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Muses and important updates from author J.J. Lore.

Tell It Tuesday: Jurassic World is out on DVD and gave me the zzz…

Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

It takes serious commitment and considerable effort to make dinosaurs boring. I’d like to think the creators of Jurassic World had this as this goal, for whatever inexplicable reason, but I’m afraid the movie was simply slickly designed to hit all the expected clichés and aimed to make money instead of tell a story. If those were the filmmaker’s intentions, then they succeeded to the tune of over a billion dollars.

I saw this in the theatre when it first premiered and had low expectation, since it seems all franchise movies these days disappoint. Somehow, Jurassic World made an even poorer showing. Not much of it made sense. Why would someone from the Navy be recruited as an animal behavior specialist? Did our armed forces suddenly create livestock specializations? Why does the woman running the park have to be incompetent with children? Why does the park owner fly his helicopter around an expensive investment and hundreds of visitors when he’s not even certified? What is their insurance premium on a place like that anyway? Why is there a diabolical arms developer wandering around the animal pens practically slavering over weaponized dinosaurs? At least his ignorance of reality was believable. No one who’s spent even a couple of minutes around large, undomesticated animals would ever consider them fit as weapons simply waiting to do a human’s bidding. Wild animals are indifferent towards humans, or aggressive. Servitude is not in their nature. I’m not even going to start on the surly teenager or the precocious child. They were as one dimensional as sheets of paper.

No, my real disappointment was that in addition to not being able to manage actual characters and believable situations, the writers also made dull dinosaurs. It pains me to type that. The raptors which were so gloriously alive and ferocious in the first film are now reduced to chasing pigs, being clicker trained like puppies, and have cameras attached to their heads like skateboarding tweens with a GoPro. We don’t see my girl T-Rex until the very end of the film when she’s called in to clean up the human’s messes. There aren’t any herbivores to speak of, and the flying reptiles are only menacing due to their large numbers, a la The Birds. The mosasaurus was interesting, but it only appeared for a minute. I did wonder how in the world the park managed to obtain a constant supply of great white sharks to feed it.  And the big villain of this piece is the gene-spliced super predator Indominus Rex. Oh, please. They built this animal up to be a bigger menace than a suitcase nuke and when we finally see her, she’s a short-faced, pale creature who hides in the bushes. I gritted my teeth through all the technobabble and faux ethics quandary of combining T-Rex DNA with Velociraptor nonsense. It was as if the writers completely forgot ALL the dinos in the park are the result of blending paleo DNA with modern animal genomes to make up complete strands for viable embyos.

Jurassic World is a pure example of lazy storytelling. There were so many ways to improve this movie, starting with writers who cared about the subject. Make Owen an actual zoologist so I can believe in all the skills he has instead of me constantly questioning how he manages. Make the billionaire owner quirky enough that I’ll care about his fate. Make Claire a good aunt who loves her nephews so I can feel her worry and anguish when they are in peril.  I mentioned my disappointment with the story in a FB author group and a writer said she didn’t care if the story was bad, she went to be entertained. How is it possible to be entertained by something so insultingly banal?

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Tell It Tuesday: Everest Edition

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Tell It Tuesday: Everest Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just returned from my comfy local theatre which features all sorts of plush accouterments like reclining seats and iced chai, but instead of feeling relaxed and entertained, I’m shivering and spent. Thanks a lot, Everest. I thought I was prepared, having read Jon Krakauer’s excellent book, Into Thin Air, which details the story, but the filmmakers took the experience to another plain of existence.

For those of you not familiar, Everest is based on a tragic climb of that mountain back in 1996, during which, due to bad weather, poor communication and supply, and a glut of climbers, several people died. Now, I’m not the personality type who gets extreme stuff like mountain climbing or white water rafting or base jumping. My adrenaline rushes just fine when someone cuts me off in traffic or hear a siren coming up behind me as I survive in my dangerous habitat of the Midwestern suburbs. I don’t go out of my way to test myself against nature because I have a very realistic notion of my place in it: it will win, every time. I see enough ice, snow, and sleet every winter right where I live, I have no desire to spend thousands of dollars to travel across the world to have my nostrils freeze shut. So the motivation of the folks in Everest wasn’t interesting to me, but the story of their struggle and the personality of the mountain itself was lure enough.

 

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The actors did a great job with their roles and really shone despite the wild sets and amazing scenery which are normally my catnip. Lots of stars in roles of all sizes, which makes me think well of the motivations of the whole production. Of special note was Jake Gyllenhaal, who popped up unexpectedly and stole every scene he was in with his laid-back, increasingly debilitated characterization of Scott Fischer. And that’s a key to watching Everest, and one hammered home in Into Thin Air, these climbers, no matter their experience level, all suffer terribly on their way to the top, and their physical abilities and reasoning skills take a nosedive when the oxygen gets scarce. It’s a nice antidote to films where the star is a martial arts expert, multilingual, international relations paragon, information tech guru who also happens to be perfectly proportioned and only twenty-five years old.

The real star was Sagar-Matha, what Nepalis call Everest, and the filmmakers put me right there where I could feel the cold, hear the hiss of freezing rain, and curl my toes in my boots in an effort not to lose them to frostbite. The cinematography was gorgeous, with just the right mix of awesome vistas, forbidding clouds, and the messy environs of human encampments. All the herculean efforts of humans in the movie, and there were many shining examples, were as nothing when compared to the implacable mountain shouldering her ice and conjuring her storms.

I went to the theatre hoping for a couple of hours of distraction, but ended up enthralled. It’s a great movie, based on a great book, and it gives me hope for future adaptations of some of my favorite works.

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Find It Friday: Bell Copper Jewelry

Posted by on Oct 23, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Find It Friday: Bell Copper Jewelry

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did I find this week while out and about in the heart of Ohio? The start of a new collection, that’s what. I’ve been on a bit of a bolo tie binge lately and just picked up this copper thunderbird. Initially, my impulse was to look for figural bolos, rather than the disk or concha styles, just because I like the quirkier forms. The bird caught my eye and I liked the idea of copper, so I grabbed it. The bird happens to have been made by Bell Trading Company which was founded by Jack and Mildred Michelson of Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1935. The workmanship is wonderful and this inspired me to keep looking for more Bell pieces. I found a slim stamped bangle at a charity thrift shop this week and am hoping to add a few more to my collection. The warm tone of the copper is a nice change from silver, and much less expensive. Now that I’ve discovered Bell pieces, I can’t wait to spot them in my shopping rambles.

I haven’t added a silver figural kachina bolo tie, my dream piece, to my wardrobe yet, but I’m still having fun in my search.

 

 

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Tell It Tuesday: Toby Peters Edition

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Tell It Tuesday: Toby Peters Edition

I can’t remember when I first discovered Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Toby Peters mysteries, but it had to be about twenty years ago. It was surely one of the snappy titles that caught my eye, like Bullet for a Star, Murder on the Yellow Brick Road, or Mildred Pierced. As a fan of 1940’s culture, private eye thrillers, and classic films, these fast-paced stories were like catnip for my brain, hitting all the right buttons every time.

Toby Peters, the titular investigator, is a hard-luck guy, beset with chronic back pain, a small bank account, and an office he shares with an unhygienic dentist. Most books see him shot at, chased, beaten up, scorned, and rejected, all of which he takes with a philosophical grain of salt. He’s smart, but bad luck during his investigations usually keeps him from making a skillful save or assembling all the suspects for a classic villain reveal. More usually he stumbles into the truth, a realistic touch I particularly savor.

A truly special facet of these books is all the cameo appearances by real-life folks from Old Hollywood, including the Marx Brothers, Clark Gable, and Mae West. Stuart M. Kaminsky was a cinema professor in real life, and he employs these guest appearances with skill and verve. He also pulls out all the stops at creating a believable 1940’s world for Toby to wander around in. From the advertisements our hero hears on the radio to the looming threat of war, the reader can gain a true sense of the period.

Just last week I decided to re-read all these books, since it’s been years since I picked one up. They’re available as eBooks now, or you could search out hardcover versions as I plan to do. Give Toby Peters a shot. How could you not love a character who eats cold cereal for dinner and tries to take care of an uncooperative stray cat?humphrey-bogart-619157_640And here’s a picture (copyright free!) of Bogey and Bacall, just to set the mood. Sadly, Toby Peters isn’t as cool as Humphrey, but in an odd coincidence, they do appear together in Bullet For a Star.

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Find It Friday: Ice Chips Candy

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Find It Friday: Ice Chips Candy

rsz_ice_chips_mix To brighten your day and not add any sugar to your diet, here is a recommendation: Ice Chips Xylitol candy. Two ladies, who appeared on Shark Tank, started this business of creating crunchy, flavorful candy treats and I wish I could thank them both personally. But since that’s unlikely, I’ll just recommend them to you. There are lots of different flavors like Root Beer Float and Pina Colada, as well as seasonal options like Cranberry and Clove. I have tins of these stashed everywhere so I can enjoy a guilt-free treat wherever I happen to be. They are supposedly even good for your teeth, but I’m not so sure something that tastes this good could be. Perhaps simply not having any sugar is good enough to get your dentist’s recommendation.

I’d love to see Black Raspberry or Mango flavors in the future. Or Cheesecake. Or Tiramisu. Or Chocolate Covered Cherry. I can dream…

I plan on trying the above pictured Coffee and Cream with Pumpkin Spice to see if I can get a latte experience going and I’ll post my impressions later.

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Tell It Tuesday: The Martian

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Tell It Tuesday: The Martian

moviecover1First, a disclaimer, I am Ridley Scott’s most grovelly fan and will see any of his movies, even the ones I know will be horrible (God and Kings) and those I had hopes for and was sorely disappointed by (Prometheus, Prometheus, and PROMETHEUS). Another disclaimer, I loved Andy Weir’s book and read it the same month it came out. It was a great book and I recommended it to several people which I don’t often do. Well, I read a lot of books, but I very rarely recommend any. It’s a process too fraught with uncertainty for me to attempt except under extreme circumstances. Andy Weir’s writing kung fu was impossible to resist.

There was a bit of a self-induced pall over my screening yesterday of The Martian. I wanted to like it, really wanted to like it because of Ridley Scott and the fabulous source material, which was exactly why I was worried about seeing it. I didn’t read any reviews of it, the better to temper my anticipation. After forcibly lowering my expectations to a painful degree, I settled in to the darkened theatre, ate popcorn, watched a half an hour of previews, and then the movie started.

Needless to say, I adored it and will rank it up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina as one of my top movies of 2015. Great performances, gorgeous cinematography, they stuck to the story, and best of all, they ‘scienced the s**t out of it’. I loved how they let an unappreciated science, botany, be as important as astrophysics. I loved the humility of the characters in confronting such a heart-breaking conundrum. It was wonderful, after the deluge of superhero movies, to watch normal humans achieving something without unbelievable feats of strength or harnessing the supernatural. Just smart people faced with mountains of problems and using determination, creativity, and sheer will to arrive at solution after solution. It was a very human movie, despite the alien setting and the out-of-this-world crises.

So, thumbs up to The Martian, both in written and film versions. You gave me believable characters that I rooted for, amazing extraterrestrial landscapes to remember, and some really great disco music in the soundtrack. And, just as an aside, kudos to the set decorator. Those potato sprouts were actual baby potato plants. When a film crew cares enough to include those details, I’ll trust them to take me on whatever ride they decide.

Have you seen it? Did you read the book? Comment below, or just subscribe to my newsletter for periodic updates. Like the periodic table, but fictional.

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