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Unpopular Opinion: Game of Thrones, “The Long Night”

Last night the much awaited Battle of Winterfell occurred on HBO’s Game of Thrones. It was 90 minutes of, well, battle. By all accounts it took a long time to film, too, and as someone who has worked in film, I’m often impressed by the production values of this series. I watch and think, Someone had to time that just right…

But while all my friends and all the people on Facebook and Twitter seem to be in love with this episode, I just… Didn’t find it all that interesting. For one thing, a lot of it was hard to see, so it was difficult to tell what was going on. And the episode felt so long, so interminable. I get the sense that this was done on purpose, to make viewers feel the uncertainty and endlessness of being on the battlefield, but I guess I’m not invested enough in the show overall to have been so absorbed.

Also, I don’t like zombie movies. And this really amounted to a zombie movie.

Were there great moments? Absolutely. I’m not saying the entire episode was a washout, and there was some definite emotional impact. I just don’t seem to be as enthralled as so many other viewers. I liked “Battle of the Bastards” waaaaay more and found it far more impressive. Maybe GoT has made me jaded and given me unreasonable expectations that even it can’t always meet. ::shrug::

Movies: Avengers: Endgame

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd
Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Screenplay by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Marvel/Disney, 2019
PG-13; 181 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)

_______________________________________________________

Last time on The Avengers: Thanos did, in fact, get all the Infinity Stones, put on the gauntlet, snapped his fingers, and reduced the population of the universe by 50%.

In today’s episode, the remaining Avengers seek a way to undo it all.

Mild plot spoilers follow, though I will NOT reveal any major deaths in this review.

First they hunt down Thanos himself because, hey, he has the Stones and maybe they can get them back and use them to fix everything. But Thanos used the Stones to, er, get rid of the Stones? So that’s a no-go.

But then Scott Lang comes back from the quantum whatever and gives them a new idea: time travel! So for a chunk of the movie, we’re on a caper to retrieve the Stones from places they were known to be in the past.

Yada yada yada, past Thanos finds out about it, big battle, the end.

Okay, so I enjoyed the first, oh, two thirds of this movie? All of the character moments are on point, and since I’m a character writer, that makes me super happy. I will say that I was able to predict lines of dialogue a good 65% of the time, which either tells me it’s become rote or that I should be writing these movies. Probably both.

There’s a good amount of humor in this movie, too, which I also enjoy. Some of it felt forced or shoehorned in, however—very conscious of its job as a mood lightener. Which makes it a little clumsy and less funny.

The action scenes suffer from the rapid cuts that most of these movies have come to rely on. They make me a little nauseous, actually, and give me a bit of a headache. I mean, film is a visual medium, and if you can’t actually see what’s going on, what’s the point?

In particular, the final battle is a blender concoction of Marvel’s Greatest Moments + the Super Bowl. It’s not terrible, but it is gratuitous, and it’s very obvious they’re striving to give every character a slice of screen time.

Then we get the Return-of-the-King ending, where we need to see where everyone ends up so we can set up the next cycle of films, I guess. Well, and write off anyone whose cycle is finished.

All that said, on the whole I did enjoy it. And there are upcoming Marvel films I’m actually anticipating: the next Spider-Man, the next Guardians of the Galaxy… Maybe they’ll do another Ant-Man? I guess I lean toward the franchises that have the most humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. For me, that’s entertainment.

Avengers: Endgame ticks most of my boxes. I liked it more than Infinity War anyway. That’s gotta be worth something.

Letter to Rob: Chip Tooth Smile

Dear Rob,

Been a while. I wanted to listen to the new album on my morning walk, but Spotify was misbehaving by shuffling the songs, and I couldn’t get it to stop. Thing is, I like to first listen to an album straight through because I believe the way it’s put together is just as important as the individual songs. Maybe I’m old fashioned that way. In this day of people picking and choosing songs and not having to purchase whole albums, maybe the order doesn’t matter so much. But I know work goes into that order, too, so I still like to listen to an album in the way it seemingly is meant to be heard, at least the first time.

All that is a long way of saying I’m still working on it. What I’ve heard so far I like, though there’s a certain homogeny to the sound. Perhaps that’s intentional, meant to help it all hang together. I haven’t decided whether I like it, though.

There’s certainly an undercurrent of mortality here, too, something a tad… I don’t want to say “maudlin” because that’s not the correct word for it, but… Despite protestations to the contrary (“Dying Young”), deaths of various kinds haunt what I’ve heard. An attempt to shake them off or something.

“Sentimental” maybe? Here I am, a writer, and I can’t think of the word I want. Sigh.

Between the sound and the lyrics, the whole thing makes you seem stuck on a feeling, like you’re going in circles. And that’s okay because I think that happens to a lot of people, and so this album will speak to them. Each song will reaffirm something in them because they’re feeling that way, too.

I’m probably not even making sense now.

Long letter short (too late), I do like what I’ve heard so far, though I don’t actually like the name of the album at all for some reason. That’s a “me” thing, however, something I’d need to self-delve about. The Spotify animation, too, is distracting, but I’m never really looking at my phone as I listen, so whatever.

Congrats and good luck with it and the tour.

~M

More Writers, Fewer Readers

What to Do?

I’m currently reading iGen by Jean Twenge, which discusses all the ways the iGeneration ( b. ~1995-2012) is different from previous generations. There’s a ton to unpack, and I’m not even very far along in this book, but as a writer I wanted to focus on the data that shows this generation doesn’t read. At least not for fun.

Are we surprised? Not really. Attention spans are getting increasingly short, cut into tiny slices of memes and video clips and text messages. As per the anecdotal evidence Twenge cites, most members of the iGeneration find reading boring because it requires them to sit still, be quiet, and pay attention. The result are slumping SAT scores in reading comprehension, which Twenge says we shouldn’t ascribe as either “good” or “bad” but… I can’t help thinking it’s bad. We want critical thinkers and problem solvers, but the up-and-coming generation can’t be bothered to work their brains that hard. (Twenge suggests ebooks that include videos and are written in very short chapters/info bursts, but really? We have to dumb things down for these kids?)

Okay, okay, so I’m an old fogey. That’s beside the point. In a world where (for good or ill) getting published is easier than ever, we have more content out there than ever, too. And we have fewer and fewer readers interested in buying or consuming that content.

Hmm.

“What about all those YA novels that sell so well?” you ask. Well, turns out it’s a lot of adults reading those novels and not that many, er, young adults.

“But older people still read!” Yeeeesss. But we need new readers to sustain publishing. And not just new content, since there is clearly plenty of that.

“So just write stuff they want to read.” Yeah, except they don’t want to read anything longer than a listicle.* Hell, short stories try their patience.

*Here’s an interesting tangent: iGen’ers don’t party as much, aren’t as into drinking or sex. So all these “old” people writing books for them… Books that look like something out of the 80’s, with parties and sex and alcohol… These books don’t reflect the current teen experience. Write a book entirely in text messages and memes and you’d be closer to the mark. And they’d be way more likely to read it. Especially since it probably wouldn’t take as long as reading it in prose form.

Bottom line/takeaways: the youngest generation isn’t reading books beyond those assigned to them at school (and sometimes not even that much). They have short attention spans and aren’t interested in an activity that takes time, patience, and concentration. We have more books and writers than ever and fewer readers. [Yes, I know those who do read often read avidly and voraciously, but again, we need new readers in order to sustain writers and publishing.] Already magazines and newspapers are desperate, and publishing is next in line; only people writing pithy (and short) articles online will be safe. And because trends move more quickly than ever, even then one is only likely to be a brief success.

Where am I going with this? Well, to be honest, I haven’t been writing much lately anyway. I’d already seen success (as I personally define it) as unattainable for me. So this data only reaffirms that I made the right choice by walking away. The situation is only likely to worsen.

Then again, once enough writers quit the field, those left might still find an audience, eh? Good luck out there!

Book: Poirot Loses a Client

I started reading Hercule Poirot novels when I was about 13 or 14 years old. Started with Murder on the Orient Express (because I understood it was considered a classic) and devoured as many as our library had. Somehow in all this, however, I never read this one.

If you don’t know Poirot, a quick introduction: he’s a Belgian detective with large moustaches and a fastidious nature. He’s Agatha Christie’s dandy version of Sherlock Holmes, really. In a number of the novels about him—including this one—he has a kind of Watson in the form of Captain Hastings, who accompanies Poirot on his investigations and narrates the story.

This particular tale is of an older woman (70, I think?) named Emily Arundell who writes to Poirot after believing one of her family members has tried to murder her for her money. Alas, the letter arrives too late for Poirot to save her from liver failure, but he launches an investigation all the same. (And was it a natural death after all?)

I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoy any Hercule Poirot novel. It has the usual collection of suspects and, per the typical cozy mystery of this sort, ends with them all in a drawing room as Poirot spins out the whodunit and how. These books are fine poolside reading, quick and not terribly demanding on, as Poirot would say, “the little grey cells.”

2019 So Far

Can you believe we’re nearly a third of the way through this year already? In some ways, 2019 feels like it started a loooong time ago, but in others it seems to be flying by.

In mid-January I made the executive decision to put our house on the market and sell it. My husband and I had been talking about it for a while, but I finally just decided: new year, new life. On top of selling the house (and buying a new one), I also went under the care of a nutritionist, and while that wasn’t 100% successful, I can say we have:

  • Sold our house
  • Bought a new one
  • Moved

And I’ve lost 15+ pounds since January as well. Still have those pesky final ten to go.

Also still have a lot of unpacking to do, but we’re making progress.

I could say that I “knew” 2019 would be a year of upheaval, but honestly, it’s really been the year I’ve felt majorly motivated to make big changes. The upheaval is all self-made. And I don’t regret any of it. I’d been stagnant and semi-discontented for too long.

As for writing, well… I’ve dabbled, but I’m not pushing it. I have plenty enough to keep up with at the moment, and I’m not burning to sit and spill onto a page (or, more accurately, a computer screen). Anyway, I am reading and rating scripts for a screenwriting competition, so that’s enough to keep my toes in the creative pool.

How is your 2019 going?

Does Writing Get Easier?

I saw this question posted online recently, and my immediate thought was: If it does, you’re getting sloppy.

Writing is work. Sure, there are days when the words flow, the characters follow directions, and the plot comes together. Those days feel magical. But I’ve worked office jobs, and I know that those kinds of work days can happen anywhere. Good work days and bad work days are not exclusive to writers. It’s just the nature of the good and bad that can make it seem so different.

People who don’t write can’t quite conceive of writing as “work.” This is because writers, despite all the trials, generally love their work. And some non-writers feel as if loving your work means it isn’t really work. But again, that’s not any more true for writers than it is for anyone in any other field. A construction worker could love his job, but it’s definitely still a lot of work. A computer programmer could love her job, but again, still work.

“Oh, but you sit in a chair all day and make stuff up.”

  • Plenty of people sit in chairs most of their working days.
  • Making stuff up isn’t as easy at it sounds. If it were, everyone would do it all the time, right?
  • Making stuff up and selling it to people is even harder.
  • Making stuff up, selling it to people, and having people like it enough to want more is hardest of all. If your job does not require you to please large quantities of diverse and sometimes very picky people on a regular basis, consider yourself lucky.

Do you remember having to write papers for school? Sure, often they were essays, but sometimes your teacher wanted you to write a story or a poem. Wasn’t that work? Wasn’t it in some ways easier to write the essay because at least you had a starting point, a topic handed to you?

Bottom line: writing is work. And I know many authors say they can spit a book out every month, or six weeks, or whatever, but I have to question the quality.

Good writing seldom goes quickly, and it never gets easier.

Still Here

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I’m just unpacking and sorting and lining up contractors, etc.

Last Thursday I finished up with cleaning our old house so we could had the keys over the new owners. Usually I’d say it felt strange to think we wouldn’t return to a place we’d lived for nearly seven years, but honestly, it doesn’t feel strange to me at all. I think maybe I was done with that house long before we actually sold it. At the very least I’d detached emotionally from it.

There are few places I’ve lived in my life where I immediately felt happy and at home, but I’m grateful to be able to say the new house is one of them. Still, the unpacking process is a slow one as we try to decide exactly where we want things and how we want to use the space. I love that my office is at the very back end of the house (in the old one it was in the front, with the window looking out at the porch).

At the same time as I’m organizing my house, my life, my world, I’m trying to decide what I want to do with myself. What do I enjoy (when I have the time)? Well, I like editing, and helping fellow writers work kinks out of their stories, and reading tarot for my friends. I like speaking to new writers about the process and industry, too. And I love being involved in theatre. Unfortunately for me, I don’t often get the opportunity to do any of those things. And that’s the really sad element to my life—that I’m not valued for any of the things I enjoy doing.

In the meantime, I mostly am relied on for keeping up with laundry, keeping groceries stocked, handling all things kid and school related, and also managing a certain amount of house-related things (like the pool). Since this takes up most of my time anyway, I guess I shouldn’t mourn that no one wants me for my other interests because it would be difficult to fit them in.

There you have it. I may or may not go back to writing if the bug bites. For now, I have plenty on my plate. But if you happen to have questions about writing, editing, or tarot… Feel free to ask.

Movies: Vice

Honestly, I didn’t know half of what this movie told me. I mean, I knew Dick Cheney was, well, a dick. Unapologetic and shady. But the way he laid the groundwork for our nation to nosedive the way it has? I had no idea.

Not that I’m surprised either.

I won’t say I’m any big fan of Adam McKay films. I like them okay—Moneyball, The Big Short—but they usually feel like lessons. Which I think is kind of the point. McKay wants to teach us things, and he’s looking for interesting ways to do that… I think? And I don’t mind that aspect at all. So I have to wonder why his movies are just okay for me. Is it because I don’t find the actual subjects that interesting? Is it because his sense of humor doesn’t entirely align with mine? Or that I feel like I’m being talked down to a bit?

So… yeah. This is a good movie, and informative. I can definitely see why it won makeup awards, and why Bale took home an Academy Award. But as with other McKay movies, I still walked away with a bit of a shrug.

And yet… Maybe because I do pay attention to politics now (and baseball and mortgages don’t particularly interest me), I was also quite amazed by how much damage and undermining Cheney managed to do and get away with. How many loopholes he sniffed out and exploited that, to this day, are being stretched to fit as many of these assholes through as possible. If nothing else, Vice is a call for major political reform.

It’s a little long and jumps around a bit; I found myself skimming Wikipedia partway through to get an understanding of the timeline. But also I’d been drinking wine, so maybe my issues were not universal.

Do I recommend it? Sure, to people with interest in politics and/or a hatred of Republicans. In case you needed fuel for that fire. I mean, Vice is entertaining in its own right, but… I wouldn’t say it’s entertaining enough for just the average, indifferent viewer to sit through and enjoy.

IWSG: April 2019

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

As I type this, we’re facing a weekend of moving house. That pretty much has all my energy and attention at the moment. But I did start working on a really old piece of writing that I dug up, and I’m enjoying that. I don’t intend to publishing (I don’t think); for the first time in a long time I’m just writing for me, for the pleasure of it.

I recently made a decision to quit pursuing an agent or publishers. And I may not self-publish anymore either, simply because the trials are too great: fighting piracy, trying to market, and all for so very little return. I know many self-published authors are supposedly raking it in (those are the stories one hears about, though I doubt they’re the norm), so I don’t know if I’m just bad at writing or don’t write what people want to read. Either way, I’ve mostly ceased to enjoy it. But this older piece… I’m having fun playing with it. So I’ll keep doing that for as long as it amuses me.

Question of the Month: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

I don’t know. I guess I won’t know until I reach that point. Once I got stuck, that’s when I’d want to put that wish to use.