Old posts

Cloverfield review

I saw Cloverfield the other night. At first I thought the hand held camera perspective would make me dizzy. I thought I’d hate it, as I am generally not a fan of the “shaky camera” effect at all… but it worked in this film. It reminded me a bit of the awesome long shots in Children of Men. Although Cloverfield is supposed to be all from the perspective of a handheld camera, I must say, the camera gives excellent quality shots, and the people holding it are very good at constantly showing enough of the action to be satisfying. Sometimes when I’m watching home movies from yesteryears, I can’t stand how whoever was holding the camera let it tilt toward the floor too much or zoomed in too much or whatever. In other words, the character holding the hand held camera had a pretty good sense of cinematography. Even when he drops the camera, he amazingly drops it in just the right way that we’ll still get to see something interesting.

Anyway, I thought the special effects of the movie were fantastic, and they reminded me of the great effects in War of the Worlds. There is always something nightmarish about large things in the sky… that vastness of something incredible that you can only see from a distance. Ya know what I mean? I’ve had nightmares in which there are giant planets filling up the sky, or there are gigantic space ships flying over head, so distant that they look two dimensional, but so large that they take up your field of vision. If you don’t know what I mean… I don’t know… what’s wrong with you?

I liked that none of the actors in the film were familiar to me, that made the story a bit more believable. If someone famous had been cast it would have been awkward. However, I thought the actors they did cast weren’t very good at acting. Maybe it was the story and the script, but their performances didn’t come across as believable to me. They came across as high school drama students reciting lines.

I think it was the story and the script. While the special effects were fantastic and the cinematography was great, the story was just… bleh… I didn’t get it. Then again, I’m not sure I could’ve come up with anything better.

I really loved the end credit music, composed by good old Michael Giacchino. He needs to score some more films.

So, overall I’d rate Cloverfield a 6 out of 10. What it lacks in story and acting it makes up for in amazing visuals. And I’ve seen much worse stories anyway.

I think it would have made a rather nice musical. They should’ve hired Sondheim. That would have been awesome.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

An Impulse Buy

The other day the phone rang and I picked it up and it was my father at Best Buy telling me about computers on clearance, as my mother was thinking of buying one. I thought the deal was pretty good, so I drove over and bought the computer meself! It’s fast, has got about a 600 GB hard drive, and 3 GB of RAM, an okay graphics card, all for a low price. Definitely nicer (and of course more up to date) than my other four year old computer that I bought before college (which is, by the way, in pretty good shape for four years of use). I needed a new graphics card and more memory, so for probably a little more than the same, I bought a new computer.

I hadn’t planned on buying a new computer quite yet, so this was definitely an impulse buy. But thus far I’m pleased with it, even though I already used up 100 GB installing software and putting on the music I had on my other computer. But I still have 500 GB, so I’ve got plenty of space… plus my external which still has 400 GB left if I need it. So memory won’t be an issue for a while, I do suppose.

Anyway, in other news, I worked a bit more on my book on melody. Actually, I didn’t do much writing, I mostly did some planning. Ah … planning.

In other news, I finished the book How Computer Games Help Children Learn. I first expected it to talk about popular video games and their effects on children, but it was actually more about epistemology and how children come to learn anything in the first place. It then applies epistemological factors to games in general, showing how someone might learn something from any sort of game at all. It goes over case studies of quite elaborate games, and hints at how the properties of such games could be applied to the popular video games of today.

It would be very good for teachers to read as it makes some very important points. For example, students have to care about their work. Morphing a subject into a quiz game is practically useless. “History Jeopardy time!” is a lame stupid useless way to incorporate a game into a classroom; it’s not going to automatically make students care about history, nor will the content of the game last long afterwards.

My only qualm with the book is that to prove children have learned, it quotes the children themselves, and I know from experience that children are certainly willing to lie. I went to a summer program in middle school, and at the end we had to fill out evaluations. Being young and not very critical, I gave the program a good review on the evaluation. After all, this would please everyone, right? If I was honest about my opinion of thinking the program was a waste of time, who’d listen? Wouldn’t that make me seem like a whiny little dork? Wouldn’t the grown ups take it as an insult?

Not that I believe all the students quoted in the book are lying, just that I took them with a grain of salt. But what more can you ask for as proof? (Or ‘evidence’ I guess I should say.) When someone asks you “does this dress make me look fat?” the question begs a lie or jerkfulness, doesn’t it?

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Much blather in July

Whew, the month of July has been going by fast! I’ve been mostly staying busy with part time jobs (still don’t have a full time job yet). I’m still working on a music album, but the composing is a bit slow going. In my free time, rather than composing, I’ve been watching movies, reading books, and working on my book on the art of melody.

Movie-wise, the best movie I’ve seen in a while is Pixar’s WALL-E. It amazes me how far ahead Pixar computer animation is compared to their competitors. And they’re always very good with story. Many of the other studios seem to have pretty stupid people in charge, approving horrible scripts, who don’t seem to realize that story should come first. Michael Eisner, former head of the Walt Disney Company, even went so far as to assume audiences were no longer interested in traditional 2D animation because their animated films performed poorly in the box office. I think audiences still love traditional animation; what can make or break a film isn’t the fanciness of the graphics, it’s the story. That said, I can understand story can often be a mysterious realm that can be hard to get right; coming up with a good story is hard. Still, it’s amazing what plotless horrible stories find their way out of some major studios. Pixar seems to be one of the only studios that continues to have a very good sense of story. Even they don’t get it completely “right” all of the time (in my opinion, at least), but they’re way ahead of the game.

I also saw the film Awake not too long ago. It didn’t get very good reviews, and was certainly not as good as WALL-E, but the twists surprised me nonetheless, so it was okay. Definitely better than many of the other films I’ve been watching. 10,000 BC, Vantage Point, Into the Wild, Vacancy … I didn’t much care for any of them.

I still want to see The Dark Knight, but I’m waiting for the hype to die down.

Reading-wise, I finished Wizard’s First Rule a while ago. The story was okay, but the author’s style of writing was quite bland. I’m now reading a fantasy book called Gardens of the Moon … it’s okay, the style is not bland at all, but there are so many characters, so many motives, so much history, it’s extremely confusing. Especially after reading something as direct and non-confusing as Wizard’s First Rule.

On the non-fiction front, I read a very interesting book about the origins of Pixar called The Pixar Touch … definitely interesting for anyone who likes Pixar as they are becoming the new Disney. I’m now reading a book called How Computer Games Help Children Learn which is about how computer games help children learn. You’d think it’d be about something else, but it’s not. So far it’s pretty interesting. Here’s a quote:

Early in my career, for example, I had the pleasure of teaching in a school that was also a working organic farm in rural Vermont. The students planted and harvested all of the school’s produce. They fed and mucked the cows, sheep, and chickens, cleaned the schools buildings, repaired walls and painted fences, took in hay or collected sap for syrup, and chopped an hauled wood to heat the buildings, depending on the weather and the season.

They were willing to work so hard because they saw the work as authentic. The chickens needed to be fed. Every morning. Even when it was 10 degrees below zero. If the tables weren’t wiped down after breakfast, everyone got maple syrup on their elbows at lunch. Students saw the wood go from tree, to log, toneatly stacked cord, and, eventually, to the school’s furnace.

While I have no great desire to enroll in that school, I think it makes a very important point, and that’s that emphasized word: authentic. Is the work in school authentic? Does it really matter? Working on a farm like that, the work definitely matters. Answering questions at the end of a chapter in text-book, not so much. Unfortunately, I think a majority of the work done in middle school and onwards is not very authentic. Students aren’t working on a farm, they’re working on paper, and the ultimate punishment for an unfinished homework assignment is a low grade, again on paper. How does such work apply to the real world? How does it apply to life? It doesn’t. The basic argument is “get good grades and you’ll get a job with lots of money in it!” and that’s how it applies to the real world. But can’t we look beyond the grades? What about the actual content of the assignment? Is it important? Usually it’s not. Usually it’s pretty useless info by itself.

And I believe that’s why so many teenagers get “moody” … don’t we all want our work to be meaningful? School work certainly doesn’t seem very meaninful, and yet teenagers are pretty much forced to do it out of the prospect of getting a high-paying job years down the road, a prospect that’s pretty hard to promise, and schools certainly don’t get punished if their students are displeased with their jobs years later. Shouldn’t some other goal be in mind besides a “high-paying job”?

Okay, enough about that. Music-wise, I’ve been working on my book about the art of melody. I’m not that far into it, but I think it’s a pretty fascinating area of study, and I hope I can finish it and perhaps even get it published. However, as I said before, it will probably take years to complete. It’s exciting though, I don’t think anyone’s approached the subject like I am ever before (and I spent a fair amount of time looking), so I sort of feel like I’m breaking new ground (although maybe I’m not and I just don’t realize it). Woohoo! I only wish I had more time to work on it…

Well, that was a nice long post, hopefully it makes up for my not blogging in a while…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

King’s Assassin and stuff

Posted a new music video on YouTube the other day!

Let’s see, what else… I’m still working on a music album, though it will still be a while before it’s finished… I’m close to having 1/4th of it done.

I’m still reading Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind (took a break to read Physics of the Impossible). Only 300 pages to go!

I sent off my short story to another publisher last week, so I’m waiting for a rejection from them, though I guess it will probably be a couple months.

Oh, the “Creature Creator” for the upcoming game Spore came out; I played around with that a bit. Unfortunately my graphics card doesn’t support the right version of pixel shading, so I’ll need to buy a new one before I can enjoy the full glory of the game, so I probably won’t get it right when it comes out. 🙁 (Maybe we’ll get it for the Wii though, not sure.)

I haven’t seen the new Pixar film yet, but I heard that they didn’t release a teaser trailer for next year’s Pixar film with it. GRRRR. Why not? Please, please, Pixar, don’t let Disney cramp your style!! If you do, I won’t like you anymore.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

iPod videos…

I uploaded some iPod videos of some of my YouTube content, which are now downloadable on my MP3 page. Isn’t that exciting?! I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time.

I’m reading a book called Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku and learned something interesting… this is old news, it was done in the late 90’s, but it’s new to me… check out the world’s smallest guitar:

It’s width is smaller than the width of a human hair, it’s length about the length of a red blood cell. It is actually playable, but not by human fingers of course, and the sounds it makes are certainly inaudible to us, its range being some 14 octaves above middle C.

Ain’t that nice?

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Rejected!

Hey! How are ya?! I haven’t blogged in a while, have I?

I got my first rejection today for my fantasy short story Oberon’s Paradise, bringing the rejection count of ’08 to … 1. Kinda got a late start. Anyway, I’ve got plenty of other publishers to submit it to and collect rejections from.

I finished writing another story called No One Was Abendsen, but it has a sort of ambiguous tragic ending, which I don’t feel I should change, but I’m not sure anyone else would like it, so I’m reluctant to do anything with it. Maybe I’ll search for some critiques on the writing style itself, but not try to get it published.

I’m planning out another story now… I don’t know enough about it yet to say much, but the premise excites me.

In other news, do you like my sketch of Sweeney Todd? Not bad for me, says I.

In other news, I started reading Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series with Wizard’s First Rule. I think the story is quite engaging, but the style of writing is bland for my tastes. Makes for easy reading though. And… whew… it’s a long book! 820 pages.

Music wise, I’m working on an album, which is about 1/6th complete. Probably won’t be finished for a while, but I’m very pleased with what I have so far. 🙂

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

The Writing of Gynwig

I finally posted Chapter 9 of The Game of Gynwig. I finished writing Chapter 15 of the story today; it’s a bit strange trying to get back into it, I can’t exactly remember what all my intentions were, and my notes are disorganized. After the next 10 chapters or so, which I think I have planned out well enough, I’ll have to reread everything and reorganize and make sure I know what I’m doing for the rest of the novel. And, wow, does the story need editing. My writing is awful! But oh well, must keep going… must trudge forward…

Now go read it and I’ll thank your name in the book when it gets professionally published. (Yeah, in all honesty, it will most likely never get published, but I’ll try when I finish… if I finish. But if it doesn’t get published, I’ll podcast it, woohoo!)

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

That was amazing!

Wow, that was awesome! Seeing The Fellowship of the Ring at Wolf Trap on Thursday with the entire score played live (choirs included) was the best concert I’ve ever been to (not that I’ve been to a great many).

Hearing the music live really brought it to life (obviously). The orchestra sounded fantastic, and their sounds come straight to you without any sort of flattening or degradation. It really put my headphones, my usual way of hearing film music, to utter shame. The choirs were also outstanding, boomingly powerful. In dark dangerous parts, when the orchestra is in a uproar and the choir was singing fortissimo and the timpani is pounding away, I thought I could really feel the ground quake. Awesome!

Like the choirs, the vocal soloist, Kaitlyn Lusk, was also fantastic, and seemed to sing beautifully and perfectly.

When the film started, I realized it was to be captioned, all the spoken words appearing in white at the bottom of the screen. I thought “oh, come on, I already have it all memorized… and if your deaf, why are you here anyway?” but there were some moments when the sound of the orchestra seemed to overtake the sound of the characters’ speech, and it was hard to hear what they were saying, so I suppose the captions did come in handy… at least for those who didn’t have the film memorized. (Ok, I really don’t have it completely memorized myself, so don’t quiz me.)

While watching, my eyes went back and forth between the action on the screen and the movement of the orchestra players, or at least the players I could see, mostly string players. It would have been nice to see all the choirs, but they were hidden behind the screen, at least from where I was sitting. Still, being able to watch just a fragment of the orchestra made the music a bit “visual” … when the music dropped out, especially at exciting scenes, I realized it much more consciously. I was also able to better anticipate the coming of music by watching the players prepare right before a cue. It was very fun to watch. Then, there were other times when I was just wrapped up in the amazing story of the movie that I forgot the music was live; the great story and dialog just engaged me completely.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the performance is just getting to see it with a crowd of other fans. Hearing the audience laugh at the funny parts just seems to make them more funny, hearing the utter silence at a serious part makes it that much more serious, hearing the applause at a particularly powerful scene with powerful music (or after a soloist’s performance) made it seem that much more grand. It’s a bit like watching a comedy with friends; it’s just much more fun as you can all feed off of each other’s reaction. So just the psychology of watching the film with a crowd of fans rather than just watching it alone really changed the experience for the better. It wasn’t like sitting in a theater with annoying cell-phone talkers or blathering middle-school girls in front of you; it was like everyone there was just as focused on the film and the experience as you were.

Just how in sync the orchestra kept was astounding! I can imagine an orchestra messing up many a time during a real film music recording session, but to perform a 3 hour score live, keeping proper tempo constantly without the option to start any cue over, they were amazing. Never did the music not match what was on screen, never did something seem a little off. It seemed just about perfect!

I am hoping, sincerely hoping, that Wolf Trap will do The Two Towers and The Return of the King as well; you can bet I’ll make it to those. The concert was superb, fantastic, definitely the best concert I’ve been to yet. Bravo!

That was amazing! 🙂

And many many thanks to my mom, who accompanied me! I am very glad she enjoyed it as well!! 🙂

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

LOTR concert!

My sleeping schedule is still completely messed up. 🙁

However, today is the day! Tonight I’m off to Wolf Trap to see a Lord of the Rings music concert! A live orchestra and choir will be playing the entire film score along with a showing of the film. Woohoo! I’m extremely excited. I just hope I’m not sleepy by then… I should go to bed right now, actually…

Oh, yeah, I still didn’t upload chapter 9 of The Game of Gynwig. I’ll do that eventually. If you would like to pay me, I’ll be more dependable…

Oh, today while I was advocating the abolition of the modern high school system, someone argued that abolishing high school would destroy the economy because of the money the teen pop culture generates. UGH!! What foolery! You shouldn’t sustain something that’s fundamentally harmful because fear of financial troubles… give me a break! Reminds of that guy in the film Amazing Grace… “If we were to abolish the slave trade tomorrow, it would bring financial disaster…” blah blah blah. You get the point.

What about the end of child labor? I’m sure there were people then that argued the same… “you can’t let the children stop working, the factories will have to close! The economy will fall!”

Yes, of course certain businesses would go out of business if high schools were abolished, but the nation wouldn’t crumble. A scratch in your arm to get rid of a splinter doesn’t cause all your skin to tear. And, yes, it might hurt for a bit, but it heals and it’s a lot better than keeping the splinter stuck in your arm.

Anyway, surely that guy saw the stupidity of his argument and now realizes that I am completely right. 🙂

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Writing music day

Spent the day writing music, more specifically my entry for the current Orchestration Challenge. I am quite pleased with my entry, but of course I won’t be able to share it for a few weeks… not until mid June most likely, when the current round will end.

I was planning on only spending an hour working on it today, but I ended up spending six and finishing it. Woohoo!

Not much else to say today… my sleeping schedule is way off again, so I’m staying up all night so that I can go to bed early tonight and wake up early on Thursday. That’s the hope at least.

I’m going to post chapter 9 of The Game of Gynwig right after I post this, so check that out if you’ve been following along with the story… though I only know of two people that are… thanks, two readers! 😛

Oh, I’ve been thinking about putting together a music album and selling it on Amazon… not of music already available on my site, but a collection of new pieces that I haven’t written yet, but they’d be connected, like repeat each other’s themes and stuff…

… Or … I could probably already put together a CD of the best stuff I’ve already written. I’ve had several people say they’d buy such a CD, even though free MP3s are already available… maybe I should do that first, try out the experience. I’m just not sure what to do for the cover art or CD art… anyone know any good but cheap artists? Or maybe I could find some public domain images…

Yeah, I guess I’ll do that first… will have to go back and re-record some pieces though so I get the best quality.

Oops, it’s not healthy to blog on future speculations of what you think you will do, is it?

Ok, enough blather…

By S P Hannifin, ago