Friday, December 29, 2006

"Based on a true story"

I don't know about everyone else, but I find it annoying to see this on the jacket of a DVD or at the beginning of a movie.

As far as I can tell, the "based on a true story" = fiction, but for some reason, supposed to be more interesting. I challenge anyone to take a "based on a true story" movie, versus one that is just made up and see if they can tell the difference.

It's just a silly distinction that annoys me regularly and plays no part in whether the movie is good or not.

Then, there are a group of people who say, "But it's true!", which it isn't. I guess that's the target audience.

Book progress - new year's resolution

I know it isn't the new year yet, but my New Year's resolution is already on track days before the new year has started.

I just finished "A Talent For War" by Jack McDevitt, and Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in the last two days! They will both be reviewed shortly I'm on to the next set of books, all of them borrowed.

I feel that it is the right thing to do to go through the unread books on the shelf in the following order:
1)Library books first (I don't have any of those)
2)Books borrowed from friends
3)Books borrowed from work
4)Books I own

The technical books can be read as I'm reading novels and non-fiction, even though they are actually non-fiction themselves. They somehow FEEL different, even if "Genetic Programming" is as non-fiction as "The Big Bang", they aren't equivalent. I mostly borrow technical books from work, although there is a set of fiction in a sort of "lending library there" that I have dipped into.

Just checking in to give an overview of my progress...

This is my borrowed books and the order I plan to read them in:
“Coraline”, Neil Gaiman
“The Life of Mahatma Gandhi”, Louis Fischer
“What Your Accountant Doesn't Tell You – Tax, Wealth & Equity”, Fiona Clayton-Law
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, Mark Haddon
“The Shining”, Stephen King
“Six Easy Pieces”, Richard Feynman
“The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”, Richard Feynman
“The Amtrak Wars – Book 1: Cloud Warrior”, Patrick Tilley
“The Mosquito Coast”, Paul Theroux

The following technical books (also borrowed) will be mixed in as I go:
“Embedding Perl in HTML with MASON”, Dave Rolsky & Ken Williams
“Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering”, Robert L. Glass

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Year's resolutions - ha!

Hello all and Merry Christmas. I wasn't expecting to blog on Christmas day, but what the hey - I'm waiting for my family back home to skype me for a warm, fuzzy Christmas conversation.

Anyway - New Year's resolutions - I almost never make them, or if I do, it's just somewhere near New Year's, and not in the new year. This one is no exception.

When I watched the movie "The Secret", which you can find in my review blog, I learned about the law of attraction, which is a pretty good rule to know. After that, I realized that one of the things I attract is books. I have books on my mind a lot, and I really, really do love books and think about them a lot, so naturally, I attract them. If someone was ever going to ask me what super power I'd like to have, I could say, "I already have one - I attract books!", it is so true.

After watching the movie, the next day I walked into work and there was this gorgeous book sitting on my desk just waiting. "World Changing, a User's guide for the 21st Century", it had a book sleeve and everything - absolutely stunning. After that, I took notice of the books that I attract - someone hands me books on the street (Hari Krishna sure, but still - I had never seen them there before or since), every time I am at someone's house, we discuss books and I get another loaner... I just moved to New Zealand five years ago and I probably already have fifty books that I haven't read yet.

Once I realized that, I made my New Year's resolution (in November - of course), that I would finish the books that I have before I borrow or buy any more. I have failed so far, because my ability to materialize books is stronger than I thought, but I have started staying away from the library and bookstores, and now, it's only people passing me books, so I am sure I can keep up with it.

My next step, get a full inventory of the books I haven't read yet, prioritize them, and start reading through them - there are enough for a year if I read every single day, so I better get started.

If you read this and want to drop your own book related stories, or your own new year's resolutions, or better yet, your own book related new year's resolutions, please feel free.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Recording movies I've seen

A while ago, I got a bright idea to write down all the movies that I watch, that way, when someone asks, "Have you seen any good movies lately?", I don't go, "Ummm... ahhh... I saw something. Was it last week? Well, I saw a bad one last night, but I'm sure that I saw a good one recently."

So, I found a mini-binder that I'd had for a while, and started writing down movies that I watched. It is now more than 10 years later and it's a habit, so much so that I obsess about writing down the movie name in the book and if I don't, it feels weird. I realize to anyone listening, and in fact, anyone who I mention this to that it sounds very anal retentive. I'm sure it is.

I have a standard format as well: type (i.e. theater, DVD, video, tv etc...), Title, star rating (1->5 in 1/2 star increments - someone mentioned that this is exactly like a 10 star rating, but I ignored him), and date watched.

The first movie in my book was in the theater, "From Dusk Till Dawn" with George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. I gave it a 2 star out of 5 and saw it on Feb 4th, 1996. I realize that I'm actually closer to 11 years of record keeping.

My lowest rated movie ever is "Crash", the David Cronenberg one from 1996, not the recent one that won best picture at the Oscars (which I also saw). I finished the entire movie and gave it zero stars. I sometimes rate a movie (u) as unfinished, which is arguably the lowest rating I can give, but occasionally, I don't finish for a valid reason and not just that the movie was monkey turds. I saw "Crash" on October 4th, 1996 in the theater.

I have a few 5 star movies, but have to say, they are few and far between. I second guess myself a lot and I look back at and regret giving higher ratings. Sometimes movies that rated lower, I would like to increase. I am not sure if it's because I've talked to other people and they've said either "That movie sucked", or "I really loved that movie"... both of which influence me quite a lot.

I give higher ratings to movies that evoke an emotional response, so higher rated movies have either made me cry or made me laugh long and hard.

5 star movies:

- Dead Man Walking
- The Green Mile (I take a lot of grief for this one :-) )
- Galaxy Quest (a 2nd viewing got 3 stars)
- Almost Famous
- Lord of the Rings - the Fellowship of the Ring
- The Matrix (previous viewings didn't rate this high, this is my 4th I think)
- Whale Rider
- Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- Love Actually (made me laugh - the DVD extras really, really takes away from this movie)
- The Last Samurai
- About Schmidt
- Sin City
- The Woodsman
- My Life Without Me
- Brokeback Mountain

Of these, I would take away a 5 star rating from "The Green Mile", "Love Actually" and "The Last Samurai", and that was only my initial reaction. While I still liked them and found them good movies, I would rate them lower a 2nd time around.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

After Nanowrimo - downer

I have to say, the Nanowrimo, novel writing month was a huge high... the beginning, the progress, the finishing - all exciting and life changing.

Here I am, at the end of the month, rough draft in hand, feeling a little down. I still feel like writing, but unlike when I was working on my novel, there seem to be good excuses to not write!

I'm hoping that a new novel writing group with spur me on (maybe not a good approach! Ha!) . All I need is something to read to them when we gather, and that will probably work out.

Also - I'm reading and almost done "No Plot? No Problem!" by Chris Baty - a good book for sure. A real preparation manual for Nanowrimo - I wish I'd had it before I'd finished my novel. I will be reading it again before the next novel writing month - likely to happen in June, although I'm sure there will be other writing before then.

A few key items in the book that I found good ideas that I never followed in my month:
1) Outline for a week or so before the novel writing starts (I worked on the fly all the way)
2) keep a "novel ideas" file open at the same time as the novel to put random thoughts
3) Some word processor ideas to mark bits and pieces as being "bad", i.e. transparent etc..

Otherwise, I think I did pretty well - I regret not outlining more, as it left my novel in a sorry state - not publishable without sizeable edits, large sections removed or relocated etc... A jumble of ideas. I like the ideas though - so that is a huge accomplishment. I'm just having trouble going back to it.

Someone did offer to do a novel swap though, and I'm reading "Shark" by atomic_willis, although I'm still days away from a real review.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nanowrimo 2006

If you're ever, ever, ever even remotely considered writing a novel (I have for years - since I was a teenager), then I highly recommend trying out the Nanowrimo competition. The 2006 one is almost over - it happens in November every year, but there is always next year.

It is a competition with yourself, there are no prizes except that if you finish, you have a nice, shiny new rough draft of a novel. The support network is amazing, full of like minded, delusional people also trying to finish a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Check out site.

I was roped into this by my good friend Andy, who casually pointed me to the web page one day in an email, subject line: “Interesting Challenge”. So, something like 3 or 4 months later, we're chatting about it in the weeks leading up to November.

Andy: “So, are you going to do it?”

Travis: “Sure! Why the hell not?”

My first day, November 1st. I couldn't sleep, I'm up just after 6AM, wired (I don't drink coffee - this is caffeine free!). I am at work by 7:15AM (unprecedented outside of a support call). I start writing. I was a purist – while the site says you are allowed all the outlining you want before November, as long as you write the prose starting midnight Nov 1, I didn't even know the main character's name going in. No outlines - nothing but a concept that had come to me while watching a mediocre sci-fi movie.

8:30AM, I'm at 1400 words and completely stoked. I know, know that I will finish this. It is one of the greatest moments of my life! That made it all worth it, that first morning.

I never duplicated that feeling for the rest of November. However, it was pretty close, when at 6:45 on November 22nd, I check my word count and I'm at 50016 words! It is awesome, and I love my ending – I can hardly ask for more!

Check it out – you will thank me!