January 30, 2017
Best Indie Films
A couple weeks ago I went with some friends to see the movie Paterson. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it, usually a mark of a really good movie. For me what makes a movie really good is when it generates intersting ideas that you take with you, and that enrich your life. Paterson is that kind of film. It's almost a guide for thinking about what really matters in life. Perhapse that is just the style of director Jim Jaramuch. The only other of his films that I had seen was Broken Flowers, which was also good, but I didn't like it nearly as much as Paterson. Paterson is about poetry, and there certainly is a poetic beauty in the way the story unfolds, a deliberate and subtle unraveling of circumstance. Each scene is a like a pause to take notice of the commonalities and slight differences from day to day. And in those little differences we see significance. It's really up to the viewer to see what they want to see, but I found myself much more observant of my surroundings on my way to work over the next week, and of the conversations I had with coworkers and friends.
Anyways, after thinking about Paterson so much I decided to make a list of my favorite indie films. For this list I'm focusing on films that stuck with me and made me examine life. There are quite a few action films, and sci-fi films that would qualify as indie. The Terminator would qualify as an indie film, but that feels much more like a blockbuster. So here's the list:
- Paterson (obviously)
- Captain Fantastic
- Lars and the Real Girl
- The Station Agent
- Lost in Translation
- Bottle Rocket
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Silver Linings Playbook
January 29, 2017
There is no better time than now to consider a digital career. Depending on if you are more creative or technical, there are many kinds of digital careers to consider, and there are many ways to get into the business.
Types of Digital Careers (these are just some common types)
Back End Developer – someone who works on the back end (server side) of a website, using languages that were designed to run on a server (such as Python or Ruby) as well as managing databases where information is stored.
SEO Specialist – a Search Enginge Optinization (SEO) Specialist is someone who provides guidance to help web pages rank higher in search engines such as Google and Bing.
Web Copy Writing – a Web Copy Writer is someone who specialies in writing copy that is enhansed for web. They typically consider the useability of the copy, the SEO value, and the website audience when preparing copy.
Graphic Design – Graphic Design is a traditional discipline that can be learned at an art school
UX Design – UX Design (User eXperience Design) is often confused with UI Design (User Interface Design), they overlap however they are pretty different. This blog post does a good job explaining the differences.
There are a lot of great learning opportunities out there to get experience in a digital careers. Quite a few people have restarted their professional lives learning new things on the side, and launching a new digital career.
One route you can take is to educate yourself in your spare time. If you're interested in learning to code, then its a good idea to try an online service such as CodeCademy, CodeSchool, Udacity, Udemy and Corsera. I highly recommend CodeCademy because there are a lot of learning resources available for free! Udacity offers what they term “nanodegrees” specifically for Front End Development and Full Stack Development, and many others. If coding and programming is of interest to you, it's a good idea to check out the free CS50 Harvard course available on edX.
If you're looking to get a degree, you have some options. Your best bet is to find a good program in either computer science, communications, marketing or graphic design at a public institution (I would highly suggestthe SMAD program at JMU).
When it comes to coding, it is traditionally a computer science focused discipline, however people who work in web development often have all different sorts of backgrounds. Graphic design, UI, UX have a lot of artistic elements that can benefit from a fine arts education. I would suggest the free CS50 class provided by edX to get a taste for computer science. I'm hesitant to recommend any for-profit education system, however there are some non-traditional schools that specialize in digital: Full Sail, SCAD, RISDI, Cal Arts. You can get a bachelors degree from Full Sail that is specifically geared towards web development, but it's worth cautioning to keep in mind that there are intangible benefits of getting a well-rounded degree from an accredited higher institution. You may not always want to be a web developer but if your degree is specifically in that career path it could become more of a challenge to change later. And keep in mind that many web developers come a broad range of backgrounds and academic disciplines.
Where you might go is up to you. Whatever your path, perusing a digital career can be exciting and rewarding.
January 28, 2017
5 Video Games That Need to be Adapted Into Movies
The video-game-to-movie cross-over has been a popular trend over the years, with some of the biggest names making the transition. However, there are some surprising omissions from that list...
I think Metroid and it's sequels are some of the most interesting games Nintendo has ever produced.
Metroid is a Nintendo classic that is a unique and Althogugh a minor player when compared with Mario and Zelda fanchises, the Zelda series has enjoyed a lot of success and popularity over the years.
Metroid was fairly innovative to make the protagonist female in an era where the protagonists in video games were almost always male, and currently they are still mostly male, so this was pretty groundbreaking back in the mid-1980s. The eerie science fiction and alien battle scenes would fit right in with films like Alien and Starship Troopers
The Legend of Zelda
The video game itself is classic fantasy – a young hero is tasked with rescuing a princess and saving a kingdom. It is said that the concept for Legend of Zelda was inspired by the film Legend by Ridley Scott. Its one of the most loved series of games in video game history, spanning decades.
Attempts to bring this story to cinema in the past gave us the amazing District 9. The mythology of Halo is daunting in the same way that the mythology of Lord of the Rings is daunting. And the storytelling is fantastic. The popularity of its multiplayer gameplay may be second to none. I only really ever got into the story of Halo 2, the first of the series I had access to. But even just playing the campaign in that one title I was able to appreciate the grande scale of the game.
Attempts have been made before to bring the game to cinema, with Peter Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp working together. Ultimately that effort fell through the cracks, but the efforts let to the creation of District 9, for which we can be ever grateful.
The Last of Us
Full disclosure: I've never played this game because it's only available for play on the PlayStation 3 or 4, but I've heard from those who have tried it that is has one of the best post apocalyptic stories ever created, or that its better than any movie they had seen.
Portal and/or Half Life
Portal and Portal 2 are possibly the best video games I've ever played. They achieved the perfect balance of intrigue, fun, and humor. And they share the same universe as the Half Life series of games, another of my favorite series of games. With games this good, you wonder why even bother bringing them to cinematic format, but then again, if there is any way to enhance or elaborate on the story that the film environment can provide its worth the effort. JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell have flirted at the idea.
January 24, 2017
Web Development: Who to Follow
One of the things I've wanted this site to be is sort of a collection of useful links for categories I find interesting. When it comes to web design/development I've come to realize it's less about the links than it is about the people who are shaping the industry. Here are some folks who are most certainly worth following:
David Walsh (personal website)(twitter) – David's personal site features some of the coolest demos I've seen. And he has written some very intersting human interest pieces about what it's like to be a developer. I found his post about having 'imposter syndrome' very enlightening.
Rachel Nabors (personal website) (twitter) – I went to one of Rachel's CSS animation tutorials and was blown away by her immense knowledge. She has a really great weekly newsletter filled with awesome CSS tips and trends.
January 15, 2017
In recent years there has been a trend towards retro 80s/early-90s style media. Stylistically and thematically it resembles the style of that time, tapping into a nostalgia for those who grew up in that time, while also adding a modern spin, so it becomes popular across generations.
Netflix's huge hit Stranger Things is a great example of the popularity of retro-80s-themed entertainment. Other recent mainstream films such as Drive, It Follows and The Guest feature movie references, soundtracks and elements that you would expect in films from that earlier time period. All of those classic genre's (horror, sci-fi, action) are available to be exploited for nostalgia's sake. Some examples are a little on the campy/satirical side such as Kung Fury and Turbo Kid but are entertaining in their own right. The authenticity of these films is aided by their retro soundtracks.
Speaking of music … It's amazing and awesome how much retro music is out there from aspiring artists. It's really overwhelming the amount of new content available. Technology now makes it a lot easier for creators to generate and share their work. In music this genre is sometimes refered to New Retro, or New Retro Wave, Synthwave, Retrowave, or Chiptune.
Using services such as Bandcamp, indie musicians can distribute their own work online. Bandcamp is a great place to find new artists. Here are some of the retro artists/production groups I've discovered:
Note: the band SURVIVE created the soundtrack for Stranger Things.
In Video Games
The appeal of retro can be found in video games as well. The New Super Mario Brothers, and Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds are great examples from Nintendo of going back to their roots. It's hard to argue that video games weren't a big part of the nostalgia from the 80s and 90s.
Indie developers have also produced quite a lot of great retro-style video games in recent years. Titles such as Cave Story (check out their devloper's awesome site), Downwell and Pixel People feature a visual style that feels right at home plugged into an Atari in your best friend's basement in the 80s. This commercial for Fruit Loops even takes advantage of the nostalgic appeal of video games.
With technologies like Glitch, there are opportunities to develop retro styled web designs. This cool site tests your retro knowledge. This web design conference features a very retro look.
BTW, the book Ready Player One dives deeply into all of these forms of retro nostaligia, with a futuristic spin. It's a perfect example of literary New Retro. I'm looking forward to Spielberg's version hitting the big screen next year.
January 1, 2017
Photos: Fall and Winter 2016
I've put up a gallery with photos from starting in late Summer and running through this Fall and Winter. The first photo is of my friends surprise taking me out for dinner and to a movie. We saw Captain Fantastic, which really was fantastic!
There are also photos from a trip taking my parents to Baltimore to see the Yankees play the Orioles, some of Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family. I got to see my brothers new property in West Virginia. And my parents and I went to the Newseum in DC.
The Newseum has some really amazing artificts on display, all shown through a news lens. It's very fascinating, and the museum itself is a work of art.
Looking Back At 2016
Some might say 2016 was arguably one weird year.
For me, it was a year of milestones:
- It was the 10 year anniversary for me living in Charlotte (The Queen City), that's a real commitment.
- It was the 10 year anniversary of me having this website, and writing this blog. I wrote at least one post a year, and usually many more than that.
- It was the year I delved into learning more code skills. I've completed 8 skills at CodeCademy.
- It was the second year at my new job working in web development.
- I saw some great movies, and some just ok ones, and some downright terrible ones.
Here's hoping that 2017 is an even better year!