Condor Convention Day 1

Here in San Diego we have a local sf con in February/March called Condor. Today was the first day on the convention.

Now Condor is a small convention. 300-400 people in attendance usually is my understanding. I went to several panels, the best being on weapons of the Victorian Age. This turned into a show and tell of fire arms from 1830 thru 1900 and the panelists brought their own collection. It was a big table full of firearms. The panelist were well informed and I had a good time.

There were other panels on the theme of the convention – Steampunk, including panels on Oz and  Alice in Wonderland and other aspects of Victoria culture, such as their interest in the paranormal.

All in all it was a decent day that ended in a mild headache.


An Anguished State of Mind

The blog title refers to two things.

The first was the migraine that started yesterday and didn’t break until around noon today. Iy was a nasty brute and I spent about twelve hours in bed in the dark to deal with it.

More importantly the title refers to how I feel about my writing currently.

I’m two chapters into Cawdor and I think it’s going very well. This is turning out to be something of a stressor. I feel shaken in my ability to judge my writing. My last submission to the Writers Of The Future Contest I thought was a very strong story. I thought it was better written than Regret, I Am Allowed which placed as a semi-finalist. It had a more interesting conceit than The Station On The Edge, which placed as a semi-fianlist.  I also though it was a better story than either of the Honorable Mentions, Araceli and The House Of Bad Blood. (which actually sold.) Yet my latest story, Proof of Principle didn’t make any of the above cuts or honorifics. Is my judgement off that badly or is theirs?

So with that in my recent memory when I re-read and edit the start of Cawdor and I’m so pleased at how it’s working I can’t help but feel that maybe I am fooling myself.  That what I see and feel good about — well maybe it isn’t that good after all.

It kept me awake last night while I lay there in the dark with sub-kiloton nuclear explosions going off behind my eyeballs burning my brain with doubt and pain. It has kept me away from the keyboard today, but I will force myself past it.

On the plus side I did manage to do some more exercise today. After the headache broke I did a mile on the treadmill and another three miles on the stationary bike. Lucky for me it turns out the stationary bike does not tear up my knees like a real bicycle does. I think it is because the pedal on the stationary bike are further forward and not directly beneath me.

Anyway I’m keeping up with the new heart healthy exercising and I will finish Cawdor. As a personal reward for completing Cawdor I will treat myself to the big VIP tour at Universal Studios.


Movie Review: Shutter Island

Sunday morning my sweetie-wife and I ventured to a local multiplex and watched Shutter Island, the most recent collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. A collaboration that clearly is enjoyable to these two very talent men. Martin Scorsese has made a number of films that I have really enjoyed and the same can be said for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Shutter Island is set in 1956 and two federal Marshals, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his brand new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) have been sent to Shutter Island an asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the escape of a dangerous female prisoner.

From the start we know that Teddy Daniels is a man haunted by his past. He has visions of his dead wife and nightmares of the horrors he saw liberating Europe from the Nazis. His suspicions are aroused when the director of the facility,  Dr Cawley (Ben Kingley) seems less that forthright in assisting the two marshals. With added hints of a possible nazi war-criminal and scientist in the form of Dr Naehring (Max Von Sydow) and black budget experimentation and Daniels is determined to find tou what is being hidden no matter the cost.

This film is gorgeous in its photography. Scorsese deftly blurs the line between dream, hallucination, and atmosphere. This is a story about madness and the thin line between that and inspiration. DiCaprio is wonderful in the role. He adopts a Boston accent, but never so heavily that it distracts. He simply lives in the skin of his character and as an actor he is unafraid to look unglamorous on the screen. He’s willing to go in ugly dark areas both mentally and physically.

I will say that about half way through the film I suspected the twists that lay ahead. I’m unable to switch off my writer’s brain and so I worked out a lot of the plot before it was revealed. However, I will that the final line of the film pays off for the whole journey, and I did not see that line coming.

I was only jerked fully out of the story once and it was because of another movie, L.A. Confidential. In one scene Martin Scorsese used the song Wheel Of Fortune by Kay Starr and that song has been forever welded to LA Confidential for me.

This is worth watching.


Sunday Night Movie: Sibiriada (1979)

So this is a quite different kind of selection for my Sunday Night Movie series. Sibiriada is a sprawling Russian epic about four generations of families in a small isolated village in Siberia. The image presented in the post is of the character known as The Eternal Old Man and he is the one constant in the story of change and revolution. ( I joked as I watched this film with my sweetie-wife that in a western remake he’d be played by Anthony Hopkins. It would be a better role that that of Sir John Talbot, I can tell you that.)

When I describe this movie as a sprawling epic I am not giving in to hyperbole. The Running time for this film is 275 minutes. That’s 4 hours and 35 minutes of Russian characters, names, and history. It far too much for my sweetie-wife and I to watch in one sitting and so this sia  film we have digested in bits and pieces.

The film starts in the 1800 when the Czars still ruled Russian and it introduces to the feuding families, the wealthy and prosperous Solomins and the poor and unfortunate Ustyuzhanins. Across the decades we watch the families feud and fight, why possessed  by their passion for the land of the small forgotten village of Elan.

We watch as each generation deals with the hardships of their age. The brutal police of the Czars, the chaos of revolution, the struggle for survival in WWII, the desperate search for resources in the fifties and sixties to satisfy the central committee and finally the treat of the land itself being eradicated in the name of progress.

This is not a film for light viewing. It’s dense with a strange narrative structure. There is an element of the mystical  — as seen in part by The Eternal Old Man — which seems at odds with the normal Soviet insistence on realism and scientific processes. (Though the Soviets were horrid about perverted that process for political ends.) However if you like dense films with dozens of foreign characters to keep track of and no sense what so ever of the three act structure, then Sibiriada may be for you.


A week of modest achievements

This week was not too bad. I managed to give an answer at work in a training class that made our General Manager happy. I got writing complete on all five days of the work week and I not entirely unhappy with the results, and I started invoking Rule 1.

i.e. I did about 30 min of light cardio this morning in our complex’s gym. Something I plan to do three times a week.


It’s going to be a long day today.

Yesterday I got stuck sitting for three hours plus without the ability to stand or walk around. Sadly yesterday was also a bad arthritis day for my knees. By the time I went to bed both knees were hurting fairly steadily. I had hoped that when I awoke they would be better, but that is not the case. My right knee is going to be giving me fits all day. I can tell.

On the plus side I got several more pages written on chapter one of Cawdor and that seems to be progressing well. Today I take my laptop to work with me and I’ll utilize my new hour long lunch to get more writing done.


Sunday Night Movie: Casino Royale(2006)

So, one the gifts I got for Christmas was a gift card to Borders. Now, as regular readers of the blatherings know I have purchased an ebook reader in 2009 and so I have transitioned to e-books for my pleasure reading.

Sunday I was at Borders with my sweetie-wife and I used the gift card to upgrade my DVD of Casino Royale to a blu-ray collectors edition of Casino Royale.  I got a much better picture and sound quality and additional bonus feature. Which is like crack to me.

I really liked this reboot of the James Bond Franchise. Frankly the Bond films had slipped into fantasy and as such were not very satisfying.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Bond in the books is not about realism. Bond is a larger than life character. He’s a tough man who can win any fight and knows what to do to survive and to win. As a character he is interesting because of what he went through in the story Casino Royale. These are the events that armored Bond, that until the story of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service rendered him cold to women. If you want gritty complex spy novels with a heavy dose of realism you should read the works of John Le Carre. There’s nothing wrong about either approach. James Bond is what we would like to have out there on our side and John Le Carre’s characters are what we fear are out there on our side. Continue reading Sunday Night Movie: Casino Royale(2006)


Movie Review: The Wolfman(2010)

So today my sweetie-wife and I went out to see The Wolfman, the recent remake of the classic Universal Horror film. I am a big fan of the original The Wolf Man (1941.) Perhaps I’ll cross post my essay on Werewolves and the pivotal position the 1941 film had on our understanding of this beast, but for right now I will concentrate on the screening we just attended.

I went in with lowered expectations and they were not met. This film is a mess, the script doesn’t know what story it really wants to tell, the plot is filled with holes that a pack of werewolves could dive through, the acting was telephoned in, and there is no chemistry between the leads.

It’s clear that the writers certainly started out using the Curt Siodmak screenplay as there basis for a remake, but quickly they lost the heart and soul of the writing. This has been a troubled production and it shows. I know the director, Joe Johnston, was not the first director and that he had been brought in to save the project. He did not. Continue reading Movie Review: The Wolfman(2010)