Dunkirk and Lucky, two movies, two takes. One MUST SEE!

My better half bought these two movies yesterday. She always controls the remote, she’s always right, so we watched them.

I’d heard great things about Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan has done some interesting work. Memento is a classic. Brilliant and hard to wrap one’s mind around.

Dunkirk had some Nolan elements. The key one was to pay attention to the time hacks at the beginning. Because we’re following several stories here inside the larger story and going back and forth in time and each story has a different time length. And the stories interweave, of course, because they all cover the same topic: the great rescue at Dunkirk.

He didn’t spend much time setting things up; which is fine. Although I’m not sure how many people actually know the history. It truly was a miracle.

There’s very little dialogue, which is actually good. The action is well filmed. You get an idea of the both the courage and desperation. At one point I said to my wife: “This is a big dilemma for a soldier. Is it more important to survive to fight another day, or to fight now?”

And how far to go to survive? Should you cheat? Lie? And are you doing it for selfish reasons?

Overall it was a good movie, but not quite what all the reviews had led me to believe.

I hadn’t heard much about Lucky other than it was one of Harry Dean Stanton’s last movies and came out a few weeks after he died.

All I can say to summarize it is: WOW!

It is one of the best, understated, powerful movies I’ve ever seen. There’s not much drama (if the most exciting scene is a non-fight outside a bar or an old man singing at a birthday party, you’re not exactly in CGI battle zone). Actually, nothing much happens. But a lot happens.

And a lot happens which you still don’t even know by the end of the movie. It is one the best examples of show don’t tell and less is better, two of the rules of writing I try to abide by, but this movie was bowing to the master. The red phone? Who is on the other end? I won’t say much more to avoid spoilers, but it’s a slow movie and well worth the ride. Researching it, apparently about 75% of it is who Stanton was; what he believed. The role was explicitly written for him. Tom Skerrit’s brief appearance was critical.

RIP in Harry Dean Stanton and thank you for this poignant Goodbye!

A MUST SEE!

 

Review of Blade Runner 2049

Loved it. I’d heard mixed reviews on the movie and since we don’t do movie theaters here at Cool Gus’ place (because they don’t let him in and he likes watching movies just fine on the comfy bed), we finally bought it on demand.

I need to watch it again to fully process it, but I found it be one of the smartest movies I’ve seen. It was obvious a ton of brainpower was put into it; not only to link to the first movie, but to have a story that stood on its own. There are a lot of moving parts in the Blade Runner universe and this movie did a good job integrating them.

This is the way CGI should be used. I’m so tired of these 20-30 minute long, “epic” fights between super-heroes where you know who is going to win and the action doesn’t even make sense other than to use the capability to do the graphics and action. The climactic scene here was dramatic, tight, and well done.

The plot had several good twists, none of which I will give up, in case you haven’t seen it. The ending tied this movie up and, of course, left enough to move forward.

Having read the original source by Philip K. Dick, the first Blade Runner was an excellent take from material that was hard to digest. (Hey, it’s PKD—all his stuff is hard to digest, but yield nuggets of ideas that are spectacular).

Like two of my favorite reboots—Westworld and Battlestar Galactica—BR 2049 focuses on the essential issues of existence, what is humanity, and good versus evil and how nebulous that line is depending on your motivation and end results.

There were so many small, deft touches not only in the story, but in the 2049 universe its set in. It didn’t over-explain, but explained enough. Of course, we still don’t have the flying cars from the first movie, but . . .

It definitely set the stage for another BR movie—my fear would be that it turns into a sprawling battle epic. I hope not.

In the extras, the director describes how he had writers do three short stories to bridge from the original to 2049. Intellectually as a writer, I found this intriguing. Writing a series is difficult. As noted, lots of moving parts to keep moving and some to wrap up while opening up new possibilities. Not for the faint of heart. Creatively, it takes all sorts of techniques, usually involving many headaches for the writers.

Highly recommended!

Bob and Gus

 

 

It’s too soon to talk about train safety.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the recent train accident. However, it is too soon to talk about train safety.

Also, there are many more trains in the New York City area. And more accidents there. And they have more rules and regulations, so rules and regulations don’t work.

Plus, it appears it was the driver’s fault. Trains don’t kill people. People kill people. If that driver didn’t have a train, he’d have a bus or a plane. So there’s no point in any investigation into train safety or regulations. It’s a mental health issue, not a train issue.

It is the price we pay for freedom.

On Not Writing

I often tell people the hardest part about being a writer is: Writing.

I tell them everything else is great. No commute, researching is fun, wearing sweats to work, Cool Gus lying at my feet glaring at me to get fed etc.

But butt in chair, actually writing, is the hardest.

But that’s not quite true. For me, one of the hardest things is: NOT Writing.

It’s being still. Listening to others. Asking questions. And, most importantly, hard THINKING. Breaking my preconceptions about the story and the characters. Giving myself a headache I’m thinking so hard.

What’s hard about not writing? Of the 16 character types in the Myers-Briggs they actually labeled one: Author. (BTW it is the one with the lowest percentage of all 16)

The INFJ. That doesn’t mean you have to be an INFJ to be a writer, but, well, there’s a reason they labeled it that. And it’s the last letter that causes the difficulty in not writing. You’re either a J or a P. Essentially J’s want the result. P’s like the process.

When I’m not writing I don’t see my word count, my page count, marching toward the result. It seems like nothing is happening. I’m mired in progress. The fact I use the term “mired” instead of “immersed” indicates the problem. A P would be immersed.

It’s hard.

My wife is a P and I’m a J. She loves working in the garden and yard. I don’t. If I mow the lawn I get momentary satisfaction that it’s done, but in the larger scheme not much because the grass will grow back, negating my result. Argh!!!! My wife is very content clipping away, dead-heading, in order for stuff to grow back!

I’m a third of a way into my current work in progress, Area 51: Redemption. Things were going great, but then I started to think about the bigger picture. This book is the 10th in a series. So there’s a lot of backstory. A LOT. Like the entire history of mankind. Seriously. Read it and tell me it isn’t so. I challenge you! (PS, all are on sale HERE)

And this book is taking the entire concept in a radical new direction and I have learned the harsh lesson to think about future books in a series a little bit before locking myself in. One reason for that is when I wrote the first Area 51 book it was a stand alone. No series planned. However, if you read the epilogue in that first book, you see a set up for the next book. Here’s the interesting thing: consciously I wrote that epilogue as an ode to Arthur C. Clarke’s Sentinel story. However, subconsciously, I wrote it to lead to a second book, even though consciously I didn’t have one planned.

So last week I realized that because I didn’t really know a lot about what exactly was going on, maybe I needed to figure some of it before going further. A third of the way into the book is a good time to do that. I’ve introduced a lot. Characters, plot etc. Now is the time for me to examine all of it and make sure I know WHY I introduced it. I’ve learned another big thing over the years: trust my subconscious. I put things in and sometimes I have no clue why.

Example: I have a character. She’s the assistant to the nominal antagonist (at least for this book, not the overall series). She’s blind. Why? I don’t freaking know. I just did that. But I do know by the time I get to the end of the first draft there has to be a reason that is connected to the story. If not, then I need to rewrite. But there are other things I’ve put in and now I’ve already figured out the why and it requires some rewriting and adjusting now, before I go further.

What roles are they really playing? Is the ending I had in mind still where this is going? Is the antagonist really the antagonist? Is the minion really the minion or does she have her own agenda? Many times I ask a key question: What if what appears to be, isn’t?

Fiction writers lie. We make our living inventing something that isn’t real. I’ve listened to many keynotes over the year and I’m going to give you a secret: sometimes the keynoter lies! Recently I listened to a keynoter talk about how she writes 1,000 words a day. Always.

I checked her bio. How many years she’d been writing. Then how many published books. Either she’s writing many, many drafts or tossing away lots of writing, or well, she lies. Maybe she writes a thousand words a day when she’s writing? But she takes long breaks? Who knows? But simple math indicated her published output is about 20 words a day overall if she wrote every day. Even factoring in rewriting, edited material tossed, etc. let’s double that to 40 words a day. As Jimmy Buffet sings: Math sucks. But it’s real. Writers often fudge about their work schedule because most people aren’t impressed when you tell them you just spent four hours staring into space thinking– as work.

Writing, when elevated to an art, is as much about feel as it is about craft. I’ve been writing emails to my son, the guy with the PhD and phenomenal memory, a lot of it just me thinking out loud. But also asking questions. He’s read a lot of stuff and gives me thoughts and often they lead me to think in ways I wouldn’t on my own. I also go back over books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. How were these things handled there? How can I do it differently?

In essence, I have to focus on the process before I can resume pushing once more toward the result. In fact, I have to allow myself to feel that process is a result in itself.

 

PS the first two Writers Workshops for 2018 have been scheduled. Since each are limited to 3 people, and we’re only running 3, it means there’s just 9 slots for the year, so, well math sucks, but it’s real. More info here.

 

5 Years Ago– unspeakable tragedy

Five years ago today was the Newton School Shooting. To the left are the images of some of the 26 dead (20 were children) impressed on roses.

I was on Quora earlier this morning reading responses to a question asking if there should be a limit on the number of guns a person should own. There were over 100 responses. Every single one said no and then went on to give reasons why there should be no limit. Here is my response that I posted. Take it however you like:

Just scrolling through the first several responses guns have been compared to putting limits on cars, speech, computers, knives, etc. I suppose if I scroll far enough someone will be saying should we limit rocks, because they can kill too. I find these arguments odd.

The topic is guns.

But if we want to start comparing things, let’s compare guns to fertilizer. Farmers need fertilizer. One truck bomb by a terrorist killed a lot of people. Immediately we passed laws requiring checks on purchases over a certain limit. Microscopic tracers are put in fertilizer so that if it used in an explosive the lot can be traced. We’ve surrounded government buildings with barricades. Numerous other places have barriers.

One event and we changed the way we approached that thing. Which killed less people in that event than die from gun violence in a month. Every month.

Then we have four planes hijacked. Three crashed into buildings, one into the ground. We changed the entire way airports are set up. How we fly. How cockpits are locked off. We invaded two countries (including one that had nothing to do with the event). We are STILL at war since that event; our longest war. We restricted our own freedoms, we okayed torture, we allow ourselves to monitored. One event.

Lots of people die in car accidents. We invented seat belts, anti-lock brakes, air bags, etc.

Every plane crash brings an improvement in air safety via after reports and reviews.

Yet gun massacre after gun massacre and we yawn. Today on the 5th anniversary of Newton.

 

Godless: Great characters and storytelling

The NETFLIX original seven-part series Godless came as a surprise. I hadn’t heard of it, but somehow stumbled across it and ended up binging all seven episodes in a day. I highly recommend it.

Often we see new series compared to other series that set a high bar. Ozark was compared to Breaking Bad, which isn’t fair, as Ozark is different in several key ways. “Damn it, Darlene!” has now entered the lexicon between my wife and I. If you’ve seen the first season, you know what I mean.

Godless has an intriguing cast. Jeff Daniels as the bad, bad, bad, guy, Frank Griffin, is brilliant. Michelle Dockery, of Downton Abbey fame, as Alice Fletcher, the widow rancher worked perfectly.

Some of these characters might sound cliché, such as “widow rancher” but they are anything but. The story itself, the bad guy who turns, also seems cliché but it isn’t.

What I really liked about the story was that they explained some things, particularly history, but didn’t explain others, allowing you to draw your own conclusions. Who exactly was Sister Alice? She certainly wasn’t teaching those kids to read and she took Roy Goode’s money and opened a saloon? What exactly happened to Alice Fletcher’s second husband? What was with the German woman?

As part of the history, the Buffalo Solders were mentioned, an important chapter in our western history. Jeff Daniels awful childhood experience in the Mountain Meadows Massacre helped explain why he became what he became, although, strangely, they gave the wrong year for it. In the series he says it was 1854, when it was 11 September 1857. I know that because it’s one of the storylines in Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol). That event is one that few Americans know of. Mountain Meadows slideshow.

The overall story in Godless is brutal. It also is a strange combination of realism with a touch of mysticism. There are numerous subplots that are interesting without being distracting. Every character had a back-story, from the runaway German bride, to the sheriff going blind.

The ending might not have been as satisfying to some, but it had to be that way. Roy Goode had to do what he did—he was still a wanted man.

One thing I really liked was the subtext that reading is a life-changing and critical skill. From Roy’s letter from his brother, to the newspaper articles, reading played a key role in the story.

Cool Gus gives it four paws up.

Here is the trailer for Godless:

Slaughterbots—An Inevitable Reality of combining AI, drones and miniaturization

When you combine artificial intelligence, drones, and miniaturization, we have the potential for unbelievable terror attacks and a complete upheaval of the way we currently conduct war. And a powerful tool for terrorists.

The video clip below is not science fiction. Based on the current level of technology, it could easily be reality. Using artificial intelligence for targeting threats already exists. Drones already exist. And they are getting very, very small. The image to the left is of micro-drones released by a US FA-18. Now.

I predict the first drone terror attacks within a year. They will be clumsy: loading C-4 onto a mid-range sized drone and flying it manually to a target. Perhaps into the path of a plane taking off. Into a meeting room. A concert. A sporting event.

We have always worried bigger is more dangerous– the Terminator movies showed large robots killing humans. That’s going in the wrong direction. This is a case where smaller is more dangerous. How are you going to shoot down 100 small drones coming at you? How will a 13 billion dollar aircraft carrier protect itself against a dual threat of thousands of underwater and airborne drones all carrying weapons? A threat that would cost only in the millions compared to the price tag of a carrier? Or, more simply, surround the carrier with drones that swarm any aircraft taking off? Find the choke point and don’t just choke, sever it.

Some say there are positive aspects to artificial intelligence targeting. Machines aren’t emotional. Machines won’t disobey the “rules of war”. They won’t kill prisoners or innocent civilians.

Unless they are programmed to.

Think it through. If we can program drones, each sufficient to kill a single human, to kill everyone who uses the hashtag #resistance how quickly will the resistance be wiped out on day one? A bit simplistic. But it is simply an extension of what the NSA and other organizations are currently doing with their spyware. Spyware into weaponware is an inevitable step.

When we combine cyberwar with drone war things are going to get very, very nasty.

Our military and defensive mechanisms are already outdated.

I found this image and what was weird is that its of fighters dropping drones called Perdix, which is a name I’m using in my current WIP because Perdix is a nephew of Daedalus. The drones are the small objects in the top right.

The technology and capability to do this is easily obtained by non-states organizations. By anyone with an agenda.

What will we do?

The Gun Issue: Part Deux

I addressed some arguments of the gun issue after the Las Vegas shooting.

I feel a need to readdress some of the same issues and also add some arguments I’ve recently encountered after the Texas shooting. Which right there indicates a problem. After Las Vegas we were told “Now isn’t the time”. And it still isn’t apparently. It wasn’t after children were slaughtered in Newton. It isn’t now, and it wont be after the next one. We couldn’t even get rid of utterly useless bump stocks after 59 killed.

What I would like it be time for is civil discussion. For the vast majority of moderates to try to work together. To do that, we have to address some theories that are either illogical, or have serious flaws inherent in them.

The topics addressed in the first post, HERE, were:

If we restrict guns only criminals will have guns; I own lots of guns and have never had an accident or done a mass shooting; Chicago; I need a gun to stop the bad guys; We didn’t have this in the gold old days; It’s my Second Amendment Right; Hitler, Mao, Stalin all started by taking the guns; Shouldn’t we ban trucks and knives and anything else used to kill people? What about all the responsible gun owners?

I want to amplify on some of those answers, given the latest.

Many people are pointing to the fact that a citizen with a gun fired at and wounded the gunman in Texas. The President has said this prevented “hundreds more” from being killed.

Perhaps, although it appears the gunman killed or wounded a large percentage of the town over the course of seven minutes and was exiting the church when shot at. Apparently there are many satisfied that a 26 to 1 kill ratio is satisfactory; personally I’m not big on it. And that more guns would bring that number down. “Let’s bring guns to church” is a new refrain.

South Carolina once passed a law requiring all males to brings their guns to church. It was after an attempted slave insurrection by Denmark Vessey and they realized Sunday morning would be the best time for that when the slave owners were at church.

But here’s the thing. The answer many come up with is we need more guns to combat guns. Let’s logically follow that one. The US has more privately owned guns per capita than any other first world nation. By far. We also have the highest death rate by guns than any other first world nation. By far. If the argument that more guns would prevent these events is true, then what’s wrong? Is there a magic tipping point of more guns where that will equal less deaths by guns? Shouldn’t we actually, by the “more guns” arguments, currently have the least deaths among first world nations since we have the most guns? We have enough guns in this country for every man, woman, and child to be armed.

Additionally, while we focus on these shootings, we ignore the #1 cause of death by gun, which is suicide. Yes, yes, just like we argue that someone who wants to kill will find something else to kill with other than a gun, someone who wants to kill themselves can find something else to do it; but let’s all agree a gun is far easier? Or else why do people own them and don’t go hunting with a knife or rental truck? Suicide is often an impulse and a gun makes it easy to act on that impulse. Something more difficult, requiring planning and more time, might allow some people, including perhaps a few of the 22 fellow Veterans who suicide every day (most by gun), to have a moment to get past the impulse.

We can add in accidental discharges, which far outnumber the stopping of the bad guy in terms of wounds and deaths. That’s called friendly fire. With hundreds of millions of guns in this country, it happens a lot.

“We don’t need automatic weapons.” This one is a non-starter because I have yet to hear of a mass shooting where an automatic weapon was used. The Las Vegas gun-man used a bump stock, which as noted above, is worthless and inaccurate, unless someone wants the ‘feel’ of firing on automatic or shooting at a crowd of 20,000 people massed together from the vantage of the 33rd floor. Too many anti-gun people don’t know much about guns and they make inaccurate claims that hurt their case. Automatic weapons are very tightly controlled.

There is a lot of argument about “assault rifles”. Some unfamiliar with guns make inaccurate statements about them. But many who are familiar with guns also make inaccurate statements about them. Yes, you can use an AR-15 to shoot rodents and even to hunt other game. But the fact is the AR-15, the AK-47, and all the variants were designed specifically for the military. You can use it for other things; but there are other guns specifically designed for those other things that don’t take high capacity magazines and fire a round specifically designed for military use. In the case of the AR, it is the 5.56 round. Anyone who has seen what this round does to an adult, never mind a child, knows what I’m talking about. In fact, I am very much in favor of releasing the video of what happened in that church and the crime scene photos of every shooting. We cannot have a rational discussion about this topic with the vast majority of Americans having only a theoretical or Hollywood image of what happens. It would be terrible to do this, many families would probably be against it, but we have to face reality.

There are those who say the Texas shooter should have been stopped by the laws in place. True. The argument then goes that laws do not work, which is a rather ludicrous statement since our entire civilization is based on laws. In fact, using the Second Amendment, a law, to justify owning a firearm, and then saying laws wouldn’t work to get some control over those firearms, is contradictory. Because here’s the next thing: there is no illegal gun factory in the US. Every gun starts out legal. Many of the guns that criminals use are legal guns that are stolen. In essence, we are arming the very people we feel we have to arm ourselves against. Another snake eating its own tail argument.

Another thing I see is that the purpose of the Second Amendment is so we could fight back against a tyrannical government. This doesn’t factor in the fear of slave revolts as an additional impetus for Amendment, but that’s another story. My question is this: when will the time be for us to pull our guns out? How will we, collectively, decide our government has become a tyranny? I’m of the opinion we’ve had a coup in the past year and we have a Russian stooge as President, elected by a minority of the people with foreign influence—almost fits the definition of tyranny in a way. His comments praising Putin and against our own intelligence agencies just the other day are on the verge of treason. Who should I go out and shoot? I prefer to let the law and voting work. And many Americans disagree with me, which is fine. We can agree to disagree; I’m not going to shoot anyone. Today.

Another argument I saw was that we have an inalienable right to defend ourselves. Personally, and this is just an opinion, I rank the inalienable right not to get shot on a higher plane than that. Just saying.

We’re not going to do away with guns. I own guns. I’m trained on them and used them in my previous occupation and have always considered them a tool. I see a place for them, both as tools and for hobbyists. But I also see a place for rational discussion about the topic, which I believe the vast majority of people, including the majority of law-abiding gun owners, would be fine with. The extremists on both sides interfere with that, and sadly, I include the NRA which uses fear-mongering. It used to be a worthwhile organization but has gone too far.

I think we simply treat guns like driving and cars. Driving is a skill, so is handling a gun. Someone wants to own guns, they need training and to earn a current license for whatever class of gun they want to own.

Every car is registered, so every gun should be registered in a national database. When sold, the registration must be transferred.

Would it work? It would take years since we already have so many guns. But if we don’t start now, when? When will be the time for it? What is our acceptable level of bodycount? 59? 26? 20 six and seven year olds at school?

Licensing and registering would not be foolproof. Nothing is. We have tons of car accidents. We have people driving drunk. Texting while driving. Not getting licenses. Not registering their cars. (Interestingly, the factor of gun liability and insurance could be an intriguing aspect–Newton lawsuit). But something is better than the hodge-podge of inconsistent laws and regulations that dot our country. I had a carry license in WA state, but here in TN, there are different requirements. Interestingly, WA, a more liberal state only required a background check, while red TN, requires a background check and a day of training. Let’s get national on this.

I already anticipate two arguments against this: the tyrannical government will know who to come after to get their guns and where the guns are. But wouldn’t that be the moment all us gun owners know the government is tyrannical and we fight back? We’ve followed the law, we’re licensed and registered, have committed no crime and you want my gun? I don’t think so. It would be much clearer than the Night of the Long Knives or Kristallnacht and more national.

The second will be that criminals, of course, won’t obey these laws. Yes. But if we make mandatory prison of at least a year, such as New York City has (why did the guy driving the truck only have a paintball and pellet gun?), for those carrying a gun without both license and registration, that will put a quick chill on things and give police a powerful weapon against armed criminals. They won’t even have to have committed a crime with the gun. Just having it, unlicensed and/or unregistered would be enough.

But one thing for certain. Doing nothing other than “thoughts and prayers” is utterly worthless in real terms.

 

 

On other, more cheerful notes, I’m still giving several books away for free on my Freebies page. Along with some short stories and audio downloads.

Mass Shooters— Don’t Say The Name; Don’t Show their Picture

We had another one. Amidst all the prayers, thoughts, arguing, bluster, might I suggest one thing?

Don’t mention the shooter’s name. Don’t show their picture. At all.

I’ve been watching a show, Active Shooter: America Under Fire and a couple who lost a son at the Aurora theater shooting have a movement where they believe it’s key to not give publicity to these people. I agree wholeheartedly. It is a very worthwhile series to watch.

While notoriety might not be the primary motive for some of the shooters, it’s part of it.

They need to be treated as nothings. Nobodies. We should focus on the victims. The loved ones of the victims. We need to help those wounded in body and mind.

 

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Black Tuesday: 29 October 1929

88 years ago today, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression was officially ushered in.

But 29 October is significant in other years.

In 1980, at Eglin Air Force Base, the last test flight of Operation Credible Sport was taking place—the planned second Iranian hostage rescue mission. What if that mission had succeeded?

In 1969, at UCLA, the first Internet message was sent to Stanford. It got the letters L and O sent before the system crashed, thus accurately forecasting the future of the Internet. But wh

In 1618, in England, Sir Walter Raliegh was to face the executioner’s axe. But what if—

Black Tuesday (Time Patrol) examines these possibilities and more.