Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Break From Writing

Standard

In this case, the title is pretty telling of everything: the fiction I’ve been writing has not been up to snuff lately, and so I’m discontinuing it. There are a couple stories I’m thinking of writing, but I’m probably going to do more extensive editing and rewriting before posting them.

As such, until further notice I will be doing two sporks per week, with the second taking place of my fiction. This will start next week, as it’s too late this week.

Advertisements

Spork: “Exclusive Free Preview” of Witch and Wizard

Standard

A couple years ago, along with another book I got this little booklet of the first few chapters of James Patterson‘s Witch and Wizard. By that point, I already didn’t care much for James Patterson, and my thoughts of Witch and Wizard was pretty much “why are these kids so snarky?”

Now, it makes me feel kind of nauseated.

That’s not because it’s Just That Bad, really, because it isn’t: there’s just an indescribable quality to the writing of this book that I loath. However, because I figured “hey, entertainment value!” I’ve decided to spork the booklet, writing it out in its entirety. (I think this should be fine under fair use, as it’s only the beginning of the book that anyone could read in a bookstore.)

Now, as it happens, this book was “co-written” by Gabrielle Charbonnet, which as far as I know means Gabrielle wrote the first draft and James Patterson took over from there. Since this means James Patterson made the finished product, and his is the name bigger than the book’s title and it is billed as one of his books, I will be directing all criticism at him exclusively.

So, without further ado, the first seven chapters of James Patterson’s Witch and Wizard.

Read on.

Adventures in Netflix! Episode 15: Journey to the Center of the Earth (with special guest EmotedLlama)

Standard

Welcome to Episdoe 15 of  Adventures in Netflix! Today EmotedLlama and I will be discussing the 1959 adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Now, before going any further I should mention that this movie breaks the rules, in that both I and EmotedLlama have seen it before, though not in a long, long time.

With that out of the way, Journey to the Center of the Earth is, to my knowledge, a relatively faithful adaptation of the original novel, following Professor Lindenbrook (James Mason), his young assistant, Alec McKuen (Pat Boone), an Icelandic man named Hans (Peter Ronson), and the recent widow of a rival explorer, Carla Göteborg (Arlene Dahl), as they delve deep into the earth in search of the center. As they follow markers left by a previous explorer, the group goes through numerous trials (and spend roughly a year) before reaching their destination.

The expedition stands ready to begin.

Now that everyone has some idea of what the movie is, let’s get down to it.

NekoShogun: So, I know I consider to this movie a bit of a childhood favorite, but did you have any particular nostalgia for it, or even remember it?

EmotedLlama: My memory of the movie was pretty hit and miss; I remembered most of the “trials” (in quotes due to the lack of real danger) well enough, but a lot of the intermediary events seemed new to me. The whole beginning of the movie, especially, had faded from my memory.

NekoShogun: Yeah, I’d forgotten how long the movie takes to get going. I’m not complaining, mind you, I like the methodical pace of the movie, it made it feel more like a real scientific expedition rather than just a fantastical adventure.

What, if you were going to the center of the earth I bet you'd take some time to hang with your girlfriend too.

EmotedLlama: That was one thing about the movie: even when it was spouting out bizarre coincidences and events (oh no! My bag fell in this hole and then I got lost and then I found tons of salt and then I fell through salt sinkholes and then I met the antagonist!), it always seemed like these bizarre happenings were carried out in a thoroughly non-bizarre way. That’s one advantage I’ve noticed about many older movies–even if they’re rather cheesy at times, they’re also just more realistic in how they portray everything.

NekoShogun: I don’t know if I’d say older movies are more realistic, just that some of them (this movie included) feel like the characters are acting logically according to the information and scientific knowledge they have (even if some of that science is somewhat laughable today), and not just making decisions arbitrarily  move the plot along.

"I assure you, my methods are perfectly scientific. Now, can we please get a move on? I'd like to reach the giant underground mushroom forest on the edge of the subterranean ocean before dinner."

You know what, scratch that about it just being some older movies, there are movies like that from all eras, there’s just something a bit more noticeable about it here.

Changing topics though, what did you think of the acting? I think some people, myself included, tend to think of all older movies as having bad or over the top acting, but I didn’t think that was the case here. I actually though that the acting was great. Yes, there were a few moment here and there that were a little over the top, but that’s not because the acting itself was bad, it just reflects a difference in style between then and now. I think subtlety has become more in vogue in recent years, partly because screen sizes have gotten bigger, and partly because screen acting has had longer now to evolve away from stage acting, which was the main influence on a lot of early film actors.

EmotedLlama: The acting seemed good, probably better than “average,” but the oftentimes cheesy writing rarely helped. A few of the screams seemed pretty silly, but other than that the actors were emotive and expressive.

"Cheesy? You think we're cheesy? Really?"

NekoShogun: You thought the writing was cheesy? Huh, I thought it was pretty good, and sounded appropriate to the period in which it was set (1880).

Anyway, the really interesting thing to talk about in older movies is often the special effects. Some movies and TV shows effects age so horribly as to render them laughable, but I thought this movie’s actually held up pretty well. Then again, I am an admitted lover of practical effects, so my eyes might look more kindly on matt paintings and miniatures than most.

EmotedLlama: No, I think the practical effects were genuinely good. I mean, a few of those shots with the giant lizard monsters, which as far as I can tell was achieved through green screen, looked about as real as you can get. However, the lava at the end of the movie was truly laughable, looking more like strawberry slushy than, well, lava.

"Not much, just chillin' down here in the Center of the Earth!"

NekoShogun: Yeah, the lava wasn’t great, but it did make my thirsty for a nice frozen beverage.

One interesting thing was seeing the movie with an older mind and noticing for the first time the sort of casual sexism that existed back then, and how much it irks me now. I can’t speak as to how much of it is simply inherent in the original book, but I feel confident in saying that if the movie had been made today, even if it was largely faithful to the book, that sort of thing would play out differently. I don’t mean it would be gone–it’s part of the time and helps establish it as a period piece–but I think it would be played up for some kind of subtle social commentary, instead of just being something that’s there. In fact I think the attitude of the characters towards women is the most dated aspect of the movie, and the one that holds up most poorly to the tests of time.

Carla, when she's not randomly breaking character and acting all girly just to remind us she's a woman and thus inferior, is one of the more capable members of the expedition.
(I'm being sarcastic, not sexist. Just FYI.)

Well, I think that’s just about everything worth mentioning here. All in all I really enjoyed the movie, and not just because of nostalgia. I think it holds up as a classic, and I urge anyone interested who hasn’t seen it (or just hasn’t seen it recently) to give it a try.

~NekoShogun & EmotedLlama

Maximum Ride Spork: Part Twenty-Four

Standard

Since we’re now over three hundred pages into this book, so it seems like a good time for a recap:

1) Angel got kidnapped.

2) Angel got rescued.

3) The flock went to New York.

Oh. Well, then.

Chapter 107

Blah blah blah the flock decide to move somewhere else.

In the end, we settled in the top floor of a ninety-story apartment building that was being built on the Upper East Side. The first seventy or so floors had been windowed in, but up here it was just an empty shell with piles of drywall and insulation. Huge gaping holes gave us a great view of the East River and Central Park. (pg337)

Wanna tell us at what point you learned of this Upper East Side and East River, Max? Or what drywall is, even. (I have HGTV and This Old House to blame for that, and somehow I doubt Max had access to those.)

I would also like to know how they got up there without being seen.

So then everyone is asleep except for Max ’cause she’s worrying about everything and then the voice makes her fall asleep.

Chapter 108

“We got breakfast,” Fang said, taking a bite of muffin. “You were out for the count.”

As I took my first bite of muffin, I became aware of the quivering tension around me. “What else?”

Fang nodded toward the newspapers.

“I figured you got ’em for the comics,” I said, pulling the pile closer. (pg 340)

Is it just me or does this exchange not make sense?

Anyway, blurry photos of the flock are now in newspapers, so this means the flock can’t go after the Institute.

Don’t ask me, that’s the book’s logic.

Chapter 109

And then the flock run into a salon thing that’s offering free makeovers as long as they can be whatever the stylists want, making the people look completely different. (And Nudge is really into getting a makeover for… some reason.)

Suuuuuuuure.

And yes, that is worthy of eight Us.

Chapter 110

This is also part 6 (!), titled “Who’s Your Daddy, Who’s Your Momma?”

So, yeah.

“That is so cool,” Nudge said approvingly as I turned to let her see the back of my new jean jacket. Of course, I would have to cut huge slits in it to let my wings out, but other than that, it was great. (pg 247)

Okay, so first that’s a completely unnecessary adverb there, but second, I’m still waiting on an explanation of how these slits are going to help at all.

See, if Max’s wings go into indents in her back, that means they’d need to kind of unfurl or uncurl or whatever, right? Not slip out. So already having slits in their clothing’s backs doesn’t quite work. But from there, 1) you know, they’re SLITS. Which are VISIBLE. But 2), assuming they can slip their wings out of their clothing, well, how? Either they can somehow maneuver their wings around to get out of the slits (which wouldn’t be an easy task AT ALL), or they have their wings slightly out of the slits so they can actually get them out… which completely defeats the purpose of not being seen with wings.

So.

Anyway, Max has a surprising grasp of ways to say no (including German and Pig Latin, which are totally things a fourteen-year-old bird kid who grew up in a cage would learn and assimilate into their speech), and now everyone in the flock are getting moderately detailed descriptions of how they look. Never mind that we had practically no idea of what they looked like before.

And then they find a dark area to take off, because nobody will see these bird kids flying in New York, where they apparently have ninety story apartment buildings. And I’m sure there are no helicopters or anything.

Chapter 111

They end up at a beach and go to sleep.

Chapter 112

I took a bite of cookie and chewed. “Hmm,” I said, trying not to spit crumbs. “Clear vanilla notes, too-sweet chocolate chips, distinct flavor of brown sugar. A decent cookie, not spectacular. Still, a good-hearted cookie, not pretentious.” (pg 354)

Maximum, you grew up in a cage. You do not know when chocolate chips are too sweet, or what brown sugar tastes like. I couldn’t tell you what brown sugar tastes like. So shut up.

(What? The book started it.)

I mean, really, though. These kids who grew up in a lab, and then lived in the mountains with naught but a single man and the internet to teach them, somehow act exactly like stereotypical kids. RIIIGHT.

Chapter 113

Blah blah blah Max is being paranoid and then Angel hasn’t come up from under the water.

Chapter 114

They look around for Angel and then she pops up and

“Guess what?” she said happily. “I can breathe under water!” (pg 361)

NO.

NO, NO NO.

NO NO NO NO NO.

Just. Just… no.

THIS IS NOT HOW SCIENCE WORKS, JAMES PATTERSON.

Chapter 115

So Angel apparently has invisible gills in her neck now and so she can breath underwater.

I mean. I just.

I–I–

WHAAAAT?!

Chapter 116

Everyone’s asleep and then everyone isn’t because Erasers. And Max knows that Fang and Iggy woke up (though how we are not told) and apparently there are hundreds of Erasers.

Now, since the Erasers now seem to have thrown away their idiot ball, I’m guessing it’s time for the End of Book Capture Scene followed by the Amazing Action Scene where Everyone Gets Away because of Course They Do.

But that’s just a guess.

So, Ari’s got Max’s throat under his boot, but apparently none of the other members of the flock have been held down by Erasers for some reason.

Then Fang is fighting with Ari and none of the Erasers try to help or anything and then Ari’s about to kill Fang but then

“Ari!”

My eyes went wide. I knew that voice too well.

Jeb. My adopted father. Now my worst enemy. (pg 368)

Still waiting on why he’s your worst enemy.

Chapter 117

Fang was] unconscious but still breathing. (pg 369)

BAHAHAHAHA.

Of all the typos to make, of all the typos to somehow make their way into the published novel… JPatterson somehow manages to add a bracket to the word “was.” I mean, COME ON, those letters aren’t even near the bracket keys!

This proves the book wasn’t edited, right?

Anyway, Max talks with Jeb about nothing in particular and then he goes away.