Friday, December 30, 2005 - SF Bloggage

My sidebar has been sorely lacking in SF bloggage since I removed my link to the Science Fiction Blog, whose posts had become more and more infrequent before stopping altogether. Of course, they were cool enough to plug Blurred Line when it came out, without my even being aware of their existence, so I had to give them the benefit of the doubt for a while.

Anyhow, for those of you who are craving more SF bloggage, here's a place I've just discovered this week: SF Signal. They're cool enough over there to have interviewed a guy like John C. Wright so, you know, if a big-name SF author like that will take the time to talk to them, they must be cool (or extraordinarily geeky...but, wait, that's kind of a compliment in SF circles, isn't it?).

Cavan blogged at 5:33 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, December 29, 2005 - The Island

Despite myself, I seem to have a bit of a soft spot for Michael Bay. I liked Armageddon. I liked The Rock. I even liked Bad Boys (well, not the sequel - yeech). Actually, I was all set to sit down and watch a nice, quiet flick tonight, but the DVD ended up being scratched to hell, so instead I went for something completely different. As it goes with Bay, if you don't expect any brains, you might have some fun. The thing is, though, it seems as if this movie actually wants to be smart at times. The first half-hour is pretty high-concept SF (thought it borrows heavily from the classics, Brave New World especially) and you can almost forget you're watching a silly action movie. Of course, then the silly action does come along, the plot falls to shreds and everything turns into one loud, pointless mess. Fortunately, this loud, pointless mess has a really sweet car chase and some other good scenes that'll keep the adrenaline pumping. This flick, ultimately, was passable entertainment and nothing more. My grade: B-

Avg. Critic's Score: 5.4 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 6.8 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: Lincoln Six-Echo is a resident of a seemingly utopian but contained facility in the mid 21st century. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the "The Island" - reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet. But Lincoln soon discovers that everything about his existence is a lie. (via Imdb)

Director: Michael Bay (Armageddon)
Writers: Caspian Tredwell-Owen (Beyond Borders), Alex Kurtzman ("Alias"), Roberto Orci (The Legend of Zorro)
Stars: Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation), Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings), Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator), Steve Buscemi (Fargo), Ethan Phillips ("Star Trek: Voyager"), Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile)

Useless Trivia: When Lincoln and Jordan are being chased in Los Angeles, a mural of Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman is clearly visible, revealing that the scene was shot in Detroit, not Los Angeles.

Cavan blogged at 9:38 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 - Best of 2005

Tis the season to compile Best of 2005 lists, so I'm officially on the bandwagon. These ones will pertain to my little place in the blogosphere, so chances are if you show up here, you've done well by me.

Most frequent commenter: Melly - Alright, so I didn't go back and check, but I'm pretty confident she's the winner.

Top referrer: Pretty Cunning - Wins this by a mile, so go check out his blog.

Top Google searches:
1) "1988 Permian Panthers" - I watched Friday Night Lights. That's all I know. I usually get at least one hit from this search term each day.
2) "Clemence Poesy's email address" - Ever since Potter mania kicked into gear. Sorry, guys, I'm not in contact with her.
3) "Katrina Photos" - I'd relink to the photo album, but it looks like it has gone offline.

Favourite Post: "Why I Blog" - Parody and a picture of Jessica Alba. Now that's just good blogging.

Favourite Post Elsewhere: "What My Jesus Would Do" at Scalzi's Whatever - I pretty much share Scalzi's view on Christianity, and he puts it very succinctly.

Best Challenge Participant: Greywulf - For his participation in the Weekly Writing Challenge (it'll be back soon, by the way).

Cavan blogged at 9:33 AM | 2 comments

Tuesday, December 27, 2005 - Mmm...Bounty

I've returned from my Christmas sojourn, having had a wonderfully...err, bountiful Christmas (in terms of fun, food, and gifts). This is, of course, my ultimate goal for Christmas, bastard atheist that I am, so I'm quite pleased.

I suppose the bloggy sort of thing to do would be to talk a little bit about my most kick-ass Christmas present, so I will. Now, I'm a huge hockey fan, but I'm also somewhat handicapped financially. This doesn't really afford me the opportunity to get to any hockey games. Fortunately, my big gift was two tickets to three different Ottawa Senators games. They're nice seats, too, high up but mid-ice which is the best bang for your buck. There's a February game against Atlanta, and then two games near the end of the season, which will be fantastic, since the atmosphere in Ottawa (especially this year, when we have the best team in the league) close to playoff time is downright electric. At the end of March I've got a date with the Rangers (the Sens embarassed them 6-2 last night, by the way) and, saving the best for last, there's a game at the start of April against the Habs. Mmm...bounty.

So, what was your fave gift? And don't say you're not into that whole commercialization of Christmas thing. Everyone likes presents.

Cavan blogged at 12:44 PM | 3 comments

Saturday, December 24, 2005 - Off for the Holidays

After I get out of work today, I'm pretty much going straight down to my Dad's for Christmas festivities. I won't be back until late on Boxing Day.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays. People seem to be getting bent out of shape with which term to use these days, and I know there are people out there who will be offended by my using both of these.

To those people, I say: Get a life. If you choose to take issue with the specific syntax of how I wish you happiness, you're being a jerk, plain and simple. Now, if this prompts you to take the time and energy to write me something nasty, I suggest that you redirect that energy towards braving the mall again and buying a gift for some children's charity.

Anyhow, I probably shouldn't depart on that note, so here's hoping that everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

Cavan blogged at 6:55 AM | 3 comments

Thursday, December 22, 2005 - Writing Love

Melly recently had a discussion on writing disturbing scenes. After some thought, I realized that, morbid as it may seem, it's much easier for me to write about grim, disturbing things than anything to do with love. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that love is an emotion you can easily get cartoonish with when writing. Indeed, sometimes it's hard to know exactly where the line between utter sappiness and realism lies.

Something I've realized is that, throughout my writing, never once have I had two characters go through the process of falling in love. I've had characters who are in love, but I've never dealt specifically with any kind of courtship. I'm not sure exactly what to attribute this to, though it's tempting to point to my own level of cynicism. I'd much rather have two people who are potential love interests trade snarky dialogue and not really get anywhere than have them fall for each other.

I think (and this might be another product of that cynicism) I don't bother much with love because it never quite fits the tone of my stories. For those who are even semi-familiar with any of my writing, it's pretty easy to see that I like to paint a pretty bleak picture about life. And really, it's just hard to cram a successful love affair into a bleak story, unless one of the lovers dies, but that's just so cliche.

How do you write about love?

Cavan blogged at 4:35 PM | 5 comments

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - Does That Make Jesus Pepsi Clear?

I had to go out during my lunch break to grab some Cora's gift certificates for a Christmas present today. FYI, for anyone who plans to go on holidays to any major city in Ontario, Quebec, or the Maritimes, chances are there's a Cora's there. Check it out - they have the greatest breakfasts ever.

Anyhow, on the way back I drive by this big church that often puts interesting things on the big message board that sits in front of it, facing the road. Every time I pass the place, I hope for something interesting. Unfortunately, all I got today was a "Merry Christmas", a far cry from the "Jesus Is Cool" they had up there for a couple weeks last summer. This brought to mind a story that I thought I'd share with you all.

Last February, I was on my spring break, and I went to Frederiction (yeah, I know, the only place colder than Ottawa - smart move, Cavan). Anyhow, at one point, we happened to pass by a church that also had a big message board facing the road. What did it say? "God Is The New Coke". I kid you not. We even drove back to make sure we hadn't been hallucinating. Personally, I wonder what age group they were trying to reach out to. I'm 21 and I don't even remember New Coke that well. Furthermore, didn't New Coke suck? I mean, it was discontinued for a reason, right? I can only imagine that they didn't intend to compare God with an overmarketed and highly inferior brand of soft drink. I guess it goes to show how out-of-touch the church is.

Either that, or they're ultra-progressive, and they actually meant that God was better than cocaine. Seems to me, though, that a religion wouldn't want their God referred to as a narcotic. Of course, what do I know? Maybe God has a really inventive marketing team.

Cavan blogged at 5:52 PM | 6 comments

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - Blurred Line/GERA News

So, I should be in a manic frenzy right now, studying for my last exam, which is a few hours. But, you know, that just wouldn't be me.

Instead, I'll give an update on what's going on in my writing world right now. Earlier, I mentioned that I'd been giving some serious though to rewriting Blurred Line. Well, it's begun. I hadn't planned doing it so soon, but a few days ago I finally came up with the rest of the plot line for Glistening Edges and Right Angles. I really had no idea of what my plans for GERA were and then, as luck would have it, I came up with an idea that solved all of my problems. So, of course, I got to work on writing things down. Unfortunately, I realized that if I wanted everything to be properly set up for the plot line I'd constructed for GERA, I was going to have to do my re-write of BL first. So, that's where I am.

Also, this means that the current version of Blurred Line now has only a few months left to live. I imagine I'll be taking it off the market at some point during Q1 2006. So, if you wanted a copy of the original, you'll have to snap one up soon.

Cavan blogged at 10:53 AM | 3 comments

Sunday, December 18, 2005 - Crash/Assault on Precinct 13

I went downstairs to the convenience store in my building to rent Crash for the evening, but there was a pretty significant scratch running through the DVD, so the guy told me he'd give me a second movie for free, just in case Crash didn't work. Fortunately, it did, so you get two movie reviews today, you lucky dogs.

A gripping ensemble piece with amazing performances from its large cast. Personally, I felt pretty bad for Brendan Fraser, because his acting was pretty flat and that made him really stand out in a field full of award-calibre performances. Cheadle and Terrence Howard are particularly good. Additionally, if 50 Cent and Usher's recent movies lead you to believe that casting rappers is just a cash-grab, watch for a stunning performance here by Ludacris (whose character, ironically, spouts off on the evils of rap music). Much was made of how the film deals unflinchingly with racial prejudices, and it most certainly does tackle them head-on. I'd like to say that it manages not to moralize while doing so, but that's not true. They do moralize. Here's the thing, though - thanks to the mind-blowingly good script, you never feel like you're being preached at. Crash makes it all seem real. Highly recommended. My grade: A

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.2 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 8.5 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: For two days in Los Angeles, a racially and economically diverse group of people pursue lives that collide with one another in unexpected ways. (via Imdb)

Director: Paul Haggis
Writers: Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) and Bobby Moresco
Stars: Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Matt Dillon (Drugstore Cowboy), Jennifer Esposito (Summer of Sam), Thandie Newton (Mission Impossible 2), Sandra Bullock (Miss Congeniality), Brendan Fraser (The Mummy), Ludacris (2 Fast 2 Furious), Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Larenz Tate (Menace II Society), Shaun Toub (Broken Arrow), William Fichtner (Go), Loretta Devine ("Boston Public"), Michael Pena (Buffalo Soldiers)

Useless Trivia: The Cabot house is actually director Paul Haggis's own house.

There wasn't much that I was interested in when I was offered a second movie, so I figured that after a movie like Crash I'd want some mindless entertainment. Problem is, this one turned out to be way better than expected. The first thirty minutes of this movie (the opening scene, in particular) are absolutely stunning. They include pulse-pounding action, clever writing, and some terrific acting. Problem is, after that, when the movie's main plot kicks into gear, the quality drops off quite quickly. For the rest of the movie, the action, acting and plot twists oscillate wildly from spectacularly good to unbearably awful. It is, quite possibly, the most uneven movie I've ever seen. That said, I was expecting a largely formulaic movie with loud explosions. Instead, this is an action movie (and there is a lot of action, by the way, so it'll be great if you're a fan of the genre) that wants desperately to be character based. It succeeds sometimes, but not always. My grade: B-

Avg. Critic's Score: 6.0 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 6.4 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A police sergeant must rally the cops and prisoners together to protect themselves on New Year's Eve, just as corrupt policeman surround the station with the intent of killing all to keep their deception in the ranks. (via Imdb)

Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Writer: James DeMonaco (The Negotiator) based on the movie written by John Carpenter
Stars: Ethan Hawke (Gattaca), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), Drea de Matteo (Swordfish), Maria Bello (A History of Violence), Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), Brian Dennehy (First Blood), Ja Rule (The Fast and the Furious), John Leguizamo (Land of the Dead), Aisha Hinds ("Invasion")

Useless Trivia: The "pills" that Roenick shows us more clearly near the end of movie are clearly Icebreakers mints. You can even see the little blue "flavor capsules" in them.

Cavan blogged at 1:22 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 17, 2005 - Fall On Your Knees

There's not too much I want to say about this book, since "One of the best books I've ever read" seems to sum things up so nicely. From multi-talented actress, playwright and novelist Ann-Marie MacDonald (she's won awards in all three disciplines here in Canada - I'm actually jealous that there are people this talented), Fall On Your Knees is a family saga set in the Maritimes in the early part of the twentieth century. Too many adjectives come to mind when I think of the story, so let me pick a couple, and you can infer from them what you may: it's both a brilliant and disturbing tale that, unlike a lot of literary fiction out there, forces you to keep reading - only it's not because you're excited to find out what's going to happen next, it's because you're filled with a kind of sick dread. Reading Fall On Your Knees is a lot like rubber-necking at the scene of a bad car accident. If you can get past that, though, you'll be impressed by the depth MacDonald lends to her large cast of characters. Her multi-POV approach allows her to make some really fascinating comments on the misconceptions and misunderstandings between people which can have long-lasting affects on our lives. Personally, this was what elevated the book in my eyes. Anyhow, I highly recommend it (so did Oprah, by the way).

Check it out on Amazon here.

Cavan blogged at 9:31 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 15, 2005 - Originality in SF

John Scalzi recently entered into the debate on fantasy versus science fiction and, as always, had some supremely interesting things to say. Among the insightful comments are:

However, I personally believe the problem is somewhat more prosaic, and it comes down to marketing and writing problems that science fiction literature has that fantasy does not; namely, that math is hard, and science fiction looks rather suspiciously like math.

Personally, I think he's right. I think the bias against SF has a lot to do with people's misconceptions about the genre. Anyhow, genre debates aside (and indeed, they should be put aside because, ultimately, as long SF has enough of an audience to keep the genre alive and well, I don't much care what type of people that audience is made up of) I wanted to write a little on originality in SF.

One thing Scalzi writes about SF writers is that they're "pushed to reinvent the wheel every single time they write a book". Frankly, it's true. In literary fiction, you're not likely to see a writer put down for, say, writing a story that centers on child abuse. In mystery, if the police officer's partner turned out to be the murderer, your readers probably wouldn't spit at you and say "well, someone else has already done that". In SF, though, it's a real problem (unless everybody rips something off - then you're just making use of one of the genre's tropes, not using someone else's idea).

Interestingly, though, I don't think it's the authors who are behind this. As far as I can tell, from reading the blogs of various people in the SF community (like Scalzi, Gary Gibson, and the Nielsen Haydens), it tends to be a pretty close-knit group. Moreover, most people tend to actually like each other. Scalzi, for example, in a recent post, cheerfully acknowledged the people from who'd he'd riffed on. He doesn't have a problem with admitting he used some of their ideas and, from the sounds of it, they don't really mind, either.

So, who's at fault for the creation of the originality police, then? (Credit where credit's due for that term: Pat Kirby, in the comments of Melly's discussion of the subject.) Well, seems to me that it's the unpublished writers who get bent out of shape about this kind of stuff. Why? They've got something to prove and, more often than not, they're going to be defensive about their work if someone accuses them of stealing an idea from somewhere else. If you've got a fancy book deal with Tor or DAW, then you probably don't have to worry too much (providing you're not stealing every second idea and you're not stealing word for word - that's just dirty and wrong). However, if you've taken one or two ideas from other SF works, as an unpublished author, people are probably going to take the opportuntiy to call you a hack. Not because you are, but because if you're not yet published, people are going to assume there's a reason for that. Anyhow, there's my two cents.

For the record: The digital transference of humans to computer in Blurred Line is a pretty obvious riff on the storage of Kovacs in Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. Also, the VR prison in "Between Eternities" was a giant rip-off of an episode of Star Trek: TNG.

Cavan blogged at 8:50 PM | 4 comments

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - Linkage: Underrated Writers

With the "Best Books of 2005" lists already popping up quite often, these guys have decided to do something a little different. Instead, they've published a list of the best underrated writers. They list 52 of them and I'm proud to note that, although I haven't read any of their books, I can actually name a book by at least four of them.

Be sure to check out this list.

Cavan blogged at 8:39 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - What's On Your (Writing) Plate?

On my last post, Benjamin remarked that he always has number of writing projects on the go, something that's always been a little problematic for me. I find it easy to have a number of ideas floating around, and I can even commit a number of them to paper at the same time, but switching back and forth between them during the actual writing is something that throws me off, though you probably wouldn't know it from my habits over the past couple months.

My ideal workload is to be working on a novel at all times, occasionally breaking to write a short story whenever a) I get stuck in a rut on the novel or b) I come up with a great idea that I need to write about. Anything beyond that and I tend to start feeling like I'm tackling too much at one time.

What's your ideal workload?

Cavan blogged at 6:18 PM | 7 comments

Monday, December 12, 2005 - Exam #2 Done

I've just finished off exam number two, which is nice as that was the most demanding one. Unfortunately, my professor isn't accepting them until seven, so I'll be sitting around here for the next two hours, basking in post-exam glory.

In other news, I've gone and done what someone with two major pieces of writing on his plate probably shouldn't do - I've started a short story. A cool idea about an ecological preserve with artificial animals came to me a few days ago and has continued to kick around, so I thought I'd try to get it down on paper. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure of the plot quite yet, so it might end up being one of those stories that I toss out the window by the 1000 word mark.

Cavan blogged at 4:43 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, December 11, 2005 - Technical Crap: FTP Workaround

The Blogger FTP problem is still plaguing me, but I've come up with a somewhat tedious workaround solution. I type of my posts here on the Blogger dashboard and they manage to get published to my archives, but not the front page. So, I head to Yahoo where all my files are hosted and open up my archive file and search through the grimy muck of HTML to find the post. I copy that code over to my index file and, well, problem solved. Mostly.

The comment count doesn't seem to update itself and I no longer get comments delivered to my email, but fear not, you're still able to comment and I can still check them manually. I'm just hoping that this problem doesn't stretch into January, because things might get iffy if Blogger has to create a new archive file. Also, I hope this doesn't cause anything to go screwy when it does come back.

Argh! Silly Blogger. I'd change to Wordpress or Movable Type, but then I'd have to sacrifice my groovy template. Besides, as I understand it, it really helps to have some basic knowledge of MySQL (for Wordpress) or Perl (for MT) when you're working with those platforms.

Cavan blogged at 3:32 PM | 3 comments

Saturday, December 10, 2005 - Go

This flick definitely owes a lot to Pulp Fiction, but director Doug Liman puts things together well enough that it doesn't seem like a tired retread. That said, Go is nowhere near Tarantino's film, or even Liman's debut film, the "so money" Swingers. The three stories are weaved together nicely, with a solid script and good acting. However, nothing really stands out, save for an excellent performance by William Fichtner, but he doesn't get much screen time. Overall, this is a pretty good flick, but having come to expect great things from Liman (after Swingers and The Bourne Identity) I felt a little let disappointed. My grade: B

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.4 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.4 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: Within one 24 hour period, three sets of friends in three dysfuctional situations will collide in the raucous Los Angeles underground party scene. (via Yahoo)

Director: Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith)
Writer: John August (Big Fish)
Stars: Katie Holmes (Batman Begins), Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead), Desmond Askew, Nathan Bexton (The In Crowd), Scott Wolf ("Party of Five"), Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire), Timothy Olyphant (The Girl Next Door), William Fichtner (Contact), Taye Diggs (Basic), Breckin Meyer (Road Trip), James Duval (Independence Day), J.E. Freeman (Miller's Crossing)

Useless Trivia: In the last cash register scene you can clearly see a man wearing a Civil Air Patrol t-shirt, with a message to remain "Drug Free".

Cavan blogged at 7:05 PM | 0 comments

Friday, December 09, 2005 - FTP Issues

It seems that at some point on Wednesday, Blogger and Yahoo (my host) decided to stop communicating with one another. Since then, I've been getting Broken Pipe errors whenever I try to post, which seem to be the rough equivalent of a lost connection.

Strangely enough, although the posts don't publish to the front page of my blog, they do get successfully published to my archives. The reason for all of this is beyond me. I emailed Blogger Support yesterday and am hoping to get some kind of insight into the problem. I also browsed around the web and it looks as if people have had this sort of problem with Blogger before and that it eventually resolves itself on its own, so I'm just hoping that happens sooner rather than later.

Anyway, here's hoping I can post regularly again soon.

Cavan blogged at 4:53 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - Cavan's Writing: The Near Future

Over the past week or so, I've had a couple people tell me that they've finished reading Blurred Line. My first response, before they've had a chance to say anything more, is something along the lines of an apology. Now, I have a feeling that this isn't the way a writer should feel about their work. Being in the somewhat unique situation that I am, as publisher and writer of the novel, though, I'm able to actually go out and do something about it.

Actually, I've been pondering the idea of rewriting Blurred Line for a significant period of time now. As recently as a month ago, I'd firmly decided not to do it, in the spirit of moving on. Of course, the storyline of Glistening Edges and Right Angles doesn't exactly stand on its own, so I'd had grand ideas of including both BL and GERA together in one hardcover. If I did that, though, I'd still end up having to make apologies for the first novel, which isn't something I want to go on doing.

So, after Mass Romantic (which, by the way, isn't stalled at 11k - it's just that all my progress has been made in a notebook and I haven't bothered to type any of it up yet) and GERA, I'll go back to work on BL. I'm also planning to do one or two short stories in between each project, since I have a few ideas kicking around and I wouldn't mind getting some more publishing credits to my name.

Cavan blogged at 11:42 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 - Distraction

Normally, thrillers - even SF thrillers - just don't do it for me. Of course, this one was supposed to be different. It was by Bruce Sterling, one of the fathers of cyberpunk and, arguably, the sharpest observer of culture in the science fiction world. Well, sorry Bruce, Distraction just didn't do it for me. I managed to get about 150 pages in before having to put it down. Uninteresting characters, a slow plot, the absence of any real hooks and only the occasional spark of fascinating commentary that fill Sterling's other works made this one pretty dull.

Cavan blogged at 6:09 PM | 2 comments

Monday, December 05, 2005 - Cavan Radio

Before I get started, I just wanted to apologize for slowdown anyone might be experiencing. My FTP server has suddenly decided not to get along very well with Blogger, but hopefully the situation will resolve itself before long.

Anyhow, my host recently began to support PHP, which means that I'm able to bring back RadioBlog without having to jam it awkwardly into the blank spaces of my blog. Anyhow, I know there's at least a couple readers of this blog who are semi-interested in what kind of music I listen to, so I thought I'd inflict it upon you all.

Every so often, I'll be posting a new playlist of ten songs that have been earning heavy rotation in my CD player. They'll probably not be the same tunes you hear on the radio since A) you don't need to hear any of that again, anyway and B) a significant chunk of the music I listen to doesn't get any radio airplay, unfortunately.

So, without further delay, I present to you the December 5th playlist. Just press ZAP on the player to get started.

1. David Mead - World of a King: A fun, poppy tune to start things off.
2. The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic: The title track from the album that inspired my latest work.
3. The Hiss - Brass Tacks: Heabanging garage rock.
4. Hawksley Workman - Autumn's Here: A slow, reflective tune with a great horn section near the end.
5. Better Than Ezra - Sincerely, Me: BTE was cool back in the post-grunge days of the mid-90s. Since then, their material has been fairly eclectic. Here, they take on pop-punk and do a fantastic job of it.
6. Fountains of Wayne - Hey Julie: An amazingly fun and upbeat pop tune from the guys who sang about Stacy's Mom.
7. Jeremy Fisher - Singing on the Sidewalk: Another fun, laid-back pop song from a guy who toured across Canada on his bike.
8. Louis XIV - Hey Teacher: Equal parts garage and glam rock.
9. Matthew Good - Generation X-Wing (Acoustic Version): This one may be Good's best ballad, which is no small praise.
10. The New Pornographers - The Jessica Numbers: I know, I already did one of their songs, but I've been listening to a lot of this band.

Cavan blogged at 8:55 PM | 0 comments

- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

If you're over the age of, say, eighteen, then chances are you've seen the original version of this movie. If you've seen the original, then it's pretty tough to watch this one without doing any comparison. Unfortunately for Burton's movie, which is a decent flick, it just doesn't measure up to the 1971 original. Depp is, again, decent, but his goofy Willy Wonka is no match for Gene Wilder's hilarious/creepy performance (of course, in my opinion, Wilder's Wonka is one of the best performances of all-time, so I would've been blown away had Depp even come close to matching it). Highmore's Charlie is, however, an improvement over the original, and we no longer have to deal with that aggravating song by Charlie's mother (played here by a dirty-looking Helena Bonham Carter). The biggest letdown, though, is the Oompa-Loompas. They just sucked. Their songs seemed to be a desperate attempt by studio bigwigs to update the movie, but instead, well, they sucked. My grade: C

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.2 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.5 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A young boy wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world's most unusual candy maker. (via Imdb)

Director: Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands)
Writer: John August (Big Fish) based on the novel by Roald Dahl
Stars: Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean), Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland), David Kelly (Waking Ned Devine), Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club), Noah Taylor (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), Missi Pyle (Galaxy Quest), James Fox (Patriot Games), Deep Roy (Corpse Bride), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings), Annasophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie), Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Philip Wiegratz

Useless Trivia: Deep Roy played every Oompa-Loompa himself, repeating the same movements several hundred times. While these were then put together digitally, each Oompa-Loompa represents a separate performance by Roy. In recognition of this, Roy's salary was raised to $1,000,000.

Cavan blogged at 4:04 PM | 6 comments

Sunday, December 04, 2005 - New Layout

As you can see, my fancy new layout is up and running. Personally, I think it rocks the casbah. Opinions?

Cavan blogged at 11:35 AM | 11 comments

Saturday, December 03, 2005 - On POD and the Lowering of Standards

As some of you know, I entered Blurred Line in last year's Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. I didn't win or get an honourable mention in my category (I didn't expect to, there was a lot of competition), but I was pleased to get some very positive reviews from the judges (they had some nice words and gave me several 4/5 scores). Considering all the stuff they'd read through, I figured that was pretty high praise. I've felt good about it ever since.

I decided that I'd read the book that had won one of their competitions - I won't say which book, since, as a POD publisher and writer, I don't think it'd be great publicity for me to go out and slam my peer's works. Anyhow, I'd seen this book rate highly in several contests and had read a number of enthusiastic reviews. So, I bought the thing off Amazon. It arrived a couple a months ago and, again, I was impressed. In terms of physical quality is was the best POD book, by far, I'd ever seen. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to open it up until a few days ago.

My reaction: Why? WHY!?!? I managed to read as far as page six and then had to put the book back on the shelf. It was awful. Absolutely awful. The first sentence was especially bad and anyone who knows anything has to realize that it's crucial to put together a great first sentence. This one put me off the book immediately. Now, you could argue that the writing gets better. You'd be wrong. I flipped through the book and read a number of pages at random. All horrible. Judging by some of the comments made about the book, I'm going to assume that the novel has an interesting plot and some cool technological ideas - but the writing is just atrocious. Granted, there are no spelling mistakes and the grammar's relatively passable, but every sentence screams out first-time writer.

Anyhow, to bring myself back to the remarks about the contest, I have to wonder how exactly a book like this did so well. I mean, have the contest's judges come to expect so little? Sure, the category was genre fiction, but does this mean the judges should concentrate purely on the merits of plot? If you ask me, your plot is unimportant if your writing sucks. Frankly, I've lost all faith in the judges of the Writer's Digest contest.

If you want my opinion on the best SF in the print-on-demand sector, well, Ray Ogar has that title pretty much nailed down. Techno was fantastic, but it's his latest novel, ~, that'll blow your mind.

Cavan blogged at 8:01 PM | 1 comments

- Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

An absolutely hilarious noir comedy, except for when it takes detours into dark and depressing territory. For example, a portion of the story concerns child abuse, which writer/director Black treats with all due respect. But, sometimes, when the next scene comes around and the audience is expected to start laughing again, everything's just a bit uncomfortable. Aside from that point, though, this is about as great as a comedy gets in my book. Kilmer plays straight man to Downey's bumbling idiot, and the two have great chemistry together. Black has had his share of experience in action/comedy films (he wrote the first two Lethal Weapon flicks) and replicates that success here, only with the action pushed into the background and the comedy amped up. Recommended. My grade: A-

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.3 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.9 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A petty thief posing as an actor is brought to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation along with his high school dream girl and a detective who's been training him for his upcoming role. (via Imdb)

Director: Shane Black
Writer: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) based in part on the novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday
Stars: Robert Downey Jr. (Wonder Boys), Val Kilmer (Heat), Michelle Monaghan (Unfaithful), Corbin Bernsen (Major League), Dash Mihok (The Day After Tomorrow), Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About You), Rockmond Dunbar, Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight's Tale)

Useless Trivia: Hugh Grant and Johnny Knoxville were considered for Downey's role, while Harrison Ford and Benicio Del Toro were considered for Kilmer's.

Cavan blogged at 6:51 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 01, 2005 - For Lulu Users

A quick question to anyone who has published with Lulu - what's the process for removing a book once you've done so? The reason I ask is that, as part of Apodis' publishing package, I'd like to provide a number of ARCs. As far as I know, there aren't any other subsidy presses that offer advance copies to send out for review, and that's often a bit of a downer since many places that offer to review books will only look at something before its release date. So, I'm pondering the feasibility of publishing a book with Lulu (which, as far as I'm aware, is free as long as you're not going in for an ISBN or any services), running off a limited number of copies, and then removing the book from their site. Would there be anything to keep me from doing this? Thanks in advance.

Cavan blogged at 11:27 PM | 2 comments

- Falling Out of Cars

When it comes to surrealist novels, there tends to be two opposing camps. One says the it's about as artistically advanced as one can get in prose. The other says that it's the domain of the lazy writer who wants to piece together a group of nonsensical images and call it meaningful. I agree with neither. Nonetheless, at different points, Jeff Noon's Falling Out of Cars had me thinking both at times (if you're not familiar with Noon, his debut novel Vurt brought him into the spotlight in 1994 as the next big thing in literary SF, but I'm not sure he's ever really achieved that stature).

Falling Out of Cars looks at a world devastated by a disease that interferes with people's perceptions. It's become nearly impossible for the unmedicated to see things as they truly are. Most, however, get along with the help of a drug called Lucidity. Marlene is one of these, and along with a trio of strangers picked up along the way, she's on a quest to discover pieces of a magical mirror for a mysterious man. Sounds a little odd, right? Well, mirrors play a huge role in the story (Noon has a big time obsession with Through the Looking Glass - it's referenced in this novel and one of Noon's previous novels was called Automated Alice). People can't look into one because, even with the help of the drug, they can't see their own faces and they end up going mad. The mirror, basically, becomes a symbol for this inability to perceive anything correctly. For this story to work, this is the kind of level you have to be considering things on. Even so, there was a ton of things that I just didn't get.

Personally, I enjoyed the book, but felt it could've been better. There could have been some extremely interesting things said given the setting of a world where no one can really communicate with themselves or another, but Noon tends to forego that side of things in favour of imagery and Marlene's own internal despair. The plot and characters leave a lot to be desired, but Noon's writing style and stark images usually make up for it. One scene, in which Marlene visits a place called The Museum of Fragile Things is one of the most memorable scenes I've ever read.

Check it out if you're into that sort of thing. Unless you're American, in which case you can't because it doesn't seem to have American distribution. However, it's available on the British and Canadian Amazon sites.

Cavan blogged at 3:33 PM | 1 comments


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