Wednesday, June 29, 2011

101 Things I've Learned: Small Shiny Round Objects

You are running for your life. In a field, in a corridor, through a forest, underground, wherever you are, there is something behind you that wants you dead. Suddenly a small round ball comes rolling around the corner and stops at your feet. You stare at it perplexed... and it explodes in your face.

A friend posted the following video on his tumblr blog. He said it was awesome, and awesome it is, but I one thing stuck out to me in spite of all previous awesomeness, and all awesomeness yet to come. It was a round shiny thing.

A round shiny thing that rolled out in front of the bad guys. These are tough guys, sent to capture one of the most dangerous public enemies on the loose. They can handle anything, even if it does take a dozen of them to corner one man. Then this little ball rolls out, and they freeze. Does it exercise some kind of mind control before detonating?

If it's small, if it's round, if it emits a sort of whining noise, if it came out of nowhere, if you don't know where it came from, if someone threw it at you, I have just one piece of advice.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Doctor Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog

This will be my first review, as per the request of a friend of mine who keeps hearing about it. The first time I mentioned Dr. Horrible was in my post Tragedy, Comedy, Dramedy, where I compared Doctor Horrible and Doctor who while analyzing the potential for tragedy in fiction. Comparing is one thing, actually reviewing is something else.

My first encounter with Doctor Horrible was another friends status message: "Doctor Horrible is taking over the internet!" I watched the video she linked to (go on, watch it) and instantly had to know more.

What I found was a musical, science fiction-steampunk short, made for Internet on a shoe-string budget during a writer's strike. If that isn't awesome enough, the movie was also brilliant.

Plot: During the first five minutes of the film we learn several important things. Dr. Horrible is a villain. He's also very bad at being villainous. He has a serious crush on a girl named Penny who he sees every week at the laundromat, and his nemesis is a hero called Captain Hammer. Dr. Horrible's goal is to get admitted to the Evil League of Evil but his admission heist is thwarted by Captain Hammer, inadvertently causing him to meet Penny.

Theme: What differentiates a hero and a villain? Doctor Horrible is a villain by one set of standards. He's a mad inventor who plans to take over the world, has an almost Scrooge like view of the human race, and has the thoroughbred of Sin as his role model. Captain Hammer is always saving the world whenever Doctor Horrible makes an attempt against it, and that automatically puts him in the class of hero. But apart from that Horrible has all the traits we admire in a protagonist. When he's not a villain he's an ordinary guy with friends. He's in love with Penny, but he's very respectful of her. He wants to give her the world and let her rule beside him. He abhores killing, and talks about solving humanities problems by taking out the government rather then simply dealing with symptoms. By contrast Captain Hammer has no morals, is a lustful, wanton man who isn't against hurting other people just to get back at Horrible. While there will always be some who think he's "cool" for that type of behavior the majority hate him for it, siding with the so-called villain.

Music: The music is absolutely incredible. The songs are pretty short, but then so is the entire film. (Only 45 minutes.) Doctor Horrible sings of death and despair in duet with Penny who's life and songs are filled with hope and compassion. Captain Hammer is self-serving and arrogant. The counterpoint is perfectly arranged, and the music and lyrics match moods in a way few musicals acheive. The music is absolutely one of my favorite parts about this film.

Will I let my little brother watch it? A lot of reviewers don't rate content issues, and I know of a few who seem to only rate content. There's nothing that makes me more annoyed then to sit down to watch a movie with my siblings and discover that I should have watched it by myself first. I wouldn't let my siblings watch this one for the simple reason that Captain Hammer, the so-called hero, repeatedly makes vulgar jokes about Penny to enrage Horrible. They're very effective at making us hate the character, but not exactly the kind of vocabulary you want young kids picking up. It's surprisingly clean otherwise; no violence, and not a lot of swearing that I can even remember.

Friday, June 24, 2011

101 Things I've learned: Introduction

This is the beginning of a new series I'm writing called 101 Things I've Learned from Movies, Books, and Television (in no particular order), also known as Common Mistakes Made by Villains, Monsters, and Main Characters.

I've put off making this list for a very long time because I wanted to number all these things in some kind of logical form of importance. But to do that I must make the list first, and I really want to just start listing them, so I'll start wherever I feel like and continue in a random fashion and number them in no particular order.

So why 101 things? Because it's a catchy number, and when I've finally come up with that many I can just start over with 101 More Things I've Learned, at which point I can take the first 101 things and publish a book. When I've filled up that quota I can publish another book and start over again, and so on and so forth.

Thus begins my endeavor to list all the things I will never do because I've seen too many fictional characters do them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


It was recently suggested to me that I should post reviews on this blog. My first thought was "Why on earth would I do that?" but almost immediately afterwards I thought, "Well why not?"

I never read reviews. Well, I almost never read reviews. Well, I never read reviews for things I haven't seen. Or I try not to. Sometimes I don't succeed. The reason why is thusly: I see a new movie coming out. I don't care. I won't even remember the title, unless it gets mentioned to me multiple times. But if I let myself read a review... or two... or listen to friends talking about it, or get sucked into a discussion, I get curious. "Is it really as good as they say? Could it possibly be that lame? And what's it really about?" Before I know it... I'm watching a movie I never had any, any interest in the world in seeing!

But, that's the point of reviews, isn't it? So the question I have to ask is: do reviews meet the vision and purpose of the Idea Factory? The answer is yes. Many Ideas come from movies and films, both good and bad ones. Not everyone can watch everything, so there needs to be some guide of what to watch. Reviews help provide this, and spread awareness about worthwhile ones. On top of that it gives me a chance to carry on about what I love and hate in what I read and write, and everyone always wants to do that.

And that is why I'm going to start writing Reviews. (With a capital R. Because everything important is capitalized in the world of Ideas.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Musical Typing (Part Two)

One can only think about letters on a piano so long without eventually reversing the process and wondering about notes on a keyboard. After all, what did I establish first on a piano keyboard? There weren't enough keys to do an efficient layout of all the special symbols. There are 88 keys on an ordinary piano. There are 26 letters on a keyboard plus 30 symbols and numbers. That's 56 keys not counting the special ones. Digital pianos are made with as few as 61.

It's also possible one could be much, much faster on a keyboard than on a piano, since your hands don't have to move up and down the scale. The biggest difference between the two is that a keyboard only gets one letter typed a a time, and on a piano you can play as many as ten notes simultaneously! In other words, playing music on a keyboard has the opposite problem of typing on a piano.

The possibilities are endless, but the implementation eludes me. The number pad and special keys would make a good bass section. You could hold them down while playing the letters at a breakneck speed, but that would require three hands. However, the benefit of a keyboard layout is the speed at which you can type. So what if you simply composed special music that was meant to be played on such a keyboard? Notes that come so fast you don't notice the fact they only come one at a time. What if you could play music as fast as this?

Or not, that's a little too fast for all those notes and they just kind of start to blur into a loud noise, but if there were less notes? Brilliant!

The easiest way to come up with a simple tonal keyboard layout would be to reverse the process of putting letters on a piano. I'd do something like this:

This gives us a total of four and a half octaves, without using the numbers or F1-12. To get half steps one would use the shift key, just like to get capitals. So if a is middle C then A is C#, and so on up the scale. It would make playing in different keys a pain, but who needs to? Just set your music making program to automatically update the tones. Of course, the music making program is the big missing factor in all of this...

But no matter! I'm sure someone will figure it out. And when you do, let me know, so I can hear the wonderful sound of music following my fingers rapid typing. Imagine how cool that would be, if you used the keyboard to type with but wrote music as you went along. Mixing up keyboards may not be practical, but it sure is fun!