Thursday, April 30, 2015

Band Review: Mayhem Like Me

I've enjoyed listening to Mayhem Like Me this week.

Mayhem Like Me is a Rock/Metal band from Columbus, Ohio. Their style combines the aggressiveness of rock with fast and intricate playing. For me it brought to mind DragonForce on "Through Fire and Flames" (which is a pretty high compliment). You can bang your head to it, but there's some sophistication too.

The best example among the tracks is probably "Headliner", but I recommend checking out "No Signal" as well. If you like what you hear, keep listening. The bridge on "She Can't Say Love" soars. They have two EPs and a couple of singles, all within the past two years, so this is a current band, and one that can go places.

They are currently dealing with some lineup changes, but the guitars are intact, and I imagine they will be fine.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Once Upon A Time and Galavant

As I said, I really tried to not watch "Galavant", but they promoted it really heavily during "Once Upon A Time", and it looked kind of charming. It ended up being really charming.

There were some jokes that didn't stick in the first two episodes, but that was only noticeable at first; they found their footing really quickly. It looks like a ton of fun to do, and I suspect that's paying off with the cast. It's definitely fun to watch.

Some of the nice surprises from the show have been Joshua Sasse in general, Vinnie Jones' comic timing, and the perfect casting of Young Gareth. One of the less pleasant surprises was that I thought the limited run was a one time thing, so without knowing that the show was angling for a second season I was expecting a nice wrap-up instead of a cliff-hanger. I mean, I don't mind if it comes back; I just thought there would be a mega-happy ending with a splashy musical number.

The part that really got me was King Richard's character arc. It wasn't a complete surprise because I expected Timothy Omundson to be delightful, but it was more than that. The character started out as obnoxious - and evil in a thoughtless kind of way. That worked, but then Richard kept showing more vulnerability, endearingly, while Madalena kept showing more psychosis. The chemistry between Richard, Gareth, and Sid was important to that, but it was the song that really put it over the top.

Richard had been a part of musical numbers before that, but they were more comical, and ensemble style. When he sang "Goodnight My Friend", it was like he'd never sung before. Suddenly Omundson had the voice of an angel, and the song had a magic that spread through the castle and kingdom.

I suppose a helpful part of his arc is that Richard seems to be enjoying himself a lot more while not being actively evil, and now he will be paired with Galavant himself, which should be interesting.

It occurs to me that this is where "Galavant" made such a good pairing with "Once Upon A Time". Yes, it's sillier and more musical, but both shows allow villains to become something else, and it is the relationships that make it work.

Regina has been pretty evil, and her reasons for going that direction weren't really good. Her path toward the light started because she loved Henry, but that hasn't been all. Henry loved her back of course, and that meant that he would ask for the others who love him to understand her. It meant that they would reach out to her, especially Mary Margaret at first, but then Emma. In the process they are finding friendship, and when there are opportunities for Regina go dark again, she keeps refusing.

Regina has a lot of blood on her hands, as does Richard, but we find ourselves liking them, and sympathizing with them. It's good to see that we can change. It's a good reminder how much relationships matter. That gives reasons to be hopeful for what happens next.

And talented casts don't hurt.

Next week I'll take on "Grimm.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

10,000 BC - the screenplay

I will do a summing up post once I am done going through the screenplays, but I recently read this one, and I want to talk about it now.

I  haven't seen the movie, but I had heard things about it that weren't at all encouraging. I thought it made sense when I got to title page. In addition to the original two writers, it showed three rounds of revisions, for a total of five hands on the script. (That version at least.)

Upon starting to read, it made less sense, because actually the screenplay didn't seem that bad. It wasn't anything extraordinary, but it wasn't horrible. I did feel like the mammoth hunting techniques and the carved beads shows some Ice Age influence, which based on the time lines was certainly possible, but that's not necessarily bad.

I thought perhaps the problem with the final product had been special effects or something, until I got to around page 40 and the Terror Birds appeared. There was a sudden change in tone and realism. It appeared there was a conscious attempt to punch up the action, and it felt patchwork-y, but okay, the different revisions and writers totally made sense at that point.

After that, there was a kind of a return to normal. Some of the emotional exposition was a little clunky perhaps, but it felt like it was back to the type of writing the first 40 pages had, until we got to the pyramids.

Now, I do think I remember someone complaining that it was about 8000 years too soon for the pyramids, but actually that's okay, because they weren't those pyramids. I mean, yes, they are in the same general area, and built in the same configuration, but the end of the screenplay shows them being swallowed up by the desert, so it's not those pyramids. Obviously, someone just had the same idea later.

While it might seem like that doesn't make sense, because the pyramids were being built as a way to get the alien ruler back to his home planet, that clearly can't have been the real purpose since the ruler was later revealed to merely be a human in disguise, and not actually an alien, so it all makes sense.

No, that makes no sense at all. That section felt a little patchy too, actually.

You can see how it starts with a feeling that the movie is not enough. It's not exciting enough, or revolutionary enough. It will not draw enough viewers. It will not make enough money. (Maybe more that last part.) Trying to fix that does not automatically give you a better movie.

It might make you more money though. This one did not seem to earn back it's budget domestically, but it came close enough that foreign box office probably put it over the top.

It does seem possible that the original screenwriters would be disappointed with how the end result compared to their artistic vision, but one of them was Roland Emmerich, who was also the director. The other, Harold Kloser, has collaborated with Emmerich on multiple projects, including 2012 and White House Down, so maybe he's good with it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Person of Interest, Season 4

Previously, of the dramas I watch, "Person of Interest" was my least favorite. That's not an insult, because it was still one of the dramas I watched. I would sometimes procrastinate watching it.

Let me back up. With the comedies and game shows, my family and I watch them together, so the viewing schedule is based on that, but we usually watch things pretty quickly. With the dramas, it's not just when I have time, but when I have the television to myself, because no one else likes my shows. (They're wrong, but it's not a battle worth fighting.)

"White Collar" aired on a completely different schedule, so keeping caught up was usually easy. When new episodes for the other three started at once, I was really busy. I let myself get eight episodes behind on POI, whereas with "Grimm" I would usually watch within 24 hours of the original airing. "Once Upon A Time" fell somewhere in between.

POI was less relaxing. I enjoyed the episodes and found them interesting, but I could wait to watch it. Sometimes I would think about dropping it, and that never sounded desirable, but I would think about the difference.

I have generally preferred fantasy to science fiction in the past (I read mainly non-fiction now). While the other two shows were (in different ways) directly inspired by fairy tales, POI is very much technology-driven. I thought that could be a factor.

I also thought the violence could be a factor. It has a lot more fighting and gun play than the other shows, and more deaths of people you care about. I think you can reasonably say that it's a darker show in general, and that has been getting worse since Samaritan went live. They are losing more numbers. The guy in Search and Destroy sort of sought it out through the way his arrogance in his need to know more overpowered everything else, but the programmer who got involved with the Nautilus contest fled and hid and tried to get Control to listen and none of it was enough.

Actually, that's another possible reason for my liking the show less there. There was always some bigger plot going on, and they kept getting bigger. HR seemed like a really big problem, but what Decima has wrought is much worse. I generally prefer things on a smaller and more relatable scale.

That would mean I should be getting more fed up with the show, but I am liking it better. After the last episode I think I understand why. The characters have become more human. Maybe they've had to in light of Samaritan's inhumanity.

I see their relationships mattering more to them. The grief over Shaw's loss has been a part of it. Root planned on murdering an innocent woman because she believed it was the only way to prevent Harold's death. That sounds horrible, and if the woman had died it would have backfired, but that is growth for Root. It took her a while to learn to value human life, so it seemed like a setback, but it was something different. And of course we have seen some flashbacks of Finch programming and teaching the Machine to value an individual, and to value life. Those have all been significant, but it was the April 14th episode that really drove everything home.

John opened a cold case that had last been worked by Carter, and we thought we were seeing flashbacks. Well, some if it was a flashback, but it was also a hallucination that John was  having after being shot.

Carter's death mattered when it happened. John went off the rails, and Fusco got on the wagon. Elias arranged the death of her murderer. Everyone was hurt, but had moved on.

It had come back a little. When firing his gun too often led to John seeing a psychiatrist, one of the first things he really opened up about was not being able to save Joss, and how that drove him now.

The thing that hit me the most was John's realization in the car that he had never opened up to her. He had a friend that he could share things with, but he didn't share. I know he had felt her loss deeply before, but it hit him in a new way then.

It also reminded me that in her death Carter took down HR. She nearly failed, because she had been working alone, but her friends constantly telling her that she didn't have to do it alone finally sunk in. She let them know where she was going, and they came, and they worked together long enough to put the bad guys away, except for the one who shot her.

The group's feelings for each other are getting deeper. There is pain in that with all the danger they face. You see it in little things, like John wanting Finch to learn how to shoot. Each one is aware that this could get them killed, and they've made peace with that, but not with leaving the others behind.

That seems like a vulnerability, but it makes me care more. Everything matters more.

That is why their hold is so much deeper on me now.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Band Review: Colton Brown

Colton Brown is a rapper and producer from Moore Haven, Florida, working in Hip-hop, Rap, and Southern Rap.

Interestingly, while the rap is there, it never feels like the defining part of the song. The Southern influence is definitely felt, especially on "Tough Enough" and "Whip Your Ass", but there is also a classic rock feeling. I think fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd might enjoy Brown's music.

While it is somewhat less typical of his sound, Brown does an interesting cover of "Wild World" that is worth checking out.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Band Review: Cugini

I admit to some confusion about Cugini. The descriptions make it sound more like a label or studio that works on developing talent. However, there are songs performed by Cugini, which makes them seem like a band. For the purposes of this review, I am treating them like a band.

There could also be some confusion about the genre. On Facebook they use the acronym "S.P.E.C.H.", for Sexy Punk Electro Contemporary HipHop.

I do hear the hip hop elements, but the electronic elements feel more critical to the overall musical effect. There is rapping sometimes, but there is always synthesizer. At times it is a little reminiscent of Real McCoy, but more moody and downbeat. I don't hear any punk, but I definitely see the possibility of the band doing well in contemporary.

The video for "Activity" gives a good feel not only for the general sound, but the type of dancing that might go with it. That is a good starting point if they sound interesting, and if they are, various tracks are available on iTunes.

They don't really stick with me, but I may be too old for them. Either I am missing something, or the shoes are way overly romanticized on "Converse Girl". That in no way rules out the possibility of them really catching on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Goodbye White Collar

I am happier now with the "White Collar" conclusion than I was initially.

Although Neal had an "ironclad" deal guaranteeing his freedom upon the successful capture of the Pink Panther theft ring, the Bureau had shown a pattern of not being completely trustworthy. If you consider that to be the main reason that Neal faked his death and disappeared, it's logical, but not satisfying. It felt disrespectful to the relationships that the show was built on. Not only will he not see Peter and Mozzie anymore, but they are left with intense grief, even if Peter ends up realizing what happened a year later.

I have come to accept it more as a way of sparing them. While the Panthers should no longer be a threat once captured, it is possible to pull strings from prison, and it had been stated earlier that if you cross them, they will go after the people you love. If Neal is sacrificing for their safety, and not just as a fail-safe for his own freedom, then the love is still there.

There had been a theme - somewhat throughout the series, but especially toward the end - that Neal's actions sometimes led to people getting hurt, and he could not fix it. Sometimes those were innocent people, and sometimes not, but it was a sobering thing for him, and it may have made flight seem more necessary.

That goes along with one thing that they didn't explore more, and I wish they had. It came up in episode 5.4, Controlling Interest.

A psychiatrist who specializes in former inmates is brainwashing them to commit crimes where she gets the spoils. Neal goes undercover, and it is disturbing for him. In their conversation she tells Neal that he's a sociopath. It is exacerbated by the tension between Neal and Peter over Neal's most recent deception, which again was undertaken with good intentions, but there was a pattern there.

It is true that Neal was a habitual offender, and you could legitimately question whether reform is a real option for him. If nothing else, it seems like the challenge and the thrill are important enough to him that any future plans for staying on the right side of the law would have to find ways to allow for that (one reason why working for the FBI worked so well for Neal).

However, as much as Neal loves those aspects of crime (he might also make a good member of the A-Team), he's not a sociopath because he has a conscience. He cares about other people. Their feelings are real to him. Their pain matters to him.

Neal is larcenous and he has an ego, but he will put that aside to help others. If he believed that stealing art from rich people truly hurt them, that might actually cause him to reform. (That would probably be hard to manage though.)

I would have liked to have seen more attention paid here. The tension between Neal and Peter calmed down anyway, and Neal seemed to be in an okay place emotionally at the end of the series, so nothing was horrible. If they had explored it though, if they had talked about his goodness, would he have been able to trust more? Would he have been able to choose a different life? Would he have been able to keep the old life instead of jettisoning it?

And if you are going that route, then probably the last season arc has to go differently, but there are always possibilities. I was often amazed at how seemingly insurmountable difficulties were met.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the show. It was a good cast. I remember watching the Monkeys In Space episode of "My Name Is Earl" and seeing Tim DeKay in it. I had seen the episode before, but never recognized that scruffy, not at all bright felon as Peter. That was fun to see. I think the cast and the show had a good sense of fun in general. I also had not initially recognized Marsha Thomason from The Haunted Mansion; that's not quite as impressive, but that's not her fault.

So here's wishing good luck to all of them. Matt Bomer. Tim DeKay. Willie Garson. Marsha Thomason. Sharif Atkins. Tiffani Thiessen. For Diahann Carroll, James Rebhorn, and Gloria Votsis too. I hope good roles are coming your way.

And good job Jeff Eastin. I may quibble with you on minor points, but I still kept coming back and watching your show, and not everyone can make me do that.

And they got six seasons. If the goal was six seasons and a movie, then I guess Neal will show up again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Television update, spring 2015

I might have more to write about movies after I finish the screenplay reading, but for now I have more thoughts on television. The last time I did this was 2012.

These are the shows I was watching at the time.

  • White Collar
  • Grimm
  • Once Upon A Time
  • Person of Interest
  • Modern Family
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Jeopardy

I wrote about it then because I was making decisions then. "Grimm", "Once Upon A Time", and "Person of Interest" all started in 2011, and I was committing to them about the same time that I was trying out and deciding against "Leverage" (without prejudice) and "Alcatraz" (with extreme prejudice).

For the three I stuck with, I started watching them all around episode 8, but I had been reading recaps and internet forums on them, because I knew I was interested. If I spend eight weeks reading about an interesting show before I actually start watching, perhaps it is not surprising that three years later my television schedule is essentially the same.

There have been some changes. "White Collar" has concluded. That seems like it could leave room for a new show, and technically it did, because I also started watching "Galavant". I tried not to, but the heavy promotion during "Once", and it's role as the hiatus replacement, pushed me there, and then I loved it.

I don't doubt that I could love other shows. I have had two separate friends recommend "Forever", and I am sure there is nothing wrong with it; I just don't want to take on anything else.

We have added some new re-runs. In addition to occasional re-runs of "Everybody Loves Raymond", we will also watch re-runs of "Family Feud" and "Newhart".

"Family Feud" is more of an opportunistic thing. It may be on before the next thing we are going to watch, or I am waiting for my sisters to get back before we start the recorded episode of "Jeopardy!" (The DVR is still invaluable.)

"Newhart" is different. Maria will look for episodes that sound interesting and record them to watch later. It is related to our other watching. I believe their interest started with Bob Newhart's turns as Professor Proton on "Big Bang Theory".

This is also pretty fun. I remember catching occasional episodes back when it originally aired, and I liked it, it just wasn't a priority. I think I prefer quirky patients to quirky rustics, but I don't mind spending some time in Vermont.

I do think that since "Newhart" entered the rotation, there is less "Judge Judy" being watched, but we have already seen quite a bit. Also, "The Rifleman" seems to have dropped from the rotation, and I don't know if that's a scheduling issue or if Maria lost interest. I'm okay with it.

I mention all of this because I have deep thoughts on the dramas at least, and intend to write about them. I have a lot to say about "Grimm".

Monday, April 20, 2015

The other Gotham

Periodically people will ask about favorite or best or most underrated horror movies. I always say Gotham, 1988, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen, written and directed by Lloyd Fonvielle.

Part of the problem is that I am not a huge horror fan. I don't seek it out, and what I do see is probably not something I like that much, so I don't really have other answers to give.

That could be an excellent reason not to respond, and leave the discussion to the people who know what they are talking about, but I still feel compelled to give my vote, because I love Gotham so much.

Not that many people know about the movie in the first place, so it truly is overlooked. It might not count as a horror film; though there is a supernatural element. Despite only seeing it once, on late night television, it has stayed with me. A ghost story should be haunting.

When the question gets asked, and I give my unimpressive answer, I will often go check out the IMDB page, and see what other people have said. There are some who love it, and got what I got, or wonder over things that I didn't, but at least they are thinking about it. One poster wrote at length on how it's all about the Jungian constructs, but he didn't have enough room to really get into it.

There are also posters who completely miss the point, and that just makes me want to talk about it more. Well, if you don't use it to expound on things that no one is interested in listening to you go on and on about, what's the point in even having a blog?

Spoilers will follow.

Tommy Lee Jones is a down-on-his-luck private eye. He is named "Eddie Mallard", which is exactly right, but I will stick to actor names for the most part. The movie is full of characters who we recognize from classic gumshoe films, but the movie is not set in the past; it's just about the past.

Colin Bruce hires Jones to get his ex-wife to quit bothering him. The tricky part is that the "ex" is through expiration, not divorce. Bruce points out Virginia Madsen, young and beautiful and tangible. Jones assumes Bruce is delusional, but that makes the job easy money; he can get paid to chat up a beautiful woman who obviously can't be the dead wife. She is the dead wife.

It takes Jones a while to believe it. The coroner photos strike the first serious blow. He may have been suspecting a con up to that point, but not this.

Jones' reaction in the scene is visceral, but there's a little detail I like in there. The photos are found by his friend Tim, played by Kevin Jarre. Every PI should have friends who are good at getting information, and Jones is no exception. He was going to pay Tim for the help, but Tim at that point says he doesn't want pay. He's Irish and superstitious and there is something bad here.

Superstition seems very reasonable at that point. You are in a modern city where no one is supposed to believe in ghosts, but the doorman knows that sleeping with a ghost is bad for your health, and the priest Jones visits later takes him seriously too.

There are little details that I could think about forever. Jones is told that the dead don't lie, but the priest tells him that the dead always lie. Both seem plausible. Both seem true.

Jones starts going downhill fast. Even though she is destroying him, you can still feel pity for Madsen. A trophy wife for Bruce, she drowned during a boat party (I wonder if Natalie Wood's death was an influence). You can question whether the other guests were as callous as she remembers, but the raw pain that she felt when she was dying and no one cared is real.

Her one request was that she be buried naked in her jewels. She haunts her husband because he took the jewels back.

If this was Sam Spade, Tim would probably end up dead, and Jones would end up sadder, wiser, and alone, though Debbie, the former girlfriend who was getting involved with Tim would still be around. This is where things get different.

Jones gives Madsen a choice: she can have the jewels or she can let them go and he will follow her anywhere, including death. She wants the jewels more.

And it was a false choice. They have been placed on a chalice in the church, blessed and protected on holy ground, because there have been some bad forces at work around them. The last we see of Madsen is her telling Bruce that he still owes her the jewels. The increased difficulty in getting them is his problem.

The grasping desires that led her into a loveless marriage and pitiless friends will not let her rest. We saw better sentiments in her more than once, but she ultimately turned them down.

He will remain haunted, and you feel the dread in that, but he could have stopped it at any point by just giving up the jewels when he still had them. He doesn't want to be haunted, but he still cared about the jewels more.

Jones is free. Maybe the jewels are cursed, but not for him. He can let go.

Jones goes away with Tim and Debbie. Symbolically they head off for tropical sunshine, leaving the gloom of Gotham behind. Their flaws were not fatal. It was a film noir, but they escaped it.

It's not a jubilant happy ending. Even the ending music, if I recall correctly, had a subdued and eerie tone while it played over pictures of the three in paradise. I was in a dark family room with the volume low so I wouldn't disturb anyone, so it could be that. Maybe it couldn't be too jubilant because you see that not everyone does make it. Some people would rather stay bound by hate.

But for the darkness that out there, and for the things that could have happened, the resolution was pretty good. You can choose friendship. You can be helped.

That's what has stayed with me about Gotham. That's what I keep wanting other people to have seen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Band Review: Liberty Deep Down

Liberty Deep Down is a five member alternative/pop band from Columbus, Ohio. Formed in 2011, their first full-length album, Blackout, was released in February.

My favorite track is probably "Bad Girl" which is on the new album, but first appeared as a single in 2013 and on the 2014 EP Love Worth Making. The rhythm and percussion work together well. There is a pronounced funk influence on the pop. Actually, I can see fans of 'N Sync really enjoying Liberty Deep Down.

The songs are overall enjoyable. I do feel that they lack heft. My instinct is that they need to take a good women's studies class so they can view male/female interactions at a higher intellectual level. It's the first time I have thought that specific thing about a band, but it's probably not a bad idea for others.

Of course pop does not need to be deep. They are stronger instrumentally than a lot of similar bands.

Some songs that get there more emotionally are "Best For You" and "Leaving You For Me", which not only have heart but nice musical detail.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Band Review: Avera

Avera is a band from Valdosta, Georgia, or at least they have been. Based on a broken link in their Twitter profile and not much recent activity, they may not be currently active. (The existence of another band named Avera that does Latin dance music does not help.)

I started following them when member Will Oliver followed me, so even six months ago the band may not have been active.

The ephemeral nature of young bands is nothing new, but sometimes it seems like more of a shame. This band had it together at least well enough to collaborate with Sleeping With Sirens' Kellin Quinn, get music embedded into their Facebook profile, and create five pretty-good looking videos. My favorite is "Leave As You Came", which with its quiet and earnest delivery becomes an affecting meditation on mortality and identity.

The other thing that stands out to me is that in addition to having some fairly hardcore songs, like  "A Life Worth Living" or "The Surface Beneath", that isn't all they do. They have two videos for "In Motion", including an acoustic version, and it may be that interest in interpreting the same material in different ways that leaves them more open to nuance.

Even if the band is no longer active, it is always possible that the members will end up in new bands. Along with Oliver, that includes Kade Williamson, Brad Singletary, Anthony King, Dalton Page, and Ryland Shipman. Here's wishing them well!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Current location

Much like replacing the mattress, reading a month's worth of screenplays was a thought that I'd had and dismissed.

It wasn't an immediate dismissal. I could see where it would be valuable, because it would expose me to different writing styles and ideas, and had the potential to both improve my writing and give me a creative boost. It was just going to take too much time.

The advantage of realizing that fine, this is what I need to do, is that then it liberated me from the pressure that I need to pound out two high quality screenplays that someone will buy and then my financial worries will finally be solved so I have to get that done RIGHT NOW!

That's not the schedule that I'm on.

Having slowed down, other things have happened. One thing is that my email inbox is looking a lot better. Some of the messages are old and I am hanging on to them so they will remind me to do certain things, which I am slowly getting done. That is relieving some stress.

Although I felt terribly guilty doing so, I could not resist signing up for a couple of MOOCs. I have just finished going over the material for "Microbes Rule the World: Effects of Disease on History". Technically the class was ended by the time I started, but still, I have now read and listened to everything. The tests were deactivated, but there isn't really credit, just a certificate. I was there for the learning, so it works. Some of the material corresponded with some story ideas that I have had, which was reason enough to take it right there.

I now need to start my other class, "Religion and Hip Hop Culture". That is still ongoing, so I am behind, but will be caught up. It will finish in time for "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture". And there's that sewing class.

I guess the first thought is that it's like a sickness with her (but not a microbe-based one) - she knowingly overloads herself. Yeah, kind of.

At the same time, the writing shouldn't become drudgery. As much as I love it, it's hard to believe that could happen, but with enough pressure it might. And I need to have things to write about, so I can't become a complete hermit and be a good writer. There needs to be some balance, and I am feeling more balanced since making the decision.

This space right now is feeling pretty good. I am learning a lot. I am accomplishing things. I am feeling pretty good. Answers are coming.

There are still a lot of questions left, but I am starting to get ideas for what I need to pursue next.

At this point, it is quite possible that I am going to take a few weeks off of writing about my personal journey to write about television and movies and things. There are some things that aren't worked out enough to write about yet, though after this weekend, that could change. I had a long journal writing session that happened before I could write this today.

It looks like April will be about getting caught up on everything other than writing. Reading scripts will go on through May 7th or so. I hope at that point I will be able to launch into some aggressive writing. I had some ideas for how I want to structure my writing time before that got put on hold, which I think are still valid.

I question all the time whether I should take a break from blogging, even just a temporary one. So far, I still seem to need the outlet more than I need the time stopping it would provide. I will still be around. At least for now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Something left for me

I was heading to the store recently and thinking about money, which is not uncommon for me. My thoughts ended up focusing on how with my tax refund money and my incentive payment - the only big cash boosts that I get in a year - it felt like they hadn't done anything for me.

That is not a fair statement. The bulk of it went toward replacing the stove. That is something that benefits me. While I was generally pretty pleased with how well we managed without a stove, it is a lot easier having one. It's a good model and should last a while. It's not like it was a waste or anything, but stoves aren't cheap. Also, we finally got the space converted from drop-in to slide-in (this gives a lot more options and makes future work much easier, so that's valuable) and that cost extra money.

That didn't take everything, but it was the largest part. I did get some new clothes (which were really needed) but mainly I spent it to help other people, some household members, some not.

I love helping people, so when I have the chance I want to do it, but the phrase that hit me as I slid into the car was "There's nothing left for me."

I do that. Sometimes I do that with my time and strength, though I am improving there. Sometimes I do it with money.

It sounds whiny - which I hate - but if that is something that I do to myself, and if it is a problem, then I need to fix it. I can't expect anyone else to stop me.

I wasn't sure how to go about it, except that I should probably stop and ask myself what I need on a regular basis. Trying that didn't really feel like it was working, except maybe for the nap I took Saturday afternoon, but I had a moment of clarity in the shower. I need to replace my mattress.

Asking wasn't working because I wasn't listening. I had been thinking about getting a new mattress. Mine is caved in, and I think that partially explains why my shoulders and neck hurt so much. I do think fasciitis plays a role too, and I need to look at remedies for that, but I also totally need to replace the mattress.

I had been thinking about that and the bed, because the foot board is falling off the bed, and it's pretty old too. However, the bed is still holding its shape; the mattress isn't. I had ruled that out as a possibility currently, because mattresses aren't cheap, but I need it and I can make it work. Money will be tight; but it already is. Apparently my most pressing need is not to hurt so much.

This entire process has been a pattern lately. I think that I don't know what to do, but actually the idea was there, and I was discounting it because it didn't seem possible or practical. Later I realize that it can be done, if for no other reason than that it needs to be done, therefore it must be possible.

So it looks like a good skill for me might be not dismissing the right answer so quickly. Maybe it's okay. If I still get there reasonably quickly, and am more sure because the idea didn't go away after being dismissed, maybe that's enough.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. I don't know that it's terribly significant, but my moments of clarity frequently come during or right after my shower.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moderate Changes

I have been holding off talking about diet, because everything associated with weight and body is so fraught with emotions and social pressure. That still seems to be where we're heading now.

"Moderate Changes" itself came about specifically because of work. There are programs we can do to earn a discount on our monthly health insurance premiums. Actually, that was last year. There had been similar but different programs before, and it's somewhat different this year too. Anyway, I needed some more points, and the only way to do it was to design my own program.

I was thinking about the things that I felt that I needed, and none of it was groundbreaking, which was helpful, but it also required tracking or it did not get done. A spreadsheet would allow me to track it, and submit it for credit.

My rules were that I needed to have one serving of whole grains each day, plus three different fruits and vegetables, and with a goal of exercising for at least thirty minutes at least five times a week, 150 minutes of exercise weekly.

As luck would have it, the six week period on the spreadsheet included our vacation to Disneyland. I worried about that. I know there are healthy choices available there, but often the other options are going to look better.

I got in the habit of trying to get things in early. If I could get my whole grain and two fruits or vegetables in at breakfast, then I knew that getting one more fruit or vegetable in would be relatively easy. For exercise I was very opportunistic. Often this simply meant walking back to our hotel instead of catching the shuttle, but we were making the choice for extra activity, so it counted.

I am quite sure that this isn't the plan for everybody, but it has been good for me. It reminds me to get nutrients that I need, but it's also manageable. I understand the value of tracking what you eat, and I tried that many times, but then I would always forget to write something down and get confused, or I would eat something that I didn't want to write down, and I would give up.

It helps for me that I am okay with a certain amount of monotony. My whole grain is almost always the same thing, and then the fruits and vegetables repeat a lot as well. As long as they fill my needs, the repetition doesn't bother me. Whole oats did not fill my needs, so I changed to a whole wheat bagel most mornings. I would keep other grain clusters on hand for backups. Sometimes I throw in something else, but not that often.

I have thought about raising the requirements, like going up to five fruits and vegetables daily. I find that I am often getting more anyway, which takes away some of the urgency. It could also make things harder and lead to me falling behind. I have thought about trying to get in more colors, because there are days where oranges and carrots are both counted, or tomatoes and red peppers. That is some variety, but not as much as it could be. I know.

At the same time, it feels like this is just about the right amount of effort, where I already know that I am juggling a lot of different things, and the thought of kicking things up another notch just makes me feel tired.

The other thing that makes me feel tired is knowing how many people would criticize various food choices. I eat wheat and potatoes and corn and meat and sometimes there are juice and sauces and a lot of it is cooked and people can be really comfortable writing off any ways of doing things other than their own. Listening to all of them wouldn't leave much, so I am just going to listen to me.

The real strength of this program is that I am making a point of giving myself things that I need, and that are good for me, and that I am doing it while simultaneously respecting my current abilities. The next phase will most likely involve keeping a better eye on the clock so that I don't let the morning pass me by until I will eat anything fast. I will probably deal with that by keeping a stash of granola bars that are not only commercially made but are also chocolate-coated. The horror!

Many people will tell you that diets don't work, but that you need to commit to a lifestyle change, and a future mode of eating that you can stick to. I agree with that, but there can also be a need for intermediate steps. For example, I had been trying to be better about both whole grains and produce, so when I started this it was not a total shift. If you are only eating processed foods and trying to move away from that, I recommend a gradual buildup. The whole grains and the fruits and vegetables are going to be a big increase in fiber. Work your way up to save some drama.

I think the most important part of this is respect for yourself and your body. It is easy to only see what is wrong with your body, and to hold all of the blame for it. That is not productive. Other people may have good advice, but the things that work for them will not necessarily be the things that work for you. So listen, but listen to yourself too. Notice what feels good, and what doesn't, and believe that you deserve to feel good.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Band Review: Anthony Green

One of the advantages in reviewing a young band with a small catalog is that you can learn it pretty thoroughly in a short time. You can spend much longer on someone who's been around a while, and still feel like you are only scratching the surface.

That's where I am with Anthony Green. I have been listening a lot, but I still feel like I am missing a lot.

It may have been helpful to spend more background time listening to Saosin and Circa Survive, because I haven't spent as much times with them as I would have liked either. However, my general impression at this point is that while there are similarities in the sound, that as a solo act Green gets much more personal, and also considerably softer.

It's not that the music is soft rock - it probably fits best into indie - but the music does seem more tender and focused on connections. I could be superimposing some of that based on listening to the commentary for Green's most recent release, 2013's Young Legs, but it does come across as more longing, and plaintive.

It covers a lot of ground. I was surprised to find an instrumental, with "Springtime Out The Van Window" (from Avalon), but then also surprised by the track's beauty, and how effectively it conveys that feeling of traveling past a spring landscape. From the same album, "Drug Dealer" lulls you in a way that could convey narcotics. There's a nice drama on the intro to "Breaker". All together, the effect of the craft is impressive.

Having said all of that, the song that struck me the most was "You Have To Believe It Will Happen", because it is the one that applies most to my own life at this time.

With an artist who puts so much of his soul into his music, it stands to reason that many different people will be struck at different times.

There is a lot there to discover.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Band Review: Now Is In Effect

Now Is In Effect is a one-man project, consisting of Dan Potter of Vancouver, BC experimenting with Guitar Metal Fusion.

He describes it as progressive and challenging, which is true, as well as atonal, which is generally a sign that it is not going to be my thing. That being said, I do like the other music on his video channel, because he is not always doing metal fusion, and Dan Potter is musically talented.

It is also worth noting that of the Now Is In Effect music, it was not all equally enervating. I liked the most recent tracks best. I really liked "Echelon Fracture".

The low point for me was "E

So, just because it isn't my thing doesn't mean that it won't work for anyone else. Fans of Industrial and Art music might want to check it out. Also, while he does not really sound like Rush, the progressive and experimental nature of the music might attract fans of Rush. Still stretching, fans of Luigi Russolo and Mark Ribot might enjoy.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Next phase of screenwriting

Even though I was looking for ideas over the weekend, a few had already been nagging at me, and that's where I'm going next.

The main one is that I was feeling like I should have a month of reading screenplays. With my preference for tidiness, I wish I had figured out to do that in time to start on April 1st. I started yesterday. It seems most likely that I will go through May 7th, or I might try and have a few days where I read more than one screenplay, so that I just read 30 screenplays in April, I am not sure. I might find that I am reading in screenplays every day for a month, but not necessarily finishing one a day. It's okay for it to take shape while it's still in progress.

Yesterday I read the screenplay for Dear White People. I was sent a copy a few weeks ago, because I had helped with their initial crowd-funding.

It was nice, because I haven't had a chance to see the film yet, and part of my level was that there was supposed to be a character named after me, but the IMDB listings didn't show a Gina. She shows up pretty early in the screenplay, but IMDB lists the character as "Curls". Well, that could work as a nickname for me too.

Going forward I will be relying on various script web sites. I hope to get a mix of different genres and time periods, as well as a mix of movies that I have and have not seen. It has been a while since I have read a screenplay that I haven't written, and I am probably due for a refresh.

I don't know if I will not start writing my next screenplay until I have finished the reading. The two things could coexist, but might not. For feeling my way, this is a first step.

There are a couple of other things that should be going on during this time. When you publish a book to Kindle Direct Publishing, you get a confirmation that it is up, but it comes with ideas of things you can do to promote it. I realized that there are things I haven't done that might be beneficial, like posting previews on Goodreads. That is something I will look at.

When it is time to load a screenplay to Amazon again, I have also been thinking that I should add more materials. I don't think I could shoot a trailer, but you can upload a storyboard. Drawing a storyboard would be an awful lot like drawing a comic. My art skills aren't great, but for the scenes I have in mind, I believe I could manage it.

I had at one time thought that I would like to draw a few scenes from each of the screenplays. The drawing has been on hold, but I might be ready to bring it back. I am thinking of illustrating a scene from Family Ghosts, though the one I have in mind would be quite hard to draw. That doesn't mean I won't try it.

Anyway, that's the current status. Tonight's script is probably going to be Interstellar.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Irony and Grace

Currently I have a large sheet of paper (it's the back of March from my at-a-glance calendar) with words and phrases and connecting lines all over it. I am trying to impose some order on it, and I'll get there, but right now it contains things I want, things I believe I need to do, and things that I know are problems.

One of the things that I want is to dream of flying again. It was something that I used to do as a kid. I don't remember when I last had a flying dream, but for it to be possible I believe that I felt free and unencumbered.

It is more common now for me to have dreams where my access is blocked, like closed gates or upside down stairways, or I have endless tasks. I do know when the endless tasks dreams began. I started working at McDonald's in high school. It was not unusual for me to work four closing shifts a week, and I was tired all the time.

I would have dreams where I knew I needed to wake up, because it was time to get up, but in the dream I had a line full of customers in the drive-through, and I had to help all of them before I could wake up. That changed to customers at the cash register when I started working at K-mart (which was not open as late, but I did still get tired) and it has morphed into other things, but I do always feel like I have a lot to do, and it pervades the dreams.

It occurred to me that if I ever have a flying dream again, that would be a good sign for how I am feeling. Since I want that, I work very hard on doing the things that can help me get to that point again. Ironically, that can leave me feeling more burdened, and more likely to have the other kind of dreams.

I don't know exactly how that will unfold. I am sure that I will always have responsibilities and things that I want to do, but it is absolutely possible that there will be times when I will feel more pay-off, or less burden, or more possibility. Something happened this weekend that seems to go along with that.

It was the General Conference for our church. That means that various leaders speak, and it is broadcast. It is a semi-annual event, and I try to go in open to what I need to hear, and be thinking about where I could use some inspiration.

I had thought that any guidance on my writing, or healing, or family harmony, or maybe family history or fellow-shipping for some other things I am working on. That's not exactly a razor-sharp focus, but I figured it would be okay. I would come away knowing something that I needed to do. That is not what happened.

President Eyring spoke first in the first session. Most members of the Church have some leaders that they connect to more than others, and he is one of mine. It happened almost right away. I mean, I just brought up the recording, and right after he said it I hit pause, and it is the 47-second mark.

"When we offer succor to anyone, the Savior feels it as if we reached out to succor Him."

He then references Matthew 25, and yes, that's what it says. If we do it unto one of the least, we do it unto Him. I know that, but I really felt it then.

It had been a week where I had reached out to a lot of people. There had been expressions of gratitude there, including two people telling me I had made their day, so it was there. It's not like I don't remember that it happens, exactly, but I am always really aware that I am just offering a little emotional support while the problems that led me to offer support remain.

It doesn't feel like much, but in that moment it was sanctified, less than a minute into the first talk.

That does not mean that the projects and self-improvement are off; they're still on. It was nonetheless very moving for me that I was going in looking for new assignments and ways to be better, and instead I was reminded of my goodness now.

Things I need to do come into my mind all the time. That includes contacting the people I contacted. So, maybe I didn't need more to do, as much as I needed relief.

The light that you need is out there if you will stay open to it.