Slightly Off the Mark
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in ozma914's InsaneJournal:

    [ << Previous 20 ]
    Monday, October 15th, 2018
    4:46 pm
    Price reduction on my book, and hardcover ... or so I hear
    It's been kind of a rough year, and especially a rough last month or so. But as an author I have to get back on the horse, because gift giving season is coming (I don't use an actual holiday name until November), and it turns out promotion is part of an author's job.

    It's helpful for that effort that Arcadia Publishing has our Images Of America book priced at $21.22 for print, a drop from the original price. It's one of three history-related books Emily and I put together ... together. Or will that be four by this time next year? Stay tuned ... news to come.

    https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467114516




    You can get it on all those various electronic formats too, of course--even the Nook. Anybody still have a Nook?

    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/albion-and-noble-county-indiana-mark-r-hunter/1121998890



    Personally, for a photo-heavy book like this, I think it's better in paperback. But then there's the surprise I got when I checked our Amazon page. Take a look, and see if you can figure out what shocked me:

    https://www.amazon.com/Albion-Noble-County-Images-America-ebook/dp/B014I412XW

    See that there, in the middle? They have it listed at $28.99, with a price drop to $20.78. Why $20.78? Why not $20.80, or $20.99? I don't know, but it still seems like a pretty good buy for a hardcover version. The only copies of the book I have are paperback.

    That's because I didn't know there was a hardcover version.

    If any of you happen to have ordered the hardcover, please let me know if this is a real thing or not; I've never had one of my books turned into the version that can be used in home defense. I realize that if you don't have a connection to Noble County you probably don't have any version, and in that case check out the Arcadia Publishing website: If you live in America, they're likely to have a book out covering something in your general area.

    (And, as usual, check out all our books at http://markrhunter.com/ ...)
    Saturday, October 13th, 2018
    6:39 am
    Shocking.
    Linemen are always wired up:

    https://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2018/10/linemen-are-always-wired-up.html

    It's an electrifying job.
    Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
    3:35 am
    Reviewing The Walking Doctor: A Tale Of Two Season Openers
    Sunday was the season 9 opener for The Walking Dead, and the--what--season 48?--opener for Doctor Who, the British SF series originally designed for children that went into development the year I was born. It was also my only night off that week, so even though my wife doesn't like watching more than an hour and a half or so of TV a night, we managed to catch both of them close to the hour of their premiers.


    They'd make for a great crossover, since the Doctor often seems to spend most of his time running from things that want to eat him, anyway.


    Many think The Walking Dead has stumbled the last few seasons, and despite the fun presence of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, the show's best villain yet, they're not wrong. (Your opinion may vary--The Governor was pretty cool, in a bad way.) It's hard to keep a show fresh for going on ten years, even killing off several major characters every year.


    But this time around The Walking Dead does seem to have invigorated itself with season 9, which flashes forward several months from the climactic battle with Negan's Saviors at the end of S8. Negan is imprisoned, the Saviors part of a wider attempt at a community, Maggie's years-long pregnancy is past, and one of the show's most annoying bad guys is no longer hanging around by the end of the episode. There's a new show runner, and we go in with the announcement that Andrew Lincoln's Rick is exiting the show, apparently at the mid-season break.


    The perfect time for A New Beginning, which happens to be the title of the episode. It mostly concerns a mission into Washington, D.C., and its aftermath, and we get both hope for the future and hints of conflicts to come.


    Lots of people watch The Walking Dead for the zombies, and there are plenty stumbling around. I watch the show for the characters, and in that it remains strong. Whether it can continue to be strong without the strong center of Rick I don't know, but ... so far, so good.







    Meanwhile, back in England, a mysterious woman who can't remember her own name falls out of the sky--literally. For the uninitiated, The Doctor (His/her name is not "Doctor Who") is a time and space traveling alien who can cheat death by regenerating into a new body. The thirteenth Doctor is also the first female one, played by Jodie Whittaker as caring, a little frenetic, and slightly daft, about the average for the more recent Doctors.


    Instead of getting the time she needs to adjust to her new self, the Doctor is thrown into a mystery involving a mysterious alien device--a lot of alien tech ends up in England--followed by a nasty alien warrior. The Doctor follows his--um, her--usual pattern by collecting together some new companions and throwing them in the deep end.


    There's been a lot of discussion about this version of the Doctor, some of it pretty nasty. I'm not a fan of gender swapping established characters, but in this case we already know the Doctor can swap bodies, and being an alien there's no reason why he can't regenerate into a she. My normal new Doctor fears evaporated by the end of the episode: Whittaker does a good job, and as she adjusts to the role might become great at it.


    Unfortunately, my concerns about the rest of the show remain. The writers seem determined to avoid any connection to the former Doctor Who universe, having ditched last season's companions and announced there would be no appearance this season by the more popular villains. We didn't even get the iconic opening credits, and the theme music only faded in for a moment when the Doctor first appears. The Doctor's ship, the TARDIS, didn't even show up in the episode.


    That seems like a terrible idea, to introduce a brand new doctor and not keep anything to anchor long time fans. What, Bill and/or Nardole couldn't have stuck around for another season? To make matters worse, the new companions seem a bit uninteresting in comparison, and the episode as a whole had little of the comedic flash that often gave relief to darker storylines."It's darker" isn't necessarily a compliment.


    In short, the new Doctor is fine; but the new season needs some work.
    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
    7:02 pm
    Linda Taylor--mom's obituary. R.I.P. September 27, 2018
    We just this afternoon (and after I sent my newsletter out) confirmed mom's memorial service, which will be at 11 a.m. Friday (with an hour's visitation before) at the Albion Wesleyan Church. Here's her obituary:



    https://www.harperfuneralhomes.com/notices/Linda-Taylor



    ------------------------------------------------------------------



    Sometimes it seems like nothing ever went quite right for my mother. It took her three marriages to find one that fit. She loved to work, but seldom stayed long where she was. Then, when she passed on, the timing went all wonky and as of when I'm writing this--four days later--we still don't know exactly when the service will be.


    It's all bad timing and red tape. You see, instead of a viewing and funeral, followed by cremation (which I didn't know she wanted until after she died), the family decided on the cremation first followed by a service. The reasons boil down to bills and money, and that's something that never quite went right for my family, either. Maybe it's crass and not something people want to think about, but that's the way reality often is.


    All I can tell you is that sometime toward the end of the week (Friday at 11 a.m.) we're going to gather to say goodby at the Albion Wesleyan Church, at 800 E. Main Street in, as you might imagine, Albion. Mom wanted to have her ashes scattered at Piney Point, Tennessee, a place she and the family loved to go to on vacation every summer.


    That's not as surprising as you might think, considering she was born about two hours away, in Fonde, right over the border in Kentucky. It's going home, and home is where she wanted to be. She especially hated hospitals and nursing homes, and that's where she was stuck, one or the other, for the last weeks of her life. She wanted to get out--go home--but as time went by she got weaker, and I realized she was never going to go home again. She would have been miserable, staying in a facility for any more time to speak of, fighting the effects of stroke, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and failing kidneys.


    I think she let go. If that time comes for me, I hope I find the courage.






    Oh, I almost forgot: They're going to earmark memorials to the Parkview Cancer Institute or Parkview Heart Center. We've spent so much time in recent years at Parkview facilities that I feel that should name a wing after us.
    Saturday, September 29th, 2018
    4:31 pm
    On my mother's passing
    I just can't come up with anything to write at the moment, which I realize is a rare thing for me. So I'm posting here what my sister wrote:

    It is with great sadness that my brothers, Mark Richard Hunter, Jeff Hunter, and I along with our stepfather (Harry Taylor) would like to let everyone know that our mother/wife passed away this morning due to complications from her stroke in August. Arrangements for a memorial service are pending per her cremation next week as were her wishes. We will all love and miss her dearly, but know she is in a much better place.

    Mom had been in failing health for some time due to a stroke along with complications from diabetes and congestive heart failure. The service is going to be sometime toward the end of next week here in Albion, after the cremation--I'll post further details when I have them.
    Sunday, September 16th, 2018
    5:27 am
    Lead, Follow Me, or Just Watch the Videos
    I used to blog every day, after hearing authors say it kept their names in front of their readers. Then I realized blogging every day left me with no time to actually write anything for readers to read. Also, I'm not interesting every day--even after editing myself.


    But this time I've been away from my blog for two whole weeks, which might be a record. I actually had a real vacation, by which I mean I not only didn't do my full time job, I didn't even work on writing. (We did spend a portion of our vacation in medical facilities, but that's tradition.)


    I missed it. The writing, not the full time job. But sometimes a guy's gotta take a break.


    But I wasn't totally offline. We've taken some very short videos in places we visited--I've posted a half dozen on Instagram so far, and they cross posted to Twitter and Facebook. They're fun videos, kinda, and give you a little sense of where we were, maybe, and if you turn the volume all the way up you can hear me, sorta. (I'm new to the video thing, and haven't gotten the volume part quite figured out yet. Some so far unpublished videos will probably have to come with subtitles.)


    Having had very little luck posting videos to Blogger, I'd like to steer those who are interested over to my other accounts. I get videos and pictures up on Instagram:


    https://www.instagram.com/ozma914/



    Although I once swore never to go there, I'm a Tweeting Twit at:



    https://twitter.com/MarkRHunter



    When my first book came out Emily set me up with another account at https://twitter.com/StormChaserbook, but let's face it: The same stuff mostly goes up on both.


    There's a similar thing going on at Facebook, where my regular account is at



    https://www.facebook.com/MarkRHunter914



    Personally, I'd rather everyone follow me on my author's page, at



    https://www.facebook.com/MarkRHunter/



    Why? Because as I understand it, it's easier to find what your favorite author is up to that way ... and don't you need someone else to fill in the time between hearing from your favorite author? Gaiman and Martin don't exactly post every day, you know. (By the way, I loved their comedy routines.)

    Also, I've been hearing noises that small businesses (which is what authors are) are going to have a harder time promoting from personal FB pages, but we'll see. In any case, I'd very much like to avoid losing track of people who might someday want to read one of my books.



    Or--and I hate to say this--you could do nothing. Because let's face it, you'll see the best of the photos we took right here, sooner or later, whether you read this on Blogger, Livejournal, or any of the other places I post to. I kind of like the little videos, but they'll never be nominated for a ... do they have an Internet Video Award?
    Saturday, September 1st, 2018
    3:46 am
    Maybe for vacation we should book a hospital room
    I expect you won't hear much from me for the next couple of weeks, because right after Labor Day we'll be on "vacation". The quotes are because our vacations in recent years have been of the kind people need a vacation to recover from.

    My wife or I--or both--have been either sick or injured on every single vacation we've taken since the moment we met. Two years ago she was sick on vacation when a guy hit our car head on, leading to both of us being injured. In a variant of that, five years ago we were happily vacationing at a state park along the Mississippi River when we found out my father had been rushed to the hospital with cancer. (He's fine now, by the way.)

    So I'm not expecting much.

    In the run-up to this upcoming vacation my mother was hospitalized, and we got bad medical news about two other relatives, which I can't help thinking was a shot off our bow--a little warning that maybe we should just build a panic room and stay in it for two weeks. But no, we usually go for it; and Emily and I are fond of camping, hiking, and traveling to places where we can camp and hike. The question of what could possibly go wrong easily answers itself.

    That answer may have come early this year. Maybe it was the hospital chairs, which were about as comfortable as the iron throne made of swords on Game of Thrones. Maybe it's because I've been wearing a knee brace, which could have caused me to lean more heavily on other muscles. Whatever the case, this week I've had the worst back pain since I pulled a lower back muscle three years ago--while on vacation.

    It's in my middle back, in the area where I first hurt myself way back in 1983 at a business fire in downtown Albion. We wore heavy steel breathing air tanks back then, and I wore one for way too long, and you can guess the rest. (No, I wasn't on vacation at the time.) Instead of the dull ache I experience almost all the time, this was a sharp pain that refuses to be ignored, kind of like the American election cycle. It hurt so bad that for a few days I couldn't even concentrate on writing.

    I could still read. Let's not get silly. (Oh, and about the end of the third Game of Thrones book: What The Living Heck?!?!)

    So now I face going into vacation with back pain (oh, and knee pain), which might cut into my hiking time. I know what you're going to say: "Just relax, sit around the campfire with a good book and some music, have a beer ... you know, relax".

    I hate beer. More to the point, according to Emily, I suck at relaxing. At the moment I'm thinking road trip, since I can still drive, and there's a lot of road we haven't seen.


    In the evening I could work on a new story, which to me is relaxing. I also have a book to finish editing, which is not quite so relaxing, but might be if I'm typing on a lounge chair along Lake Superior.

    There's also the fourth Game of Thrones book to read ... but man, those gargantuan kill-fests aren't so relaxing. Just the same, Emily and I do want to get away for awhile, kind of an escape from reality thing.

    At least, until one of us gets sick.
    Saturday, August 25th, 2018
    4:09 am
    The No-Campfire Girls: young adult adventure
    Remember, folks: I have to sell the soap, from time to time!





    The No-Campfire Girls, a YA adventure—just 99 cents on Kindle and $5 in paperback:



    https://www.amazon.com/No-Campfire-Girls-Mark-Hunter-ebook/dp/B00K3OS35C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1535180005



    Fifteen year old Beth Hamlin is horrified to discover her beloved summer camp must go without campfires this year, due to the fire hazard from a drought. But Beth isn't one to just sit (or swim, or boat, or horseback) around. When her new cabinmate, Cassidy, claims a local Cherokee can do a rain dance, she jumps into action.

    All they have to do is trick the Camp Director into letting Running Creek do the dance, avoid the local bully and a flying arrow or two, and keep from getting caught plotting with Cassidy’s firefighter father on a forbidden cell phone. With luck southern Indiana will get a nice, soaking rain, and Camp Inipi can have proper campfires again.

    But when things go horribly wrong, the whole area is endangered by a double disaster. Now Beth and her unit may be the only people who can save not only their camp, but everyone in it.


    *A portion of the proceeds of this book benefits Friends of Latonka, an organization made to save a summer camp in Wappapello, Missouri.
    Friday, August 24th, 2018
    3:16 am
    Mom, and the hospital, and possibly a miracle
    I took a 911 call at around 4:30 Monday morning from my step-father, who found my mother in a semi-conscious state. (I don't think I need to add that I was at work at the time.)


    We thought it was another bout of diabetes problems, and her blood sugar was indeed sky-high; but so was her blood pressure, and it turned out she'd had a massive stroke. At some point later she had some related mini-strokes, and she was taken unconscious to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, where we spent a few days preparing ourselves for her to pass away.


    Then, at about the same time of the morning as the original 911 call, she woke up. At first she had trouble talking, but within twenty-four hours she was speaking in whole sentences, sitting up, eating, and besides a few memory problems seemed much improved. It was totally unexpected by everyone, including the doctors and specialists, one of whom used the word "miracle".


    Mom has atrial fibrillation, which apparently caused the clot that led to her stroke, so we're not out of the woods yet. At the very least she's in for rehab and a long recovery, and she still has to keep her diabetes and blood pressure under control--prayers are appreciated, for those who do so. Especially since we have other medical stuff going on in the family that I'm not at liberty to talk about. In any case, it's been an ... interesting week.


    And, yes, a pretty stressful week.
    Friday, August 17th, 2018
    2:12 am
    book review: Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
    So ... you've probably heard of this book, which has garnered some moderate success from an otherwise unknown author by the name of George R. R. Martin. Long-winded fantasy? Who does that anymore?


    My wife and I were planning two long trips this summer, so we headed to the library to find an audio book that wouldn't make the dog howl like a direwolf. We were somewhat taken aback by Game of Thrones, an audiobook roughly as thick as the U.S. tax code. It was on 28 disks.


    Twenty-eight.


    Over a two week period we were on the road for roughly 26 hours of driving, and we still had to renew it from the library for another few weeks.


    Game of Thrones opens with an execution, and believe me when I saw that's far from the only death to come along. The story follows nine viewpoint characters on a world where summers can last decades but winter hits hard, where dragons once flew, and where a giant, centuries old ice wall protects the continent of Westeros from the supernatural dangers of the north.


    Most of the story revolves around the Stark family, led by Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark. After a long war, Ned's best friend Robert has become king of an assemblage of former nations, and now wants the reluctant Ned to be the King's Hand--basically the guy who does all of his dirty work. The honorable and dutiful Ned--you won't find a lot of characters like that here, outside of the Stark family--packs up and dives into the politics of an increasingly divided kingdom.


    What could possibly go wrong? In Martin's world, pretty much everything. Tragedy, misunderstandings, treachery, and accidents ensue, as various characters give and take allegiance while others plot for power and ... well, pretty much just power. Despite Ned's desire to just go home, he finds himself entangled in events that will bring war to their world, even while winter nears and evil from north of the wall approaches. Meanwhile, the former royal family of the kingdom plots to take back what they consider theirs.


    Sound complicated? It is. You can find dozens of maps online, just to show people where all the lands and cities are, and character trees to make interrelationships a little more clear. There's also plenty of nastiness, from graphic violence to child endangerment to incest. It's dark, detailed, and horribly addictive.


    Emily and I were still catching our breaths when she took the audiobook back to the library. She returned with a new book, this time on good old fashioned paper, and I later determined it was five times as long as my first published novel.


    Yep. Second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. We haven't seen the TV series, but my biggest warning about the world of A Song of Ice and Fire (which is the name of the entire book series) is that you should maybe schedule some vacation days before you start reading.
    Tuesday, August 14th, 2018
    2:29 am
    She does Pokemon, I do photography, cute meet in downtown Albion
    She does Pokemon, I do photography, cute meet in downtown Albion:


    http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2018/08/she-does-pokemon-i-do-photography-cute.html


    Okay, so the title’s probably better than the blog itself: just a few summer photos from around Albion.
    Saturday, August 11th, 2018
    12:45 am
    Bum knee, writer's paradise
    Bum knee, writer's paradise:

    http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2018/08/bum-knee-writers-paradisei.html

    Some writers will do anything to get writing time--no matter how painful.
    Wednesday, August 8th, 2018
    3:20 am
    Everyone loves fire truck photos
    More Fire Training Photos, Or: Fun With Fire Trucks

    http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2018/08/more-fire-training-photos-or-fun-with.html

    Pictures. With fire trucks, and streams of water, and stuff.
    Tuesday, July 31st, 2018
    2:07 am
    Slashing a Fat Synopsis
    Well, I finished my first draft of the synopsis for Fire On Mist Creek.


    3,642 words.


    Now, opinions differ on how long a novel synopsis should be. (In my opinion, I should be rich enough to hire someone else to write my synopsis and not worry about how long a synopsis should be.) The general consensus in the writing community is that a synopsis should be kept strictly between two thousand words and, oh, fifty words long. But the shorter the better; just like opera, or congressional term limits, or that little guy from Game of Thrones.



    So I have some cutting to do, and with an ax, not a scalpel. There's a certain irony in cutting a novel down to something you then have to cut down. Meanwhile, I've identified a possible publisher for the book, but according to their publishing guidelines my novel is four hundred words ... too long. (Which is not something I'm remotely worried about for the moment.)


    Later I'll probably have to boil my synopsis down into a back page blurb. There'll be significant shrinkage.
    Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
    4:12 am
    The Writer's LIfe: judging and revising and young authors
    I spent some time last week judging 4-H writing projects. As usual, I marveled at how good the entries were ... many of them much better than I was at the same age. It's great to know there are still young writers and readers out there. It's also great to know my own childhood writing has disappeared.


    Then I dove back into revising Fire On Mist Creek, which I wrote last fall and edited in early winter. Revision isn't all that much fun to me, so I made myself a promise: Once I get this manuscript done ... I can start work on another story. The most fun parts for me are brainstorming the story, writing the first draft, and those little edits later on, when the story's mostly done and I can relax a little. (Maybe I should have promised myself cake.)


    Major revisions of the rough draft, on the other hand--pulling stuff out, moving it around, changing whole scenes and so on--not so much fun. It beats self-promotion, though.



    You know what else it beats? Writing a synopsis. I hate writing synopsis ...um, synopsi ... um, synopsises. Unfortunately, for the purposes of an upcoming submission I've paused the revision, and gone over to finish the synopsis, first.


    Still a better job than assembling axles at a factory, or working at a bee moth larvea farm. Trust me on that.
    Friday, July 20th, 2018
    4:04 am
    Wave your cowboy hat at my better half
    A South Bend radio station has done a profile of Pokagon State Park in northeast Indiana:

    http://www.wndu.com/content/news/One-Tank-Trips-Pokagon-State-Park-488533701.html

    Part of their profile includes the Pokagon Saddle Barn, where my wife works. She's only on screen briefly: She's the woman in the cowboy hat saying "My name is Emily, but if you forget you can call me Horse Lady". I think I'm going to call her Horse Lady from now on!
    Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
    4:02 am
    Print Book or Audio Book? Or both?
    Last year I did a review of Neil Gaiman's American Gods:


    https://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2017/07/book-review-american-gods-by-neil-gaiman.html


    Emily and I listened to it on audiobook while driving back and forth to Missouri and other places over the summer. It was only the second fiction audiobook I ever listened to, the first being Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy. I read that print book first, and was disappointed in the audio version, which was abridged and in my opinion not dramatized well. (However, I've never been disappointed in non-fiction audiobooks.)


    American Gods was just a reading, rather than a dramatization; maybe that's what did it for me, but I loved it. Then the TV series based on the book came out, and got my interest enough to try reading the book myself. The audiobook narrator did such an awesome job that it seemed the print version would be weaker.


    It wasn't. It seems there's no version of American Gods that isn't awesome, including the TV show.


    There are places for both, of course--for instance, my wife really hates it when I read and drive. What's your preference, if you have one? Audio or print? And maybe I should tackle the graphic novel next.



    Maybe someday we'll even get to "see" some of my books on audio.
    Friday, July 13th, 2018
    1:36 am
    movie review: Ant-Man and the Wasp
    Scott Lang is just a normal guy who used to be a superhero, until he broke the law and the law made him a deal: Two years of home detention, a few more on probation, and he's a free man. Oh, as long as he never again puts on that Ant-Man super suit. Now he's only days from getting his detention bracelet removed, so all he has to do is relax, play with his daughter, and he's home free.


    I think we all know Scott's not free.


    Suddenly he's reunited with Dr. Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne, both still mad Scott used the suit they gave him to go fight the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. It seems they've discovered a way to rescue someone they thought long lost, and they need Scott to do it. But in advancing their mission, the trio runs afoul of the Feds, mobsters, and a mysterious figure whose powers can be predicted from their name: Ghost.


    Ant-Man and the Wasp is one of those projects--like most Marvel movies--that was only doable in recent years, when special effects finally caught up with the vision of movie makers and comic creators. Not that movies haven't managed without it before: check out The Incredible Shrinking Man, from 1957. But when modern effects are successfully balanced with story and character, the results can be spectacular.


    Ant-Man and the Wasp manages that pretty well. We get giants menacing ships, quantum level adventures, and everything in between, including one in which a Pez dispenser is used as a weapon, and a big Hot Wheels product placement that fits into a fun and somewhat unusual chase scene. No matter how good they might have made anything else, I just don't see how they could have pulled this story off without modern effects.



    Having said that, they do pretty well otherwise, too. A lot of that is thanks to a solid cast including Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as the title characters, and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Look for Michael Pena having a lot of fun, Randall Park as a befuddled FBI agent, Hannah John-Kamen as one of the more tragic figures, and little Abby Ryder Fortson, who tended to steal her scenes through shear cuteness as Scott's daughter.


    Do NOT stay for the two mid/after credit scenes. They change the tone of the whole movie from fun to depression, although they do fit the movie into the Marvel Universe.


    Seeing Douglas, Laurence Fishburne, and Michelle Pfeiffer makes me wonder at how much more willing the big quality names in Hollywood are to do comic book movies, now. (Of course, Pfeiffer once visited the DC universe.) The wide net of fantasy/SF will probably always get snubbed by the Hollywood elite even as they're scooping cash out of the cows (not literally--ew); but the genre's being taken more seriously than when I was a kid.


    My score:


    Entertainment Value: 3 3/4 out of 4 M&M's. No ... thinking back on the scene with Michael Pena's character under truth serum, sent that up to a full four.


    Oscar Potential: 2 1/2 out of 4 M&M's. There were some good performances here, not that the Academy would ever stoop to acknowledge them, but mostly there should be some consideration for effects.
    Friday, July 6th, 2018
    5:14 am
    movie review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
    I'm starting to think that someday the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride will break down, and the pirates will start eating the tourists. At least in a movie, where the idea of safe things going horribly wrong and killing lots of people has always been popular.



    In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom it's been a few years since the theme park Jurassic World suffered a catastrophic "pirates eating people" story, and the island of Isla Nublar has been abandoned ... by people.


    (And now I'm thinking, how cool would a pirates vs. dinosaurs movie be? Get on that, SyFy.)


    A dormant volcano on the island has become active, and former employee Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is involved in an effort to rescue the dinosaurs before it blows. The fact that there's a volcano there at all will come as a surprise to franchise viewers, although I'm told it's mentioned in the original book. Yeah, I read it--twenty years ago.



    Why does Claire, who almost died in the last movie, want to save the animals? That's what Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, doing a great job of playing Chris Pratt) wants to know. She guilts him into going along with the reminder that his own pet raptor, which he raised from an egglet, is still there.



    The mission's financed by a rich old man (James Cromwell), who we discover was once a partner to the original Jurassic Park founder, John Hammond. Retcon, much? But the armed "guards" who go along with Claire and Owen have their own, much more sinister agenda. Rescue dinosaurs? Yes. But toward what end?


    Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is much better than the original Jurassic World, which in my mind isn't saying much, but still suffers from being too dark and sometimes graphic. They haven't learned the lesson the master, Steven Spielberg, taught in the original Jurassic Park (not to mention Jaws): Often the scary stuff is much scarier when it happens off screen.


    Still, the stuff that happens onscreen is pretty darned spectacular, especially in the first half of the movie when our heroes are fleeing just about everything: dinosaurs, bad guys, and exploding mountains. The movie makers chose practical effects when possible, especially with close contact with the dinosaurs. When that couldn't be done, modern digital effects have progressed so much that it really is getting hard to tell them apart ... and I watched the movie in 3D IMAX, thanks to a scheduling snafu.


    In the second half the movie moves to a different location, in its own way just as neat, and at this point it's probably not a spoiler to say a lot of people die. The suspense was gripping, but the gore unnecessary and unwanted for the type of movie you should be able to take your kids to. Overall I liked the characters except for the bad guys, who were such cardboard cutouts that I kept confusing their names with the same tropes who died in earlier Jurassic Park pics. In addition, the plot was very much a repeat of the themes we've seen before, from greed and inhumanity to dire warnings of what happens when science outstrips reason. For that last we at least get Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm, in what amounts to a glorified cameo.


    I liked the new supporting characters played by Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, and although it appears to have been her first major acting role, Isabella Sermon does a great job as this movie's kid-in-jeopardy.


    My score:


    Entertainment Value: 3 out of 4 M&Ms. Worth seeing, but it still pales in comparison to the original Jurassic Park. But then, what doesn't?


    Oscar Potential: 2 out of 4 M&Ms. With the exception of some plot holes, nothing about the movie is bad; but other than the effects and cinematography, nothing about it is great, either.
    Monday, July 2nd, 2018
    4:11 am
    How The First World War Led To American Independence
    Four years ago I wrote my regular newspaper humor column about Independence Day history, which few people read because it was about history. Ironically, about two months later my regular newspaper column became history, but that's another story.

    As I said in the opening to our book "Hoosier Hysterical", history would be a lot more fun if it was made ... well ... fun. So I had fun with this, which has been changed slightly because I'm four years older.




    SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



    Ever since Christopher Columbus first landed in the New World and hid all the Viking artifacts, America has been a land of opportunity, independence, and smallpox.


    Eventually the British colonists decided to go off and form their own country. (Except for Canadians, who were just too polite to leave.) Since our schools don’t teach enough history these days (there’s so much more of it now), I thought I’d give you a quick timeline of how we, the people, went from tea to coffee:


    1756: The French and Indian War


    This was probably the first World War. No, seriously: Over here we just mention the French and Indians, but the rest of the world called it the Seven Years War. It spread all over the globe, like a viral YouTube video, but with more cannon fire and disease. Nations involved included Austria, England, France, Great Britain, Prussia, and Sweden. Oh, and the Indians.


    (Later on Prussia, not wanting to be confused with Russia, changed their name to Germany.)


    Why does this involve American Independence, which came decades later? Because it cost the British government so much to defeat their enemies (and the Indians) that they began taxing the colonists to help pay for it. And yet they didn’t allow the colonies to raise their own armies, and there was that whole taxation without representation thing.


    Oh, and one more thing: The whole world war began (well, mostly) because a young Virginia militia leader ambushed a French scouting party in the far west wilderness … near Pittsburgh. In later years, George Washington would be more careful to start battles after war was declared.





    1770: The Boston Massacre:


    No, it wasn’t a sporting event. It started when a group of colonists began throwing snowballs at a squad of British soldiers (In Boston. Sheesh.). That’s not so bad, is it? Then the colonists starting tossing sticks and stones, which, contrary to popular belief, can indeed break bones.


    This is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t throw stuff at people with guns. Five colonists died and the soldiers were arrested, but they were mostly acquitted thanks to the crafty defense by a young lawyer names John Adams.


    1773: The Boston Tea Party


    Tired of high taxes, an unresponsive government, and Earl Gray, colonists (In Boston—sheesh) dressed up as Indians, sneaked aboard ships (In the harbor—sheesh), and tossed 342 chests of tea into the water. In today’s dollars, they turned Boston harbor into the world’s biggest cup, with $750,000 worth of tea. They were led, of course, by the famous Boston patriot Folger “Starbuck” Maxwell.


    But why blame the Indians? They didn’t even drink tea.


    1774: The First Continental Congress


    They didn’t get much done. But in their defense, they were a Congress.


    1775: Patrick Henry stirs the pot


    With the grievances of the colonists ignored by a remote government—sort of like today, only without Facebook—a radical named Patrick Henry, upset because he had two first names and no last one, began making fiery speeches and resolutions.


    The truth is, Henry was kind of a deadbeat. Worse, a lawyer. But man, he sure could talk good, and his actions helped ignite the American Revolution. You’ve probably heard the last line of his big speech, which was “Give me liberty or give me death!” Luckily, he got liberty.


    1775: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.


    He rode through the countryside yelling, “The British are coming!”


    Sleepy residents yelled back, “Shut up, you fool! We are the British!”


    Then he got arrested, probably for violating the noise ordinance, and the ride was completed by William Dawes. Unfortunately for Dawes, the name “Paul Revere” sounded better in poetry.


    Also 1775 (busy year, there): The Battle of Lexington and Concord


    Revere had discovered the British were marching by sea, which slowed them down considerably because the horses didn’t swim well. That gave the Minutemen almost a full two minutes. It was plenty of time to gather in Lexington, to protect stores of arms and gunpowder, and Concord, to protect the grapes.


    1775 (saw that coming, didn’t you?): The Second Continental Congress


    Didn’t get much done. They made up for it in 1776, though.


    1775 or so: The Battle of Bunker Hill


    It was actually fought on Breeds Hill.


    177—wait for it—5: Patriots occupy Montreal, Canada


    Things were looking up, up there. And that’s the last time things looked up for the Revolutionaries in the north, who discovered Canadian hospitality didn’t extend to invasion.


    1776 (finally!) Egged on by the British, Cherokee Indians attack along the entire southern frontier


    They were still upset about the whole Tea Party fraud. Also, they were mad about getting named for a country on the other side of the world.


    June 7, 1776: Richard Henry Lee points out to the Continental Congress that they’ve been rebelling against the British for more than a year, and wouldn’t it be a good idea to actually declare themselves to be rebelling?


    June 11: Five Congressmen are appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence. The other four talk Thomas Jefferson into doing the writing, pointing out that he’s the only one who’s invented a portable desk to use.


    June 12-27: Jefferson writes a rough draft, only to receive a rejection letter from the committee.


    July 1-4: The entire Congress rips apart the Declaration. (Not literally. Sheesh.) Jefferson quits writing and goes into politics.


    July 2: Congress declares independence, just as the British fleet and army arrive to invade New York. Talk about timing. John Adams declares that July 2 will forever be celebrated as Independence Day.


    July 4: Having already declared independence, Congress now adopts the Declaration of Independence, declaring something they’ve already declared. John Adams’ head explodes.


    July 9: George Washington has the Declaration read before the American army. The soldiers nod politely and ask when they’re going to get paid.


    There was much more to it, of course. In fact, you could say the American Revolution went on until the US Constitution was adopted in 1788, or even until we fought the second Revolutionary war in 1812, which might also be related to the real second World War.


    Now, that’s a funny story.
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Mark R. Hunter   About InsaneJournal