Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lego MMO and a good laugh

From those guys at Red vs. Blue:

An MMO based on the Lego universe was just announced.
Burnie -- Some things seem like a great idea for kids, but in reality are actually harmful. Like aspirins that have a tasty orange flavor. Or those scented markers that teach kids to huff. Why do they make those?
Geoff -- This does not bode well for the Lincoln Log MMO I've been trying to get off the ground.
Jack -- Finally, an MMO that mixes my favorite solitary activity as a kid with my favorite solitary activity as an adult!
Nathan -- It takes you 8 hours to build your LEGO castle, and 8 seconds for me to break it down with my LEGO lightsaber. Sounds awesome.


Sad but true, folks, sad but true.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Oh, you must be a home ec teacher!"

Back to school this week. Reading week was great--I zipped home for a few days, saw pretty much everyone I could ever want to see at Cellarman's, spent some time with my mom, and then headed down to Guelph, where I also saw almost everyone I could want to see.

I tried to organize a SETS mini-reunion with people from the Great Guelph Area, which was not successful numbers-wise (special thanks goes out to winter weather and winter illness for that), but was very successful in terms of fun had. Sherrin came up from London, and Sean popped over with his bebe, and we ate delicious food at the Woolwich Arms. I'm hoping for a second round in May, when things should be a bit more accessible to everyone.

I spent more time with Sean the next day, when we met at that most venerated of eating institutions, Toxic Smell, and proceeded to thoroughly geek out about his experiences at the PCA/ACA Southwest and Texas region conference at week before. He read my paper in absentia, along with his own, and chairing our panel...and then the third presenter just didn't show, so it was a whole hour of Sean. He brought me back the program, and my name tag, and a sweet messenger bag that is totally being converted to a knitting bag ASAP.

I also got to see the Evanses, and introduce them to the bountiful goodness that is the Red Papaya.

Then Ms. T and I drove back up here, with a wee pitstop in Huntsville, where we ate a delicious lunch (SWEET POTATO FRIES!!!) and visited Sheepstrings, where I successfully convinced her that she could learn how to knit. (You can see the evidence over at her blog.) Once in North Bay, we picked up a few crafting remnants at Wal-Mart, prompting the cashier to ask us--twice--if we were planning on teaching a home ec class. Classic!

There's more, but it is time to take Caitlin to Dollar Days at No Frills.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thoughts on The Stand

Ian lent me the TV miniseries for The Stand, and I'm slowly working my way through it. Before I talk about how I feel about the miniseries, I should probably say two things, the second of which is a caveat to the first. On the whole, I really hate Stephen King's writing. I think he's schlocky, cheap, and manipulative. Considering that I don't care for his work, I've actually read a pretty surprising amount of it, and on the whole it just leaves me....meh. That said, a friend of mine from Teacher's College lent me The Stand a few years back, and it is, for lack of a better term, holy shit good. Great story, full of tension, drama, and very interesting characters. It suffers from many of the same problems as the rest of his work, of course, but the story is so compelling that I'm willing to overlook the things that normally bother me.

So I was pretty excited for the miniseries, because I think the story has a number of qualities that would transfer well to that medium, and also because King wrote the teleplay himself. (I like to think that when an author has such a direct hand in creating the final product, it ought to be of reasonably good quality.)

Good movies happen when the writing, directing, and acting all converge in a way where the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. I would say that The Stand is somehow less than the sum of its parts, but the sum of its parts really doesn't add up to very much, which is made even more apparent by how poorly the miniseries has aged--I'm pretty sure even the CBC had better production values in 1994.

Point One: The Acting. I hardly know where to start here. There's the good, which can be summed up in two word: Ed Harris. There's the serviceable, like Gary Sinise, Corin Nemec, and Kathy Bates. There's the bad, like Molly Ringwald. There's the forgettable, like Ruby Dee and Jamey Sheridan. And then there's the just plain bizarre: Rob Lowe as Nick Andros (if one of your central characters is a deaf-mute, maybe you could try casting someone with actual charisma?) Laura San Giacomo as Nadine Cross (She's really wonderful in other roles, but girl is in way over her head in this ingenue rule--she is not convincingly sexy at any point). Bill Fagerbakke as Tom Cullen (Because developmentally delayed translates to "speaks slowly and softly"--interestingly, he's probably getting more work than anybody else in this trainwreck, as he is the voice of Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants).

Point Two: The Writing. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the problem here is the acting or the writing. All of the Nick parts really suffer because nothing interesting happens for such a long time, and that's partially Lowe as an actor, but it's also King as a writer, like, just DO SOMETHING already. Ditto Molly Ringwald, who is out of her depth here, but is also saddled with some truly clunky dialogue. I also understand, from King's point of view, that it's very difficult to cut 1000+ pages of writing into something manageable for the small screen, but some of his choices are bizarre. If you're not going to do anything with the Joe/Leo storyline, maybe you could just cut it? We continually get such shallow snapshots of the book's major characters that none of their actions ever have the impact that they should. Do we ever really have a sense of why Harold goes off the deep end? Do we ever really sympathize with Franny as she prepares to have a baby who might die from the same illness that has killed everyone else she loves? Do we ever get to enjoy Glen Bateman's verve and wit as he sees all of his abstract sociological theories play out before his eyes? Do we even get to see Larry's progress from the arrogant rising star to the thoughtful caretaker?

Point Three: Directing and Production. I don't know what to say here, exactly, because the first two factors have already significantly handicapped the production, but it is worth noting that if you don't have the money to do something properly...maybe you just shouldn't do it. I know it's a TV movie from 1994, but there was some quality stuff being made at that time, and some of the visuals in this just look so amateurish. The other major problem from a directorial point of view is the pacing. There is absolutely no tension or urgency to this story. When I read the book, my heart was pounding the entire time, and I could hardly read fast enough to fit it all in. By comparison, the movie just crawls along...and there is virtually nothing in it that is actually scary.

There are a few good visuals--mostly relating to the Flagg/crow imagery; the one that comes to mind is the one where we see Flagg sitting like a crow on top of a telephone pole, but overall, it's too little, too late. I'd love to see this story given the treatment it deserves. What's HBO upto these days?