Archive for August, 2013


Math

Dear Saul,

Are you any good with geometry? I hope to god you are, I’m gonna need a bit of help. It’s strange, the way life can give you a second chance or two.  It’s even stranger that those second chances can be a little… intimidating. Sure, you’d like a second shot, you wanna get back in the ring, throw at least one more punch. Then the weight of the task at hand can be a little bit of a reality shock. Things might be a little more jarring, a little bit bigger than anticipated, and honestly, it’s okay to feel a little intimidated at first, I’m sure most people would, and I’m no exception.  For instance, lemme give you a little backstory to my school.

I am, currently, shit at maths. Or math, however you wanna pronounce it. I somehow believed in second year that I could handle higher level math pretty well, and… well… the big fat ‘D’ on my Junior Certificate exam speaks volumes as to how that turned out.  So I took a year off, did something called Transition Year, which kinda was a non-exam year meant to prep you for the next major exam, the big one, the one that would decide whether colleges and universities would except you as a paragon of society, a useful, productive human (that’s what it sounds like to me, at least). The Leaving Certificate. I kinda forgot about my troubles in math, until nearing end of the year, I began to wonder if I would remain in higher, or drop down to ordinary, also called lower level.

Welp, I believe I’ve either dodged a bullet, or jumped in front of one, because, on my very first day of fifth year in secondary school (think second last year of high school), I’ve been put into higher level math. Because a second chance can be, and is, a bitch.

This, naturally, filled me with doubt. At this point, my drive to succeed in maths was pretty much gone, I needed to focus on the subjects I could actually pass. This sounds ridiculous, but higher maths at Leaving Cert level is hard. Really hard. And I barely made it past higher maths in third year. Naturally, I was worried, especially given that the new teacher I had was one I had never interacted with, never met in the corridors, and one I might not have felt comfortable being taught by.

This teacher, as it turns out, found me my drive. By inadvertently calling me dead weight.

After being sorted into our classes, each teacher gave their own prep talk for what they would do for the exam. Mine, as it turns out, had the same effect as a Drill Sergeant. That is to say, I’ll learn, whether I hate them or not. But a few of the remarks they made kinda stuck in my head, one of them being ‘I’m looking at the class now, and I can tell you now, there’s some dead weight here’, as well as ‘I can guarantee, by Monday, not all of you will still be in this class’.

Hmm

‘Okay, well, in the first period I’ve had her, she’s referred to the slackers and, looking at my own difficulty in maths, what I can only guess, me, as dead weight holding back others from learning, and she’s hinted at the class being cut down.

Well, it’s on now.’

This was pretty much, as silly as it is, my thought process. I mean, them telling me I should go down to lower is fine, but being kicked out when I’ve already, against the odds, made it into higher? Nuh-uh, nope, no way, it’s on like Donkey Kong, now.

I guess, at that point, something just snapped, a good snap, but a snap nonetheless. At this point, it was no longer about studying for an exam, it was no longer about points, and it was no longer about being dead weight. Now, it was about proof. Proof to myself that I can and will pass, and not just pass, but succeed. I needed to prove to myself that I could beat maths. No more laying back, no more worrying about exams, at this point, the only thing that mattered in maths, was the fact that I would beat it.

And for that, I thank you, drill sergeant maths teacher.  You helped me find my drive. Before this, I was apathetic, I didn’t know how it would go for me, and frankly, I didn’t care. Now, I’ve begun to realise what I’ve missed out on, what I could have done, and dammit I’m pissed. Now, I have a goal, a reason to do something about this. I’m not doing it for exams anymore. I;m doing it for me. Because I’m sure as hell not letting numbers on a page beat me anymore.

The buck, as they say, stops here.

Best wishes, and wish me luck,

Fiachra

 

 

 

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This post seems, if anything, to be one giant sell out.  To be fair, it’s the last week of summer before I head back to school, so nothing major has really happened. Did my training for mentoring 1st year students, slept a lot, starred in a local short film…

…wait…

Yes, I checked, I am actually in a short film. It’s a lovely little movie called Cathy’s Mate, directed by Oisin Beaudalot, and in a similar vein to some of John Green’s work. My performance was… well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Please show your support by watching the trailer and liking it on Facebook. I moderate the page, so please, come say hi and tell me how bad a job I’m doing.

Speaking of social media, someone finally set one up. Yes, now you too can join the… fun…  by following me on my Facebook page and Twitter. Because social media is the only way forward 😉

And lastly (the promotions are n early over, bare with me), if you guys haven’t seen it yet, Part 1 of my look at horror sequels is up and running, with more to come. Considering the whole thing adds up to about 3000 words, it seemed sensible to split it up.

And that’s it. Next week, I start my fifth year of secondary school.

Bugger.

-Fiachra

Since this is the first That’s Horror-ble for a while, I thought I’d start with something easy, something in horror that is universally thought as ‘not a good idea’ territory. Think the Twilight Zone of the movie industry, where bottles roll uphill and Shia Labeouf isn’t Indiana Jones’ son. This, my dears, is sequel territory, the wild west of filmaking, the true test of a director that will prove he’s able to hold up a series with good cinematography and interesting plots, rather than just sells outs to a broken and dead franchise.

Sequels, or as I call them, farm animals (because they’re just big cash cows. Geddit?), are a continuation of a story, a successor made to improve on the original idea while taking criticism and flaws into account. Sequels are natural, some stories are just made to be continued. Hell, even books dating back to ancient Greece had sequels (The writer Homer’s Odyssey expands upon themes and characters introduced in his earlier work Iliad). And if the Greeks did it, no doubt Hollywood would take a crack at it, with the first ‘film’ sequels being introduced in silent, black and white films. I’ll be honest, I can’t really bash sequels all that much. Sure, most of them are done for monetary gain, and many companies do tend to beat a dead horse. A whole herd of them, in the case of the Friday the 13th series. But a lot of sequels actuall do what sequels intended, and improve the films they were based on. Mad Max 2, Toy Story 2 & 3, Aliens, Star Wars Ep. 5, Terminator 2, Spider Man 2, the list goes on. All of them are testament to how to set up and keep a franchise alive. There are so many good films in So many genres.

Except for one.

Can you guess which?

I think you can?

Need a clue? It’s the whole point of this series, Einstein.

No, it’s not romance. Just go sit down, you’re not helping.

it’s horror, obviously.  In a genre usually so limited by budget, and so focused on the connection between it and the viewer used to scare it, sequels are, to put it bluntly, awful. More often than not, they’re just not scary, which to be honest, defeats the entire point of horror.  There are a ton of reasons why it just doesn’t have as many good, long lasting franchise compared to other genres. The main one being, as stated, lack of scariness.

The biggest sinner of all in this regard is Paranormal Activity. Even though the jump scares were plentiful, and the plot was simple, it reignited the public’s interest in found footage films. Supposedly, so scary that people left during the Cannes Film Festival, the film, love it or hate it,  brought tremendous success with limited tools, and being as successful as it was, well, it has to be at least reasonably good, right?

Then they made a second one.

And a third, a prequel, of course.

And a fourth.

And an unofficial spin off. Wait, counting those cheap ‘Mockbuster’ rip offs that company The Asylum creates, I think we can raise that to 3 spin offs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, after one whole year without a new film in the series, they’re launching into numero cinco, and a Latino spin off called The Marked Ones. Now, I’d like to know, at what point did this series drop off the relevancy chart? I mean, sure, I like found footage, I enjoyed Blair Witch, but seriously? Even the rip off got a sequel, the rip off!At this point, there is no innovation, there’s no fear, all the jump scares have worn off, and beating the dead horse is putting it gently. They bought a whole second horse that’s identical to the first one, and pummeled that one as well. The series is the prime example of what happens when you try to capitalise on the first of a series in horror without innovating. A sequel should be able to stand on its own as a title, be able to tell it’s story while improving on the faults of the first one. This, on the other hand, was done for money. I see no other reason as to why so many were created other than to capitalise on the success of the first Paranormal Activity, and because they were scared of changing anything for fear of losing fans, they stagnated completely.

It’s sad, but it’s a lesson you must learn in horror, or indeed in any form of entertainment: You cannot just slap the number 2 on somehing and call it a sequel. You have to be different. If you already have an established world, monster, villain, you cannot expect people to be interested if we learn nothing more about said world or monster, which is difficult with something like this, as an air of mystery is actually required. Nevertheless, expand upon your idea,give your audience a reason to want to go back to the world you’ve created, and you’ll have a successful sequel

Let’s talk survival horror, because it gives a good insight into another way horror sequels fail miserably, particularly in video games

Survival horror is a term taken from Resident Evil, and it describes a certain type of horror game.  In it, the player is given limited weapons ammo, or in some cases is left completely defenseless. Many of these games used clunky controls and what would be now considered bad gameplay to their advantage. Controlling the character and camera would be difficult, especially under times of pressure, adding an element of panic, which worked really well. As said though, nowadays, if one were to do that, given that we have such powerful technology, there’s no excuse, and it just comes off as cheap. Many series fell due to this, but Resident Evil, right up to number 4, really showed how well done survival horror can be done, even without clunky mechanics and gimmicks. the player had to stop walking to shoot, the camera controlled better but still added to the panic, and it was overall just a joy to play.

But here’s where things went downhill, as the next in the series, Resident Evil 5, received positive reviews, but fans of the older titles (myself included) didn’t enjoy it. Why? For the simple reason that it was not longer survival horror anymore. 5 had a lot more action, and gathered tension more from the adrenaline rush, of fighting of hordes of baddies, and things were generally more fast paced and exciting, which turned it more into an action-adventure game. It was no longer intended to have the same scare factor the others did. That’s alright to do, there’s nothing wrong with branching out of survival horror, a genre which really is dying. The only problem was that it didn’t completely cut it’s ties with horror. The player still had to stop moving to shoot, the game never paused, which meant enemies could attack you at anytime, and it still tried to freak you out with disturbing enemy designs. perhaps it’s just me, but when a game still holds on to tropes just for the sake of retaining some ties to a genre, it falls flat. Sequels need to know which ties to cut, which flaws to improve on, and what it needs to change genres.

Considering how long this post is, we’ll leave it at that for now, but stayed tuned for part two on sequels. Have an idea for a post or just want to leave feedback? Leave a comment letting me know your opinion. This isn’t YouTube, the comments section should be fine 😉

-Fiachra

Sleep

Dear Saul,

I’m gonna take a nap for a bit after writing this, because I’ll be honest, it’s difficult writing a post after only falling asleep at 7:30 in the morning.

Yeah, I’m gonna need a coffee or something.

I won’t lie, I’m a big sleeper. If I could get away with it, I probably wouldn’t leave my bed. But, despite my protests, society demands that I get up and make something of myself (So I put my time into entertaining you good folks 😉 ). Only problem is, after someone wakes up, they may find it difficult to go back to sleep. For the most part, I’ve gotten lucky and avoided insomnia without the use of pills or a good clang on the head  with a frying pan. But every so often, everyone has one of those nights. Either something’s bothering you, or there’s just too many things going on in your head, one way or another, you’re not going to sleep tonight. For me, when it happens, it happens badly, and it can mess up my already strange sleep schedule for days. It can happen to anyone, given the right circumstances, and can literally give people sleepless nights worrying about it.

So, what do you do?

As it happens, searching for crappy stock photos doesn’t help.

There are so many books, so many websites, and so many people telling you to do this that and the other, take this pill, drink this warm thing, watch this crummy hypnosis video on YouTube, write this blog post, etc. etc. But it’s not always that simple. So what do I do personally?

Well, if you want to follow in my footsteps, first thing is to get up. If you’re not able to sleep on the pile of springs and pillows designed for you to sleep on, there’s no point staying in it. If you can’t sleep, get up.

Next thing is to get a drink, be it coffee or warm milk, it doesn’t matter. You’re gonna be feeling rough being up at this ungodly hour, so any fluids will be a bit of help in making sure you don’t collapse on the good marble floor of your kitchen.

What you do next is entirely up to you. Do something that leaves you saying ‘I’m glad I stayed up for this’, give yourself a reason for being up so late, something that makes sleep needless by comparison. Paint that rubbish picture of the street at night you’ve always wanted to make. Write that love song you always hated yourself for not making. Write a million different letters you keep throwing out, telling your crush how you really feel.  Pull a Fight Club, visit a support group for something you don’t really have (maybe don’t do this one).

Still lost as to what to do? Listen to that one song you heard on the night of your first kiss that you’ve heard a million time. Listen to it a million times more until you can’t stomach it. Read that one page of that one book in that one series that left you crying every time you read it, and will probably make you cry again. Start a blog, even if know one wants to hear what you say, and be proud to call it your own. Or you could just think, reflect on your life, mold yourself into the human you want to be. Do all of this at 3 in the morning, not because you can’t sleep, but because you want an excuse just to stay up. A reason to keep going, to ignore everything that’s been keeping you up, everything that’s been giving you sleepless nights. Whatever it is, it doesn’t own you. It doesn’t own your time, and getting up to do something reminds you that it doesn’t control your life.

If we can’t sleep, what’s the point of lying down?

Best Wishes,

-Fiachra

P.S: I don’t usually advertise shamelessly around here, I have a whole tab for that. But I would strongly recommend you check out Ben’s Bitter Blog. I’ve been following him for a while, and I’d feel guilty not recommending funny and witty people to ye. Please go ahead and support him 🙂

Time

 

Dear Saul,

It’s been a while. Where have I been? under a rock for the most part.

I’m sorry for not keeping up with the letters. With work on That’s Horror-ble, the new series on the blog underway, stuff happening in real life, and my lack of writing pretty much anything these past few weeks, I’ve hardly had any time to talk to you. And as my muse, I really should be. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been my friend on this one.

Strange. You plan everything out, you have the ideas in your head, the resources to pull it off, but when it comes down to it, the only thing that stops you is the fact that, well, that there isn’t enough time to do it. And it’s infuriating. Intensely planned events and well thought out plots are obliterated, purely because there isn’t enough hours in a day. As a content creator, it’s hell, especially if you’ve been working on something for so long. People who call themselves fans scream at you to release the latest episode of your hit web cartoon, and no matter how hard you work, time prevents you from releasing it on schedule.

But here’s the part that doesn’t seem to get though to some:

It’s not your fault

So many people cave to the pressure put on them by fans, or bosses, or anyone claiming that it’s your fault you haven’t been able to release something. I’m sorry, do they think we control when the suns sets? Do they think we decide when the day ends  and we no longer have the mental capacity to stay awake and work? If they do, I feel so sorry for them.

Maybe you haven’t been able to file that report, maybe your latest youtube video can’t be uploaded yet. Tell those who scream at you to get it done now to wait. If they truly care, either about the work or you, they will.

In essence, this will be the excuse I use when people ask me why I haven’t written much.  😉

Glad to be back Saul.

-Fiachra

 

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