Morning jolt: Why are dolls creepy?

Dolls, they are collectible, loved, and terrifying.

When I was a kid my grandmother had a guest room that had a line of dolls sitting on a rail along all four walls of the room. They sat there, smiling, staring at me while I kept watch on them to make sure they didn’t come alive to eat me.

Ah, memories.

This is something that is shared with many people around the country and the world. Dolls are either loved or hated for a number of reasons. Those who hate dolls, especially the ones with the blinky eyes, are totally healthy people who do not have any psychological problems. The ones that love them are made of pure evil. They are, in fact, so full of evil that they even make more dolls in order to terrorize us all. You get them as a gift, and are forced to keep it in your room. It tries to sit there, innocuously, but the damn little sentinel of the old gods is simply waiting.

Waiting for the perfect time to strike.

I AM NOT PARANOID!

Which begs the question, why are they so creepy?

In my honest opinion, I think it has to deal with horror movies. I grew up in a post Child’s Play world, where dolls are freaking evil, but what also reinforces that imagery is their use in horror films; to the point of nauseum today. Regardless of their use, they often do the job, and that’s to creep us out. They creep us out because dolls typically look like us but are simplified and made for kids.

What else have horror movies done? They’ve made us fear the laughter of children, specifically, the laughter of British children. This might be symbolic of colonial times, the echoes of the future rulers of your lands striking fear in the heart of the bravest man, woman, and even child.

Or it’s just a simple trick that gets anyone.

Horror films have used these tricks for a very long time. Today’s horror films don’t really try to do anything else interesting or scary. They just go for dolls and kids laughter, maybe they have them reciting a childhood song so maybe the kid actor learns how to read, but really it’s out of laziness. This is at least true for American horror films as very few are coming out that entertain or frighten us, because most of the time they go for straight terrifying and never letting go of the button.

They go for dolls, and until we, I, get over these creepy things, they will never let go.

Morning jolt: Finish something

Starting a project is easy, even thinking about it is easy, but finishing something is oddly hard. Not many people can do it and it’s strange to think that a lot of the time it isn’t an outside force stopping us from completing a task, but ourselves.

In some cases it’s because we get tired of working on it. In others its because we keep having to buy pieces for it and just lose steam. Funny enough, a lot of the time we have everything we need right here and we just don’t do it. We stare at the project with an almost forlorn contempt, like a high school relationship after three months, and think, “Did I ever really love you?”

In most cases, you didn’t, you were inspired by a Tumblr/Pintrest/Facebook post and thought you could do the same. Rushing, you sprint to the store (or drive I guess) and get everything you need and race back to the house; you speed because for some reason you think you are out running your laziness. Slamming everything together on the table you begin to attempt this Herculean feet of making those cute bottle cap earrings you saw.

Two hours pass and you’re now watching Netflix, with nothing to show for your efforts.

I know I’ve done this and I am sure that many of you have done the same. It’s natural to take the path of least resistance, to glide our way toward complacency, because complacency is comfortable; like sweatpants. My problem with this is that I hate sweatpants and I hate not finishing something. Maybe it has to do with who I am, but finishing something is important to me, even with the fact I have about ten activate projects around me at all times.

Finishing something is important because without seeing it through to the end we never really know if what we have is real or not.

Pardon the pseudo-philosophical line there, but it is true. This is how you know if you’re a writer or not, an artist, a business person, a cop, a baker, a candlestick maker; hell, you may never know if you are an opera singer unless you see something to the end. Trying is nice, but to try without finishing is like making out without sex, a lot of huffing and puffing with no payoff and a bunch of chaffed skin.

I have had a lot people tell me that what I do is pretty amazing (not tooting my own horn here, these words have been said to me), and I always accept the compliment, but really what I do isn’t that special. Anyone can do this, its just a matter of seeing if you can do it in the first place.

This is why it is important to finish what you start, because calling it early does nothing for no one and yourself; also, you lose out on compliments, which feeds the small demon who powers my flesh suit.

Morning jolt: Artists, artists everywhere!

Everyone is creative in one form or another. We tend to think of those people who are really creative as ‘artists’. Artist is a title that seems to be thrown on anything that is either terrible looking or is grand beyond measure. It can be used sarcastically or seriously depending on whom it is being applied to; but there is one thing that the title universally means and that’s everyone.

As human beings we have the capabilities to be anything we want, we can choose our path. For some people, the path is already chosen by way of either monetary or their natural skills. Thing is though, everyone can still create something, regardless of where they come from; we all can sit at a piece of paper and draw. Most people do not chose to continue drawing because we live on a planet called Earth and we have something called money to which a lot of people designate their life’s pursuit.

Those people usually turn out to be hollow on the inside, because money is either never obtained or it is hoarded and controls you instead of the other way around.

Artists, on the other hand, are poor and hone their skills be it drawing, music, writing, sculpting or anything else really because almost anything is an art. The term ‘art’ is a nebulous one because only humans can appreciate it and it can mean absolutely nothing. It is something and nothing at the same time.

The idea that art isn’t work is ridiculous. It takes work, hard work, to hone the skill set to choose the perfect pressure on the brush or to apply words on to the page in an order that a perfect stranger can look and understand what it is you’re saying.

We are all artists in some regard and that is why it is hard to be one. To dedicate yourself to a skill, and to become a master of it, takes the same amount of dedication that it takes to do well in business or finances. Yet, so many companies out there do not seek out artists for a project because in their minds, they already have them, because anyone can be an artist; but what really is needed is a master.

Morning jolt: Wondercon 2015 & how not to cosplay

I went to Wondercon 2015 this weekend and it was a blast!

I hadn’t been to a con since Comic-Con 2009 and the reason why has been for the fact that I was focused on only that convention, as far as comic books are concerned, and tickets are as rare as elvish mithril (which is mythical, but so are Comic-Con tickets). I heard about Wondercon, so my wife and I decided to pull the trigger on go, and bought tickets for Sunday.

We went, we saw, and it was good.

What wasn’t good though, were a few things, specifically some costume choices. Costumes that I have noticed on the Internet, that were fun to see once, were everywhere here. This isn’t me saying ‘B.O. needs to go’, in fact this was the cleanest smelling con I have been to, no, this is more of just ‘It isn’t that interesting, it isn’t that funny, and frankly I feel bad for you’.

It isn’t that interesting

I get it, you’re a Gundam Wing Zero suit and you’ve even made, to scale, massive four foot wings. It is impressive as hell! That is a kind of dedication that I would never have and I applaud you for your efforts.

But you know when that suit is no longer that interesting? When you go inside the exhibition hall and do not remove said impressive wings.

I was assaulted by more faux feathers on this convention floor than I ever have been by the actual species of avian creatures that can ACTUALLY make said wings. Look, I get it, your character got these things somehow during the second half of the first season of that show you loved but was cancelled. I get it, but there is a time and place to wear that stuff, and walking around a crowded con floor isn’t one of them man.

If you’re going to do this costume in some combination, leave the wings in your car or simply just walk along the edges and do your pictures there if you want to be seen on the convention floor; just don’t go into the fray!

It isn’t that funny

Costume Mashups

Seeing someone walk around with a Deadpool mask while wearing a Gandolf the Gray cloak in Sailor Moon skirt was funny the one time that person did it. Going to Wondercon I saw a bunch of these, all starting with Deadpool and going off to strange, and sometimes, terrifying lands.

To me, it’s just being lazy and indecisive. Pick one and rock the crap out of it! I don’t care if you’re not in perfect shape for Deadpool, this is a comic book convention, it is okay to try here. Just don’t copy everything you’ve seen on Imgur. That one person did it once, and frankly unless you one up them, you’re just going to be seen as that try-hard.

I feel bad for you

You tried. You put time and effort into your costume, but it just hasn’t turned out. You look into the mirror and see that even though you have tried, it isn’t going to work, but dammit it all, you’ve put time into this and you’re not going to give up!

You should. You reallllly should. Just leave the tattered remains of the shredded shirt you made in the room. Sometimes we try something and it just doesn’t pay off. We fail, but for some people, investing the time means they have to commit to this or else all work has been in vain.

Just because you put time into the costume you have tried to make, doesn’t mean you should wear it. If it isn’t meeting your standard of public decency or just looks bad, leave it behind, rock a comic shirt, and enjoy the con. I say this because I want you to have a good time here and I would feel badly for you if you wore that suit out in public. If you have friends, they should say no, if they don’t tell you that, then they aren’t friends and are trying to hang you out to dry on some dudes ‘Terrible Wondercon 2015 Cosplay’ picture gallery.

In the end

Comic book conventions are meant to be fun. You are safe here to try something you wouldn’t normally do, but this is an experiment, and sometimes they fail. I can’t promise that people won’t laugh at you, but if it does go tits up, then just rock the shit out of it anyway. If my words made you question your judgement, then it is time to get a thicker skin. Costumes are a creative outlet and people will judge you based on your efforts. Be ready for this kind of crap, and if you’re not, then maybe just stick to walking around and having a good time at the con.

P.S.

I do request that you try to uphold some common decency while you’re out there. It’s all in the name of fun, I get it, but no one wants to see your junk (this piece of advice goes for both sexes).

Morning jolt: Mad Max

I have loved Mad Max since I was 13 years old. It was around this time that I discovered Fallout 1&2 and had played them into oblivion, so when I heard that there was a movie that felt like Fallout, I was all over it.

My first introduction was The Road Warrior the second film and probably the best installment in the series (we’ll see how Fury Road is, but if the movie is anything like the trailers so far, I’m sure it will be at least second). It’s a high watermark to start at when watching the rest of the Mad Max movies since the first one is a world builder and sets up the character Max; and Thunderdome … well, let’s just say it at least gave us the term, “Two men enter, one leaves”.

After watching these films, including Thunderdome, I was hooked. I loved these films because they were very raw and in some cases very honest. Growing up with Max gave me a few things to think about as a kid because the whole setup to the films is that mankind stayed on a single path toward it’s own destruction. We never Star Trekked our way off world or even tried to make a run at improving anything.

We never changed and because of this laziness we paid dearly.

The Road Warrior (known as TRW moving forward) was probably one of the first films to really paint a realistic future for humanity. Sure, it could be seen as a simple action film with amazing car stunts and explosions, but looking at that film when it came out, of course it could be seen as fantasy (a dark fantasy, where somehow football shoulder pads are armor and S&M is the only fashion to have survived the burning of the world). Watching this film today though, it reads different, because we are starting to experience some of the things that TRW calls out in the opening sequence.

Water is scarce, oil is prized, and human life means nothing.

That isn’t too far off from today. I live in California, I can tell you that water is very, very, very important. Around the world, the biggest problem for numerous countries is finding clean drinking water; because it either isn’t there or we have contaminated it with something stupid. Oil prices are yo-yoing but they are going up and the substance will eventually be gone.

And lastly, human life. In the 21st century slavery is a thing. Sex slavery, child slavery, and just general slavery happens still today. This isn’t a history problem, this is true to life as we know it today. And the biggest problem, not many people give a shit about it. They just don’t. They may feel bad for a moment when they read the news about it but then they move along. I know because I have done this myself.

I dunno if George Miller is a prophet or anything, but he was very spot on when he created his insane and amazing film series. I am looking forward to seeing Fury Road, and I cannot wait for more, but when you sit down in those seats and witness this man’s vision of the future (that finally has a big budget) just take note in what you are seeing; because it might not be that far off from the truth.

Morning jolt: On writing

I am about to step out for work this morning, but then I had coffee, and BOOM! My brain started working!

And now I am here and I going to touch upon topics in this series of blogs, in the morning, that I am calling “Morning Jolt”. These are tiny micro blogs, or at least they are in theory, and will go over a variety of topics that hit me during my 6 minute shower thought session.

Topic: On writing

Writing is a very important skill to have, no matter what culture you are from or language you speak, because without writing we would probably not be able to understand our history. Sure, there would be pictures, but nothing would tell us what they are about; and if the story was passed down verbally it would probably be, in some cases, the world’s oldest game of telephone. This would mean that instead the painting of George Washington crossing the Delware River, as we know it today, it would be described as, “This dude in the pointed hat, he forgot his keys on the other side of the river and thus a raiding party was made and the keys delivered out of the oppressive hands of the Crimson Coat Clan.”

Whenever I meet anyone and they say they don’t read, I cock my head back a bit. Of course you read, you read everyday, but the stuff you are reading is probably terrible. Everyone reads, especially today with the way we have Buzzfeed articles about “That Thing You Didn’t Know About From That Thing You Know Everything About” (also, Buzzfeed, please stop capitalizing every word in your titles, you make Jesus cry when you do that).

The problem is people are reading stuff that isn’t actually any good.

Sure, you’ll learn something, maybe (and that’s a huge maybe) but most of the time the articles online are there to incite anger and cause people to say or do stupid things. They are click bait, propaganda, double speak, news speak, and gnat speak (tiny evil bastards they are!).

This became an article on reading, I must have slipped or lost my way.

Not really, no. These two topics are tied together because with great writing comes great reading. This also isn’t a jab at Buzzfeed, I’ve read numerous articles by them and have laughed at a few of them myself. This is mostly a jab at the collective society in which I find myself in, aka, The United States of America. We love candy here, and we love not being told what to do, but I feel we have dined too heavily on the candy these days and haven’t really been eating our salad.

The candy is a metaphor you see, but I guess that works literally as well.

People need to read more and read books that have substance and thought to them, because when you read you begin to notice that the bullshit happening today isn’t new. It’s happened before, and stupidly enough it will happen again, but without this mental fiber we cannot push out the clogged bowels of our mind and have a healthy rotation of knowledge in the brain pan area thing.

TDLR; Writing is good because it creates things for us to read. Read widely and not just the stuff about the thing you love and how it has betrayed you. Reading brings thought and with thought the ability to make actual decisions about the world around you.

Now I need to put pants on.

Storytelling Devices: Audio Recordings

We all love video games, I know I do, but there are times when the story telling is just bad. I am going to go over a storytelling mechanic that is overused and that’s audio logs.

Many a gamer will point toward the original Bioshock as being the game that really made this mechanic as popular as it is today and they would be right in thinking that, as it is true. That isn’t to say that it is the first game to use this device, but it was the game that really made this storytelling tool as popular as it is today.

I would argue that while the audio logs in Bioshock did a great job of making the world feel more alive, it also made the world feel unbelievable; which is the problem that faces audio logs today.

Audio logs are used today as a stop gap in order to help the story make sense or to make the world feel more ‘alive’. Problem is that it usually fails on both fronts since these devices can usually be skipped and when they are found randomly in the wild, they usually contain some random Joe spewing on and on about something that is no where near interesting or funny.

It really sins both ways.

Case in point, I am playing through Alien: Isolation on my Twitch account (Monday’s @730PST) and that game has a bunch of audio logs and almost all of them are terrible. They contain messages from people you never meet and they bitch and moan about something happening on the station or about its sale or their overdue lunch break or the fact their life sucks; you get the picture. The amount of audio logs in the game suggests that these were used in order to build the world up, but really, they don’t give anything to plot or the atmosphere (both of which are really important in a horror game).

I have since stopped listening to them, when I can avoid it.

AI tries so hard to make you care about the world you are in with these logs, but they just come off as unbelievable. Why? Because who in their right mind sits there and records their horror or their frustration with a fellow employee? Horror games are a type of game that allows reading to occur because it is all about atmosphere, hearing a human voice makes the world feel, usually, not as scary as it could have been.

To keep this brief, use audio logs when they make sense and not because it’s the easiest way to shoehorn in a story. They are made to supplement a story, not be the main pillar of it.

Swords suck

Now, before you get your tights in a bunch, this article is based 100% off of my opinions and contains facts to back up what I am saying.

So suck it.

You see, swords are very hard to make, even today they are difficult to actually pull off correctly. They take time to make, which brings me to my first point.

Swords are a time sink

A blacksmith makes money from the objects they make. This is a shocking revelation, I know, so if you can make two double headed axes and three single headed axes in the same time it would take you to make a single sword, which would you pour your time into?

It’s simple economics. A sword is built for a single purpose and that’s to kill people. You don’t go hunting with it, dig ditches with it or cut down tress. Thing is though, you can kill someone with a bow, axe or shovel in the same manner as a sword and you will have save a bunch of money. Which leads us to…

Swords were (and still are) expensive

A sword today costs around $120 and up per pop for the ones that are worth a damn. You have your job, that hopefully pays around $15/hr, and you think that is expensive, but try seeing that price point and make around $.06/day. Now that looks freaking impossible, right?

Well, that’s about on par with how people back in the days before guns felt about swords. They were reserved for the elite fighter in a military or for those of a high caste. Point is this, you either knew how to use the damn thing or you were a inbred douche. Even if you were in the military back in those days, you didn’t get a sword most of the time, you usually just got a pointy stick.

Yeah, swords were made primarily for assholes. Which leads me to my last point…

They are high maintenance, like the people who own them

Swords require a finicky mother’s worth of attention in order to keep them looking and working correctly. Guns today, even the cheapest ones, require less maintenance. If you don’t keep a sword oiled it will rust, not just a light rust mind you, but like an avocado level of rust where it is fine one moment but then suddenly becomes a squishy mound of crap.

This rust can happen from just touching the blade. Yeah, super cool.

Most likely you won’t actually see these swords in this condition because the people who own them usually take good care of them. They maintain these pieces in a room, filled with enough swords and sharp pointy objects that even Clive Barker would go, “Whoa!”

But don’t you point out their obsession to them and how it has destroyed the last three relationships they’ve had or the fact that their hair is longer than your sisters. Don’t point this out to them, because they will get offended, they will storm off, and they will polish their sword collection with a fiery rage.

Wait, I take that back, tell them everything.

To sum it up

Swords have a long and proud tradition in the history of the world. They have contests today built specifically for fencing, and my personal favorite, claymore/double handed sword fighting; which has recently made a comeback from 800 years of being out of the spotlight.

Swords suck simply because they are overused, cliché, and frankly I’m tried of people going nuts or on and on about them in books or in real life. What I said above is true, maybe with a bit of an exaggeration toward the last part of point 3. In all seriousness, stop having every character use these damn things in the stories you write as if everyone had one back in the time of typhoid.

Hack job: Sword fighting in film

I am not going to talk about what sword fight is the best in film, or even what is the worst one, but rather I am going to talk about the art form itself and how it has really fallen in Hollywood film. Yes, they are still thrilling, but when I stopped watching the fight, and started paying attention to the actual action on screen, I began to notice that the fight scenes in modern film were missing something.

I am excluding Asian cinema in this analysis because I am talking about classic Hollywood films. This doesn’t mean that overseas films are lacking or anything, but it’s late, and my brain can only analyze so much before exploding.

Also, this article would last forever.

A brief history lesson

Sword fighting for the stage allowed a production to have a more dramatic conclusion and give the audience something thrilling to see while they watched the stage. The fighting was choreographed with the audience’s viewpoint kept in mind which allowed the actors to essentially cheat their movements in order to make their actions seem more intense or riveting from the crowds PoV.

When film first started coming around, stage combat was integrated and used whenever Hollywood made a period piece film. The actors were drilled and taught how to fight a specific scene. This is still used today, but with modern cinema techniques, the training isn’t shown off as well as it was in the past.

Current events

What isn’t done today is showing the action. Now, I’m not saying that film has no action today, that isn’t it. What I am saying is that modern Hollywood films use a lot of close ups and medium shots without the actors in the same frame. This is done in order to make the action feel more intense, but it also cuts down on choreography for the scene and saves time; something every shoot worries about when they are in the field.

Time has effectively killed off seeing two talented fighters on screen, which is a real shame, because seeing a well choreographed sword fight go off without as few cuts as possible is a real treat. It allows the actors in the scene to really utilize and pace the action rather than having an editor do that job for them in post.

Case in point, The Court Jester with Danny Kaye (Danny Kaye was a badass, but that’ll be another article for another day).

The fighting here is shown predominantly in the wide. There are inserts and some close ups, but they are done for a reason, and that’s to allow for comedic bits to occur. Seeing the skill on screen is always fun and inspiring to watch because you are seeing two people parry, counter and attack one another without feeling like you are going to have a seizure from either the amount of cuts in the shot or the lighting changing direction within those cuts.

I present a few more examples:

The Great Race

The Princess Bride

Now these films are predominately comedies and this kind of combat lends itself pretty well to that genre. What I am stressing here is that while these two films are meant to be funny, what the audience is seeing on screen is a lot of skill and hard earned practice.

Now compare those scenes to The Mask of Zorro:

The action here is muddled. You never really see the main actors fighting one another in the same shot and whenever a major hit is about to be landed we are given a close up. The cutting in this fight scene really undercuts the action happening on screen. We get it’s dramatic, but it doesn’t really hit as hard as it could have and this is mainly because the cutting acts as a disconnect between the action on screen and the emotion that the audience is experiencing. In Zorro the speed of the cuts and music is creating the drama rather than the actors in the scene. If you want the audience to be floored by something in a film, show it and do not cut away from it. Cutting is telling the audience, “This is important and you should be paying attention” letting the scene run its course is saying, “Pay attention because this is important”.

If you watch a lot of modern Hollywood films, you’ll notice this technique being used for the vast majority of the main fight sequences. Allowing the audience to witness what is happening in a film is going to not only make the fight feel more impressive, but it will even be remembered. In my humble opinion, if you hack up the action in a sword fight, you are lessening the effect it can have on an audience; and this can even be applied to car chases and hand to hand combat.

Or you could just continue to hack up all the action and be a jerk.