The Curse of Perfection


November marks NanoWrite, which is is when many writers try to write 50K in 30 days.  Nano, perhaps curiously, reminds me of the cooking competitions on Food Network.  They just finished up the Halloween Baking Championship and are about to start the Holiday Baking Championship.  There’s all the cake competitions too.

Particularly with the cake competitions, we sometimes get a cake decorator who proudly boasts up front that their standard is perfection.

Then they make contact with the timed challenge of the competition.

There’s no time to be perfect.

But some of them try to hang onto the perfection, and the time crunch pulls them apart.  They start making careless mistakes that put them behind.  Because they’re still focusing on perfection, they fall further and further behind, refusing to abandon part of piece that’s too complicated or try something else.

Others quickly toss out the perfection, but veer in another just as bad direction.  They go sloppy.  Their focus becomes laser focused on finishing, without regard to quality.

Suddenly they hear “One hour left” and it’s a mad rush to try to pull everything together.  Only it’s really too late to play catch up, and the piece either ends up a mess or on the floor.

Which sounds a lot like Nano.  The purpose is to drive out the perfectionist, because if you stop to perfect each sentence, you’ll never get 50K by the end of the month.   Yet, it’s hard for writers to let go of needing to be perfect and they end up not even getting close to their goals.  Or they write sloppy.   Imagine writing a story and leaving out all the punctuation.  Now imagine having to fix that during a revision.

Cringe.

Perfect is a curse, because it is anything but perfect.

 

Speed Racer


I’ve been watching a reboot of Speed Racer: The Next Generation.  It’s actually pretty good, and that’s because the producers respected the source material, and the fans. There’s enough there for those who have seen the original series and those who haven’t.

The adventures are at a school for racers, headed by Sprital, from the original series.  Speed and X are the Speed Racer I’s sons.  Speed I evidently disappeared, much like Racer X in the original series.  Also from the original is Chim-Chim, the money, though he’s a robot monkey now, created by a Speed Racer fan boy.  There’s a bit of spec-fiction with the virtual race track, where all kinds of dangers can pop up while the cars are going around the track, including a track-eating  computer virus!

As a big nod, the final scene of Speed getting out the Mach 5 is immortalized in a statue at the school.

Intro from the original:

Star Trek and Space: 1999 Mashup


Comet TV has been showing Space: 1999, a British import that starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain (he passed away a few years ago; she’s now 87).  In the series, an explosion blows the moon out of orbit, and with it, the people on a base on the surface.  It’s a little like Star Trek Voyager, in they have a never ending supply of shuttles (called Eagles).

I’ve only seen a few episodes, so I’m not sure what to think of it some 40 years later.  Here’s the theme from the first season (which changed drastically for season 2).  It looks like an inside joke or Easter egg for those who know the career of the two leads.  The “This episode” sections mimic what Mission: Impossible did.  I find the opening introducing Martin Landau and Barbara Bain quite striking.

And here’s a mash-up of Star Trek’s “Tomorrow is Yesterday” to the same music.

The Shaky Camera


Woman holding a clapper board
Lights, camera, shake!

Every now and then I run into a show where the director used the “shaky camera” filming technique.  It’s where the camera is hand held or simulates hand held.  The camera might be focused on one actor, and it jiggles and moves around.

It probably originated from The Blair Witch Project.  According to stories at the time, the camera was so shaky that people got ill from motion sickness.

I think some directors use it because it creates a sense of urgency.  You get all this camera jiggling–pay attention!  Pay attention!

It also evokes a sense of realism.  If you film a home movie, it’s going to have the same shaky effect.

For me, I don’t like it, except maybe very sparingly.  I could see it in a big action scene where things are moving fast because it fits there.  One of the things producer Irwin Allen did was what was called The Seaview Rock and Roll.  He banged a metal bucket, the camera would tilt, and the actors would all lurch to the left, or even fall to the deck.  It was a very effective special effect.

The shaky camera works here because it’s only a few minutes, and then goes back to the normal stable camera shots.

As an entire episode or movie?  No.

One of the problems with the shaky camera is that if used in excess, it constantly disrupts the suspension of disbelief and reminds us that is a film.  I know that the new version of Battlestar Galactica is highly praised, and I’ve been able to watch it.  Just a few minutes in of shaky camera and I was paying more attention to the camera movement than the story.

Sometimes less is better.

Fall Library Sale Spoils and Con News


Floppy eared dog carrying a trick or treat pumpkin basket
Dog treats please.

This week, we went from hot, humid and uncomfortable to cold and windy.  We got the very edges of Hurricane Michael, which meant lots of rain.  I was in my car, waiting for the light to change.  Rain started to come down so hard that I thought it was hailing!

We didn’t get any damage, though we always have a problem with flooding.  There are a lot of streams in the area, including one that marks the boundary of George Washington’s property.  I might take a short hop over to that one and see how bad it is.  But it really is cold enough to be uncomfortable, and my heat is not yet turned on.

But I did manage a trip to the county library sale this week.

I like looking for research books rather than fiction.  I also try for writing craft books, but I appear to have exhausted the supply (I suspect the ones I got two years ago have been waiting for a home for a long time).  I look for:

  • Hollywood (TV and 1940s)
  • Space
  • Ocean

The last two are generally hard to find.  There are books, but not necessarily ones that will be useful for me.

In no particular order, this is what I got:

  • The Andy Griffith Show by Richard Kelly (I can’t seem to help it after going to Nostalgia Con. I just want to find out more).
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (an interesting find in the science section)
  • Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Series and Events that Made Us Who We Were, by Steven D. Stark (and somewhat dated by current events; Cosby Show is listed, but it’s likely the show will never been seen again).
  • Ethel Merman by Brian Kellow
  • The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman
  • Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony’s Long Romance with the Left by Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh
  • Warner Presents: The Most Exciting Years–From The Jazz Singer to White Heat, by Ted Sennett

And some other news.  I mentioned that I was appearing as a panelist at Chessiecon.  I now have the panel names!

  • How Not to Get Published
  • Real Life Military vs SF/F
  • The Effect of Catastrophic Events on Literature
  • Time Management for the Overachieving Creator
  • Put a Pretty Face on It – Cover Design in the Age of Digital Art
  • From Wesley to Wheaton: Celebrities Who Broke Type
  • How and Why People Create Self-Publishing Communities
  • When did Sci Fi Become so Political?

Gender Swapping in Films


I’m not a fan of these shows where they do a reboot and change the gender of the character (usually a woman).  Like the suggestion here to do James Bond as a woman.

(Shudder.)

But first things first: I’m all for having great roles for women characters in films, TV, and books–and a range of ages.  The Wonder Woman movie was huge because it was an iconic character and they did it right.  Some TV shows on now that work:

  1.  The Orville.  Huge cast with a lot of women.  They’ve dressed all the women in the same uniform as the men (Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m looking at you!).  And the roles are good for all the actors.
  2. The Good Place.  I don’t want to say too much about this one because if you haven’t seen it, it’s way too easy to give the story away.  Again, the whole cast–men and women–have good roles.

Onto my issues with the gender-swapping…

Characters are not interchangeable. 

If a reboot switches out a character with another type of character, it’s going to change the story in fundamental ways and, likely break something that people liked about the original.

Some roles don’t fit the opposite gender

And I know there’s a group of writers out there who think the genders are interchangeable.  But there are some roles where if they were flipped, it would not look good on that gender.  I’d like to do a story about a woman lone gun like Jack Reacher, and I’m having to really think about how to do it properly so people enjoy the story, not hate the character.

It disrespects the old show or movie. 

It’s like saying, “It wasn’t good enough because it didn’t have this type of character.”  There’s been a lot of that conceit from all these reboots, where it’s obvious the studios only saw the title as a moneymaker and made no effort to understand why audiences liked the original.  I still remember discussion about the Fantasy Island reboot where the studios said they wanted to “improve” it by making it darker.  They entirely missed the point of the original show, and it got cancelled pretty fast.

Finally…

Why can’t they create new original works?!! 

Seriously.  We don’t need gender swapping in reboots or ongoing franchises.  Create new stories with the characters they want and make new films and shows that might be one day be loved the same way.

 

The Wrong Lessons on Marketing


Marketing has become big news, partially because it’s not working any more.  No one can figure out how to compete with the internet.  A local K-Mart is closing down.  Barnes and Noble can’t figure out their market.

And TV…?

They keep cutting more of the shows to add more commercials.

Most notably, the show’s opening credits.

Why is that bad?

Well, if the music catches on, it can provide word of mouth advertising for the show (and by virtue of that, the sponsors).

L.A. Law is one of those where the theme music hit the radio stations and was everywhere.  I still hear it sometimes today.  Show seems to have faded into obscurity now.  But the show was enormously popular, and people were talking about it.  The license plate in the opening credits belonged to a Los Angeles lawyer, and the crew filmed it every year.

One for The Greatest American Hero.  This showed up on radio stations all over, and still can be found on the radio today.  The impact on the show?  Not as much.  I think Steven J. Cannell (the producer) tried to make it cops with a superhero costume.  They weren’t able to pull it off, and the show had some retooling going into its second season.  Wasn’t helped by the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan either…the character’s last name was the same as the assassin, so there are a bunch of episodes where his name changes, then changes back.

And a very iconic theme, Mission: Impossible.  I think it’s so iconic that Hollywood couldn’t not remake it, except into movies.  The show also used as part of the validation at the end (the validation tells us the episode is over).  In the final minutes, the team comes back together and walks away as the music plays and we know they were successful.

Now?  There are no more opportunities because Hollywood wants more commercials.  Seems like they learned the wrong lessons.

The End of Filming on Location


During the filming of Star Trek, the special effects people used miniatures for the spaceships.  This is a photo I took of the miniature on display at the Air and Space Museum.

Front view of enterprise
Warp Six!

With the new technology, a lot of science fiction shows and movies went to digital instead of building miniatures because there were so expensive.  And you can generally tell the difference.  There’s a flatness to the images that the miniatures don’t have.

Now there’s talk that movies might be headed for filming in a studio against a blue screen and adding the location in:

I watched a TV show recently where they added rain via special effects.  It didn’t look real…it was kind of like it was raining in front of the actors, not on the actors.

Yes, you can build an island paradise with computers, but it’s not the same as going to the real place and shooting there.  There are some things you can’t and shouldn’t create out of thin air.

Shatner Claus


Okay, this is way early for Christmas, but William Shatner is releasing a record with Christmas music on it.  Check out his enthusiastic rendition of Jingle BellsCheck out his enthusiastic rendition of Jingle Bells.

Most of the fan commenting where this was posted thought it was awful.  But, you know, he’s having fun, and actually Christmas hasn’t been fun for a long time.  So many of the traditional songs have been abandoned in favor of “safe” ones that don’t offend that it’s watered down the wonder of the holiday.  It’s supposed to be a magical time where everyone gets along together and when snow falls, it’s delicate and pretty and just what’s needed.

It is awful, and I enjoyed it.

Trusting that the Good Guys Will Win


With television shows so dark and gritty, one of the things I miss are shows where we know the good guy is going to win in spite of the odds–and getting there is fun.

That’s Airwolf.  It was a show from the 1980s, probably originated because of a popular film called Blue Thunder, about a high tech cop helicopter.  Blue Thunder was also made into a series, but it didn’t last very long.

Airwolf was produced by Donald P. Bellisario.  If that name doesn’t familiar, it’s the same guy who does NCIS.  The stories were top notch.  Not just stunts, but characters you wanted to watch.

It starred Jan Michael Vincent as a former Vietnam War pilot named Stringfellow Hawke, and Ernest Borgnine as his fellow pilot.  Alex Cord rounded it up as a spy.

The flying scenes were stunning.   Okay, we knew Hawke was going to blow up the bad guys at the end, but the battle in the air…that was plain fun.

One of my favorite episodes was when six missiles were launched at Washington, DC.  Of course, Airwolf took off after the missiles launched, so they really had a head start.  Hawke and Santini push Airwolf to the limit–the helicopter’s going so fast that it might come apart.  Hawke nails the missiles one at a time, getting four–but the last two are getting out of range.  And then he misses!  Of course, he shoots down the last ones just in the nick of time.

It’s immensely satisfying when the good guys win.

Below is a video of some of the flight scenes to the Airwolf theme.