Diversions

The Influential Books Game has been circulating the internet for the past couple of weeks.  As a writer it’s hard to narrow down the list, but I’ll try!

10 books which have influenced my view of the world. These books are not all my favorites, nor are they all the best books I’ve read. I’m going with my gut.

  1. The Singing Stone by O.R. Melling
    I spent a lot of time hanging out in the library when I was a kid. I pulled this one out of the stacks at random. It was my first real taste of the fantasy genre and I was hooked.
  2. The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin
    This collection of short stories completely changed the way I looked at the short form. They opened my mind up to a world of potential and what if’s.
  3. The Fionovar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
    I didn’t want this one to end. I cried when I finished this book and that never happened before. Victory came at a price both emotionally and physically – and the characters dragged my heart along with them.
  4. The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint
    Fantasy that’s not based out of European mythology? No knights in armor? An other world that’s more like a dream than a physical place? This book knocked a hole in my idea of fantasy.
  5. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
    Every scene is dreamlike in it’s poetry: a miniature postcard, a snapshot in time. I still can’t get the images out of my head.
  6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    Gods roaming around middle America, scraping a living on the fringes of society, and hanging out with ex-cons. What stuck with me is the style: the grit, the grease.
  7. Virtual Light by William Gibson
    It’s a multicultural, mixed up, overpopulated, frantic, world. It seemed real, down to the street speak, and references to current culture. I didn’t enjoy science fiction until I read Gibson.
  8. Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
    At first I was at a loss for how to categorize this book, but it introduced the idea of subtle ‘everyday magic’ in the world (and the wonders of fruit wine).
  9. The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay
    I was struck by four things: the amazing world building, a thankfulness that I’ve been lucky in love, an awareness of what makes a satisfying conclusion to a novel, and the desire to re-tile my bathroom with dolphin designs. I’m not kidding. Don’t laugh. It’s not funny.
  10. Clan of the Cavebear by Jean M. Auel
    I have a suspicion that my parents gave me this book because they didn’t want to have the ‘birds and the bees‘ talk. Let me tell you it worked. I also bought the next two books.

That’s my list! What’s yours? Let’s see it!

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Diversions

Avatar movie posterI finally saw Avatar this past weekend. To be honest, I wanted to skip the fuss altogether, but E was intent on making Saturday night a proper date, so he treated me to sushi and movie.

I won’t talk about the plot, since that’s been covered extensively online, but I will talk about the graphics, because that’s what I do, or… what I planned on doing before I fell into this whole tech writing business.

Let me just say I was STUNNED. Graphics technology has been improving by leaps and bounds.

It is easier to make surfaces with fixed reflectivity, such as plastic, metal, or water, look realistic to the human eye when rendered by a computer. This is because you can calculate how the light bounces off of the surface and how much is absorbed by the material, etc.

What is difficult is to simulate are organics like skin, plants, dirt… this movie was chock full of organics, blended beautifully with live action filming. Was it seamless? No, you could still tell that the movie was mostly CG, but the difference is getting a lot less obtrusive.

I was particularly impressed by the scene where Neytiri (the CG Navi) holds the human Jake Sully in her arms. There was no difference in the lighting conditions (sometimes a give away) or in in the manner that Jake seemed to be propped up in her lap (touching between CG and real characters is usually limited, especially on TV, due to how difficult it is to get right) I’m interested in how that was actually filmed.

Then there were the gorgeous environments. There was so much detail in each scene it was almost hard to know where to look. The profusion of plants and animals was mind boggling. I can only imagine the massive amounts of computing power and time required to render each frame of the movie. I would watch this movie again simply to pay more attention to the details.

Lastly, there’s the 3D element. My mom complained that you didn’t need to watch the movie in 3D. I would disagree. Until this point in time 3D has been treated as a novelty, or a bag of tricks to be dipped into for extra amusement. You know what I’m talking about. There’s usually a telltale scene where something comes shooting out from the screen: a yoyo, or a falling brick, meant to get thrills from the audience and announce to the world that the film is indeed 3D.

With Avatar, the 3D offered the richness of depth. It was like looking into a room that you could walk into.

I believe that this is the future of movies folks, 3D as a matter of fact instead of a novelty. When the costs of the technology come down, I think 3D will be the standard, just like color film replaced black and white. Just watch.

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Journal

Never write before bed.

I’d finished the first draft of a short story and decided to call it a night. The piece still needed a lot of work but I was tired and it was already getting late.

I opened my eyes at precicely 2 am. My brain was shuffling paragraphs, smoothing out sentences, and formulating alternate endings. I was editing in my sleep! If I wasn’t so tired I’d have gotten out of bed and worked on the damned story.  I opted to toss and turn in bed. I tried meditating, but I’ve never been very good at it. The story kept me staring at the ceiling for another hour. You can bet I spent the next day in a caffinated haze.

I learned my lesson.

I think I’ll stick to reading before bed. Dreaming about typing into a Microsoft word document is no fun. It’s more of a nightmare really.

PS Please excuse if the blog looks a little strange the next few days. I’m still playing around with the formatting.

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