Well It Isn't The Polar Express...

But it was a great train all the same. The Holiday Train travels across Canada every year around this time, so this year we decided to brave the cold and the rain and check it out. Quite convenient when the tracks are literally right behind your house! Enjoy!

Review Monday: Bunraku

I'm still working on reviews for two other writing stuff, Yarny and Liquid Story Binder, so they'll have to wait until next week. So instead I thought I'd review a movie :) I'll try not to spoil too much, because you really should see it :)

Starring: Josh Hartnett, GACKT, Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, Kevin McKidd. Also features Demi Moore.

Rating: R

Summary: In a world without guns, a mysterious drifter (Hartnett), a young samurai (GACKT) and a bartender (Harrelson) find themselves working together to overthrow the ruthless leader who controls the town (Perlman) and his Red Suit army.

My Thoughts:
First, for all the hype the company behind this movie gave it, it was completely underpromoted. Not a lot of effort was put into trying to promote this to the public which I think did the movie a huge disservice.

Bunraku's not your typical movie. Set in similar style to movies like Sin City and Kill Bill, it's a very different ride. Director Guy Moshe draws heavy inspiration from origami and bunraku, which is an old Japanese style of puppetry. It's bright and colourful and doesn't always takes itself seriously, which makes it rather fun. The storyline is rather good, the fight scenes are spectacular and the acting's superb. I've never been a fan of Josh Hartnett and I don't tend to go out of my way to see his movies but I really enjoyed him in this one. Ron Perlman is not your typical bad guy, doesn't encompass the "evil" archtype as much as you might expect. Woody Harrelson's character in the bartender is the wise guide helping the two protagonists along and sometimes is very much a father figure. Kevin McKidd, as Killer No. 2, IS your typical bad ass and embodies it well. With a rather stylish form of fighting more reminiscent of dancing than combat. And GACKT, even if you've never heard of him or think him just a singer, he's going to surprise you. For these guys alone, the movie's worth checking out.

Demi Moore's character of Alexandra is unfortunately kind of a useless character. Moshe, who also wrote the script, could have easily written the same story without her character. She plays her part well, it's just a shame that Alexandra doesn't have a more firm anchor in this story as she could have.

Yes, it does have a few shortcomings. In many ways the story showed a lot of potential that Moshe didn't quite reach. For example Alexandra's relation to the bartender could have been better developed. Their whole time in this movie especially at the end seemed kind of anti-climatic. The movie is also a little over-narrated; I'm not opposed to movies with narrators, unfortunately Moshe used the narrator to tell just a little too much of the story, instead of the characters. I would have eliminated it entirely, or at least kept it to the beginning and the end. But despite those things I really loved this movie. Visually the movie is stunning and unique like a blend of stage and movie. The fight scenes are well choreographed and entertaining to watch. There are no slow or dull moments in this movie, no lulls in action or dialogue as Moshe has set a very good pace between action and acting. And everyone's acting in this movie is supurb. It's hard to go into much more description without spoiling the movie itself, but please definitely pick this up and check it out. You won't be disappointed!

Bunraku can be ordered from Amazon.com, or buy it at Wal-Mart. Bunraku hits theatres in Japan January 2012.


It's winding down now, only about nine more days left. I'm so woefully behind, but this year for me's been rather different. I'm accustomed to having loads of free time around this time of year which meant I could pretty much write whenever I want. This year, very different. Having the nephew with me during the day for nine hours takes about thirteen hours out of my day when you factor in traveling and getting ready. He's nine months now, so he's at that stage where he's on the move a lot and constantly getting on his feet. So far he can only stand on his own for about seven seconds so he uses furniture to help him walk around and that really divides your attention. Plus all the other fun stuff that comes with babysitting and his fascination with my laptop - fun times. It doesn't bother me to have him, but boy does it turn your schedule upside down! Everyone doing NaNo this year with kids, I salute you. Seriously, because it's hard work! And it really draws on one's energy when you're not in the greatest of health, and trying to fix that is a job within itself. Throw in a dog amongst all that...you learn a few things about good time management, opportunity and being flexible.

I actually ended up changing my NaNo story about a week in. My original story (which I'll probably continue after this story is finished) was The Bone Witch, a fantasy with Norse, viking, barbarian inspirations. I temporarily petered out on it because of lack of clarity about how the world works. I'm not much of a pantser, I have to at least have a basic idea of how my world functions before I dive right in and this one kept shifting on me. At least enough to affect story outcome. It's bubbling just under the surface right now and when I can get back to it I'll work it all out. So this year's story switched to another fantasy called Dragon Eggs. It's coming about in a much different format than I'm accustomed to writing; each chapter alternates between current events in the story and past events that led up to it. I'm not quite sure how well this is going to work out, but we'll see how it goes. It's certainly fun to write, and for the first time I overwrote a chapter by about three thousand words. I usually manage to keep them around the five thousand mark, give or take a few hundred words, because it helps me keep a tab on my overall word count. Plus it seems like a good length, not too long and not too short. Well see how it fares in the rewrite. New territory is always fun to explore.

Word count unfortunately is sitting at a sad 13000 words (though I'm kind of proud at landing on such an even number). I'll post tomorrow how much that's changed.

Review Monday: PangurPad

I think this will become a regular feature on the blog. I'll review all sorts of stuff, but for now I think I'll start with writing programs. I got the idea a few weeks ago to use NaNo as a time to test drive some new ones I found, and see how they shape up to what I use now (Liquid Story Binder, which I'll also be reviewing). If you have any suggestions for future reviews, feel free to let me know in the comments. So this week, I'll start with PangurPad.

What is it?
PangurPad is web-based writing software created by Pangur Pty, Ltd., so you don't have to download anything to your computer. Built on open source software it's a writing program designed to be sleek and clean with functional tools and an uncluttered interface. But PangurPad isn't just writing software; there is also a large community where you can find writers who share your genre and it also acts as a self-publishing platform.

How It Works?
All your writing is done in the browser. PangurPad backs up all your work on their servers as you write, so you will always have the most current version of your work everytime you log in. There is a feature that allows you to go back through all the versions that have been saved, so if there was something you wrote three days ago, deleted but decided you wanted to bring it back, it's retrievable. There is a word count feature, a timeline feature and a notes feature. The notes have their own subsections for characters, places, things and general. You can also download your work to your computer, and there is an offline mode which allows you to continue writing if for whatever reason you're unable to connect to the internet and PangurPad's servers. At the top right of the interface is a button with an eye on it, and this button hides all the features so all you have is your writing space. Pressing it again brings up all your tools.

The Basics:
It should be noted that PangurPad ONLY works in Firefox or Chrome. It does not work in Internet Explorer whatsoever, so if you're stubborn like me and still use IE as your primary browser you will have to download either of the others. I personally like Firefox. When you sign up you're given a free trial account, with space for 1 work with a 10k word limit. All the features are avaliable to you including the secure online backup. Right now, if you are a NaNoWriMo participant you can sign up and get a trial account with a 1 work, 100k word limit by proving you're a participant. All that really involves is showing them the link to your NaNo profile. The third account is the paid account. This gives you unlimited works and unlimited word count. There are many features and details about Communities, Publishing etc, but that would be pretty lengthy to go through so please visit here to see the rest. The paid account has two options: $20.00AUD yearly subscription or a once off payment of $45.00AUD.

The Pros:
So far I'm really enjoying this site and program. The backup is pretty seamless, it doesn't give my computer any hiccups or issues while saving. I like that since it is online as opposed to a downloaded program I can bounce between computers and just pick up where I left off writing. The word count feature seems quite accurate, only a hundred or so words off from Microsoft Word. The interface is very clean, and I enjoy having the option of having the tools all easily displayed or hidden as I feel the need. It has a very small learning curve, if any, so if you're taking the plunge from Word you'll have little trouble getting accustomed to the format. Anyone who uses different writing programs should have no trouble at all with this. The site itself is very clean, very easy to nagivate and appealing. No crazy animations, nothing to slow the computer down, enough graphics to make it interesting but without the overkill. Nothing puts me off more than a website that looks like it was created in five minutes in a web editor.

The Cons:
There is no FAQ, which I would have liked to see. They're sort of a prerequisite in my books. There's also next to no information on the people behind PangurPad - not that that's a con per se, but it would be nice to at least know something, what brought about the idea. There does seem to be a few bugs, I can't seem to get the word count goals to stay when I log off, but it's unclear whether they're meant to only be present during your session or permanent until they're deleted. Again, a FAQ would have helped here, the small note they give you when you first start with PangurPad is not as informative as I would have liked it to be. I can't seem to get the section break or page break to work properly so I don't use them. With regard to the publishing, there's little info on that as well. You have to actually click on the publishing link beside your story to find anything out with that. It does bother me some that there is no information on the publishing experience of the people behind this format, and as of right now the epublishing option and the print publishing options are not avaliable. You can publish on the web, but it also kind of bothers me how they don't stipulate that should you choose to post most or all of your story this way, you lose your first publish rights. Though this only matters if you plan on going the regular publishing route, but if the idea is to be helpful to writers this info would help. At least those newer writers who may not know this, I know I sure didn't at first.

My Thoughts:
As a writing program, I really enjoy it. Despite the cons this is still a program worth checking out, at the very least. This year they're sponsoring NaNoWriMo and donating part of the proceeds from paid accounts to NaNo. I do like that they give you all of the program features and some of the access to the community, that for me gives me more incentive to want to buy a full account. It's a very fine line you got to walk to offer people enough of a preview to get their interest, but not so much that there's no incentive to upgrade to paid account. I feel PangurPad gives a nice even balance. Even being in beta it's pretty bug-free for the most part, and it's such a huge bonus that you can access your story anywhere you go, on any computer. For someone like me who bounces between two comps, this is fantastic for me.

As a publishing platform, I'm undecided. It could show lots of promise, depending on the experience of the folks behind it. It's not the first site I've seen that claims it'll be a place for authors to expose their work to a large scale audience, and as of right now the community is all writers. If the site is promoted well, it could in fact become a good platform. Simply making a website thinking that it'll expose you/its members to the global audience is not one that's panned out so far as I've seen, and I hope PangurPad doesn't fall into that pitfall. Though new it does have potential, only time will tell how it pans out for self-published writers, and it is still in its early development. I'll be watching it.

Life: That pesky thing that gets in the way

I'm too scared to even look at my last entry. I'm sure the dates between today and then are very far apart.

Well life, as it's prone to, got in the way. Again. My mother's health took a bad turn and I spent about half the summer caring for her. She's gotten much better since then, but she will still need surgery next March. Spinal conditions are terrible things. And I have a baby nephew now, he's nine months and I've been helping my sister out by watching him while she settles into a new job. So busy busy busy! But all that coupled with my own illness and issues...it's been a lot to try and sort through. Just have to keep at it.

So my plan for this blog. To keep it, obviously. I have preplanned entries which should help me stay on top of things. I'm also thinking of doing a serial story for the fun of it. I won't post the whole thing here for anyone who might not be interested in reading it, but I'll link it here definitely. Should be a weekly post. Aside from trying to keep things interesting around here, I'll make my rounds again. I missed so much, I have a lot of catching up to do! So please stay tuned :)

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