Alyx Dellamonica

Telewitterings, meta version with an app review

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Posted on December 8, 2014 by

photo by Kelly Robson

photo by Kelly Robson

Over a quarter century ago, I had the fortune to be in a relationship with someone who would, every Friday, remove the TV Guide from the newspaper, go through it with a blue highlighter, and mark very neatly all the things he might wish to see in the coming seven days.

This represented an excellent division of resources from my point of view, as he had the paper, the guide, the highlighter, the TV, a cable package and time set aside for a meticulous clerical task on Friday nights, whereas what I was bringing to the table was a desire to watch Dr. Who and Star Trek: TNG.

After I married Kelly, it turned out the VCR could perform much the same function, though only for 8 shows at a time, and only reliably if you left it a five minute margin of error on either side of the hour. The technology improved as we wore out and replaced gadgets. Then for awhile there was a DVR and it recorded everything, happily, only to fill up with unwatched hours of content when we hit that sad couple of years when the best things on were, like, Bones and The Mentalist. And why were we bothering with cable again? So then we weren’t.

Nowadays what I want seems to be the thing that tells me when the things I like are airing new episodes… And happy day, there is an app for that! It’s name is TV Forecast, and all it does is provide the info I want:

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It doesn’t ask me if I watched the stuff, or if I liked it. It just gives dates, or says TBA, or admits the thing is cancelled.

I am sharing all of this with you in case you also just need an app that tells you when your favorite shows are returning. And also in case you know if there’s one of these for bands. If I could have a list like this saying exactly when my fave bands’ next albums were being released, no muss, no fuss, but here’s the day… let’s just say that certain media empires might make dozens more Canadian dollars per year.

Are there any apps in your life, small or large, famous or unknown, that make your life better?

Color of Paradox review, plus cinemancy

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Posted on December 5, 2014 by

imageThere’s a nice, short review here at Exploring Worlds for my story “The Color of Paradox,” which is a time travel story set in 1920s Seattle. You can read the story for free at Tor.com.

Meanwhile I’ve been previewing – having a look at what might be in the theaters during the holiday season, trying to figure out if there are any upcoming film releases that won’t give Kelly and me hives and a bad case of cineloathing (that special feeling of self-hatred you get after sitting through a terrible movie, especially if you kinda suspected it’d be bad). To that end I’ve watched previews for A Most Violent Year and Unbroken. Both looked tedious, unpleasant and predictable. Into the Woods might be a possibility if someone we trust tells us it’s not too bad. I’m interested in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, so Selma‘s a possibility for me. Big Eyes sounds interesting, but  Tim Burton has made soooooooo many disappointing films.

Mr. Turner looks great, though, and I may see Rosewater with my sister. Maybe Two Days, One Night?

What have you seen lately that was worth the time?

Toronto, day 565

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Posted on December 3, 2014 by

imageAccording to my handy-dandy day-counting app, we’ve been here for 565 days now. I’m poking my nose into my second Ontario winter, and am curious to see how I feel about it now that the cold and snow lack, a bit, for novelty.

What’s far more significant to most of us about this time of year is less the dig for coats and toques packed away months before, and more the monolithic rah-rah-Christmasness of it all. December has come again, bringing with it three stat holidays configured, this time ’round, into one four day weekend and a Thursday off the following week.

Needless to say, this probably won’t be the most sentimental Alyx and Kelly Christmas ever. We’re never very sentimental, are we? There will be firsts: our first holiday with CinZo (and sans Rumble), the first in the new apartment… ah, that may be it.

The plan, such as it is, is to eat a couple nice meals out and see if we can find several amazing movies to see. Got any candidates? Anyone here a fan of doing a matinee on the 25th?

CinCin practices pinup poses on her plinth.

CinZo have gotten their present already: having failed numerous times to make the $3 cheapo versions work–and straining my hand in the process–I ordered a pricey and thoroughly awesome laser pointer that doubles as an LED flashlight and a UV flash too. (What does one do with a UV flash, exactly?) It debuted yesterday and we ran the kids up and down the apartment, up and down the cat tree and in circles until they were heaving with exhaustion.

There will, inevitably, be footage of this as soon as the right lighting comes my way.

Super Science Stuff for your Brain!

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Posted on December 2, 2014 by

bookzombieThe guest editor for this year’s Best American Science and Nature Writing was Deborah Blum and her picks were outstanding. I particularly loved Barbara Kingsolver’s “Where it Begins,” which is about knitting and the turn of the seasons and many other lovely things. I had some great conversations sparked by Maryn McKenna’s “Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future.”

TV as Birth Control,” by Fred Pearce blew my mind… but, really, so did most of Blum’s choices. It’s an outstanding collection. Here’s the table of contents.

As the links show, a lot of the articles can be found online. If you’re feeling inclined to sample, go for it.

Science reporters are close cousins to SF writers. Both professions involve looking at the state of the world today and extrapolating, from the data, to where we may be headed. This is an anthology about ocean rise and plagues of fire ants, about genetically engineered oranges, about our right to die with dignity,  whether we’re entitled to privacy protection from potential genetic relatives who may find us using commercially available DNA tests,  and what we lose and gain by reading on screens instead of paper.

Inspiration for stories, cause for alarm and the seeds of intense, chewy discussions fair jump off every single page. Pick it up – you won’t be sorry.

Cinewitterings: Force Majeure / Turist

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Posted on December 1, 2014 by

Force Majeure (or Turist), from Sweden, 2014 (natch) directed by Ruben Östlund –

Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren

Kelly and I have been in foreign film withdrawal since the festival, and so when the Lightbox got this movie, we checked out the preview, and then beetled down John Street with all haste to see it.

I’ll start with the downside: this thing moves slowly. If you’re even slightly in the mood for action, this is not going to be the film for you. They come, they ski, they argue. There’s an avalanche, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat more than once, but it’s no thrill-ride.

What it captures is a nuclear family in the middle of an unlooked-for, necessary, and unattractive power struggle, wrapped in a version of that oft-told real life situation where a vacation that everyone expects to be be perfect–that they need to be perfect–goes irretrievably wrong.

Finally, I’ll note that could be argued that the overall message doesn’t offer any great compliment to men. (Which reminds me – we should talk about Scott and Bailey sometime.)

So, you might ask, what is cool about it? First, it is intricately scripted, in that way that allows one’s writerbrains to endlessly pick apart its pieces. Second, the husband and wife are interesting characters: flawed, believable, and in a situation you’ll absolutely buy. The avalanche invites you to ask: would I rise to the occasion? The film also examines traditional gender roles within marriages with kids. It drags to light a pretence parents in conflict sometimes maintain, for their own sanity–to wit, that their children aren’t aware of and aren’t affected by the fighting.

There’s humor, too. You won’t have a three-minute side-splitting belly laugh watching this one, but you’ll guffaw, more than once.

The avalanche scene and its after-math are filmed in a way that is singularly mind-blowing.

Ultimately, this is a movie about how honesty is hard. The main character has been building up a little pile of (mostly) unimportant lies around himself for years. Then he tries to get away with something bigger, because he’s desperate to cling to a little self-esteem. It doesn’t work, and he tries to brazen it out when it’s obviously not working. As he does, he sledgehammers the foundations of his marriage.

In a U.S. movie, this weaselly alpha-male would be played by Greg Kinnear.

The ski footage and the scenery at the ski hill, in the French Alps, is amazing and there’s lots of attention lavished on how the slopes are groomed–on how the entire ‘natural’ experience is artificially constructed. (The avalanche itself is a controlled fake, triggered by one of the mountains’ safety devices.) This is set against the family’s nightly grooming rituals: brush teeth, wash face, visit toilet. I’m not entirely clear on whether the director was saying that the basic human hygiene is also a construct, and essentially fake. But I am grateful to everyone who practices it, all the same.

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