I’m a great proponent of the internet as a tool for delivering easy to digest learning materials, and yes, YouTube is awash with exactly the kind of tools I’m talking about.
Movies especially have an abundance of video essayists who talk at length about films and the film industry, taking wildly different approaches to the art form. Nerdwriter is a current favourite, whose short discussions that may dissect a single scene in a film, deeply explore a particular technique, or occasionally delve into a different topic. Lindsay Ellis does extensive studies that delve deep into the industry, historical relevance of certain creative choices, or shed light on some behind the scenes processes you might not have heard about before. The Closer Look, Every Frame a Painting, Lessons from the Screenplay, there are many of incredible students of film out to share their thoughts and insights.
For academia in general, Kurzgesagt, CGP Gray, some of the extra vlogbrothers content like SciShow; for literature Tale Foundry, and to an extent Terrible Writing Advice; for tabletop RP, Monarchs Factory, Matt Colville; these are the talking heads, the voices of people who have learned enough to want to share and impart what wisdom they can. Though most of it is heavily slanted by the perspective of the author/essayist/YouTuber in question, most strive for an objective approach and back their opinions with research or extensive experience.
I have been spending vast portions of every day studying the talking-head genre, because some time before the end of this month I’m hoping to put my own videos out there. Not something you’d think I’d consider too difficult, I’ve written 500-2000 word articles twice a week, almost every week, plus Top 10 entries, and most of those have been released on time (here, the author coughs by way of acknowledgement that this does not include today’s piece). I also like talking, especially to an audience, be it a half dozen gamers sat at a table, or a hundred or so gamers who are fool enough to want to listen to my opinions.
So where’s the hang-up?
First of all, a moment of gaming the algorithms on YouTube, what I need to produce has to last for ten minutes. After some experimentation playing around with an autocue generator, I’m estimating a minimum of 2000 words, and I – unfortunately – have a tendency to write concisely, too concisely. So it has been a lesson in padding and drawing out subjects without making it dull listening. This also presumes a script, which I’ll come to momentarily.
Second… talking to a microphone is a world apart from talking to an audience. I invested in a moderate quality microphone, poor audio quality is a killer for videos like this and frankly my webcam was proving inadequate. But here this thing sits… glaring at me, unresponsive. As someone who – by necessity – feeds off the reactions of the audience to inform the content, a microphone is a maddeningly passive audience.
Do I improvise, or do I script in full? I know there are plenty of talking-heads who do one, the other, or both. In my early attempts I tried to strike a balance, writing my script as if it were a D&D game plan, a few notes on talking points, a rough idea what I want to talk about and when, enough to structure without being restrictive, but I learned afterwards that I have a maddening idiosyncrasy that makes editing that style of essay impossible: when I’m thinking, I draw out syllables so that the space in between is almost non-existent. So effort two reads straight from a script, and, while better, I find I stumble over the words that I have written. I entered into the idea thinking it would be the perfect for someone who enjoys talking as much as I do, and here I find I’m learning to talk all over again.
When I put down my keyboard I’ll be trying again, and again, to get this right, possibly trying a few other approaches. I write purely to vent, this is a topic on which there are a thousand answers, none of which right for everyone, it falls within the category of “practice making perfect” and “finding what is right for you”.
I’ll be back when I have a right answer.
A quick soapbox moment, August has been a busy month and what little bit of time I have had for myself should not be spent watching mediocre films.
So that Netflix had something to suggest when people looked for A Quiet Place, they produced The Silence. The shameless similarities are well documented, it’s practically an Asylum film*, a piggyback on the popularity of a blockbuster to parasitically gain a sliver of notoriety, so I won’t go too deeply into the similarities, but here’s the brief synopsis:
The world has become overrun with monsters that have some hypersensitivity to sound, and they hunt and kill anything that makes a lot of it, they appear to be blind, so anyone capable of living in silence has a chance to survive. One member of the family we follow is deaf, so sign language becomes an essential part of day to day life, and little mistakes cause death, plain and simple. One film is most definitely better than the other, and I won’t start on why, but The Silence raised one hell of a bugbear for me.
So many films are simply bad at designing monsters, and in many cases it’s because drama defies logic. I remember years ago hearing someone remark that dinosaurs would never have roared at random during a hunt because it’s simply bad stealth, announcing your intent to kill someone is the business of certain serial killers who enjoy the fear and dominance of predation, not something that depends on killing to eat. That’s shoddy dinosaur behaviour, but it’s only a narrow leap of logic away from the truth; The Silence’s subterranean bats on the other hand, require some tremendous feats of thought.
Creatures wholly dependant on sound and echolocation make only sounds that support their hunting efforts, and they are adapted to make sounds at a pitch and frequency that make echolocation incredibly effective. We – humans – understand very little about our surroundings by screaming at them. For a start echolocation requires short sounds that are over by the time the echoes return to us, rather than a drawn out howl that drown out the feedback. Of those humans that have mastered echolocation as best as a human can, they make small clicks and pulses, incredibly quiet, but shockingly effective.
The creatures in The Silence shriek, and they shriek constantly. When they move they make a loud fluttering, they scream at each other, they attack anything in the way with a loud clattering sound. These are not echolocation sounds, these are not hunting sounds, these are horror film sounds, and the dimmest understanding of the logic is enough to make such monsters unwatchable and boring no matter how good an actor Stanley Tucci is. A prime example: in an early film moment when the bat-things are attacking a car, and somehow one of them hears activity nearby that the others don’t, and hears it over the sounds of senseless screeching and battering.
And yet later on loud noises are enough to drive them insane?
Let us also briefly touch upon the notion of horror movie predators that delight in leaving corpses for people to find, still with plenty of edible flesh on them. For a creature that appears to have survived centuries below ground, that’s some profoundly wasteful eating habits for a creature that requires a vast amount of calories to both fly and keep screaming like that.
Anyway, rant over. Feel free to discuss other examples of illogical creature design with me, this particular irritation doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, not as long as we continue to sacrifice the basics of logic in the name of a good story. A plot hole or two is fine, but I will not climb down into that particular crater.
*Actually the screenwriter, Shane Van Dyke, has worked on Asylum mockbusters before! There’s interesting. Dude does not understand how deafness works.
2018 has been home to some of the best and worst things we’ve seen in a while, which isn’t surprising – That happens every year. So, last week during our usual Top 10 slot, you chose for us to write about the Top 10 Worst of 2018. So buckle up, we’re focusing on the best and worst of anything geeky, from films, video games and even the internet itself gets a stern looking at.
Here’s a positive message on which to end a bad year*. Stop striving for perfection! (more…)
At this time of gifting for a substantial proportion of the planet, we find ourselves in an increasingly odd situation. Common retail is dying, shops are closing, and town centres are lined with shutters that are slowly rusting in place. We order online more and more, and that shift is changing the nature of media too. As DVD surplanted VHS, we thought Bluray would do the same to DVD in turn, but it appears ever more evident that digital distribution will prove the dominant format. One cannot cover Netflix in colourful paper… one could, but there may be conflicts with Netflix employees.
Is it at all possible that the days of presents gathered at the foot of a fir tree (or plastic facsimile thereof) are slowly dying? Can we no longer open a card in hope of a voucher or cash, but instead watch our inboxes with baited breath? Will Santa one day arrive in a red jacket bearing the names of every delivery company, and if so can we expect a note down the chimney telling us Christmas can be collected from the depot?
The times, they are a-changing, and Christmas too must change, as it changes its name, and once again grows to swallow all other cultures, the holiday undying, as old as the changing of seasons and the rebirth of the sun.
But if you still yearn for the look on someone’s face as they pull your meticulously crafted wrapping aside (or haphazardly taped up bundle) to reveal the thoughtful tokens within, all may not be lost. Long term readers may recall that we proffered a few suggestions last year for things to obtain for your geekier loved ones, but there are other things you can make, do, and buy.
It has been remarked that we crave experiences more than physical items, so taking someone – for example – to see a live stage show, or to theme parks or other pay-to-enter attractions is a fantastic gift that lacks a physical component, all being managed via online booking and emails. However, there is no reason why a ticket cannot be printed and folded into a card, perhaps something hand-made or thematic.
For digital media, there are a few ways you can make a gift out of something ephemeral. The obvious solution is to load – say – a new film onto a datastick that can be wrapped as an individual item, or placed in a comically oversized box. Or perhaps you want to load a family member’s phone with new music? Consider demanding it from them at Nerfpoint, loading it with an album or two, wrapping it up and putting it back in their hands. How often do people despair that we spend too much time on our devices and not with our families? Could be a great way to make phones a part of the family.
And until the days when 3D printing allows us to send Pop Vinyls straight into the homes of friends so they can watch their presents revealed piece by piece before their eyes – next logical step, just saying – there’s still an abundance of geeky objects in this world to give as gifts, but as times are changing it may be worth considering shopping earlier and earlier to account for delivery times. And you too could become a warehouse of Christmas presents, holding onto lots of objects for months on end that you intend to give to someone else! Just like me.
Not serious ones of course.
When I express a love of cosmic horror, the link between horror and comedy, dark and angry surrealism, nihilism, and all of the other things I over-analyse, it’s an expression of interest and fascination that is – at its core – what geekiness is all about: an open expression of passion for a particular subject or subjects. And as a creative person I like to let free my own reflection of those genres and subjects that fascinate me.
When I started putting my own particular brand of horoscope onto Facebook, I’d been listening to a lot of Welcome to Night Vale, and H.P. Lovecraft, watching Dylan Moran, and Rick and Morty. That, and I was in a mood to write and get weird with it, as I am wont to do, previous examples include corrupted christmas cracker jokes, a crowd sourced poem about being on the toilet, and some early evidence of my own mental health issues before I recognised what I was looking at.
All of this narcissistic rambling to say that for me… it’s a kind of fan art. I ingest the media that I love, and out comes some blended product born of my own creativity. Some examples:
Aries: Check your liver against the colour chart. Are you within the safe zone?
Taurus: You have no power here, only the howling of a chained beast
Gemini: They’re closing in
Cancer: No horoscope this week, seek answers from the Grand Tapestry of Bucharest
Leo: Square peg, round hole; angular logic, circular reasoning
Virgo: Citation needed
Libra: The association are concerned about your recent activity in the temple. Burn the robes and ditch the sceptre before they send in the auditors
Scorpio: Avoid log flumes, better to stay away from all carnival activities where possible
Sagittarius: Are you doing something different with your arms?
Capricorn: Death of a spider, birth of a fly
Aquarius: Hold onto the past, you never know when you might need it
Pisces: Everything will be fine. I am so sorry
I mean… a lot of Welcome to Night Vale.
It’s a thought that should horrify you, that either the stars are so utterly powerful that they can impact the finest details of our lives in a plan they concocted millions of years before our existence, or that we impart such incredible meaning to an elaborate and contrived dot-to-dot picture in the sky that a vast industry revolves around it, and some people think it has greater impact on their nature than – say – rudimentary psychology!
I endeavoured to bring together cosmic horror and cynicism, weave in some surrealist humour, and offset it with just a little profundity that you could believe, for just a moment, that there might be a purpose to it all. And yes, maybe there is – on some level – a little genuine philosophy leaking out, I’ve written dozens of these things, and anything to which you’re willing to commit that much time must be important to you. And if it entertains a few people then all the better.
What do you do to exorcise your creativity? What sources of inspiration do you draw from, and how do they reflect in what you create? Come chat to us in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.
My name is Joel Smith, I am a hoarder.
I suppose the worst of it has been my need to build new houses to store my stuff, and to have somewhere nearby where I can drop things off. In my line of work I find myself encountering a lot of valuables, and they’re just there for me to walk away with, it’s a kind of salvage operation in dangerous areas, so I’m ultimately restoring a lot of valuable items to the general public, and I will sell them on, but I guess there’s only so much people can buy from me at any given time, so I end up sitting on a small stockpile of… I dunno, ebony hammers? Spells scrolls? Piles of dragon bones? (more…)