Updates few and far between during the fervour of creation…

The summer is busy.  Usually it’s so busy that I can’t write, but I’m powering through this, my third book, with an exciting enthusiasm that bolsters my confidence immensely

Today I did a thousand words an hour, seemly my standard writing-frenzy pace at the cafe.  Only got three hours in before I came up against the wall of ‘what next’.

I’m 23,000 words in, well over a quarter of the way there.

I’ve been on several trips with my friends, where they’ve indulged my frequent conversations about various aspects of my book.  I’m continually gaining ideas and insights into what the future may hold, as it pertains to genetic engineering and the ethics of creating new creatures.

So, sorry for the lack of updates, and thanks for checking in ever so often.  In this busy time I’ll try and post occasionally with interesting tidbits.

Today, two images:

Scumbag Shakespeare

The Dark Knight and Bane rocking out.  :}

So until next time, intrepid readers, have a good summer.

Heidi out.

The Dark Knight Rises

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet and don’t want to hear another thing, well, this is your cue to leave.

If you haven’t seen it yet and want to hear a bit about it, in general, hand-wavy terms, well then, the first part of this post is for you!

I’ll put a big warning after the general hand-wavy bits, so you don’t see any spoilers.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read past the warning.

The Dark Knight Rises was enjoyable.  Though, the first hour or so felt weird- it was choppy and didn’t flow properly.  I could tell where they had to edit out chunks of dialogue, and sometimes their cuts were jarring.

Bane’s voice was weird at the beginning also- way too loud, and not very well integrated into the soundtrack.  It got better somewhere in the middle of the film, and thank goodness- it was terribly annoying.  Though I can see why they did it- he was hard t understand, but I could make out most of his dialogue.  I imagine he was impossible to hear properly before so much futzing with his voice.

All the actors were superb.

The soundtrack didn’t do it for me; that “Hacka-hacka-eece-eece-hacka-hacka” chanting you’ve heard from the trailer was used and used, but not really to its full potential.  The music distracted rather than immersed.  Though the one use of the Batman theme that popped really was well timed- perhaps I only noticed the parts that didn’t work for me.

Where it fell flat: the writing.

The themes were weird- they had some good solid ideas there, but they sort of danced over them.  Nothing really felt important.  There were a ton of surprises in the film, but, excluding the very end, nothing really had an impact.  Some of the dialogue was downright bad.  :/

Despite all of these flaws, it really was a good movie.  I enjoyed it.  Sad to see Nolan’s Dark Knight come to an end.

Well, thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoy the film!

Alright!  WARNING TIME!  EXTREME WARNING!  SPOILERS BELOW!

 

SERIOUSLY!  TURN BACK NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT!

I was calling it that they’d kill the Batman.  It makes sense.  End the franchise, finish the character in a way that fits with the whole feel of this series.

And well-  Nope, sorry, I can’t talk about it yet.  I really, really don’t want to spoil it.  If you’ve seen it, then you know how it played out.  What I will say is that I think they made a mistake.  The ending made me happy at the time, but, reflecting on it, I think they made a mistake.

A huge mistake.

I’ll write more about it in a while, after the masses have seen it.

See it.

-Heidi out.

Novel R&D: Fun fun fun.


I’m really getting into the research and development of my latest novel.  Currently I’m trying to get myself up to speed with genetic engineering, at least to the level of understanding where I can write about it and not be all hand-wavy and pseudo-sciencey.

On the docket are the following TED Talks:

Paul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering

Jack Horner: Building a Dinosaur from a Chicken

And Gregory Stock: to Upgrade is Human

Also on the docket are any movies about genetic engineering and the societal consequences of designing life.  And general sci-fi set in the not-too-distant future.

  • Gattaca
  • Blade Runner (my ‘nemesis’ film: watched it four times, but never finished it!)

I’ve seen Splice, In Time, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes recently, and they’re good fodder for this project.  I know Jurassic Park off by heart, so that’s always in the background (Dr. Malcolm’s monologue chastising John Hammond’s reckless and yet awe inspiring stab at creating new life is cemented in my mind for all time).

It’s a difficult thing to try and conceive of how the world will look in the future; I’m gaining a greater appreciation for some of my favourite sci-fi authors who seem to effortlessly transplant me into their vision of the future.  For now I realize that, while it feels effortless to the reader, to the author, it is anything but.

Anything you’d care to recommend, I’d love to have more movies to watch that will get my gears turning!

Prometheus, Prometheus

If you’ve had enough of Prometheus, skip ahead to the picture of a pretty flower.

Oh Prometheus.  Such promise, such potential.

The visuals were stunning, the sound design absolutely fantastic, and the acting tremendous (having a crush on an android is totally normal, right? Straight up.).

But the story- the story was so flawed it made my head hurt.  The characters were constantly doing things that didn’t make sense, the plot was constantly advancing in completely unbelievable ways, and did I mention all the characters are idiots?

I mean, by the time this movie takes place, humanity has had several centuries of sci-fi to learn from.  Countless tales of first contact, of exploring alien worlds, and all the problems that come along with such scenarios.

So I am to believe that this crew of highly trained scientists go in to this alien installation, take off their helmets, and just touch everything?

The level of stupidity regularly and consistantly displayed in this film is mind boggling.  My writing-brain was screaming the entire time.

…And yet I went and saw it a second time.  Granted, about 15 minutes into the rewatch, I was making that I’ve made a huge mistake face, but then I sank into it, tried to look at the pretty pictures and appreciate all the high tech gadgetry, and ended up enjoying it again.

Aside from the acting, visuals, and sound design I’ve already mentioned being great, there were a few other notable things.  There was a scene which made me cringe, cringe, in uncomfortable squeamish distress.  Scott knows how to build tension and really punch me in the gut with a distressing and gross scene.  Gosh, that one’ll stick with me.

Also, I really liked the costume design.  Their helmets had a full 360 degree view, being clear acrylic all the way around, enabling both their and the audience’s view to be unhindered by parts of a helmet getting in the way.

Gosh.  Ok, that’s enough of Prometheus.  I suppose ranting may be part of the healing process- a bad film is one thing, but when a film with a huge budget and amazing people working on it ends up this bad, it’s a sad tragedy that really makes my heart ache.


Pretty flower, right?

In other news, I had the pleasure of taking a long hike with my father-in-law and his regular hiking group on Sunday.  It was a spectacular hike in the woods, around lakes, to the ocean.  Birds everywhere, a deer, amazing greenery all around- a welcome relief to this noisy city life.

On the hike I had the pleasure of talking with two writers: Clint Budd, who is the President of The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association, and who runs the Aurora Awards, and his partner Donna McMahon, who has published two books: Second Childhood and Dance of Knives.

I’m going to hang out with them at Vcon, which I look forward to attending at the end of September.

It was just nice to talk shop with some really experienced writers.  Also nice to have some more role models to look up to.  Then, when things start to feel impossible, I can remember these people and ground myself again.

In the meantime, the rejections continue to pour in, the submissions flow out, and I’m outlining my third book.

Onwards to blood-borne nanobots, carbon nanofiber skeletons, and the ethics of bioengineering new lifeforms.

…But perhaps it can wait until after I watch another Fassbender film. o_O

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

The Ramifications of Creating a New Life Form and a Silly Video of a Cat

Yesterday, I went to a broadcast of a play.  Last year, I went to National Theatre’s production of “Frankenstein” and was delighted to see they were rebroadcasting it.  So I got tickets for me and my friends and we went to see Frankenstein, as directed by a the wonderful Danny Boyle.

I came at it from a whole nother angle; I recently started a new book, one that deals with genetic engineering and the many interesting quandaries that arrise because of our tendency to do things because we can.  I was much more in tune to Frankenstein’s monster this go around; I realized I had been approaching my story from a human-centric viewpoint.  Silly author…

So as I was getting into that groove, my brain did a funny thing.  It started replaying this video of a cat.  And it was funny.  And it almost made me laugh out loud at several, completely inappropriate points during the broadcast.

I managed to get back on track… it was a strange deviation.  Perhaps it was some failsafe, activated when not being attracted to Frankenstein’s monster is impossible.  Because Benedict Cumberbatch.

All that aside, it was a fantastic production.  Really visceral, really physical.  It was tremendous.

And then still, there’s this.  :/

When it’s Not Hip to be Square: Aspect Ratio Madness

It’s everywhere, and it causes me physical pain.  Yes, Projectionists around the globe are being tortured every day by being exposed to incorrectly formatted aspect ratios.

Sports bars are the worst for this.  Many broadcasts are not meant to be viewed in widescreen format, but the widescreen TVs stretch the program to fit its dimensions.

Absolutely terrible.

A brief warning: if you continue reading this, you too will see the atrocities being committed in plain sight on TVs around the globe.  You might not be able to unsee.  However, I feel like if enough people know about this, we might be able to change it, and get all TVs displaying programs in the intended aspect ratio.

That out of the way, let me begin by sharing one of my favourite frames from a film.

This is from Fight Club, and it depicts Tyler Durden, the most famous Projectionist, pointing up at a “cigarette burn”.  These are markings on the film that tell the Projectionist when to ‘changeover’ and switch between the projectors that are showing the film.  They are at the beginning and end of every reel of film.

Now, let me show you the image as it is printed on the actual piece of film running through the projector:

Notice that, while it’s width is still the same, the height is greater?  Notice that the previously squashed and oblong cigarette burn is now (almost) a perfect circle?  Notice how Tyler Durden’s anatomy is grotesquely deformed and stretched?

I am Jack’s bursting aneurism.

See, film comes in two formats (mostly- there are others, but odds are, if you’re at a regular theatre, you’re seeing one of these two): flat, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (for every 1 unit tall, it’s 1.33 wide), and scope, with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (often called ‘widescreen’).

Projectors have two lenses.  The flat lens shows the film as is, no stretching or distorting. The scope lens stretches is to the proper widescreen aspect ratio.  The images above would represent scope film; the first image as seen projected through the correct scope lens, the second image projected through the incorrect flat lens.

Right!  A few more fun examples before I move on now:
        

The image on the left is how the film actually looks in real life.  The image on the right is adjusted to show how the lens would stretch it, creating the correct widescreen aspect ratio.

Huge difference, right?

Right.  So, back to TVs.  Seems there’s quite a mix of formats being programed.  TV used to be filmed in 1.33:1, the aspect ratio of old cathode ray tube television sets.  Almost a perfect box, right?  A little wider than it is tall, but not by much.

But now, programming is being filmed in widescreen to take advantage of the successor, the widescreen television.  This is great!  Widescreen presentations shown on widescreen televisions are wonderful!  Widescreen TVs are 16:9, or 1.77:1.

The problem comes in when non-widescreen programming is presented on a modern widescreen TV.  Then you get things like this:

        It’s not so bad, right?  WRONG!

The original image looks like this:

As you can see, the ‘stretched’ version grotesquely deforms the actors in the frame, squashing them down, distorting everything.  Check them out side by side:

Booooo!

In most cases, the solution is as simple as pressing a single button: the “zoom” or “wide” button on the remote is the one you’ll need.  Press it, and it will cycle the TV to display another format.  Keep pressing it, and it will take you through all the aspect ratios the TV can display.  Many TVs have this set to widescreen, and what they should be displaying is auto.

TVs know what to display things in; let them do their damn job.

This way, 1.33 content won’t get squashed.  It’ll have black borders on the left and right.  2.39 content will get black bars on the top and bottom, because widescreen TVs are 16:9, an aspect ratio of 1.77, not quite as widescreen as scope films in the 2.39 format.

Oh gosh, this seems like a lot.  Basically: hit the zoom/wide button until people don’t look squashed.  You will be doing all viewers a favour.  If anyone protests, please step on their face.  Aw, that seems a little mean now that I’ve said it.  Perhaps whip out a pen an paper and illustrate what you just learned?

Nope, stepping on their face is easier.

You made it to the end!  Bonus pics for you, and you, and YOUUUUUU!

Note: no film prints were harmed in the making of this blog post; I used my collection of trailers.

PSA Image! (Large version here.)

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Cowboys and Werewolves

Well, my day is off to a rousing start.

Q: When is a kitty’s fur the softest?

A: Apparently at 4am.

Gosh, Echo, you’re so darn cute… Can’t blame her for waking me though, she was sick and was out of food.  :/

So!  Today: Cowboys and Werewolves.

I’m working on a piece for Mystichawker Press, a fledgling listing.  They know what they want.

I decided to to a google image search of “Cowboys and Werewolves” for inspiration, and, well…

So I’ll just try to forget I did that, and stick with my original plan: write the rootin’est tootin’est, gunslingingest, cross genrefest I’ve ever penned.

So far we’ve got space cowboys sent to a recently colonized planet to hunt… alien werewolves.

If you’re thinking this

meets this

but with -spoiler alert- multiple moons…

…you’re basically bang on the money.

I’m using characters I’ve written a bunch, trying them on in some sci-fi roles again.  I love switching up genres and settings for characters I’ve written and want to write again.

I’m having great fun with it.  Hopefully their editors will as well.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

So I was shot in the back with an arrow last night…

So I was shot in the middle of my back with an arrow last night…

Movies don’t effect my dreams, not at all…  Agent Barton, I didn’t even have the pleasure of seeing you- that is, if it was you who let lose the arrow that stuck me right in the middle of my back.

It didn’t hurt, at least, not right away.  As I was telling my friends that maybe we should call an ambulance, I fell to my hands and knees as the poison started to kick in.

I had the most vivid sensation of it spreading, starting at my hands, all the way up my arms, through my chest, and down into my legs.  It totally messed with my equilibrium; as I tensed up on the ground, everything started going all tilty.

If you’ve ever had vertigo, which I have, you’l know that it’s very, very disconcerting to have the world feel like it’s on an angle, and moving.  To top it off, I had the feeling like I was going to fly up away from the earth.  I hung on for dear life.

It started hurting, and then the screaming started.  I’ve never screamed so loud in a dream before, but it was the weirdest thing- I don’t think I make a damn sound.  To everyone around me, I was silent, mouth agape.

So there I was, clutching the ground, mouth wide in agonized terror, with an arrow sticking out of the middle of my back.

Finally they got me into the back of an ambulance.  The paramedic pulled the arrow out of my back; but it’d had a special arrowhead, and it took a bunch of me with it.  There was a clump of weird spongy flesh, which was apparently inconsequential back tissue, but also, to my horror, the paramedic showed my a chunk of my stomach.  Again, screaming.

I finally managed to wake myself.  It had felt completely real, and the relief I felt upon realizing that it was only a dream was like plunging hands covered in acid into a neutralizing bath.  I almost cried, but managed to calm myself, enough even to go back to sleep.

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

Lately I’ve been grappling with how I get my watchable entertainment.

All the video rental stores near me have closed.

HMV downtown, where I used to buy my DVDs and BluRays, has closed.

iTunes is frustrating sometimes- there’s content I want on it, but it might not be on the Canadian store.

I have a Netflix account, but the content is pretty limited (it’s great for when you feel like watching something non-specific, but as soon as I start naming movies I’d like to watch, I’m disappointed every time).

I will now attempt an experiment.

I want to keep watching The Walking Dead.  I don’t have AMC or cable of any kind.  My criteria:  I want to watch this show that they make, and I want to give them money to do so.  I want to watch it within a day of it airing on TV.

I will document my results here, starting with last nights episode.

Attempt number one: go directly to the source.  AMC’s website for The Walking Dead.  (http://www.amctv.com/shows/the-walking-dead)  Result: “shop” seemed like my best bet, as none of the menues seemed to have season three episodes.  The “shop” is for apparel, DVDs of past seasons, and other things I’m not looking for.  *sigh*

So it’s not available from them, from their own website.

Attempt number 2: Shaw, who plays this show apparently.  (http://vod.shaw.ca/details/109972/The_Walking_Dead/#)  Result: the episode I want appears to be free; attempted to access it, got put through some loops to register, but halted when it became apparent I had to be a Shaw cable subscriber.  *sigh*

So it’s not available on their distributer’s website.

Attempt number 3: iTunes.  Found it!  Purchased it for $3.49.  Success!  Cool beans.  I was tempted to get a seasons pass; I’ll do the math later.  Good job iTunes.

I’ll keep updates on other shows or movies as I try my best to get people to SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

Update: seriously iTunes?

Your competition is THIS fast:

*sigh*

And that’s downloading the torrent while iTunes is downloading too; usually torrenting is much faster.  :/

(I deleted the torrent after I took that screen shot- I just wanted to get the comparison.  Still have 6 minutes to wait on iTunes.)

Oh Mighty God of Boxes, Thou Hast Smiled Upon Me

Safeway’s produce department is a gold mine.  A gold mine that, instead of gold, yields boxes.  Sturdy boxes, with lids, and handles.

And lo, it came to pass that many things around my apartment are being boxed up.

And for a time, it was good.

…Though I’ve already had an instance of “where is that book Sarah lent me” “oh god this stack of boxes could contain it”.  Labeling is important; I’m on top of it, but you can only go so far with labels.  Specific books and games are just in this flux state; they’re basically all quantum boxes, each one simultaneously holding everything that we’ve packed so far.

In other news, I’m sufficiently distracted by moving that writing has stalled out.  I have a super good premis for a short story, but working on it has been like pulling teeth.  I don’t think it’s possible to make tomorrow’s deadline.  Though, it’s super strong, and if I work on it, I’m sure I can find a place for it to be published.

I watched Layer Cake with Aaron and a friend yesterday.  It’s a British heist movie.  My brain was screaming at the focus puller the entire movie.  The music choice was weird, and whoever did their sound mix should be shot.  Though, I did enjoy it, in no small part due to the cast.  Colm Meaney (AKA Chief O’Brain from Star Trek), Danial Craig (AKA the latest James Bond), and Tom Hardy (from last year’s delightful Inception) made it all worthwhile.  I watched it on Netflix, and was appalled that the only female character, who was completely gratuitous and in the film for all of five minutes as a sex object, is on the cover.  I’m not too upset by it; just one of those extra things that makes me roll my eyes.

And seriously, Clive Prior, I don’t know if the focus was all your fault or what; you’ve done a lot of other work I like, so I’ll let it slide.

This time.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.