There are various counter movements to feminism.  One of them even has the ridiculous name of “Meninism”.  They aren’t very large, or organized, and there’s not a section of the book store devoted to them.  Their aims are all over the map, some more noble than others, and this is obviously a reflection of the varying attitudes of their adherents.

I doubt there is a single woman on the planet who takes them seriously.

But perhaps they should.  The premise of feminism is that we live in a patriarchy, a world run by men and according to men’s rules, and as a result women are mistreated by men, and they suffer emotionally, materially, and even physically.  None of these things are untrue.  However, mistreatment of one gender by another is hardly unilateral.  The rules of our world are also in fact shaped heavily by the needs and desires of women, and women continually reinforce the matriarchal constructs of our society.  Men also suffer, yet their suffering is of no interest to anyone.  Men are taught to hide, ignore, and bury their feelings.  A man is a joke if he insists that his hurt feelings regarding women are relevant.  Hurting men emotionally is fair game.  Hurting men materially is accepted and encouraged, and even supported by law.  Attempting to hurt men physically isn’t taken seriously, even when it succeeds.

And the actions of feminism bring additional harm to men.  Most feminists, when they are thinking philosophically, believe that this is not the aim of feminism.  Yet in actual situations where gender inequality is at issue, when the conflict is no longer theoretical, equality tends to take a back seat to victory, and men who are seen as obstructions are run over.  Those same feminists, when they aren’t thinking so critically, will sign on to anti-male ideas and propositions.  And then there are many feminists who are quite overtly anti-male, who seek explicitly to hurt men in some kind of emotional and material fight for dominance.

Is it any wonder that men feel threatened by feminism?  It is not mere anxiety or insecurity.

In the end, it may not be such a useful idea to blame men for the problems of women, any more than women should be blamed for the problems of men.  Men and women are simply different, and it is those differences, and our inability to understand them from the other perspective, that creates all of the gender conflict.  Blame evolution, or blame the Creator, and then be done with the blame and the fighting.  In the end, equality will be attained by convincing everyone, men and women, to treat each other equally.

November Minutiae

Posted: 19th November 2016 by Cheap in Camping, Fiction, Hunting, Photography, Racism, Videography
  • Anyone who tells you that Cat’s Cradle is science-fiction is fucking with you.  Or else they don’t know what science-fiction is.  Yes, it contains a bit of science-fiction as a plot element.  Yes, the science is reasonably sound.  It also contains a made-up religion, but no one categorizes it as a religious text.  It is very much the kind of fiction I would expect from Kurt Vonnegut, and it is definitely out there, but it is not science-fiction.
  • Reading If He Hollers Let Him Go was quite an experience.  From start to finish, it is about racism.  Unlike other books I have read, it is not simply a story in which race figures as a factor.  The whole story is about racism, driven almost completely by racism, and is dripping with the emotional impact of racism.  I found myself wondering (as a white guy born in the 70’s) whether racism in the 40’s was as intense and blatant as it was depicted here, or whether the situation was intensified for the sake of making the point.  Certainly the character is not realistic: a man with the potential of becoming a lawyer but who acts immediately on every momentary stimulus and emotion he encounters.  Regardless, it does a good job of showing how it feels to live in such a world.  This is the second Chester Himes novel I’ve read, and I plan to continue reading others.
  • The car I just bought has already developed a serious problem.  A broken engine valve.  I am attempting to do the repair myself.  It is by far the most involved car repair I have ever done.  It took me days to remove the head from the engine, because of all the other parts that must be removed first.  There was no other damage aside from the valve, so I was able to replace it myself without any machining.  Now I’m trying to put it all back together again, and already I have screws that I don’t know where they belong.  This whole thing has given me a great deal of anxiety, because if I fail, it is going to cost me a lot of money.  And that has caused me to be depressed about it and to procrastinate.  Meanwhile, I will have gone three weeks or so without transportation of my own, and it’s getting really old borrowing other people’s cars, not to mention a certain amount of cabin fever.
  • I went deer hunting with my brother for two and a half days.  Then my brother came to the realization that he doesn’t like hunting and that he is not an outdoors sort of person.  Between that and the un-neighborly hunters around us, we decided to come home early.  I used the rest of my vacation time working on my car.  From now on, it seems I will plan my hunting trips without him.  I’m still coming to grips with all of the changes that effects; even one of the guns I own was purchased with the intent to have him hunt with it.  I guess I should get out my bow and practice with it.  There are still almost two months left in the bow season.
  • Cold-weather camping was a success.  It only got down to 32° at night, which isn’t very cold.  However, I had comfort to spare.  Having gained some experience at different temperatures, I will be more confident about trying to camp at lower temperatures.  However, there is probably no good time to do it again until about March.
  • The Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II worked out quite well this week.  I didn’t have a lot of opportunity for artistic photos, but I am happy with the quality of the photos I did get.  I need to get more practice controlling the focus, but I am quite satisfied with this purchase.
  • To process RAW image files from the new camera, I was forced into finally upgrading to Adobe CC.  This means Premiere and everything else is upgraded, as well.  I’m having some trouble with choppy playback.  Also, some of the effects I use are no longer available (evidently replaced with very similar effects with new names).  Somewhat more alarming is that Adobe seems to have dropped support for Encore, believing somehow that no one authors discs anymore.  Well, I do, and now I have to figure out how.  Brief research into the topic suggests that it involves installing Encore CS6 and using a different workflow, since Dynamic Link no longer works.
  • I am current reading Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge for the book club.  I really don’t like it, and that’s making it a chore to read.  The author’s style is good, the dialog is good, the protagonist’s voice is good.  However, I’m finding that I just cannot properly suspend my disbelief because the whole premise is just so ridiculous: properly mixed cocktails imbue magical powers, there are evil creatures preying on all of us, and the world’s bartenders are all working diligently to protect us from these dangers and to keep it all a big secret.  Even if I was a connoisseur of spirits, I don’t think I could enjoy it.  Perhaps worse, the deepest thing going on in the story is that the protagonist has a crush on a guy.  The important characters are all very vanilla and nearly two-dimensional.  I would skip this book and this book club meeting, except that I am looking forward to the return of a specific member.

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

Posted: 11th November 2016 by Cheap in Photography

I finally came around to the idea that I need a high-quality point-n-shoot camera.  The reason?  None of my cameras are compact enough, and my phone’s camera doesn’t produce art-quality photos.

Up until now, my most compact camera has been my Canon EOS M.  The body of the EOS M is quite compact, for a system camera.  With the 22mm pancake lens, it makes a great, unintimidating camera to take to parties.  It has an APS-C sized sensor, so it is capable of some fairly shallow depth-of-field and performs reasonably well in low light.  However, it is not a pocket camera.  With the lens attached, it just doesn’t go into a pocket.  It doesn’t pack conveniently in the pocket of a backpack, either.  It’s even more awkwardly shaped with the zoom lens, and the zoom lens is not a fast lens, so you lose a lot of the shallow depth-of-field anyway.

I have been using the camera on my phone much more.  I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S6 active almost a year ago, which has a surprisingly good camera.  It is capable of sharp and detailed photos and has good tonality characteristics.  And of course it is compact and convenient, always at hand and fits in any pocket.  However, the photographs it produces are not quite art-quality.  The primary problem is that there is just far too much JPEG compression.  However, the totally flat depth-of-field is also an issue.  I used it quite heavily during my summer vacation, and I captured many good photos.  However, I found myself wanting to display some of those photos in ways that reveal the quality limitations of the camera, and that has left me disappointed.

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Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

I settled on the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II.  It is an “advanced” or “enthusiast” point-n-shoot camera.  The feature that makes it so is the 1.0″ sensor.  That’s quite large for a point-n-shoot, and it provides an appreciable amount of shallow depth-of-field, as well as better performance in low light.  The camera is only slightly smaller than the EOS M body, but the lens retracts, making it a truly pocket-size camera.  Furthermore, the lens is faster than the EOS M lenses and offers a longer zoom range.

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PowerShot G7X vs. EOS M

This camera has WiFi and NFC, as well as an Android app.  This offers me a workflow that is great for use in the field.  Without using a computer or a card reader, I can transfer photos from the camera (even if they were shot RAW) and post them online using my smart phone.  I am looking forward to using this feature during my upcoming hunting/camping trip.  Another feature that makes this camera road worthy is the ability to charge the battery internally via USB.  I can charge the camera in my car or from a big USB powerbank without purchasing an expensive car charger.

EOS M with APS-C Sensor

EOS M with APS-C Sensor

The size of a “one inch” sensor is an interesting matter of discussion.  It isn’t one inch.  In fact, the size of any sensor expressed in inches, including the four-thirds sensor, is a lie misleading.  See “optical format“.  Basically, the real size is about two-thirds of what is actually stated.  The actual size of a 1″ sensor is 13.2 × 8.8 mm, which is obviously nowhere near an inch in any direction.  In the photo above, the red outline represents the size of a 1” sensor in comparison to an APS-C sensor (the sensor format used in the majority of Canon DSLRs).  It is about 59% of the size of an APS-C sensor.  This smaller sensor results in deeper depth-of-field than an APS-C camera, but it is still much larger than a typical point-n-shoot and certainly larger than the sensors found in phones.

One of the interesting features is the internal ND filter.  It has a 1/8 (3-stop) ND filter that can be enabled, disabled, or set to auto.  At first, I was thinking of this as a way to improve shallow depth-of-field, since it allows the aperture can be opened up while leaving all the other exposure parameters unchanged.  I use screw-on ND filters on my DSLRs for this purpose, especially when using studio strobes.  However after thinking about it more, I realize that the ND filter mostly just makes up for the shutter speed limitations, which only go down to 1/2000, as opposed to the 1/8000 shutter speed I am accustomed to on DSLRs.  Still, to maximize shallow depth-of-field, I find that I can use aperture priority on the maximum aperture and set the ND filter to auto, letting the camera figure out how best to accomplish the exposure.

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Update: I am always looking for just the right bag or case for any equipment I am likely to carry into the field.  Here’s what I came up with.  The Lowepro Tahoe 25 II is just the right size for the camera.  It is padded on all sides, and has a rigid wall between the main compartment and the front pocket, which I figure provides extra protection for the lens.  The pocket has room for spare batteries, cards, even a Joby Micro Tripod.  There is a belt loop in back.  I feel confident tossing the camera in this case into my backpack with all my other gear.  The other case is a Lowepro Adventura SH 100 II, which Crutchfield sent free when I ordered the camera from them.  It’s a little big for the camera, but it turns out to be ideal for storing the camera with the charger and whatever other accessories I have for it (the micro-USB cable, for example, though I never use it).  The smaller case fits into the larger case just perfectly.

Update: I took the camera hunting with me this past week.  Everything worked out as planned.  In the little case, it was no problem carrying it my backpack.  Battery life, USB charging, and transferring images to my phone all made me happy.  I am finding that shallow depth-of-field, especially with closer shots, is even better than I had anticipated.  I did sometimes struggle with getting the focus I wanted, but there are multiple ways to control focus, and it was mostly an exercise in trying different methods (touch-to-focus and using the control ring for manual focus were the usual solutions).  Also, it is not possible to get Adobe CS6 to process RAW images from this camera, and I finally gave in and upgraded to CC, which has upset my world notably.

Octobery Stuff

Posted: 30th October 2016 by Cheap in Camping, Hunting
  • I spent a weekend in the Mark Twain National Forest, in the Doniphan and Eleven Point ranger districts.  My primary goal was to scout for good deer hunting spots.  However, I didn’t get to explore all the places on my list, and most of those did not turn out to be good spots.  My secondary goal was to get a little experience sleeping outside in cooler weather.  The low was 46°, which isn’t that cold, but that gives me a data point on the weather spectrum.  The more experience I have, the better I’ll know my limits.
  • I ended up doing some of the most extreme off-roading I’ve ever done.  I followed an unmaintained track down a slope that was much steeper than I realized, culminating in a drop off a big boulder.  When I returned, I decided I must have been out of my mind.  Yet my truck (a Ford Ranger) clambered back up that rock and the slope without any trouble.  It was very satisfying.  Little did I know, that would be my last off-road experience with my truck.
  • On the way home, I blew the motor in my truck.  Out in the middle of Missouri on a Sunday night.  I got it towed to a repair shop, and the diagnosis was made quickly.  The value of the vehicle was completely cancelled out by the cost of the repair, so I left it there.  I agreed to sign over the title in compensation for the tow.  I’ve been wanting to replace the truck for years, but the money hasn’t been handy, so I’ve kept putting it off.
  • I purchased a Toyota Corolla, the same age as my Ranger, but with fewer miles.  It had a very bad wheel bearing and some other suspension problems, but I have fixed all those.  Now it’s mostly down to cosmetic problems (of which there are many).  It’s not a nice car by any stretch, but it should be reasonably reliable, at least for a couple of years.  Long enough, I hope, to save up for a better car.

Still More Things

Posted: 30th September 2016 by Cheap in Fiction, Firearms, History, Philosophy, Politics
  • I have rather suddenly developed an interest in local history.  Most specifically, I’ve decided I want to know all there is to know about Flamm City, a place that was probably never actually any kind of a city, but which has intrigued me for many years.  I’ve discovered a ton of historical resources at the libraries, mainly catering now to the increasingly popular study of genealogy.  When I started, I figured I would be the only one looking into such subjects, but in fact the rural suburban city I live in actually has a historical society.  I am finding the research to be fascinating, even if it is taking up a lot of my time.
  • I made it to a second meeting of the science-fiction book club.  The book this month was The Three-Body Problem, which included a rather unusual selection of science.  (I liked the book alright, but now that I know it’s the first of a trilogy, I don’t think I’m interested in reading the rest.)  There were some familiar faces, and I’m starting to form opinions about them.  The largest reason for participating in the book club is for the social experience, so the quality of the people I meet there will have a lot to do with whether I continue.
  • My foray into local history has suggested to me a possible interest in photographing cemeteries, the photos to be used by genealogists.  Photographing each individual headstone and cataloging the photographs online would make the information available to those who are not local to the area but are searching for it.  This is well within my skill-set.  Though perhaps I should make sure someone else hasn’t already done it.
  • I read The Thousand Names, which I picked up recently at the used book store for no other reason than that I liked the name.  Even though many of the characters were a tiny bit two-dimensional and the story’s obstacles were too easily and too consistently overcome, I did enjoy it overall, and I plan to read more of the series.
  • I bought a sewing machine.  My grandmother’s machine has been in my possession basically since her death.  However, it has become non-functional, and I cannot easily repair it.  Sewing is a skill I possess, but without a machine, projects have been passed over or stacked up for quite a while.  I bought a Singer Heavy Duty mechanical sewing machine with just the features I need.  It works well enough, though it’s not as nice as my grandmother’s 1960’s Kenmore.  I look forward to doing more with it.
  • I have started building my hardcover library – a library of books I intend to re-read.  I’ve started with C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, unearthing what hardcover editions I already had and buying a gently used hardcover edition of the first book.  I have several to go just in that series, and there are several other things I would like in the collection.
  • The Missouri General Assembly voted to override the Governor’s veto of SB 656.  This makes Missouri the 11th “constitutional carry” state.  When the law goes into effect, concealed carry of firearms will be legal without a permit, with the same restrictions that apply to permit holders (but not quite the same protections).  The law also upgrades Missouri from a “Castle Doctrine” state to a “Stand Your Ground” state.
  • When I was thinking about media’s complete mischaracterization of Stand Your Ground during the Zimmerman trial, I realized that those protesting against the incident were making paradoxical demands.  They wanted Zimmerman to be found guilty of breaking the law, and they also wanted to demonize the law that made the shooting legal (which they erroneously referred to as “Stand Your Ground”).  If there’s a bad law that makes it legal, then how can he be found guilty?
  • Gearing up for cold weather camping, I have come to realize that my understanding of sleeping bag temperature ratings has been flawed.  I buy a 0° sleeping bag, and taking nothing else into consideration I assume I will be comfortable in 0° weather.  When that proves to be untrue, I chalk it up to exaggerated claims.  However, the sleeping bag can only do its part when combined with a good insulating mattress underneath.  A simple air mattress won’t cut it, and that’s what I have always slept on when camping.  I have been daunted by cold weather camping for many years, and it’s because of my early failures camping in cool weather.  Now that I am researching and understanding the whole system together, I am hopeful that I can succeed.
  • I have finished watching the original television series Twin Peaks.  The only thing I expected was that it would be weird, and it certainly was – right down to and especially including the finale.  It was also really corny and campy, mostly in a good way.  The most difficult part of watching it was the extremely slow pace.  David Lynch clearly wanted to portray moods more than a story.  I’m surprised audiences of the time had the patience for it, especially when he got side-tracked.  Ultimately, I guess they didn’t, since it ended after a season-and-a-half.  It started out great, but then devolved into uninspired stories, and the unique style of presentation wasn’t enough to make up for it.  Initially, I had assumed I wasn’t interested in watching the prequel, Fire Walk with Me nor the recent continuation of this series, but now I’m reconsidering.

Percale, Cotton Sheets, and Sleeping Bag Liners

Posted: 26th September 2016 by Cheap in Camping

Do you know the feeling of sleeping in a bed with cool sheets?  I love it, especially in warm weather, and I think I finally understand the formula.

Before I spell it out, I want to describe some of the many traps that have been set out for me.  I used to think it was a matter of thread count.  Thread count is certainly a factor.  A low thread count, like 180 threads per inch, results in bedding that feels coarse.  A higher thread count makes the fabric feel smoother and softer.  However, soft and cool are two different things.  In recent years, manufacturers have come up with numerous products that are very soft, even excessively soft, but which are not cool.  Thread counts of 500, 600, even 1000 per inch.  Sateen weave, which is shinier and lends itself to higher thread counts.  Microfiber.  T-shirt fabric.  All of these things are softer (actually, I have my doubts about t-shirt fabric, which seems simultaneously soft and course), but they are warmer.  While they may be appropriate for cold weather, they are not what I want in warm weather.

The formula is 100% cotton, in a percale weave, with a thread count close to 350 threads per inch.  The ideal cotton is probably extra-long staple pima or Egyptian cotton.

Wamsutta makes a product called Cool Touch for Bed Bath & Beyond, which in my opinion is just perfect.

An additional difficulty when looking for good bed linens is that many products are not labeled with these properties.  Percale is evidently a fairly common weave – so common that it is frequently not mentioned.  Fabric with low thread count frequently doesn’t even list the thread count.

If this is important in my bed, in my air-conditioned house, then how much more important is it when camping?  In a sleeping bag in hot, humid weather?  The lining of sleeping bags come in a variety of fabrics: flannel, soft polyester, slick polyester.  However, none of them feel nice against your skin when it his hot and sweaty.  For years, I have brought along a cotton sheet.  However, they usually end up wadded up to one side.  What I really need is a sleeping bag liner.

Unfortunately, most sleeping bag liners are intended to provide additional warmth.  They are made of soft polyester, or even polyester fleece.  Welcome in the cold, but unwelcome in the heat.  (Sea to Summit makes a liner made of Cool Max material: I’ve bought one, and I have yet to try it, but it is soft polyester.)  A few companies make cotton sleeping bag liners, but not one of them indicates the thread count, let alone the type of weave.  I bought one for camping this summer, and it was very coarse (not to mention that it had velcro tabs, which are very irritating against bare skin).

I finally gave up.  In the end, I bought one of the Wamsutta twin-size flat sheets.  Folding it in half, I stitched up the bottom and most of the side.  With the excess fabric from the bottom, I made a little draw-string bag for it.  I also bought matching pillowcases.  It’s very comfortable.

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Bonneville Salt Flats and Silver Island Mountains

Posted: 25th September 2016 by Cheap in Camping, Travel

The Bonneville Salt Flats are located on the western edge of Utah along I-80.  They are world renowned as the place where land speed records are set, chosen for their natural flatness.  I was looking for a place to camp overnight on my camping road trip during June of this year, and this was a better choice than I expected.  There is no camping allowed on the salt flats, but camping is allowed around the adjacent Silver Island Mountains, which were an unexpected gem.  Of the five places I camped that week, this was the quietest and most peaceful.

My stopping place before sunset

My stopping place before sunset

The road that loops around the mountains is 54 miles.  That didn’t seem like much during my planning, but it is rough gravel and dirt, with numerous wash-outs and rocks, so it was slow going.  I chose a place on the west side of the range, so that the sun wouldn’t wake me too early in the morning.  I set up camp quickly, and then I enjoyed the sunset.

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The view from my tent at sunset

It was another night of nearly full moon, of which I took full advantage.  However, unlike the previous night, there was no wind.  No breeze of any kind, except for occasional and brief moments of the slightest movement of air.  I heard no animals and no insects (though I did discover and subsequently avoid a nest of fire ants).  As it grew dark, I could see but not hear lights from a road and an industrial facility miles away.  Looking at the map now, I realize I was seeing I-80 as it turned northwest in Nevada, and Graymont Pilot Peak Plant, approximately seventeen miles away.  These lights were so distant, they did not spoil my sense of solitude at all.  Yet when I was in a high position, I had a cell and internet signal.

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A view of my camp site from a higher point

I had had great plans of photographing the salt flats.  Perhaps even photographing myself on the salt flats.  However, I discovered that there was an inch of water on the flats.  I’ve learned subsequently that this is a seasonal phenomenon.  Had I come through a couple months later, I’m sure the flats would have been dry as a bone.

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The Bonneville Salt Flats in June

It was still pretty, of course.  However, I wasn’t in the mood to walk through this.  So I got on the road and continued on my trip.

In hindsight, I think a weekend spent here would be just perfect, especially a little later in the season when there isn’t water on the flats.  As a photographer, I would thoroughly enjoy photographing a model out here on the salt flats.

More Things

Posted: 30th August 2016 by Cheap in Fiction, Videography, Writing
  • My reading progress this month has been rather poor.  I was stuck on The Raven Boys for three weeks because it took that long to catch my interest.  Every time I tried to read a little, it made me sleepy, which is never a good sign.  The characters developed slowly, and I guess I don’t identify with them much.  In fact, I had trouble even liking most of them, though I suspect I’m intended to.  Emotionally tormented rich kids might seem romantic to some people, but to me they’re just shitty people.  There seem to be two, perhaps three, main characters.  I reached a point where I could say what each character’s story goal is, but none of them are particularly urgent.  This is the start of a series, and I’m undecided about whether to read the rest.  By the end of the novel, there are several characters I could enjoy seeing in subsequent novels, but if the stories aren’t going to be any more compelling than this, maybe I’ll pass.
  • I managed to meet up with the science-fiction book club, and it was a pleasant discussion.  This was due as much to meeting some new people as it was to the conversation.  The book under discussion was Uprooted, which was quite good.  (It was nominated for the Hugo award this year.)  I look forward to the next meeting, discussing a Hugo award winner I had skipped, The Three-Body Problem.
  • I did not make the latest meeting of the writer’s group.  I had a prior commitment, and after it got rescheduled, I had forgotten about the meeting.  I’m a little disappointed about that.
  • I am also disappointed that I couldn’t make it to WorldCon this year.  It was hosted in Kansas City this year, an easy drive from here.  However, the timing of other things and my finances conspired against me.  Who knows when I’ll get to go.  The next one is in Helsinki.  I’m sorry to see that the naughty puppies were up to their old tricks again this year, but mollified to know that they were even less successful than last year.  If the Sad/Rabid Puppies don’t like the way the Hugo awards have been going, instead of trying to game the nomination/voting process, why don’t they just create their own award?
  • I shot some video with Ami Amore, which will become a belly dance boot camp training video.  I think it went well.  I have some editing ahead of me.
  • Speaking of video, I got some new toys, the most interesting is a Manfrotto MVM450A video monopod.  It doesn’t really look like a monopod, since it has sort of a three-toed foot.  It is a monopod equipped with a fluid tilt head and a fluid pan foot.  It is a run-and-gun solution, most commonly used for weddings.  I acquired it thinking I would be using it for interviews at conventions (but now it turns out finding such gigs will be more difficult than I thought).  I also picked up a Sennheiser MD 46 for the same purpose.

Screenplay Refinement

Posted: 1st August 2016 by Cheap in Uncategorized

I just read what is essentially a scene-by-scene analysis of Star Trek VI.  It was quite interesting to read, because it examines the film in a way that I never have.  This is my favorite Star Trek film, I have watched it many times, and I have long admired it for its economy of story telling.  Every scene has a purpose and keeps the story moving, and that means there is never a dull moment.  However, when I read that analysis, it shows how much painstaking effort went into making each scene as effective as possible.

This makes me think about how to refine a screenplay the same way.  Each scene should be studied, improved, and perfected.  Intensified.  Extraneous stuff should be removed.

 

Things

Posted: 31st July 2016 by Cheap in Fiction, Me, Writing
  • A couple weeks ago, I went to a meet-up of writers in Jefferson County.  It was a small group, and I enjoyed it.  A couple of published authors, and a fairly loose discussion of things we’re working on.  I discussed the space station murder mystery I am planning, and while I didn’t receive a lot of input or advice, I feel a lot more confident about a specific direction I want to take the story.  I may read one or both of the published authors.  I’m looking forward to meeting up with them again.
  • I read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.  I like the author’s writing style.  This is the second book of his that I’ve read, and I frequently read his blog.  His use of language is very readable, but with a frequent flourish of expression.  He also has intelligent things to say and observations to make about people.  However, he is a little weak on plot and suspense.  Old Man’s War is particularly weak on that regard.  It is much like Starship Troopers in that it depicts the fighting force of the future by charting one man’s progression through it.  Creative with the science and technology, but only barely what you could call a story for its lack of a goal.  Still, at least this one wasn’t preachy about political ideology.
  • There is also a science-fiction book club I want to participate in, this one being run by the Kirkwood library.  I just finished reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, the book to be discussed next month.  I definitely enjoyed it.  I’m not sure what to expect from a book club discussion, having never been to one (although I do have some idea after reading Among Others by Jo Walton).
  • Another meet-up group I considered but rejected was a camping group.  The idea of camping with a bunch of strangers just doesn’t appeal to me.  I am simply not that social.  After my camping trip last month, where I camped in solitude some of the time and in noisy campgrounds at other times, I realized that I much preferred the quiet isolation.  I am a loner.  An introvert.  Camping, I realize, is a chance to get away from other people.  I’m sure I would enjoy camping with friends, but I don’t think I want to meet new people that way.
  • Half of the bradford pear tree in my front yard fell during a storm and landed on my mom’s SUV.  And by half, I mean the southwestern half.  It split down the middle, and one side came down.  No rot, nothing unhealthy or dead.  Just weak wood.  This species of tree is notorious for it.  It grows so tall it cannot support its own weight.  If you have a bradford pear tree, plan to have it topped every two or three years, or consider removing it.  Also, in Missouri it has become invasive, cross-pollinating with dogwoods.  Anyway, my mom’s SUV was totaled, but she is having it partially repaired anyway.  It has taken two weekends to get the rest of the tree removed and the whole thing cleared.  Also, there is now zero shade in the front yard, and I am thinking about what kind of tree to have planted to replace it.