A Quiet Place – A Deaf Perspective

A Quiet Place Part II, the post-apocalyptic movie, is currently on hold because of Corona. Since theaters are closed, professional reviewers are mainly doing retrospective pieces on movies from ages past. YouTube’s Chris Stuckmann just did 98’s Mulan a couple days ago. Not every review has to be perfectly punctual, right?

Since A Quiet Place Part II is on the queue of movies to come roaring back once the pandemic abates, I thought I should review the prequel and offer my take as a Deaf person myself.

A Quiet Place is set during the aftermath of an extraterrestrial invasion of creatures that hunt with their hyper-acute sense of hearing. Basically, these are a swarm of Daredevils. Big, hulking Daredevils that crush small animals with their bare hands. Because of their impenetrable skin, Earth’s forces weren’t able to hold them off.

The film focuses on a family of 4 that hides from the creatures by staying silent, hence the title. The daughter is Deaf who communicates via sign language and uses a cochlear implant. The father, mother, and son all use this necessity to great benefit. Aside from their bilingual skill, they’re also incredibly resourceful: they never wear shoes, they walk along smooth paths of their own making, and avoid using hard objects (survival tactics to preclude noise that would draw the creatures in).

A Quiet Place uses a very unique, original premise and makes very good use of it. The deafening silence for much of the film makes the noisy scenes all the more terrifying and nerve-racking. Most Hollywood jump-scares simply don’t work because the viewer is already accustomed to hearing loud, jarring things (like the teenage girls in Halloween and Friday the 13th).

The characterization of the family is also a nice bold touch: ostensibly, they’re conservative. The father leads them, teaches his kids survival skills, and is good with his hands. He’s constantly trying to devise ways of using his daughter’s cochlear implant to ward off the monsters (more on that in a bit). The mother is nuturing, delicate, and willing to suffer through the pain of childbirth in silence. It’s really no suprise that their last names are “Abbot.”

A theory has gone around saying the movie’s secret message is how conservatives need to stay silent in a world that is openly hostile towards them. I’m not sure what director/writer/star John Krasinski’s intent was. I do believe that our inner philosophies reflect in the stories that we write. But if Krasinski believes he needs to keep his mouth shut like his character does, in order to stay safe, then I’ll respectfully keep mine shut.

The movie is very bold in its approach as to how the father, the lead protector, is killed off. Such a dire circumstance can radically change the order of any family, which is why I think Part II will be intriguing. There’s only so much a lone mother can do for her children. How will the fatherless boy survive in a world that is dangerous? How is the deaf girl going to survive in a world that can’t/won’t communicate with her?

While the use of sign language and silence is what drives the film’s appeal, I feel it got to the point where it was pandering. The father’s solution to fighting the creatures lies in his daughter’s modified cochlear implant that caused her discomfort. Apparently with some tweaks the implant could send out high-pitched hums. This incapitates the creatures to the point they open up their heads, leaving them vulnerable to attack (like they’re a boss in a Zelda game or something).

First of all, as a CI-user myself, I can affirm that cochlear implants do not work that way. They take normal sounds and transmit them directly to the brain. They do not shoot out banshee-shrieks like they’re ultrasonic weapons. I know, I know; it’s a movie. I get it. I should suspend my belief, you’re right. But the problem isn’t that it’s illogical. The problem is that it belies an eagerness to pander.

I feel a better way to combat the creatures would’ve been for the father to construct actual ultrasonic weapons. He could’ve placed them at various points around the camp. When a creature approaches them, the weapons get turned off and stay hidden. This confuses the creatures and they end up attacking each other.

See, if the film really is political this solution would’ve made more sense (make some noise and cause leftists to go after each other). Maybe this was on the drawing board during the writing stages. Maybe Krasinski didn’t go with it because he wanted to put a lid on his politics.

Judging by how the world/media can act like the blind savages of A Quiet Place, I can’t say I blame him.

Rating: B+

The Bible and Corona

People in Biblical times didn’t have modern-day conveniences. Instead of GPS, they looked up to use the sky, both day and night. They studied the positions of stars to see what time of year it was and what direction to go. Instead of relying on the local soup kitchen or food pantry, people had to actively scavenge, hunt, and make food for themselves. I believe it goes without saying that people back then were wiser, more resourceful, and more grounded in reality than we are today. The information age has ironically made us stupid and detached.

Without technological distractions, the men and women of Biblical times could observe the world around them. They could document what lifestyles were beneficial and what weren’t: that’s how the Torah, Bible, and Quran came to be. The use of God, in these texts, is purely symbolic. We’ve come to discover that placing your faith in a supposed higher power elevates happiness because you realize your worries are irrelevant on the grand scheme of things. The Bible is essentially an ancient self-help book (my biased opinion, obviously). It can also function as an instruction manual for life (specifically the Book of Leviticus). Leviticus focuses on the self-destructive behaviors we’re not allowed to do. Having sex with a family member (incest) is one thing. Sleeping with animals (beastiality) is another. And drinking blood is a no-no.

Did you know that eating bats is also specifically forbidden in the Bible? Check Leviticus 11:19. Now, you have to wonder why that is. Why would they specifically list ravens, owls, herons, gulls, and bats as animals you’re not allowed to consume? Or animals with paws (basically 4-legged carnivores)?

For starters, these animals are very difficult to hunt: they’re too mobile and/or dangerous. Farm-raised chickens and cows, on the other hand, are easy targets.They’re not the most agile, either. From a practical standpoint, the Bible forbids consumption of most animals for that reason.

Further, some animals have access to places of the world that humans do not dare to tread. They also consume unique lifeforms that we’re not familiar with. I posit that the people of the Biblical age knew that eating animals of unknown origin was a bad idea. Lord knows what these animals were exposed to. Whatever they were exposed to, we in turn become exposed.

The irony is that while modern-day atheists and the anti-religious crowd say that the Bible is incompatible with science, the latter can easily back up a lot of what the Bible says. Case in point: the consumption of bats.

An accepted theory about the ongoing Corona pandemic is that Patient Zero was a Chinese national that ate an infected bat. Why on Earth would we dine on an animal that dwells in places we don’t travel to? They carry certain elements that our bodies are simply not accustomed to. Namely, diseases. (HIV came from primates, supposedly)

Hey, if we’re able to put 2 and 2 together in this day and age and apply common sense and reasoning, I assure you that the average “cavemen” could, too. While the people of antiquity did not have the benefit of scientific tools and methods, they were still able to see the bare essence of things. They were able to see basic, funademental truths with their own eyes.

The world has been straying from Biblical common sense for a while now. We’re straying from social mores that our ancestors correctly affirmed to be logical and sensible. It seems we’re paying the price for this recklessness. The Corona pandemic is only the latest in a long line of examples of how ignoring Biblical doctrine has actual consequences.

We’re on a collision course, folks. In the end, truth will win. And so will the Biblical way of ages past.

The 1917/Parasite Dilemma

Sam Mendes’ 1917 was released to RedBox, DVD, and BluRay yesterday. Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I didn’t have anything better to do (*cough* create content n’ shit), I decided to rent and watch the movie a second time. For those that haven’t seen it, ‘1917‘ is the only World War I movie in recent memory. Hollywood’s World War II obsession needed to take a hike for once. This war epic is a much-appreciated breath of fresh air.

The movie follows the journey of two British soldiers who are tasked with sending a message to another front. Said front is walking into a trap and 1,600 British lives hang in the balance. The two soldiers, Blake and Schofield, must brave through No Man’s Land, the horrors of war, and the German military to complete their assignment.

When 1917 lost to Parasite at the Oscars, a lot of jaws dropped. Including my own. I was so sure that 1917 was going to take home the gold, I really was. However, upon further viewing I realized the Academy got the Best Picture right this time around.

1917‘s main strength is whatever lies on the visual level. This is not a popcorn movie with bright explosions and kinetic fighting scenes. This is a film about two soldiers surviving the grim reality of warfare and how our Planet decays in these trying times. Very often we see imagery of dead horses, cows, and even dogs. When we catch a glimpse of cherry blossom trees, the camera pans ominously to show us they’ve been cruelly cut down. Even beautiful manmade structures like churches are shown no mercy.

Simply put, 1917 succeeds on the visual level and with its production design. Nothing else comes close. The story, however, itself leaves a bit to be desired. The story, I think, is where it falls short and was the reason it lost to Parasite. Let me explain.

The characters, Blake and Schofield, feel like two drones in the British army. Since the events in the movie are constantly unfolding, we’re not given a second to really get to know them. It was akin to walking into a conversation that was halfway done, and you’ve no idea what it’s about. Granted, perhaps this was by design. Maybe the point was to show how we lose our individuality and humanity in times of war. Okay, that’s respectable.

But what about its characterization? I felt it was flat. The movie was too eager to paint German soldiers as evil monsters with no redeeming qualities. And we were supposed to believe the British guys were…angels? The characterization was too simplistic and quite lazy. In times of war, our morality lies in grey areas. They could’ve done a scene where Blake and Schofield had to interact with a decent German person and see the humanity he has to offer.

In Parasite, we see rich and poor folks with complex personalities and motivations. We could neither root for or despise anybody. The characters were multi-layered and that is what usually seals the quality of a film’s story. This is where Parasite succeeded and 1917 did not.

1917 was great for the experience. Parasite was great for the cinematic story.

Watch my 1917 review on YouTube

MY FIRST BOOK TRAILER!

Alright listen up, because I’m feeling particularly gleeful right now. You may ask, why?

Today, I created and uploaded my first book trailer. And the best part is? I didn’t need any live footage. Materials for a Hollywood-level production? FORGET ABOUT IT! All you need is some initiative! 😀

Man, I hope this feeling of glee lasts, I really do. Last time I felt like this was when I completed my first book cover. There’s a legitimate adrenaline rush in artistic endeavors. That I can tell you.

So I’ll explain how I put this video together. Trust me, if I could do it, you can do it.

First, you need video software. YouTube, unfortunately, doesn’t function as a video editing site. You need to arrange and edit the video offsite and upload it to them when you’re done. I used VideoPad, which is pretty cheap. It’s perfect if you’re starting out (like Anchor is for podcasters). The current version of VideoPad I use is $5 a month. Truth be told, I don’t know the limitations inherent in this particular version. Not yet, anyway. Obviously, I’ll upgrade my plan if I deem it necessary.

Using the software is a learning curve, but it’s not rocket science. A lot of it is very straight forward, but requires some patience. I can tackle filming yourself for a vlog some other time. Now, our focus is shooting a book trailer that only uses photos and music.

Like I said, you don’t need stock footage for this. Footage clips are typically $80, last I checked. You can simply use pictures if you have budget constraints. I used Pixabay.com for all the photos in the trailer. Pixabay does not require you to pay them to use their content. However I strongly, strongly urge you to credit them. It’s common and professional courtesy.

The awesome-sauce music, playing in tandem with my voiceover, is Ofelia’s Dream from Bensound.com. It’s a dark, haunting melody that reminds me of Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for Joker. Simply phenomenal. Like Pixabay, Bensound offers certain compositions for free and they kindly ask that you credit them. Again, common and professional courtesy.

I highly recommend these two websites. They make content creation so much easier.

The trailer is only a minute long, and has a few transitions done for dramatic effect (fade-in, zoom-in, shatter to a warplane photo, etc.) They’re really not hard to do. VideoPad makes everything very easy. If you find yourself stuck on anything, you can always go on YouTube and type in the video-editing technique that you need to learn. Hell, there’s an instructional YouTube video for everything, yes? These tutorials are entirely visual and easy to follow, so you won’t be too out of your element.

Like I said, you just need to be patient. All good things will come.

At the time of this writing, I have a lot to learn. And I mean, A LOT to learn about video editing. Don’t take this as the advice of an expert. An actual expert could do my video in a matter of minutes. This video took me the better part of the day to complete. The point of this blog is: if there’s a will, there’s a way. If you don’t know how to do something, learn it. =)

Watch my Book Trailer on YouTube – Subscribe and leave a Like!

The ToomWind Podcast

According to my viewership statistics, very few of my followers know this, but I have a podcast to my name. Granted, it’s in the early stages. It’s currently a solo podcast and is basically just me talking to myself. In my room. Into my phone. With a dog snoring louder than a goddamn leaf blower.

You get the gist. My podcast is very minimalist, and very low-budget. Make the best with what you have, right? If your content isn’t high-end, who cares? At least you’re putting something out there and you’ll always have room to improve. Remember, I used a tacky cover for my book for 2 months before going to a verified professional. You can always improve your game.

And I hope there’s room available for ToomWind. From the image above (that is pending a change), you can see the name “ToomWind” is a play on two different words and two different concepts. The “Toom” part of the logo resembles a cassette tape. Tapes can reWIND. A podcast is basically listening to a digital version of a cassette. The “Wind” part is just that, wind. You can listen to and feel the wind. But you can’t see it, right? Same thing with a podcast. You can hear it, but can’t see it.

So, ToomWind (“wind” is prounounced with a long ‘i’)

The introductory catchphrase I have going right now is “Let’s Unwind with ToomWind!” I don’t think it’s particularly terrible. It could totally work.

Now, I mentioned the equipment I’m using is very barebones and minimalist. So how am I creating these episodes? How???? My friend, in this day and age it’s easier than it’s ever been. All you need is a little initiative to accomplish these things.

Anchor is a terrific app to use if you’re starting out in the podcast racket. Just record your voice(s) on the app (through your smartphone’s microphone, external microphone, whatever works) and the app will allow you to tweak these episodes with background music, edits, and even sponsorships. At the moment, I only have one sponsorship and that’s with Anchor itself. The app will have you record a message where you explain the benefits of using Anchor and the personal relevance it has on you. Basically, it functions as a commercial.

And the more views you get, the more moolah you earn. But don’t do it for the dough, do it because you enjoy making podcasts. Me, I love sharing my opinions about things and explaining them in detail. I have so many thoughts buzzing in my head day in and day out. The podcast is a useful channel for me to get my thoughts out.

Anyway, back to Anchor. Once you complete production of an episode, Anchor will distribute it across several platforms (including, but not limited to, Spotify and Google Podcasts). Basically, the app will do most of the heavy lifting for you. It’s fucking amazing.

Below is a link to my podcast page on Anchor where you can find all my episodes. Give them a listen and tell me what you think!

Do you have a podcast? If so, what’s your main theme? Let’s talk in the comments below!

ToomWind on Anchor

Instagram for Writers

Instagram…and writing.

It’s odd. It’s like they don’t belong in the same sentence, do they? Instagram is visual, and has a friggin’ camera for a logo. Writing is…well, writing. Writing involves a pencil and other textual stuff. In 2020, you cannot go by as a writer if you rely on the textual, even if it’s your livelihood. You have to appeal to the visual somehow.

I’ve already covered the necessity of Twitter, and how its ease of networking and public-access to discussions are essential for self-published writers. Its required pithiness for tweets can help with your writing/editing skills, too. The textual is going the way of the dinosaur. The visual rules over all. Our brains process images a lot faster than words. It is what it is.

So, how can writers utilize Instagram? Well, readers need to see what your book looks like for one thing. However, it’s not enough to simply post the cover of your book. You’re creating a dead post that will foster no engagement. Marketing is not about showing, it’s about drawing your prospects in. It’s creating projection.

Why do clothing stores utilize storefront mannequins for their product lines? The mannequins create projection for those that see them. The prospects see them and imagine themselves wearing whatever the mannequin has on. It’s meant to entice them and create a purchase.

Now, for Insta you need to create what I call a “digital mannequin”. Basically, create a situation where your product is being used. Case in point, sitting at a table and drinking coffee. This is a very common template that I’ve seen across writers on Instagram, and it works. Set your book down on a table, put a coffee mug next to it (and a pair of glasses for a bonus). I don’t want to overexplain or belabor this, but the point of this marketing tactic is clear: You’re creating a scenario where the buyer is using your product. Simple as that. You’re creating a sense of relevance.

Instagram also has a feature that allows you to “boost” your posts where you can (for a very cheap price) show your post/ad to x amount of people (x is usually a function of how many ad dollars you’re spending, but I would start small. Start with a dollar a day and increase your expenditure when you’re seeing a return on your investment).

At the time of this writing, I’m still awaiting my new copy of Heather’s Mannequin with the updated cover. I have a few other ad ideas for Insta that don’t involve coffee mugs or reading glasses. How about a dog sleeping on your lap? Or sitting on your porch reading your book?

What are some ideas you have for advertising (in general) on Instagram? Videos? Live streaming? Let me know in the comments!

Musings of a Recluse in the Age of Corona

“And the meek shall inherit the Earth.”

To all the Californians and New Yorkers on lockdown (and many more to come): All I can say is, “You’re among friends…who barely have any friends.”

Just this afternoon, it was reported that a group of college students was in Florida, celebrating Spring Break. If the local government had any sense, they would’ve shut the beach party down and quarantine the damn place. It’s pretty much a sizzling petri dish of Covid germs at this point. Way to go, boys and girls. Predictably, this is causing an uproar and ageist discrimination against Millennials. Us Millennials resent that! Those kids were Zoomers! Learn the difference!

Kids, it doesn’t matter if the survival rate is 80%. It doesn’t matter if you will likely survive an exposure to Covid-19 due to your robust immune systems. That’s not the point. What matters is you’re making yourself a carrier of the virus. That means you’re going to spread it through the surfaces you touch and the people you come into physical contact with. The reason the government is clamping down on social congregations is to control the spread. Hospitals all over the world simply cannot afford or accommodate an astronomical amount of Covid patients.

The strain on our economy right now is bad enough. Why prolong it with additional exposures that you’re responsible for? Just stay the hell away from everybody. Communicate with them via social media or the phone. If you think that’s hard, I’ve been doing it my whole life. Trust me, the peace of mind that a recluse enjoys is incomparable. You’re all alone with your thoughts. You’re creating worlds in your mind. You’re putting them to paper. It’s great shit. It’s like a rush, man.

Having said that, I have a mini case of wanderlust that makes me get out of the house and walk through the plaza and mall grounds nearby. I don’t interact with anyone during these morning strolls, mind you. I also give my hygiene its due diligence. Anyway, this morning I was getting my coffee and on my way back home (through the mall grounds) a security officer stopped me, asking me what I was doing. It almost seemed like he thought the whole state (CT) was in lock down. I apologized and made my way for the periphery.

He probably overreacted. It’s not like I was carrying 10 vials of Corvid and dropping them in public places. Pretty soon, I’m going to get actual police officers stopping me on the streets because I’m violating martial law. This crisis isn’t forcing me out of my comfort zone, it’s forcing me inward where a comfort zone simply does not exist. This will affect all the recluses, too. Hell, the only way you’ll be comfortable is if you’re in a coma.

And the comatose shall inherit the Earth…