Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review and spoilers: Inception

1. If I had the power to enter and control dreams there would be a lot more oiled up and bi-curious women.
2. Some guy rudimentarily trained in psychic self defense shouldn’t able to hold off six guys who are ninjas in this particular art.
3. If I could shape reality, I wouldn’t bend architecture, I would be the Hulk, Superman or God.
4. What a waste of Ellen Page’s talent. One of the best actresses ever- reduced to a bit part.
5. Any movie involving Leonardo Decaprio should end with him dying a horrible death. I just hate that guy. Sorry.
6. The one cool thing about that film was Marion Cotillard playing Leonardo’s wife and when she appeared, they played the music from Édith Piaf in “La vida en rosa” (2007), Cotillard was able to gain both critical appraisal as well as commercial success. For her powerful performance she has won numerous awards, including Oscar, Cèsar, Bafta and Golden Globe as best leading actress. That was very clever.
7. I tried to accept their premise of how dreams work but I just couldn’t. Dreams are not just some alternate reality that you can slightly alter. We all dream. We all know this. They are crazy insane places where our sub-conscious explodes. If you can control that, go wild. If you can enter someone else’s dream you’re not going to be sipping coffee in Paris.
8. Thank God for Internet Tethering. Otherwise, you wouldn't be seeing this.
9. Writers write because they have to write. Wendy is falling asleep and I HAD to post this before going to sleep.
10. There is no spoon.

Avatar Rocks and Thor goes to fat camp.

Avatar rocks and the little dog is going to fat camp.

Maybe you haven’t seen it but when Avatar was released, many people compared it to Pocahontas.

White guy goes native and falls in love with an Indian (Native American.)

Wendy gave me the three disc extended version on Blu-Ray for Christmas and we just watched it this morning. What a great start to the day. I thought after seeing it for the second time (in the theatre) that I had absorbed it all. I really didn’t need to see it again, but thought it one of my favorite movies. James Cameron is The Man. In my next life, I’m not coming back as a writer, but a writer/director. Wait… How about I follow my own advice and just do that now? Humans live a long damn time and it’s not too late.

Anywhoo… what a work of art. Just amazing. I loved it more on the third viewing than I did on the first.

Those that compare it to Pocahontas, did you miss the part where the protagonist is paralyzed and finds new experiences in a new body? That the GOD of this world chooses him as the chosen one? Or the part where his love is a warrior princess? Or the part where he tames and RIDES A DRAGON? Or the fact he never brings his bride back to meet Queen Elizabeth? Or the part where the industrial military complex is destroyed by a world’s GOD? Did those subtle changes in the story escape you?

Subtle.

Nine feet tall, blue, riding a dragon, wielding a machine gun and attacking helicarriers. Huh. I don’t remember that in Pocahontas…

Anyway, I loved it, thank you Wendy.

Tomorrow we leave for the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, which remind me of Alaska. Not connected at all to Spain and yet, somehow, part of Spain.

The little dog will be boarded and hopefully lose some weight and get socialized with other dogs. Having been attacked multiple times by a sheltie and then a pit bull, he is terrified of other dogs. Even puppies. When going on a walk if he sees another dog he tries to go in the opposite direction, usually towards home.

We will be doing lots of scuba diving and I will hopefully not have a panic attack. (Wendy is already an experienced diver.) I will also hopefully be doing lots of updating.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rerun: Beautiful things.

I am looking for an article and in doing so, came upon this one. It has already been posted but for those who haven't seen it, I hope you enjoy it. It has been edited and added to.

Beautiful things.

A long time ago I wrote a column about “Beautiful Things.” If I remember correctly, the premier item was “The Last Defender of Camelot” audio book by Roger Zelazny and read by “Odo” from “Deep Space Nine.” Or maybe you remember him better as the snide Butler on “Benson.”

Regardless of how you remember him, Rene Auberjonois had the best reading voice I have ever heard and holds that title to this day. He has such mastery of his voice you think there are multiple cast members, but no, he is all the voices. Nothing else compares. It could be compared to sitting on your grandfather’s lap, in the middle of an ancient medieval Inn, a fire roaring, the crowd breathlessly listening to an old man with a beard weave a tale of magic that would stay with those people for the rest of their lives.

I listened to that tape a dozen or more times over the years and never tired of it. It was a work of beauty.

Wendy was sick last week and started to feel better Friday morning. Friday morning I came home from class early, sick as a wet dog. It’s Tuesday now and I’m still struggling but starting to feel a little better. We’ve had a lot of bed time so we’ve been doing some reading and watching some choice movies.

Unfamiliar with what movies have been heavily promoted in the states, I went to Rotten Tomatoes and looked over the reviews there. In my continuing evolution, I have been expanding not just my travel, but also the books I read and the movies I watch. It has been very good to me. Very good. I went to Rotten Tomatoes and looked over all the movies that got better than 70%, paying particular attention to those that received a score of 90 plus.

Juno – Young girl gets preggers and decides to keep the baby! Yay! Doesn’t that sound hilarious? Parents wringing there hands, self righteous little girl, trouble at school, is the father a deadbeat or what? What emotional struggles will confront our heroine as the story unfolds! I can’t wait!

Gag. So not my type of movie but hey, it got 90 plus so I’ll give it a shot.

It is a thing of Beauty.

It has been a long time since I have seen a movie so flawless. (Okay, not that long since I saw Stardust this winter, but before that, quite a while.)

I laughed harder in the first fifteen minutes of Juno than I did through the entirety of “Superbad” and “Hot Fuzz” combined. Snappy, choice, edgy funny dialogue, perfect casting and acting, a few clever twists and a happy ending. An excellent movie that leaves all the sap and drama at the door and simply takes you for a wonderful ride. Wendy and I loved it so much we watched it in its entirety again the very next day. I don’t know if I have ever done that with a movie. If I have, it’s been a long time.

No Country for Old Men – While not a thing of beauty, it is fucking great. The title turned me off and then I started to read the reviews and thought, hey, this sounds awesome. And it was awesome. Javier Bardem plays the spookiest fucking killing machine I’ve seen since… well… ever. It is hard to put into words how skin crawlingly creepy this man is in every scene he steals. In one scene he goes into a gas station where “every man’s grandpa” is behind the register and they start talking. And you start holding your breath and praying quietly to your God “please do not let him kill this lovable kindly old man that reminds me so much of my grandpa. Please let him get back in his car and just drive away.” Javier Bardem radiates an icy insane malice the whole time and you can’t do anything but hold your breath and pray. Highly recommended in case you couldn’t guess.

“Gone Baby Gone” – Partially written and fully directed by Ben Affleck, staring his little brother in a tale about a crack whore’s baby who gets stolen, you can just imagine that this is garbage. While not a thing of beauty it is actually great. Just barely below No Country for Old Men.

Excellent witty dialogue, perfect casting, a bunch of the butt ugliest awful looking dregs of society you have ever seen as extras, and enough twists to keep the plot moving at a breakneck pace. Casey Affleck does a fantastic job as the street smart, slight but scrappy private detective hired to find the missing girl. His unwavering sense of right and wrong in this tale of multiple shades of grey reminds me of me (except he is as tough as any man has a right to be and my last fight was in grade school) in a younger innocent stage of my life when I thought everything could be reduced to black and white quite easily thank you. Ah, age.

Casey Affleck having his girlfriend threatened by a gangster named Cheese: "Cheese, if you ever disrespect her again like that, I'm gonna pull your fuckin' card, okay? So you're saying you didn't do it, fine. We'll take your money, and we'll be on our way. When it turns out you're lying, I'm gonna spend every nickel of that money to fuck you up. I'm gonna bribe cops to go after you, I'm gonna pay guys to go after your weak fuckin' crew, and I'm gonna tell all the guys I know that you're a C.I. and a rat, and I know a lot of people. And after that, you're gonna wish you listened to me, 'cause your shitty pool hall crime syndicate headquarters is gonna get raided, and your doped-up bitches are gonna get sent back to Laos, and this fuckin' retard right here is gonna be testifying against you for a reduced sentence, while you're gettin' cornholed in your cell by a gang of crackers. 'Cause from what I've heard, the guys that get sent up Concord for killing kids, life's a motherfucker."

My favorite scene is when tiny little Casey Affleck goes into a bar and starts asking questions about the missing girl. The locals don't like that, so one huge guy closes and locks the door and Casey sighs. They suggest bad things will happen to his girlfriend. He pulls out a Magnum 44 and points it at a guy's face.

I don't have an actual quote from the internet so this is the best I can do.

"Think you're tough now?"

Pistol whips him.

"Anyone else? Open the fuckin' door. Not wanting to help a kidnapped little kid? You make me sick."

Tough guy is kneeling and bleeding from his head.

My heroes are always the ones who are always in control. Nothing rattles them, they're always prepared for anything.

Sadly, a couple of knocks against the movie. The sound is a bit off, and the dialogue is so heavily saturated with a Boston accent that frequently Wendy or I would ask each other “What did he say?” There are a couple of logic bombs that crop up, but these are infrequent and not too distracting. Still, a phenomenal tale of moral crisis that doesn’t beat you over the head but instead entertains.

Charlie Wilson’s War – Again, not something I would normally watch, but turned out to be very entertaining and thought provoking. Unlike the more recent things I’ve e seen, I can’t ejaculate much more than that about it because it was a month ago, and while I loved it, the words aren’t there as to why I loved it so much. Just a great film.

Other things that got good reviews that I actually hated –

Sunshine – Embarrassingly bad. I’m going to do a thing I always do and fail to learn from my mistakes. The movie opens with a man sitting in a Spaceship approaching the sun. He has a little talk with the ship’s computer about opening the blinds and letting 3.1 percent of the sun’s rays in. When this happens, a noise plays along the soundtrack that sounds like dragging a cat down a blackboard.

A few minutes later he is describing this religious experience to his colleagues and talking about light is hope and love and blackness is absence of blah blah blah. The only thing that could have saved the movie for me at this point would be if one of the other crew said “Dude. Could you shut up? If this were a play that dialogue would have just ruined the first act, I mean, no offense, but you sound like an idiot” and then have everyone else laugh at him. Instead we get some touching garbage about how this is the last time people will be able to talk to their families because they’re entering the dead zone and then everyone looks solemn. The next shot is a woman picking fresh carrots out of the ground. On the ship.

Then the screen went black. Because I had turned it off.

Going to restart the sun doesn’t require a garden. If you need a garden on a ship it’s because you’re going on a fifty year journey to Alpha Centauri to have a look around.

“Hot Fuzz”, a supposed comedy. was lacking, well, humor. 20 minutes into it neither of us had laughed once and turned it off.

“Superbad” was super awful. An hour into it I had smiled once.

Been reading some very strange books for me as well.

“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it – I will love you through that as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love, I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”

From “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

My mom gave this book to Wendy for Christmas and she loved it. I picked it up afterwards, highly skeptical, but found myself immediately engrossed. One of the kinder things someone once said about my writing was “If you wrote a calculus textbook I would buy it and read it.” This is the same thing I feel about this woman’s writing. She writes about her messy divorce, her completely unstable mental state, and then spends four months in Italy, four months in India, and four months in Indonesia doing her combined life’s dream. And it’s all fascinating. Half the stuff she does I couldn’t care less about. Hell, ninety percent of it actually, but she pulls you in and makes you care and makes you turn the next page to see what happens to her.

The above quoted passage is when the author is about to lose it. She communicates with her inner self by writing her worries down, has a moment of calm and then another voice speaks to her and writes something in response. She thinks she is speaking to herself, I’m pretty sure God is writing to her. Reading that passage above always makes me tear up (yes, I’ll make someone a fine wife someday) and I’m not sure why. Probably a host of reasons. Because I want to be able to say that to someone and have them believe me? Because I want someone to say that to me? Because that’s how I view God talking? Don’t know, but it does fit my image of God. I don’t believe he wants me killing people in his name and I don’t believe he cares what food I eat (as long as its not babies) and I don’t think he cares what clothes I wear or who sees my hair. My view of God is “I will always love you and I will always be there.”

I don’t like to think too hard on it though. I mean, Bush is still in office, so…

Bird by Bird by Anne Lammot is the best book on being a writer that I have ever read. It is your typical “How to sit down, force yourself to write and improve” handbook but so very well done. Filled with insightful anecdotes and lines that make you laugh out loud. Like, while telling her students they should hate and revile anyone that doesn’t encourage their writing, treat them like dirt… she pauses and says “I’m pretty sure Jesus drinks himself to sleep when I talk like that.”

There’s some imagery for you.

It takes you though her successes, failures, the unimaginable agony of doing a book entirely over for the fourth time, stories of her childhood, her alcoholic family and her father’s eventual death from brain cancer. And illuminates how you can do it too but don’t expect much. I see myself reading this many times in the future as my writing career eventually comes back into focus.

“Charms for the Easy Life” by Kaye Gibbons. I don’t know. I can’t believe I’m recommending this book. I just couldn’t stop reading it. While sick, I read it in less than a day. I just love tales about women working for the war effort, a young woman who finally meets the man of her dreams, wise old grandmas. I’m down with all that shit, you know homie?

Wait, I hate all that shit! Why did I read this book? Again, like the movies and the other books, it’s not so much the subject matter as the writer. Beautifully crafted, well written, (unlike this sentence which is already redundant) a few laugh out loud places, a lot of comeuppance to bad people and an easy read. I enjoyed it. It’s not “Eat Pray Love” or “A Song of Ice and Fire” but I couldn’t put it down despite continually wondering why it held my attention so raptly.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Um, sorry?

Sorry for the lack of updates.

Holidays and all, ya know?

On top of that we have a very nice woman painting our apartment so we spend a lot of time moving furniture, cleaning it, then moving it back. We moved our sofa into the other room and since Wendy is female, decided that we should take all the cushions out of their covering, shake out the dust and dog hair, then put them all back in. (All very logical but men would just move stuff back into its previous space and not even vacuum the floor where the furniture has been sitting. Men.)

Anyway, that alone took until 1:00 in the afternoon. That one simple task. Right now we have all our books piled in 18 stacks because the wall holding all those books is getting painted. Soon, we will move them all back. And the shopping of course. Between a dentist appointment and shopping for Wendy’s gift, I was gone from the moment I got up and showered until 2:30 in the afternoon.

We’re going on a scuba vacation shortly after Christmas so I have to get certified online to save time when we get to the dive center. There are six courses. The first course took me three days to complete. Not like, three eight hour days but three days plus life interruptions. Hmm, scuba vacation in 7 days. Course one took me three days. Five more to go.

Instead of going to a PTQ or a local Magic tournament I spent seven hours Saturday doing three more courses, which were much easier than section one. At the moment I am at the last few minutes of course five. The test wants me to answer “What is the minimum surface interval required between a dive to 18 meters/60 feet and a train leaving St Louis at 35 kilometers an hour with a buxom redhead in seat 4A who looks interested in you?”

(Obviously not the real question.)

I’ve tried everything on this question. I have a dive computer. I have the dive charts. I have a web page chart explaining how long you need to rest between dives to eliminate nitrogen and I just can’t get it. I have two more questions on section five and then I get to move on to the final section and I can’t move past the question.

“Who is your favorite child?”

“I can’t answer that.”

“Incorrect. You do not move on.”

Sigh.

Click “try again”

Repeat.

I have done little in the past three weeks but work out, run, move furniture and books, Christmas shop, call the IRS, cook, answer email, eat and sleep.

That’s not a complaint, just a summary.

Sorry for the lack of updates.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Like Superheroes?

I would pay cash money to see the guys who did this trailer make a movie.

http://www.gametrailers.com/video/exclusive-who-dc-universe/702050


The game itself is done by the guys who did City of Heroes, which I enjoyed for about six months. I'm pretty sure the game won't look like that trailer, but it makes me want to play it anyway.

I think that is the best trailer I have ever seen.

Thanks to Chris McMahon for showing the link to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Secret Force



Secret Force: Quest for the Pro Tour II is now available.

Secret Force contains everything from first seeing the card Verdant Force, to trying to make a deck out of it, to testing sessions with the hilarious Joshie Trash Talker and the evil genius of Magic, Alan Webster. From there chapters include local tournaments, playing at Shawn “Hammer” Regnier’s store, the evolution of the deck, attending Pro Tour Qualifiers, some philosophy lessons, additions to the Wakefield School of Magic and playing Army Magic in the middle of the Vermont forest in the dead of winter.

It contains a small amount of new material, reprinted articles you may have already seen, articles that were only published in magazines, and the secret letter I sent out to Green mages only, showing them Secret Force for the first time.

It has been edited thoroughly, set in chronological order and while it contains strategy and theories you might find useful, I think it makes for a more compelling story than anything else.

If that's not enough to convince you, here’s a quote from Mark Rosewater, head of Magic R&D, writer, head of the Pro Tour and all around good guy.

MaRo: “My favorite Magic writer of all time is Jamie Wakefield. I felt like he wasn't a Magic player that wrote but rather a writer that played Magic. He definitely helped influence me to write more about my life and not worry about getting off topic. I loved how he stressed that Magic is part of his life and how interwoven it was. Plus, the boy can write. I remember he spent a whole article writing in a completely different style (in a magazine feature style if I remember correctly) just to demonstrate a particular tone.

One of the things that's missing when people talk about writing is craft. Writing is a skill and part of that comes from some very technical aspects of writing. Jamie was a solid technical writer.

You can tell that everything he did was a conscious decision. I find it funny how often when I talk with people about my writing and I get into decisions about why I did something that people seem shocked the amount of time that went into figuring out exactly how I wanted to write something. Good writing feels effortless, but that doesn't mean a lot of effort didn't go into it. It's very hard to sound like you're just saying what's coming out from the top of your head. It's a skill I focused on lot on when doing stand-up comedy that's all about mimicking sounding like you're talking as thoughts come to you. Anyway, while Jamie is an entertaining writer, there's also all this craft that might be invisible to most people but is obvious to other writers that Jamie nails.

I loved Jamie Wakefield's writing so much I often read his other writing about his life. In fact, the most emotional I've ever gotten reading anything was when I was catching up on his blog and stumbled upon the last six months of his wife's life. For those that don't know, Jamie's first wife, Mare (as he called her), died of cancer, and Jamie wrote about all of it from her getting diagnosed through her death, and it was one of the most brutally honest things I've ever read. It affected me so much that I got us to make a card in Mare's honor (Timbermare from Planar Chaos) that we let Jamie preview.

I'm quite happy that Jamie has been able to bounce back and find a new life for himself. He just got married – Congratulations, Jamie! He's also writing again (well, about Magic), so that's awesome.”

The paperback is available here-
http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Force-Quest-Pro-Tour/dp/1456319396/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1291288516&sr=8-7

The Kindle edition is available here-
http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Force-Quest-Tour-ebook/dp/B004AM5E9Q/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1291288516&sr=8-6