The best damn zoetrope on earth

I went to the doctor the other day and I found it a rather odd experience. I wasn’t dying by any stretch, but my cellphone had died and so I had to resolve myself to looking at the ceiling tile and green florescent lighting. After seeing the doctor I was told to go home and not drink as much coffee, seeing as 5-6 cups might be seen as too much. Being a writer, this might mean the end of me.

I found myself at an interesting thought that has been repeated over the course of my life in either film or literature; life is a series of moments. This isn’t an original notion, thought or idea, and hell nothing really is original when you really begin to dissect anything; but it was a thought that finally registered in my walnut shaped brain. Our minds are not movie cameras, they do not pick up everything and remember it, at least for the majority of us. We all live in a series of moments and I am not talking about film quality moments, I mean snapshots that relate to a sensation and then teleport us to a point in the past that has long since faded from memory.

Even now moments escape me like a car driving through a fog, and this happens to all of us until we need that moment to reappear again.

I know this is rather abstract, but keep following me here.

Like I said, this is nothing new, Roy Batty says famously in Blade Runner, “All those moments will be lost in time, like, tears, in the rain.” When it comes down to it, when we finally kick-off, we no longer have anything anymore. We still have those who live on after us and then once they are gone we are but a murmur or a fable or nothing more than a breath of air.

You might think this is depressing, sad, so why think about it?

I’ve thought in depth on the subject, I think about it a lot. I’m not suicidal by any means, hell I don’t even think about when I am I gone or anything like that; it’s more about experiencing something for spurts throughout the day. I mean really taking it in, hearing the sounds of an office, the phones going off, the tones of conversations happening in the corners of the place, but most important, hearing the silence between these things.

It is in these moments that time can stop, and the world halts, and we find ourselves experiencing what everything is and isn’t without us in the room. There will never be another 23rd of April, 2015. It will never be overcast in this same way again. It will never be that I have that peanut shell on my desk at that same angle.

We live in a series of never again’s, ends, and goodbyes. Yet we’re taught that these things are bad, that we should never truly dwell on them, but these emotions or points in time are as real as bird shit hitting your head. I have always found it silly that those topics are not something to talk about or think about because no matter what we all leave through a door one last time to get some eggs from the market.

We cannot control our endings, we cannot even control our lives on some days, but what we can do is make our lives the best damn show for not only ourselves, but for those who bare witness to it. To make moments that stick through the fog like a lighthouse on a cliff or horn in a storm or a fart in an opera, “Hey, the show stunk anyway, I thought no one would notice.”

Writing tips: Blogging in chunks

When you start to write a blog, don’t try to do it in chunks, try to get it done in a single day. Blogs are not like a book where you can take multiple turns at it. You have to attack it and get it done or else you wind up losing steam, losing thoughts, and eventually you can’t remember why you were so intent on writing that piece titled: How you are being judged constantly by strangers you’ll never meet.

Which is why this blog is so short.

Morning jolt: Stop it movie trailers!

Movie trailers were, at one point, a big love of mine. There is an art to creating such a piece of media, but lately, these bastards are getting out of control.

I will use The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Known moving forward as TAAU) as an example. This film’s predessor made, oh, a few billion dollars when it came out. Blowing away any expectations that the box office had for it and setting the highest bar imaginable for future comic book films. TAAU currently has around 3 major trailers out for it. These trailers have been coming out about once per month, at the rate these are moving someone online will be able to splice these trailers together and we won’t need to go to the movies to experience this film.
 
Why is this a thing? Why are trailers showing everything these days when compared to their ancestors from the 20th century? 
 
The difference today is that films have to compete against the internet, video games, and TV; I hesitate to say reading, but one day maybe it will be among the time sink activities! All of those categories are cheap, easily accessible, and in someways, are better than movies because of the cost per entertainment value. A movie was once the cheap form of entertainment, but now it is almost as expensive as tickets to an actual play. 
 
Add in cost, divide by attention spans waning, and you get what we have today. Does this mean that we can never again get a trailer that reveals small amounts of information? No, we have those still, but the last one in my mind that did this was Cloverfield, and it was effective because as a movie experience I knew nothing going into it.
 
And it was amazing for that reason, even if the movie was ehhhhhhh.
 
Trailers are supposed to tease us to get us into the theaters and watch the movie, but now they show all the cool stuff so you are excited for those portions of the film. The tease works better because you don’t know what you are going to get walking in and no matter what it will be surprising and entertaining.
 
In an age where signing up for surprises is a thing (Loot Crate and other package services) I think teasers will become more prominent and eventually will kill the all engrossing, spoiler ridden, government conspiracy driven, mantas men made, story driven trailers that we have today.
 
I am not the only one, here Glove and Boots talks about this very problem:

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.