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George hooks another one

Just finished mainlining Season One of HBO’s Game of Thrones, thanks to the DVD set Kate got me for the holidays, and I’m as hooked as most everyone else who’s seen it.

The thing that’s really interesting to me about this series (I have not read the books) is that the major characters are all fascinatingly contradictory. The Lannisters may be the people you love to hate, yet all of them — even the father, who’s the least fully-drawn and most purely evil of them — have their positive, even admirable qualities. (Okay, maybe not Jeoffrey.) And the Starks, our heroes, can be blinded by their own good intentions, even to the point of acting stupidly from time to time, yet stupidly in a very real and understandable way.

This is television characterization, of course. These characters, as much as I enjoy them, are really fairly melodramatic and simplistic. The cast is so large that, even in what is in effect a ten-hour miniseries, most of them get only some tens of minutes of screen time, so they are unavoidably shallow by comparison with the depth of characterization possible in a novel. But they feel much deeper than they are.

I’m also rather in awe of the show’s ability to inflict massive infodumps on the viewer by having the characters deliver their information during a fairly explicit (and often completely unrelated to the info being dumped) sex scene. I mean, it feels like a cheat, but I am in awe of the chutzpah.

All the other aspects of the production are stellar. Cast, costumes, sets, music, cinematography. I am, as I said, hooked.

Fortunately, the Season Two DVD set will be out next week.

Rimsky-Korsakoffee House

Had a lovely evening with Shannon Page and Mark Ferrari at Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, Portland’s hidden gem. We sat at the table that rotates slowly, enjoyed delicious coffees and desserts, investigated the intriguing bathroom, and discussed bizarre occurrences in our lives (Mark: first experience of fireflies, while visiting a haunted house; Kate and David: cremated radioactive baboons).

Just as we were leaving, a dramatic fanfare from the classical background music caught my ear. I knew that tune but could not place it. Spent the whole drive home trying to remember what symphony it was.

We both poked around at a variety of websites that claimed to identify tunes by humming or tapping them, but got nowhere. Googling on “da, da da DA da da, da da da-da da” didn’t help. Finally we nailed it through a combination of me remembering the tune, Kate picking it out on a virtual piano keyboard, finding a site that identified classical tunes by typing the notes as letters — but only in the key of C — and Kate remembering how to transpose it. Turns out it was Dvorak’s Symphony #5 in E Minor, 4th movement.

Sometimes the future works.

Galaktika copies received

Just received my contributor’s copies of Galaktika (from 2006 and 2012) with “Charlie, a lila zsiráf” (Charlie the Purple Giraffe) and “Tk’tk’tk” (Tk’tk’tk) in Hungarian!

Successful SFWA reading

Tonight’s Portland SFWA reading, with James Patrick Kelly, Felicity Shoulders, and Grá Linnaea, went very well! It was nicely attended and Jim brought a great energy to the proceedings, especially the Q&A. Thanks to everyone who attended.

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The next readings are Tuesday April 23 (Seattle area) and Wednesday April 24 (Portland) with Mary Robinette Kowal, Tina Connolly, and Nisi Shawl.

SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series: Seattle area TODAY, Portland TOMORROW

This is just a quick reminder that SFWA’s Pacific Northwest Reading Series is having its next events this week!

Today (Tuesday, January 29), in the Seattle area, local favorite Cat Rambo will be accompanied by Portland writers Felicity Shoulders and Grá Linnaea. The University Bookstore will be on hand again selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Wilde Rover Irish Pub and Restaurant, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033

Tomorrow (Wednesday, January 30), in Portland, we’ll have multiple award winner James Patrick Kelly (all the way from Maine!), also accompanied by Felicity Shoulders and Grá Linnaea. Wrigley-Cross Books will be selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Portland, OR 97211

Both events are free and open to the public.

I hope you can join us! It should be a lot of fun.

See http://www.sfwa.org/for-readers/sfwa-northwest-reading-series/ for more information and to RSVP (not required, but encouraged).

Potlatch 22 last-minute updates

Potlatch 22 is now just one week away! Here’s some last-minute news and reminders.

The Potlatch track program schedule has been posted at http://potlatch-sf.org/program.php

The schedule for Foolscap’s Friday writing seminars has also been posted, at http://www.foolscapcon.org/programming/writers-workshop/ These seminars are free, but you must sign up by 1/25 (tomorrow!)

The Potlatch 22 Local Guide has gone to the printer and is now available as a PDF for your pre-con research at http://potlatch-sf.org/Restaurant%20Guide%202013.pdf

The transit instructions we gave you last time about how to get to the con from the airport have been updated slightly: http://potlatch-sf.org/airport.php

Finally, if you are planning to come to Potlatch and still haven’t bought your membership, it’s not too late. The cost only goes up at the door and we would love to know in advance if we get to see your smiling face at the con. Memberships are still only $50, but the clock is ticking. Buy your membership now! http://potlatch-sf.org/memberships.php

That’s all the news for now. See you at the con!

The Zoom in Winter

Recently I watched The Lion in Winter (1968) for the first time in a long while. Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn’s performances are fabulous, of course, and a very young and very sexy Timothy Dalton enlivens the scene no end, but the film is an interesting historical document, in at least three ways.

First, real-world history. We had to pause the DVD several times during the early going to revisit our memories of the historical characters and situation. Were the princes Richard and John the same as Richard the Lionheart and Robin Hood’s King John respectively? How does this Henry connect with the Henry V we saw in Ashland last summer? Though I haven’t looked into it, I’m sure most of the intrigue in the film is entirely historical… but I doubt it all came to a head in one long weekend in real life.

Second, theatre history. This film was a Broadway hit first, and it’s a very theatrical film — the dialogue is delicious and eminently quotable — and, considered as a play, it’s a marvel of concise character development and wickedly twisted power games. But the dialogue is a bit stilted by modern standards; it’s brilliant, yes, but people don’t really talk that way in real life, and I don’t think they talk quite that way on stage any more.

Third, film history, and this is the bit I really wanted to blog about. Although the film is justifiably praised — it won three Oscars and a pile of other awards — and very enjoyable, in some ways it has dated badly.

The problems, to the modern eye, begin in the opening credits, superimposed over shots of gargoyles, where the occasional cobweb drifts in a corner. These cobwebs are not deliberate, not atmospheric. There are only one or two of them in the whole sequence and their appearance and motion are nothing but distracting. These are the opening shots of a major motion picture and whatever second unit head shot them couldn’t be bothered to use a feather duster.

There are many other such glitches, which would never be accepted today in any film from a major studio. In significant scenes, Hepburn’s shadow falls on O’Toole’s face for long stretches of his dialog. There’s one picturesque stairway which appears again and again, nominally in different parts of the castle. And then there’s the zoom.

In many occurrences — I counted at least five — there’s a shot in which a main character or an important bit of scenery rests at the center of the frame while the camera slowly zooms in (or, in one memorable instance, out) for dramatic effect. These zooms are just a little uneven; you can practically feel the cameraman’s hand rotating the lens housing. And I realized that you never see zooms like this in film any more.

I know that when I was an amateur filmmaker in high school (not all that long after The Lion in Winter was released), my camera had a zoom lens and I did sometimes use it while the camera was running. Of course, there was a time before this camera effect was technically possible. But apparently, at some time between then and now, it fell out of favor.

Since watching Lion in Winter, I’ve been looking carefully for examples of zoom in more recent films. You do occasionally see it, but it is usually much more subtle and/or combined with a pan, a dolly, a change in focus, or some other effect so that the zoom is only part of the camera move and not the dominant note. But, in general, zoom seems to have fallen out of the cinematographer’s vocabulary.

If you listen to the later Beatles with headphones, you’ll hear numerous examples of stereo being used overtly (e.g. all the guitars in one ear, all the vocals in the other) and it’s really distracting. It was early days and they were still figuring out how to use the technology. We’re still using stereo today, of course, but it’s much more subtle and much more integrated with the other tools in the audio engineer’s toolbox. The same seems to have happened with zoom.

I’ll be looking out for more examples of this.

Video of Dr. Talon’s “Letter to the Editor”

I have just released a 15-minute video of my story “Letter to the Editor” from John Joseph Adams’s forthcoming anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination!

I hope you enjoy the video. If you do, please share it with your friends! The YouTube short URL is http://youtu.be/NkOuPyILWx0

I made this video after reading the story at a couple of conventions and receiving rave reviews for the story and performance. The nature of the story (plus my friend Robin Catesby’s mad video skills) makes it work really well as a video and I’m extremely pleased with the way it came out. The Mad Scientist’s Guide is also a kick-ass anthology, which has already received a starred review from Library Journal and been named a Top Pick by Romantic Times, and I hope that the video and anthology will be excellent publicity for each other.

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, due out on February 19, is now available for pre-order in both hardcover and trade paperback at traditional brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, via online retailers such as amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, or you can support an indie bookstore by ordering through indiebound.org. See http://www.johnjosephadams.com/mad-scientists-guide for more information on the anthology.

Space Magic interviews and reviews round-up

So this was the week of the Space Magic ebook release. Thank you to everyone who helped to publicize it and/or bought it! Here’s a round-up of the press it’s received so far:

Teaser: Dr. Talon Wants You

Thanks to everyone for your support, blogs, and retweets on the Space Magic ebook release. This, and my new website (https://daviddlevine.com) are two of the three major projects that have been occupying a lot of my writing time in the last few months.

The third project goes live next week. Here’s a teaser.

Dr Talon Wants You