Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Friday, October 29, 2010

Witches, Ghosts, and Paper Bags... it's Halloween again!

Last night, my sister and I went to the one-night-only special Rifftrax Live presentation of The House on Haunted Hill. (For those unfamiliar with Rifftrax, and too lazy to follow the link, three of the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have started riffing movies again, sans robot puppets.) It was taped in Nashville and broadcast to select theaters nationwide... and, for once, "select theaters nationwide" included a location that wasn't some weird little place downtown that requires parking across a freeway and walking through unlit back alleys in the dead of night to reach.

We arrived much earlier than planned, since the rush hour we'd anticipated never seemed to happen (and the road construction we were allowing for didn't happen, either.) Being the first in the door, we staked out our favored seats and settled in for the wait. It was stony silent, sitting there all alone, without even ads to keep us company.

"Remember when they used to run music before a show?" my sister asked.

At that exact moment, saxophone-heavy jazz came blasting over the theater speakers. It was as if some strange (and exceedingly bored) wish fairy were hovering overhead.

"Remember when they used to give us 100 dollar bills before a show?" I asked, just in case.

The wish fairy must have left by then, unfortunately.

It was almost ten minutes before anyone else showed up; we were starting to think we'd be all alone. He left after a while to make a call - the jazz music was just above the comfort level and just below the pain threshold - but we toughed it out. We like our favorite seats, thank you very much...

Between the music and the feature presentation, we watched onscreen as they synched up the satellite feed. Some disturbing messages popped up now and again, but it seemed to work. All of the sudden, the blaring jazz was replaced with another song...

Sparkly Vampires (by the Rifftones)

Movie trivia, famous quotes, and Halloween tips flashed onscreen... with a Rifftrax flavor. Long before the actual broadcast started, we and the rest of the growing audience were laughing out loud. Between the on-screen hilarity and the continued Rifftones soundtrack, it was hard to decide whether to focus on my eyes or my ears. Either way, I was highly entertained, and the thing hadn't even officially started yet.

When a Man Loves a Shark (by the Rifftones)

The feature presentation had the unexpected bonuses of a "guest riffer" (a comedian I should probably know, but whose name has slipped my brain at the moment) and two vintage short-subject films (a.k.a "shorts.) The first short, "Magical Disappearing Money," showed a grocery store witch who grows so concerned about 1970's shoppers throwing money away that she forces them all to watch a magic show about smart shopping. The second short, "Paper and I", stars a sick boy hallucinating about a paper bag who talks him through the paper-making process, then makes all paper products in the world vanish to prove how important he is. (Shades of Coily, from the MST3K-riffed short "A Case of Spring Fever", here...) Both were absurd on their own, made all the more fun with the commentary.

The House on Haunted Hill is an old Vincent Price film about an eccentric millionaire (Price) who invites a handful of strangers to a haunted house, along with his gold-digging wife and the traumatized man who owns the place but doesn't live there due to the ghosts and the long history of bloody murders associated with the place. (Great party atmosphere, eh?) Anywho, lots of dialog occurs, half a hundred doors get opened and closed, an old blind lady glides around on invisible skates, a wine cellar pit inexplicably left full of acid gets put to good use, and then it ends with hardly any body count worth speaking of.

And we, along with the rest of the audience, laughed nearly nonstop.

Now, the odd thing is, my sister and I had seen the non-riffed version of House on Haunted Hill before... and for some reason, we remembered a totally different ending. (As we recalled, the whole thing was a set-up - and there hadn't even been any murders in the house, as the freaky owner implied. Maybe we transposed another movie ending...)

Anyway, it was a highly enjoyable experience, much more fun than anticipated, and a great kickoff to the holiday weekend.

Happy Halloween, everyone! (And remember: a sign left next to a bowl of candy saying "Please Take One" really translates to "Free Bowl of Candy.")

(The photo at top would be the phoenix stepping stone I mentioned previously... unfortunately, we didn't realize that, while the yellow, blue, and the copper were inside the glass, the red was evidently painted on.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NaNo Minus 9 Days and Counting

More like 8 and a near-half by now...

Yes, as those who still read this blog might have surmised by the new little gadget in the sidebar, I'm taking another swipe at NaNoWriMo this year. (That's National Novel Writing Month, for the abbreviationally challenged. And it's actually worldwide, but InNoWriMo just doesn't have the same ring to it.) I have an idea, one I've kicked around for a while without ever getting to take substantial shape, so hopefully I can pull off my second victory in as many years. I've had the further inspiration/kick in the tail of just finishing a lousy book, so my sense of irked indignation that that junk got published and I'm still picking away fruitlessly on the keyboard is all fired up. (That kind of thing usually makes for good emergency fuel when I'm staring at the screen wondering what the frell I'm doing.) It should be interesting this year, because I'm working on a second draft of another story and I hope to keep picking at it between NaNo bursts.  Yeah, I know... not the greatest timing.  But I'm trying to increase my overall productivity, with the goal of having a marketable product to annoy editors with in 2011.

In part to keep myself from jumping the gun on the new story, and in part to keep up my lifelong tradition of procrastinating, I downloaded a new (free) program: yWriter 5.  It has some fans on the NaNo forums, and it looks like it might appeal to my nitpicky style - it lets you keep track of character info, scenes, subplots and more without having to scribble it all down in a notebook beside the computer and hope to heck you can remember where you wrote it (and what you wrote, if your handwriting's as illegible as mine.) Theoretically, you can rearrange scenes and such with a few mouseclicks, as well, which could be very useful.  I'm currently testing it with a dummy story.  Yes, I'm writing a story to test software on which I intend to write another story.  So far, I'm still getting the hang of it.  It works completely differently than I'm used to, but I can already see how it'll be nice in some respects.  Kind of like having your little notecards and margin scribbles right there onscreen with you as you go.

So, let's see... that would be two stories I'm actively working on, and one in the rough planning stages that I intend to start in 9 days (give or take a few hours.)

Oh - and I really need to get my tail in gear and start, if not finish, my annual holiday ornament blitz while I'm writing one novel and editing a second. My workbench is still mothballed (or rather ratballed), but we're working on a solution to that issue as I type, and I have an idea that shouldn't be too time-consuming to do.  Assuming I can get started before too much longer.

Should be interesting, to say the least...

(For the bored/curious: The stepping stone picture was one I made with my own two hands, as part of a family stepping stone project.  It was supposed to be more complete, but we had some issues with the cement mix on that batch.)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Clearing 700 and Other Pointless Excuses for a Post

It's been a couple weeks, so time for a I'm-not-dead procrastination post.

Well, October has arrived far too early this year. I ought to check around the house to see if a few weeks fell behind the couch cushions or went through the wash in someone's pocket. With it has come our typical fall weather, with days of gray punctuated by random spots of sunshine.

Nothing much exciting has happened since my last post, except that I've unofficially cleared 700 book reviews; for the curious, it's DragonArt: Evolution (by J. "NeonDragon" Peffer), and it can be viewed at my book review blog. The October update, scheduled for later this month, will make it official. Can I make 800 by next year? No idea, but my reading backlog isn't getting any shorter...

Last weekend I wandered down to our local celebration of suicidal salmon. The usual crowds and the usual vendors, but it was nice to get out of the house.  This is where I saw the metal dragon photographed above (full body shot here, for scale.  No pun intended... not that I'll admit to, anyway.) Since then, I've been keeping an eye on our local stream. Just in case... (I know they're on a four-year cycle or so, but I can hope for another run.)

Well, that's about all I can come up with. I suppose I've procrastinated enough. As your reward for slogging through the preceding post, I'll throw in a couple video links.

NSFW humor, but danged if I didn't laugh out loud at this one... when I watched it, and at inappropriate moments during the day when I thought about it:
Why Nicholas Cage is in so many cruddy films

And a link my sister sent me, a 15-minute movie made entirely on open-source 3D animation software (Blender.) Things like this remind me why I want to get better at art, and why I find animation fascinating. (Rated PG, for mild violence/bloodshed.)