Author: Steve Zeoli

Tinderbox screencast number 2 — stamps and agents

I’ve uploaded the second of my Tinderbox 6 tutorial videos. This one might be a little — just a little — bit more polished than the first. In this episode I provide a quick introduction to Stamps and Agents. Stamps allow you to set an action to be applied to a number of selected notes simultaneously. Agents are notes that look for other notes that match a specific criteria and then apply some action to them automatically. Agents work continually, search for any new notes or changes to work upon, while Stamps are used manually by the user. Hopefully you will see what I mean if you watch the video. Here it is:

Introduction to Tinderbox 6 – Part 2 from Stephen Zeoli on Vimeo.

Star Trek Beyond leaves the Enterprise in smoldering ruins

The Enterprise is left a smoldering ruin in the first 20 minutes of Star Trek Beyond... and so is the Star Trek franchise.

The Enterprise is left a smoldering ruin in the first 20 minutes of Star Trek Beyond… and so is the Star Trek franchise.

Amy and I watched the latest Star Trek film tonight on disk from Netflix. I can say that this is easily the worst Star Trek film ever. It may be one of the worst big budget films ever. That the Enterprise is completely destroyed in the first 20 minutes serves as the perfect metaphor for what J.J. Abrams is doing to this franchise: turning it into smoking ruins. Abrams directed and wrote (I think) the first two of the reboot films, and executive produced this one. The first film was good. The actors really pulled off the difficult task of stepping into the roles of such iconic characters. Abrams appeared to understand that Star Trek is first and foremost about those characters and their relationships. The second film continued to honor the characters, but it lost its footing with an implausible story and a really, really bad grasp of physics. But it is Citizen Kane compared with this new film, which fails in every area: Ridiculous plot. Absurd “science.” Plot written to serve the special effects. Special effects that aren’t very special (how can they be when the film is wall to wall effects?). And, worst of all, the actors begin to look like frauds pretending to be Spock, Kirk, Bones, Scotty, because the writers just don’t care about them as characters any more.

Here are some random gripes about this travesty:

  • The filmmakers rush from one outlandish and impossible stunt to another, conjuring up whatever pseudo-science they need to explain why they can do this, usually with a quick one-sentence explanation from Scotty. “He’s using the gravity slip stream…”
  • How the villain and his crew end up doing what they are doing makes no sense whatsoever. How they get the amazing technology to destroy star ships when they are stranded on a planet is gasp inducing, and not in a good way. That they even know about a super weapon that comes into possession of the Enterprise is unlikely at best. Why the villain keeps the crew of the Enterprise alive, when he’s intended to destroy millions of people is inexplicable, except to the extent that the writers needed them alive so Kirk, et. al. can rescue them.
  • How is it that the Enterprise is on a five-year mission to explore unknown space, but there is a giant Federation space station with millions of people on it at what they describe as the edge of the frontier?
  • It takes the crew longer to fly from one edge of this space station to the center than it did to fly from a distant planet within a nebula.
  • Seeing that nostalgic music worked for Guardians of the Galaxy, the filmmakers boldly incorporate that idea into this story. But the music sucks.
  • The writers dutifully make Scotty and Bones say things that Scotty and Bones are known for saying… i.e. “I’m a doctor not a…” and “Captain, I’m giving her all she’s got…” (or something close). But that’s no substitute for actually making these living, breathing characters.
  • Why there is a vintage motorcycle onboard a deep space, early star ship that has crash landed on the planet on which Kirk and crew are stranded is a head scratcher, but you know immediately that Kirk is going to ride it at some point. And when he did, I just felt another round of “lets create the stunts first, then we can shove a plot in there to fill in the cracks.”

I love Star Trek and these characters, but someone has got to rescue them from J. J. Abrams. Steven Spielberg, where are you when we need you?

My first Tinderbox video tutorial

Huzzah! After thinking about this a long time, I’ve finally made my first Tinderbox Tutorial. As you’ll see, it is a little rough around the edges as I get used to the features of Screenflow. And I’m no James Earle Jones with the voice over. But I hope this video can help novice Tinderbox users and those thinking about becoming novice Tinderbox users get a sense of the very basics of the program. I hope to be adding more videos in the future, ones more polished and which expose more of Tinderbox’s great features.

UPDATE: The first version of this video had some editing errors in it. I’ve fixed those.

Introduction to Tinderbox 6 from Stephen Zeoli on Vimeo.

Tinderbox Labor Day Sale – save $50

This just in (from an email from Eastgate Systems):

This weekend only, Tinderbox is on sale. Save $50, and get started on that big push. Whether you’re writing a thesis or a novel, planning a new product, running a campaign, or planning your big trip, Tinderbox will help you get the most from your research.
Tinderbox is the tool for notes if you’re working on a Mac.

Flowstate. The writing app that feels like a monster creeping up on you

Just for the heck of it, I decided to purchase Flowstate, the writing app that forces you to keep writing for a specified time or all the work you’ve done to that point disappears. Permanently. I’ve decided to let the results of my first writing session serve as a review for Flowstate. The review starts below the screen capture.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 9.48.22 AM

Okay, so I am trying Flowstate, the writing app that forces you to keep writing or you lose all the writing you’ve done during that session to the point you quit.

Does this make sense?

I can see the rationale. Whether or not it works for me is the question.

So here I am. Writing.

Writing is an important aspect of my life. But I don’t do enough of it. If Flowstate helps me write more, then the $10 I spent for it will be worth it.

I’m not sure yet how you get your writing OUT of Flowstate and into another writing app for editing. I guess I’ll find that out at the end, assuming I don’t wind up losing all this text.

Another question is whether free flow of text is really a productive approach for me. Maybe I’ll be able to judge that after I see what I’ve produced here. It is really nerve wracking to see the text start to fade away when I stop writing for even a second or two. All my text will simply go away if I stop for five seconds. It feels like one of those horror movies where the protagonist knows that the monster is creeping up behind her. Don’t turn around!!!

So I’m continuing to write. I set this initial session for 10 minutes. I’ve been writing for six, so far. Still four minutes to go.

When you start Flowstate, you are presented with a simple screen. You can adjust how long you must write and what font to use.

If your brain gets stuck, you can just hold down one key for a while then hold down the delete key. Flowstate interprets this as writing. It’s a hack. I haven’t done this yet, but I think it will work.

Having this app is like having a Nazi SS officer demanding that you reveal where you’ve hidden the classic artwork.

I am going to publish this as my review of Flowstate on my blog and you can judge for yourself if the result was worth anything… Twenty seconds to go. I think I’m going to make it… just keep writing… and now….


So there you have it. I’m going to keep using Flowstate for a while and see if the results get better. By the way, you can simply export the results of your writing session as a text file. There are also ways to push it to other apps, like email and notes. I’ve added Curiota as an option for exporting, which basically makes it available on any device I have through Dropbox.

Scrivener for iOS has arrived

It was a long, grueling haul for Literature & Latte founder and programmer Keith Blunt, but for those of us drooling over the thought of Scrivener for iOS the wait has been worth it. In spades.

This will not be a review of the iOS Scrivener. The app is so feature rich that it would take way too long. Also, Keith has done such a great job highlighting the app’s functionality on the L&L blog that a review would just be redundant.

No, this is merely an acknowledgment of the wonderful work done by Keith and his crew. I’m still working my way through the tutorial and testing out features, but I feel confident saying Scrivener is the most well-thought-out and executed software making the leap from OSx to iOS that I’ve ever used. (Ulysses is up there too.)

IMG_0385

Not every feature of the Mac app has made the leap. For now, at least, the binder also serves as the outliner. Good enough for an overview of structure, but without the extensive display of meta-data the Mac app’s outline view supplies. But for version 1.0 this is a remarkably mature app, and is a testament to Keith’s pursuit of excellence with Scrivener.

Make no mistake. Scrivener for iOS is a powerhouse writing environment independent of its OSx sibling. Congratulations to Keith and the rest of the Literature & Latte team.

Errol Flynn — the only true Robin Hood — was born today in 1909

errol-flynn-robin-hood-the-adventures-of-robin-hood

Welcome to Sherwood, my lady.

That’s just one of the famous lines from The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, who was born today in 1909 in Hobart, Tasmania. Few actors could buckle a swash like Flynn. Though hard living in real life killed hill at age 50.

Since I took the name of the blog from that famous line, I’ll wish Errol Flynn a happy birthday in that Sherwood Forest in the sky.

The Revenant – my reactions

DiCaprio in The Revenant

[Revised version.]

I finally got to see The Revenant this weekend on a DVD disk from Netflix. There is much to admire about this movie. Great performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Breathtaking imagery. And the scene in which DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass, is mauled by a grizzly bear is stunning filmmaking.

SPOILERS AHEAD

All and all I found The Revenant compelling. But in the end I was disappointed. The problem is my familiarity with the true story of Hugh Glass, epic without the embellishments layered on by the film.  (For a reasonable recounting of the differences between the historical record and the film version of Hugh Glass’s story, see here.)

The film adds elements that I found distracting and even annoying. The emotional center of the film, the murder of Glass’s Pawnee wife by American soldiers and the subsequent murder of his son by one of his companions, is totally fabricated (there is no evidence he had a wife or that, if he did, she was killed in a raid; there is no record of his having a son, and even if he did have one, there is no way he would have been old enough to join in a trapping excursion). Knowing this as I watched the movie made me feel manipulated by the filmmakers. The real Hugh Glass crawled 200 miles, not to mete out noble justice for the death of his son, but simply to survive. Perhaps wanting vengeance for being abandoned by his companions fueled his desire to live, but in the end he never did kill anyone over his abandonment. He just returned to trapping until he was killed by Indians ten years later, in 1833.

There are two story threads involving a party of villainous French-Canadian trappers, and a noble band of Arikara Indians trying to rescue the kidnapped daughter of one of its own. These two strands are improbably woven into Glass’s story — making the vast wilderness of the American west seem a very crowded place.

I also found it gratuitous that the leader of the Arikaras makes a short speech about how the white man has stolen everything from them. Remember, this story takes place in 1823, before there has been much incursion by whites into far west. I doubt very much that the Arikaras or any other western tribes felt that everything had been stolen from them by the white man, yet. They surely did justifiably come to feel that way but that would not be for another 40 years or more.

Had this story been set later in the 19th century and not involved real-life, historical people, I would have appreciated it more. It is a good movie, but falls far short of the best mountain man film of all time, Jeremiah Johnson. That’s another movie based on a book, which is inspired by a true story. But both the novelist (Vardis Fisher) and the filmmaker (the great Sydney Pollack) use fictional characters, only taking the true story of Liver-Eating Johnson as a starting point.

Embellishments are necessary in telling Glass’s story, I suppose. Watching a man crawl 200 miles, no matter how heroic, would be a bore. But this film does not honor Hugh Glass, because it does not trust that his real story is worth telling. Instead it wraps Glass in a bearskin of supernaturalism, as visions of his fictional wife keep appearing to him until the ultimate villain in the story is dead. Then Hugh Glass stops fighting death and embraces it. The film ends in blackness as we hear Hugh Glass take his final breath.

The real Hugh Glass would have fought to the bitter end.

And a final thought: The wild west of the mountain man was violent and dangerous. But it was also a time and place of fabulous adventures. Mountain men, even those who made some money from their efforts, kept returning to the trade, drawn by the freedom of living among the fabulous beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The Revenant fails to acknowledge this, painting instead a bleak and miserable portrait of these men.

The sun never shines throughout the entire film.