Mar 31 2016

New-to-me movies watched in March 2016

March was a GIANT movie month for me, because I participated in the March Around the World challenge, which has a goal of watching thirty movies from thirty different countries in one month.

I did not make that goal, but I did manage to watch 22 movies from around the world. Not too shabby.

March Around the World Challenge (my favorites are in bold):

1. Monsoon Wedding — India (2001)
2. Suspiria — Italy (1977)
3. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — Australia (1994)
4. Ida — Poland (2013)
5. Blue is the Warmest Color — France (2013)
6. Heavenly Creatures — New Zealand (1994)
7. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night — Iran (2014)
8. Bangkok Love Story — Thailand (2007)
9. Volver — Spain (2006)
10. The Snapper — Ireland (1993)
11. The Assassin — China (2015)
12. Sin Nombre — Mexico (2009)
13. A Better Tomorrow — Hong Kong (1986)
14. Juan of the Dead — Cuba (2011)
15. Stalker — Russia (1979)
16. The Second Mother — Brazil (2015)
17. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance — South Korea (2005)
18. Sisters in Law — Cameroon (documentary, 2005)
19. The Devil’s Miner — Bolivia (documentary, 2005)
20. The Cave of the Yellow Dog — Mongolia (docudrama, 2005)
21. Xenia — Greece (2014)
22. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha — South Africa (2005)

Non-challenge movies:

1. Treehouse (2014)
2. Crimson Peak (2015)

REVIEWS:

Continue reading


Mar 30 2016

Big Poetry Giveaway 2016!

Big Poetry Giveaway 2016

As National Poetry Month is around the corner, it’s time for the Big Poetry GiveawayAllyson Whipple has taken over hosting duties from the amazing Kelli Russell Agodon.

Other blogs participating in the giveway will be listed online shortly.

But first, let me introduce myself as I have a feeling that there are going to be a number of new faces around here.

Andrea Blythe - poet

I write poetry and fiction with primarily a speculative bent. Images of fairy tales, mythology, and folklore often appear in my work, sometimes in unsettling ways. Some of my poetry has appeared in print and online publications and a few of my poems have been nominated for awards. I also on the rare occasion attend open mics and poetry slams where I perform my work in front of actual people.

Beyond the writing life, I am trying to convince myself that I’ll someday run a marathon. I also watch an inordinate amount of creepy television and horror movies, plan for the zombie apocalypse even though I’m not convinced it will happen, and shower my nieces and nephews in love.

Ahem, moving on…

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The Books

I don’t have any of my own work to offer this year, but I am happy to present two chapbooks from two poets I love.

Chapbook 1

Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini

Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild by Allie Marini delves into beautifully unsettling territory, as these poems present (possibly mythological) creatures that live and hunt in the Southern states of the U.S. (Cover art is by MANDEM.)

“Then the kegger at the party rock: furred & scaled & unexplainable,

grunting, tossing tires from a cliff as though they were rings in a carnival shill’s booth. Suddenly, chaos, the squeal & stink of rubber on dirt & asphalt. There are rumblings of LSD in the keg: There’s got to be some natural explanation.”

— from “Southern Cryptozoology 4: The Lake Worth Monster,” in Southern Cryptozoology

Chapbook 2

Cover-a heart with no scars

A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco is a witty set of poems with layered messages examining how we relate to the world around us and to each other. Brennan is an amazing spoken word poet and his words will hit you right in the feels. (Cover art is by Arthur Johnstone and Livien Yin.)

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How to Enter

To enter, just comment on this post with your name and email address by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on April 30th. I will select the winners shortly thereafter using a random number generator.



Mar 28 2016

Running and feeling strong and beautiful

Saturday was the She is Beautiful 5K and 10K run in Santa Cruz. This is the third year that I’ve participated (starting with the 5K the first time and the 10K thereafter) and it’s always a fabulous experience. The women are of all ages and shapes and sizes and the course follows along the coastline with waves lapping at the bottom of cliff below.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Santa Cruz and I ran the first four and did intervals of running and walking for the last two miles. Although I didn’t run the full 6.2 miles of the 10K, I felt stronger than I had the previous year. Instead of feeling drained at the end of the event, I felt energetic and happy, if also red and sweaty.

I’m already looking forward to next year and am looking for some other events that I might do in between now and then.

She is Beautiful 10K 2016

All set to rock the 10K in my new Welcome to Nigh Vale leggings.

She is Beautiful 10K 2016

“Some days I crush life and other days I just want to take a nap.” — one of the many inspiring She is Beautiful signs

What I’m Reading

I finished up The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, which was a lovely story about a teenage boy becoming a father.

Next up I’m planning to read Gateway by Frederik Pohl. The description I’ve got says “The Heechee gateways, remnants of an ancient civilization, provide instantaneous passage to the far reaches of the universe but do not ensure destination, return, wealth, or survival.” Should be fun!

What I’m Writing

I wrote things! Or, more like, I started editing and redrafting an existing story, because the deadline for submission is looming in a few days and I really want to submit something to that market, so I better get sh!t done. In other words, my scifi sleeping beauty story that has little to do with sleeping beauty other than original inspiration is this close to being finished and ready to submit. Or as finished as I’m going to be able to get it for now anyway.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“I grew up anxiously awaiting the apocalypse, a taste of ashes in my mouth,” writes Rachel Kessler in her essay “When Apocalypse is Your Religion.”

Because National Poetry Month is coming up, here are 14 Brilliant Women Poets To Read.


Mar 25 2016

Podcasts Part III – Films and Filmmaking

Wrapping up my trio of podcast posts — the first two focusing on radio dramas and poetry and fiction, respectively — I’m going to point to those podcasts focused on films and filmmaking that I’m currently consuming.

Although, my writing focus has primarily on poetry and fiction, I’ve always held a fascination with the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process. The idea of scriptwriting and film directing is always present at the back of my mind as something I might do someday. Listening to podcasts about the process and history of making movies lets me daydream and marvel at others doing the work, while also stirring up that latent desire. I know this is going to kickstart me into attempting screenwriting again or maybe jumping into a 48 Hour Film challenge.

Black List Table Reads

The Black List Table ReadsThe Black List is a “closed network of script buyers, script representatives, and script writers that makes everything easier for everyone involved.” The idea is to share awesome unproduced scripts in the hopes of getting them made into actual movies. New scriptwriters can also upload and share their work to get feedback as well as using the script as a demonstration piece for future work. That alone is awesome.

The associated Black List Table Reads podcast takes is a step further, turing the best of the unproduced scripts on the site and turns them into “movies for your ears.” These scripts are read by pro-level actors, with sound effects stitched in for an immersive experience of the scripts. And the scripts themselves have generally been fantastic. Being able to hear the scripts read provides a great sense of scene pacing along with other lessons in craft — in addition to just being an enjoyable experience.

Just a few of the scripts I’ve loved (and really hope become full movies):

  • The Hitch — “While visiting Los Angeles in 1927, young British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is accused of murder and must go on the run to prove his innocence.”
  • The Other Side — “A young Hasidic Jew recruits a hipster girl to help him expose a horrific crime in a secretive community in Brooklyn.”
  • Mr. Malcolm’s List — “We head across the pond and back in history about 200 years for Mr. Malcolm’s List. It’s a little bit Jane Austen. It’s a little bit Oscar Wilde, and it is all good.”

In addition to the script table reads, the podcast also features interviews with screenwriter and producers, which provide perspective on the writing process, how other writers have managed to get their movies made, and the ups and downs and sideways avenues of the industry. Lots and lots here for anyone interested in the art of screenwriting or who just enjoys great movies.

Scriptnotes

ScriptnotesScriptnotes is a weekly podcast in which working screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin discuss “screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters,” from the craft of writing scripts to the business of being a working writer dealing with directors and producers to places to glean ideas from. What I love about this podcast is the practicality of how screenwriting is discussed. No fluff, no air declarations of trying to find your inner writer. Just a straightforward look at the business of being a screenwriter, and since both John and Craig are currently working in the industry, writing original feature scripts and performing rewrites, their advice has merit. Also, the buddy humor between John and Craig in their kind of opposites attract relationship (like you’d see in a movie) is wonderful.

Only a portion of the most recent episodes are available to listen to for free, but for a measly $1.99 a month, the entire log of over 200 episodes can be accessed.

Slums of Film History

Slums of Film HistoryCurrently on hiatus after completing season one of Slums of Film History, Slate and Tom share a low “a lowbrow look into the high art of cinema.” The duo present in-depth historical scope of the gritty, gross, explicit, weird, and other aspects of the movie world not normally discussed in polite company. Each takes turns sharing taboo subjects with detailed movie references and legit-ish research. Previous topics discussed have included cannibalism, snuff films, the rise and fall of the NC-17 rating, nudity in film, hooker vengence, bad babies, and hagsploitation — other among unsavory things.

Being a fan of horror and weird creepy sh!t, I freaking love this podcast. It’s fun and funny and sometimes inappropriate, as well as providing some fascinating information about film history. The discussions about the evolution of the current rating system and how nudity has been handled over different time periods was particularly interesting (although to be honest, my favorite episodes are the gross ones, like “Bad Babies”). Definitely recommended for fans of cult movies and other oddities of film.

Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary WorldsCreated by former Disney animator Eric Molinsky, Imaginary Worlds is a podcast “about science fiction and other fantasy genres — how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief.” Episodes explore an array of fictional worlds, from movies to TV animation to comic books, novels, and other art forms. Each is well put together with interviews from historians, filmmakers, cultural critics, and a variety of others. I’m particularly fond of the episodes that go behind the scene of how some forms of art, such as movies, are made. However, there’s a wide range of topics covered, so that the episodes never get boring. The also tend to be on the short side (under 20 minutes), which makes them the perfect bite-size podcast to listen to.
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And that’s is for the current podcasts I’m enjoying. I’m sure that, as I finish up with the back episodes of all of these, I’ll start exploring further. For example, I’ve heard awesome things about Serial, but have not had a chance to start listening in yet.


Mar 23 2016

FOGcon Recap 2016

A couple of weekends ago — has it been that long? — I traveled up to exotic Walnut Creek to gather with fellow readers and writers to talk about genre books, movies, and other bits of geekery at FOGcon. As always it was a fun event, which included tons of coffee and a little booze and karaoke and other such things.

Honored Guests were Jo Walton, Ted Chiang, and Donna Haraway, with Octavia Butler services as Honored Ghost.

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Panels

Lots of great thinky things at the panels this year to mentally chew on. Nom, nom. The panels tended to be more focused on science discussions that reading and writing discussions, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

The Developing Reality of Intelligent Machines looked at how AI is perceived in fiction and films as a self-aware being compared to how intelligent technology in the real world today is being used to provide better ways to solve problems. The intelligent machines of today are incredibly advanced in how they have been programed to serve human needs. But, as the panelists noted, these computers and machines are limited to their programming — they will do what they are programmed to do. So the concern is not so much about machines suddenly becoming self aware and taking over the world, but who is running the machines and to what purposes are they setting them to.

And even if a machine were to become self aware, it would be questionable as to whether human beings would recognize the moment when it occurred. It’s assumed (in movies and fiction) that AIs would think in the same ways that we do, however, that is not necessarily the case. Someone from the audience stated that the singularity is now, bringing up the game of Go (apparently more complex than chess) taking place between a computer and Go champion that evening (which the computer won).

The From Caterpillar to Butterfly panel delved into the weirdness of nature, from parthenogenesis to penis fencing flatworms to interesting mistakes in biology. We discussed the adorable tardigrade, or water bearer, an adorable micro-animal that is the only creature known to be able to survive in hard vacuum; a multitude of amazing plants (such as a vine that can change its leaves to match the tree they’re on); and animals that can change their gender (such as the clown fish, all of which are male, except for the biggest and baddest, which becomes the only female). The lesson, for me, was that in designing alien or strange species of animals with interesting biology and social structure, a writer can definitely turn to the natural world for inspiration of many kinds. Recommended Reading: The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins and Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson.

Other great panels (which I’m going to go into less detail on, because time):

The Ethics of Magic discussed how the rules of magic are presented in stories. For example, the rules of Star Wars present the Jedi as the “good guys” despite some deeply troubling and morally ambiguous aspects to their order. Recommended Reading: Wildseed by Octavia Butler.

Are 72 Letters Enough? In Search of a Perfect Language tried to define what was meant by “perfect.” For some this was a language that was unabiguous and complete, able to portray every thing in existence accurately. The discussion lead into how often the concept of the “true name” for things comes up in fiction, among many other things. Recommended Reading:  The Search for a Perfect Language by Umberto Eco and “TAP” by Greg Egan.

Homo Sapiens Tekhne: Assistive Devices and Body Modification in Science Fiction and Fantasy looked at the past and present of human body modifications, from tatoos and piercings to assistive devices and cell phones, as well as looking at how body modification is handled in stories. Recommended Reading: Runtime by S.B. Divya.

And finally, Domestic Fantasy: Transforming the Domestic looked at how the domestic scene, family and home, are portrayed in fantasy stories. Recommended Reading: Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick and Little, Big by John Crowley.

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The Book Haul

FOGcon book haul

I went rather light on the book haul this year, as I was trying to keep my bookshelves from topping down and crushing me beneath a ginormous pile of books. My grabs:

  • Rolling in the Deep by Seanan McGuire – a limited edition, signed copy, which I didn’t realize at the time
  • Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer
  • The Neat Sheats, poetry by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • The Fantod Pack by Edward Gorey
  • and three editions of Fantasy & Science Fiction

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*sleepy, happy sigh*

FOGcon is one of my favorite events of the year, and already I’m looking forward to 2017. The theme next year will be Interstitial Spaces (intermediate spaces between one thing and another), which is a topic I find fascinating.