Odds and ends

Just a wee bit more of keeping my hand in here at the blog. There isn’t a lot of time and energy to write, and my “day job” of transcription is both necessary and very energy and time consuming. But I make little efforts here and there to keep plugging away at the writing.

SEO stuff and other writing

You can only try to write something so hard and for so long; if it doesn’t come, walk away. I did that with the old SEO articles: am just burned out on those. Went into Helium tonight, did some rating (I have 1 star!) and selected two new topics in the contests section to try out. Then I used Google Adwords keyword tool for SEO help. Made some progress and selected keywords. Tomorrow night after work will work on content.

There is a new outline for the dinosaurs article. That came out of this weekend, when there was much more time (on purpose–I took a 2-day weekend).

Snap judgments

You lose something when you decide against doing something, but with so much information and entertainment out there, it is necessary to be selective. The local library was giving away books, and besides the most excellent Blue Latitudes, I picked up Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, but have decided not to read it, even though it won a Pulitzer Prize and was referenced by Horwitz in Blue Latitudes. My basis for this, wrong or right, was the index check I did after reading the first sentence of the preface: “This book attempts to provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years.” That’s very easy to confirm: I looked in the index for references to Genghis Khan: nothing. “Mongol Empire” was mentioned once, and only in terms of its expanse in comparison to that of Mesoamerica.

That’s not good, if only considering what they did to the once-great city of Baghdad, and its library…and there is much, much more than that to the amazing story of G. Khan and the Mongols of his day. This led me to do a double-check of the author’s credentials per the book cover: he is a physiology professor and therefore writing outside his area of expertise.

Set it aside, unread. My loss, and yet my gain, too, in terms of useful time.

Another snap judgment involved the 2010 movie, Monsters. As mentioned in an earlier post, it intrigued me that the trailer looks so scary, and yet the parent’s advisory section at its IMDb page is so mellow:

It’s available at Amazon Video On Demand, for a slightly higher rental price than most movies (which is an interesting and good option for independent movies that couldn’t afford widespread releases), but I read a few reviews that indicated it might have a “we are the monsters” sort of ending. As well, a description of one of the main characters in a review was given as “Photographer Andrew (Scoot McNairy), who admits he can get $50,000 for a picture of a dead child and nothing for a live, smiling one….”

I’m immediately prejudiced against the character, having lived long enough to know that photographs of living, smiling children, especially in harsh circumstances, are a staple of really good photographers worldwide, while images of the dead, and especially of dead children may occasionally win awards, but also are very off-putting for most people to look at.

Also, if that is true–what is said of the ending–it doesn’t interest me: we seek monster stories to learn what is good about humanity and why it is worth saving. It doesn’t have to end on an over-the-top note, as did War of the Worlds in 1953 (although that is still very enjoyable for to watch today, even though I’m a Buddhist), and doesn’t even have to end happily, as long as it ends lovingly.

So I pass on Monsters, at least for now.

Good stuff

In line with the idea of not ending on a negative note, I’ll mention a pleasant surprise in a movie recently (an old movie, of course): the Donner cut of Superman II. It is very watchable, has good continuity, and the introduction by Richard Donner (rented it from Netflix, but it is probably on all DVD versions of the movie) is heartwarming.

It has been so long since I saw the theatrical release, I can’t easily compare the two, except to say that I never watched another Superman movie after that version of Superman II. This one I’m holding off on returning, so I can watch it again. Nothing can exactly match the sweetness (do they take you out and shoot you for using that word seriously in a movie review these days?) of the first C. Reeves Superman movie, but this Donner cut follows through on it and feels to be made of the same cloth (as indeed it is, as they were both shot at the same time). It also provides an intelligible framework for the whole Superman-must-lose-his-powers scene, which drove me away from the first released version.

There is only one “practice” scene that I spotted, and its informal feel (Margot Kidder is on camera, and many of Reeves’ lines as Clark Kent he just delivers from off camera, although he is in costume and walks in front of the camera a few times, too) actually works well in that particular part of the story, which also happens to be pivotal for the whole story line.

Superman zooms around the world and reverses time again in this one, for another reason than in the first Superman movie (and not just so Lois will forget his true identity, although that’s part of it, too); and this time we see it from the POV of people on the ground. It’s pretty interesting, actually. Yes, the whole idea is silly, but it is a noble silliness, and totally, outrageously, 90 degrees from the story’s reality silly, which is exactly as it should be in a proper fantasy story. All good stories have such a thing: it is an unreasonable thing put in there just to require your belief. It works, in these two Superman movies, just as it works in many time-tested fairy-stories.

The Donner cut of Superman II is well worth hunting down and watching, if you haven’t seen it yet.

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