Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ahhh, June

I'm currently sitting in my boss's chair at her desk trying to track everything I am working on and wish I were working on and what I don't need to be working on and I realize a couple of assistants could be very handy at such a task. A couple other points that spring to mid are 1) coffee should not take the place of actual food, no matter how tasty it is, 2) Zero Punctuation is a hilariously aggressive review site that'll amuse whether you play video games or not but can affect the way you speak or write in potentially disastrous ways, especially if you've been drinking a lot of coffee.

The temptation to write about my negative feelings is unusually strong these past fews days, and given that this is the internet, it seems the proper forum, but screw that. Having a rough time isn't in itself very interesting, especially if you quote alternative song lyrics to make your case. There's a fine line between feeling down due to recent happenings and feeling down because it's too much trouble to pull yourself back up. As anyone with a basic understanding of narrative structure will tell you, any problem is just half a story until there's resolution, and even if that resolution is "and then the dog died," at least there's the pleasure of that particular problem being over and done with. So I'm going to take a cue from proper storytelling and applying it to my blog: no pointless bitching without some sweet ending to tie the thing together, like the rug from "The Big Lebowski."

You might have seen one of the many pictures or articles featuring Lady GaGa. I saw her on the cover of Rolling Stone a while back and proceeded to exclaim "What the shit?!" The article implied that we shouldn't think of her as a pop singer because she has some musical aptitude and isn't another cute person with someone surgically melded with a mixing board in the background. I have listened to an album by Lady GaGa, and I can comfortably say I'm done seeing her everywhere. I'm happy you pop dance club music lovers have someone you can listen to that's not hyper-filtered and remixed, but sadly this girl still can't think of anything more interesting to sing about other than how nice it is to be pretty and rich. I don't have anything against people that are either pretty or rich, but when all you do is self-aggrandize it reeks of psychological incest/ masturbation and I for one will not stand idly by and help you act either out.

Sorry, just had to get that out real fast. The outline for the movie script is very solid, getting to the point where I'm going to have no choice but actually start scripting soon. I'm reading "In the Land of Invented Languages" by Akira Okrent (probably spelled wrong) which is giving me some keen insights into the novel I plan on writing, and between that and the graphic novel I'm writing some random scenes that I may not use anywhere, but it feels better to have them out of my brain.

Anyway, I should get back to the day job.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

And Then There Are Weekends

Edgar Allen Poe would have loved my Friday after work. The dog dug up a dead raccoon. What's worse is that he had to have done this a day or so ago, nothing else could explain that smell, or his recent eating and crapping habits. Matt (my brother) and I put what was left of it in a garbage bag, put that in another garbage bag, and are going to put it with the trash this week. It's communal faith that will keep other animals from tearing into the bag - faith or the universe recognizing that we will not give it a third burial.

I talked with Kwee on the phone Friday also, with helped balance the day out. He seems very excited to work on a comic that will be published, sounds interested in the story, and showed me some of his more recent work. We talked about artists that we liked, some ways not to write a comic script, and what we're doing when we're not aspiring to be the next great artists in the world.

Today I helped my father and brother get an old broken refrigerator out of the basement. This is one of those fridges made from metal that could store your household adventurer through large explosions, and the basement was not made for tall people (I'm 5' 10" and the runt of the three of us). It came up to a twisted ankle, a wrenched shoulder, assorted bruises and pinches and a few near-crushings between the three of us, but we got it out there, and if heavy trash pick-up isn't this week I'm a gonna cut somebodah.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Everything's an Effort

So I'm going back to the gym early mornings. I can't do a whole lot, seeing as I have maybe an hour to work with between the time the gym opens and the time I have to be at work, so I swim. It's a good way to get a balanced workout fast, and I personally love swimming, even if I'm not a very strong swimmer. Problem is I haven't worked out regularly in something like two months, and I seem to be developing insomnia, so between it all I think I'm too tired to feel the pain I'm probably in.

My mother's birthday was yesterday, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. It was a quiet little thing, dinner and cake, and she loved it.

the script for the thing I'm not comfortable talking about is coming along. For all the potential impact it could maybe have on my career, it's not a serious project, and I think that's helping me stay motivated - it means I can throw what I want in there and not worry. This kind of story is very friendly to my brand of crazy as it is, so hopefully I can pull something off.

Losing Yourself is coming together. The web address is bought, will be speaking on the phone with the artist for the first time hopefully tonight, and some of the more bureaucratic details are coming together. I wonder if this is what's causing my sleep problems - I told myself I was prepared mentally for the reality of publishing my own work, but actually being here's a very different thing. I do wish my subconscious would get used to the idea soon, because I truly am exhausted.

You don't believe me? Well, I'm going to stop blogging and start sleeping, you just see if I don't!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's Not You, Blog... It's Me

So this once-a-day deal isn't working out that great, is it? I'm trying to keep the pressure on myself so that I update at least almost-daily, but I don't know if I'll be able to put in 30 updates this month. We'll just see.

Yesterday I had an accidentally productive day. I emailed a lawyer to make sure he was going to work for me, I reset my iPod to work with my desktop, I went to the gym (more later), helped Mom and Dad in the yard, and cleaned my room a bit. If I'm going to not go out in public much, I might as well get crap done.

Saturday's visit to Evan went awesomely! They've made incredible strides with the back yard, their cat is huge and shy, and my baby brother has developed truly mad skills with a grill. Evan's installation in Milan seemed to go pretty well, Erin's job is working out, and they have plenty of opportunities to spy on the neighbors. It seems great, I'm happy for them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Running Til I Pass Out

I spent yesterday working on parts of the script for one project, waiting for a lawyer to contact me, and in the evening playing Rock Band with Tim and his closest friends. I felt young.

Just a quick update today, I'm spending the day with the family traveling to and from Chicago. May the traffic gods watch over us and smile!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For My Next Trick

I'm going to blog about nanomachines!

Nanomachines are small like brain cells. Brain cells hurt because they argue, and arguing hurts my ears. Ears of corn are delicious, and one time they told Nero Wolfe who the murderer was. Nero Wolfe doesn't listen to vegetables very often, maybe that's why he's rich.

Rich foods can be delicious like fudge, or overwhelming like a meteor. Why is it one meteor kills the planet and makes people go "AAUUGHHGHG," but a whole shower of them is pretty and makes people go "ahhhhh?" Isn't it nice when we can say one little word and mean everything we want? That's why swearing's fun. Another thing that's fun is backgammon, butI haven't played in forever.

Four could be the loneliest number if it wanted to. It's one lonely number that happens to be with three other lonely numbers, and someone said you're never lonlier than when you're in a crowd. It might have been the guy that sold breath mints, but I don't know why he'd do that, except that he thought people felt lonely due to bad breath anxieties. I don't like mint, it feels like I'm setting fire to my mouth, only it's cold, but I have to brush my teeth anyway. I like my fires hot, it's kind of how I know they're fires. Fire's another thing that makes people go "ahhh" or "ARHRHGHGHGH" depending on the details.

The tails are connected to the butt.

That Didn't Last Long

Okay, so I missed yesterday. My month-long streak of consistent blog entries lasted two days, and that's okay. You know why? Because I'm going to make up for it.

I'm reading an article on historical languages (Science Vol 324, 29 May 2009, p1165), and I wonder how much most people take language for granted. Information gets transmitted in more ways than a lot of people think about. Any time two elements interact, information is transmitted. When proteins align to form bigger proteins, that's information transmission. It's as fundamental to the working of the cosmos as mathematics, but there are hundreds of different schools regarding language while math is more or less universal.

It sounds unfair when it's put like that, but there's a counter-argument that kind of puts math back a peg, and it's that math doesn't carry cultural significance the way language can. It used to, millenia ago when the Greeks were tinkering with theoretical geometry and the Arabians had come up with zero. Over the centuries those and other schools of math became global constants, and it's as though the cultures those constants came from didn't matter. Can you imagine a world where children learned, for example, the iconography of Chinese alongside the meter of English poetry in the same class and couldn't identify the distinctions? Did advanced math students in Greco-Roman times imagine a world where the questions their teachers couldn't answer would be solved by grade-schoolers?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Here Comes Two!! - SPOILERS BELOW!!

Thanks to one of my readers, I'm giving a quick review of another movie seen since my last post from April: Star Trek. It was a great movie with excellent characters and actors to portray them, a smooth-yet-fast plot, and incredible special effects and action sequences. I do NOT agree with the reader's assertion that I "forgot" to mention the movie, in fact I think its omission was an act of brilliance. Seriously, anyone who has seen these movies would acknowledge that Star Trek is far too good to be listed with the movies I reviewed yesterday. It'd be a grievous insult to Star Trek, and now that I think of it I'll spend the rest of this blog entry insulting Star Trek in exactly that manner.

(In all fairness, I'm making Angels & Demons seem terrible when it's not, it's a decent movie... just NOT when compared to Star Trek.)

In fact, perhaps the only thing all four movies (Star Trek, Wolverine, Angels & Demons, and Terminator) have in common is that they are all franchise movies, single stories involving settings and characters established elsewhere. Franchise movies are beloved be Hollywood these days because, among other things, you don't have to work as hard to find an audience. They already know the property, maybe better than anyone involved in the new movie, and need much less effort in order to get them into the theater. Within the story, you have more freedom in regards to introduction, like you can introduce less and add more time to the meat of the story.

This works against creators when they're not careful. The audience that already knows the property has also come up with their own opinions of what the next story should include, and they probably LOVE the story they came up with before even hearing about the official one. It's the job of the team behind the next official production to create a story that blows away any possible idea the audience came up with, at the same time without disrespecting the views of the characters or setting the audience may have. This point is what makes the difference between a great franchise movie and a poor one.

Let's take Star Trek: the producers made it clear in their promotions that this was the crew from the original series, so fans right away know pretty much which characters are going to be in it and where they'll spend a lot of their time. This is a franchise decades old, so people have had a long time to imagine the story of how these characters got together. Seems like a Kobiyashi Maru - no story could satisfy everyone's expectations build on years of obsessive study and speculation; hell, even a small fraction of that demographic would be a lofty goal, so the creators need a way to tell THEIR story in a way that gives them an escape in case the audience doesn't like it. Solution: time warp to an alternate reality. They didn't tell the origin story of the original crew, they told the story of their versions of the original crew, meeting the goals set before them without putting their views above ours, and it was a brilliant way to do it.

You can note that this is one of the rare rare RARE occassions where I will praise the use of time travel in a story. These guys did it right.

Another thing they did right was focus on the characters rather than the ship or one story from the series. I always thought of Star Trek (TOS) as an anthology like The Twilight Zone, as a vehicle for zany science fiction stories. The difference between Trek and Twilight is that Trek had characters that tied each episode together, and I'd argue that Trek's greater commerical success comes from the love the fans had for the characters. All the central characters in the new movie have great moments that give a nod to the original series without being ruled by them - Kirk gets in fights and scores with ladies, Spock arches eyebrows and pinches neck, Bones insists that he's a doctor, they all assert their connection with the classic characters while making them their own.

For the counter-example, I'm going to use Wolverine. This franchise started from the comic book continuity, but also had to pay respects to the movies in the X-Men series. There was an origin story to the character in the comics, but by now the movie continuity is established as seperate, so they could have done whatever they wanted. What happened was they took the comic-based origin, something like six issues worth of material, compressed it into a ten-minute sequence with massive changes, and spend the rest of the movie covering the story of Wolverine's adamantium skeleton and missing memories.

The movie is supposed to be an origin story, it says so in the full title, but it doesn't tell the character's origin. His beginnings, both in the comic and in the movie, take place in a mansion where young Jimmy Howlett makes his first kill, setting him on a fighter's path. The comic book took its time in connecting the dots from this moment to Wolverine's defining characteristics: his sense of justice, his desire for peace, his struggle to retain a sense of humanity. While the comic series didn't receive the widest popular or critical acclaim, it did something very right that the movie missed, and it fact it wasn't until I saw the movie that I appreciated this aspect.

The Wolverine everyone loves both in the comics and the movies began AFTER having his origins wiped from his mind.

Think about that, and then think about the movie. The movie ENDS with his brain getting blown apart, and all his memories leaking out. That origin story we just watched was rendered pointless, and where they could have spent the time showing how Wolverine's personality in the movies might have been formed, they instead had a bunch of action sequences than introduced a school full of different characters. They did a better job introducing half a dozen different characters than the one they promised to introduce.

So I've been griping this whole time to make a point, and that point is: Stories disappoint when they don't follow through on the promises they make. "But Ryan," you may say, "no one actually promised anything. You're being a judgmental prick!" Screw you, person that's actually me! Any product makes a promise the instant it steps into public attention, and in the case of movies they usually make the same promise five or so different times in 30-second montages.

And just like in real life, it hurts when someone breaks a promise.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Delusions

First: I am challenging myself to update this blog once a day this month. Maybe I'll fail, maybe I'll get in the habit and update more regularly from now on. We'll just have to find out, won't we?

Next: Losing Yourself the Web Comic. WEB COMIC?!?! Yeah, that's what we're going for as of right now. The pages will see web publication first, and as we build an audience we'll have a better chance to cover costs when we print the full story as a single volume. I didn't intend for this story to make its debut on the web, but this makes a lot of sense given everyone's situation, and I couldn't resist.

I cobbled together a draft of a contract over the weekend, and it was as much fun as I was afraid it would be. It's not that it was especially complicated - legal text is written to be exact more than clear, but if you concentrate it's hard to get lost - it's simply a long process. I hope to get a bunch of the bureaucratic components taken care of soon so that page production can begin.

Last: Movies. I've seen Angels and Demons, Terminator Salvation, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine recently, and I'd rate them in that order. Angels is okay, nothing remarkable but you feel entertained. Terminator has explosions and robots abusing puny humans, and that's really all it has going for it. Wolverine has characters named for characters that appeared in comic books that you may have really liked, but the resemblances range from passing to malicious mockery; it's a shame, because it had decent actors.

Maybe tomorrow I'll blog about the disappointment potential to some stories. I feel inspired.