Author Archives: mctiller

My wife and daughter were in a serious car accident last week.

They’re fine now. My daughter left the hospital the same day, and my wife came home a few days later.

I was telling an older person about the accident and how the car was totaled.  She replied with the standard old person response with “They don’t make them like they used too.”

Well, thank goodness for that. 

Cars are now designed to crumple and send airbags and curtain air-bags to keep you from hitting your head against the glass.

This car was flipped and upside down at the accident scene, but my family was able to walk away relatively unharmed.

In the good old days with just a lap belt there would have been large internal injuries around the spleen and back.  And with no airbags heads would have hit the hard steering wheel and my daughter would have cracked her head against the glass.  Instead she has a few bruises and an interesting story to tell.

Yes, thank goodness they don’t make ’em like they used too.

Incredibles 2 Movie Review–It’s Jack-Jack’s Movie

It’s been 14 years since the first Incredibles movie. And it was worth the wait.

The Incredibles is a joy to watch. The energy of the movie is a mix of a Sean Connery Era James Bond movie and a comic book.

The world in which the Incredibles is set is a retro future setting of a late 1950s to 60s-cars have tail-fins, studio cameras have three rotating lenses, telephones have cords and a number pad, televisions have curved glass fronts. The style of the setting is part of the joy of the movie.

The movie begins with Agent Dicker questioning Violet’s date Tony Rydinger, the boy she had a crush on in the first movie and is scheduled to go on a date with. As per usual custom Dicker does a memory wipe, unfortunately also wiping out the memory that he has a date with Violet later that week, which will come into play later.

We move back to where the first movie left off with the Underminer attacking the city. It is loud and visually stunning action sequence. Mr. Incredible follows the Underminer down through the ground under the city where he discovers an entire laberyenth of tunnels which leads to the most elaborate bank heist ever. Blowing up explosives underneath the bank, which then falls underground, allowing the Underminer to walk into the vault and vacuum out the money from the safe. The Underminer escapes with the money, (are we looking at an Incredibles 3?) and Frozone and the Parrs stop the Underminers Runaway drill from crashing into more buildings and in the aftermath Dicker informs the Parrs that he can no longer help them, his department is being shut down. The Parrs need to move back underground and hid their identifies as superheros.

A familiar theme from the first movie, hiding ones abilities in hopes of staying safe and secure.

With the Incredibles and Frozone saving the city from even more distruction wealthy telecom businessman Winston Deavor and his sister Evelyn decide that now is a good time to changing the public perception of supers. Winston wants to change the world’s perception of supers because his father was a big believer in supers having a close relationship with previous Supers. Unfortunately their father was killed in a robbery when instead of hiding in the safe room in the house he called Gazerbeam but the phones were cut. (I love this world of superheros but landlines still in use.)

The villain in this movie is not the UnderMiner, but the Screenslaver. A hypnotist who gets people to do his bidding through screens he has hacked.

The Screenslaver and the UnderMiner provide the opportunity for Winston Deavor to show the world that Supers are useful and not a problem. Winston decided that it would be best to leave Mr. Incredible out of the first rescue, as according to the huge amount of data collected he causes a lot of damage. While on the other hand Mrs. Parr is able to do the job without as much damage or people being hurt. You don’t want people hurt when bringing Supers back into the public eye.

So Mr. Parr becomes a stay at home dad to Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack.

And this is Jack-Jack’s movie.

In the world of the Incredibles apparently Supers can have different types of powers, and Jack seems to have seventeen of them. One of them is the ability to jump to different dimensions. That’s sort of like a super-super ability. But it is played as a joke when Mr. Parr can’t find Jack-Jack when he is jumping between dimensions. He of course also shoots lasers out of his eyes, turns into a demon baby, and when he visits the ever popular Edna Mode he can’t replicate himself to other people, like a human chameleon. As in the first movie, the best scene in the movie is when Bob visits Edna Mode, and this time he brings Jack-Jack along with him.

Because he just can’t handle it anymore. Edna at first wants nothing to do with Jack-Jack, but soon Edna falls in love with Jack-Jack and the coolest relationship in the movie is born. Edna makes a suit and matching tablet to help Bob know which ability Jack-Jack is about to manifest. A very useful trick.

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A video short with Edna and Jack-Jack would be the perfect addition to the Blu-ray.

And as fun as Jack-Jack and Edna are together, the best scene in the movie is when Jack-Jack gets into a fight with a raccoon.  A scene that felt out of place, but my  six-year-old says is the best scene in the movie.  She maybe right.

 

Final Thoughts

The Incredibles 2 is a lot of fun. The style and setting is something to take in. Jack-Jack brings joy whenever he is on screen. The villain maybe too complex for younger viewers, but exists well in the universe.
If you can check out Incredibles 2 at the theater this summer.

Solo-A Star Wars Story–Movie Review–A Fun Saturday Matinee Movie

A new Star Wars movie is here.

It used to be a new Star Wars movie came out every three years.  They were major events.  Once every three years a new freakin’ Star Wars movie.

But those days are gone.  Star Wars makes way too much money to let it go away.  I am 45.  People my age grew up thinking Return of the Jedi was going to be the last film.  It took 16 years to get another film, then we got two more three years after that.  Then it took another ten years to get The Force Awakens.

Now this weekend we Solo.  It is the second Star Wars movie in six months.  I never thought I would ever see that.

I mention this because Star Wars becoming a commodity takes away some of the excitement that we use to have in going to that galaxy far far away.

But after saying that, I need to say this.

I still want Star Wars.

It is still fun.

And Solo is fun.

It isn’t a perfect movie.  It’s not the best Star Wars film.  It doesn’t break new ground.  But so what?  

It is a Star Wars movie.

Solo is played by Alden Ehenriech, Ki’ra is played by Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones Fame.  Lando Calrissian is played to perfection by Donald Glover, who sounds exactly like Billy Dee Williams who played Lando in the original trilogy.

Chewbacca is played by Joonas Suomato.  And Woody Harrleson plays Tobias Beckett a criminal who is the head of his own crew.  Thadie Newton plays his wife Val Beckett, and Jon Favereu voices Rio Durant, a new type of alien in the Star Wars universe and a member of Beckett’s crew.

The movie begins with Han as a young man on his home world of Corellia, which is ruled by gangsters.

I liked this part.  It is always cool to see new parts of the Star Wars universe.  He and his girlfriend Ki’ra are desperate to escape.  Han manages to steal some hyperfuel during a deal gone wrong, and it’s their hope to sell the fuel on the blackmarket for enough money to own their own ship and get away.  But in order to get off of the planet they must go through an Imperial check-point where they are discovered with the fuel.  Ki’ra is captured by the Empire.  In hopes of making it back to Corelia to find Ki’ra Han enlists in the Empire, in hopes of being a pilot.  As with most plans, he doesn’t become a pilot, but an infantryman.  Flash forward three years and Han is still not a pilot and is stuck as a “mudhead” and in the middle of a battle he meets Beckett.

The movie moves through it’s checklist of who he needs to meet.

When Solo meets Chewie, for my money this is one of the best scenes in the entire Star Wars series.  It is fun and a blast.  I wasn’t sure how he would meet Han, but the scene works very well.

We move through a cool train robbery with Solo and Beckett’s crew.

And then onto meeting Crime Lord Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bethany.  After owing Vos more money, Beckett, Han, Chewie, and Ki’ra head to meet Lando because he has a fast ship.

And from here the movie really takes off.  

I am not going to spoil anymore of the movie.  There isn’t a lot to spoil, but there is some.

The second half of the movie really takes off.  There is a surprise character at the end that connects the movie with the television shows.  There is a nod to the idea that Han does shoot first.  And we see Han prepare to go meet Jabba.

Final Thoughts

The movie doesn’t break new ground like The Last Jedi, but it is fun.  If you enjoyed the original Star Wars trilogy I recommend seeing this in the theater as Star Wars movies are meant to be seen.  It is a fun Saturday matinee flick as the original Star Wars movies were meant to be.

Charlotte Morgan and the Great Big Math Problem is now available in paperback,

My latest book is now available in paperback.  The book is available in the Kindle Matchbook Program, buy the paperback and get the Kindle version for free.

 

Click on the pic to purchase the book in paperback.

The first paperback on my kitchen counter.

Also check out me opening the first proof copy.

Also if you pick up a copy please consider leaving a review.  The more reviews a book has the more Amazon promotes the book.

So thanks for all your help.

 

Paperback for Charlotte Morgan and the Great Big Math Problem is coming soon.

I get behind sometimes.  Life gets in the way.  I get disorganized.

My latest book, Charlotte Morgan and the Great Big Math Problem released a little over a week ago on Kindle.

I am currently formatting the paperback, and hope to have it ready next week.  Good and organized indie-publishers have their books ready at the same time as the Kindle version.

I am not that kind of publisher.

I am sharing a screenshot of me working in Indesign working on the book.

Someday I’ll be more organized.

But that day is not today.

Oh, and please pick-up my latest book.

Charlotte Morgan and the Great Big Math Problem.

You’re elementary age kid will love it.

Charlotte Morgan and the Great Big Math Problem is now available on Kindle

My latest book, my tenth book, is now available on Amazon for 99 cents.

I am really proud of this book.  As a teacher there was a lot of training on “Math Thinking” getting the students to express their thinking, how do they know the answer, how did they come up with their answer.

So, I wrote a character, Charlotte Morgan that just does that naturally.  The book is my first written in the first person point of view.  That was a challenge and yet a lot of fun.

Currently the book is available for 99 cents.  That can’t last forever.

The paperback is on the way.  I need to work on my organization to be able to have a paperback ready at the same time as Kindle.  But I am not there yet.

It will be coming soon.

Anyway, if you are a teacher please check this book out I wrote it with both kids and teachers in mind.

Visiting with Ecoff Elementary

I got to visit with fourth and fifth graders at Ecoff Elementary.

It was a lot of fun to visit with the resource staff and the teachers I got to see.

The fourth and fifth graders and I talked about how to come up with ideas for our writing.

The Lesson

This is a lesson I did as a fifth grade teacher.  On one side of our paper we would list things that we loved.  On my paper I would list Star Wars, baseball, pizza, among other things.  Students would share things that they loved.  I would always get students that listed basketball, football, or a video game.

Now, we have three things on the list.  I ask the students how many things we have to write about, they invariably respond with “Three!”

But I point out there is actually more than that.  I point to Star Wars and ask “Who is your favorite character in Star Wars?  Which movie is your favorite?  What is your favorite spaceship?”  Suddenly just writing about Star Wars expands into three more items.  We take a topic and then break it up into various details and write about the details.

We then add details to the other things on our Love list.

The Loathe List

On the other side of the paper we list things that we loathe.  Yes, loathe.

For me, that includes trips to the dentist, and Brussels sprouts.

And then I ask what is it the students don’t like.  And here is an important rule on this one, the students cannot name specific people.  We can’t have students naming other students or teachers on the list.  (Yes.  I did learn this rule the hard way, thank you very much.  Now move on.)

And just as we did on the Love side of the list, we can write about specific details.  For example, on my list a Trip to the Dentist is on my loathe list.  (Now, mind you I like my dentist and hygienist, they are both wonderful and nice people.)  But I HATE!  HATE! HATE! HATE! I TELL YOU! That thing that sucks the water out of your mouth, no I am not going to look the name of that devil instrument, but I despise with every fiber of my being the sensation of it my mouth.  A machine that turns my face into sour mouth.  So…I can write about that.

Combining Ideas

At the bottom of the students paper the students leave for them to combine ideas.  This is where the ideas take off.

I tell the students, “We take on thing from our LOVE list, and one thing from our LOATHE list and combine.  Now, why use something from the loather list?  Because writing about something you don’t like I find stretches your brain a little more.”

I admit.  I’ve done this lesson before, so I use the same example a lot.  I take the word BASEBALL from my Love list, and I take the word Brussel Sprouts from my Loathe list and I combine them.

Baseball and Brussell Sprouts.

Now, what appeared in your head?

For me when I hear baseball and brussel sprouts, I think of brussel sprouts playing baseball on my dinner plate.  They are using a fork or a spoon as a bat, and mashed potatoes are the bases and the pitcher’s mound.  Maybe the Brussel Sprouts are playing against the carrots, or something like that.

So we’ve taken the idea of baseball and Brussel Sprouts put them together and quite possibly come up with the idea for a new book.

Again, thanks to Ecoff and Sarah Takacs for having me!

 

 

The Last Jedi–Movie Review–Yes, it’s been out awhile.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Yes, this has been out awhile.  I’ve waited to put my thoughts down.

(The movie has been out long enough.  There be spoiler’s here ma’tey…)

Star Wars is unreviewable.

It doesn’t really matter what anyone writes about Star Wars people will still see the movie.

But I am an addict.

I have issues.  I have seen every new Star Wars movie at the earliest possible showing since Episode 2 Attack of the Clones.  And back in the day of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, those were the midnight showings baby.

With The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and now The Last Jedi thos first showings became 7 pm the Thursday before the real opening night.  I like those times better, I’m too old now for midnight showings.

I do those showings because I know myself.  I would have no ability to stay off social media and the internet to see what people are saying about the movie.  If I go to the very first showing I can see the movie with just mine and the audience’s reaction to it.

Me running to get tickets for the first showing.

A for a while the only people that went to the first showing of a Star Wars movie were the true fans.  Now it’s become corporate.  Literally.  There were businesses there as a group outing with their Star Wars badges and pressed dressed pants.  Ugh!

New idea.  In order to see the first showing of a Star Wars movie, you have to come dressed up as a Star Wars character.  That’s the level of geekdom you need to have reached in order to see it first.  Not because you hit your sales quota for the month.

So on December 14 at 7 pm I went to see The Last Jedi.  I was there among my people.  I saw a guy dressed up as Luke from The Last Jedi.  It was quite an impressive cosplay I must admit.

And here is my overpriced BB8 cup just before the movie started.

Let’s get straight to the point.  The Last Jedi.  I loved it.

I was befuddled and confused the next day when I began to see the serious backlash against the movie.

I felt like I had seen a completely different movie.

So on December 15, I went and saw the movie again at a 2 pm showing.  Just to make sure.

Yup.

I was right.

It was a great Star Wars movie.

It wasn’t perfect.

Rian Johnson had two chances for complete and total knock punches and he totally pulled his punches.

Let’s get it out of the way: Space Leia.

I think the reason people really hated Leia’s space return is that the audience was cheated out of a great death of their princess.  The theater was silent.  SILENT!  When Leia was sucked out into space.  If Leia died there Johnson could have had the best Star Wars movie ever.  But he cheated a little.  We all know that Leia has Jedi abilities from being Luke Skywalker’s sister, and from her ability to hear Luke in Empire Strikes Back.  She has Jedi powers.  That’s not the issue.  But Johnson took a great death, and then pulled the punch.

Unfortunately he did it again at the end of the movie as well.  Finn was all prepared to sacrifice his life for the rebellion.  The camera holds on Finn’s face, cuts back to the machines, then cuts back to Finn’s face.

I remember thinking, “No, don’t kill Finn!  He can’t kill Finn!”  Which means he probably should have killed Finn.

But instead Johnson pulled his punch and Rose comes in for the rescue.

Those two things kept The Last Jedi from being the best Star Wars movie.

Luke, like Yoda before him, has gone into hiding after failing their Jedi trainees.

When people complain that Luke wasn’t like we thought he would be.  Well, he is thirty years older.  Lots of stuff happens in three decades.  You’re not the same person thirty years down the road.

Plus, Episode 7 sets Luke up.  Han tells us that Luke blamed himself for Kylo Ren, so he went into hiding.  This isn’t a happy-got-himself-together Luke.  This is a sad and depressed Luke we are told about in Episode 7.  Rian Johnson didn’t set this up.  JJ Abrahams did.

Luke is a monk.  I freakin’ love that!  Luke is a monk, living among monks.  This is what monks do.  They hid up on the mountain and contemplate life.

Luke’s Force projection is the most ultimate of Jedi skills.  He came through with the most bad-ass Jedi ability ever.  Luke could your kick ass, and not even be on the same planet as you.  That is epic.

And I gotta be honest, the shot of Luke standing alone before the Imperial Walkers gets me teary.  That was the greatest image in the whole series for me.  The Empire stops because Luke was standing there.  And he WASN’T EVEN THERE!  He made the walkers stop!  Stop!  And he wasn’t even there.  Wow.  That is power.  That’s why that scene works.

Rey’s parentage was the punch to the gut that Johnson did give us.

When Kylo Ren says “You’re nothing.  You mean nothing to this story.”  I feel that pain.

Now, I’m not sure that I believe him.  We know that Kylo is a liar.  Why wouldn’t he be lying here?  I don’t know.  But I know I felt it when he kicks Rey with her parentage.

Johnson did something never done before in a Star Wars movie, when Rey and Kylo fought together against Snoke’s guards. That fight is invigorating.  It is both visually beautiful, with the red of the room, the red of Kylo’s lightsaber, and the red of the guards.  As the fight ends, the tension is palatable.  They just spent the last few minutes on the same side defeating Snoke, now Johnson has us back to wondering who will turn.  This is what Johnson did superbly, holding the tension.

Just beautiful.

The Last Jedi is one of the better Star Wars movies.  I find it more interesting when things don’t go the way we expect that is more interesting.

It is more interesting and compelling when it is called Star Wars: The Last Jedi not Star Wars: Everything is Exactly as you it expected it be.  

And that’s better for the whole galaxy.

The first chapter from my next book–Charlotte Morgan and the Great Big Math Problem

This is my next book.

It is currently being copy edited, (so there will be the occasional typo in this version).

The characters use math and describe their math thinking as they work through problems.  I am a former 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade teacher, so I used my experience and background from those years as I wrote this.

The book is also available for preorder on Kindle.

Summary:

Charlotte Morgan is a third grader who likes numbers, and she is in a club called The Number Investigators.

My name is Charlotte, and I have a great big problem.  You see in two weeks, or 14 days, or 336 hours or 20,160 minutes, or 1,209,600 seconds is our big Turing Elementary School Math Bee.  A math bee is like a spelling bee only with math problems.

Why is this a problem you ask?  This is a problem because I don’t like getting up in front of the class.  And if I do good in front of the class, then I have to go in front of the whole big school.  And most of the time I get the best math grade in my class.  There are twenty-two other students in my class, which means there will forty-four eyes looking at me.  I forgot, forty-six eyes, Mrs. King, my teacher, will be looking at me too!

And also, did I mention my dad is a math teacher?  That’s a lot of pressure.  He will be very disappointed in me if I don’t do well.

Parent’s Notes went home last week about the math bee, and my dad got really excited.  He teaches algebra and calculations at Middlebury High School, at least, I think it is called calculations.  Anyway, dad, or Mr. Morgan, as his students call him, has started quizzing me constantly throughout the day.  He’ll say, “Okay, Tambourine, what is 4 times 3.”  And I reply “12.”  It is getting annoying.

He calls me Tambourine because when I was little, like two or three, I would walk around the house shaking and banging a tambourine.  I don’t do that anymore, but the name stuck.

My mom calls me Charlotte, and Charlotte Morgan when I am in trouble.

I go to Turning Elementary School, and I am in the third grade  As I already said Mrs. King is my teacher.  She tells me I talk a lot.

But if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t remember that she left her pencil behind her ear.  That poor pencil would just stay there all day—poor pencil.

Today is Friday, and school is about to start.  That means there are 14 days until the Turing Elementary School Math Bee.  That’s 336 hours.

Writing in a bookstore window–I am fascinated by the story of Harlan Ellison

I am fascinated by the story of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote a post about him five months ago.

And I am really interested in his writing in the window of a book store.  He wrote stories in the from the start of the day to the end of the day and he would put the pages up in the window as he finished them.  And the pages would be clean and error free.

source

He did this many times over the years.  Apparently some of those stories he wrote in a window won awards.  But as of this moment I am not sure which ones those are.  Now Ellison won a lot of awards for his short stories.  I just wish I knew which ones where written in a store window.

One story I do know that he wrote in a window was Objects of Desire Are Closer than They Appear.  And the premise for the story was given to him by Chris Carter.  Carter gave him the phrase a 102-year-old pregnant corpse.

Some began to believe that Harlan was cheating by already having ideas for his stories planned out before he sat in the bookstore window, so eventually he would get people to give an idea.  Robin Williams gave him the phrase “Computer Vampyre”  and Ellison wrote the story Keyboard.

I find that fascinating.

Ellison did not let writers block get in the way.  Writing is fun.  Writing in enjoyable.  And more than anything else, writing isn’t about rewriting to get it perfect, a lot of his stories he taped to the window as he finished them.  Remember this was on a typewriter, not a laptop.

source

Harlan writing at the Booksmith in May of 1994 at the Booksmith in San Francisco. 

Just cool as all get out.