Major breakthrough as a writer: So I have finished something after all

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Major breakthrough as a writer: I just found in my basement one of my old “books” I started writing as a child, and on looking inside I found: I actually finished it!

It’s roughly from 1989, a Choose Your Own Adventure type of book. (I discovered them around 1987 or 1988, my beginnings of roleplaying so to speak, and we read them a lot back then, and I started a few myself). It has 98 passages. It is called “Eye”, and it is apparently part one of the “Eye” series. On the front, we have a beautiful naive art piece, showing a bloodshot eye, and the big letters EYE, colored yellow, red and blue, of course. It is a half-sized issue, for the traveller’s convenience.

Two bites are missing from the front cover, due to its simple paper cover (bad choice by the publisher). And it’s positively yellowed. Look, I made something which yellowed!

There are several colored drawings inside, mainly showing monsters and allies (yes, you could add a number of characters to your party, for example Willy the Snake! He has a Strength of 5 and a red collar.)

The last 2 pages contain advertising for the next installment of the EYE-series: Dragon Mouth! And a beautifully drawn map of the colorful fantasy world I have shat out there.

Content wise, well it’s hard to decypher the young author’s pencil smearage, but I will post the first paragraph. You will find, we have a true gem here and Eragon has nothing on me.

After we have chosen one of 3 characters (Mauro the Ninja, Argon the Goblin or Shembly the Elf, all three with colored drawings), we start like this:

1) City of Kurana
Your party is at the town square of Kurana. The market is busy. You discover a food shop, a weapon shop and a guidance building. North, there is the city gate.
Food Shop -> 10
Weapon Shop -> 11
Slave Market -> 13
Guidance Building ->2
Leave -> 12

Sorry that I have to leave you hanging like this when it’s so exciting, but I gotta go. Me, writer for decades! *strut strut*

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Hunting for a laptop

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Dear customers, luxury has not suddenly rained upon me, I am just buying my first laptop ever, because an old machine we need for office work has broken down half a year ago. So you do not need to lower my already feeble prices. 😉

And I thought I found the one I wanted, and after 10 days of waiting I get the mail “no longer available, we will refund your money”. Suckers!

So, after years of research, I bought this one from Amazon: Acer Aspire TimelineX 5820TG

Core i5 processor, ATI HD 5650 card, can play Bad Company 2 at high settings fluently. 750 GB hard disk, that’s OK! No apparent flaws that concern me. Happy!

It took me ages to find one without apparent drawbacks, so don’t ruin this moment for me and tell me it’s shit! 😉

Seen: Eragon ★★★★✰

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Eragon is a book written by a 15 year-old boy. OK, that is romantic and gets my instant standing ovation. Hell what did I do when I was that age?? Ah yes I remember. Girls.

Let’s get past the title. I have three theories.

1) In the dictionary under Dragon he found Dragon Herb, which is Tarragon in English, and Estragon in German or French. =>Eragon?

2) Or he just slipped on his keyboard when typing Dragon.

3) Or he tried to transcribe the name “Aragorn” from his Lord of the Rings tape and got it a bit wrong.

So coming from D&D2, and with the expectations I had, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a well and careful produced, fat, somewhat straight and cheesy fantasy flik for teens. And it’s awesome! I had goose bumps despite myself about 4 times, that is magic.

Bright visuals, convincing effects, great sound, well-produced classic fantasy soundtrack… There really made an effort here. IMDB says 100 million budget, well spent!

Critical reception quite awful, again: If you expect a new and convincing twist on the genre, forget it. The book got the same mixed reception, it’s written by a boy for god’s sake. AND I don’t care if the movie totally rapes the book, too long didn’t read… YES I admit I usually HATE that, and if I had KNOWN the book beforehand I would certainly have hated the movie. Damn. 🙂

If you do not know the book and expect a totally stupid trash teen movie, you will be surprised. As a “cinematic piece of art” it is too shallow, too straight, but perfectly polished, no wonder with Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, but does that deserve 5 of 10 (IMDB)? Amazon 2 stars? Audience expectations, ah my pet subject…

Out of protest I give 4 of 5. And I regret almost nothing.

By the way, I have recently talked about Dungeons & Dragons 1. This one also stars Jeremy Irons, but suddenly unsucky. He is of course another generic character here, Obiwan-esque, but he felt real to me.

Music: Very well done by Patrick Doyle. Not “masterpiece” to me, but it would be with 2 or 3 killer themes, like e.g. “Prince Caspian”, “Dragonheart”, “Braveheart” etc. Still, a lot of feeling for what is needed for each situation, for a LIGHT family fantasy setting. I can learn A LOT from that (except the credits pop, brrrr).

Sound: Wow, everything is big and bright. The dragon sounds are absolut top. No wonder that this movie is #1 movie yet where dragons play a major role. Only exception: The battles. Thin, empty, flat. Almost no battle ambience. Possibly a design choice, only in CUT TO: moments do we hear awesome swordplay. Otherwise it sounds like you are searching for your fav fork in your kitchen drawer. Checking out the commentary later to see that.

16 Sound guys, including 1 for just the dragon’s voice.

Seen: “Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God” ★★✰✰✰

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Who in their right mind would have thought that I’d watch a D&D flick again after that first one. I actually watched D&D at a press screening, because I was working for Mattel Interactive, then publisher of Pool of Radiance – Ruins of Myth Drannor. I can highly recommend press screening, free tickets, free popcorn, empty cinema, and months before anyone else gets to see the movie.

In the case of D&D, it was horrible. If anything is an indicator for suck, it is the reverberatingly loud slap of my friend Martin’s hand hitting his face in writer’s pain.

I was also asked to be the movie company’s roleplaying advisor, but I couldn’t say yes after I saw the film.

BUT as I now feed on fantasy for our upcoming “Dungeons” game, to get in the right mood, I also put D&D 2 on my Lovefilm flat rate list.

Well, it’s better as a movie. In D&D1 we had more classic low-level situations, but that plot and villain were just awful. This time dungeons can be entered in groups, not only alone. What I think is interesting is that the movie was even more of a flop than #1. According to IMDB, D&D1 grossed half of its 30 million budget, and D&D2, with half that budget, didn’t reach a million. AND there are more D&D movies after it.

They have succeeded in cutting out the moments of total failure this time, but what is left is just plain straight generic fantasy. I don’t think there was any scene which made me hot for roleplaying, IT Crowd Season 4 Episode 1 does a 4 times better job, and that’s comedy, but done by somebody who actually knows good roleplaying!

It’s super rare that a movie gets made about a roleplaying game. So why oh why does no one try to capture the spirit and magic of a good roleplaying group? I honestly believe, they check out 1 group of novice players and think “I got it”. Then they head off to write a simple, childish script of basic D&D spirit: Everyone is an archetype, but not in a good way. In a “I am a random generated two dimensional piece of paper” way.

Everything anybody says is soulless and efficient. Every 2nd line is exposition. “I can do that because I have that skill!” “That happened because that magic does this…” BLA. JUST LIKE the programs in TRON. Programmed to be a fantasy character class. “See! I am a rogue! I disarm traps! Look there is a trap! I just disarmed a trap!”

The villain is 100% evil here, and he talks to himself in an evil way, slow and menacing, all the time. I like the main character, though, he has at least something happening under that shell (He feels he doesn’t have it anymore but then rises to the chance). And I liked the female elf, she was looking just right and hot. The other female characters look like they have just walked in from an episode of Baywatch.

There is no real character growth. The only thing they have learned is “damn we forgot about another way to kill the final boss”. Then the end just comes, hops of a cliff and dies.

It’s nowhere as BADD as the end of D&D1, where suddenly all characters meet on top of a tower, like at the end of a school play. But it doesn’t mean anything. At least to me.

Let’s look at it like this: Comic book movies have grown, movies like “Dark Knight” are for adults, serious, deep. D&D2 is clearly for children, who are happy about flat black and white cardboard characters, and very basic D&D sessions. IMAGINE that the movies had not learned more about comic books after the Batman series with Adam West.

I know, maybe I want too much out of it. I am obviously hardcore, having 100 roleplaying books in my basement. I just KNOW that there is so much untapped magic in a well-done roleplaying session. I mean, the best groups I was in hardly used dice at all. There were wild characters, with a lot of depth, a lot of spontaneous dialogue, fear, sadness, anger, excitement, great and breathtaking plots.

Too long, didn’t read. Music hmm well, sound guys: 12. Average I think.

Freelancing: I suck. Will suck less soon.

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MAN I seem to suck a lot these days.

On one hand, yes, things are looking good actually. Reviews are coming in for A New Beginning, with scores from 84% all the way to 90%, with a lot of praise for our audio. Will go to 5 cities this month.

On the other hand, though, I fell down the stairs on Saturday, hurting my left arm. I still can’t do much with it, typing maybe. I certainly can’t carry much or lean on it. How stupid.

AND THEN, I had a big and important telephone appointment Monday 2pm. I didn’t forget it. I talked about it even while the time was passing by, because I didn’t realise it is already Monday. “Next Monday” was still in the future in my muddy brain. Working 7 days a week from home totally fucks up your inner calendar.

That’s why I bought 2 new whiteboards for my wall, one with weekdays for planning the weeks ahead. I did it before failing that important date, at least.

Now I got a call, I missed another, not so important date on Monday, too.

The problem is, I am a linear guy. When I create music, I don’t realise the passage of time. When I am organizing, I can’t think about music. When I am creative, I forget all about organization. That’s why my office is always chaotic.

I am taking active steps to fix all that, NOW.

  • Every date goes to my Iphone and gets 2 warnings (anyone know if we can set warnings as default? My old cellphone did that and it saved my butt a lot of times).
  • My new whiteboard will be filled every day.
  • Will note to check my calendar every morning.
  • Will not forget about checking those special client inboxes I rarely look at, who knows, something important might happen, and that Outlook calendar one of my clients supplies to me.
  • Man, missing that appointment really brought back the meaning of the word SHAME to me. Do you know the feeling? Like, when you fall asleep without warning and miss something important? This helpless anger, hating yourself but at the same time somehow feeling “but I am innocent”? Yuck.

    As usual, I will twist this into something meaningful and helpful for the future. I will stick to my newfound resolutions and remember that stupid moment as a scarecrow.

    It is absurd, those things take a minute each. I just have to train my brain. Even if I am deep in producing a new soundtrack, I need to take time to check if my recording 10 hours straight collides with an important appointment. Or at least, which day it currently is.

    I have some other new ideas about organizing myself as a fulltime independent freelancer, and I fear you will see some posts about that in the future.

    Seen: “The Ninth Gate” ★★★✰✰

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    I am testing Maxdome now, while I wait for my new Lovefilm DVDs. Mighty suspicous, complex fine print, automatic contract extension and shite.

    BUT I get to choose from 500 old movies for free, streaming, so let’s do that, so that I have something to do while my computer is loading something or so.

    Still not sure if I can stand German synchronisation for good. I know, I know, part of my job, but still – the voice actors are all cool, but some of the accents hurt me, and they often sound like they do a vacuum cleaner TV ad, “HellO! It is ME! I am calling YOU on the phone, with my normal very natural sounding voice! And now, the News!” In German of course, duh.

    And, streaming… I want DVD features. Subtitles? Menu? Sniff?

    The Ninth Gate is old, but I haven’t seen it before so… I like the diabolical theme, but somehow I miss any depth to it. I don’t believe there is meaning beyond what happens on screen. I cannot sense any inner motivation, the protagonist seems likeable but not really personally involved to me.

    Re the music, it’s composed by Wojciech Kilar (had to copy paste that hehe), composer of Coppola’s Dracula apparently. And I thought this score reminded me of Dracula at times, I don’t suck so much do I? The main theme and those dark themes around it I liked really much, especially as they were performed by one of my favorite orchestras, the City of Prague Philharmonic. But, if the main theme sounds like a mix between Dracula and Interview with a Vampire plus two buckets of goat blood, the theme for the hero sounds like a satanic clown. Funny short plucks and trumpet … Sounds very out of place to me. And not only to me, quoth Google.

    Sound: Ok this is 1999, and I count only 6 sound guys. That’s definite bottom of my short list of movie bloggage. Wow. Quality-wise, I was parts happy parts not so. Some parts are clearly disconnected, and very often, foley is too loud. The protagonist’s bag sometimes sounds like a bell of doom as he walks away from the camera. My opinion. And who am I to judge?

    Seen: 300 ★★✮✰✰

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    OK, another step in my fantasy-related movie streak.

    I don’t know. A primitive, masculine piece. Simple plot, a lot of fighting, a few interesting aesthetic choices.. A few very good scenes. A lot of short one liners of mixed impact.

    Now to the music, HOLY SHIT I stepped into something. Tyler Bates is the composer. I try not to look that up beforehand, and then I try to recognize the composer. And I did! After 4 minutes, I hear a almost perfect copy of Titus by Elliot Goldenthal. I was confused, is this a … traditional I didn’t know about? So after some research I found out that we have here one of the most blatant cases of plagiarisms of the soundtrack scene! I mean, he copied most of the melody of the first 50 bars or so, and the complete rhythm section of Titus!

    Apparently, Bates went shopping at a few other soundtracks, too, without permission! This went so far, that the production company issued this awesome statement:

    “… a number of the music cues for the score of 300 were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture Titus. Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter”

    And they added this cool Asterix behind the composer’s name on poster and DVD credits: *Derived in Part from Preexisting Compositions Not Authored by Tyler Bates.

    This really spoiled a large part of the movie for me. Still, it has a very notable different mode, tone and look. But I wouldn’t watch it again, wouldn’t know why. 2 1/2 Stars, because a few key scenes towards the 2nd half were really nice I thought. A 2 stars movie wouldn’t have any redeeming qualities I guess. I took away at least half a star for that music controversy.

    Sound: I count 16 guys working on sound. There are a lot of events without sound, and the individual battle sounds are actually quite similar… Hmm.