[syndicated profile] agonybooth_feed

Posted by Dr. Winston O'Boogie

Welcome to July! This looks to be another big blockbuster month, so let’s get right to it. Once again, we at the Agony Booth are here to judge which releases this month will be...
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Posted by Mari Ness

After five massively successful films, John Lasseter thought it was about time to try something different. First, for once Pixar would create a film that would focus on humans instead of toys, bugs, monsters or fish. Superpowered humans, to keep things interesting. And second, instead of hiring a director from within Pixar’s ranks, he would hire an outsider, one of his former classmates, Brad Bird.

By 2000, director Brad Bird could have served as the poster child for broken dreams in Hollywood. Again and again he had seen projects approved by Hollywood executives, only to have those approvals rescinded by Hollywood executives—often the exact same Hollywood executives. In 1995 he thought he finally had his break, when Warner Bros hired him to direct the animated feature The Iron Giant. The film, released in 1999, received nearly universal critical praise, but bombed at the box office, earning only $31.3 million against a reported $80 million budget (less than the rival Disney, Pixar and upcoming Dreamworks pictures produced at the same time). Bird figured his career was over.

Until he reconnected with John Lasseter.

Bird wanted a movie that would, at its heart, reflect his current status as a middle-aged Hollywood screenwriter who had reached the point of doubting all of his life choices so far. Pixar wanted a movie that would, on its surface, make people laugh—and sell tickets. It all came together in The Incredibles.

The Incredibles tells the story of what happens after the happily-ever-after. Spoiler: Reality ensues. After saving people (and a cat) one last time, Bob Parr, aka superhero Mr. Incredible, marries the love of his life, Helen, aka Elastigal. Awww. Except for the part where they start arguing right during the wedding ceremony, since saving people one last time almost made Bob late to his own wedding. They also almost immediately get sued by various people upset about all the damage incidentally caused by superheroes. Public reaction—shown in some beautifully animated moments designed to look like old newsreels—reaches the point where all superheroes, including newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, need to be forcibly retired and hidden in witness protection programs for their own safety, not to mention government finances.

Fast forward a few years, to Bob Parr now working an insurance job. He’s miserable. Partly because he’s stuck at a boring desk job which has nothing to do with his skills and talents. (I feel much of the adult audience can relate.) Partly because he can’t help trying to help people—not an advantage when working for a company eager to NOT pay out premiums. Not surprisingly, he spends his free time looking at treasured objects—including his supersuit—from his past, and going “bowling” once a week with an old superhero friend. By “bowling” what I really mean is “risk his life again to try to stop crime to give some meaning back in his life.” This infuriates his wife, who wants him to focus on his family. Largely because his family is also having more than a few issues: two of the kids have superpowers, and although Violet just wants to be normal, Dash has been known to use his powers to torment teachers, and resents that he can’t join any sports teams because that might give away his superpowers.

Naturally, when a message arrives that will self-destruct (and does) right after he hears it play, Bob is eager to come on board, no matter what the warning signs—or the potential impact on his marriage and kids.

Bird claimed that he had no particular superheroes in mind when he created his early sketches for The Incredibles, but none of them sport particularly unique superpowers. Mr. Incredible’s superstrength and near invulnerability are classic traits of the various superhero team Strong Guys. A point I bring up since he slightly reminds me of Marvel’s Strong Guy, although the characters have very different personalities. Elastigirl’s stretching abilities are remarkably similar to those of Plastic Man and the Fantastic Four’s Mister Fantastic. Their daughter Violet’s ability to turn invisible and create force fields are even more remarkably similar to the abilities of the Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm, while son Dash has the superspeed of various Flashes and Quicksilver. Frozone makes ice slides that look suspiciously like the ones created by Iceman in various comics and cartoons, and another character looks even more suspiciously like a very dead Cyclops. Fortunately, the Incredibles have five family members, not four, or I’d be even more suspicious. The creators of the 2005 Fantastic Four film were suspicious enough—or alarmed enough—to make a few changes to their film to ensure that they wouldn’t be accused of copying in the other direction.

Standard superpowers aside, this is as much of a James Bond spy film as it is a superhero film. To match its 1960s look and feel, The Incredibles provides a near perfect Bond villain, complete with plans to Take Over the World, an Over the Top Lair, and even a Sexy Bond Girl. (It helps that Michael Giacchino’s score often sounds quite a bit like a James Bond score.) Sexy Bond Girl’s name is Mirage, and she adds another tinge to a surprising subplot of The Incredibles—Helen’s fear that Bob is having an affair. After all, quite a few of the signs are there: Bob’s various lies, his sudden improvement in his mood, his decision to start working out more… It doesn’t help when Helen finds Bob and Mirage sharing a platonic hug. It does help when—spoiler—Bob’s reaction to all of this is to give Helen a major kiss. The kiss is mostly borne of relief, but still, Bob’s entire body language could not be clearer: he’s interested in Helen, not the bombshell who has just released him from his chains.

Which makes this also a film about marriage and trust and middle-age and fulfillment, all unusual themes for a children’s film, but all themes that by this time fit the Pixar style, which had previously explored questions of identity, loss, and parenting.

The Incredibles also took the time to explore many of the potential issues with being a superhero in real life, in both small things (if you have superstrength, you’re just a little more likely to break a plate while trying to cut through meat, and also, you might just be able to dent your cheap car with your fingers, a particular problem when you’re trying to hide your superpowers) and big ones: how to keep your secret identity after you’ve thrown your boss through several walls. The highlight of this is arguably the justly famous “NO CAPES” scene (I can’t help but think that Superman could have survived all of the examples Edna Mode lists, but then again, he’s Superman), but the film is littered with smaller and larger examples, most hilarious.

And also, a look at the other side: what is it like to live in a world where some people have superpowers, and you don’t? For Bob Parr’s boss, it means spending what looks like several weeks in traction. For a young neighbor kid, it’s the chance to see something awesomely cool. For Bob Parr’s lawyer, it’s a lot of paperwork. And for a young fan, it’s something much more: a desperate desire to be a superhero, to gain that sort of adulation. To be, well, special.

When that fails, the young fan angrily decides to come up with a new plan: to (eventually) release his superpowered gadgets to the world, allowing everyone to become a superhero. Once everyone is special, he claims, no one will be special.

I think, however, the film disagrees with this point. Not just because—SPOILER—this is the sort of film where of course the good guys win, defeating the young fan’s plan, or because the speech is made by one of the bad guys, or even the negative way The Incredibles treats Bob Parr’s job at the insurance company: a place filled with identical cubicles, where no one is encouraged to be special or give clients special treatment. But rather because, in the world of The Incredibles, happiness comes only after people embrace the extraordinary: whether this is Bob returning to superhero work, or Violet embracing her powers, or even Edna Mode delighting in her return to her true love, superhero costume design, The Incredibles is all about finding happiness through embracing what makes you different. Even if you still need to conceal those differences every once in awhile—or agree to come in only second place in track.

But for most viewers, I think, The Incredibles works not because of any of these deep issues, but because it’s just plain fun—particularly the second half, which switches from an introspective yet funny meditation on middle aged life and the need for superheroes to a fast paced action film that uses the characters’ superpowers in often surprisingly entertaining ways—for instance, the way Elastigirl manages to create a speedboat in the open ocean. It’s great.

Also great: the vocal work. For this, Pixar hired the usual mix of well-known if not exactly the first person you’d think of for the part actors—comedian Craig T. Nelson, then and now best known for his non-superhero role on Coach, and Holly Hunter, known primarily for her work in drama and comedy, not action films, along with well-known and definitely someone you’d think of for the part—Samuel L. Jackson, playing, as always, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, and Wallace Shawn, channeling his inner Vizzini as he demands more competence from his employees, which for him means no longer helping customers. Various Pixar employees filled in for various bit parts, with Brad Bird taking on the voice of stylish and commanding Edna Mode, one of the highlights of the film.

The Incredibles also benefited from another major advance in computer animation: subsurface scattering, computer coding that allowed the computerized image to reflect light the way actual human skin does—that is, with some light entering the skin, and some bouncing back, or scattering. Here, as with Finding Nemo, the animators had to take care not to overdo things: computer-created images of people that look nearly human can cause a feeling of revulsion in actual human viewers, one of the major reasons all of the characters in The Incredibles were drawn with exaggerated features. But exaggerated features covered with nearly-human looking skin, another remarkable step forward in computer animation.

On top of that, Bird’s script required multiple special effects shots—particularly in the multiple sequences focusing on volcanoes and fire, but also, several explosions and brief underwater scenes, the latter greatly helped by Pixar’s recent experiences with Finding Nemo. Fortunately, by this point, Pixar had invested in more and faster computer processors. Tricky though all this was, The Incredibles managed to mostly avoid the last minute panic and overtime that had marked most of the previous Pixar films.

The Incredibles did well at the box office, pulling in a more than respectable $633 million—less than the $940.3 eventually brought in by Finding Nemo, and less than the $919.8 million brought in by another animated film released in 2004, Shrek 2, but still well above the box office takes for Disney’s more recent films—something Disney executives noted with alarm. The film also did very well with critics, landing on several top ten lists. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Disney released the usual merchandise, careful to use the name “Mrs. Incredible” instead of “Elastigirl,” to avoid confusion with a DC comics character. I refuse to confirm or deny whether or not I have two little Lego figures of The Incredibles characters standing right next to Lego Stitch in my home, but I will confirm that Disney ensured that I could. Disney also licensed a short lived comic book, and a theatrical sequel is currently in production for a 2018 release.

On the surface, everything looked great—so great that Brad Bird was almost immediately hired to direct another Pixar film, this one about a rat. But behind the surface, Pixar executives were considerably less happy. From their viewpoint, Disney was profiting wildly from their films, while providing very little in return—not to mention stretching the original Pixar/Disney deal into more films than Pixar had planned on. It was time, Pixar executive Steve Jobs thought, for a change.

Cars, coming up next.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

Saints Peter and Paul

Jun. 29th, 2017 02:10 pm
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Default)
[personal profile] thomryng
Today the Church celebrates one of her oldest feasts, commemorating the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. I prayed at the tombs of these apostles during our pilgrimage to Rome in 2005.

With the body of Saint John Paul II mere feet from me, I knelt near Saint Peter’s tomb at the... (more at http://www.thomryng.com/amateurmonk/saints-peter-and-paul-2017/)

Originally posted at Mundus Tranquillare Hic. If you wish to comment, please do so there.


File under: Annual, Francine my love, Moments in Time, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Saints
malkingrey: ((default))
[personal profile] malkingrey
Grilled cod fillets, because the IGA had fresh cod in the seafood case. They also had tuna and swordfish and salmon and haddock, but I decided to try out the grill first on something (relatively) cheap and plebeian, so I wouldn't feel guilty if I screwed it up.

I didn't screw it up. We brushed the fillets with olive oil and sprinkled them with a little seafood seasoning -- we'd bought a jar of it, a long time back, from the lady who was demonstrating it at the grocery store, because we like her and didn't want her to feel like she'd wasted her time -- and slapped them into the grill for about four minutes.

And that was it. Served them with plain couscous and a spinach salad with maple-mustard vinaigrette. Yum.

The next grill experiment will be panini, probably this Sunday.

(The new grill has detachable plates that can go into the dishwasher. This makes it a great deal more convenient than its predecessor, much as the incorporation of a removable crock into the original slow cooker design did for that piece of kitchen gear.)
calimac: (Haydn)
[personal profile] calimac
Unless the decision to be implemented in next season's schedule is someday reversed, yesterday's will be the last Wednesday subscription concert the San Francisco Symphony will ever give. The main floor looked pretty full, but only 4 of the 34 seats in my balcony box were occupied. I wonder if it will ever be that empty again?

It has a couple famous excerpts, the Love Scene and the Queen Mab Scherzo, but Berlioz' Roméo and Juliette is rarely heard in full. And now I know why: it's twice as long as the Symphonie fantastique, but except for those excerpts, it's less than half as good. The other instrumental passages at least certainly sounded like Berlioz, though lacking the Fantastique's brilliant imagination, but the two long choral movements, ugh. The texts are largely dull narrative, and the settings even duller, much of them in recitative style, and only occasionally reflecting what drama there is in the text.

The work is also poorly organized. Prokofiev made the death of Tybalt the most sizzling moment of his R&J ballet; Berlioz left it out. And I didn't know he has two Queen Mab scherzos, the instrumental one and a vocal one, a lot of attention for a character with only an evanescent referential appearance in the original play.

This goes on the "I heard it, I don't ever have to listen to it again" list.

(no subject)

Jun. 29th, 2017 09:58 am
the_rck: (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
Cordelia's appointment went fine yesterday. Scott was running late, so Cordelia and I ended up waiting about half an hour after the appointment for him to pick us up. Since we were there already, I made an appointment for Cordelia's physical. The logistics of that were challenging because it has to be August 4th or after due to insurance requirements. We need it to be before school starts, too, because the logistics of me retrieving Cordelia from Skyline are... difficult. August is the month when Cordelia's most busy, too. I wanted to get her in before camp, but that didn't work. We also won't be seeing her usual doctor. Cordelia said she didn't care about that.

We played Scott's Firefly game last night. I was beyond groggy and just really couldn't manage to engage. I ended up trying to write on my phone. I say 'trying' because Gdocs was so incredibly slow that I got frustrated. It could take twenty seconds to get a single word in.

I tried the c-PAP for about an hour and a half last night but didn't manage to fall asleep in spite of being exhausted. I ended up taking it off because my nose was hurting a lot. I think I forgot to take an Ativan the way I should have. Sadly, I didn't sleep at all well after that. I feel like I didn't sleep at all, but I think I dreamed-- bits and pieces about out of date phone numbers that I had to figure out in order to find a comfortable position to sleep in and to actually sleep. Right now, my plan is to get the things I absolutely have to do done and then go back to bed.

The cleaning lady comes this afternoon, but I really don't think I'll make it through that. I'll write a check for her and leave a note explaining that I'm trying to sleep. Cordelia has training for volunteering at the food bank this afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00. After that, she plans to go to the downtown library and, maybe, get some food downtown. I'll have to explain tipping to her, just in case she goes somewhere where that's appropriate. She and her friends plan to do a movie night tonight.

I have one story I want to finish by the 3rd (it's a treat, so it's not absolutely a drop dead date) and two stories I need to start. The latter two, I still have to decide what I'm going to write. They're both due much sooner than I expected, so I'm a bit stressed over them. I don't usually get those dates wrong. There's another treat I started that I think I'm abandoning because I've been stuck for several days. If I was juggling fewer stories, I'd probably keep at it, but I need those brain cells for other things right now.

Fortunately, my allergies seem to have subsided for now. I feel like I should knock wood when I say that.

The Many Facets of Sherlock Holmes

Jun. 29th, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Genevieve Cogman

Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes

When people are asked why they like Sherlock Holmes, they provide a whole spectrum of replies. Some readers talk about his intelligence, or his integrity. Others read the stories for the adventure aspect. (Today we have a train chase! And a fight over a waterfall!) Or the problem-solving (it’s a sealed room mystery, and the victim was found dead by poison). Or even the sense of humour. (I am convinced that in “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” Holmes was getting amusement value out of convincing Watson that he’d gone mad and thought that oysters were going to take over the world.) And there are the other main characters, such as Watson and even Lestrade and Gregson, and the antagonists—Professor Moriarty, Irene Adler, Colonel Moran, Dr Grimesby Roylott…

But ultimately the stories revolve round Sherlock Holmes. Even later homages that focus on other characters such as Watson, Irene Adler, or Professor Moriarty, usually make Holmes a major background figure, or at least have his absence be a point in the narrative. Anyone trying to produce a new story based on Holmes, or even with Holmes as a background character, needs to have a clear idea of who Holmes is to avoid the story feeling “wrong.” We’ve all read or seen homages/pastiches/fanfiction where we ended up saying “I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it just didn’t feel right.”

Yet when other people do create homages to Holmes—be they literature, movies, television series, animation, manga, computer games, or whatever—they often emphasize different parts of his character, depending on the needs of the story and the author’s own perception of Holmes. This isn’t wrong. The fact that Holmes has all these facets only makes him more human.

Some recent versions (the Sherlock television series, or the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey, Jr.) comment on his social awkwardness and possible psychological issues. (“I’m not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”) Others investigate his emotional side and his private life (the recent movie Mr. Holmes, or the earlier The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and The Seven Per Cent Solution). The Basil Rathbone movies made during the Second World War stress Holmes’ patriotism and have him fighting Nazis. Crossovers with other authors’ characters often emphasise his mental qualities, but may also bring out his ethics, his prickly personality, and his fundamental morality. (Yes, I am one of those people who prefer to envisage Holmes as an ultimately decent man. My own reading of the stories…)

I’m going to quote a few examples of his qualities, taken from Doyle’s short stories. There are certainly many more examples available, and I apologize to anyone whose favorite quotation I’ve left out. I also apologize to anyone whose favorite Holmesian personal quality I’ve left out. Like all of us—even Holmes—my perspective is limited.

Christopher Lee, Sherlock Holmes


From “The Greek Interpreter” (1893):

During my long and intimate acquaintance with Mr. Sherlock Holmes I had never heard him refer to his relations, and hardly ever to his own early life. This reticence upon his part had increased the somewhat inhuman effect which he produced upon me, until sometimes I found myself regarding him as an isolated phenomenon, a brain without a heart, as deficient in human sympathy as he was pre-eminent in intelligence. His aversion to women, and his disinclination to form new friendships, were both typical of his unemotional character, but not more so than his complete suppression of every reference to his own people.


From “The ‘Gloria Scott’” (1893):

“You never heard me talk of Victor Trevor?” he said. “He was the only friend I made during the two years that I was at college. I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and working out my own little methods of thought, so that I never mixed much with the men of my year.”

Focuses Only on Problems

From “Wisteria Lodge” (1908):

“My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built. Life is commonplace, the papers are sterile; audacity and romance seem to have passed for ever from the criminal world.”

Jonny Lee Miller, Elementary

Dogged and Persistent

From “The Five Orange Pips” (1891):

“I have spent the whole day,” said he, “over Lloyd’s registers and the files of old papers, following the future career of every vessel which touched at Pondicherry in January and in February in ‘83…”

Lack of Tact

From “The Blue Carbuncle” (1892):

“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see.”

Jeremy Brett Holmes, bored

Easily Bored

From “The Copper Beeches” (1892):

“Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools.”


From “The Six Napoleons” (1904):

A flush of colour sprang to Holmes’ pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause.

Intelligent and Inventive

From “The Dancing Men” (1903):

“What one man can invent another can discover.”


From “The Solitary Cyclist” (1903):

“He [Woodley] had a fine flow of language, and his adjectives were very vigorous. He ended a string of abuse by a vicious back-hander, which I failed to entirely avoid. The next few minutes were delicious. It was a straight left against a slogging ruffian. I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart.”

Unique Perspective

From “The Copper Beeches” (1892):

“… it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation, and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there.”


Observant (too many cases to quote)

From “The Speckled Band” (1892):

For answer Holmes pushed back the frill of black lace which fringed the hand that lay upon our visitor’s knee. Five little livid spots, the marks of four fingers and a thumb, were printed upon the white wrist.

“You have been cruelly used,” said Holmes.”

Exacting Standards

From “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891):

“Did I not tell you how quick and resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity she was not on my level?”

“From what I have seen of the lady, she seems, indeed, to be on a very different level to our Majesty,” said Holmes coldly.


Loyal to Friends

From “The Three Garridebs” (1924):

“You are right,” he cried, with an immense sigh of relief. “It is quite superficial.” His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. “By the Lord, it is as well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.”


From “A Case of Identity” (1891):

“The law cannot, as you say, touch you,” said Holmes, unlocking and throwing open the door, “yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a friend he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!” he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man’s face, “it is not part of my duties to my client, but here’s a hunting-crop handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to –“

He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr. James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.


From “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” (1891):

“God help us!” said Holmes, after a long silence. “Why does Fate play such tricks with poor helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’”


Socially Aware (yes, really)

From “The Naval Treaty” (1893):

“The Board schools.”

“Lighthouses, my boy! Beacons of the future! Capsules, with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future.”

A Sense of Proportion (occasionally)

From The Valley of Fear (1915):

It was late that night when Holmes returned from his solitary excursion. We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best that the little country inn could do for us. I was already asleep when I was partly awakened by his entrance.

“Well, Holmes,” I murmured, “have you found anything out?”

He stood beside me in silence, his candle in his hand. Then the tall, lean figure inclined towards me. “I say, Watson,” he whispered, “would you be afraid to sleep in the same room with a lunatic, a man with softening of the brain, an idiot whose mind has lost its grip?”

“Not in the least,” I answered in astonishment.

“Ah, that’s lucky,” he said, and not another word would he utter that night.


Some people blame inconsistencies in his characterization on the original author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, while others point the finger at Watson, calling him an unreliable narrator. The fundamental point which I would take from all of the above is that Holmes was human. It’s that humanity, and all the complexities in the human character, which have made Holmes a character that has lasted for more than a hundred years, and who has been and will remain an icon in popular culture. We know who Sherlock Holmes is. He’s real.

This article was originally published in January 2016.

Genevieve Cogman started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst, and classifications expert. She is the author of The Invisible Library series—The Invisible Library, The Masked City, and The Burning Page—and she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting, and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.

How Are You? (in Haiku)

Jun. 29th, 2017 09:40 am
jjhunter: A sheep with shaded glasses and a straw hat lies on its side; overhead floats the pun 'on the lamb' (as in baby sheep). (on the lamb)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Pick a thing or two that sums up how you're doing today, this week, in general, and tell me about it in the 5-7-5 syllables of a haiku. I will leave anonymous comments screened unless otherwise asked; feel free to use this to leave private comments if that's what you're most comfortable with.


Signal-boosting much appreciated!

(no subject)

Jun. 29th, 2017 08:30 am
meganbmoore: (flower in prison: scenery)
[personal profile] meganbmoore posting in [community profile] fandom_icons
  138 x The Flower in Prison

@ my DW

icons: The Flower in Prison

Jun. 29th, 2017 08:23 am
meganbmoore: (flower in prison: scenery)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 138 x The Flower in Prison

here )

The Big Idea: Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jun. 29th, 2017 12:07 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

First books in a series are often easy to write — fresh ideas, new characters, cool situations. What about the second books, where you have to continue with the rules you already set out? How do you keep it fresh for the readers, and the author? It’s a question Jean Marie Bauhaus confronts in her new novel, Kindred Spirits.


Sometimes ideas come easy. For example, walking out of a movie theater many moons ago after having seen The Grudge, I had the thought that if being violently murdered can turn someone into a murderous vengeful spirit, then what about the spirits of the people murdered by said vengeful spirit? Wouldn’t they want vengeance, too? What if instead of taking their anger out on innocent people they instead turned on the ghost that killed them in the first place? That idea stuck with me and eventually grew into the plot of my debut novel, Restless Spirits.

When it came to writing a sequel, however, nothing was so easy or clear cut. Kindred Spirits actually took me years to write because although there were a few things I knew for certain, none of those things added up to a story. I knew, for instance, that the spotlight would shift from the first book’s ghostly protagonist to her living sister, medium Chris Wilson. I knew that Chris would purchase and move into the haunted house featured in the first book, where her sister’s spirit still resides. And I knew that living with her overprotective big sister’s ghost would prove to be complicated, and also pretty annoying.

I also knew that I wanted the second book to stand on its own two legs, to be a self-contained story that could be understood and enjoyed without needing to have read its predecessor. This seemed like a tall order.

Despite knowing these details, a story didn’t start to take shape until I conceived of an antagonist who not only didn’t believe in Chris’s abilities but also had the power to seriously complicate her life. That character became Derek Brandt, a cynical TV crime reporter who believes he has a duty to expose Chris as a fraud. Which leads to the question: what would Big Sis do to someone who went after Chris in such a way?

The answer: haunt him, of course. At which point hijinks would ensue.

But that still wasn’t a story. It was only a starting point. Things didn’t really start to come together until I sat myself down and asked myself, what is the central idea of this story?

Restless Spirits developed along the theme that love is a powerful force that gives good people the strength to do what’s necessary to overcome evil, so powerful that it outlasts even death.

It occurred to me that here I had an opportunity to explore the flip side of that idea–that love can be twisted into a destructive force by twisted, broken people, used as both an impetus and an excuse for evil actions. With that central idea in place, other characters quickly came into being and their motivations and goals became clear. Derek Brandt, as it turned out, had good reason for his cynicism and distrust of Chris Wilson and her ilk. He also had a brother, whose unsolved murder became the central plot.

Finally, I had a story to tell.

That story turned out to be quite the mashup. One part ghost story, one part romantic comedy and one part murder mystery with a dash of thriller, served with a liberal sprinkling of a Gilmore Girls-esque relationship between sisters who won’t even let death come between them.

The romance and comedy came naturally, as did the darker supernatural and suspense aspects of the book. As someone who grew up bouncing back and forth between the likes of Lucy Maude Montgomery and Stephen King, I tend to have a wide range of sensibilities that creeps into my writing.

The mystery part, however, challenged me and took me places that as a writer I never expected to go. It turns out that writing a mystery doesn’t simply involve deciding who the killer is and then planting clues for your protagonist to follow like bread crumbs. You also have to do so in such a way that doesn’t make the killer’s identity completely obvious to the reader–which is harder to do than it sounds. Giving the killer layers, with sympathetic motives that make him or her seem like a human being and not a Disney villain, was also a concern.

I think I managed to pull it off, but that’s up to the reader to decide. At any rate, whereas the first book is a love story at its core, so too is this one, but it’s as much a story about how love can become corrupted as it is about its power to heal wounds, overcome darkness and make forgiveness possible. Whether it does one or the other ultimately comes down to the condition of the soul who’s driven by it.


Kindred Spirits: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

Desmond's Climb - Portal(s)

Jun. 29th, 2017 08:59 am
aldersprig: (lock and key)
[personal profile] aldersprig
First: Slaves, School
Previous: Force and Shields

It was almost as if their schedule had alternated interesting and boring classes. Their next class, with Professor Resaginotel, a tall woman with brilliant white hair shot through with streaks of black and a collar that matched, was on paperwork and regulations regarding magic and collared people. Desmond struggled to pay attention until they reached the overview of the accounting.

The nation owned the collared people, or at least it owned their time and service.

But people paid for those services and that time - for things like guarding a boat when it went on the water, or protecting a caravan, or moving a lot of rock. So there were hours to be accounted for, and a rate dependent on a large list of factors. For about twenty minutes, Desmond was in heaven, figuring out his current hourly rate for different tasks and helping Doria do the same.

Kayay still hadn’t returned when they moved on to their fourth class, which turned out to be Portals and Doorways.
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[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Websites are sending information prematurely:

...we discovered NaviStone's code on sites run by Acurian, Quicken Loans, a continuing education center, a clothing store for plus-sized women, and a host of other retailers. Using Javascript, those sites were transmitting information from people as soon as they typed or auto-filled it into an online form. That way, the company would have it even if those people immediately changed their minds and closed the page.

This is important because it goes against what people expect:

In yesterday's report on Acurian Health, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo told Gizmodo that giving users a "send" or "submit" button, but then sending the entered information regardless of whether the button is pressed or not, clearly violates a user's expectation of what will happen. Calo said it could violate

Up All Night Again

Jun. 29th, 2017 08:50 am
stickmaker: (Bust image of Runner)
[personal profile] stickmaker
Up most of the night, sitting with my Mother in the hospital again. Not the same problem, but likely related. Tests didn't show the cause, but some results won't be back for days. 

Random Annoyance

Jun. 29th, 2017 08:45 am
malkingrey: (Default)
[personal profile] malkingrey
For some reason, BlogBooker isn't picking up my paragraph breaks.

Time to see if this is a result of crossposting using Semagic, or something to do with Dreamwidth's code.

(I'd hate to have to ditch Semagic . . . it's a great client for offline composition.)

Unexpected astronomy

Jun. 29th, 2017 08:25 pm
leecetheartist: A lime green dragon head, with twin horns, and red trim. Very gentle looking, with a couple spirals of smoke from nose. (Default)
[personal profile] leecetheartist
The Australian Geographic Shop had their telescopes out at Karrinyup this evening, got surprisingly good views of Saturn, the moon and others in the carpark, even with all the light and the shopping centre in the way.

Verdict from Doctor -  "That's weird." Off for Xray & ultrasound tomorrow.

I have new luggage, a rolling backpack from High Sierra. It is grey with yellow piping, is very light and has an anodised aluminium golden handle pole that would look at home on a mountain bike.  Unless the "purple" (no matter what colour it was, anodised aluminium on a mountain bike was always termed 'purple' ) on mountain bikes doesn't happen any more, I've not looked recently.

Another sunrise seen

Jun. 29th, 2017 07:53 am
jhetley: (Default)
[personal profile] jhetley

Air temperature 54 F, scattered clouds, wind south about 5 mph. Forecast for rain this evening and overnight. Bike ride soon.

Hello world

Jun. 29th, 2017 12:46 pm
samanderson: (Default)
[personal profile] samanderson posting in [community profile] 2017revival
I have never been one for 'online' or social media. The internet for me has always been a useful tool but nothing more than that. Until now. Last week, I broke my leg. A displaced fracture. I had to have an operation to put pins in it, and naturally, I went and had a reaction to the anaesthetic because if you're going to do something, do it properly! So now I'm stuck on my ass for 'at least three months' while my body works on healing. Most of my hobbies are active and after a few days of being stuck on the couch, reading and watching TV, I'm looking for something less passive. My darling husband [personal profile] jackjanderson (we're both very creative with username ideas as you can see!) has a blog and thoroughly enjoys it so he suggested I try it and that I come over here. So here I am.

Name: Samantha
Age: 49
Location: Wales
Tumblr/Goodreads/IG/etc: I don't know what a Tumblr or an IG are. I'm [twitter.com profile] DrSamAnderson, [last.fm profile] samanthanderson.

Describe yourself in five sentences or less: I'm a scientist and a teacher but nothing like you imagine when you hear those two words. I'm the sort of walking contradiction who wears flouncy dresses with leather jackets and biker boots. Think of me as another cute blonde woman at your peril - my passions in life are physics, engineering and mechanics closely followed by tasty baked goods, especially cupcakes. My brother says my motto in life is "she's beauty, she's grace, she'll punch you in the face" and he experienced many of those punches when we were in the single digits!

Top 5 Fandoms: Doctor Who
Justice League
Star Trek
Star Wars
Anything with George Clooney in it
(I also love to watch bad sci-fi to mock it!)

I mostly post about: I've not really posted much but I'm expecting I'll post about science, books, dresses, rugby, shoes, science fiction and cupcakes. I will definitely talk about my family - mostly my husband and girlfriend. I suspect there will be much grumpiness about broken legs and plaster casts.


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