Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pre - A to Z Warm Up Post

I dropped off the interwebs for the past week or so. Consider it my prep time for the A to Z challenge which begins on Monday. I think I have my concept, which should be interesting. But I'll talk more about it on the day of.

Until then, consider this a public service announcement. Happy week everyone.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top 10 Movies Ever... Except Not Really

Alex J Cavanaugh hosted this amazing top 10 movie countdown today. I'm a bit late to the party. Some unexpected things happened late last week that prevented me from even doing an almost awesome version of this. I had intended on doing this as the Top 10 moments from crappy movies (Because I accidentally gave a real top 10 countdown a few weeks ago. Don't know why), with clips of scenes and all that sort of stuff. But after spending the last several days knee deep in emergency home improvements I’m going to have to give you plan ‘B’, The top 10 movies I like that most people seem to hate.

10: Waterworld – Look, I didn’t love this movie, but I did kinda like it. The jet-ski baddies led by Dennis Hopper were a bit cheesy, but I think this movie was more the victim of its budget than what appeared on screen.

9: Green Lantern – Yes, it sucked. But it sucked awesomely. I was pulling my hair out watching this, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy it anyway. I loved that the Lantern Corp begged Hal to take up the ring and use it and he refused. Then he traveled x number of lightyears later to ask their permission to use the ring… which they had been begging him to use. Not much of this movie made sense. But Awesome!

8: Transformers – Anyone besides me remember when people spoke fondly of this movie? It seems like people have turned on this franchise in a major way. I don’t know what folks expect, it’s about robots that turn into cars and planes and cassette players, then fight robot wars here on earth… they aren’t remaking Casablanca with each installment. So, there is a lot of hate for people over the age of 8 for these movies, but again… fun – even if they tend to be 45 minutes too long.

7: Matrix 2 and 3 – I know, I’m cheating. Look, the first movie was pretty great. It was an original film – they pioneered that bullet time thing, they took a pretty sci-fi concept and didn’t dumb it down (much). The humans are Duracell batteries rationale seemed very stupid to me, but with that aside, great movie…. Everyone agreed (weird that it came out around the same time as Existenz and The Thirteenth Floor, movies that had a similar concept), so the sequels came out and the Wachowski’s were given blank checks to go and create whatever their 'vision' dictated. The movies suffered for it. They were under no pressure to please anyone and I think it showed. Really long spells of exposition punctuated by really long action sequences… both of which were convoluted and unnecessarily… well, long . But despite that, I enjoyed the movies. Again, they did try to give a truly science fictional story its due. These movies were ambitious, and they barely failed in my opinion. I’d like to reward that type of risk-taking when I can. So they make my list.

6: Constantine – Actually, do people like hate this? It’s more like a movie that disappeared than people actually hated. I really like it, and it might be one of my favorites on this list. I’m a bit of a sucker for any heaven vs hell flick, rogue angels and all that sort of stuff – I liked the Prophecy movies with Christopher Walken. I even liked that one that came out a couple of years ago about the biblical apocalypse happening at that diner in the southwest.  I think this is the best of the bunch when it comes to this sort of thing though. It made me want to read the comic.

5: Electra – They took a movie that very few people liked, Daredevil, and spun off a movie from that. Wow. The hate for Electra is pretty thick. Me, I liked it. It was like an episode of a television show that I love. It was familiar, not too ambitious, and felt very episodic. I think it worked. I personally feel like so much of the hate comes from people who enjoy the source material, I’ve gotten pretty zen about that sort of thing over the years and try not to hold it against a movie that goes off course in that area – as long as it seems to work.

4: The Last Action Hero – this Auh-nuld flick followed up T2 and had some high expectations. It was about an action movie icon that got pulled straight from the movie screen into real life. I thought it was awesome. I think the gritty, ‘real’ world contrasted too much with the quippy, ‘movie’ world for most… it was a jarring change. But it was unique. Worth watching.

3: Dylan Dog – I saw this in the theater when it came out and hated it. But I kept kicking it around in my head afterwards, I think the premise got me excited enough that I eventually forgave it’s multitude of sins and started to enjoy it for what it is: a cheaply made crapfest of awesome. It’s on Netflix now, so have a few drinks to lower your critical thinking skills, lower your expectations… a lot… then enjoy.

2: Mortal Combat – I don’t know if this is hated as much as forgotten, or never noticed. But this video game movie from the 90’s was the best American made kung fu movie of its time (pre-matrix). Like a few others on this list, technically, it’s stupid. Stupid characters do stupid things for stupid reasons. But, also like other movies on this list, it was awesome. It was also notable that, in an ensemble film, the clear leading man was Asian…. I can’t recall seeing that in many American movies before then (I’m being kind, I couldn’t think of any since Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon). It’s something I didn’t notice at the time, but have realized upon reflection. I haven’t seen this movie in a long time, so I’m sure my memories are fuzzy, but I can’t recall if he had a love interest, I think that there was one given to Johnny Cage, which was bad, because that character had no charisma at all… I can’t actually remember though, so I should probably just stop typing about that. Also, there has been a youtube series that has revived the Mortal Combat franchise in live action. It’s truly epic.*

1: John Carter – I’m actually not sure what public opinion on this movie is, really, but I think this is the best film of the bunch. It works in all the ways an action movie should. It’s great fun, and it’s another one that’s a beauty to look at. Like Waterworld, its budget was a bigger story than the movie itself, and a series of marketing missteps that are almost worthy if their own movie, doomed this thing from right after production began. The studio did nothing to quash rumors that this had a ballooning budget and were knee deep in desperate reshoots to try to fix the story – despite the fact that the production kept to its budget (granted, it was $250 mil) and all those reshoots were planned (because Stanton, the number 2 guy at Pixar, who directed this, believed the first round of shoots were a rough draft, and reshoots were where you really get to see the movie become great – the Pixar way!) – and so it was labeled a disaster long before anyone had a chance to see it.

How badly did Disney screw John Carter? So much that a whole book was written about it. It will leave you befuddled at the perfect storm of events that conspired to make this a flop.

And there you have it…

*The recent Mortal Combat series stars Michael Jai White, who is responsible for the greatest single kung fu kick I think I’ve ever seen on film, granted, I may have been drinking heavily when I saw it, but it appeared in one of those Universal Soldier movies… it was the one that starred him.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

Every year, around March 14, the world gathers as one to celebrate, what some consider, one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the ancient world... the discovery of the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference.

Wow. When you put it like that, it doesn't sound so great.

Regardless, it is what it is.

And if anyone has taken very much math in life, Pi pops up pretty regularly. So much so, that some folks consider it almost like a mystical thing.

It's been surmised that should we make contact with any alien civilization out there, then we'd want to show them Pi... just to prove we're not morons. The assumption being that any aliens would recognize it for what it is.

Carl Sagan, it his wonderful book, Contact (I also said this was one of my favorite movies of all time a few weeks ago), wrote it into his novel as mystical thing... going so far as to having the aliens of his book ponder on it. Because if you work it out far enough, eventually (in the book, not real life), a pattern emerges. Not just a pattern, but what looks like a message. Embedded right there in the very fabric of mathematics is a message - from God? Some math obsessed ancient aliens who wrote codes all over the universe... is it a warning? What is it?

Getting back to math though, I'm no genius, really. Please don't act too shocked about that. But, when I was in college I did enter into a few math competitions. Nothing larger than a regional sort of thing... maybe 8 or 9 institutes of higher learning would send students to compete and we'd all be given problems and told to we have figure them out.

I did okay doing those. Well enough to get shiny certificates to put on my wall and enough money in winnings to buy a textbook or two. Of course, again, that's small potatoes. More than anything, it convinces me that I'm surrounded by idiots, not that I'm smart.

The point to all that, is that in doing all that math, I couldn't help but notice that Pi didn't come up that often when working through things. 2Pi came up ALL the time... so many formula for figuring out whatever it was I was trying to do involved me using 2Pi, not Pi. I recall wishing that 2Pi was a thing.

Turns out, it is. Tau <-- check that link (the ratio of the radius to the circumference) is 2Pi... 6.28...(instead of 3.14). It's a movement to try to get Pi to be replaced in mathematics by Tau, which will help simplify doing math tremendously (again, follow the link if your interested).

So, I don't have any love for Pi, really. Except that I did have to study it in school, some. Regardless, I was at work a few weeks ago and it came out that I know Pi out to... I wasn't sure, but I guessed 20 digits or so. Apparently, that was met with some skepticism, which seems weird to me because, seriously, is that something anyone would really brag about? I mean, if I were in a bar with some nerdy folks that might impress somebody, but not really, because I'd guess that if you don't know it out to 50 places or so, no real Pi nerd will take you as serious about the topic.

(I didn't take the pic either)
But...whatever. I was handed a marker and directed to a whiteboard. Where I managed to produce the hard to see string of digits to the right of the screen with three or four onlookers. I didn't bother to check to see if I was right (someone else said they did) but I counted out 29 digits before I ran out of steam. So, despite myself. I did feel a small flush of satisfaction as it managed to get some looks of impressment. After all, until the early 17th century, no one in the world had calculated Pi out as far (another time travel tip).

That feeling quickly passed as people starting asking me why I know Pi like I did. I don't have an answer for that. It just got in my head somewhere.

So happy Pi day people!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My World... Disrupted

I scheduled a post for tomorrow, not really intending to have anything up today. But I thought I would say a few words about my phone... who died this week. It was two years old.

I wasn't the best owner. I know that. I dropped you many times, I refused to let you wear protective gear that could have saved you from injury. You never complained. You never quit. I dropped you onto asphalt, concrete, hardwood, grass... I once dropped you from an upstairs floor onto the the yard below. 
But  you carried on.
Sure, you were slowing down. I could see it in the way that I had to tap the screen more than once to get you to respond. Your power button quit working. Then your front camera failed. 
Months later, I dropped you again. Only about two feet onto a bamboo floor. And you shattered. large cracks spiderwebbed their way across the back... and snaked around the front.
But  you worked. Damn you, you worked. 
Until, without warning, with my firm belief that you would go on forever, you gave up your ghost. 
I'll miss you.

There. I feel better. Can't wait to get my new phone... the next day or two is going to be really rough without one.

Friday, March 8, 2013

If I Had a Time Machine!

There was a blogfest last week about time-travel. You know, if you rec’d a box from the future what would be in it? I didn’t participate, mostly because I don’t recall seeing it before people started posting - my own fault, I can be pretty oblivious at times. But it did get me thinking. I’ve often wondered what sort of message I would send to myself if the person I am today could dispense advice to myself at pivotal times in my history. I think I’ve pretty much figured it out.

So, I'm going to pretend I can visit myself every five years, and have just long enough to get a couple of sentences out before I get pulled back. So here is plan if that ever happens:

Age 5: Burgers and Boogers are not interchangeable terms. They mean different things.

Age 10: Fart and F#¢k are not interchangeable terms. Don’t treat them as such… especially around mom.

Age 15: XXXXX isn’t such a great girl. Don’t get bent out of shape over it.

Age 20: Quit being so damned serious. And you’re not as smart as you think you are.

Age 25: Purchase stock in Apple

Age 30: Give up on getting lottery numbers from me. I'm not going to give you any.

Age 35: You know that novel you’ve been revising for the past couple of years? You’re almost done.

Age 40: Just kidding about that novel. Seriously, almost done. Also, here are those lottery numbers.

And that’s about it, any more jumps and I’d be giving advice to future versions of me. Which might be fun, except that I think any version of younger me would be disappointed in how any version of older me turned out. So any future advice would just be, “Quit being such a loser.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IWSG - March 2013 Edition!

Hey all! It's that time again. Alex J Cavanaugh has created the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's that magical time where I get to vomit my issues onto the internet - guilt free. Thanks Alex!

I, as always, have poorly planned my post. It's funny, you'd think I'd quit being surprised every month when it's time for this. Regardless, I am taking a month off from complaining about all my issues just to say this:

It's hard to be great if you don't write anything down. So get back at it.

Monday, March 4, 2013


I just found a time-travel short story online over the weekend that really made me laugh. It makes me hurt to see something done this well. I think this is deceptively clever. I tip my hat to the author.


Actually, I was supposed to be installing a range extender so my our wi-fi would reach out into the backyard where my wife's office is. I've tried numerous time to hook that damn thing up without success. I mean, I bought that one because it was supposed to be the easiest to install. Liars. I don't think their marketing group ever actually spoke to the development team.

Anyway, I was watching the novel writing series of lectures by Brandon Sanderson during my moments of frustration. It's the video of his BYU lectures that they've released onto the internet. I enjoy the series, as he has a way of discussing the craft in a very understandable way.

Anyway, there is a ton of these, I mean, a whole semester's worth. It's worth watching them all. Somewhere within all these, he made mention of the story I linked to above.

So I recommend watching these. Great stuff.