Drool on the Frog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NaNoWriMo: Launch Party

We had our launch party this past weekend and it met all my expectations.

We have a very diverse group. I'm especially thrilled that we have some teens participating. Go Pyrallus!

What I hoped to get most from the group was encouragement. I didn't get cold feet on my wedding day but I've gotten cold feet about writing a novel. There was nothing but positive energy all around! Everybody has a success oriented attitude. Let's do it!

Some of our group are members of the Winston-Salem Writers. We attended their launch Monday night and hope to see some of them at our writing group at Krankies.

I've added some references about writing and stock photography to the right hand margin for my new writing friends. If you have any favorite books or blogs on writing you can share, it would be appreciated.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2007 TV Fall Season Premiers Part 3

Here's the last of my Season Premier reviews.

Samantha Who * * * *
Monday, 9:30 p.m., EST, ABC
You know, I had this on my "new shows" list to check out but I had decided to blow it off. I have a whole list of shows to watch and I don't really need another one. To kill some time this weekend, though, I popped this on and was so surprised.

Christina Applegate plays Samantha who has amnesia about her life prior to a suspicious car accident that puts her into a coma. She doesn't know her parents, her friends, or her lovers. Apparently she was a very mean person and now she has a chance to change all of that. Applegate is extremely funny as is Jean Smart (Designing Women) who plays her mother. I love to laugh so this goes on my "must see" list.

The Unit * * *
Tuesday, 9:00 p.m., EST, CBS
I don't know of anyone who watches this show but it's great. I was pleasantly surprised that it got renewed. If you've never caught it you should give it a try. The entire cast is superlative and the stories are all about heroes and their wives. It's the best story in the world - white hats win.

Supernatural ???
Thursday, 9:00 p.m. EST, CW
We didn't catch the premier. This is one we watch online and they just got the episodes uploaded (2 weeks into the season). I did catch the first 15 minutes of last nights episode. At least last night, they appear to be more gory and shocking. I hope that's not going to be a theme. Their stories have been good enough without becoming simply gore driven. Of course, I'm not their demographic.

Back to You * * *
Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. EST, FOX
I knocked one star off of my original review. As I feared, each episode is playing mostly on the storyline of the love child of Heaton and Grammer's characters which I find a total bore. There was a scene in the last episode with Ty Burrell who plays roving reporter, Gary Crezyzewski, that was hysterical! The supporting cast may get all the laughs in this series while the equally funny leads get the yawns.

Chuck *
Monday, 8:00 p.m. EST, NBC
This show has taken a nose dive! With so much potential in story they seem only occupied with showing curvaceous secret agents beating up the likes of Adam Baldwin (pl-ease) and appearing at least once per episode in their underwear.

The Big Bang Theory * * * *
Monday, 8:30 p.m. EST, CBS
Holding steady. My money is on this new series! Sweet and funny.

Heroes * * *
Monday, 9:00 p.m. EST, NBC
Heroes has improved from its limp premier but if it doesn't payoff I can say last season was great and leave it at that. Come on! Make me care.

Ugly Betty * * * *
Thursday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC
This show is doing a much better job the second time around than Heroes. Lots of drama and every episode leaves my jaw dropped. What fun!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: Slither * * * ½


- James Gunn
- Comedy/Horror, 2006
- R rated
* * * ½

Starla Grant: Baby, what happened to your face?
Grant Grant: It's just a bee sting.

You know I'm a super light-weight when it comes to horror films. My T5 for this time if year is best called Halloween picks, not Horror. I'm not an aficionado. But I'm really excited to add Slither to that list.

Sometimes I think you can tell a good movie when you can go back into IMDB and read the movie quotes and they make you laugh all over again. That's definitely true here. James Gunn, writer, director, and actor, accomplishes that successfully in three areas: cast, script, and special effects.

Gunn wrangled for himself some really funny people. Of course, I'm a huge fan of Nathan Fillion (Captain Tight Pants, Firefly). Gregg Henry's performance is over-the-top hysterical as the town's Mayor. Michael Rooker plays a great sympathetic victim/alien as is Elizabeth Banks as his sweet, tender-hearted southern wife. The entire supporting cast is spot on. The flip side of this coin is the great characterization written by Gunn. Characters who are on screen for only a brief moment are distinguishable (Jenna Fisher, from The Office, as, who else but the receptionist). Fun-ny!

The only experience I had with Gunn's work prior to this was Scooby-Do. Luckily for him, this is a much better showing of his talents as director and writer. We all know you can have a great cast but have an utterly dreadful film because of poor directing or script. Here the talent had great material. With comedy and horror, timing and pace are essential for effect and Gunn accomplishes both for the laughs and the screams he wants. But I think the great work in this script is in its simplicity. There aren't too many subplots or overly complicated details. Simple town, simple people, with a simple alien problem. Kudos to Gunn for not getting bogged down and just making a funny horror movie.

Grant Grant (Rooker) is infected by an alien worm inside a meteorite that crashes in the small town of Weesley. The worm gradually overtakes Grant's body in an effort to produce millions of leech like worms that can infest all the humans on earth. Starla (Banks) is Grant's young, ever faithful wife who eventually has to set out to destroy her husband along with the town sherriff, Bill Hardy (Fillion). Not only do they have to destroy Grant, who is becoming stronger and stronger, but also all the towns people that have been turned into zombies by the worm seeds.

I don't think bad special effects would have ruined this film. It might have turned into a cult classic but, as it is, the effects were noticeably impressive. MyGeek pointed out that they used such massive amounts of the material to create the Grant monster that the national supply was depleted. They had to shut the shoot down for a month so the manufacturer could produce more.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Snap Shot City logo
MyGeek can find the coolest things on-line. He was telling me about a photography contest on-line that had something to do with the city you lived in. I tucked it in the back of my brain until I could sit down to think about it. A couple of days later I remembered and had him sent me the link the Snap-Shot-City. (He learned about it here.)

By their own definition, S-S-C is:
  • A worldwide photographic treasure hunt
  • That brings people together on-the-ground and on-line
  • It celebrates the cities in which we live
  • It aims to open eyes to the extraordinary; everyday; everywhere
  • By challenging people to become artists for a day
  • To create simultaneous fun for our extended social network all over the world
  • A good, good time
Fountains in Corpening Plaza, downtown Winston-SalemThis is how it worked. We registered as a team on SnapShotCity's web site. At 1:30 on Saturday, September 29, we were able to download the 20 topics for this year's photo shoot. We had from 2:00 - 7:00 p.m. to snap pictures around our town that represented those 20 topics. Then, we raced home and uploaded our pictures to the S-S-C gallery in each category.

Fire escape on the side of the Pepper BuildingFive hours seemed like a long time until we started trying to interpret the topics. We thought several of them were pretty tough:
  1. Oasis
  2. Man's best friend
  3. Youth of today
  4. What's new pussycat?
  5. Pattern language
  6. Odd one out
  7. Wrong side of the tracks
  8. Out of sight. Out of mind.
  9. Luck of the draw
  10. Splat!
  11. Silhouette
  12. Too little, too late...
  13. Step by step
  14. Up, up and away!
  15. Against all odds
  16. Time travel
  17. Hang in there
  18. Tourist
  19. Wearable art
  20. The writing's on the wallOld Salem employee in period clothing
It took a little longer than we thought to upload our pics. We had about 200 to sort through, upload, map and label. The ones I'm showing here are nice shots but they didn't make our cut onto the S-S-C gallery. It looks like there were about 99 teams participating. Typically you can find our team pictures, JohnRhon, on either the first or second page of each topic.

lone window AC unitMyGeek and I are adventurous and have lots of ideas but we aren't very daring. We don't like approaching strangers and asking to take their pictures so our operation was more covert. It meant we had to be more creative with our ideas... and careful. For instance, for "Youth of today" I wanted to take a picture of the massive soccer fields full of kids. But these days, people are suspicious of strangers driving by and snapping pictures of their children. There were also several youth car washes going on. In my opinion, you need to ask the youth if it's o.k. to take their picture. Driving slowly through the parking lot, leaning out the window taking pictures of youth washing cars just doesn't look right. But we both were too intimidated to walk up and talk to strangers so you'll notice the majority of our pictures don't have people in them!
Got Beer graffitiIt was a hot day and actually pretty stressful rushing around town trying to get all the pictures taken in the given five hours. It would be great next year to have a couple more people on our team to come up with ideas for the topics. At the end of the day, though, it was a real blast! Just like with SPS, seeing the pictures from the other teams is the big payoff. There are going to be winning shots in each category. The Judges are working through all those right now. You'll be one of the first to know if we have a winning pic. Until then, check out the gallery.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: The Lookout * * ½

The Lookout

- Scott Frank
- Drama/Thriller, 2007
- R
- Trailer

* * ½

Lewis: Hello?
Chris Prat: Are you OK?
Lewis: I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?
Chris Prat: Because the lights are on. They're up there, aren't they?
Lewis: Just get out of here.

Of the five reviews I read about this movie, all but one gave it top praises. Not only that, they could say nothing bad about it. I tend to side with the one review that had some negative things to say but this still is a film worth seeing.

The story is not particularly unique although it's well told. Or maybe it was just that so much of the plot was predictable. Was it suppose to be that way? I don't know. If so then what's the enjoyment for the viewer? Of course, everyone knows the Cinderella story but they still love to hear it.

Although the four-out-of-five reviews credited everything to the story written by Scott Frank, I think the real beauty of this film is in the acting and filming. This was Frank's first time directing. If a director is to be given any credit to what the actor's produce, then maybe this is where Frank deserves credit.

Everyone puts in a fabulous performance. I wish I could mention everyone by name (I'm sure they wish I would, too.) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Chris Pratt, a popular High School hockey superstar who is disabled after a terrible car accident. He rooms with Lewis, played by the wonderful Jeff Daniels, who is blind and helping Pratt to adjust. The story deals with the really low point of Pratt's recovery. He is depressed and seemingly hitting a wall on all fronts to make something out of the remnants of his life. He is racked with guilt about the accident, totally misunderstood by his family, and a lonely young adult male. This is the wrong time for the wrong kind of person to enter his life but that's exactly what happens.

With the caliber of performances Frank was getting out of his actors, I had the constant feeling that I wasn't getting enough story. Don't get me wrong. I don't like everything spelled out. I like the reality of actions speaking louder than words. But there was the feeling of things missing from Pratt's story. One female character completely disappears from the story in a confusing scene. There are undertones of a rivalry between Pratt and a player from a rival school team that was too vague. It was a tease. I liked the idea but the story never pursued it.

The filming is quite beautiful (in an artistic sense, not "scenic".) Most of the scenes are cramped and confined. which gives you the sense of how the walls are closing in on Pratt with little room to maneuver. It really works hand-in-hand with telling the story.

The Lookout isn't typical Hollywood fare and will make a descent Friday night rental.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2007 TV Fall Season Premiers Part 2

An update on watching TV online. Some of the networks haven't got their act together yet.

I don't know why I continue interacting with this dreadful web site except that I'm committed to two of their shows: Supernatural and Beauty and The Geek. Although they have a link to "Full Episodes" and you download their player, we can't get the episodes to play on either a PC or Mac. Come on, guys. Get it together!

Top honors gows to ABC. Whatever technology they're using, they're doing it right. You have to download their player but, from the home page, you're about three clicks from a complete menu of all their selections. Same as last year. And, if they stick with last year's plan, the entire season will be available until the beginning of next season. Sweet!

Everyone else's site falls somewhere in-between...
Only two clicks to get to full episodes and you don't have to download a player. But if you click CSI from the "Full Episodes" menu on the home page, you won't get last weeks episode. I had to click "All Shows" in the blue bar above the episode list and then click "Full Episodes" under that to get a current list of episodes. They had the same problem last year with keeping their menus up to date. Their shows also play in chapters and it's common to watch three out of four chapters and then just quit playing.

This site comes in second to ABC's site. The issue here is getting use to the navigation. You can get to full episodes from the home page or from each show's page. You don't have to download a player to watch and you can select to watch an episode by chapter like on DVDs. (I can't give it second place because I'm still burned over them canceling Studio 60.)

Fox has it goin' on too but their site is more sluggish than the others. I don't remember if I had to download a player or not. If so, it must have been seamless. You do get a choice of three screen sizes where most sites only give you two.

We also caught some more premiers this week.

Bionic Woman *
Wednesday, 900 p.m. EST, NBC
This wasn't on my list but MyGeek mentioned it. First of all, I know there are thousands of struggling actors trying to break into the business. I know some of them. Out of thousands you would think they could find ones who can act in fill high profile roles like this. Michelle Ryan is terribly flat. There's no warmth or personality to her character. The plot was ridiculous and full of holes. It seemed like the writer's rushed the story. Why? Because everyone knows it?

"You know. There's this average girl, Jaime Sommers, blah, blah, blah. She get's into this accident and almost dies, blah, blah, blah. Then she wakes up and she's bionic, blah, blah, blah."

Cinderella is an old story and everyone knows it but we love the telling of it. Tell the story.

Pushing Daisies * * * *
Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC
This show turned out to be as playful as it looked. Everything is bigger than life, the colors are vibrant, and it's narrated like a story book. It has the feel of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (either version!). My high hopes paid off.

Life * * * ½
Wednesday, 10:00 p.m. EST, NBC
This has turned out to be the most pleasant surprise of the bunch. I'll have to do some more research about the show because I have some observations about the character, Charlie Crews, that I want to share in more detail. In the mean time, check it.

Big Shots
Thursday, 10:00 p.m., EST, ABC
This is ABC's male answer to Desperate Housewives. I heard it described recently as the male version of Sex and the City. This couldn't be farther from the truth. I never saw Sex and the City but I got the impression the female characters in it were empowered. The male characters in Big Shots, admit themselves, that they are more like women then men. They are ridiculous and emasculated. Why would a man or a woman want to watch something like that? I didn't have any expectations. It's a good thing.

More quick fall season reviews to come...


Monday, October 08, 2007

NaNoWriMo Part 2: Why?

I've never had a yearning to be a writer. English was not my best subject and creative writing has always been a great struggle. I've done all kinds of technical writing and I'm really good at it. I can teach and explain things in great detail. But too much tedium in storytelling will kill it. So why would I want to be a part of National Novel Writing Month?

1. Doing something creative is better than doing nothing creative.
2. To learn something new about myself and creativity.
3. Why not!? There's nothing to lose.

Since I released my right brain in 1999, I've constantly struggled with giving it freedom and license. My left brain demands structure and knowledge, organization and a plan. My right brain wants to walk along the beach at sunset and paint on the walls. But Lefty always find excuses for not running away on a sunny day or making a mess. It doesn't take much of this before Righty screams, "I've got to break free." So why not write a novel.

A real foe to my creative pursuits is time. Time to yank out paints, take classes and spend hours in the studio experimenting. To battle this, I've tried to find small creative outlets so that I'm doing something, even if it's not canvas and paint. Blogs are one of those small outlets I can do just about anywhere, anytime. SoulPerSuit also helps because of its mini art projects created on playing cards. This week I folded a couple of pieces of origami. It took less than 30 minutes. Righty was so happy.

So maybe I'll learn something about storytelling. Maybe I'll respect writers more. I hope to find a NaNoWriMo group to meet with regularly during the challenge and maybe I'll just use my enthusiasm and focus to encourage others on to their own dream of writing a novel. That's time well spent.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

NaNoWriMo Park 1: About

In November I'm going to take part in National Novel Writing Month. From their web site:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
If you want to participate, registration begins October 1 and novel writing begins November 1. On November 30, everyone who reaches the goal of 50,000 words is a winner! Come on! Just think about it.

For all the 411 on NaNoWriMo, check out No Plot? No Problem! written by one of the original members, Chris Baty. The web site has tons of features. Once you've registered you can track your word count, get advice in the forums and find NaNoWriMo groups in your area.

Sounds insane?

Sounds reckless?

So why do it?

Why not!?

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