d come up with.

Shane Black (he directed Iron Man 3 and was one of the actors in the original Predator), co-wrote and directed this film. There were considerable controversies around the movie’s creation, word of the final act being re-done. Of the controversy when it was revealed a convicted sexual predator was in the cast -albeit in an apparently minor role- and actress Olivia Munn’s anger at realizing she participated in a scene with him without being told of his past. His scene was subsequently deleted.

When the film was finally released, the reviews weren’t terribly kind. However, I’m a fan of the original Predator and despite figuring the film wasn’t going to be all that good, I still wanted to see it. Shane Black has done some decent films in the past and, what the heck, right?

Uh huh.

To say The Predator is a mess is something of an understatement. The film leans far too heavily on humor in the early going, with characters engaging in smart-ass banter while other red-shirts are being ripped apart via gory -but not terribly good- CGI.

The plot of the film goes something like this: A Predator is running away from another Predator. It escapes to Earth. It’s escape pod crash lands near a U.S. Special Op team engaged in… I really don’t know what they’re doing there, except killing off some random badguy.

Anyway, the sniper in the team, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), has the running away Predator escape pod almost land right on top of him. He is the only survivor of his team and manages to get a couple of Predator items (the helmet and wrist band) and mails them to his wife and child back in the U.S. (why not?!).

He’s then taken into custody by black ops officers run by a man named Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, overacting pretty wildly) who intend to get information off of him then do away with him.

Meanwhile, Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn), some kind of super-biologist, is picked up by these same black ops people and gets to see the supposedly tranquilized Predator in a secret U.S. base that conveniently lies within a stone’s throw of McKenna’s home (where his ex-wife and child live) and, we find out a little later, also a stone’s throw from where that Predator’s ship crash landed.

Yeah, I’m feeding you SPOILERS here but consider the absolute absurdity of this scenario: We start in what appears to be South America with that Special Ops team and the escape pod of the ship (with the Predator) crash landing there, we then move to the United States, and it turns out that not only the SECRET BASE where the Predator is being held is near our McKenna’s home but also the crashed ship itself (which is what Traeger wants to get his hands on) is ALSO within close driving distance….!

How’s that for coincidence?!?

Anyway, it turns out the Predator that crash landed was running away from an even more fearsome (and taller) Predator. They are screwing up Earth -or at least allowing Earth to get screwed up- so they can come in and claim it for themselves. They like hot weather… or something.

Anyway, redux, McKenna winds up with a group of military misfits/mental cases, Olivia Munn’s super-biologist, and finally his autistic kid (who also figures, improbably -yeah, who would’a guessed?!- into the bad-guy Predator’s ultimate plans). There’s also an addled Predator dog. This is another element that looks like it was pieced together into the film while whatever sense the scenes made were cut to shreds.

How so?

Well, in the sequence where the Predator dogs first appear/attack, they menace McKenna’s autistic son, who happens to be on a baseball field (don’t ask) after he has befriended a regular/ordinary dog.

I suspect that sequence was originally a lot darker because that friendly, nice regular dog simply disappears from the sequence the moment the action starts and, at the very tail end of it and when our heroes are leaving, we have a brief clip of that nice friendly dog walking on the field and toward the camera, as if the director/editors took some old sequence/scene (perhaps when the dog originally appeared) and stuck it in there to assure audiences that dog -who, again, disappeared entirely once the violent action started) is actually ok rather than, as I suspect in the original cut, likely cut to shreds.

Further, what becomes/became of the addled Predator dog is also something of a mystery. It shows up toward the end of the film and attacks (I won’t get into spoilers as to who) and then is gone.

I could go on and on but let me add one final head-scratcher: Toward the end of the film, one of the film’s most prominent characters is killed. This is done in such an offhanded, long distance viewed way that as an audience of one I hardly even realized he was gone. It was until a few more sequences passed I realized he was no longer with the rest of the cast!

In sum, The Predator is, sadly, a giant mess of a film. In many ways it reminds me of Suicide Squad, a film which was also famously taken from the director’s hands and reworked into what was story-wise an incoherent mess. Thing is, at least Suicide Squad had a bunch of charismatic actors making you care for them even if what they were going through made zero sense. Alas, the cast and characters in The Predator are simply not as charismatic or interesting.

Alas, in the case of The Predator, we simply don’t even have that.

A pass.

I can’t help myself: ONE MORE SPOILER!!!!

At the movie’s very end there’s a CODA which reveals what the “good” (I suppose its all relative) Predator brought with him.

I won’t reveal what he brought but if you do see the film, pay attention to McKenna’s autistic son and how he talks during this sequence. While in the movie proper he talked with great hesitation (suggesting his autistic nature), in this part of the film he suddenly talks perfectly normal and even shows emotions!

Could there have been another cut scene which showed the Predator messing with the kid’s head and making him more normal?

Who knows.

Not that it would have made the film any better.

More on Tesla…

As the header states, this is about Tesla and electric vehicles in general so if you’re not interested in either, look away…

Now then, I found this article over at jalopnik.com and written by Michael Ballaban…

Here’s the main problem with Tesla’s Supercharger Network

I’m going to give away the entire article here but basically Mr. Ballaban notes that over the Thanksgiving Holiday when people were out and about with their cars, in Tesla heavy areas, specifically San Luis Obispo, California, there was a line of Tesla cars waiting to use the Superchargers there and Mr. Ballaban concludes that this is the big problem with Tesla’s Supercharger Network: There needs to be more of them.

To which I say: This here is a perfect example of backseat driving (pardon the pun) and/or wanting everything right away/entitledness.

When a significant number of cars first started appearing in the early 20th Century, do you think that gas stations suddenly were everywhere? Do you think people who adopted those early vehicles suddenly had access to hundreds of gas stations within a couple of miles where they were?

Nope.

It took a while for them to appear. Hell, it took a while -decades!- before we had good highways in which one could actually use these newfangled cars!

Tesla, as I’ve noted before, has been in existence a grand total of some 16 years. It is one company founded by Elon Musk who had to put/invest a tremendous amount of money -his own and borrowed- to get the damn thing off the ground. And Tesla had to fight the generalized feeling among many that electric cars were simply not good compared to gas/Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars. Fighting the oil companies, by the way, ain’t easy. They’re among the biggest, most powerful companies around and their lobbyists are very powerful in Washington and around the world.

Yet in those short number of years, Tesla/Musk has changed the attitude that EVs are worthless. They’ve managed to institute, on their own, thousands of Superchargers around the country that will allow those who have Tesla vehicles the ability to travel across this country. Yes, it takes a little longer to charge a EV vs. fill up an ICE vehicle’s tank. Yes, there are far more gas stations around that Superchargers.

But…!

We’re in the early stages of the EV revolution, if indeed it is that.

There are thousands of Superchargers out there but, guess what?, these are only used when one does travel far distances. When you don’t, you tend to use home chargers, if you can.

In my case, I’ve used the Tesla Superchargers a grand total of six times since getting my car in February. The only reason I used those Superchargers was because I was making trips that took me significantly away from home. With only one exception: The very first time I used a Supercharger was one day when I was relatively low on power (I had roughly 150 miles of range, so no danger of being empty) and decided rather than charge at home later on -and because I was so close to a Supercharger- I’d use it to see how it worked.

So, in total I’ve used the Superchargers five times when I actually needed them. Those five times were easy, relatively quick (average 30 minutes charge time, longest was about 40 minutes when I was very low and wanted to get to 80% charge), and most importantly: I did not have any lines to deal with.

Yet the article above makes it sound like “holy hell, look at how people have to wait in line to get their charge!”

Betcha big money those chargers are relatively empty today, after the Thanksgiving weekend, and will stay so with the exception of any big holiday when people are indeed out and about driving long distances. Wait times? I bet they’re nothing today.

But again: WE ARE AT THE START OF THE EV REVOLUTION.

There aren’t that many Superchargers out there because there aren’t that many EV cars out there in comparison to ICE vehicles.

As more and more EVs are sold, I guarantee you more and more Superchargers and other charging stations will appear to deal with the demand.

There may still come a few more Thanksgiving or other holidays in the future where we see lines of cars (Teslas or whatever other vehicle) waiting to get juiced up.

This will change, provided EVs continue to do well, which I believe they will.

Have patience, Mr. Ballaban. Rome wasn’t built in one day.

Chargers will appear more and more, just as gas stations eventually did.

Give ’em time.

Melancholia…

It’s been noted these times -the end of the year and the holidays associated with them- often sees a rise in depression and suicides.

Perhaps it is times like these when people assess what they’ve done in the year, or maybe they realize the strains on their relationships with family and loved ones.

Of late, I personally am finding reading the daily news very depressing. There’s the inanity of Trump, a man who should have never become president and who is single-handedly screwing up, it seems, not only the U.S. but the world itself with his craven, paranoid, idiotic rantings.

There are other news stories, of how people are destroying natural habitats and endangering so many species of animals and insects and… its heartbreaking to see.

Then, there’s stories like these, which on the surface is also sad but shows that some good comes when people care. From huffingtonpost.com and written by Lee Moran:

Disney lets man with terminal illness see new Star Wars film before official release

Let’s not kid ourselves: The story is ultimately a sad one. The man in question is terminally ill with cancer and the Hospice he’s in felt he would not survive long enough to see the film when it is released December 20th.

However -and this is where the story becomes much nicer- the hospice staff made a few inquiries online and people got in touch with people in the know and ultimately a laptop was brought to the man’s Hospice which carried the yet-unreleased film. The man, along with his son, was thus able to see the new Star Wars film thanks to the generosity of Disney Corp.

I hope whatever time this gentleman has left will be pleasant, and I especially hope he had a great time watching the film with his son.