Title Reveal of The Untitled Mystery Book Project

Hello Book Lovers,

Jen and I have been writing, a lot, lately and we’re at the 2/3’s mark of The Untitled Mystery Book Project. It’s been a lot of fun working on it with her and I hope we can keep pace with the rest of the book.

“The Untitled Mystery Book Project” is a cool name but since the book doesn’t involve mystery, projects, or books; we thought we should probably pick a better name.

Without further ado the name is:

Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers

The Gates of Westmeath book 1

Hope you’ll enjoy reading this half as much as we enjoyed writing it.

Stay safe and stay kind,

Éric

Monster Trucks – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2016 film Monster Trucks.

Story

This felt like a trippy 80’s plotline, however it was much more coherent and actually had some good messages. It’s scientifically ridiculous, but a great parable. I appreciate that they didn’t go into wish fulfilment with the father storyline. I also liked the emotional twist with the stepdad.

Score: 0.5

Character

The main female lead is smart and capable, the male lead isn’t an idiot, the majority of the other characters feel pretty well fleshed out. They’re all a little cartoony, but acted in a believable way.

There’s a huge lack of diversity and I’m not very comfortable with the “Wise Mentor” trope being a black disabled person.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The movie is worth it just for the dialogue and the way the actors deliver it. Jane Levy and Lucas Till are brilliant as are the rest of the cast.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

To balance off the heavy use of special effects, the film makers gave us beautiful nature shots and vistas. Every shot is thought out in advance and works really well.

The music is used perfectly, as a movie where the monster isn’t supposed to be scary, the use of music makes all the difference in the early scenes. Had they used more dramatic music it would have been terrifying, had they used lighter it would have been ridiculous.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie was designed to be fun and slip in some environmental and emotional messages. It succeeds and has more than one awesome moment. Both kids were glued to the screen and my wife and I laughed a lot.

Score: 1

Overall

This movie is much better than it has any right to be considering the premise. It’s an exciting and wholesome movie with great comedic moments and awesome action sequences. The moral and environmental questions are subtle, but present and the movie values intelligent characters. Plus the monsters are really cute.

Score: 4 Stars out of 5

Ups and Downs

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m having a hard week. Winter feels interminable, we’re at the start of the third wave, vaccines are being distributed by a disorganized Flash (from Zootopia, not DC), and people are starting to discuss the possibility that maybe under 10 years of age kids don’t need a vaccine. Thankfully the medical community is pushing for it, but without public and government pushing, how long will it be?

I’m not comfortable exposing my children to Covid. Even though the chances are low that they get any serious side effects, I’m not willing to risk it.

Quarantine has its ups and downs; I’m currently experiencing a down. It’s been a hard week preceded by a hard weekend. Right now I want to curl into a ball and binge-watch Stargate SG1.

With time and patience it’ll get better, but right now I’m angry, frustrated, and just tired. I look forward to watching this thing (gestures around wildly at everything) from the future and being glad it’s over.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make myself another coffee and hope it wakes me up and de-grumps me.

Enjoy this adorable picture of Pegasus stuck inside a chair.

Picture of the almost 20 month Pegasus stuck in a patio chair and giving me an annoyed look.
The chair is a metaphor…

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

Took two days off

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Taking time off while in lockdown is odd. I took two days off cause I was feeling a little frayed and poor work paid for it. Came back to 50+ emails. Poor boss that had to cover for me.

My days consist of watching Adrien while working and doing house stuff. On breaks, I’ll try to write or edit. It’s exhausting.

My two days off were pretty much a writing marathon trying to get chapter 15 of The Untitled Mystery Book Project finished. It was in my head and I needed to get it out.

Unfortunately, I also crashed physically. Full migraine, nausea, aches, and weakness. It’s like I just needed to get that chapter out and then my body said, “You’re not going to rest unless I force you.” So the weekend was painful. I hate migraines, I lost all peripheral vision on my left side for two days and every time the kids shrieked, I just saw red-ish static.

I’m feeling better today and the time off was restful, but taking time off with the kids home and lockdown going on is hard. At least I didn’t have a full social calendar.

It’s also why I forgot to prepare a post for today until just now.

All said and done, what you should take from this is that with me finishing chapter 15 and Jen finishing 16 we’re at 16/26, which is 2 chapters away from the end of the second act and that means we’re 2/3’s done. YAY.

Writing with Jen has been awesome, but that’s another post.

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

The Gnome-Mobile – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1967 movie The Gnome-Mobile.

Story

I was completely invested until about twenty minutes in when it changed from a gnome-mobile road trip movie to a horror of mental institutes. The idea that a lone psychiatrist, in a for-profit institute, interviewing someone who thinks they’re talking to a private eye, without legal counsel or family involved, can strip someone of all their rights… it’s creepy and terrifying.

Then the movie turned into some sort of little people orgy fantasy that was heavy on the misogyny.

Score: 0

Character

Not much character development or character in general. The actors however acted the heck out of very poorly defined characters. Each role was done extremely well, even though the characters were pretty bland.

The problem with having two kids in a movie is that you risk them becoming one character. That’s what happened here. Had there been only one kid, we’d have almost the exact same story.

Don’t get me started on the misogyny of the gnome-maiden that was the most desireable was the demure and shy one while the strong, competitive ones were painted as mean.

Score: 0

Dialogue

There were a lot of words and yelling, but overall it was the little jokes and quips that made it worth watching. Between long, boring yelling sections, you got parts with genuine humour.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

This movie is extremely impressive for it’s time. The special effects used and the camera work was excellent. Add to that the car chase and it’s really impressive.

Something else that has to be added is the backgrounds. To fill in the backgrounds to make it look like they were actually in a forest and not the backlot, they had elaborate paintings. These were not noticable if you weren’t looking, but they were absolutely gorgeous.

The music was catchy and cute.

Score: 1

Fun

I have to admit it was fun. Both kids and the rest of the family enjoyed it. I had issues with the predictability and mental health aspects and the rampant misogyny which took away the fun for me.

Score: 0.5

Overall

This is a movie where the special effects, dialogue, and acting are far better than the story deserves. It’s awkward, creepy, and frustrating.

Final Score: 2.5 Stars out of 5

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 2

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 2

This time I woke up on a bed. It was a raised hospital bed, but still a bed. I smelled the spaghetti before I opened my eyes.

“I’m not tied up. You must trust me.” I just lay there trying my best to stop everything from spinning. “Can you ask the pilot to stop doing loop-de-loops?”

A laughing voice replied, “That’s not the ship. You’re having a bad reaction to the sedative. Did you know you have an incredible immune system?”

I risked opening my eyes as I replied, “Doc, I just met you and you’re already checking out my immune system?” I was rewarded by a great smile.

“Will he be able to work?” Diamond’s voice was tight and she sounded worried.

“He’ll be fine. He needs some food and drink, but by the time we get there he’ll be fine.” The doctor sounded protective.

“So, Garnet, are you up for the challenge of repairing a ship that doesn’t exist?” Diamond asked.

The smart answer when the galaxy’s greatest thief asks you something depends on who you are. If you’re into adventure, you answer yes, if you’re not, you don’t. I, well, I chose to not be smart. “Why do you need the ship?”

“You’re so clever, you tell me.”

Shoving a bowl of spaghetti and a fork in front of me, the doctor made an eating motion. Maybe he thought I needed time to think or that I needed food before I fell unconscious. I answered before my first bite. “You need to steal something.”

The spaghetti was amazing. It might have been the extra garlic, the side effects of the sedative, or that I was a crappy cook, but it was like pure love and joy in my mouth.

“That was an easy guess. Try again.”

“Doc, if you cook like this all the time, I might have to marry you,” I said, ignoring Diamond.

“My name’s Onyx, at least it is here. First time I’ve been proposed to over my spaghetti.” He was blushing.

Sighing, Diamond said, “Wait until he tries your cheesecake. Now, if we’re done flirting?”

“Fine. I assume you need the ship, which I’d guess is high military or Black-Sun to infiltrate a government facility and steal something. Since it’s a small ship, I assume military tech, probably the schematics and not the actual thing.”

Diamond nodded. “They’ve apparently created a  device that can use the atoms from waste matter and reuse it to create nearly anything.”

I had never heard of any such tech, even in my time with Black-Star. If what she said was true, this tech could help millions in the outer planets with medicine, food, construction material… The possibilities were staggering.

“What do you plan on doing with it once you have it?” I hadn’t meant to say it in a challenging tone, but there it was. 

Diamond walked up to me and she smiled. It was a predatory smile, a smile that screamed mischief. It was probably meant to scare me or intimidate me, but it actually put me at ease.

“I aim to make sure every server, every computer, every watch with a stars-damned chip in it has a copy of the plans. I want this information spammed across every world in the system and I want everyone to have one of these things by the end of the year. If every household can make its own food, building material, medicine, and weapons; the government and cursed Black-Star will not only be brought down a peg, but they might have to start respecting the people.”

I’m not sure if she expected me to demand payment or act impressed, but she seemed pleased with herself. I simply nodded and replied, “I’m in.”

Onyx whooped with approval and brought me a glass of milk. “Milk?” I asked.

He shrugged and said, “You need the proteins and sugars. Also, it goes great with spaghetti.”

Once I had eaten, showered, and gotten dressed in fresh clothes, I heard Diamond’s voice over the ships PA; “Garnet to the bridge.”

The bridge wasn’t much more than a four person cockpit with standing room, if you crouched and didn’t mind being jostled. I took the engineer’s seat which gave basic readouts from the engine room.

Out the viewports, I saw what looked like a massive debris field. I recognized the emblems and makes of a dozen ships, Black-Star, government, Independents, and Zombie Raiders. The last weren’t zombies, or really raiders, but rich hippy environmental activists that liked to think they were important. 

“Where are we? This looks like quite the battle.”

“We’re around Yreld, at what was the site of the largest inner ring battle that no one knows about. You probably heard that Yreld had been devastated by a mutant locust plague, but the truth is much worse. The Independents had a base there and the Government decided to make an example of it. The planet and its three moons are now lifeless. No one who’s gone down to salvage has come back. Looks like the Independents and the Zombie Raiders didn’t go down without a fight.”

I knew all this. I was there. It was where I decided to defect from the Black-Star and fake my death. The ship flew into a hard to navigate section and through the view ports I saw my old 16-19 Rainbow, the ship that shouldn’t exist.

I was so fixated on the ship that I didn’t see the salvage ship with the big red crossbones painted on it’s hull. 

“Well shit. Looks like the Mountain made it here before us. Alright folks, get ready for a fight.”

Read Next Chapter (March 2020)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:

Disillusionment and media

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I am not a perfect person. I am not completely innocent. I live with privilege on multiple levels.

I’m really sick of people I respect turning out to be dicks or having been victimized by dicks. Again, this is a privileged take, but I feel like I can’t turn around without finding out a creator I respect is homophobic, thought pedofilia was funny, abused children, is an abusive ass who should’t have any sort of power over women, was transphobic (no link for this one since there are too many to choose), or racist (I don’t have the energy to make a list) and that’s just the publicly known ones. I have personal gripes with several creators over the way they treat people at conventions or just being unprofessional.

That’s a very short and quick list. There are plenty more and it hurts. Not because these things came out, but because they happened. Someone who should know better took a position of hate or abuse and ran with it.

The worst part is that these aren’t extraordinary acts. They aren’t exceptions. They are things we see daily. From the co-worker whose name is said wrong because it isn’t English or French, to the the friend who doesn’t speak in groups, to the person who is attacked in the grocery store, the friend who must look for a new job because pronouns are too hard for the employer.

We see it every day, some live it all the time, and it’s fucking exhausting.

What can we do? NPR has a good Article: ‘Not Racist’ Is Not Enough: Putting In The Work To Be Anti-Racist .

Beyond that, the things that should be remembered are that we need to respect, believe, listen, uplift, and make room. Most important is to leave our egos out of it. If you’ve done something or heard something is wrong, don’t get defensive or aggressive about it.

I am not perfect, but I am trying to be as respectful as possible and I hope that if I step out of line people will tell me and I’ll take it with grace.

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

The Sleepover – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film The Sleepover.

Story

The main plot seemed to be that the kids needed to save their parents… except they didn’t need to nor did they save them.

Someone took a bad “I’m a secret spy” movie and mushed it with a decent Adventures in Babysitting ripoff.

There’s nothing I dislike more than having competent kids end up being useless.

Chekhov would be very disappointed in the laser pen and alarm underwear.

Score: 0

Characters

There were two characters out of 7 that actually got a story arc and growth. The rest were just there to prop up the plot and make jokes. Mim started out as an amazing and fun character but had to be toned down to make the main girl look more awesome. The dad was goofy and fun and then he became a complete idiot.

Score: 0

Dialogue

The dialogue wasn’t bad. A lot of over acting, but that was a bonus in this genre. It wasn’t particularly great but not bad.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

This movie was stylish and had some impressive action scenes. It also had a significant amount of vomit which loses it points in my book.

The music was good and had a small moment of great, but overall was derivative.

Score: 0.5

Fun

There were times I enjoyed the movie, but the complete lack of agency in the kids at the end and the vomit scene really took my enjoyment away.

Score: 0

Overall

This movie wanted real hard to be a spy movie and then forgot to do anything like a spy movie. The excellent actors were underused, characters were changed for plot, and the awkward bodily humour wasn’t much fun.

Final Score: 1 star out of 5

Education, knowledge, and skill

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Something about watching my wife homeschool our passionately headstrong daughter has made me think about education as a whole and what we value.

I think there’s something that we forget about in later grades with kids, and that’s the importance of practice and repetition.

I understand that our entire education system is meant to fill the kid’s head with as much knowledge as possible as quickly as possible in order to send them to the next step. Tests are meant to measure if the kid is doing well enough, and originally if they weren’t, they’d have to do the class again. (I don’t think they do that anymore.)

It’s a system that favours “clever” children. Those that can do something quick and efficiently the first time. Unfortunately, it’s also a system that in the end fails those same kids. Because they didn’t need help, they never learned study skills like time management, note taking, or prioritization.

The Awkward Yeti comic Motivation to Learn

It could be that I’m slowly turning into the “old artsy hippy”, but I think we need to start prioritizing doing something properly over doing it right. The current education system pushes kids to be smart or first in their class and not to be good or deeply know their subject.

One of my favourite teachers in high school taught me a valuable lesson when I asked her a ridiculous and precocious question in chemistry class. She said something I’d never heard a teacher say before, “I don’t know. I’ll look into it and get back to you.” She did and honestly I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember that statement and it has shaped a lot of my thinking since.

No knowledge I learned in school, no fact I had to memorize, no test I’ve ever taken, has been as important as the ability to research something. Boss wants a special pivot table in Excel, give me some time to look it up. I need to figure something out for a book, look it up.

So many of the abilities I use for my various jobs and projects, I learned from struggling in university or work, not from being clever in high school.

You don’t get better at something by constantly struggling to regurgitate what your teacher says. You get better by practice and repetition.

It’s also important to understand that our system favours a certain demographic of people. Not just post secondary education, but also the lower grades. Minorities and lower income families have a massive disadvantage in the way our education is set up.

I was extremely lucky overall, but there were advantages that I didn’t get because I was from a low income home. I didn’t get to do the more expensive sports or activities, I didn’t have the option of music, I didn’t have the newest tech, I didn’t have access to paid tutors, and I had to work through my university (3-4 jobs 30+ hours a week). I was, however, the only child in the house, I had a large extended family I could to for help, I had an excellent high school, I was clever, and I was a white male.

Basically, I think the push for the best grades leads kids to rely on natural cleverness or memory, and doesn’t lead to people who understand how to manage their lives or how to work to make or learn something with depth.

Repetition, practice, research, time management, and being able to admit when you don’t know something are skills that we need to pass on. Also critical thinking and detecting bullshit.

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

I forgot to write a post again

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m at the beginning of the busy period for work. It should calm down around April. Add to that, I’m writing a novel with my wonderful and very enthusiastic wife. Plus, we have a toddler who can now climb out of the playpen, so we needed to rearrange our main floor to accommodate a free-range tiny tornado.

So I forgot to write a post. Earlier I mean… This is technically a post so I didn’t really forget.

Let’s just say I’m feeling Ducking Sheepish.

Photo of a small rubber duck that is made to look like a sheep, in front of an open laptop computer with a “new post” tab that is blank.

Thanks for reading!

Be safe and be kind,

Éric