Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Short Story

Last week, I took a business trip to Chicago. As I was showering that morning I was thinking about how the day would go, and what I would do to occupy myself on the plane. I quickly realized that all the important work-related stuff I had to do was on Google Docs or other web sites, and my non-internet-enabled flight rendered that all untenable. So I considered my other options.

The night before, a gimmick had occurred to me for a twist in a story. It wasn’t much, but as I pictured it in my head, it started to expand into a larger canvas and the quick outline of a short story presented itself to me. This happens to me every once in a while, and it’s fun to think about how it would go, but in the end I usually get distracted by something else and let the idea die.

This time, as I remembered my idea in the shower I thought, “hey! I can probably knock out at least a good chunk of that story on the plane ride. Then I’ll finish it up and polish it on the way home.”

Ah, I can hear the patronizing chuckles from the real writers out there. Yeah, I was an idiot.

See, I’d read what professional writers say about writing. Without exception they all say it’s hard. Really hard. It’s not that I didn’t believe them. I just figured I’d pop out a mediocre first draft, and then the hard part would be fixing it and making it passably good (I have no delusions that it would be actually good).

Let me tell you… it’s hard. Really hard.

In that hour where I was allowed to have electronic devices turned on, I wrote 6 sentences. Most of them weren’t very long. Every one of them was like an epic wrestling match between the visual and linguistic centers of my brain. I’ve decided that those centers don’t communicate well with each other. Both of them came out of that hour staggering from the blows they took. It doesn’t help that the impatient perfectionist in me is screaming at the rest of me to get it done now – but don’t screw it up!

But at the end of that time, I had a solid starting place, and had come up with some new ideas for the plot and characters. I figured I’d pick it up on the return flight and toss a page together pretty quickly with my newly found, incredibly clearly realized direction.

That return flight yielded 4 sentences.

It’s hard. Really freaking hard.

I’ve since worked on it for a few hours at a shot, and I’m only a few sentences further.

Holy crap it’s hard.

But I really want to finish this one. I’ve started it, and I want to prove – if only to myself – that I can finish it. So here I am, telling you about it. I’m hoping it motivates me to keep going. Because maybe you’ll want to read it, and I don’t want to disappoint you. (Disappointment may be inevitable, even if you do get to read it, but that’s a different issue.)

As I sit here writing this post, I’m wondering whether I should share the few paragraphs I’ve written so far. I even have it on my clipboard, ready to paste in below. I do like it, even though it’s unpolished. But I’m not sure if it’s enough yet to appropriately whet your appetites. And maybe it’s a little too unpolished. I think I’ll hold on to it for now.

But I’ll tell you this much: it’s about a man who is an exquisitely skilled fighter. We start in the middle of an escalating, somewhat mysterious one-to-many fight and jump back and forth between the fight and the character’s background, and see how his skills helped determine the path of his life. Is he a spy? A vigilante? A thief? A cop? An assassin? A mercenary? A super-hero?

Hopefully, I’ll finish it and we can find out.

The Avengers (2012) with spoilers, and new things on the internet

You know, I was going to write a whole post about the specifics of stuff I loved about The Avengers. You’ve already seen my spoiler-free gushing (assuming you have done your homework properly). I thought about the stuff I would say – the coolness of Black Widow’s “terror” scene with the Hulk; the coolness of Banner and Hulk; the scenes that went on just a little too long, like the argument on the helicarrier; Coulson’s awesome moment; differences between Whedon’s and Favreau’s directing… but mostly just recapping the greatest moments.

But then I thought about it some more. I want this one to be a 2-way conversation. For some reason most of you don’t comment here on the blog. I’ve found that you’re more likely to comment on Facebook. So I’m going where you are more comfortable for this. I’ve created a Facebook page for Caddickisms, and we’ve already started discussing the film in a couple of posts. Please… join in!

(When I get around to it, I’ll try to make the link between the Facebook page and this blog a bit more seamless.)

I recognize, though, that there may be some of you who don’t like Facebook, and want your spoilers. That, also, is cool. My suggestion is that you go visit Lee at his new blog. He has said much of what I love about the film, and also links to a great post about the relationship between Stark and Banner. Good stuff.

Two TED talks: Turkle and Whitacre – Internet Connections and Isolation

I had the opportunity to watch 2 TED talks tonight. Both of them were about the power of technology and its relationship to… well, relationships. The intertwining of connection and isolation as themes across these two videos really struck me tonight.

MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle’s TED talk has gotten a lot of play in social media circles. That’s not surprising, given the topic. Her main point is that we are using technology to create mere connections with others rather than relationships. You could take that sentence and conclude that she wants us to turn off our cell phones and disconnect the internet. You’d be mis-characterizing her point. I think she’s very clear that the technology itself is neutral, and can be used for good or ill. We just need to be more self-aware in its application and how it affects us, psychologically, and how it is changing (and has changed) us societally.

My friend Lee wrote about his reaction to Turkle’s thoughts (from a NYT article that closely follows the text of the video above). He says that he agrees with Turkle, but goes on to state a preference for – and at times reliance on – using technology to create a distance from relationships. He continues:

It does actually make me wonder and consider how much I share online, I’m generally fairly open online but my online personality is vastly different from who I am offline.  We all present different personalities depending on the environment and audience, online is no different. I’m not living a lie I’m just reacting to my environment but then maybe I should keep my private and personal stuff to myself to minimise connectivity and avoid confusion.

By contrast, I consider myself to be fairly conservative in what I share online (though I’m still way more open than some of my family would like me to be). I do completely agree that my online presence is a crafted one. What I give you is really me, but it is carefully selected portions of me designed to engender connections.  Note I used the word “connections.” Some of those connections may become relationships eventually, but the goal of 99% of my online interactions, if I’m honest, is pure connection in the sense used by Turkle. I want someone to acknowledge that they’ve heard me, and I’m completely satisfied in most cases if that acknowledgement comes in the most superficial way. In fact, a lot of times I don’t want it to get any deeper, because that can get messy. On the other hand, I can get very disappointed if the acknowledgement doesn’t come (so you better let me know you read this, you cold-hearted lurkers).

I’m realizing now that I have way too many thoughts on this for a succinct blog post. Heck, even an epically long blog post would only really scratch the surface, and I’m not even sure anyone will finish reading this one. I could go on about the similarities and differences of contrived personalities online vs IRL (“in real life,” for the acronym challenged), the contributions of technology to my own sense of self and the relationships I’ve both cultivated and avoided, the irony of me quoting Lee on this topic as a friend when we’ve never met, the euphoric dopamine drip triggered by Facebook notifications and emails (not to mention comments on here), my handling of technology based on my own awareness of its drug-like effects on me, and my own feelings on isolation amidst connection, just for starters. But for the most part, Turkle hits the highlights. Listen to her talk.

But then consider this other TED video.

Eric Whitacre’s demonstration unintentionally shines a different light on Turkle’s. Turkle presents a warning of the personal and societal consequences of extended reliance on technology, while simultaneously acknowledging the potential benefits it brings. Whitacre’s presentation seems on the surface to be about the benefits of creating something great through that connective technology, but looking at it critically it’s also possible to see that it completely supports Turkle’s argument.

Connection and isolation. Whitacre’s project took isolation and turned it into connection – not to mention something of great beauty. But it doesn’t remove that isolation. There is no true collaboration going on here, except between 2 people: Eric Whitacre and the guy who edited together the video. Everyone else contributed but did not collaborate. To collaborate, the individuals would have to react and adjust to input like the relative volume and pace of the other singers – but that opportunity did not exist. That became the editor’s job. In fact, you could make the argument that there was no collaboration at all. It’s possible that Whitacre left it up to the editor to create the mix, in which case no-one really worked together – it was just a collection of individual contributions, and the final contribution was the editor’s isolated act of integration which created the perception of connection.

Any way you look at it, though, it’s poetic. (I love how the full video for Sleep underscores the isolation and interconnectedness simultaneously in the visual design, not to mention the return to isolation at the end.)

Review: The Avengers (2012) (no spoilers)

Yesterday (well, technically today) I posted that The Avengers was one of three movies that I would see even if I had to sell my mother to the Russians, with no guilt.

Having seen it now, I completely stand by that claim. In fact, I’d consider selling her now just to see it again.

What Joss Whedon assembled here is phenomenal. Amazing. Incredible. I’m not sure I know enough superlatives to adequately capture how good this film is.

I’ve seen some really good superhero films in the last 5-6 years, but none of them elicited the same level of excited, breathless response I felt when I first saw Spider-man and it’s first sequel. Even Iron Man, which was excellent, came close, but didn’t break the mark. The Avengers did it.

There were multiple times during this movie that I almost bounced out of my seat cheering. I wanted a rewind button so bad I could taste it, just to re-experience the awesomeness I had just seen. There were scenes that surprised me, that made me laugh, and blew my action-loving mind. I haven’t so fully enjoyed a movie this much in a long time.

Now, having said that, it’s not a perfect film. Nothing is. It’s superb, not perfect. There were scenes I would have shortened or altered a bit – though not as many as most films. I do think there are one or two spots where it got slightly bogged down. The biggest problem I have with the film, however, is not really with the film at all, but the trailers. I simply can not believe that they included a completely pivotal scene meant to have one of the biggest emotional impacts so prominently in the trailer. That was the definition of a spoiler – having seen it before-hand completely drained the scene of its intended impact, and it was a really good scene. My wife, who did not remember having seen it, had an audible reaction (unusual for her in an action movie), while I saw it coming from 2 miles away and just had to wait for it to play out. So that really bugged me.

But putting that aside, Joss Whedon was hired for this film because of his facility with character stories. It’s easy to let a movie like this glide through on spectacle and lose the characters. Whedon did not let that happen. He excels at ensemble pieces and this is a big one, with at least 9 main and secondary characters to juggle. All of them got their moments. I didn’t feel like anyone was cheated. That alone is an impressive feat.

Now, I said I would do this without spoilers, and I’ll stand by that. Just let me say this: Hulk vs. Loki. Pure. Unadulterated. Awesome. I have never been so shocked by a battle in my life.

There’s a lot I could talk about in this movie at the character, writing, action, and camera levels, but I would end up getting into spoilers there, so I’ll hold off.

In short, this is, possibly, the best superhero movie ever made. Go see it. Now.

(side note: I put this in a completely different category of movie than Nolan’s Batman trilogy – they don’t compete for the same best superhero prize. I might expand on that in the future, if anyone asks about it.)

7 movies my mother has to worry about (and a bunch more)

2012 has an impressive line-up of films. Time travel, mutation, gods, monsters, hobbits, technology, and sheer awesomeness all combine to create an almost inescapable desire to just set up an automatic withdrawal from my checking account to my local movie theater.


As usual, but even more so this year, money is tight. Hard choices have to be made. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to make them, but I have to try. Last year I think I came in at around 20 movies I wanted to see in the theater. I didn’t get to all of them (thankfully, in some cases), but that was the goal.

This year I need to be more realistic. But the studios aren’t making it easy. Every time I think I’ve nailed down my list, another trailer comes out, and the list expands.

So this year I’m taking a different approach. I’m going to organize my list by priority. Hopefully this helps when deciding what films must wait until DVD. Wish me luck.

Priority 1 – I will see these even if I have to sell my mother to the Russians.

The Avengers – in fact, I’m seeing it in less than 12 hours.

The Dark Knight Rises – the finale to the most impressive Batman trilogy ever committed to screen? Bring it on.

The Amazing Spider-Man – I was disappointed that they were doing a reboot so soon, and I do have some lingering doubts about this one, but it does look good and it is, after all, Spider-man. I really have no choice.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – To call this highly anticipated would be monumentally underselling it. I’ve been waiting for it since I was 10, and salivating for it since the second frame of Fellowship of the Ring.

Priority 1.25 – I will see these even if I have to sell my mother to the Russians, but I’ll feel bad about it.

Brave – Going strictly by the trailer, I really think Pixar is back in form for this one. I really hope this is a good movie for my girls.

Taken 2 – Holy Crap! I didn’t even know they were making this movie! If it looks anywhere near as good as the first one, I’m in. Otherwise, it drops to priority 2.

Unfortunately, no trailer yet.

Skyfall – Bond. Enough said.

Again, no trailer yet.

Priority 2 – Grudgingly waiting for DVD – if I can get into the theater, I will.

Snow White and the Huntsman – Looks really good.

Men In Black 3 – I really enjoyed the first two. To be honest, this doesn’t look like it will be quite as good, but it’s still promising. I’m still leaning toward seeing it in the theater if I can, but I think I can let it slip to DVD if necessary.

Prometheus – This looks at least as disturbingly awesome as Alien/Aliens. It hurts me to put this in this category, but something has to give.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – Yeah, it looks bad, but yet awesome at the same time. Very conflicted about this one.

The Bourne Legacy – Bourne. Enough said.

(There was a problem with US trailer when I grabbed this)

Total Recall – Argh… how can I not get my ass to Mars? :) Seriously, this looks awesome.

Looper – Time-travelling Bruce Willis fights the mob by not letting a younger version of him kill himself in the past. And Joseph Gordon Levitt is the young Bruce Willis hunting himself down. Exactly my kind of flick.

Priority 3 – Not entirely decided, but probably DVD

Dredd – Judgement withheld.

No trailer available yet.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – If it wasn’t for Battleship, below, this would be the dumbest idea on this list, but somehow it looks good! (My secret wish for this movie is that at some point Lincoln looks at the camera and says “Be excellent to each other.” Or at least, “Party on!”)

Priority 4 – Happily waiting for DVD

Battleship – It’s just too crazy of an idea with too high of a budget not to watch.

The Expendables 2 – I still need to watch the first one.


So, there you have it. Seven movies my mother has to worry about this year. For her sake, I hope I win some free tickets somewhere.

Which movies will you sell your mother to see this year?