Thursday, November 30, 2006

So Much Truth in One Cartoon

--From the deliciously nerdy Piled Higher and Deeper.

The only bit that could use adjustment is that the adjunct faculty should look poorer, more harried, and lonely.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Incting Incident and then the... um, Inciting Incident

In Syd Field they're plot points but I think there's a fair bit of crossover with the inciting incident.

The inciting incident radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist's life. -- McKee, Story

-- and typical examples of these are things like the shark eating a girl in Jaws (and her washing up on the beach) or Luke discovering that his parents have been killed by imperial stormtroopers.

Part of the idea is that in the first part of the film or story you get to see the world as it usually is -- see the characters with their ordinary problems -- then, after the inciting incident, the various crises throw all that out of balance (though it'll often tie back into the characters' original problems.

But I've noticed that for most of my screenplays the thing that throws the world out of balance really occurs in the first 5-10 pages. The characters typically won't realize it until a bit later, after we've had time to meet them. But the threat is already in motion.

Many films do this actually. For instance, both Terminator 1 and 2 -- the Terminators show up in the first scene then we get to see them slowly track their way to the protagonist.

Of course, one reason I do this is because I'm rather paranoid of boring whoever's slogging through the stack of spec scripts mine happens to be in. I'd like to pique their interest early so that hopefully they'll at least remember the character names by the time they get to act 2.

I wonder if the modern trend where writers have to break in via spec scripts is part of the reason we see more punched up first acts as opposed to spacious introductions.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gravity Sucks

I think I'm still playing catch-up to many of Charlie Stross's ideas, but while on my interminably long train ride it occurred to me that if we haul our fat asses off this planet, it'd be a better idea to just leave them in space rather than drop them down some other gravity well.

In the classical vision of the Future of Humanity, we see sleek starships plopping people down on various alien worlds -- perhaps terraforming them so that their local terrain will better match the Starbucks, Staples, and Best Buys we hot-drop from orbit there.

But, really, why bother with the planets? Gravity's a drag. Hoisting heavy loads of cargo 36,000 km out of a 9.8 m/s*s sinkhole only to drop it onto some other sinkhole doesn't make any sense. Gravity is an energy tax on everything we do.

Were we to just hang out up in space, we could hit the minerals we dug out of an asteroid with a short, and very energy-efficient, burst of acceleration and off it would go to wherever we want. Our main decision would just be trading off how much energy we're willing to spend versus time we're willing to take.

Things like the space elevator might still be handy -- but they could be much easier to set up on something like our own moon. Lower gravity means less stress on the cable, and less work to lift objects off the surface.

In fact, a Death Star would even have practical applications -- simply blow up the Earth, turn it into an asteroid belt, then mine the pieces.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where's "Junior"?

While I believe that the Encore channel's All-Arnold day benefits them far more than it benefits Conan the Incumbent -- I can't help but notice that, instead of running a full retrospective of Arnold's body of work, they stick to repeating three of his better films -- the two Terminators and Conan the Destroyer. Of course, if they were really stacking the deck, then Conan would have been swapped out with Predator.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Boring News Network

Jobless rate at 5-year low, fanning fears of inflation -- Mercury News

You have to be impressed when newspapers can spin any story into a terrifying new prospect. Oh no! Hordes of employed people will be out there running up the housing costs! Do your part for the economy -- fire someone today.

I've wished for a couple years now to have the sort of money to put together a Boring News Network. It would consist of un-photogenic reporters sitting in front of a camera and reading stuff (or introducing clips) pulled from local affiliates around the world. Our entire purpose would be to get the lowest ratings ever, but have such low overhead that it wouldn't matter.

Since we're not looking for ratings we would not repeat the exact same news 48 times per day -- instead running two popular news reports per day, then focusing on no repeat stories for the rest of the cycle. This would force the network to look at a variety of issues.

Fortunately, you can already get something akin to that by using an internet news collecting service -- at least for international perspectives. Still, they work by collecting reports from local papers -- which of course try to drum up business the same way other papers do.

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