Summer Cinema 2012: Season of the Geek

So I saw The Avengers last week (two armoured thumbs up—fun movie with some actual story and a bit of character development), and there were a bunch of trailers on the front of it.  Those trailers got me thinking a little bit about the genre movies coming up this summer.  Counting up major releases, there were initially more than I thought even though I’d heard something about all of them.  Maybe I had a couple in my head as not being any time soon, or maybe I’d just hoped.

Either way, here’s an in advance roundup of genre Movies coming this summer and whether or not I intend to see them.

Battleship – 18 May 2012

Yup, this released this weekend.  I honestly have no idea how this got made into a big blockbuster movie.  And not that I think Liam Neeson has been all that discriminating in his choices of roles in the last few years (yes, he’s done some really good work, too), but even with a truckload of money to back it up, the only reason I can think of for him to have taken this role is if he gets to shout, “You sank my battleship!” at some alien monstrosity.  It’s the only scene I want to see.  Basing a movie on an 80 year old board game is just more proof for me thatHollywoodis full of fear when it comes to trying something new.

Men In Black 3 – 25 May 2012

I’m actually probably going to pass on this one completely.  It’s possible that it might be well written and entertaining, and it’s possible my wife (who’s a huge Will Smith fan) might get me to rent it.  Left to my own devices, I’ll never see it.  Sequels shouldn’t take ten years, especially when I think the primary reason they waited so long is that they wanted to give me time to forget how bad the last sequel was.  The original Men In Black, way back in 1997, was a fun movie.  I wish I’d never seen the second one and it’s spoiled me for the third.

Prometheus – 08 Jun 2012

I want to have high hopes for this one, and I’ll probably see it in the theatre but that’s mostly because I’ll see it with my teenage son (I’m thrilled he and I have some similar tastes).  Yes, I know it’s been reworked a bit so that it isn’t an Alien prequel.  That would probably be a good thing if it were true, but no one believes it (including me).  There are too many things in the trailers that scream “Alien” in spite of all of the protestations that it’s just a story set in the same universe.  Another problem: it’s another case of far too long since the last movie (unless I count AVP: Requiem which was a mere five years ago).

Brave – 22 Jun 2012

This one actually looks good.  Not just because I’m a Pixar fan (which I am) or a Billy Connolly fan (ditto), but because it seems to promise a good story and it’s got a strong, non-stereotyped female lead character.  I’ve got daughters, and that’s important to me.  This is definitely a theatre movie.  Opening weekend?  Well, that will depend on my schedule at the time.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter – 22 Jun 2012

I’m getting tired of the classical literature-genre mash-ups (yes this is a bit different but it absolutely fits into the same category), but I have to admit this has some potential even if it doesn’t quite speak to me.  I’m familiar with President Lincoln, but only in the way of a few bits and pieces of historical fact as taught in a different country.  Throw in a little pop culture and an original series Star Trek episode, and I have a hard time with a late 19th century US president hunting vampires with an axe.  Still, no one was born in a stovepipe hat with a chinstrap, and he’s hunting vampires with an axe so that’s got to be cool, right?  Not sure how well it will play outside the US, but I think I’d like to see this one.  Probably can wait for the bluray release, though.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – 29 Jun 2012

Okay, so the first G.I. Joe movie wasn’t exactly spectacular, but this one looks like it could be better.  Why, you ask?  Well, they’ve spent the money to get Bruce Willis to join the cast.  If they spent a little money to get some good writers, this could turn out to be a pretty good flick.  Mr. Willis improves every movie he’s in, so that boosts the potential of this movie for me.  However, it will probably have to stay in theatres past opening week for me to have a hope of seeing it there.  Otherwise a rental.

The Amazing Spider-Man – 03 Jul 2012

Really, a reboot?  Wasn’t Spider-Man 3, train wreck though it was, only five years ago?  Do we need a reboot already?  Comic book wise, my feet are firmly in the Marvel universe, but I find it disappointing that they need to rework and retell Spidey’s origin story again already.  Do something new.  Oh, right.  I forgot.  New is scary and so to be avoided at all costs.  Rental at best.

The Dark Knight Rises – 20 Jul 2012

Debating this one in my head.  I found certain events in “The Dark Knight” a little disturbing and I’m normally looking to be entertained by a movie rather than disturbed, never mind that the PG-13 rating was a joke so they could sell movie-themed toys to kids who shouldn’t have been able to see the movie.  Is this one going to push even more in that psychological direction?  Probably.  I didn’t see “The Dark Knight” until it reached TV.  I can probably wait for this one to do the same.  Never mind the rampant rumours of a reboot scheduled for 2015.  <sigh>

Total Recall – 03 Aug 2012

This almost has to be better than the movie it’s a remake of.  No trip to Mars and it looks like this story might be a lot closer to the Phillip K. Dick short story it’s based on, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  Fair chance we’ll see this in the theatre.  We as in Gamer Boy and me.  He’s already expressed interest.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green – 15 Aug 2012

On the surface of things, this looks like the story of a real live cabbage patch kid.  Maybe he’s actually an alien or fey or some other strange creature, but by the teaser, he appears from the garden covered in dirt and adopts a pair of sweet but infertile adults.  Hijinks ensue.  This might actually have a little bit of originality in it.  Probably a rental, but we’ll see as we get closer.

Dredd – 21 Sep 2012

This is hard to judge without some kind of trailer.  I was never a big Judge Dredd fan back in the day, and I don’t think I’ve ever managed to sit through the Stallone movie adaptation from the mid 90s.  My impulse is that I’ll have no problems waiting for this one.  That may change.

Looper – 28 Sep 2012

The premise here isn’t new, although it is a bit risqué for Hollywood.  Time travel can be fun when it’s done well, although it isn’t often, even in Star Trek which seems to dominate the sub-genre pretty well.  Being sent back from the future by the mob in order to be executed in an out of the way untraceable fashion is a good start to things.  Throw in Bruce Willis (have I mentioned I love his work?) and what look like they might be some solid action sequences, and you’ve got some potential.  The end of September is a long way off, and I’ll wait to see a little more detail, but this has the potential to be a theatre viewing for me.

The final tally for summer genre films I’m aware of:

Theatre: 5.  Prometheus, Brave, G.I. Joe (maybe), Total Recall, Looper.  More than I expected.  It takes the promise of a good story and good special effects to get me into a theatre these days, but the kids get me to go to things I wouldn’t otherwise just so I can share the experience with them.  Really, left completely to my own choices, Brave and Looper are the only two I’d personally pick, and without kids I’d wait for Brave as a rental.

Rental: 3.  Abe Lincloln, Spidey, Tim Green.  Actually, I might even be able to wait for Spider-Man to reach cable.

TV: 2.  Dark Knight Rises, Dredd.  And likely only if I happen to run across them while surfing.

Pass: 2.  Battleship, Men In Black 3.

Did I miss any?

Invasion of the Cute

So I’ve been told twice now to stop making my readers cry. Actually, it’s been more like, “If you don’t stop making me cry, I’m going to stop reading what you post.” A far more effective threat to a writer than: “I’m mad at you for provoking a strong emotional response. Stop it.”

Never mind that the tears were for two completely different emotional reactions and there was a giggle or two in between. Still, it never hearts to shift gears once in a while, right?

This afternoon, just before the kids came home from school (I’m on nights this month), I pulled the weed wacker out of the garage and started taking down some serious weeds. At the side of the house, near one of the basement window wells, a rock jumped out of my way, ran a few feet out into the lawn, and doubled back. By the time I put the dangerous weapon down, this is what I found.

Doesn’t look old enough to be away from momma bunny, does it?

I know a little bit about rabbits—we kept them when I was a kid—enough that momma would prefer there wasn’t any human stink on her baby, so I went into the garage and dug up an old cutting board to use for a ramp and left it there for the frightened little creature to use to climb out then moved on to another group of overgrown weeds. Well, yes, I did admire the amount of cute involved first, and took a couple of pictures.

The girls came home and cooed at the baby bunny for a couple of minutes, but pulled away on their own, wanting it to find its way back home. I checked on the little fuzzball about an hour later, prepared with a pair of gloves in case I needed to lift her/him out. This is what I found:

Yeah, not what I was expecting. But I left the ramp in place. Maybe they’d both manage to crawl up the ramp, right? They were still there after dinner, and I know momma had been in the back yard at least two or three times since I’d see the first of the babies; she lives in the little patch of scrub behind our property. So, it was time to take matters into my own gloved hands. Luckily, I had daughters on hand to observe and document the process.

You might have noticed that I commented how the more active hopper wasn’t all that bright. Trying to dodge the glove, she ran head first into the window sill. But she was also the one who kept moving after I put her down. Balance is nice.

Have to call this a good day.

Be well.

Furry Grief

I’ve been quiet for a couple of days and probably that will last for a couple more.  No blog, Facebook, Twitter, or even e-mail.  I’ve had to go to work, but I haven’t been all that interactive with my coworkers.  My head isn’t in the game.  I’m not really sure I feel like being social today.

It’s my grief, and I’ll wallow if I want to

On April 22nd 1996, just before our first anniversary, we brought home a pair of skittish, abandoned, semi-feral adolescent (about a year old) cats. 

Leo and Xena come home

Our anniversary present.  If they mark it as anything other than the first anniversary, other people may have the ordinary Paper Anniversary.  We had the Cat Anniversary.  It seemed right.  Still does.

Late in the afternoon on May 9th 2012, I lay beside one of them on the living room floor stroking her as she took her last few breaths.

It wasn’t unexpected.  She was seventeen years old and her health hasn’t been good for a long time.  She’s had major medical issues for the last year and significant arthritis in her back legs and hips for longer than that, making it hard for her to move around much.  I’ve been afraid to pick her up for a while, worried about hurting her.

None of which changes that I wasn’t ready to let her go.  I’d never have been ready to let her go.

People who don’t have pets probably have a hard time understanding.  No, it isn’t like losing a family member, a parent or sibling or child, except it is.  Mentally, emotionally, it’s exactly the same thing.  Xena was a part of my life every single day for more than sixteen years, some days only a little and some days a constant companion.  She lived in my home and showed affection to everyone in the house, and that’s all she really wanted back.

So you’re damned right I’ve just lost a member of my family.

The day after was probably harder than the day itself, the first full day she wasn’t there.  Everywhere I looked, there was some reminder.  Over there, that’s where she had her morning nap.  There’s her food bowl.  There’s her favourite cushion.  The vent by the sliding door where she’d wait for the heat to come on.  That spot on the living room rug she always liked to scratch, even when scolded to stop.  And just a metre to the left, the last spot she lay.

And if it’s hard on me, how much worse is it for my children?  Xena was here to welcome all of them home for the first time and has been there for every day of their lives.  They spent hours every day sitting and cuddling with her.

I got to say goodbye, but I’d give a lot to say hello again, to hear her purr one more time, to have her sit in my lap while I watch TV.

Yes, life goes on for those of us still here.  Yes, I will adapt and survive; I always do.  But Xena has left a hole in my life far bigger than the space she’d seemed to occupy.  I’m not ashamed to shed some tears and I’m not ashamed to miss her.  Neither is her brother Leo, still with us and missing his sister.

Xena close up

Chocolate Milk and Growth Hormones

My son and I went to see the Avengers last night (fun movie, not relevant to the subject at hand, but two armoured thumbs up) and he was feeling generous enough on the way home to carry on a conversation with me through various topics.

At one point, talk turned to how I had to take him suit shopping shortly.  Grade 8 graduation happens in June and he can’t wear one of my suits.  Sure, he’s very nearly as tall, but I’m thicker around the middle and broader across the chest, so nothing I have will come near fitting properly.  If we choose wisely, we’ll have something he can probably wear for a couple of years to weddings and other important events even if there needs to be a bit of tailoring.  I threw out the off-hand comment that he’d fill out over the next couple of years and be bigger than I am soon enough.

He said that a couple of his friends were growing past him again (Really? My kid is 5’10” and not even 13 ½ years old. What kind of giants are we breeding?) so he probably should start hitting the chocolate milk harder again to get more growth hormones.

“Really?”

“Yeah, I don’t want to fall behind.”

“You’ll grow when you grow.  Relax.”

Fall behind.  Like it’s an arms race.  We have to get taller before the Russians do.

In fairness, we used to joke that all the chocolate milk he was drinking made him grow faster.  Hormones supposedly pumped into dairy cattle to increase milk production were obviously to blame, right?  How else could he have gotten so big?  Newsflash: my son has always been big for his age and for a time when he was eight or nine actually introduced himself as Monster Boy.  He’s recently been accused of being seventeen.

On the subject of milk, he’s been drinking a lot less of it for the last few months and has for some reason connected that with growing slower than a couple of his friends.  Growth hormones again, right?  Except we live in Canada and it’s only legal to use growth hormones for beef cattle here, not for dairy cattle.  There aren’t any extra hormones in the milk he guzzles.

“I know, but the milk helps.  I can taste the growth hormone.”

Really, I didn’t say, the ones that aren’t actually there.  Instead, I steered the conversation back to high school because they had an orientation day this week.

Now some of you might be thinking that I missed a prime educational opportunity here to discuss the use of hormones and antibiotics in food production and how he has a slightly skewed view of the world when it comes to them.  You’re absolutely right, but I had two reasons for not having that talk:

  1. Not every conversation has to be educational, especially not on the heels of a superhero movie.
  2. I want the kid to keep drinking milk.  It’s good for him and if he’ll do it on his own it’s one more eating/drinking habit I won’t have to worry about.

To paraphrase Sun Tzu: he will triumph who knows when to parent and when not to parent.

Be well.

Me and My Saxophone

This is me:

This is my saxophone:

This is me and my saxophone making sweet, sweet music together:

Well, sweet music.

Okay, music.

More or less.

All right, so I blow into it and sounds that are more or less like notes come out of it. No, you can’t hear me play. Not yet.

My rhythm and timing stink, but are improving. You can hear me breathe, but that’s improving. I’ve more or less got the fingering down for the primary octave, and that’s improving, too. I’ve figured out just enough that I know how little I know.

Yes, I’m teaching myself. I have a couple of books and You Tube is handier than you might think, if you’re willing to dig a little for the right material.

I played saxophone as a kid. As in grade school. As in two thirds of a lifetime ago. Alto first, then tenor when my hands got a little bigger. The saxophone my utterly amazing wife got me for my birthday is a tenor, which is what I wanted. I’d been thinking about it for a long, long time. Probably since not long after we got married. I wished I hadn’t given it up when I went to high school, and every couple of years my fingers would get itchy enough to start pricing instruments, which would make the itch go away. Saxophones, generally, aren’t cheap.

But the world changes, and prices do come down eventually, and if you want to play but aren’t interested in a two thousand dollar instrument just to try out, you can find something much more reasonably. It’s a beginner’s instrument, but that’s okay because I’m certainly a beginner and will be for a really long time.

What really surprised me is that when I first picked it up, I could still remember the fingering for Mary Had a Little Lamb, the opening theme from M.A.S.H., and the snake charming song. I can do them without the squeaks and squawks now, too.

Now I’m learning to read music, which I never bothered with as a kid because I could just play the notes, right? And I’m learning what tempo and timing really mean, which is good too. I’d probably make faster progress, but I’m only willing to practice when the house is empty of other people. That will probably change sooner or later, but for now, I’d rather make noise by myself.

For now.

My ultimate (initial) goal is to be able to play Maneater by Hall & Oates. And now you’ve got the song stuck in your head. It’s okay, so do I. That’s going to take a while, and that’s okay. For now, there’s joy in learning to play. Joy in actual playing comes in tiny, growing bursts.

I’m forty-one and it’s never too late to learn something new or pick up something old. Anyone else?

It Was Seventeen Years Ago Today

Seventeen years ago, sometime around now, the music began to play, and I watched my about to be wife appear from some small hallway and walk down the aisle between two neat organized rows of family and friends.  There was music, there were standard vows, but neither stands out in my memory.  What does is the look on her face as she walked towards me.  Tears of joy and not terror, I hope.

Sure, okay, I remember the flood of emotion and the little stutter and her trying to get the ring on my finger, and a thousand other little details, too, but none of those are the most important part of the day.

She was, and still is.

  

Looking at the pictures, I think about how young we were, a little over twenty-four in my case and not quite in hers, and how much there was to come, not that we had any idea what we were in for in spite of almost three years engaged and four and a half together.

It was a wonderful day, not that everything went perfectly, but we wouldn’t discover any of the flaws until later.  But there is something I could wish for.

No, not for the hair, which I don’t really miss all that much, and I blame the kids for that anyway.  And not for the devastatingly handsome porn-stache, which I could grow that again in a month if I really wanted to.  Not even for video evidence instead of merely photographic; video would probably show me things that my memory has glossed over.

There are a couple of people in the crowd who are no longer with us, and I’d wish for them back, even if it were just long enough for a hug or a handshake.  But what I’d really wish for is that my twenty-four year-old self had the confidence and awareness to be able to understand and express how he felt about the woman he’d just married, but that’s something that only maturity can bring.

Happy anniversary, my love.

On the Writing of Fiction and Why I Do It

Every fiction writer will have a reason for choosing fiction.  You hear and read a lot of them that sound clever and dramatic on the surface of things.  Most of them boil down to one of (or some combination of):

  • I have to.
  • I need to.
  • The voices in my head make me.

I understand all of those, and I’ve felt them all on occasion, but I’m also a huge believer in free will and anything that doesn’t consider it leaves out part of the equation as far as I’m concerned.

The summer I was eight, my uncle pressed a copy of the Lord of the Rings into my hands to keep me busy.  Seems a little excessive, doesn’t it?  “Here kid, have a thousand pages of fantasy fiction.  That ought to keep you quiet for a while.”  Not nearly as long as he hoped, I think.  I’d already read Fellowship at that point, so got through it fairly quickly and tore into Towers by the next day.

And that wasn’t even the beginning.  Dad had plenty of SF and Fantasy lying around when I was a kid in the 70s and I read a lot of classic and not so classic genre fiction.  My school library had more and the local library beat both together.  I discovered McCaffrey early, and Silverberg, and Niven, Le Guin, Pohl, Herbert, Smith, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and dozens of others.

The 70s moved into the 80s and a couple of years later I became a teenager and my reading expanded deeper into the genres.  Fantasy came into its own and SF got broader than ever before.  Bova, and Feist, and Eddings, Salvatore,Bradley,Jordan, Brooks, Anthony, Pratchett, Alexander, and on and on and on.

The 80s became the 90s and I grew older and kept reading.  By the time we rolled the millennium, I had a wife, a son, and a daughter on the way.  Less time for reading, but I never let it go.  My horizons got broader, but I got pickier at the same time, less forgiving of some things and more understanding of others.  My youngest daughter arrived somewhere in there, too.

These days I read less than I did for myself before the whole family thing happened, and more non-fiction than ever before.  It’s a strange, winding road, but along the way I found a lot of things that had been lost, like Dr. Suess, and picked up things I never would have otherwise, like Harry Potter.  There’s no way I can possibly come up with a guess at how many hours of joy and pleasure reading, and particularly reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, has given me.

And that’s why I write.

Sure, it might satisfy some psychological need I have and maybe the voices in my head like to be let out of my imagination to play through words across the screen, but that’s not why I write.

I write because that’s what I feel it takes for me to pay back all the writers who have gone before me.  If someone reads one of my stories and enjoys it, then I’m thrilled to have added a little joy in reading to someone else’s life, and the hours of work that went into it were more than worthwhile.

Read on and be well.