Philadelphia Korean War Memorial


I was in Philadelphia this weekend for the BookBaby Conference (more on that next week).  Just a block or so from the hotel was the Korean War Memorial.

This is a view of the entire memorial.  The inside pillars have the lists of names.  Most of those who were killed in action were privates.

Pillars of the Korean War Memorial, showing the ribbons from the war, and the list of names.

I did a shot of the medals wall because of the top image, the one with the Korean flag.  That’s a unit citation that was given to military units that served during the war.  The soldiers who served with the unit during the war would have worn that as a permanent part of their uniform.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because it comes with the unit.  My company at Fort Lewis was awarded this citation for being in the Korean War, so all soldiers currently assigned wore it on our class A uniforms (that’s the fancy uniform).  Once they transfer out, they cannot no longer wear it.

Up angle of the medals wall, with the Korean unit citation

A statue at the entrance to the memorial.

Statue of kneeling soldier. Plaque reads "The Final Farewell"

And a plaque for the nurses who served.

Plaque reads "Dedicated to the nurses of the Korean War" and shows three women

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:

Just in Time For Halloween: The Lottery


A thoroughly creepy story from The New Yorker, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  I read this when I was in school.  It’s one of the few stories that still has the same impact on me even as an adult.  It’s a masterwork of carefully chosen details that grow on you slowly, saying something is not quite right about this lottery.

Favorite Halloween Monster?


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year.  I remember from the original (and horribly dated now) Beauty and the Beast when Vincent said that Halloween was when “the walls between the worlds grow thin and spirits roam the Earth.”  The holiday is delightfully spooky with ghosts, spiderwebs, and other ghoulish things.

My local Thai restaurant had bobbing ghosts in the entry way–cloth draped over balloons.  Simple and very effective.  There’s also a house down the street with a giant inflatable dragon.

My favorite ghoul of the season is the skeleton.  There’s something really fun about skeletons.  The image below reminded me of a Buck Rogers second season episode where Mark Lenard was an alien being who could remove his head.

What’s your favorite Halloween ghoul?

 

Skeleton lift its head up

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.

Fiction Writers, as Seen on TV


Sometimes I wonder what Hollywood writers actually think of fiction writers.  We’re all writers, and yet, there’s some appalling characterizations of writers floating around TV.

A Badly Written Best Seller

The most common is the writer writing a book that populates the story with thinly veiled characters based on the people he knows.  The book is horribly written and somehow he strikes gold when he plops it in the mail and it becomes a best seller.  Pretty much, it’s a winning the lottery fantasy.

In NCIS, McGee makes it about his team, gives slight name changes to the characters, it turns into a best seller, and he gets to ride in a limousine to a party.  Girls hang off his arms.

The truth?  A local writer in Washington DC area  wrote a book with thinly veiled characters based on county board members.  It did get attention…and really not the attention he probably wanted.

A Writer Who Never Writes

The next most common is the person who is a writer and never quite seems to actually do any writing.  Granted, it’s pretty hard depicting a writer’s job on TV.  He or she sits in front of a computer and puts black marks on the screen.

Looks kind of well, dull.

So we end up with Castle and Jessica Fletcher, wandering all over fighting real life crimes.  Both are best selling writers, but when exactly do they write?

Writer as an Misfit

Hollywood also seems to think that fiction writers are hacks.  They type one word on a sheet of paper in a manual typewriter, then tear it out, crumple it up and toss it into a full trash can.  Writer then types the SAME WORD on the next piece of paper and repeats the process.

The writer will type all this on an old Royal manual typewriter (which in real life he probably can’t get any ribbons for).  McGee is the perfect example of this.  He’s a computer nerd, talks processor power, and yet writes on antique technology?  Even Jessica Fletcher wrote on an old manual typewriter.  Computers were around during the run of the series, but the technology was pretty new–the electric typewriter wasn’t  I suppose there was something to showing the keys hitting the page, but still….

I guess typing on a computer and putting black marks on screen doesn’t look very exciting…

Edited to add: I just saw an advertisement for a Melissa McCarty movie.  She’s a writer in the movie.  The trailer clearly shows she has a manual typewriter.

 

 

Godzilla of the Stars


Much of my childhood was spent watching monster movies.  That was in the days when the TV stations aired everything, including anything in black and white.  Within about ten years of that, all the black and white films and shows starting disappearing.  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea had one season in black and white and three in color, and suddenly it was hard to find the first season.  And the movies that I watched every Saturday that came from the 1950s and 1960s started disappearing.  Even the color movies have largely disappeared now.

There were many films about the fears of what atomic power would do or our push into scientific fields.  Them! had giant ants roaming the sewer systems of Los Angeles (with James Arness of Gunsmoke).  The Creature From the Black Lagoon had an underwater creature stalking people (Ricou Browning did the underwater stunts without diving gear).  The Fly, which starred David Hedison (though he was then using his first name, Al), had a scientist experimenting with transporter technology and ending up part man, part fly.

A few really scared me.  There was one involving rats in a basket being put over someone’s head (no clue what the title is). In another, shockingly for the time, a man’s arm got torn off on camera (I believe that was The Brain That Wouldn’t Die).

And then there was Godzilla, and all the monster movies that came with it like Rodan and Monster Island.  I think I saw the original only once or twice.  It had a very different tone, more suited for the fears of science gone wild, so the local channels may have passed on it in favor of the other movies.  Those were just plain monster-destroys-Tokoyo, and Godzilla even became a good monster with children

In 1977, NASA named the first space shuttle after the starship Enterprise of Star Trek.  Now Godzilla has a constellation named after him.

And if you’ve never seen this, Bambi Meets Godzilla. It’s an early fan produced film that I saw at a con in the 1970s.

Space Cats


Because, well, space and cats.

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.