Monday, July 27, 2015

What's Wrong With Hollywood???

This weekend, my husband and daughter went to see "Antman", and came home raving about the movie.  Part of what they liked was the originality of it - no one has made an Antman movie before.  This isn't a reboot of a franchise, a prequel, a sequel, or a even simple remake.

That's the problem - a scary majority of films in the theater are either remakes or sequels.  "Minions", "Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation", "Jurassic World", "Terminator Genisys", "Magic Mike XXL", "Ted 2", ...  The list goes on and on.  Last week, I read an article listing all of Disney's older cartoon movies, such as "The Sword in the Stone" and "The Little Mermaid", that will be remade as live action flicks.

What ever happened to original material?

In the days of YouTube and Twitch, small and/or amateur filmmakers are showing up the Big Guys with amazing short films on every subject possible.  From the award-winning "Devils, Angels, & Dating" (shown above) to "Big Buck Bunny" (shown below), these films show creativity, attention to detail, excellent cinematography, wonderful musical scores, and insights into human nature (even if the characters aren't human).


As for cost, "Devils, Angels, & Dating" was made basically for free.  Some of these projects use Blender - free, open-source 3D animation software - which requires a bit of time to learn, but does the heavy lifting for you during production.   You could theoretically pay for all the short films on YouTube with the budget of one Hollywood blockbuster, and still have leftover money.


What surprises me the most is how some of these movies get under my skin, draw me in emotionally, so much more than standard Hollywood films.  "Story of R32" is around 2 minutes, yet I cried at the end.  And for the record, I generally don't cry at movies because I don't feel attached.  But this time, I wanted a happy ending for R32.

When was the last time you felt attached to a character in a movie after less than two minutes?


 So I ask you, why can't Hollywood come up with better movies?  Even "Antman" existed previously in a different media.  Netflix creates original programming; YouTube sponsors original programming.  What will it take for a major studio to stop spending millions on a "sure thing" and begin to explore new territory?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Freaky Friday News: July 24, 2015

An alligator going for a walk in New York City this week.  (Photo: NYPD 34th Precinct)

Cats, Cats, Everywhere...

The drought in California has many expected side effects, mostly on water usage and farming.  But there are a few unexpected side effects as well.  On top of increased numbers of rattlesnakes, scorpions, and spiders, a rise in rabies, and a better chance to find Bigfoot, we now have....

The Kitten Apocalypse!!!!

You see, cats are seasonal breeders, meaning they only mate during the spring.  But with the plethora of warm, spring days more cats have mated than normal.  Some of the animal shelters report a 30% increase in the influx of kittens.  The Silicon Valley Humane Society even sponsors a "kitten rental program" to help get all the newborn kittens fed and taken care of until they are old enough to adopt out.

The influx of kittens causes problems other than full animal shelters.  Cats are, as far as I know, the only species other than man that hunts for sport.  (Side note:  To be fair, man did train cats to hunt for sport, because we wanted to rid our structures of mice.)  The large increase in the number of cats means an increase in the amount of hunting done.  Cats are already listed in the top 100 worst invasive species.  In 2013, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center released a study about the effects of predatory mostly feral cats.  It's a bit scary to read.

Cute, but deadly

Each year, cats claim responsibility for the deaths of:

  • 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds
  • 4.9 to 14.5 billion small mammals
  • 258 to 822 million reptiles
  • 95 to 299 million amphibians
Researchers also believe that cats caused at least 14% of all modern bird, reptiles, and amphibian extinctions on islands around the world.

The 30% increase in cats and kittens leads to the question - how will this effect the eco-systems they live in?  Will the prey populations take a sudden plunge?  Then what?

They Found What?!??

Last week, a man died outside his house in Los Angeles.  The police decided to look in the man's house for clues as to why he died.  A logical step to do, if you ask me.  

And what did these officers find?

1,200 guns and 2 tons of ammunition!!!

No, I am not jesting.  Someone collected over a thousand guns and over four thousand pounds worth of ammunition.  It makes me wonder - how did this man die?  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

HabitRPG - A Fun Way to Make or Change Habits

Okay, I admit I'm a creature of habit.  I have habits surrounding myself, finances, writing, my family...  Sometimes I like the habits and sometimes... well, some of my habits aren't as healthy as others.

My Avatar on HabitRPG
For example, I used to drink soda at least twice a day.  If I missed a day, I felt off, the world felt a bit wrong.  Last summer, I decided I needed to change that habit.  Diet sodas are unhealthy; so I decided to quit.  At first, no sweat.  But about two weeks into the change, I started to think about getting a soda constantly.  It took another 2-3 weeks before that stopped, but then I would be hit with the need to get a soda in varying situations.  I never realized how much soda I drank until I stopped drinking it.  I'm happy to say it will be a year next month that I quit drinking soda, and I am very proud of myself.  It wasn't easy, but now I don't even want something other than water.  Or coffee (the drink of the gods).

But it isn't easy to change a habit.  When I first heard of HabitRPG, I wondered how it would all work.  Now that I'm using it, I'm in love!  HabitRPG makes a game out of setting up/changing habits.  You create your own avatar, that represents you in the game.  You find people to form parties; you join guild of liked-minded people; you go on quests or compete in challenges to earn treasure.   All while becoming a better you.

You see, the creators behind HabitRPG use gamification to help people with their habits.  Gamification is the use of game thinking and game design elements, including game mechanics, in non-game environments/applications.  Basically, people engage in any activity better if that activity comes wrapped in a game.

Now I'm working on incorporating meditation in my daily routine (to combat stress, induce diffuse thinking, and help with my writing) as well as strengthening my writing habits.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gun Control? Hmmmm....

A few weeks ago, Google sent me an announcement of Google Public Data Explorer, a set of tools that helps gather statistics and other information for bloggers, writers, etc...

Thinking about the current gun control debate, I decided to look up the number of firearm deaths in the U.S.  After a little bit of finagling, I managed to produce the following graph, with shows the number of deaths per state from 1999 - 2010:


The overall number of death hangs between 20,000 and 30,000 per year overall, but there is a wide gap between the current state with the most, California at 2,935, and the least, Hawaii at 49.

But numbers such as these do not make a complete picture.  So I looked up the population of the U.S.  Interestingly, the population graph goes from July 1900 to July 2014.  Watch how the U.S. grew during those decades.

The graphs show a general correlation between the population of a state and the number of firearm deaths.  But if you look closely, you see that in 2010, California had approximately 3,000 firearm death out of over 37 million people.  That's significantly less than 1% of the population, more like 0.00007% who died.  Which makes me wonder, why are we so upset over firearm deaths when it's not a particularly prevalent problem?

It's a simple answer - the media.

The media glorifies (almost deifies) random acts of gun violence, showing pictures and videos of events over and over again.  This coverage overly emphasizes gun-related events, until it feels in the public mind as though gun violence is an overwhelming problem.  Also, the coverage encourages copycats, people who feel invisible and want to be noticed/remembered, by creating anti-heroes of the people who do the violence.

Whatever gun control laws we have, we also need to control how the media handles these events, because fixing gun laws and not the media does nothing to fix the problem.  It's like giving a screwdriver to someone who needs a hammer.  Close, but not really the right tool. 

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...