Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The next big thing

With the last Harry Potter movie due to be released in just under a month, I've been wondering what that next epic story will be. To my knowledge, no story has encompassed a total of eight feature films. It is a testament to the power of the author's work that it has managed to remain such a commercial success, given the editing that has had to be done to the last novels to make them fit into the cinematic time frame.

It still begs the question, will any movie series ever be so big?

You could argue that the Twilight and Transformers series could fit the bill, but I have a problem with that.

I mentioned that no story has encompassed eight films. Star Trek fans everywhere have probably already figuratively jumped down my throat. I don't think they count, in that the stories (with the notable exceptions of II, III and IV) stand alone. The sequels take the previous movies into consideration, but aren't necessarily part of the same story. The same can be said for Twilight and Transformers.

One large story line, such as Ms. Rowling has produced simply doesn't translate well into film for the most part. The Harry Potter series was fortunate enough to be different, and to really be one story arc, leading to the upcoming conclusion. It will be many years before we see anything similar, in my humble opinion.

If anyone feels differently, what do you believe will be the next big thing?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weakness for cartoons.

I have to admit my guilty pleasure. I am addicted to cartoons. There is nothing I enjoy so much as sitting down and watching some animation with my morning cup of coffee. It's one of my weekend rituals.

Sadly, cartoons aren't up to the standards they once were. Instead of the giggle inspiring shorts that so many of us grew up with, most are now half hour advertisements for toys and games. A lot are produced in Japan or Korea, and the stories don't necessarily translate. The ones that do still seem to "feel" odd.

I think the best example of a "proper" cartoon is still Bugs Bunny. Take one wacky character (or a string of them) and put them into the bizarre situations and wait for the laughs. Who could resist the bumbling antics of that loud mouthed rooster Foghorn Leghorn? Who didn't laugh at the pitiful attempts of Wile E. Coyote to capture and devour the lucky and blissfully uncaring roadrunner?

And just what was it that kept Acme in business all of those years?

Another old favorite was Scooby Doo, in its various incarnations. The newest versions don't have the charm of the old ones, but they are still good. Many a day, a Monkees tune will run through my head, having been one of the pieces used for a chase scene.

There are a couple of good cartoons airing on Teletoon these days. I am actually particularly fond of "G.I. Joe: Renegades". It's more of a serial than a cartoon, with each episode subtly linked to all of the others. Still, they stand well enough alone. The characters are richly filled out, even with all of their little personal mysteries. Seeing those histories brought out as the group melds is part of the charm.

Cartoons are also great educational tools. Just look at the pictures produced during World War II. Private Snafu was funny, making every mistake that a G.I. possibly could, and managing to still get across the messages that the military wanted the soldiers and civilian population alike to see.

A new one, Canadian I might add, is "The Future is Wild". It's the tale of a group of teenagers who are travelling in the distant future on a mission to save mankind from a major ice age. It uses the platform of animation to put across real science, to show what life on earth could evolve into over the span of millions of years. It uses humour to entertain, but the information is solid, or at least as solid as a panel of experts in biology, geology and botany can make it.

I don't think we should ever let ourselves outgrow the wonder that is animation. Imagine how dull and ironically two dimensional life would be without cartoons.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Glue it and Screw it!" Mike Holmes and what he has taught me.

I watch a lot of HGTV (Home and Garden Television). I've learned a lot from the shows on that channel. Most particularly, Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection. It's mostly about using common sense when having work done on your biggest investment.

There are times when even I can look at the houses that Mike Holmes goes through and see the defects. I would never dream to call myself an inspector, but I think I've learned the key areas to look, what to look for, and who I should turn to for those systems of a house that really need an expert opinion. Education is a wonderful thing, and that's what DIY shows are all about. The only down side is that you can get a little cynical about contractors and home inspectors.

I think the fundamental thing I've learned is that if you are going to do anything, take your time and do it right. The consequences are just too great. All too often we go into things for the sake of appearances, without looking at the base. Like floors. If you don't glue and screw down the sub floor correctly, it's going to shift on you. Then that lovely hardwood or tile is gonna be destroyed. Make the structure right, and the finish will stay nice.

Another key lesson is to pay attention to maintenance. This means, if you don't pay attention, things will get forgotten and will deteriorate. Sometimes faster than you think. When you make the big investments, you had better be ready to look after it. One small thing will lead to a mess that you just might not be able to clean up.

Most importantly is that if you plan to go into a trade, don't bother learning the tricks of the trade. LEARN THE TRADE!!! Shortcuts are for people who don't care about their work. If you would not be willing to sign your name on something and have it paraded about, don't do it. Be ready to learn new things that will make your job easier, but don't look for a quick and dirty way to do the least work and give the poorest result.

These are the things that Mike Holmes and his crew have taught me.

Another time, maybe I'll go into what Brian Baumler taught me in his work on Disaster DIY.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Plugging "The King's Speech"

It's not often that I feel a movie is so great that I need to blog about it. This is one of those exceptions.

"The King's Speech" won Best Movie at the Oscars for good reason. It is a remarkable story of a man working to overcome a serious speech impediment. (For those of you who have not seen the film.) Not the least important thing about the story is that it portrays a royal as a man, a man with the same problems as those who were not born to privilege.

What I find most fascinating is that the therapist who helps the Duke of York and future King to overcome his stammer has made the connection between past experience of a person with speech problems and the stammer. In the early part of the 20th century, it was so common to put a speech impediment down to a lack of intelligence. Lionel Logue also noted the connection between speech and being forced to use the right hand when one is left handed.

Being left handed myself, I can understand the kind of problems this would cause.

It took a man with no formal training or credentials to help King George VI to make the speeches that saw a nation through its most desperate years. It was necessary for England to feel that the man who lead them was competent, forceful and intelligent. In those days, those traits were best demonstrated en masse by radio and news reels. It staggers the imagination to imagine how the world would look if England had fallen to a lack of confidence.

If you have not already seen this movie, do make the effort. The story is told through a series of touching moments and burst of comedy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A man of inconsistency, that's me.

My niece has been kind enough to point out that I have not blogged in quite some time. She used to follow my rantings pretty consistently. It doesn't matter how silly, obscure or incomprehensible the topic, she liked to read whatever spilled onto the screen.

Lately, I just haven't been up to writing much. There has been a lot of personal stuff going on, and it's not something I care to put out there for general consumption.

Unfortunately, my blog is not the only place I have failed to write lately. I have stories languishing on It really isn't fair, as it has been marked as a favorite of readers, even in my writing absence. Besides which, I have left the characters in the middle of their conflict. This isn't fair to them either. Sure, they aren't "real" people, but I've always felt a certain responsibility for them, since I've been allowed to play in the Disney company's sandbox of story ideas.

Perhaps that inconsistency is one of my greatest flaws. I have the bad habit of letting stuff going on take me away from projects. Even such projects that have given me a lot of pleasure. My niece has suggested that getting back to some of those projects and hobbies might just break me out of the funk I've been living in lately.

Well, at least here, I can do a little bit of ruminating, without having to worry about how it will affect what I will write later. A little less structure, a little more outlet.

Here's hoping I can get back to my mental roaming here, now that it has been brought back to my attention.

Bear with me.