Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tiny rumblings

It's been quiet for the last week due to things like illness, fatigue, and work-related stuff. Oh, there's nothing bad with work, but my internship officially ends on Friday. There have been hints about an extension of some sort, but I won't know anything officially for a few more days.

In the meantime, I've been applying elsewhere so my eggs aren't all in one basket. I should be getting feedback from that ASAP.

Do I want to work near to home or far from home? Do I want to make little pay or less pay? These are questions I'll consider, but my thing about going all-in with a career choice is that I have to be ok with doing whatever it takes. I think I am.

In other news: YA book review coming soon. Get ready for an imaginative, weird, and surprisingly sexual take on an old tale. I'll say no more.

What, that's not a good enough teaser for you? It's 2:30 am. What more do you want from me? Go to bed! (But please come back tomorrow. I like you.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

How to promote your book. Maybe.

This week has unofficially been the week of The Guild. I can't wait for Season 3, and if you haven't watched this web-series yet, please do. Do you really need any other reason than the video for Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? I didn't think so.

While we're on the subject of videos, I've been watching book trailers lately. They're not exactly new, but publishers still don't know how to do them well. Books aren't a visual medium, so compatibility is problem number one. Other things to consider: Should the trailer be campy and low-fi? Should it be as glossy as Hollywood? Small publishers get the short end of the stick, because what do you do if you're a small publisher and you don't have money for a fancy production?

I believe the answer to all of this is creativity. You can have a slick production that is uninspiring, or something made on a basic computer program for free that is interesting. You can even use stick figures.

Of course, if you're a huge company like the American division of Random House, you can be creative AND slick. The book trailer for Libba Bray's Going Bovine is not on YouTube, so you'll just have to follow this link and watch it there. This trailer has Libba Bray going all out, and her craziness is perfect. If you have a book, and you want it to sell, this might be what you have to do. Libba Bray is embracing it, and that's a good thing.

I've been wanting to do some work like this for a while. Then again, I just like working on film stuff in general, especially low/no-budget stuff. I think the lack of money forces you to be creative.

Looking ahead: There will be precious little going on in the ways of creativity this weekend. I have a million things to do at home, a goodbye party, a wedding, and a welcome-back party to attend. I'll try to get some sleep somewhere in there. As the six-fingered man would say, if you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything. If anyone would know, it's Count Rugen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Avatars, gamers, and nice guys

Here's a little bit of awesomeness that I have to share. (Yes, I say "awesomeness".)

First is the video for Do You Wanna Date My Avatar, by The Guild. I'd never heard of The Guild until an hour ago. Now I've watched some episodes online and I'm in love. And I'm not even a gamer! I'm like a starting character who needs to do some levelling. Or something to that effect. My favourite line: "I'm better than a real-world quest. You'll touch my plus 5 to dexterity vest." Directed by Jed Whedon.

Here is The Guild's website, and here is Felicia Day's site. She's the writer/producer/star/singer, and she's really good on violin.

The second thing I wanted to post is completely different from the first. It's about Nice Guys. What could anyone have to say about Nice Guys, other than we like them and their niceguyishness? Well, apparently there's a lot to be said against them. (A LOT. Make sure you have a few minutes.) My interest was piqued when Leigh Butler had this to say in her fantastic Wheel of Time Re-read commentary:

"That last is the ultimate pitfall of the Nice Guy. Anyone who hasn’t read that link, male or female, do yourself a favor and do so. And guys? Don’t be that guy. Really. And girls? Don’t be the female version of that guy, either. Really."

Pitfall of the Nice Guy? ¿Qué? So I read it, and now I'd have to agree. I think I've known some Nice Guys. I may even have been one, but hopefully not since high school. I hope I'm an actual nice guy. Sure, no one's perfect, but there ARE good guys out there, so why can't I aspire to be one?

You can read it here, courtesy of DivaLion. Naturally, it's just one person's opinion. Feel free to share your own.

EDIT (Added after initial posting)
It seems I won first prize in a TwitterFic contest by Book View Cafe last week. Entrants had five chances to tell a story using spiders and space stations, and to write it in 126 characters. Stories were judged on creative use of the theme and the medium. My one entry was: "Mr Kubrick? I know you want spider costumes, but if we dress the boys as apes, we'll save cash for the rotating space station." In all honesty, I much preferred one of the other entries that didn't even make the final list, but I digress. See the winners here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Feelin' Fine

What a busy week. Interning is fun, but sometimes I have to juggle my schedule a bit. Between that and getting ready for my band's last show (more on that next week), I am bushed.

But soft, what light from yonder window breaks? It is the weekend and--Oh look, there goes the sun. Sigh. This weekend isn't going to get any less hectic, is it? Monday will be here before I know it and then I'll be all ZOMG!!! It's freakin' Monday!!!eleventy!

Ah, where was I? Ok, I have two books to finish reading, a show to play, a zombie game to lose, a few jobs to apply to, a chapter to finish writing, and a title to invent for my book. I was thinking along the lines of All Work and No Play Make Francesco a Little ... something something. The thud you just heard was sound of my head slamming into the desk.

In upcoming news, look for interviews to start cropping up on the blog. More details to follow. Bon weekend!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Old stories for a new audience

The weekend may be over, but the severe thuderstorms remain. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

These days I'm reading a book based on an old fairy tale. I won't say which fairy tale, but there was a Disney movie made of it, and I'm 99% sure the the brothers at Grimm Inc. did an adaptation as well. The version I'm reading is completely different from Disney's (which is good), and darker and more mature than Grimm's (which could be good).

Anyway, it got me thinking about these old stories that keep getting reinvented and reinterpreted for the adults and children of every generation. It's how Baba Yaga can go from Russian stories to the American Hellboy comics, to the Japanese anime Spirited Away. Or how Dorothy can go from a Frank Baum novel to Technicolour MGM, to Ryan Bourret's Postcards from Oz project (seriously, check it out). Or how Dracula and vampires can... um, you know what? We don't need more vampire talk.

Anyway, I'll review this book in a few days. I hope the quality is consistent to the end, because I'm going out on a Neil-Gaiman-recommended limb for this one. The first line shocked me, and the rest of the chapter was very eye-opening. I thought to myself: "This is a fairy tale adaptation? For kids?!" But why not? Audiences evolve, and children will read shocking material anyway, whether it's with our consent or not. As long as the writing quality is good, let 'em have it. I think the hermanos Grimm would have agreed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book review: Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell.

What was it that attracted me to this book? The cooking? The Paris/New York combination? The upcoming film version? I think it was a mix of all three. I must admit that I was wary at first. The book is a memoir, a genre that used to be non-fiction until James Frey and his ilk blew it up into a million little pieces. On the other hand, the film posters and the movie tie-in edition of Julie and Julia had me thinking the book would be chick-lit. That wouldn't be so bad, but could I handle another fluff piece? (James Patterson, all is not yet forgiven for Sundays At Tiffany's).

I worried for nothing. Julie and Julia is not chick-lit at all. Nor is it a bad memoir.

Julie and Julia is named after the project Julie Powell started in 2002, when she was 29. Her goal was to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, risking well-being and sanity for... well, we'll get to that. 524 recipes in 365 days. It's an interesting premise, and readers get the full experience of the highs and lows of Julie's Year of Cooking Dangerously.

Whatever you may think of the premise, the book has literary merits. Powell knows how to write well. True, the book sometimes reads like a blog--for the good reason that Powell blogged about the project for a year before turning it into book--but several passages rise above that. From being a government drone to hacking bone marrow, or from living in a hellish "loft" in Queens to saving a crumbling marriage, everything rings of authenticity.

Julie begins her project in anonymity, but within a short time she has a loyal following of blog readers, also known as the bleaders. When the going gets tough (and sometimes it gets very, very tough), Julie is compelled to continue. It took me about half the book to understand just how challenging this project actually was; cooking all those recipes--french cuisine, no less--from scratch, nearly every day for a year. Sometimes the same recipe would have to be made every day for a week because it formed the foundation of another recipe. Sometimes the same thing would have to be cooked several times in the same day because it would not turn out. All this while working as a government secretary, and trying to keep a marriage intact.

The problem with being so busy is there aren't many outlets for frustration. Her husband, Eric, is a huge help. If their marriage could withstand that year, it can withstand anything. Julie's friends give moral support when they can, but they're not around that much, and they're underdrawn. At least the bleaders are supportive, and there's always vodka gimlets and episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Reading the cooking sections works two ways. On the one hand, it's great for the details. This is an average person in an average kitchen, making all the mistakes that someone with no chef training would make. And that's fantastic. It's real, and it sucks you in. Readers will be right there with Julie, cursing Julia Child and MtAoFC when something goes wrong over one mis-read instruction in the cookbook. On the other hand, be prepared for some very vivid images. Some recipes are not for the faint of heart. You could be a red-blooded meatitarian with nothing but disdain for vegans, and you will still want to take a breather after some of Julie's ordeals. Even the author had to take a break and visit her parents in Texas after a couple of episodes with lobsters.

Occasionally there are little sections--vignettes, almost--about Julia Child, written from her husband Paul's perspective. We get to see Julia after she was a World War II spy, but before she became interested in cooking. It's an interesting parallel, although there could have been more of it.

In closing, I think this is a really good book. It is vivid and insightful, and there is a lot that will feel familiar to anyone who is or has been a twentysomething in need of a purpose in life. Which brings us to the reason behind the Julie/Julia project. Early on in the book, Julie's mother asks her why she is doing the project. Julie doesn't really know, but the answer becomes more apparent with each month as she does battle in the kitchen. It's about finding inspiration and dedication, even if you risk your health and sanity, and even if you put on twenty pounds of butter-weight.

Verdict: Recommended

NOTE: For anyone going to see the movie, it shares the same name as the book, but the film is actually a combination of this memoir, and My Life in France, by Julia Child.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Faux trailers

I was wondering just what on earth was going on when I started watching the trailer for Nation's Pride. Was this going to be a movie from the what-if-the-Nazis-won perspective? No no no. It turns out the trailer is a fake directed by Eli Roth, and it's part of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. I think it's in the movie. Anyway, watch and be amused.

Cool animation

This reminds me of very old-school cartoons. The Chuck Jones/Warner Bros. ones with music and without talking.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My inbox runneth over

I'm spending the long weekend in Western Ontario, which is why I haven't spent any time in front of a computer in a couple of days. The change has been nice. When you consider that I spend the majority of my work days in front of a computer screen, and then a bit more time when I'm at home, that's a lot of screen time. Personally, I'm not a fan. So even though I have lots of free time this weekend, and I'm just about done reading Julie and Julia, I will ignore my bulging email inbox, and just throw this lonely paragraph into the blogoshpere. Happy long weekend!
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