Posts Tagged ‘Q’

Q, The Winged Serpent (1982)

October 31, 2019

I have long been obsessed with the mythological. I grew up feeding on fairytales thanks to Disney and the Brothers Grimm (both apart and together). Except most of what I was exposed to was the usual European fare that most white people in America are exposed to. That all changed in high school when my mythology world was opened up by a surprising source. I was excited about the release of Final Fantasy VIII and so were a lot of other people. I started to watch videos online of spoilers for the game. I was specifically obsessed with the summons in the game. The ability to pull a mythological beast out of thin air was amazing but one of the first summons in the game fascinated me. It was Quetzacoatl, who I learned in my Spanish classes was a hybrid of a snake and a bird and a god to the Aztec people. Aztec drawings had always looked too messy to me but the design that Square-Enix had come up with was beautiful.

I have long loved the combination of mythology and an urban setting. While I am obviously a huge fan of high fantasy, urban fantasy is what I most like to read. Horror is actually really fond of putting this kind of fiction out there. I think the appeal to me is that places I walked or drove by could be secretly hiding a monster or a coven of witches. It also makes monsters and non-human creatures more relatable while still keeping them amazing. The thugs in the alley are secretly trolls, a dragon is hiding in the subway by constantly avoiding the trains, the banks are secretly run by high elves. This was kind of the appeal of the second Predator movie. Instead of taking place somewhere in the woods, it took place in an entirely different ecosystem. Cities team with life the same as the jungle but with more politics and clearer social systems. It is fun to watch monsters interact with those systems.

The first thing I noticed was how much this movie is a blend of genres. This one is a blend of a crime story, a detective story, and a monster horror movie. The movie is, of course, about the afore-mentioned movie which is treated Jaws-Like with only fleeting glimpses. The creature’s impact is seen more than the creature itself which, unless you have dynamite effects, is really the way to go. Of course, eventually the monster has to appear and I really liked the look of it. In the early eighties, you are not going to have anything that looks too beautiful so you have to make some allowances. The monster is mostly depicted Clash of the Titans style and that works for me, especially something with that scale. One thing that really hit me was that I loved the camera work in this movie. There are some really interesting moving shots and angles that really made a lot of the scenes come alive when they could have been more flat. This movie also really has some brilliant shots that triggered my fear of heights.

The movie follows a small-time crook played by Michael Moriarty. I absolutely love the way he is depicted as the absolute opposite of an action hero. He’s flighty, weird, and absolutely anxiety incarnate. He is instantly likable as an oddball outcast. He is giving it his all in a B-Movie and it shows. The movie also follows two detectives played by David Carradine and Richard Roundtree. Carradine is the main focus but both of them get to crack wise and present a lot of the exposition to the viewer. The cast does a really good job of mixing in comedy, focusing on the situation being a ridiculous situation until it is proven correct. Carradine does a good job of grounding the movie while everybody else gets more comedic performances.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It has a lot of charm and it was a nice break from the scarier movies I’ve watched this year. I do not watch a lot of creature features and I had heard good things about this one. It definitely has some strong acting, especially Moriarty who is just giving it everything he has. I like the mix of human crime with monsters that the movie has as well.

Quality Control

April 19, 2019

Nearly ten years ago, I worked in live theater. I worked at a small regional theater in upstate New Jersey for five long years. When I left the theater, I had worked my way up from board technician to Assistant Technical Director to Technical Director. That title basically made me in charge of almost everything besides the acting. As a carpenter, I helped build the sets. As an electrician, I hung and focused the lights and did all of the wiring. As sound board operator, I played music and sound effects in time with the show. I was also a professional designer. I did the lighting design which meant that I picked colors and helped shape the look of the show. However, my all-time favorite job was as a sound designer. That meant that I spent long hours listening to music and sound effects, trying to figure out what would add to the soundscape of the show without taking away from it.


This is here because my teacher was a roadie for Steely Dan (among other bands)

To get to that position, I actually majored in theater. I majored in Stage Management at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. For those who can do the math, that means I spent nearly a decade living in New Jersey away from my beloved Maryland. When I got out of school, I decided I did not really want to be a stage manager. It had been all I wanted when I entered college but, as with most people, going off to university had changed me. It all came from taking Sound Design 101 early in my time there. I started to hang around the designers more and especially with the sound crew. I sat under the learning tree with the sound teacher, an old ex-roadie who was not technically a professor because he never got the appropriate degrees. When I got out, I wanted to create. I wanted to use my hands.

That teacher taught me a lot about music in ways that I never thought about it before. We sat and listened to records which is something I had rarely done before. With that crew, I did it almost every day. More than listening to music, we talked a lot about music and how we listen to it. This is when I truly learned how subjective music is. My teacher, my sensei, my mentor, he hated ABBA with a passion. I am not a huge fan but I like some of their upbeat tunes. He had a cleansing ceremony that had to be done to speakers that had played Abba. We listened to cheesy, goofy music and laughed our butts off. Our favorites were a recording of a kazoo orchestra and the legendary album Golden Throats. I actually later used Golden Throats as pre-show music to torture the audience. I got a compliment on it. I shuddered. Music truly is subjective.

But on to the story that I actually originally wanted to write about since everything above is a prelude to. When you do sound design, the most boring thing you have to do is quality control. It is tedious because it takes time and you really want to get the fun parts of adjusting levels and mixing sound and music. Now I understand that quality control is the most zen part of the job. To explain, quality control means listening to every sound effect and music track all the way through in order to make sure there is nothing in there that will be embarrassing later. My teacher called it “Checking for Sheep”. The story he told us to express the importance of this activity was interesting. He had once done a show with a long scene in the rain and so he had found the perfect ambient track of rain noises. Except he did not check the whole thing. So late in that scene, there was suddenly the plaintive cries of a herd of sheep standing in the rain. He was embarrassed.

So, remember to take your time. Remember to check your work because you do not want to blow it down the line. It may be tedious and it may be boring but it can save you. Also, in those zen moments of just sitting and taking things in, inspiration might strike. You may come up with brand new ideas to add to what you are doing. Patience is key.

(Written on 4/15/19)

Faith of the Raven Pt. 2

April 19, 2018

Carania took a big gulp of wine as she processed this. The goddess of death was sitting in front of her quite casually. It was unnerving but it all fit. The black on black, the white mask, the feathered dress, the aura of immense power. Carania felt she had probably been impertinent to a goddess and that had to be remedied. “I’m sorry for offending you.”

“Offending me?” The queen said with a laugh. “You have impressed me. As for how I know your name, I am a goddess but you are not unknown in the world. You are Carania, possibly the best with a sword in Silverlight not to mention your proficiency with other weapons. But what interests me most is your name. You were born Cara. Caring Cara, always helping everyone as you grew up. You not only played with other children, you watched over them too. However, when you took your fencing training, you added the ‘nia’ at the end of your name.”

Carania nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I felt like I needed a change at the time. I never tried to hide anything about myself.”

“Ma’am?” the Queen asked and she laughed again. It was an almost musical laugh. “Very cute.” She waved her hand and her mask was suddenly gone and Carania immediately averted her eyes, looking down at her empty glass. There was rich laughter from the other side of the table. “You can look, dear girl. Few are allowed to see the true face of death but I trust you. Death can seem cruel but death is kind, I assure you.”

Carania looked up and saw what looked like a young woman Amela’s age. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her waist length hair had suddenly gotten shorter and wavier and it was gathered in a stylish bun atop her head. Her face was painted to accentuate her features with striking black lips and heavy black around her eyes. Her skin was actually dark which was a bit surprising compared to the ghostly white of the mask. She looked almost like she was from the deserts to the north but she was a goddess so that could not be.

“It is like you have two names or two parts to your name. It illustrates the two sides of you. Compassion and the Sword. Both tools can be a great asset in what comes next and I need you to have every advantage you can get your hands on. I need you at your best, Carania.”

Carania swallowed the rest of the wine. “You need me? What possible use can the Raven Queen have for a mortal such as me?”

“I cannot walk the material plane as easily as you can,” the Queen said. “I need a champion out there fighting for me. I have many enemies and many things to set right and I need help. I think with your mind, your heart, and your sword, I think you can be exactly who I need.”

Carania blinked. “This is a job offer? I feel silly reminding you but I’m dead.”

“I can send you back,” the Raven Queen said. “As long as you agree to be bound to me.”

“What exactly would I do?” Carania asked.

The Raven Queen leaned forward. “You would be my sheriff. You would roam the world, mostly sending undead back to their graves by force. Undead rise all the time and they are unnatural and should be put down without hesitation.”

Carania nodded. “I’ve never met any undead but I would agree. Am I supposed to do this alone?”

“I would suggest that you partner with other people once you get back. Clergy and paladins of great faith are especially useful for this cause.”

“So, go back, recruit a fighting force and eliminate undead around the world? Is that all?” Carania mimed writing a list on her palm.

The Raven Queen laughed again. “For that, you get your life back and, seeing as how you’re an elf, you have a long way ahead of you. There will be adventures and I’m sure there’s some coin in what I’m asking if riches are your thing.”

“Where would I even start?” Carania asked.

“You would start with revenge.” Suddenly, the Raven Queen was holding up one of the arrows with the black fletching. “This is an insult. Their arrows are not even fletched with raven feathers. These are crow feathers. Fitting since the people who shot you are interfering with my harvest.” Carania looked a little lost. “There is a necromancer using human thugs to kill people for the necromancer to raise later. This necromancer is pathetic but he could become a problem later. I want you to take him and any undead out.”

“There’s plenty of incentive for that first mission,” Carania said. “I can’t pretend that the rest of it isn’t attractive either. You’re right. I do want to protect people and I have heard how nasty the undead can be.”

“Very nasty,” the Raven Queen said. “The unthinking undead such as zombies and ghouls are bad enough but the ones that think are even worse.  Eventually, you will be hunting down wights, vampires, death knights, and even liches. Do you think that you are up to the task?”

“As long as you’re not sending me back in this dress,” Carania said.

The Raven Queen laughed. “You can’t wear your armor all the time, Carania. If you do, it becomes a part of you and it becomes harder to take off when you need to. Figuratively, of course.”

“So, how does this work?” Carania asked. “How do you send me back?”

“Carania Garon, I charge you to purge the land of the undead scourge and to kill those who would unleash that threat on the world. In return, you will be resurrected, you will be harder to kill, and you will be granted special abilities to carry out your mission. In short, you will be a paladin and champion in my name. Do you accept this charge?”

Carania swallowed and nodded but looked at the Raven Queen with a steely gaze. “I do.”

“Take my hand, Carania,” the Raven Queen said. When Carania reached out to shake the Raven Queen’s hand, there was an incredible feeling just from her touch. It was cold but there was an odd tingling energy as well. The Raven Queen bent down and kissed Carania’s hand and Carania felt some of that power enter her body. She realized at that moment that she had been comfortably numb and now she felt everything again and it was exhilarating. “Goodbye for now. See you in your dreams.”

Carania suddenly woke up on the forest floor and stumbled to her feet. There was still blood everywhere but there was not even a single hole in her armor. She looked at her right hand and there was an imprint of the Raven Queen’s lips. The imprint slowly blossomed into the image of a raven with its wings spread. Carania looked out into the forest. It was time to go hunting.

Quick Lass

April 20, 2016

Madeleine Price found herself tangled in her bedsheets as she woke up. She rubbed her eyes and squirmed her way out of the sheets, knocking them to the floor. Madeleine yawned big and rolled out of bed. Her legs wobbled and almost gave but she stood up nonetheless. It had been a hard night after all. She had foiled three hold-ups and one bank robbery. She had done it all by herself which left no time to do her math homework. Mrs. Belle was going to be so pissed off. This was the second time this week and if she kept this up, there would be no getting out of sixth grade.

Casually, she picked the first shirt off of the floor that looked clean and slipped it over her head. She reached down and slipped on some gray denim pants that were only slightly torn. She grabbed her sneakers from under the bed. The right one was actually pretty difficult to find but she found it behind a small pile of socks and underwear eventually. She paused in front of the mirror and thought she looked pretty good but she knew her mother had one minimum requirement. She reluctantly grabbed the hairbrush and dragged it through her hair, wincing each time it snagged. She had to admit it looked a little better as she tied her hair securely into pigtails. Still, she despised getting up in the morning, especially when getting up was followed by school.

Maddy picked up her watch carefully from its place of honor on her dresser and attached it around her wrist. Now, the watch was the only possession Maddy had that she truly cared about. It had been designed and built by her sister Jan in total secrecy from any of the adults. It held the ability to “phase” in her hero costume by rearranging the fibers in her clothes. She had no clue how that worked but it worked and for that she was very grateful. After all, if Maddy was going to run around as the superhero Quick Lass, wouldn’t she need a costume? It paid to have it so close at hand and accessible with the flip of a switch.

Maddy looked up at the old poster of Comet Man above her bed and smiled. She had watched the auction for weeks, stayed up until six in the morning and had spent plenty of allowance to get it. The fact that it was now a little vintage made her like it even more. Comet Man had been one of the pioneers in the superhero business and Maddy admired the hell out of him. When her super speed powers had begun to develop, she had put on her costume because of him. If it were not for guys and girls like Comet Man, she might have ended up using those powers for evil purposes. Hell, it would be so easy. Speed powers would make theft a cinch.

She walked down the stairs to the kitchen and picked up the bagel off of her plate. Jan hardly looked up from the coffee machine she was taking apart. However, her mother turned around and gave her a sly little smile that said ‘good morning’.

“Hurry up, Maddy. You’ll miss your bus,” her mother said. Maddy merely nodded and kept chewing her bagel. “No superpowers.” She threw in as an afterthought. Maddy nodded and got up and got out the front door with only a sigh in response. She hated that rule her mother had thought up one day after Maddy had cleaned her room in record time. Even extraordinary girls should experience an ordinary life. What good was a bus to a girl who could run faster than the speed of sound? Actually, what good was a bus that was presently starting to pull away from the curb a few yards down the street. Maddy’s eyes went wide and she ran to catch up but she had to suppress any superhuman bursts of speed and the bus pulled away well before she could reach it.

She changed directions and ran behind her house a little bit until she reached the old aqueduct that still ran from the city to out here in the suburbs. As soon as she had climbed down into the aqueduct she typed in her access code on the watch, spun the dial and activated it. With a flash of light, she could feel her clothes change instantly. Her loose cotton clothing constricting into lightweight but tight spandex. The costume gripped her skin so it would not catch on anything as she ran and it was designed to be more frictionless than normal clothing. She could feel the mask adhere to the area around her eyes like a weird suction cup. It felt weird and nice at the same time. Swinging her backpack back onto her shoulders, she began to stretch briefly. Then she took off running toward school.

Quiet! This is a Gym!

April 20, 2015

In the last few weeks I have returned to the gym for afternoon workouts after a lengthy hiatus. As an introverted person, going to the gym has always been an interesting affair. I do not mind working out. I often push myself and I hurt (the good kind of hurt) but I am able to tune it out with a good enough distraction. I tend to listen to Heavy Metal while I run or jog but the music can be anything as long as it’s upbeat or fast.

The problem I run into is when other people make themselves known. I will be in the zone when two people will pause nearby and start to chat, usually rather loudly because it’s noisy in the gym. That’s the moment I realize that people can see me. They know I’m exercizing and can easily watch me do it. Am I working out correctly?

I’ve taken to listening to Welcome to Nightvale while I work out since I’m so many episodes behind. Often I will be enjoying the bike when somebody sits at the next machine or a loud conversation occurs or a tour of the gym starts. I become self conscious about working out and reacting to the episode’s strange humor. I try to close my eyes and turn the volume up. I may be exagerrating a little but it is constantly on my mind. Some day I won’t feel so self-conscious.

Skyfall

August 19, 2014

I finally sat down and watched Skyfall.  I wrote thoughts down as I watched the movie and I’ll share them with you.  Fair warning: I am probably going to spoil a lot.  Maybe.  Wait a second, I’m reading ahead.  Yep.  Sufficiently spoiled.  You have been warned but this is why I tend to review movies that have been out for a few years.  That and I’m often behind on seeing things since I always have a long list of things I want to watch.

First, a few words on James Bond.  I grew up with James Bond movies.  I  haven’t seen them all but there’s twenty of them so I think I can be forgiven.  Octopussy came out when I was one but the first Bond film I saw was From Russia With Love.  I loved it and I loved all of the older Bond films that I saw.  When Golden Eye came out, I embraced Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond.  Golden Eye is really fun and brought Bond into the Information Age.  Unfortunately his other three films got progressively worse.  It felt like the same decline from Burton’s Batman to Schumacher’s Batman.  I think Casino Royale can be seen as equivalent to Batman Begins.  They rebuilt the franchise from the ground up and fixed a lot of what had gone wrong in tone.

Anyway, let’s get to my random comments.

“Three minutes in and… Holy Shit that’s an awesome gun.  A little silly but hell, I want to shoot one.”

The henchman that Bond was chasing had a full automatic handgun.  Like Elliott Spencer, I hate the existence of guns but unlike Elliott I kind of love to shoot them in a shooting range.  It’s hard to explain how a person sworn to non-violence could come to love shooting a gun.  I guess it goes back to riflery classes in summer camp.  It’s also the same visceral feeling I get from shooting my bow.  Besides, an inanimate target doesn’t count.

“… Roll end credits.”

Having the main character get shot by a sniper before the opening title is pretty startling.  Everybody immediately writes him off even though he has survived horrible torture and danger in two previous movies.  It makes sense but it ends up being ridiculous later.

“Oh shit, I forgot Adele sings the theme. Mute.”

It should be clear here that I do not like Adele’s music.  I generally don’t like slow ballads at all and she does poppy ballads that were overplayed on the radio.  My patience got worn out pretty quickly.  I did mute the title sequence but I did enjoy the imagery.  It’s always a fun, trippy sequence that leaves lasting symbols usually in my sub-conscious since my conscious mind seems to forget it as soon as it’s done.

“Why are all movie hackers prone to creating goofy animations and/or video packages?”

I’m not a computer expert by far.  I’m above average for the people I know but definitely below my IT expert friends.  However, I am an animation aficionado and an artist.  Movie hackers always seem to attach some flash animation to taunt their target.  It seems kind of petty actually but I suppose that’s the point.  For reference see Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Hackers

“Wow drinking games just got Nintendo hard.”

The scorpion drinking game was impressive.  At least, I hope it was a drinking game.  It shows how bad-ass Bond is but also shows how far down the hole he has gone.  It’s a pretty simple way of showing us in a few seconds how unstable the man has become.  Of course, justifiably feeling betrayed by the country you gave your life to can shake your worldview and mental health as well.  ‘Nintendo Hard’ is a term referring to how impossibly difficult old NES games were.  See games like Ghosts and Goblins and Contra and broken TV sets across the country.

“I love you Judi Dench. You earn that paycheck.”

She really does.  She’s been excellent in these three Bond films. I’m also paraphrasing a joke made regularly by Cinema Sins.  I am a horrible thief sometimes.  I blame my training at Rutgers.

“Um. Why is he briefing Bond as he’s taking his tests?  What if he fails the last one? Then they have to kill him?”

This struck me as weird.  Sure they all expect Bond to pass his tests and this to save time but what if he doesn’t?  Also, he doesn’t pass the tests.  He only gets reinstated because he’s Bond.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that he is not passing the tests.  Shut up about national secrets until he’s reinstated already.

“Don’t cock it up is probably what all new directors of James Bond movies are told.  You cocked it up Lee Tamahori.”

I could not resist an admittedly cheap shot at the director of Die Another Day.  Pierce Brosnan started off as a good Bond but they cheesed up the whole thing.  The movies kind of ran together for me.  As somebody who prides himself as being able to remember plots and characters with high accuracy this is troubling to me.  It means something when I can’t sort out the Bond films between Golden Eye and Casino Royale.  A few scenes later and Q basically explains why the Craig bond films are better than the Brosnan ones.

“Sexy mood lighting is go.”

The lighting and cinematography in this movie are really good.  You can see everything when you need to see it  and there are a lot of very pretty yet understated shots.  The scene in question in particular was incredibly intimate with darkness punctuated by neon signs.  It was just confusing enough to convey how confusing the room was for Bond.

“Wait, go back.  Why are we in floating lantern world? Oh for gambling.  OK I’m caught up.  Spy shit going on with the casino chip. Cool.”

I legitimately got lost here for a minute or two because Craig’s Bond doesn’t have a lot of dialogue to explain things.  I’m fine with it, it just took me a bit to catch up.  I probably got distracted too.

“Hi, I go around announcing my real name to everyone.  I’m the best secret agent ever.”

I always thought it was kind of weird that James Bond casually tosses his name everywhere he goes.  Even if it’s not his real name, he uses the same alias everywhere he goes.  He almost never uses a fake name when introducing himself.  It seems a little overconfident.

“I kind of like intense Raccoon Lady.”

The quasi-villainess, ‘Bond Girl’ whose name passed me by was really quite good.  I called her Raccoon Lady because of the heavy eye-makeup she wore.  She was intense and confident and fairly well-rounded for a Bond Girl.  She doesn’t stick around too long but she was fun while she lasted.

“Surprise, I’m in your shower and that’s not my gun poking you.”

If anybody besides Bond slipped into a lady’s shower fully naked, they would be kneed in the crotch and in handcuffs so fast.  Of course, here she could have had him shot in international waters.

“Hello, Javier Bardem, I forgot you were in this.  It’s weird to hear you speak but you seem cool.”

He really makes this movie.  I refer to his silent and brilliant role in No Country for Old Men which is the only other movie I’ve seen him in.  According to IMDB he was in Collateral but he wasn’t memorable.  He is funny, creepy and almost so intelligent that you find yourself agreeing with him during his first few scenes.  He reminded me of Ricardo Montalban in Wrath of Khan.   He was an epic, intelligent and batshit insane villain.

“Nope. Nope.  This whole thing has a Phillip Seymour Hoffman in MI:3 vibe to it.”

I was right.

“Hopefully Q will get smarter.”

He would probably be the first to agree that he makes a boneheaded play here.  At least for somebody who’s supposed to be as brilliant as he is supposed to be.

“Oh did I forget to comment for awhile?  This movie must be really good.”

At some point I got completely sucked into the film.  Journeying to the Bond estate in Scotland was excellent.  I want to learn more about their family but we know how much that is a whole set of scars for Bond.  He might not be talking about it anytime soon.  The movie just continues to be great and ends perfectly.  This might not have been one of my favorite movies but this was one of the better Bond films.


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