I didn’t have to mourn the loss of the Mumford and Sons sound I love so much for long. My Aussie friend with great taste in music came through with another perfect CD for my birthday. She’ll email saying to send a list of a few for her to pick from, and Vance Joy was my top choice. I cannot get enough of his big hit song Riptide, but the whole CD (Dream Your Life Away) is awesome.

If Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers had an Australian child, it would be Vance Joy. He has a really nice voice and a great sound. All the songs on the CD have a noticeably unique sound, all of it Aussie musical goodness. Funny thing is that this time I didn’t realize the catchy yet haunting song of the video I kept seeing on middle of the night music television was a new addition to my Australian music obsession. Now I know that and that Riptide is breaking Australian music records. Good for him. I hope he’s around for many albums to come.

This video is such a cool unplugged version of Riptide. Vance Joy, a ukulele, and his heartfelt words.

I just watched Fury. Wow! It’s tempting to just leave it at that, because some movies almost defy coherent reaction. There’s a visceral gut level to this one that leaves me feeling as if I just fought an incredible WWII battle. Though all movies do it to some extent, Fury seriously transports its viewers into a 2+ hour experience that feels like a tank crew ride along. In the time it takes to watch the movie, and for some time afterward, I was a silent partner in the horror of fighting in a world war.

Honestly, the first part was a bit of a slog, though there were parts that were incredibly intense and interesting, with incongruously gorgeous imagery. Then the last hour and a half or so hit, with all the power behind a single remaining tank and the soldiers who practically live in it. At one point Brad Pitt’s character, the tough top sergeant with the heart of the great hero he (and his men) becomes says the tank is his home. Watching what they go through, that sentiment is understandable. Their mantra “Best job I ever had.” is as well. Leader and troops, friends, family, a tight unit that sticks with their “Top” even when he decides to stay with their “busted” tank and take on what seems like a small army of SS.

What transpires from that point
onward is one of the most brutal, awful, and terrifying battles I’ve seen portrayed in movies. Of course that’s the only ones of this kind I’ve seen in any way. I wasn’t even born at the time of World War II, and as I watched Fury I was so very grateful for that. Man or woman, seasoned veteran or reluctant soldier then amazing hero like young gunner Norman, it hits me hard as I watch such movies that people should never have to be asked to fight such battles and wars like that should never happen. The heads of Human beings weren’t made to end in an explosive shower of pink wet haze that’s all that’s left of brain matter… and its protective head…after a machine gun spray blankets its mark. Yet countless thousands have done just that. And so awfully much more.

It’s good to be shown such real life depictions of real life war and be reminded just how fortunate any of us are who have only experienced it through books and movies and the stories of veterans. And it’s good to be forced to remember that so many heroes did the incredible things they did to fight unspeakably heinous enemies. Sometimes a movie is meant to be more than the term implies. It becomes unforgettable. That it’s based on a series of true stories makes it all the more so.

On a lighter note, as Brad Pitt ages into his talent I’m struck by the way he’s becoming the modern day Clark Gable to George Clooney’s Cary Grant. More than an undeniably pretty face, Pitt is the kind of actor who makes me seek out his movies. Shia LaBeouf too is coming into his own. Proven by the fact that I can see him in movies now and not once think he’s Sam Witwicky! Jon Bernthal? He’s good, but I still get flashes of Shane from The Walking Dead. Time will fix that too most likely.

At it’s end Fury leaves images burned into my brain, like a TV screen briefly etched onto my retinas. I can only hope they fade away as fast, and leave only memories of a difficult movie to watch that I’m glad I’ve seen.

Fury–Official Trailer

Some people can comfortably read for hours on end from a computer screen. Unfortunately, in an era when that is most convenient, I am not one of them. I have weird eyes that need narrow screens, or ideally paperback book size pages. If conditions aren’t just right I get eyestrain headaches that feel like a thrown out back on my head. So I’ve been in search of a perfect way to proofread for years.

Reading off printed out manuscript pages is really the most comfortable way for me still, but as time passes I move more and more toward being a totally digital writer. Beyond that my Glitcherella proofreading skills leave me feeling guilty when I read from paper, because of how much of said paper I go through. Even printing out new copies on the backs of old ones helps only so much.

I have a Kindle 3rd Gen that went a long way toward giving me a comfortable proofreading program. My old Word Pro files have to go through circusworthy contortions of the formatting kind, but .txt documents are readable. They won’t indent, which leads to some confusion, but nobody, (including formats) is perfect.

I eventually discovered MobiPocket Creator, and actually had the nerve to think I could easily make eBooks both to proofread from and perhaps sell on Amazon. Did I ever underestimate the complexities of eBook formatting! Especially when starting out with documents created with a positively arcane word processor. I’m still working on perfecting potential Kindleable ebooks, but I did eventually learn to make rudimentary ebooks that are great for proofreading on my narrow Kindle screen.

Problem solved.

Not quite.

While the reading was easier, I was writing corrections down on paper. That involved learning not only to think in percentages instead of page numbers, but also keep track of scraps of paper and go from that to computer screen and back endlessly during the correction stage.

Half solved.

Recently I came across an ad on Amazon for the Kindle Fire HD 6″. Oooh. Not too expensive, small screen (which has not been easy to find in any device in the world of ever expanding screen size), and the cool factor of HD video and games in the palm of my hand. So I got one and fell in love (for the most part, but that’s a topic for another post).

It took me just over one frustrating week to figure out how to get my proofreading eBooks to show up as a Kindle document. I eventually found I could transfer just the Kindle Content file, from the MobiPocket folder on my laptop, into Docs on my Fire, and it showed up as if a tiny magician had yelled abracadabra at the top of his lungs in the cyber alley spanning devices.

Hey, presto! Problem two thirds solved.

I loved proofreading on my 6″ Fire screen. Even my formatting glitches looked better that way. Or maybe it was just that I was used to that from the old Kindle. Regardless, I was in proofreading almost heaven. The remaining problem was that I was still using pen and paper to write down corrections. After trying several notepad and word processor apps, I discovered that there’s a great word processor lurking somewhere in the sometimes mysterious bowels of the Fire. I still can’t figure out where the button to open it is, but after stumbling across it I can now at least access it in a round about way.

So now thanks to a powerful built in word processor, I can handle my proofreading process without ever touching pen or paper. Granted, it’s a bit of a pain to flip in and out, back and forth, Kindle mode to word processor constantly. But it’s also nice not to mentally hear the silent green cries of all the trees that fell victim to my unintentional massacres by way of crumpled paper destined for a landfill. It’s also much easier to make computer corrections from a lit screen, minus the odd dropped pen or torn paper scrap.

It only took me approximately four word processors, two Kindles, and countless scraps of paper with their accompanying pens just waiting to run out of ink when I needed it most to finally get to this point. I shudder to think what it’s going to take to eventually figure out perfect eBook formatting. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be lucky if the entire publishing industry hasn’t changed completely yet again. Maybe by then at least the unbelievable convolutions embedded into the entire system will have been streamlined and simplified and…never mind.

Catching up on some movies again. I’ve heard so much about The Hunger Games that it almost seems like I’d already seen it. Once I had I thought it lived up to its hype, which is a difficult feat. Especially these days, with movies constantly trying to one up each other more than ever before. The glut of big bang franchises makes it ever harder to grab enough spotlight to stand out, entertain, and be memorable. The Hunger Games managed to hit all three.

My favorite thing about this movie was the way the simplistic lifestyle of the regular people was constantly thrown visually against the sleek, modern way of life of the government seat. Particularly during the fight to the death in the wilderness, and the way it would cut to the high tech behind the scenes machinations. That was one of the most shocking  juxtapositions of the haves and have nots I can remember seeing in moviedom. As well as the contrast of the Tributes fighting with blades, bows and arrows, and bludgeons, while the techies sat at their consoles gleefully sending in predatory beasts and finding new ways to pit Tributes against each other. Add in the giant screens the folks back home were glued to throughout, and you have a crazy, relentless, brutal and primal version of The Truman Show, as a peripheral plot.

Some of the violence was shocking, edging into The Lord of the Flies territory. I thought it was very realistic. Take anybody, even children…perhaps especially children…and give them no choice but to fight, little hope of survival, and the promise of great spoils for the victor, and the flight or fight adrenaline rush becomes the driving force of their existence. On some level as well the celebrity status attainable by the victor would be an almost irresistible goal.

Enter Katniss Everdeen. A young girl who impulsively takes the place of her little sister. How unlikely is that? About as unlikely as her progress through the game using her wits, her courage, and her compassion, unlike her tooth and nail opponents. However unlikely, that too is realistic. In most groups of even the most down trodden, forced into ruthless brutality, desperate people, there lurks a hero. It would be easy to dismiss Katniss as a fictional device, but it happens in real life enough to make us proud to be human beings. The funny thing is that true heroes don’t usually set out some day intending to achieve something amazing. They fall into situations that lead them to rise above the circumstances… rise even above themselves.

That Katniss also managed to outsmart the system was the coolest part. Unlikely? Maybe. One James T. Kirk set an impressive precedent, though. That Katniss Everdeen Kobayashi Marued the Hunger Games a la  our beloved captain made her a hero for the ages. Okay, so maybe my enjoyment of the movie  skewed a bit Trekward. At least I didn’t place mental odds on who the Redshirts were. I have actual Star Trek movies for that.

The Hunger Games (2012) Official Movie Trailer

Kobayashi Maru

This article has a lot that pertains to writing for children, but there are some points to think about for the rest of us too. Most of it’s common sense stuff, but how many writers of any kind of fiction are able to dredge up a proper  modicum of common sense when the flow of words goes all Niagra on us? So it couldn’t hurt to check out what might really irritate an editor into giving up on a potential masterpiece ahead of its time. Or use it for kindling.

As soon as I saw the headline of this article, my brain started screaming: Impossible!

No matter how much we may have spent our Star Trek loving years dreaming of an honest to goodness, real life replicator, the concept seemed so far beyond possible that it still lives just outside the realm of possibility.

It’s moved!

Now, according to this article, the impossible may be right around the corner. And in a machine the size of a coffee maker, instead of a wall size apparatus hidden behind the magic food slot. I can’t say I understand the descriptions of  pods and tubes and natural dehydrated ingredients yet. Just as I didn’t understand a thing about microwave ovens when I first got one, except that I could have a baked potato in a few minutes instead of watching one hiss and spit through the glass door of a toaster oven for an agonizing hour or so. What I do understand already about this replicator thingie is the all important information that it will make me chocolate soufflé on demand. One that even chefs can’t find fault with.

And that seems to be just the tip of this culinary iceberg miracle. Not only will it free me to enjoy home replicated food instead of slaving over a not hot microwave oven, it will leave me convinced that a transporter will soon whisk me to any place my wanderlust desires.

Two to beam up, Mister Scott. Me and my chocolate soufflé.

Out of the sea, or gleaming white icefield as the case may be, of movies I go through, Snowpiercier has emerged as one of my favorites in quite some time. Is it dark as pitch black night dark? Absolutely. Does it take humanity to a place we do not want to go by the hand of human hubris? Oh, yeah. Does it take us to an ambiguous ending that leaves us going “Huh?” then “Huh.”. Yep. But. Does it also make us think? Resoundingly!

I like movies that do all of the above. I just don’t often get it all in one beautifully rendered package. At the start it’s difficult to imagine anything, anyhow but the dystopian nightmare of the back of the train. Dark, ugly, hopeless. Then different people come to take away children. Ah ha! All is not the same all over the train.

It’s not until a contingent from the back breaks out to trek the long, long rolling geography that is Snowpiercer that it becomes startlingly clear that there are layers of existence. It is only when that clean, calm, normal school comes into view that the extent of the startlement becomes clear. Juxtaposed with what we know of the back, the classroom is heaven to its hell.

The further we go the weirder it
gets, until arrival at the front thrusts us into a battle between sane and insane, good and evil, life and death. Ultimately, the culmination of all the struggle that’s come before leads us back to the small frightened child taken from the rear to fade into the horrified imagination of its desperate mother. Of course, no one, not even a loving mother, could ever imagine the truth that her child just happens to fit the requirements that in a way make him a savior of Snowpiercer and all aboard. He’s small enough to physically fit into a space from which he can keep the train going. He is a part. An almost literal living cog in the engine of their lives.

And then the end. The avalanche. The devastation. Snowpiercer lying broken and still. Two survivors. A horrible, horrible presumably brief future can only lie ahead for them. How can they survive a ruined world?

Then…

A polar bear!

Pristine fur standing out in living, breathing reality against the harsh stark background, it stands as hope that the world is not finished.

It stands to rise again from its glistening coffin of ice.

That’s the way Snowpiercer ended for me. Though my brain wavered for a while, trying to decide if it was sure. It’s impossible not to see the potential for a different, soul crushing future. The two survivors don’t survive. They’re polar bear dinner. The world finally ends in any way we know it. Humanity is over. Whatever animals survive have the world as they know it.

I think the dichotomy of the two potential endings is way cool. Any movie that can keep me thinking…pausing…whatiffing…maybe just maybeing is more than just entertainment. The many questions it raises and won’t let lie still are valuable to us all in a world where we’re always one scientific experiment gone wrong from a different future from whatever we may be expecting. Let’s just hope there are Snowpiercers being imagined, along with whatever might try to wipe us out.

The idea of that train is the kind of thing that may haunt our dreams. And give us nightmares. And hope.

Snowpiercer Trailer

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