Passing the Torch

[scrippet]INT. BEDROOM – DAY
PATTIE, a seventy-year-old woman is in bed with the duvet up to her chin. She’s spluttering and takes a sip of an orange juice through a straw. She’s watching ballet on the television across the room. The dancer gracefully moves across the stage. Pattie’s eyes glimmer with the reflection of the television. The doorbell RINGS.

GEORGE (O.S)
I’ll get it.

We stay in Pattie’s room. The door unlocks and Pattie’s eyes shift to the doorframe. We overhear a brief greeting between GEORGE, Pattie’s husband, and TONI, their granddaughter.

TONI
Hi Granddad.

GEORGE
She’s in her room.

The door closes and in comes Toni, an eighteen-year-old in jeans and a colourful top. She heads to Pattie’s side of the bed and kisses Pattie on the forehead. She kneels down and rests a hand on the duvet. Pattie coughs. She’s a bit croaky.

PATTIE
Toni, your hair.

Toni puts a hand to her head. She has bright blue highlights through long brown hair.

TONI
You like it? Cost me a fortune.

PATTIE
I don’t like it.
(beat)

Toni looks to the television.

TONI (CONT’D)
Are you still watching that stuff? C’mon Gran, don’t you want to watch something with a story. Maybe a romance huh? Or a mystery?

PATTIE
Ballet is beautiful. I don’t want any of that cops and robbers rubbish.

TONI
It’s cops and murderers gran. Ballet is beautiful, but there’s no use living in memories past.

Toni picks up a framed photograph off Pattie’s dresser. It’s Pattie in her thirties in a ballet costume standing on one foot with the other leg crossed over to her knee.

TONI (CONT’D)
You’ve been there, done that. Why not focus on something you can do?

PATTIE
Like what exactly?

TONI
I don’t know. Bridge? Make a quilt. That stuff old people like to do.

PATTIE
I wish you wouldn’t call me that.

TONI
Sorry gran. Forgive me, I’m just a rebellious teenager after all.

Pattie bursts into another coughing fit. Toni lifts the glass off the dresser and points the straw towards Pattie’s mouth. Pattie knocks the straw so it points in the other direction.

PATTIE
Get that away from me. I’m fine.

TONI
You don’t sound well at all.

PATTIE
It’s what happens when you get OLD. You get sick, and a lot more often than you would like.

TONI
How’s Pop?

PATTIE
George is… being George. He likes to keep himself occupied and away from me. I think seeing me like this hits him harder than he lets on.

TONI
(fake narrating)
Behind his grumpy exterior there lives fluffy marshmallow.

PATTIE
Don’t tell him I told you.

TONI
Like he would give me a chance to!

Toni stands up and brushes off her jeans.

TONI (CONT’D)
Gran, it was nice seeing you.

Disappointment flashes over Pattie’s face.

PATTIE
Are you leaving already?

TONI
I’ve got to get to recital.

PATTIE
You know I would be there if I could. Would you record it for me?

TONI
Don’t be silly. You need to stay in bed and get better. Tell Pop to get you some Chicken soup or something. I’ll bring back another video. But what do you want my recitals for? Our opening night is in a few weeks. I can get you copies of that, with all the costumes and special effects.

PATTIE
The practice is more beautiful. The big productions tend to take away from what’s important.

TONI
You’re funny Gran. I love you. Get well okay?

Toni kisses Pattie on the forehead and leaves. We’re looking at Pattie’s television. We close up on the ballet dancer’s face. It’s Toni.

INT. DANCE STUDIO – DAY

Toni rushes into the dance studio. Three girls are in black leotards practising dance moves. The teacher glares at Toni. She’s still in her jeans.

TONI
I’m so sorry. I was just seeing my gran–

MISS SLATE
You kept us waiting. You would think we didn’t have our opening performance at the end of the month.

TONI
I know. I know. Won’t be long.

Toni runs off behind the stage to get changed. One of the other dancers, ANNA, comes around behind the curtain. She’s taller than Toni and a couple years younger.

ANNA
Shit Toni. If you keep this up you’re gonna get replaced by a stand-in.

Toni is struggling into her leotard.

TONI
You’d love that wouldn’t you?

ANNA
Of course not. But the way you’re treating practice, it’s like you don’t care at all.

TONI
Of course I care. This is important to me. It’s important to my gran.

ANNA
You have a funny way of showing it. Why don’t you just let the old bird die and get on with your life?

Toni has zipped up her leotard and shoots Anna a stare that could kill. Anna puts up her hands defensively.

ANNA
Just trying to help.

Anna disappears through the curtain and Toni follows after.
[/scrippet]

DMZ

Stealing this idea from the Script Notes podcast I am going to attempt to post every week, or perhaps when the time calls for it, to bring up something cool that you folks might like to check out. It could be an app, a piece of tech, an article, a game, or a movie. Basically anything then!

This week it’s DMZ, a series of graphic novels. I’ve just started reading the collected editions & polished off the fourth volume. It’s about Matty, a young photojournalist dropped into New York City, now a war zone after a civil war divided the nation. He has to live like one of the factionless trapped in the DMZ. Of course it’s a commentary on America and it’s penchant for wars, but it’s also thrilling. I’m burning through these books at such a pace because they’re so bloody good. With all these Vertigo comics to check out it’s going to be a while before I return to average books!

A Life Run By Apps

apps

It is increasingly apparent that I am delegating many daily tasks to the apps on my iPhone. Apps that help me with productivity, aiding in life activities, or just doing something awesome. Below is a list I have curated of the apps I turn to the most.

1 Second Everyday –Android/iOS

1secondeveryday

As the name implies you take one second of video from every day and compile it into a video you can watch at the end of the year. It’s a remarkable way of making every day count, as days do tend to blend into one another.

What I do is take a few videos a day, sometimes it’s only one, and a few days or a week later select the most relevant (sometimes funniest) second of that clip for each day. So you only have to go into the app once a week if you want to. I move photos and videos onto my PC after that for space. Once the year’s up compile it into a 5 minute video. You can compile by month if you want to–I couldn’t wait until the end of the year to watch!

Have a look online for some of the videos people have done. It’s a highly personal look into their lives, and you can make one for yourself.

 

Duolingo –Android/iOS

duolingo

Want to learn a language from scratch? Duolingo is the perfect way to get started by using gamified mechanics to keep you motivated. The app uses a few different methods of teaching whilst testing. Some give you the words you need to drag and drop in the right order, while others have you writing it out from audio, or even speaking in the language yourself. Spanish is my language of choice and my favourite feature of the app is ‘Weak words’. Over time each subject needs ‘strengthening’, in order to stay relevant in your memory. This is just a quick test of words you should already know.

Sure I’m not expecting the app to teach me the complete language of Spanish. I’ll need to actually use words in my daily life and have conversations for that to really happen. But it’s a good start.

 

Evernote –Android/iOS

evernote

I first used Evernote back in 2009. Other than a couple of croaky dream diaries I didn’t have much of a use for it. But seeing as it’s still rated as one of the top organisational apps I gave it another go. Now I’m using it to take quick screen caps of brainstorms, invoices, and other small documents and uploading it the cloud. This way I have an online backup and can ditch the paper copies that take up physical room.

If I had a spare $500 USD lying around I might invest in their Evernote scanner.

 

 

Feedly –Android/iOS

feedly

Since Google Reader’s sad demise, I had to find a new outlet for my blogs and RSS feeds. Feedly came well recommended. Importing my feeds didn’t work so I started off from scratch, but I was in need for a good clean out anyway. You can organise your feeds into categories, but more often than not I just click on the All tab and have a quick scan of posts that look interesting.

Most articles won’t display fully and you need to go to the actual article to read them, but that’s par for the course for RSS feeds, and of course fair on the content creators. Just not ideal!

 

Pocket –Android/iOS

pocket

Before Pocket I used instapaper to store articles and videos for catching up on later. But my instapaper clogged up and I didn’t want to go back through it. Starting fresh with Pocket I can read articles for offline viewing which is perfect for those moments you find a free second. Most of the time the app can extract the article text and relevant pics, but sometimes it will need to save the whole webpage. This isn’t the best for mobile devices, but it’s better than no article!

A new feature Pocket recently added categorises posts as Trending, which are articles that have been saved the most by Pocket users, Best of (I’m not sure how they work that one out), and Long and Quick reads. This can help when you don’t want to wade through a list of items you saved months ago.

 

Sleep Cycle — iOS

sleepcycle

When I activate Sleep Cycle before bed I wake up feeling refreshed. When I use a standard alarm I wake up groggy and end up snoozing. The secret is it’s all about when in your sleep you wake up. Sleep Cycle is essentially a glorified alarm clock. You place your iPhone face down next to your pillow (Airplane mode on of course), and set a wake up between time–the recommended is a half hour gap, but I have mine set to a quarter. Using sorcery, science, and well, movements in your bed, the app can determine when you’re in a deep sleep or close to waking. It will then wake you up in that close to waking phase between the times you set. You can select a few calming alarm sounds that ease you into your morning.

As a bonus the app can track your sleep throughout the night and determine if you had a quality sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep you can also use the sleep aid and it’s assorted tracks such as rain on car roof and ocean waves. This turns off as soon as the app senses you are asleep.

 

Zombies, Run! 2/5k Training— Android/iOS

zombiesrun

Back last year when I was beginning to run regularly, 5K Training was the perfect companion for training for The Warrior Dash. Using a story driven through audio, and starting off slow with my choice of music it helped me get out the door and actually run for a bit.

It features exercises and a mix of walking, jogging, running and sprinting. The problem with a story focused app is when I fell off the wagon (running speaking), I didn’t want to go back and play through the earlier missions again, and jumping in at the harder stuff is certainly not ideal. So it’s not the most forgiving in that regard.

Recently I picked up Zombies, Run! 2, which is a story featuring the same town and characters. I’m not sure if it’s set before the events of 5K Training, after, or if it’s set in a parallel universe! Compared to 5K Training it doesn’t have as much variety in running speeds or exercises, but it does feature random zombie encounters. 2 also has a proper town management system where the items you collect on your runs actually mean something.

If you need encouragement to get out the door or if you just find running boring, give one of these Zombie apps a try.

 

Maybe…

There’s an app I just started using called Lift. I’m not putting it on this list as I haven’t decided yet on it’s usefulness. I’m still putting it through its paces. Essentially it’s a daily goal app to make sure you’re going for your daily walk and writing 500 words. Yes, those goals are mine!

My Games of 2013

I did it last year so here it is again; a list of games that released over the year of 2013 that I rather enjoyed, and there’s a good chance you may enjoy them too. Most of which are indies, but there’s a bunch of big studio games in the mix too.

In alphabetical order we have…

Antichamber

antichamber

Like Portal, Antichamber is a first-person puzzle game. But whereas Portal is quite clear with its instructions, Antichamber throws you into a world where you have to work out for yourself what the hell you are doing. Using tricks of the optical kind Antichamber will mess with your head. Not to mention that all the puzzle rooms  will randomly reorganise themselves while you play to add  to the headache. It’s original, it’s hard, it’s Antichamber — a puzzle game that won’t go easy on you.

Candy Box 2

candybox2

I played a ton of the original Candy Box (also released in 2013). It’s the game that starts off as a single button. Built with ASCII art the game won me over with its mix of RPG, adventure, and pure curiosity. Candy Box 2 further expands upon that original idea with a huge world map. There are so many things to discover in Candy Box 2. many of which hard to find, I eventually turned to the wiki for guidance. This was a game I always had open in my browser for the good part of a month or more. It was my distraction from the things I really should have been doing. Plus leaving it open generates more candies!

Diablo III

diabloxbox

Yes Diablo III was first released on PC in 2012, but this is the console release and the first time I’m getting around to playing it. I grabbed my brother and we hunkered down and played through the first Act. At first the game felt like it had “dumbed down” a lot of the features of Diablo II; auto character stats, no skill trees, but maybe we should’ve chosen a difficulty level higher than Normal (there are harder versions of normal apparently!), as we weren’t finding it overly challenging. But at the end of Act 1 the game feels like it’s ramping up a bit and the streamlining and simplified user interface (arranging equipment into helmets and pants for example) is a welcome addition for an originally mouse heavy PC game. It’s a good old fashioned loot fest with fun-filled monster slaughtering. Without having finished it (not that I finished most of the games on this list) it found a welcome spot. Now we just have to see if it lives up to its predecessors. Topping nostalgia is not an easy thing.

Gone Home

gonehome

Word of mouth helped this game find it’s way onto screens around the world, including mine. It’s a simple adventure game, well, more of an exploration game really. There isn’t much in the way of puzzles and there aren’t dialogue choices. But what it does have is atmosphere. You walk about a creepy house in the middle of a thunder storm over turning every little piece of information you can find to learn about the occupants and their stories. This is a game where snooping is encouraged!

Grand Theft Auto V

gta5-11

Rockstar have a reputation for their open world games, and GTA V keeps hold of the flag. San Andreas is dutifully recreated as a vast playground of adventures. The main storyline is okay as things go. There are some funny bits such as Michael kicking his kid off his video game console and taking him bike riding for some father son time, but there’s a lot of tedious driving from point A to point B. In a series first you take control of three characters who you can switch between (and sometimes during missions. There needed to be more of this, as it did change up the traditional GTA gameplay). Rockstar can’t be beaten for its realistic open worlds and myself and friends have had many an adventure simply cruising the streets, stealing planes and causing general mayhem. Due to save issues I’m not sure if I feel that compelled to finish the story side of things.

Gunpoint

gunpointGunpoint is another indie darling I discovered. Essentially it’s a puzzle platformer. You hack into electrical networks, try not to be seen  and make your leave. Oh yeah and you can jump through windows. It’s awesome tackling a guard, crashing through a window, and diving hundreds of metres to the ground, punching him in the face until your mouse clicking hand gets tired. What? It’s therapeutic! Gunpoint’s writing is also clever. Between missions you ring up your contacts and choose between dialogue options which can affect the outcome of the game, or you can use just for fun. You can solve many of the puzzles using the gadgets at your disposal in a variety of ways; electrocuting guards with wall sockets, wiring doors to open on a gun firing, or turning off lights with elevator movement.

The Last of Us

lastofusreleasedate

Despite it’s clunky beginnings Last of Us becomes another Naughty Dog special. Set years after a zombie outbreak (sorry, Infected) Joel, a hardened smuggler must travel across a post apocalyptic America with Ellie, a young girl with a secret. The Last of Us is god damn beautiful and my highlight is exploring the dilapidated environments without the constant barrage of enemies. The violence in The Last of Us can be jarring, from choking the breath out of mercenaries to dispatching of Infected with an axe to the head. But it’s gritty violence that suits it’s bleak world. As Joel and Ellie struggled I felt like I struggled with them, or is that… as them?

Papers, Please

gaming_papers_please_2

Papers, Please is an unusual type of game. It’s unusual in the sense it simulates a desk job of an immigration officer working for a communist nation. Yes, for the majority of the game you are scanning documents and passports, checking for discrepancies. Any discrepancy has to be checked and questioned for letting terrorists through can cost you dearly. At the end of each work day you go home to your family (displayed only as text) and choose between spending what little money you have on rent, food, heating, or medicine. If you screw up badly at work your family will pay for it and one by one they will die off. Depressing huh? But it’s an addicting experience that gets increasingly difficult as new elements are introduced.

Rogue Legacy

roguelegacy

I turned to Rogue Legacy in hope of another Spelunky type of experience. With it’s random dungeons and it’s extreme difficulty, it certainly tickled that itch. But unlike Spelunky, Rogue Legacy has a sense of progression. What gold you have left on your death gets transferred to your ancestor where you can spend it on new abilities, weapons, magic, and other upgrades (it gets a little hard when the prices increase, money doesn’t tend to carry through when you enter the castle). On each run you can choose between three ancestors, each of which have a class, and varying traits (not always helpful) including colour blindness which turns the game greyscale, and dwarfism which well, lets you play as a dwarf. As of writing I have only defeated one boss. The game is hard yo! It looks like once all the bosses are defeated, the door to the final challenge will open. I live and pray.

The Stanley Parable

The-Stanley-Parable-doors

The Stanley Parable is a game based on the Half-Life 2 mod of the same name. You star as Stanley, office worker, who one day notices his coworkers are missing and his one job is brought to a halt. As you explore the office, a narrator tells Stanley’s story. The first choice of the game is whether you go down the left door obeying the narrator, or the door on your right. You can play through the game obeying the narrator, but that is only one story/ending of the game. The fun is in disobeying the narrator who will quickly berate you for doing so. There are many, many paths through The Stanley Parable, and many of which will illustrate the illusion of choice in most story driven games.

Flash Fiction: Chin Up

First drafted over on Typetrigger.

remy___keep_your_chin_up_by_mitch_el-d4dbydr

Chin Up

“Chin up mate,” Hank said as he patted my leg.

I suppose it was meant to be reassuring, but it only made me uncomfortable. If I wasn’t so miserable I think I would tell him to leave. It didn’t help that I was still in yesterday’s clothes and smelling like a cauldron of assorted stenches. I scratched at my chin to feel prickly hair–something I would have shaved off days ago if I gave a damn, if we were still together.

“Just know that we’re here for you buddy,” Hank said.

God, why does every trite expression he use make me want to throw a cushion at his big stupid face?
I shouldn’t say that. Hank’s a good guy. I’ve had phone calls and Facebook messages but Hank was the only one to show up in person, on my doorstep with a case of frozen dinners. I wish it was a case of beer so I could drink myself into a semblance of a good mood.

“You are eating?” Hank asked, looking at my frail figure.

I pointed to the empty Doritos packets on the floor.

“I thought as much. That’s why I brought you these dinners. Just chuck ’em in the freezer and come dinner time throw one in the microwave. Easy peasy,” Hank said. “Y’know what, I’ll put ’em in for you.”

Hank picked up the case of frozen delights and headed for my kitchen. He came back and stood in front of the couch. I didn’t get up. I think my body forgot how.

“Hope to see you back at work soon mate. Not sure how long I can keep covering for you,” Hank said.

I raised a limp hand and dropped it to my lap. That was me saying goodbye. Hank left me to my dark dungeon of despair. I looked over to the coffee table where my empty fish tank sat in the dark–the castle and treasure chest devoid of life.

Mister Gup Gup, it wasn’t your time.