Saturday, July 20, 2019

Game of Furries

The official trailer for the movie Cats is out, and the reaction is not pretty. Movie reviewers say they’ve never seen backlash against a movie trailer that is so purrfectly full of bile. I haven’t seen the stage musical Cats, but apparently it featured singers and dancers who had faux cat hair flamboyantly glued on, especially on their faces. This movie version features what look like humanoid cat creatures. Here’s your treat: 

I could make a few remarks, such as: And it has _____ playing herself. But I don’t want to get protested.

So . . . if people do not really look like cats, it’s amusing, but if people really look like cats, it’s creepy?

The funny thing is, my novel Alpha Shift has a brief scene that mentions something like this. A previous excerpt is here. My friends Erin and Grace can attest that I wrote this story before the movie trailer came out. (This is the bad guy reminiscing.)


Derk’s vision clouded with those times in the suite prepared just for him, with gin and vermouth in the precise proportions, and the women over six feet tall dressed head to toe in their skintight furry outfits.


As you can tell, my story is a cultural treat.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Ducks and Bass Fiddles in the Park

This is a little late, but I had a pleasant time in a park in Bellevue for the 4th of July. (Bellevue is a suburb of Seattle.)

First, there is a nice artificial waterfall which is quite popular. Here are some ducks in the top part. One duck is so comfortable, it’s standing on one leg at the lip of the fall.

Then a bunch of them get the same idea.

In the background are the typical inflatable play areas for children.

A nice moment was the presentation of the colors—the U.S. flag and the Washington flag. It was a very casual crowd, but most people stood for the flags.

I was pleasantly surprised that most people would still do that.

As usual, the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra was to play. I noticed some bass fiddles being unpacked beside the stage. Among the players were a couple of slim young women.

They each hauled a bass fiddle up the steps to the stage.

The Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra was phenomenal. They play modern pieces in a stirring manner. And as usual, I took a picture from the back, since the park was too jammed to get a picture from the front.

Note the bass fiddles on the right.

Monday, July 8, 2019

So the news is out that some people vandalized the Cloud Gate in Chicago, more affectionately known as “The Bean,” by spraying graffiti on it. Since this is not a negative blog, I won’t spend time telling those idiots what chuckleheads they are.

Instead, here’s a reposting from my time at the 2012 Worldcon. 

Worldcon, the world’s largest science fiction convention, was held in Chicago this year.  The convention hadn’t started yet, so I did some sightseeing on Wednesday.  This bas relief was just outside my hotel: 

I don’t normally see art like this casually on display. 

Further on, their Magnificent Mile featured Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, often nicknamed “The Bean.” 

The Cloud Gate was featured in the movie Source Code, and you can see my review here.  Notice how the buildings are clearly reflected in the surface: 

People can easily walk beneath its curved surface: 

Beneath the center of it, the reflection seems much farther away than it really is. 

I became nervous there, because loud street noises reflected around inside. 

On the other side of the Chicago River is the NBC tower: 

I had spotted the peacock while walking from my hotel, and you can barely see it at the top of the picture. 

So here’s the Chicago River itself, looking towards downtown: 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Piezoelectric Clothing

Here’s an excerpt from my novel manuscript Alpha Shift. Linda and Vox, whom we’ve seen in a previous excerpt, realize the ship is being attacked from the inside. They are arguing in a corridor.

Their dresses take advantage of the piezo-electric effect to use the body’s motion to charge specially-designed clothing. In my story, information can also be stored in the clothing.

Linda realized she was holding her fists in front of her. She lowered them. “I believe the nearest strategic point is life support station 3. I think we can both agree the air conditioning could use a little freshening up. Let’s see if our dresses agree on the route, of if they’re hacked, too.”

She tapped the sleeve on the upper arm of her dress to call up a route program. Since Vox’s velour dress had full-length sleeves, she had the ease of tapping her forearm. Ever since some drunken ensign on shore leave was found unconscious and stripped of his uniform—which had valuable ship’s information—military clothing was not allowed to carry much data. But so long as they had their dresses on, they could not get lost on the ship.

The sideways map on Linda’s sleeve matched the one on Vox’s forearm, showing the best route to the life support station. “At least our dresses haven’t been hacked.”

“Unless it is a coordinated hack, leading us to an ambush.” Vox showed no expression. “Shall I lead the way?”

Life support 3 wasn’t hard to find. A pile of bodies lay outside the hatch.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Batman – Robert Pattinson

Word is officially out. There’s a new Batman! The dark knight will be played by Robert Pattinson. Uh, Robert Pattinson?

photo by Nicolas Genin 

Do not get me wrong: Whether you like the first Twilight movie or not, it is a model for inciting incidents, try/fail cycles, and of course, the climactic moment when the hero desperately has to perform a forbidden act to save the day.

But it seems to me he lacks the gravitas to play Batman. He’ll have to bulk up a lot to play the part. I’m not sure millions of people will pay a lot of money to see him as the caped crusader.

What next, Kristen Stewart as Wonder Woman?

public domain 

That might attract a few people.

But who would play Superman?

photo by Eva Rinaldi

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Review - Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time by Michael Palin

Michael Palin’s chief fame comes from his being a performer and lead writer for the comedy group Monty Python. Since then, he’s served as the president of the Royal Geographical Society and has produced travel documentaries such as Pole to Pole.

In Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time, Palin chronicles the work of the HMS Erebus and her sister ship the HMS Terror as they explore the “Southern Ocean” and encounter the forbidding continent of Antarctica.

The Erebus and the Terror head down to Antarctica no less than two times, stopping back in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and New Zealand to renew supplies. One of their first sights was of a wholly unexpected active volcano, which they named after their ship—Mount Erebus. To quote from one of the logs, “It would Shew first with a volume of Smoke, as dark as Pitch which would gradually become of a lighter hue and then the Flame would burst forth with great fury for some time.” Then there was the eerie wall of ice two hundred feet high, that seemed to have no end. “McCormick clambered up to the crow’s nest, ‘but could see no termination to the great ice-wall, which we have named the Great Southern Barrier.’” That was just the edge of what is now called the Ross Ice Shelf, named after James Clark Ross, captain of the Erebus.

At one point, both of these wooden sailing ships were completely locked in by ice. They made the best of it by going out onto the ice and performing plays to maintain morale! It is hard to believe these ships survived the ice, the waves, the lightning, and other perils.

Later, the Erebus sailed north in an ill-fated attempt to find the Northwest Passage. Palin has less to recount here, since he has to piece together what happened from scraps of information.

So some application for science fiction writers (if you’re not one, ignore this paragraph): If you’re writing about ships in space, you can profit greatly from reading this sort of non-fiction—especially of older ships. There are gripping scenes of near disaster from forces far mightier than these ships. The feel of awe from encountering a volcano or the wall of ice are essential for good adventure fiction. On long voyages, something like a hologram deck or live plays would be a must for crew morale. And of course, there is the friction among officers as to who will be chosen for the glorious attempt to find the Northwest Passage.

All in all, Erebus is a beautiful book. Palin does the Royal Geographical Society proud.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Norwescon III Supplemental

So as promised, here is the most beautiful cosplayer at Norwescon.

This is Torrey Stenmark. I’ve somehow become a fan along the way. Here she is as Captain Marvel.

[click to enlarge]

I was surprised she was able to make the costume so quickly after the Captain Marvel movie. She was on a panel in which she spoke quite conversationally about the Marvel Universe and costuming, despite being in such a heavy-duty outfit.

The next day, I saw a woman in an intriguing costume, complete with helmet. I asked if I could take a picture, and she immediately went into a pose.

Later, I realized they’re the SAME PERSON. It was Torrey again. This happened to me last year, when I took pictures of her as Power Girl, and I didn’t recognize her.

So I knew ahead of time she was going to appear as Galadriel this year. Still, I was stunned when she debuted.

She knows how to pose with gestures appropriate for the character.

This view from the back shows the elaborate work involved. Keep in mind, she makes the costumes herself.

Here she is, breaking character to show off her 1st Place award. And no one can deny she earned it.

[Permission granted to use any photo on this post, so long as it is labeled “Photo by Mark Murata”]

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Norwescon II Supplemental

As promised, here are some of the cosplayers from Norwescon.

We’ll start with a fairy.

[click to enlarge]

At least, that’s what she resembles. I assume she’s some sort of magical being.

Now we have someone who was all armored up.

Keep in mind, it’s not a real gun. Some attendees do bring edged weapons, and those are peace-bonded, using the same thick plastic used in plastic handcuffs.

Now we have a winged being.

I’m not going to assume this is a fairy. Use some imagination.

I’ll pause from the amusing narrative. Some of these folks work all year on their costumes. The attention to detail is impressive. If you attend a convention like this, the polite thing to do is ask permission to take a picture, then show it to the person after it’s snapped.           

I asked, but the I took this picture when her eyes were shut. (I actually kind of like it.)

Thanks to the miracle of smart phones, I could quickly see my error and take another one.

She was a good sport.

And here is the Star Trek couple.

They were as cute as they look.

Here we have an elegant woman.

I’m guessing such outfits are incredibly hot after a while.

This is a member of the sheriff’s office. For real. She was patrolling in the hotel.

They say they get mistaken for cosplayers.

She could always protect us from the Dalek.

It actually moved around at a good rate.

So tomorrow, I’ll have the most beautiful cosplayer.

[Permission granted to use any photo on this post, so long as it is labeled “Photo by Mark Murata”]

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Norwescon I Supplemental

Norwescon is an annual science fiction and fantasy convention held in SeaTac (to the south of Seattle) each year. If you’ve never been to one, it’s a lot like other business conventions (except for cosplayers—more on that later).

For instance, there are many booths on the floor.

This one was for the Renaissance Faire.

And there are panels. This was one was on YA (young adult) writing. I don’t write that, but I like to go to such panels because the writers are so dynamic.

Fonda Lee, G.S. (Gabrielle) Prendergast, Marta Murvosh, and Brenna Clarke Gray. Marta Murvosh is asking aspiring writers to raise their hands. I couldn’t because, you know, camera. Apologies to Spencer Ellsworth, whom I couldn’t include in the shot.

Brenna Clarke Gray explained to me afterwards that YA has a maximum age of eighteen for protagonists. A protagonist age twenty to twenty-two would not work.

Novels with protagonists in their early to mid-twenties are called NA (new adult) by some. There is an expectation of a certain amount of sexuality, and if not, some discussion as to why there is no sexual activity.

Another panelist was Cat Rambo.

She emphasized that all writers need agents to read and understand the publishers’ contracts. Publishing houses try to get all the rights they can from the writer—for instance, rights to audiobooks. But if that publishing house has no history of doing audiobooks, the author needs to retain those rights or have the publishing house spell out in detail how an audiobook of the novel is going to be made.

But writers need to learn about contracts. Also, writers need to understand the agents’ contracts. Ultimately, it is the writer who signs the contracts and is responsible.

Rhiannon Held was also there.

She’s a professional archaeologist known for urban fantasy. Now she’s starting to do space opera.

The Artist Guest of Honor was Tran Nguyen.

Look at her art and be astounded. 

So my next entry will have cosplayers.


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