Words of Madness – Words that end with the Greek element ‘-mania’

-mania is a word element that appears in a number of Modern English words, denoting some kind of madness or craziness. It is relatively unchanged from its Greek origin: mania, meaning ‘madness’, ‘frenzy’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘mad passion’, ‘fury’.

Below are some existing words that end in -mania.

WordMeaning and Etymology
megalomania‘delusions of greatness’, from Greek megalo-, meaning ‘great’, ‘exaggerated’ – often nowadays used to mean ‘obsession with power’
kleptomania‘an obsession with stealing’, from Greek kleptes, meaning ‘thief’
bibliomania‘a madness for books’, ‘an obsession with collecting rare or unusual books’, from Greek biblio-, meaning ‘book’ – this one is very useful for writers
mythomanianot used to mean ‘an obsession with stories’ (though perhaps it should be – this is a better fit for the word etymologically), but instead ‘a compulsion to lie’ – from Greek mythos, meaning ‘speech’, ‘thought’, ‘word’, ‘discourse’, ‘story’, ‘myth’ 
pyromania‘an obsession with destroying things with fire’, from Greek pyro-, meaning ‘fire’
graphomania‘an obsession with writing’, from Greek graph-, meaning ‘writing’ – another good one for writers
phonomanianot ‘an obsession with sound’, as one might expect, but ‘an obsession with murder’, from Greek phonē, phonos, meaning ‘killing’, ‘murder’
logomania‘an obsession with words’, from Greek logos, meaning ‘speech’, ‘word’, ‘reason’ – another good one for writers
hippomania‘an obsession with horses’, from Greek hippo-, meaning ‘horse’
anthomania‘an obsession with flowers’, from Greek anthos, meaning ‘flower’
plutomania‘an obsession with wealth’, ‘a mad desire for wealth’, from Greek ploutos, meaning ‘wealth’ – a very useful one for the modern day
monomania‘an obsession with one thing’, from Greek monos, meaning ‘one’

All of these words can be changed into nouns that refer to a person who has the mania, of course. A hippomaniac is someone who really likes horses. An anthomaniac is someone who really likes flowers. They can also be changed to adjectives. If someone keeps buying books even though they haven’t read all the ones they’ve already got, they are being bibliomaniacal. 

But are there any other words, as yet unused, that could be formed in this way? The table below lists a few that I’ve thought of.

WordMeaning and Etymology 
ailuromania‘an obsession with cats’, from Greek ailouros, meaning ‘cat’ – this one could apply to a lot of us
cynomania‘an obsession with dogs’, from Greek kyno-, meaning ‘dog’
cinemamaniacould be ‘an obsession with movies’ or ‘an obsession with moving’, from Greek kinema, meaning ‘movement’ (from which we get the modern-day term ‘cinema’)
theatromania‘an obsession with the theatre’ – could be someone who really likes going to watch things at the theatre, or someone who really likes acting – from Greek theatron, from which we get the modern word ‘theatre’
technomania‘an obsession with new technology’ – using the modern element techno-, which was originally from Greek techne, meaning ‘art’, but the modern element is associated with electronic devices
ecomaniacould be ‘an obsession with one’s house – in particular an obsession with keeping it tidy’ – from Greek oikos, meaning ‘house’, ‘dwelling’, from which we also get ‘economy’

I might add more to this list over time.

Words of Hatred – Words that start with the Greek element ‘miso-’

‘Misanthropy’ is a hatred of humankind. ‘Misandry’ is a hatred of men; ‘misogyny’ is a hatred of women. Together they are part of a family of words that use the Greek element miso- / mis-, meaning ‘hatred’, as a prefix.

When I was looking up miso- on etymonline.com one day, I saw that there are other words that start with this element, such as ‘misocapnic’ – ‘hating smoke’ – and ‘misocynic’ – ‘hating dogs’ – and wondered if there are other miso- words that, through circumstance, hadn’t made it into Modern English (or at least, weren’t common in Modern English).

I found quite a few. Misologia – a hatred of argument or discourse – a very useful word for the modern day. Misodemia – a hatred of democracy – also very useful. Misagathia – a hatred of good – an extremely useful one both for describing some people in the real world and for describing some people in fantasy worlds.

So I’ve compiled this short list (which I may add to later) of words that start with miso- / mis-, that describe a kind of hatred, and which might be particularly useful, and so good to bring into Modern English. I myself will be using several of these quite a lot.

Words I found a dictionary entry for

GreekRomanised Greek / English NeologismMeaningAdjectival Form
μισαγαθίαmisagathiaa hatred of goodmisagathic
μισοδημίαmisodemiaa hatred of democracymisodemic
μισολογίαmisologiaa hatred of argumentmisologic
μισοπονηρίαmisoponeriaa hatred of evilmisoponeric
μισαλληλίαmisalleliamutual hatredmisallelic

Note that the English neologisms could be given spellings that follow the same evolutionary changes as words like ‘misanthropy’ – i.e., ‘misagathy’, ‘misodemy’. Personally I prefer the -ia ending.

Words that I have constructed based on my limited knowledge of Classical Greek

The words in the table below I did not find a direct dictionary entry for. I have constructed them from other words and entries. My knowledge of Classical Greek is very limited, and doubtless there is an expert out there who can tell me if these inferred words are correct (both in terms of their construction and their romanisation).

GreekRomanised Greek / English NeologismMeaningAdjectival Form
μισοκαπνίαmisocapniaa hatred of smokemisocapnic
μισοκυνίαmisocyniaa hatred of dogsmisocynic
μισαἴλουρίαmisailuriaa hatred of catsmisailuric
μισαλήθειαmisaletheia / misalethiaa hatred of truthmisaletheic / misalethic

Kenobi – Episode 2 – A Complete Disaster

This review is only going to be about the first fifteen minutes or so of the episode, because that’s all I could stomach watching. I couldn’t watch any more – it was that bad. It’s rare that I can’t finish watching an episode of a television show if I intend to review it, but this episode was so bad it was repulsive.

Let’s dissect this episode moment-by-moment.

Kenobi lands on a city-planet called Daiyu. It’s like Coruscant, but not. As soon as Kenobi comes out of the spaceport terminal, he looks around at the busy environment as though slightly scared of it all. Already, this is bollocks. Obi-wan Kenobi has been in environments like this for most of his life. He’s spent a huge amount of time on Coruscant; he’s been all over the galaxy as a Jedi Knight, to countless different planets with different peoples, cultures, and technologies. He would not be scared of a busy street. ‘But he’s been living in isolation on Tatooine for ten years! He’s changed!!!’, I hear the Twitterati scream. No. When you’ve had that much experience of all these kinds of places, ten years on Tatooine is not enough to make you scared of it all again. What is this bizarre obsession with diminished characters that Hollywood and idiots on Twitter have nowadays? They relish in the idea of making great characters shit. It’s grotesque. Kenobi is a Jedi Master – he didn’t stop being that just because the Jedi Order was disbanded. He should still be an extremely powerful Jedi. He does not have this timidness at the end of Revenge Of The Sith; he doesn’t have it at the start of A New Hope. This is bollocks.

Kenobi goes and asks a random person about a ship he’s tracking. Why? Why does he go and ask this person? It isn’t apparent. And then we get some more insanely expository dialogue – the person replies ‘You’re in Daiyu now. All signals in or out are blocked. People like their secrets out here.’. This is just pathetic. A real person, in this setting, would not talk like this. This line reeks of the writers wanting to say something to the audience, but not having the talent to do it in a naturalistic way. The line is also performed in a way that only Hollywood actors can do – as though this one line is going to be their big break into television, if only they can perform it with enough over-the-top American brashness.

We see a lingering shot of a street on this planet. It lingers too long, suggesting that this street is somehow central or important – it’s one fucking street on a city planet – this street is not important. We see Kenobi wandering down the street, looking at the others on it. The framing of the shot and the primary-school-level acting of the other actors make you painfully aware that this is just a set (somewhere in Los Angeles, I assume). It’s a caricature of a ‘bustling street’ – makes you wonder if the writers and directors have ever even been down a busy street. (Perhaps this is enduring effects of America’s car-centric, non-walkable cities.) Kenobi just wanders around – you’d have no idea he was on a time-critical mission at all.

There’s a homeless clone army veteran at the side of the street. This allegory isn’t just on-the-nose – it’s kicking me in the head, I collapse, unconscious, and then it’s kicking me on the ground out of baseless spite.

A lot of people nowadays accuse television shows of being ‘political’. Now, this isn’t really a correct use of the word ‘political’, which ought to mean ‘having to do with polity’, where ‘polity’ means ‘the organisation and governance of human society’. This is a television show – it has nothing to do with organising society. But I know what these people mean – the term their looking for is ‘social commentary’. This is social commentary – it’s making a comment about society.

Now, I’ve written many allegorical stories in my life. In some of them the allegory is very obvious – deliberately so – and in others it’s a bit more obscure – also deliberately so. Now I would hope that my stories have never come across as preachy or patronising. (I would like to think that I could tell if that were the case, and edit that tone out, but it might be that when one is writing an allegorical story, one just can’t tell if it’s going to come across that way.) Because it is bad when stories or story elements come across as preachy. I think it’s particularly bad when the message is something that’s so obviously true (yes, it’s bad that there are so many homeless people – this isn’t a revolutionary thought), and when so little effort is put into the metaphor (I mean, here, they just have a homeless veteran in the street – that’s it – that’s the extent of the allegory – put some fucking effort in). It comes across as someone thinking they’re a genius for coming up with something everyone already knows and putting in very little thought or effort.

I think it’s fine for stories to have social commentary in them, but if it comes across as preachy, it completely pulls you out of the story, and you realise you’re just hearing the opinions of the writers. And I think in order to not be preachy, it’s got to be more deftly done than this.

We are 1:30 into the episode, and there has already been THIS much wrong with it.

Some Stormtroopers walk along the street saying ‘Clear a path.’. Why?

Then we get an absolutely disgusting scene. A random person comes up to Kenobi and says ‘You wan’t some spice, old man?’. This is very obviously a reference to the ‘deathsticks’ scene in Attack Of The Clones, but this time, rather than Kenobi instantly telling this person to go away and rethink their life, this person just gives him one of the substances she’s selling – Kenobi doesn’t even agree to take it – she just puts it in his pocket.

The sheer arrogance of the writers to do this. Apparently they were so insulted by a scene in the prequels telling a drug dealer to maybe stop selling that shit (I would guess because some of these writers are obsessed with consuming a particular intoxicant themselves), that they wanted to put in a new scene where instead Kenobi is just given some of this shit – doesn’t even get a choice. I have had the misfortune to meet a lot of very arrogant people in my life – I have never seen arrogance like this. It’s pathetic, disgusting, and grotesque. To be so self-obsessed, smug, and self-righteous that when given the opportunity to write a sequel to another writer’s work, all they can do is think about how they can undermine and displace what that writer did, to put their own vapid, self-centred, immoral worldview into every corner of it. There are few things in this world that I have been more revolted by.

We are then introduced to a fake Jedi who is some kind of people-trafficker. This allegory is harder to not notice than a used dildo in a public library. This scene tries to be funny, but it’s a style of humour that is very un-Star-Wars.

Kenobi then goes through some kind of drugs factory – again, this allegory is harder to not notice than a condom in a bride’s hair. This scene looks more like something out of a contemporary Marvel action show than something out of Star Wars.

Kenobi then finds his way further into the building / complex. It’s not really very clear where he is (other than a film studio somewhere in California). It’s a bit weird that the first street he tried on this city planet just happens to be the one with the building where Leia’s being kept, but that’s what happens when the writers are thinking more about shoving a message down the viewers’ throats than worldbuilding.

Kenobi is immediately found by some goons. They fight. We see that Kenobi has gotten a bit out-of-practice. Again, what the fuck is this obsession with diminishing characters?! This guy is a very skilled Jedi Master – taking on two goons should be piss-easy, even after ten years. Why? Because this guy is an incredibly skilled force user, and that doesn’t diminish with age (see Yoda). Bizarrely, Kenobi doesn’t use the Force or his lightsaber at any point in this fight, despite both being available.

There’s another fight. Kenobi continues not to use the Force or his lightsaber, for no good reason. Another goon comes in; there’s some pointless dialogue. Then the goon says ‘You’re not a Jedi anymore, Kenobi.’, and here once again we are hearing the voice of the writers, not the characters. The writers are thinking about Kenobi as ‘no longer being a Jedi’ – that thought was in their head when they were writing this show. But this just shows how utterly misguided they are. You don’t stop being a Jedi just because the Jedi Order has been disbanded. That would be like saying you stop being a Christian if the Vatican shut. Jediism is a way of life, and a belief system. As long as you continue to live the Jedi way of life, or continue believing in its tenets, you are still a Jedi.

We see a bit more of the Inquisitor – not the main one – the other one – Reva, I think she’s called? This actress has absolutely no ability to come across as menacing or threatening whatsoever. (And this time it can’t be put down to bad writing – she has some very short, simple lines, that should be easy to deliver well, but they are weak and ineffectual. This is what happens when your understanding of evil is merely a caricature of evil.)

Kenobi finds Leia, and once they’re out in the street again, Leia says ‘You seem kinda old and beat up.’ – once again, this is just the thoughts of the writers. This is such basic shit – I don’t think I have ever seen such bad writing in a television show. (I might even include the ending to Game of Thrones in that.)

The inquisitors talk to each other for a bit – the main one and Reva, with a few throw-away lines from the others. The whole thing comes across like an annual review in a big corporation, not like two dark side users talking to each other – it’s quite comical. The main inquisitor guy tells Reva that she’s the ‘least of us’ because she ‘came from the gutter’ – for fuck’s sake – when have force users ever cared about class? Dark side users care about one thing: the accumulation of power for its own sake. Your status is determined by your power, not your class. They don’t give a shit about where you came from.

The main inquisitor guy then puts Reva on leave, promising that HR will speak to her later.

And that’s it. That’s the first fifteen minutes. I couldn’t watch any more, and won’t. I mean, bloody hell, almost every frame of those fifteen minutes had an issue. It’s so bad it’s almost nauseating – I feel like throwing up.

This show is quite possibly the worst television I have ever seen, and I will not be watching any more of it. This isn’t Star Wars, or even remotely connected to it. This is artistic defilement.

Kenobi – Episode 1 – Just Dreadful

I haven’t seen any of the Disney Star Wars television series’ up until this point. In my opinion, The Last Jedi was just awful, and killed the franchise. (And The Rise Of Skywalker did nothing to counter this.) I’ve generally held the position that I won’t return to the franchise unless they decanonise The Last Jedi. So I’ve not seen any of The Mandalorian or The Book Of Boba Fett. I haven’t seen the Han Solo movie either.

But I decided to watch (at least the first episode of) the new Kenobi series. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I liked Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel films, and thought he might be able bring a similar magic to this show.

But it’s garbage.

Starting with the worst part of it: the dialogue. The dialogue is just awful. It’s some of the worst-written dialogue I have ever seen on television. It’s glaringly expository – so obviously trying to just inform the audience about who’s who and what’s what that it immediately pulls you out of the story. When the main villain says his first line, I actually laughed out loud, it was so badly written.

The villains spend an awful lot of time monologuing. (It’s like the writers have never seen The Incredibles.) Monologuing isn’t so bad in a melodramatic, somewhat flamboyant and romantic setting like the actual films, but it really doesn’t work in a show that’s trying to be gritty. It also doesn’t work as the opener for your villains. The villains in this show spend a ridiculous amount of time pacing backwards and forwards, surrounded by what must be 0.0001% of Mos Eisley’s total population (I assume it’s Mos Eisley – I don’t think it’s ever said). They desperately try to look menacing and evil, but the writers seem to have a cartoon idea of what evil is. These characters have no presence whatsoever, and do not appear threatening.

Moving on to the next-worst part: there’s basically no plot. One of the first rules of writing for television must surely be: in the first episode, establish what your protagonists want, and are trying to do, and establish what your antagonists want, and are trying to do, and create tension between them. I see so many shows ignoring this principle nowadays – including this one. What does Kenobi want? Well … just to sit around and work cutting up meat in the desert. Not very compelling. What do the Jedi hunters want? To find Jedi. Kind of obvious in the name. How are they going to do it? Just sort of walking around and occasionally smouldering. There are three of them, but they don’t seem to have individual motivations. Leia gets captured, but obviously we know she’s fine in the end, so no real suspense there.

These things alone are enough to condemn the first episode, if not the whole series (which is only going to be six episodes long, so they’ve wasted the first episode not doing the essentials). But there are various other weird things that the show does that pull you out of it.

The main one is that where Kenobi works – at some kind of thrown-together outdoor factory in the middle of the desert, next to the body of some large creature that they’re cutting up and getting the meat from – when all of the workers finish for the day (which, curiously, is when the suns are still high in the sky), they just leave all these huge slabs of meat out in the desert sun. They do this every day. I was staring at the screen thinking ‘You’re just going to leave raw meat out in the desert sun? And then you’re going to continue cutting it up for sale the tomorrow? What?!’. How switched-off do you have to be not to notice a problem like that when you’re writing? Did no-one mention that during the production? (Or worse, and more likely, someone mentioned it, but a bad culture on the production meant that that person was ignored or shut down.)

Another one: Leia’s toy flying droid has a circular saw attachment, which it uses to untie her hands after she’s captured. What the fuck kind of children’s toy has a circular saw attachment? This droid isn’t big either – there is limited space for what kind of attachments to give it, and apparently the manufacturers decided on a circular saw.

They’ve also decided to do a Luke Skywalker on Obi-Wan Kenobi – he’s now a bitter, reluctant old guy who doesn’t want anything to do with the Jedi anymore. I mean, for goodness’ sake, who’s writing this shit? People didn’t like that in The Last Jedi; they’re not going to like it here. Stop doing this – it isn’t a good character point.

So it looks like this series is going to be a disaster. It’s a shame, because I don’t think it had to be. The CGI on the show is mostly excellent (though there are a few weird moments where it falls apart completely). The music is not especially good, but it’s not dreadful either – it’s passable. McGregor does what he can with the lines he’s been given, but he’s been given shit lines and no character work. The young actress who plays Leia is quite good (some very unrealistic lines, but quite fun). But while I like seeing a lot more of Alderaan, I don’t think they’ve chosen a particularly interesting story path for Leia.

So it looks like Disney continues to have no idea how to make Star Wars stuff, and continues pumping out shit.

The Matrix Resurrections – Not Worth Watching

I said in a blog post last year that I was not sure whether I wanted to go and see The Matrix Resurrections. So many of these sequel/reboot-many-years-after-the-originals-but-with-the-same-actors films that Hollywood has chucked out in recent years have just been rubbish – why go and see another one?

In the end it was just curiosity.

I have a tendency to waffle on, so I’m going to start with my conclusion. If you haven’t seen this film yet, there’s no point seeing it. It’s not good. That’s not to say that there weren’t one or two nice moments – there were – but overall this is a confused mess of a film. The pacing is all over the place; it feels like it should be three films rather than one, but if it were three films, they’d probably be even less enjoyable. Its use of music, dialogue, and imagery are undistinctive, and not reminiscent of that of the originals. And it feels like a fan film more than a sequel.

That last point is the main one. This really felt like a fan film. This film undermined the consistency of the world of The Matrix – contradicting many established rules. Normally I would find that very annoying with a film (I did with The Last Jedi), but with this film I don’t. I think that’s partly because I was expecting this film not to be great, and to do something like that, but also because this film seemed so much like a fan film, that it simply doesn’t register with me as being part of the Matrix series.

There are many reasons why it seemed more like a fan film. One is just the aesthetic of the film – this film had a completely different aesthetic to the other three. The aesthetic of the first three films was very distinctive, and a big part of what made it iconic. The green tint of the computer-generated world of the Matrix, the monotonous architecture, the excessive orderliness of things in the background – all of these things gave the films a distinctive aesthetic. And it reinforced one of the key ideas in the film as well – that there is something wrong with this simulated reality, and you can tell that there is, but you can’t necessarily put it into words. There appears to have been no attempt to replicate this in The Matrix Resurrections, however. The Matrix of this film appears to be bright and colourful. It appears to have the same level of disorderliness as the real world.

The music of this film is completely undistinctive. Even immediately after watching the film, I couldn’t remember any of it. But even more than just being forgettable, I noticed, even as I was watching the film, that the music was not used to any great effect. It should be obvious to any filmmaker – particularly one as experienced as Lana Wachowski – that music can greatly heighten a scene if used correctly. The music of this film was generic, and added nothing to any scene.

And a third reason – a very big reason – why this film felt like a fan film was the dialogue. I think there were only four actors in this film who reprised their roles from previous films – Keanu Reeves as Neo, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, and Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian. For all four of them (although mainly for Neo and Trinity as they were on-screen much more than the other two), their dialogue seemed completely dissimilar in tone to what it was in the previous films. The most jarring example of this was at the end of the film, where Neo and Trinity confront the new Architect character (who apparently is called The Analyst – a nice reference but lacking in the dramatic weight of ‘The Architect’ (the character I think was also badly cast, and lacked the ‘unknowability’ of The Architect or the other machine characters from the original films). Neo’s and Trinity’s lines in this scene are sarcastic, banter-y, and quippy – entirely unlike how they spoke in the original films. It is a style of dialogue that plagues American films, and rarely works.

Dialogue like this – that is so unsuited to the characters – is often an identifying feature of fan fiction – where the writer just wants to have the characters play out the scenario in their head, having given little thought to whether the characters would do or say the things they are made to.

All of this is made worse by the film trying to be very meta. Now, I like things that get a bit meta – when done well, it can really enhance a film (see Deadpool). However, it can also backfire, and it did with this film.

At the start of the film, Neo is in a new Matrix, and he believes that ‘The Matrix’ was a world-famous computer game he developed. The games company that he works for has now decided that they are going to make a fourth game in this ‘Matrix’ game franchise. And various characters say all the same things that have been said about the original Matrix films and the possibility of there being a fourth film: The Matrix was original; it was different; it was philosophy, but exciting; it’s a metaphor for capitalism; it’s a metaphor for being transgender; it was about cool action scenes; it was about ‘bullet time’; a fourth one can’t be a reboot. There’s even the idea of the creator of the Matrix (in-in-universe Neo, out-of-universe the Wachowskis) not wanting to make another game/film in the series, but being forced to by the parent company or studio. They even name-drop Warner Bros. as the ones making them do a sequel in the film!

And I think the makers of this film thought it would be clever to put this in. But it actually just comes across as pre-empting criticism of the film, while also kind of being a dig at the studio. I think the makers of this film thought this would be clever because surely an even better Matrix simulation than the first one would be one where people could even be aware of the idea of a Matrix but still not perceive it. Because making a fourth Matrix film despite the original creators not wanting to is a form of control, similar to the Matrix simulation itself, and being meta is a way of referring to the Matrix that is our real world, where this system of control exists. It all sounds clever, but it just breaks the immersivity of the film.

The whole opening to the film is us seeing a new version of the opening to the original Matrix film. We follow it through some new characters, and the whole thing just feels like someone pointing at the original film and just going ‘Look! See! Wasn’t that cool!’. When the new Morpheus appears to Neo for the first time, he says the famous ‘At last.’ line, and then talks about how he wasn’t sure about the callback but that it was hard to resist. (He then makes a joke about the rather mundane setting – this film tries to be funny in places too and it REALLY doesn’t work.)

All these references back feel like the makers of the film trying to give the fans what they want, while also saying ‘fuck you’ to them. It’s like they’re saying ‘Fine. You want the same thing over and over again? Here you go!’

And there are SO. MANY. CLIPS. from the previous films. Every opportunity the film can find to put them in, it does. And this is just disastrous – the films spends A LOT of time reminding me of better films I could be watching. This has got to be the number one thing not to do in a film: don’t remind the audience that they could be watching something else.

The film feels like a ‘fuck you’ to the studio, who, presumably, forced the making of a sequel, a ‘fuck you’ to the fans, even though only a very small number of them actually wanted a sequel, and for shallow reasons. It feels like the makers of this film both hate it, but also think they did something very clever with it anyway.

The only points in the film that were interesting were where any world-building was attempted (which I consider to be an indictment of the people who think that world-building doesn’t matter – it was the only interesting thing in this film). Learning what happened after the events of the third film was interesting.

However, this was catastrophically undermined by much of that world-building making no sense, or leaving vast, unsatisfying gaps. It’s a nice idea that perhaps some of the machines came over to the human side, but … why? Why actually wasn’t there peace? Why did some of the machines remain at war? This idea goes no further than an aesthetic in the film – some cool-looking machines on the human side. If the Anomaleum, where Neo and Trinity are kept, is so vital to keeping this new Matrix running, why isn’t it more heavily guarded? Why aren’t there sentinels in the main chamber?

Why can’t Neo fly? He can later – what was stopping him? This is just dismissed as a joke in the film. He can now seemingly project force-fields with his hands, which he couldn’t do before (except for bullets) – why have his powers gone forwards in some ways but backwards in others? Why does Trinity also have ‘The One’ powers at the end? (This could be explained by the fact that it’s a new Matrix simulation, with different flaws to the last, resulting in two ‘The One’s, but this kind of undermines the unknowability of ‘The One’. There was previously this implication that no-one really knew why ‘The One’ existed in the first place – not even the architect – just that it was inevitable, and that the extent of his powers – which worked outside of the Matrix – were also unknown. He was described as being able to change whatever he wanted in the Matrix, but we never saw that in the original films – the most unusual thing he did was to fly. At the end of this film, they can literally do whatever they want with a Thanos snap.) Why does the new Architect have control over bullet time? And why does he lose that control at the end of the film?

The film has big pacing problems. We go from the Matrix being back to the new Architect being defeated in one film. One film reverses the ending of the last film, and then repeats it. Has doing that ever worked in a film?! The final sequence is played like a ‘heist’, cutting back and forth between the planning and the action, which is not at all what you want from a Matrix film, and certainly not for your big finale.

And the action scenes in the film are dreadful. The way martial arts are used in this film is undistinctive and forgettable. The way guns are used is undistinctive and forgettable.

The Merovingian comes back, but only for one scene. He doesn’t appear to move from one position, and I don’t recall him actually interacting with the other characters – his scenes might even not have been filmed in the same room as the other actors. He just shouts at Neo for a bit. What a waste.

So, all in all, there’s almost nothing to like about this film. It shouldn’t have been made. Its main redeeming quality is that it seems so unlike a Matrix film, that it’s easy to mentally discard it, and continue enjoying the original three.

A Week in Writing #6 – Finishing the audiobook for On The Subject Of Trolls

I actually completely forgot about this last week – it was about Thursday or Friday before I realised that I hadn’t done it, and by that point I might as well merge it with the next week’s one.

The last two weeks have been absolutely fantastic. I have made fantastic progress on the audiobook for On The Subject Of Trolls.

The third story in OTSOT – Fluncg the Indignant – was, as I’ve said many times, very difficult to get right (both in audio form, and the original text of the story actually). I expected Hluthg the First to be a lot easier, and it was.

I had already recorded all of the audio for Hluthg the First – I did it in two parts – the first many, many months ago, and the second fairly recently. It was an easier story to read than some of the others. So I just had to edit it. I did most of this the weekend before last. I went through all of the audio, and removed all of the takes of lines that I wasn’t going to use. Then I applied the various audio effects. Then I went through and adjusted the timings of all of the lines (an essential step, as when you take out the bad lines, you’re left with completely irregular timings).

I then listened back to it to do a final check. I found that there were a few lines I wanted to re-record – I thought I could do them better – so I did. This pretty much left the audio in a finished state – I just had to do one final listen of the whole thing, then add the music.

And that’s what I did this last weekend. I checked it one last time, added the music, and it was ready to go.

I also did Plolg the Common this last weekend. Well – there wasn’t really much to do. I had already recorded and edited the audio for Plolg the Common. It’s much shorter than the other stories, so it was quite easy to do. I just had to check it and add the music.

So both stories were done. I made both into videos, and they’re both going live on my YouTube channel this week. (Hluthg the First went live yesterday; Plolg the Common is going live tomorrow.)

So finally, after two years, this project is done. I could not have imagined, when I published On The Subject Of Trolls, that the audiobook would take so long. On the one hand, this is quite annoying. On The Subject Of Trolls is not a long book – how could it take two years to create an audiobook for it? On the other hand, there’s been a huge amount of trial and error involved in creating this audiobook. I have tried lots of different things in terms of audio setup, as well as just the process for recording and editing a long piece of audio, and so it makes sense that it would have taken a long time.

In the beginning, of course, I was much more focused on creating videos of these stories – not just videos where I read out the text – videos where the stories are actually performed. This is because I like the idea of the experience of watching or listening to these stories to be as full as possible. The trolls are also very physical creatures. But making these kinds of videos is extremely difficult in itself. They take an extraordinary amount of time to record and to edit, but then there are all the usual difficulties in creating a video on top of that, like lighting and colour grading (which I don’t do yet, but would need to in order for the videos to be really good). And if these videos aren’t perfect, it can really take away from the story.

I still want to do some videos where I perform these stories, but I think this might be better suited to livestreams.

I swapped to focusing on just the audio for the stories. But even this on its own has its complications.

At first, in order to try to get the best audio quality possible, I decided to try to record in a small walk-in wardrobe that I have. The wardrobe is in the middle of the apartment, so it has thick walls around it, but then another layer of thick walls around that. It’s pretty sound-proof in there – you don’t hear anything from outside.

However, the wardrobe is so small that you can’t sit down in it – you have to stand up. It’s pretty difficult to stand and perform an audiobook for more than about half an hour, so I had to record in half-hour blocks. This is quite impractical – it can take many, many hours to record even quite a short story – stopping and starting really slows you down. It’s a lot better if you can sit down while recording.

Ideally, you do also need to be able to see what you’ve recorded on your computer screen immediately. It makes it easier to tell if something’s going wrong. In that small wardrobe, I wasn’t connected directly to my computer.

So after several attempts at recording in the wardrobe, I decided it wasn’t the best way of doing it.

There was also a lot of trial and error involved in using the right microphone. In early attempts, partly because I was in that wardrobe, I used a small Zoom recorder that I have. I bought it a few years ago, and it can produce an excellent audio quality. But I realised, over time, that in order to get that good quality, you have to use the microphone in a very specific way. You have to be extremely close to it, and it has to be angled towards your face just right. If you lean away from it, or turn your head, or change the volume you’re speaking at, the audio quality changes. This is very impractical for On The Subject Of Trolls. (When I read the stories into the microphone – particularly the trolls’ lines – I do take on the ‘big’ physicality of the trolls – I move around a lot. The trolls also shout a lot.)

Eventually I swapped to using my Samson C01U condenser microphone. I’ve had this microphone for about seven years – it’s been very useful over that time. I had previously avoided using it, however (even though it might seem like the obvious choice) because the sound it produced didn’t really sound ‘audiobook-y’. The sound that it produced just sounded like some guy reading into a microphone. (Of course, that’s what an audiobook is, but there’s a certain tone and quality to the sound of an audiobook that that microphone just didn’t produce.)

It was only after a lot more experimentation with audio effects that I figured out how to get the audio from that microphone to sound like what you typically hear in an audiobook. The two key effects are both a bass boost and a treble boost – that’s the magic. I’m not an audio engineer, but I would guess that the microphone itself has its greatest sensitivity to mid-range frequencies, and less sensitivity to higher and lower range frequencies. So these higher and lower ranges needed to be boosted in the editing to compensate. Boosting the lower ranges gives a richness to the audio – it makes it sound like the speaker is in the same room. Boosting the higher ranges gives a clarity to the audio.

So after all of that I knew where I was going to record, and what I was going to record with, but getting the process right took even more trial and error.

When it comes to actually writing stories, my process is pretty well mapped out. First I have the idea, then I write an outline, then a detailed plan, then the actual text of the story, then I just keep doing editing passes until it’s finished. It’s pretty similar to what a lot of people do. But with audiobooks, I had no such process, and it turns out what you do can have a drastic effect on how long it takes.

One thing I’ve worked out is that it is generally A LOT easier to re-record a line than it is to try to record a line perfectly the first time. If you try to get it exactly right the first time, you’ll end up having to make several attempts at it. This then gives you A LOT more stuff to have to sift through when editing to try to find the best attempt, and this is what takes a lot of time. It might seem like going back and re-recording lines would take a lot of time, because you have to slot the audio in place, and maybe re-apply effects, but it is actually less time.

Along with this, every time you have to stop and redo a line, you lose some of the fluidity in your speech – the intonation won’t quite match between that line and the previous one, and the pacing might be off. That, in turn, means you have to make more attempts at the line to get it right. It’s circular. The best thing to do is, even if you make a mistake, just carry on – fix it later.

When it comes to editing, it’s tempting to try to do everything in one pass – to remove the bad takes, record new ones, and adjust the timings. This is quite exhausting. I now split it into several distinct ‘passes’. The first pass is just to remove takes that I definitely won’t be using. Generally after that pass is when I apply the audio effects. On the second pass I go through and adjust the timings, and it’s now when I’ll re-record any lines that I want to re-record. And then any subsequent passes are to check it.

This tends to be a pretty quick way of doing the process. And it means you only have to listen to the whole track a few times. These tracks can be quite long, so you don’t want to have to listen back to them dozens of times if possible.

So, as you can see, there has been a lot of trial and error. And it’s all of this that’s meant this first audiobook has taken two years. The next one should be a lot quicker. I may also put all of this information into a video.

So that’s been the last two weeks: a lot of success with the audiobook. I will, fairly soon, attempt to make these audio tracks into an ‘actual’ audiobook, and have it available on Audible.

Also, Friday is the First of October, and three years since the publication of my first book, Zolantis. The First of October has always been a special date. I am planning to do some livestreams over this weekend to celebrate.

A Week in Writing #5 – Two weeks in writing

I skipped last week’s ‘A Week in Writing’ post (not completely intentionally – I just kept putting it off), so this week’s post is going to be for the last two weeks. And why not? It’s my series, after all.

The last two weeks have been very productive, despite only being able to spend a relatively small amount of time on writing and writing-related projects.

The week before last, I did a good chunk of writing, and I managed to finish the fourth story for OTSOT 3 (which is going in fifth position in the book). This is great – after months of going very slowly with this book (for many reasons, which included getting distracted by other stories), I seem to have sped up again. It feels like I’m getting very close to finishing now.

I did also start on the fifth story for OTSOT 3 (which is going in fourth position in the book) the week before last, and I continued it last week. OTSOT 3 has now passed 20,000 words, and I think this book is going to end up being slightly longer than the other two. I suspect this fifth story is going to be quite long. If I remember correctly, OTSOT 1 is around 22,000, and OTSOT 2 is around 20,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends up around 23,000-24,000.

The ‘feel’ of this book is, I think, slightly different to the other two. (Similarly, I think the ‘feel’ of OTSOT 2 was slightly different to OTSOT 1.) I quite like this. To me, this suggests that each book is not just treading the ground of the previous books – they are each introducing something slightly different. I think this is good – I think this expands the world of the stories.

Also over the last two weeks, I’ve had tremendous success with part of the audiobook for OTSOT 1. The week before last, I went through the audio story for Fluncg the Indignant, and cut out all the bad takes. Listening back to what I had recorded, I still liked it – a good sign. Then last week (well, over the weekend just gone), I went through the track and arranged all of the clips – making sure that the timings between them were correct. I also applied all of the audio effects (normalisation, equalisation, et cetera).

I also added the music that goes at the start and end of the story. I was then able to listen back to the story in its complete form for the first time. I REALLY liked it. I thought it had turned out very well – not perfectly, of course – they never do – but really well. The voice, while not absolutely perfect for Fluncg, is funny and annoying – great for a short story like this – it’s entertaining, while also making its point.

And in fact I think this audio story might just be the best one I’ve made so far. It’s difficult to really say, but it might be. (That’s partly helped along by the text of the story itself – Fluncg the Indignant is shorter, with fewer details, than something like Throch the Cunning.) Spending all this time agonising over the audio has paid off, it seems.

The audio story has been exported, made into a video, and uploaded to my main YouTube channel. It’s going live on Wednesday evening at 10:00.

The audio story for Hluthg the First should be a lot easier – I’ve always known what Hluthg’s voice sounds like. I’ve already recorded the whole thing – I’ve just got to finish editing it (which doesn’t take that long, if I make myself do it – I just hate editing audio). With any luck I can get that out in a few weeks’ time (though I’ve said that before).

Do I even want to go and see The Matrix Resurrections?

This week, the official trailer for The Matrix Resurrections – supposedly the fourth film in the Matrix series – was released, and despite really liking the Matrix trilogy (I’m one of what seems like a minority of people who like the second and third films), I find myself wandering whether I should even go and see this film at all.

In recent years, Hollywood has created a lot of sequels to films and series’ that had seemed to be over and complete many years or even decades ago: Disney’s attempt at a Star Wars trilogy, the new Jumanji films, the Jurassic World films, the Fantastic Beasts films, Independence Day: Resurgence, and more that I can’t remember.

Many (but not all) of these haven’t been very good, and some – like Disney’s Star Wars films – have been absolute garbage. (You’d think that, given how obsessed Hollywood seems to be with sequels, that they’d have gotten good at them by now.)

And at this point, I have very little trust in Hollywood that they can make a sequel to a film or series – particularly one that was made over a decade ago – that doesn’t just completely ruin the whole thing. This is no longer a per-franchise problem – it’s no longer ‘Oh well that sequel film wasn’t very good but sequel films for other franchises will probably still be great.’ – I think we’re at the point (well beyond the point, some would argue) where we just cannot trust Hollywood with any sequel to any film or series.

This problem does seem to be particularly prominent for films or series’ made over a decade ago. (Unbelievably, The Matrix Revolutions came out in 2003!) I think this is partly because filmmakers don’t want to imitate the style of older films (even though they could do so very easily) – either the style of storytelling or the technical style. This is one of the apprehensions I have about The Matrix 4 after seeing the trailer – it seems very apparent to me that they have not tried to reproduce the visual style of the original three films. This will make it very difficult for this film to sit alongside the other three.

But even more important than that, the ending of The Matrix Revolutions was conclusive – the end of a war – it doesn’t get much more conclusive than that. Continuing the story after that necessarily means that you either have to have a ‘quieter’ period within the world of the story, where the necessary world-building can happen to build up to a more dramatic time period, or you have to undo something about the previous ending. Hollywood always seems to go for the second option, which is the incorrect option, as it undermines the previous story, and any character development that happened in it. (This is the option that Disney went for with the Star Wars films, and it’s a big part of what killed the franchise.)

Based on the glimpses that we get from the trailer, it appears that the matrix is still running, and Neo and Trinity are somehow back inside it, despite both dying at the end of the last film. (Now, it’s generally not a good idea to try to work out the story of a film like this based on its trailer – the trailers are designed to confuse you as to what the actual story is – but this is what appears to be true.) While the conclusion to the last film was that the matrix would continue, but anyone who wanted out would be freed, it does look like something is going to be undone with this new film.

(Also, Laurence Fishburne is not returning for this film, despite the character of Morpheus being in it. I don’t know why this is – it’s possible that he simply didn’t want to. But Laurence Fishburne was iconic as Morpheus, and it really lowers my confidence in the film that he’s not in it.)

So I really don’t know if I want to go and see this film at all. It seems likely that this film is going to undo part of the ending of the previous films. That will in turn make this film unpopular, reducing the chances that a subsequent film or two are made to complete what will almost certainly be a new trilogy of films (because how can you follow a big trilogy of films with just one more film – surely you have to have another trilogy?). That will leave us with the original trilogy, plus one, maybe two more films that undermine the original trilogy, and which aren’t in themselves complete. It seems to me like this series is likely to end up a mess.

I will probably decide closer to the time whether I actually want to see it or not.

A Week in Writing #4 – Success with the trolls

It’s been both a productive and unproductive week for writing.

I had my second vaccine dose this weekend. When I had the first dose, for the following two days I was extremely tired – particularly on the day immediately after it. This time it was the same – I had the jab on Saturday, and on Sunday I was completely knocked out – I could hardly move – I was completely shattered. I don’t think I was awake for more than two or three consecutive hours the whole day. And then Monday was mostly the same – until very late in the evening, when I started to get more energy again.

So effectively the whole weekend – that huge block of valuable time when I had been planning on focusing entirely on writing and related things – was just gone.

Despite that, there have been other small islands of time when I’ve been able to do things. Early last week I re-recorded the entirety of Fluncg the Indignant for the audiobook. It was very quick to do. (I’ve done it so many times now.) I did change the voice of Fluncg ever so slightly again, but it really wasn’t much – I just changed the way the gravelliness comes through in it a bit. The result is that it emphasises Fluncg’s arrogance and over-drama a bit more, which is fun.

I began editing that audio, but I haven’t finished – there’s still quite a bit to do. But … if you get into it, you can get through a lot of the editing fairly quickly – maybe I’ll be able to finish it this weekend.

The voice of Fluncg is enormous fun to do. (The voices of all the trolls are. I think my favourite of the ones published so far is probably that of Gogog. But the one I’m really looking forward to doing is that of the head of The Company, from More On The Subject Of Trolls. I’ve known that voice for years, and it is endless fun. It’s a completely full-body voice.)

I have also done more planning of Project 201811 this week – that’s been extremely useful. There’s lots of funny stuff going into that. If I ever write and finish the whole thing, that will probably be my funniest story.

And I have also written more of OTSOT 3 – about 1500 words – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but the OTSOT stories, being short stories, tend to cut out a lot of the … not ‘filler’ but sort of ‘adjacent’ material that you often find in novels. The stories in OTSOT often really try to avoid anything that isn’t directly relevant to the moral of the story. And so a lot can happen in 1500 words.

Also, with a much clearer outline for this story, writing it has become a lot easier – the value of planning is revealed yet again. It should be quite easy to finish it now, leaving one story left in OTSOT 3 to finish.

I have a great many three-day weekends lined up over the next few months. This is something I’ve done for many years in order to maximise my productivity on things I’m doing – arrange to have as many three-day weekends as possible. It’s amazing what one extra day can do.

A Week in Writing #3

Well the time has just evaporated this week. It seems like I’ve had hardly any chance at all to do some writing since the last of these posts.

I haven’t done a lot of writing of actual story words this week – i.e., words that might actually be part of the final book. In fact I don’t think I’ve done any. But I have done something else that’s very important – I have done planning for at least two stories.

I’ve mentioned recently how nowadays there are times when I can write out a story exactly how I want it first time. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, and one of the disadvantages is that you can sort of get used to it. If you have a few stories like this in a row, you start to expect it for subsequent ones – and that’s a problem, because it simply won’t happen for all stories.

But on top of this, sometimes not only has a story turned out well straight away, but the idea for a story had been fully formed in my head as I sat down to start writing it. This has gotten me into the bad habit of not necessarily planning stories before writing them. This is despite me being a strong advocate for planning stories. (It’s also worth pointing out that being able to write a full story without planning it is made a lot easier when it’s a short story (particularly one of my short stories, which tend to be about 3000-5000 words long).)

Writing the final two stories for OTSOT 3 has been trickier than I anticipated, so in order to make it easier, and in order to get out of this bad habit, I have made a deliberate effort to plan these final two (even though they are pretty simple stories). One of them I think I did over a week ago, the other one – the longer one – I did this week. And the value of planning is once again revealed – I was able to identify several important things that should happen early in the stories by planning them.

Also this week, I tried to do more on the audio story for Fluncg the Indignant. I did a lot of editing of the audio that I had, trying to produce the final cut. However, I found that the audio I had for the different lines in various places didn’t really ‘gel’. Some of the narrator’s lines didn’t really gel with the characters’ lines, and it occurred to me that the simplest thing to do would just be to re-record the whole thing. (It sounds like a drastic action, but I’ve gotten a lot better and faster at recording audio stories, and at least this one’s not as long as Throch the Cunning – this one’s actually quite short.)

In entirely non-writing news, over the last week I have made fantastic progress in drawing out my family tree. This is a project that I’ve been interested in and working on slowly for (I think) about two years. I had access to a lot of data for my family tree – both my parents had partial trees drawn out already, so I just had to copy the data in those. What I wanted to do was combine all of the data, and have a computer program draw out the tree.

I had previously started creating a program to read all of the data from a file, and then draw out the tree, in Python. However, Python’s built-in image-drawing abilities are very lacking, and I realised that in order to draw the tree nicely, I needed to switch to a language with better image-drawing abilities. So I swapped to using C# – a language I used to use a lot years ago, but which I haven’t used very much since. Doing this has allowed me to produce a much better-drawn tree. I also finished typing in all of the data from the existing trees. So I now have a very large image that shows the tree, and it looks quite nice.

I’ve been rather obsessed with this project over the last few days, so over the next week, when I’m not writing, I will likely be doing this. The next things to do are to improve the visual design of the tree even more, and to do more original research to find more ancestors to put on the tree.