Saturday, October 31, 2015

Our Brand Is Crisis

Rated R / 1 hr 47 min / Comedy - Drama

What is it about?

Sandra Bullock has been in seclusion for the past six years as a cat lady. She didn't collect cats, she dressed up as Hello Kitty and terrorized the neighborhood. Just when she thought she was out… they pull her back in. She is offered a job as a campaign strategist for a struggling candidate in Bolivia. They are losing badly because their candidate is Wile E. Coyote and all he wants to do is chase that damned roadrunner. She offers them a decorative bowl that is designed to suck a portion of their soul from them or something like that. She decides to take on the job once she finds out that the opposing candidate is being advised by her arch nemesis, the falcon god Montu who drops poop from the sky.

You will like it if...

You like interesting movies exposing the inner workings of a democratic election campaign. If you follow me on twitter I will sometimes post or retweet something political from time to time, but this movie touches on a subject that is near and dear to me. The amount of spin and bullshit that political parties and strategists will put into things. Most of that is done through the media spin machines here in America. I have been mulling over an idea for a video blog on this very subject, but I simply do not have the time for it. I recently had a couple of tweets go semi-viral, I say semi-viral because they both got well over 10,000 impressions which is 100 times what any of my other tweets would normally get. Anyway I bring it up because one of the tweets said basically that the pundits were trying to project onto the public what to think. Manipulating the public is what this movie is all about.

Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton do a great job in this movie. They have really good chemistry on film and play off each other well. My main gripe with this film is how those two characters are written as a typical trope. Bullock's character is written as a crazy bitch as if any woman who is assertive is a bitch and all women are crazy. Thornton is written as a horny old guy as if all guys are horny all the time. That kind of thing irks me when I think about it because this film is so interesting without those additions. True they do provide some opportunities to add some one liners that are funny, but most of those one liners are just as funny without the trope. There are a few twists and turns in the story that I enjoyed as well. At its hearth Our Brand Is Crisis is a tragic drama that has a direct correlation to what goes on every election cycle. If you are interested in the Democratic election and campaigning process at all then you should enjoy this film. Even if you aren't, the chemistry between Bullock and Thornton with a smattering of crisp one liners may be enough to keep your interest if you are a fan of either.

Next Week

Spectre. Vote in the comments if you like, but I'm reviewing the next James Bond film. Other releases that I will probably see include: Trumbo, Brooklyn, Spotlight, and I will probably skip The Peanuts Movie. As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on November 3

  • Inside Out
  • Vacation - About: Family vacation gone horribly wrong Quick Review: Meh Comedy.
  • The End Of The Tour - About: Rolling Stone interviews an author Quick Review: Interesting Drama for writerly people

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Open For Business: Promotion and You

Welcome to another edition of "Where is the toilet paper?" This week I really want to talk about promotion. I see a lot of advice for authors trying to promote their books, and a lot of authors making mistakes over and over again. The definition of insanity is stabbing a block of cheese and screaming "Daddy never loved me!" Actually I think the quote goes "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." POTAYTO POTAHTO. Again there is a ton of advice on this subject, and I am totally going to not add to that at all.

What I want to talk about is the way promotion can be a soul crushing endeavor. I used to hate it with a passion. Running around in a pink tutu with neon sign over my head that says "LOOK AT ME!", then wondering why no one says anything in my padded room. Why can't I just make my awesome over here and hide in a cave while everyone buys it? Well, how are they going to buy it if no one knows about it? So how do we promote the thing without having our soul crushed in the process?

DO THE ENJOYING OF IT!

What? Enjoy pulling your own nails off one by one? Enjoy extracting your own teeth? The agony of it all! Oh despair, the Skynet is falling! Terminators are roaming the streets collecting the kittens for Trumpcat pictures! Brian is an insane person and I will never enjoy the promotion soulcrush that makes souljuice that I have to drink to replenish myself before I die from lack of soul. *cue James Brown*

Yes YOU will enjoy promoting your awesome because it deserves to be treated like the awesome that it is! But how? I'm going to tell you a story. No it doesn't involve piggies or wolves or girls in red hoods. It begins with a man that has decided he is going to pursue the whole writing of things. He looks a lot like me, but less handsome. He's still a sexy beast if you like hairy guys.

Anyway this guy hates self promotion and all the social medias. The more social the more he hates it. He prefers one on one conversations or forum formats where he can collect his thoughts. He's not on the twitters, not blogging, no instagram, and he barely has a facebook set up to keep up with old friends. He vows to never do the socials media because it is the Emperor of evil things. So evil that even Darth Vader would turn on it.

So how do I go from that to where I am today? I try to smell all the roses now. Sometimes it's dog poop that I smell, but when life gives you dog poop sculpt it into the form of John Boehner's face. It should be about the right color for that. The great thing about social media is that you can set it to the side and ignore it for a while if you need to. When you think of something witty or clever you can pick up your phone and share it with the world.

If you can't think of anything don't pressure yourself into posting something. There are a multitude of people sharing their awesome on there. Share, reblog, retweet, or otherwise spread their awesome around like it is unlimited pizza. Everyone should have a chance to get a slice of awesome even if it is someone else's awesome. This is kind of avoiding the point though.

How To Do The Enjoying Of Self Promotion

If you want to be a writer or author then you enjoy writing, so write! There are so many ways to do this it makes my head spin. Turn every bit of promotion you do into a story. It's all a story that you control and you are the hero in the middle of it all. Tell the story you want to tell. You don't have to beg people to come see your awesome. Put it out there and tell everyone to go see it or Godzilla will eat their face. Do what you enjoy doing.

If you hate doing interviews then do the interview as your favorite character. Make it fun and enjoyable for yourself. If you have fun doing it then others will enjoy reading it for the most part.
Interviewer: Where do you get your characters from?
You: I AM GROOT

I enjoy writing fiction, so last week I created a serialized flash fiction story that was inspired by the blog post I wrote last week. The Storify of it is below. The point of this is that you are not in a cage where you have to post your link saying PLEASE CLICK ME OR I WILL CUT MYSELF. You can craft the promotion into something that is an enjoyable experience for yourself and others. Be creative. Innovate. Now I'm going to go make a bacon T-shirt with my website's link printed on it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Steve Jobs

Rated R / 2 hr 2 min / Biography - Drama

What is it about?

Steve Jobs has a dream to build a revolutionary computer that limits what the user can do using proprietary code and limiting the amount of ports for accessories. Making it the opposite of the Apple II, the sole reason for the company's success. The Macintosh is born, and Steve Jobs is hailed as a genius. It's such a pretty baby, but it's too expensive. I'm sure any parent can relate. It fails horribly. Some say because of Steve's ego and others because the company made it too expensive and dropped support. I think it was the lack of emojis. Like cow bell you can never have too many emojis. At the same time he's fighting with his ex and denying that he is the father of their child.

You will like it if...

You like brutally honest biographies based on iconic characters. First and foremost I want to say that Michael Fassbender is the absolute perfect person to cast as Steve Jobs. The rest of the cast also does a fantastic job, but the entire film hinges on Fassbender's manic portrayal of Jobs. The movie shows him as the man he was, warts and all. The only problem is that much of the story is already known and there are several other documentaries and films about Steve Jobs. This causes parts of the film to drag. He had a dream and he didn't care what he had to do to get there. He pushed people to their limits and beyond, but no matter what he would not acknowledge the role that Steve Wozniak and the Apple II team had in building and keeping Apple afloat. In the end there are some great performances but no surprises in Steve Jobs the movie.

Next Week

Burnt, Our Brand is Crisis, or Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Make your vote heard in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on October 27

  • Pixels
  • Southpaw - About: Boxer put in tragic situation Quick Review: Good Drama! :D
  • The Gift - About: Creepy guy gives gifts Quick Review: Good Mystery! :D

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Secrets & Lies

Some of the most compelling parts of a story are the secrets and lies that are found throughout the narrative. That twist in the story that you didn't see coming because one of the characters was lying. The character who has a secret that they desperately want to keep. We all lie about something in our lives to keep our secrets. Sometimes they are little things that are done because a character doesn't want to hurt another's feelings. Other times it could be so that the character can portray themselves in a better light. The big lies and secrets keep a reader on the edge of their seat wondering what might happen next. Those are the juicy bits that make my nipples hard.

This week I want to discuss how I use these to build a story driven by characters. Their motivations are behind the scenes, but given time they will be revealed. All the dirty little secrets and lies that hide in the darkest deepest corners will eventually see light. Like cockroaches they will scurry away, but sometimes there is no shadow to scurry to. OK time to talk about picking up a shoe and squishing the bug.

Character Motivations

This is where everything starts. To build a character that feels real you need to understand what their motivation is. What is it that moves them? Hey Macarena! No wait... not on the dance floor. I'm talking about what makes them do what they do. This goes deeper than what happens within the pages of a novel. Why do they care? What is in their past that pushes them to act a certain way? There are 2 basic ways to do this that I know of. If you know another way I would love to hear it in the comments please.

The first way is to have the characters shape the story. As you build the universe around them the characters will run wild within it. They will make their decisions. They will lie and keep secrets. How big is their lie? How big is their secret? When the secret is revealed how will they all react? I like to give my characters enough rope to hang themselves, but this isn't my preferred method. There ends up being chaos within the pages. The main characters could decide they hate each other and wander off to do different things. One character tries to solve the murder while the other determines that she or he will be the greatest Pokemon champion the world has ever known. This can result in the author using their God mode to force characters back in their place. The author may be forced to have a character lie or mislead another character to push back against the chaos. This can add another level to the story giving one of your characters a chance to betray or simply disappoint another character, or it could be the tipping point toward a plot hole.

The second way is to build the shape of your story then mold characters that fit within the roles needed within it. This is something that I have always been good at. Finding the right piece of the puzzle that fits to make a picture of a rainbow. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone makes mistakes. What kind of motivation will character A need to make mistake number 5 which will result in plot twist alpha? This is how I build characters that fit within the mold of my story. This is everything to my story. If the characters don't make mistakes, if they don't lie, or if they don't keep secrets then the story becomes very boring indeed.

The Breadcrumb Trail

The breadcrumb trail can be handled many different ways. Throughout the story I like to leave subtle hints that something is coming. Little tidbits of information that lead up to the big reveal. You could put large neon signs up saying "THIS CHARACTER IS THE VILLAIN" then watch as the other characters struggle to figure it out while leaving the reader squirming in their seat. There are many degrees of this in between from the subtle hints to the not so subtle to laying out the truth to the readers but leaving the story's characters in the dark. What I don't recommend, and I see this in film a lot, is to skip this part altogether. This can cause readers to jump out of their seat, scream "WTF", and then throw the book across the room. This is the winding path that leads to a compelling reveal.

The Reveal

I always enjoy writing this part. It isn't always the ending of the story, but it is an ending of sorts. The resolution of a story arc or a revelation that brings certain facts to light. That "Ah HA" moment. Making the light bulb shine brightly over a character's head. Is there a confession, is the secret forcibly taken, or does one of the characters simply figure it out with horror on their face? How will everyone react?

I watch a lot of movies, and have been enjoying many of the new shows on TV lately. I have been noticing many of these types of twists in the story centered around lies and secrets. Do you find these secrets to be as enjoyable as I do? What are some of your favorite books, TV shows, and movies that have great plot twists? Please no spoilers! I would love to hear what you think in the comments.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Crimson Peak

Rated R / 1 hr 59 min / Drama - Fantasy - Horror

What is it about?

Edith Cushing knows there are ghosts because Casper wanted to be her friend when she was young. The ghost of her mother kicked Casper's pansy butt then warned her about Crimson Peak. Now Edith is an aspiring author (I can relate weeeee), but the male overlords of traditional publishing reject her for not writing frilly romance. How dare she have ideas or opinions, after all the movie is set well before women get the right for such things. *rolls eyes* Enter Loki, err.. Thomas Sharpe a strange foreigner who has a title and lands. He is there to find investors for a machine he built and meet with a single woman whose family doesn't hesitate to let everyone know that he's interested. He says a big fat NOPE to that. He is more interested in Edith and her scribbling. Edith's father doesn't trust Thomas and his creepy sister, but he isn't sure why. He hires a private investigator to find out, and they find some shocking information.

You will like it if...

You like beautifully crafted movies with thrilling stories. First off I have read some of the reviews from mainstream websites saying that this film isn't scary and are giving it negative reviews because of it. They are flat out wrong. One of the lines early in the film describes it pretty well. Applied to this movie the gist of the line goes: This is not a ghost story, but rather a murder/mystery that just happens to have ghosts in it. Yes there are scary parts, but it's not really a horror film. We've been so desensitized to much of what is in the film that it doesn't really scare as much as it would have 10-15 years ago. The ghosts in the film are still amazing and creepy. The special effects are just as good as any other film Guillermo del Toro has done (Pacific Rim, Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, etc.). The acting is also top notch throughout, but the real star is Jessica Chastain. She plays the creepy sister Lucille Sharpe, and I absolutely love her to pieces from start to finish in this movie. The script for Crimson Peak is one of the best Guillermo has had to work with as well. The dialogue is interesting, the pacing is excellent, and the twists and turns kept me rapt in anticipation of what would happen next. If you are looking for a horror movie then you will be disappointed in low amount of scares. Crimson Peak is a hauntingly beautiful film with a twisting story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Oh yea, it also happens to have ghosts in it.

Next Week

The Last Witch Hunter, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Rock the Kasbah, or Suffragette. A lot of choices this week, so make your vote heard in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on October 20

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Writer's Therapy

This week has been very stressful at my day job. The insanity that I have had to deal with makes me want to take my work computer and toss it out of the window. Frustrations build up as software stops working and people are yelling at you because of things out of your control. I deal with this sort of thing all the time, but this week has been the perfect storm of unreasonable people. They have formed a cyclone of WTF only the Tasmanian Devil cartoon could love.  It makes me question the sanity and future of man and woman-kind as a whole.

An example of something that happened to me this week. I was contacted to help a customer that had an issue with something that I did not have anything to do with nor did I have the authority to resolve. I contacted the customer with the information they would need to resolve the issue. The customer emailed me back saying that they refuse to use that information and that I personally had to fix the problem or they would sue my company and myself while raining fire down from their buttocks, flying overhead, and singing Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus.

In response I called the customer, spent 30 minutes explaining the situation and then the customer finally agreed to let me conference in someone that could actually help, the roaming gnome from Travelocity. Once the issue had been resolved, the customer thanked me for my professionalism and politeness before the call ended. An hour of my day gone, but at least the issue was resolved and I could move on to something else that hopefully involved playful puppies or fluffy kittens. A couple of days later I get another email from the customer saying that I was rude and had bullied them into agreeing to something they did not want. I'm like...  Seriously?!? I wasn't involved at all other than explaining that I couldn't fix the problem directly and getting the customer in contact with someone who could. Apparently that makes me the Big Bad Wolf going around blowing everyone's house down. Don't mess with me!

Anyway this is not what I came here to write about. OK maybe I needed to vent and get some aggression out *points confetti cannon at you* Do you feel lucky?

What this leads me to is one of the ways I deal with this stress and frustration. I write. I put words down with furious fingers of tippy tapping on keyboards made from the bones of my enemies. WRAA... roar because you can and it feels good to scare the crap out of the people surrounding you that did not expect it. Who cares if you're in a Starbucks and 3 people spilled their coffee? Not THIS scribbler!

Writing As Therapy

You have to admit that venting your frustrations is therapeutic, or you can disagree and I'll whip you with wet spaghetti until you change your mind! This you can do on social media, through a blog, or a private diary. Talking about the writing, not the spaghetti whipping. Writing about what is bothering you can release that tension.

What about if you are writing fiction? Like nearly every writing workshop will teach you, kill your darlings. *sharpens knife* Take out your frustrations on your characters at every turn. Oh they need a rope to get across the chasm? Make the rope frayed in the middle and have it snap when someone is halfway across. If they fall to their death then they fall. You might need a new protagonist after this.

Every time your characters get out of the fire, toss them into a new one. They make their way out of the death maze, but now they have to cross a 20 acre field being patrolled by a hungry Godzilla. Every little nasty thing you can put in your protagonist's path needs to be there. Take away their shoes and make them walk on Legos. Take away all their food then put a chocolate bar just out of reach. If they manage to figure out a way to get it then when they open the wrapper make sure it's filled with insects. Be cruel to the point where they question if some higher being hates them. It might even be true.

Taking aggression and anger out on your characters makes for interesting reading and it also prevents you from taking it out on others in your life. With that anger mitigated a bit, the mind is clearer to tackle the cause of frustration. I already feel better. Don't worry about my characters and their lack of having hands.

The Allegory

Addressing issues directly in fiction is another way to address frustrations. Parts of the story can be crafted to represent a situation that is real to cause the characters heartbreak. Some of the greatest writers in history have used this method to vent their own frustrations. George Orwell, CS Lewis, and even Plato used allegories. Voltaire used allegories to masterfully roast his opponents. Why can't you do the same?

Fictionalize your story and take it to the level of ridiculousness that matches your level of anger. Everything in the story can represent something else. In my current WIP I am using it to vent some of my own frustrations in the world we currently live in. Many of those are behind the scenes and don't really show their face much in the first novel of the series, but I assure you they are there. Virtual Wars: Initialization takes place hundreds of years in the future, and some of the things that happen are a case of history repeating itself. That history includes things that are currently happening in the United States. The frustration that I have over current events is sometimes overwhelming. My lone voice howling in the wind is nothing compared to the hype machine that opposes it, so what can I do? I write about it.

Share with me your frustrations! I want to hear about how writing has helped you! The comments section is always open for business.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pan

Rated PG / 1 hr 51 min / Adventure - Fantasy

What is it about?

Baby Peter is left on the steps of an orphanage where a Dick Cheney look-a-like in a nurse costume looms over him wanting to hide WMDs in his blankets. Fast forward to pre-teen Peter who asks for more porridge at lunchtime. He then realizes that he isn't Oliver Twist, so he breaks into the head nun's pirate treasure where he finds a letter from his mother. It says she will meet him in this world or another which is very creepy and morbid for a PG rated film. It turns out that Dick Cheney is selling the orphans into slavery to space pirates. The pirates are led by the legendary Blackbeard, played by Hugh Jackman. The pirates kidnap Peter along with many of the other orphans and take them to Neverland to mine pixie dust. There is a prophecy in Neverland that a child will fly then the natives will go crazy and take Blackbeard down somehow.

You will like it if...

You like children's films that don't make any sense. The script in itself makes no sense at all, even if you know the older tale of Peter Pan. First off, why would any mother abandon their child when there is a prophecy that the child is going to save everyone? Blackbeard knows the prophesy, yet he captures Peter about 20 times and only one time does he try to get rid of him. That one time is when he doesn't know that Peter is "the chosen one". Why? The whole time he talks about capturing the kid so they can kill him, but once they get him... nope. You could fit a Death Star in the middle of the plot holes within this movie and still have room for Alderaan. The ending itself makes you think about the explanations for why the pixies went into hiding and blows them up with a Hydrogen Bomb. Hugh Jackman gives one of the worst performances I've seen out of him in a while. He screams a lot, but it doesn't feel like his heart is in it at any time. It feels like he is trying to be The Joker in a pirate costume at the same time hoping that the makeup he is wearing will mask his complete apathy. It doesn't. Levi Miller gives the best performance as Peter Pan. He seems to be the only one that cares about what happens. Garrett Hedlund sounds fantastic as Hook. I want to invite some ladies over so we can all curl up in that voice. Otherwise he was OK, but his character might as well say "look at me I'm helping!" every time he pops up. Every other character is pretty much an afterthought. The one good thing I can say about this film is that the costumes and special effects help produce some interesting and visually stunning scenery. Children may enjoy this film for its bright colors and simplistic humor, but for anyone else, you have to completely turn your brain off to enjoy it.

Next Week

Goosebumps, Crimson Peak, or Bridge of Spies. Vote in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection depends on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on October 13

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How To Make Amazing Blog Graphics

If you have been frequenting my blog for the past month or so you should have noticed a vast improvement in the quality of the graphics I have used as headers for my blog posts. With the exception of last week's post I have been happy with the results of my graphical work which includes the new header graphic to the blog. I'm writing this to help give you the tips and tools you need to do the same without having to invest a ton of time, energy, or money.

Last week's post ended up looking like a kaleidoscope of death because I tried to do too much with it. In that lies your first tip. Do not get cute with it. Simple and easy are usually the best ways to build a graphic. If you are spending too much time on it then you are wasting time you could be using on other things and it's not going to look great unless you are a professional. I have almost 20 years of experience working with graphics, but I am still no artist. When I try to cross that line it usually ends in tears. This is coming from someone who should know better even though I try to cross the streams from time to time anyway. Enough of my excuses. Let's get started!

Tools

An artist is only as good as their tools, and the same is true for us. There are a ton of free options out there that you can use, but I have to recommend Photoshop as my tool of choice. It is simply the best option. The best part about it is that you can get Photoshop CS2 completely free right from Adobe's own website at www.adobe.com. There are plenty of tutorials on how to get this installed with a product key and everything. This is an unsupported version, so any problems or general questions will have to be answered through the magic of Google. Pet the Google and do not scream if it bites you. It is Google. Let it be.

Now we need background pictures. Never do anything from scratch! Photoshop is a photo editing program, not a drawing program. You can draw in it, but again I'm not an artist so we won't be covering that here. There are tons of websitea where you can download free pictures, but you have to be careful that these pictures are free to use to make sure someone doesn't sue you for every penny you have in your piggy bank. Fortunately for me, my piggy bank is filled with belly button lint. Pretty sure no one wants that. The site I recommend is Pixabay. There are others that you can pay a small fee for or join their spam mail list for free access, but this is the least intrusive option and it is free to use any picture here for commercial use last time I checked. Be sure to check the fine print of any site you use.

I saved this for last in the tools section, but this is probably the most important one of all. I'm talking about Fonts. Download as many as you can get. One of the most important parts of building a blog graphic is having the right font to capture the eye of the reader. Most graphics will require that you use at least 2 fonts, so having a variety available will help. I suggest going to Cnet's download website and searching for free font packs and download as many as you can. That website would be Download.com. Make sure to install them before loading up Photoshop or they won't show up in the font listing in the program.

Crash Course

I'm going to outline some of the basics of the program that you will need to get started. Nothing can replace experience though. Photoshop can do a lot of great things, but you aren't going to need 90+% of it. A lot of graphics work is trial and error, some quick keys that can help are CTRL+Z which will undo what you just did and CTRL+Y which will redo what you undo. There is also a box on the right side that displays your history that you can use to undo and redo multiple steps.
  •  Selection Tools - Located in the upper portion of your drawing tools on the left side of your work space. These are your friends. You will need to play nice with them because they will help you every step of the way when making graphics. If you can manipulate them well enough then you can do anything. Once you have selected something, if you hold Shift then you can add to your selection. The Alt key will subtract from your selection. These are like coffee for writers. I cannot overstate how important they are to manipulating graphics.
  • Layers - Located in the bottom right hand corner of your work space is the layer box. The picture you use will be your background that you add things on top of. You don't ever want to draw directly onto your background. Text will automatically create new layers. You need to know how to create a layer (button at the bottom of layer box), how to move layers on top of others(drag and drop in layer box), and how to access layer options(right click on the layer).
  • Paint Bucket and Erase Tools - Located in the middle of the tools on the left side under the selection tools. Once you have the area you want selected, you will most likely use one of these tools. The paint bucket will fill your selected area with a color. The Eraser Tool will erase it using a brush like tool. I prefer to use the delete key because the erase tool won't get rid of everything if you are sloppy with your brush work.
  • Background/Foreground Colors - Located near the bottom on the left side toolbar, it looks like two squares of different colors. Clicking on either of these colors will bring up a box of colors that you can click on to change the colors. You can also put in RGB or Hex values. I will use the Hex values a lot to get absolute black or white. It's hard to click on that exact color. In the box at the bottom labeled as # is the Hex value of color. If you put 000000 in that box you will get absolute black and FFFFFF will get you absolute white.

Building A Graphic

OK we have a background graphic from Pixabay opened up in Photoshop. So now what? Now it's time to bedazzle this thing! OK not really. Our goal is to add text to the graphic without destroying the cute background you picked along with cropping and adjusting the size to fit into your blog. So let's get started.
  • Resize The Image - First thing you need to do is to figure out how wide your blog is. Specifically the area where your blog graphic is going to appear. Most blog themes will break if your graphic is too wide. You can adjust that in the HTML, but I'm trying to show you how to do it without having to be too technical about it. You can make a test graphic to figure it out, or if you know what theme you use a quick google search might help you get that information. In Blogger it's easy. Click on Layout then the Template Designer link then Adjust Widths. It gives you the width in pixels of each sidebar and the length of the entire blog. You can subtract the width of the total blog from the sidebar width and that is the number you're looking for. For my blog it is 640 pixels, and I highly recommend you work in pixels for graphics to be used on the internet. You want the width to be less than that to accommodate for extra spacing. My blog has spacing around the sides for this theme, and I found that 560 pixels is the perfect width for blog graphics. You will also need to crop your picture vertically. I aim for around 250 pixels in height, but anywhere in between 200 and 300 should be fine.

    It's now time to crop. MWAHAHAHA... Nevermind me, I always put in an evil laugh when I cut something. The crop tool is the third one down on the far left side. Your goal is to cut it as close as you can get to 300 pixels in height and your target width without cutting out the things that make the background picture cool. Once that is done we can resize the image to your target width. It's important that we make the image smaller rather than bigger. If you cut too much and need to make it bigger then you need to go back and try cropping it again. If you resize the graphic to make it bigger it will cause the the graphic to pixelate which never looks good. To resize the image you use the top menu Image->Image Size. Make sure the Constrain Proportions box is checked. Then you can change the width value to your preferred width.
  • Make A Place For Your Text - If your background picture has an area of solid color big enough that is dark or light throughout then you can easily place your text there without needing to add anything. The only other option is to create a secondary background for your text. First you need to make an empty layer for your text background. I usually use Canva to get ideas. Their text presentation is excellent. The selection tools can help you make a design for a background then use the paint bucket to fill it with a solid color. I suggest you also right click on that layer then click on blending options. If the new addition obscures part of the cool background then you can make it transparent. As long as it makes the background brighter or darker. Blending options to experiment with include Outer Glow, Gradient Overlay, Pattern Overlay. The Drop Shadow and Bevel and Emboss tools may entice you, but now they look kinda cheesy. Beginners with Photoshop tend to fall in love with these settings just like the Filter -> Render -> Lens Flare. Don't be one of these people. These are the kind of people who put ketchup on tacos. They wear fanny packs. They hate unicorns and rainbows.
  • Text It Up! - The most arduous task is picking the font you want, and in many cases you will want a different font for the main portion of the post title to contrast it with the text of the opening or subtitle. This is solely trial and error until you find that perfect combination. The main rule to use for all your text has to do with the color. If you have a bright colored background then use dark colored text and of course light text with a dark background. Those color choices will ensure that your text is legible. If your background is in one of those middle ground colors then I suggest you use bright text with a dark outer glow. My preferred settings for that would be as follows: Blend Mode: Normal, Opacity: 100%, Color: Black, Technique: Precise, Spread: 0%, and Size: 1 to 4 pixels depending on how big your text is.

How I Made This Week's Graphic

This week's graphic took me a whopping hour to put together. Writing this blog post is taking me at least 5 times as long. There is so much more information I want to share, but it's not vital to making these graphics. The background picture for this week's graphic I downloaded straight off Pixabay. There was some blank space at the top and bottom of the graphic that I cropped out. Then I resized it to be 560 pixels in width. The idea for the background's black lines came straight from Canva. On a new layer, I used the rectangular selection tool (the one at the furthest top left), and held the shift key to use it again and again to make the pattern over the portions of the background graphic I wanted to be visible. I then used the menu Select -> Inverse to reverse the selection. The paint bucket made a black overlay on the background image. I made sure to make a spot for bright colored text on the black overlay. I initially planned to make the overlay transparent, but it looked so good as it was that I left it. After sorting through my fonts I decided on Engraver's Gothic BT for the top and bottom text and Futurex - AlternatLC for the "Amazing". Positioning and changing the size of the text took a few tries to get it just right. I added an outer glow to the "Amazing" and used the eye dropper to use a light blue color that was already in the background as the glow color for the final touch. When you click on the color box and it brings up the color swatch, if you move your cursor outside of that box it becomes an eye dropper that will pick up any color you click on.

I know I wrote a book this week, but this is barely scratching the surface of what you can do with Photoshop. If you have any comments or questions, don't be afraid to let me know. I will do my best to help.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sicario

Rated R / 2 hr 1 min / Action - Crime - Drama

What is it about?

Emily Blunt plays a FBI agent that deals with hostage situations. She helps find a house that they suspect is owned by a man who they think has ties to a Mexican My Little Pony cartel. They find something horrifying in the house. They found Dora the Explorer's meth lab. She is then recruited to be part of a special secret task force. Josh Brolin plays Lex Luthor for this Legion of Doom. They bring her in with the promise of candy and to catch the person who is really responsible, C-3PO. Never trust a gold butt and light up eyes.

You will like it if...

You like gritty action movies. Sicario reminds me of other recent smart gritty films like No Country for Old Men or Savages. For much of the film you are kept in the dark where you kind of know what is going on, but you're not sure. The story is pretty straightforward, but there are enough subtle surprises that are very well done. The acting overall is superb. Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt, and Benicio Del Toro are all fantastic. Sicario is like a rainbow unicorn that tosses confetti grenades in your face. If the trailer looks interesting to you then go see it. You will not be disappointed. I hate cutting this review so short, but there isn't anything else to say. I usually have something bad to say about a film, but Sicario is supremely crafted.

Next Week

Pan. Steve Jobs movie doesn't come out until 10/23 here. Vote in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection depends on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on October 2