Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Theatrical Review and Critical Analysis: Queen Amarantha


Queen Amarantha
A Play by Charles Busch
Produced by the Otherworld Theatre Company
Directed by Tiffany Keane
Running until June 28, 2015
On the stage at City Lit Theatre (2nd Floor)
1020 W Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
$20.00 Tickets - Purchase Here

The Otherworld Theatre Company puts on the best gender transgressive '80s/'90s fantasy b-style dialectical reluctant hero's origin story entrenched in a mythical revenge tragedy theatre production I've ever seen. Suffice to say, I have seen none other. Queen Amarantha made for a fun night at the theatre, no matter my level of experience in the genre.

Charles Busch's screenplay follows a fairly standard plot arc. Otherworld provides the following synopsis:

Headstrong and transgressive, Amarantha is far from a meek and mild medieval monarch. Yet, when her enemies destroy her reputation, she abdicates and runs away from her duties. The throne then falls to her hopelessly weak ward, Roderigo, and soon the kingdom is imperiled, forcing Amarantha to choose between her freedom and saving the country.
The two-act play runs 2 1/2 hours, a fair length paled by mainly modern epic science fiction and fantasy motion pictures. At least Amarantha provides an intermission for a bathroom break.

The first act expends much of its time setting the stage for the frenetic pace of the second act. Act one maintains your attention but takes its time introducing a lot of details in the form of dialogue exposition.
Unfortunately, it engages the head more than it resonates with the heart. It makes sense as a stand in for the struggles of an alienated youth without their own voice dealing the pressures of the world.

Even with all that time, though, Amerantha doesn't allow itself to breath to let the feeling of the people and setting settle. Fact after fact comes, the feelings also coming as fact rather than drama.

All the exposition has its purpose. The play already stretches to 2 1/2 hours. Expanding on the main characters or adding more dramatic scenes would add a whole lot of time. It could stretch easily to 4 hours by dramatizing more of the characters or even a whole season of a television show. We already have enough trouble managing our time.

The first act, nonetheless, still feels like the narrative forcing the characters to move forward. Blame can't fall too hard on anyone. Audiences generally want familiar narratives, this one being the coronation of a peculiar leader, their fall then rise again to restore the natural order of things.

Unlike the first act, the action of part two avalanches inevitably to its conclusion where the two main women, Amarantha and Thalia, face off with swords in the climax. The second act doesn't feel forced, the audience gets pulled along for the ride. Instead of getting lost in all the exposition of facts, the audience gets lost in the moment, just trying to keep up with the action.


Act two also counteracts the first act by having time to breath. One of the most memorable moments comes during an argument between Amarantha and her partner as she heads toward her chosen destiny. He wants to pull her back to freedom away from the path of justice.

In her maturity, though, she has come to appreciate a variation on feminity, which she had detested previously. This variation has a tougher edge, but it doesn't go as far as her partner who wants her more radical expression.

This gives the audience a touching experience as Amarantha comes closer to her real self acting out radically because it's opposite of what everyone else expects. The softening of Mona Begale's portrayal of Amarantha feels palpable here, reaching out to the audience, even as everyone in the room has to grit their teeth, knowing that Amarantha has to harden herself for the battle ahead.


All the while in the court, Thalia, takes it over, both in political power and dramatic presence. She becomes more erratic, paranoid and wretched, drunk with power and fearful that everyone else wants to take it from her.


Mary-Kate Arnold channels Thalia's perverted force, commanding the stage and towering over the weak-willed Roderigo who used to act as the dilletante and the politicians who use to try bullying the unsure Amarantha. Elliot Sowards, David Servillo and Dylan Schaefer all subdue their characters into their just humiliation, as they have all brought it upon themselves.

The end dance of sword play between so many characters highlights the fight directing of Kai Young and the intimidation of Justin Veistiaete's Champion, who stood in the background for most of the play. Now, though, he faced three enemies, nearly besting them all, showing that his swordmanship equaled his intimidation.


Among all this action, the real transgressor, the jester, the radical, the noble feeling savage becomes embodied in Adrian, portrayed by Brendan Stallings. He starts as an assassin who falls in love with Amarantha then tries to tempt her with peaceful isolation from civilization. An interesting quirk: he prefers Amarantha when she cross dresses with a beard and has a masculine edge.

In all but a couple parts, Adrians transgresses traditional norms with ease that most everyone else fights against or struggles to break away from. Even in our contemporary age, when accepting such subversions, we wonder if we should embrace it with tons of attention or to brush over it, treat it like a norm but to do so in such a way that it gets disempowered.

Adrian feels refreshing because for most of the play, the other characters accept him as a person with an identity. These subverting characteristics of his just come off as an expression of him, not as features assigned to him by others.

Even Adrian can disappoint, though, and fall into the complacency of his identity. His feelings for for Amarantha cause him to exert his will over her environment, controlling what information reaches her and what doesn't. In his fight against the majority culture defining him, he comes to exert unjust power over Amarantha, who has allowed herself to become vulnerable to him.

In the same scene that Amarantha softens into finding herself, Brendan Stallings expresses Adrian's disappointment with himself by simple silence. Masterful ease when things matter little becomes sad awkwardness along with all the other characters' wondering about their own identities or covering up their own emotional voids by exerting control over those around them.

His joining the assault on the castle felt surprising. I thought he would disappear into the woods, trying to keep a hold of his freedom. He proved a standup guy, though, showing that even transgressors have to support a mature natural order to allow for true freedom.

The lack of denouement and getting no answers feels disappointing at first. When the dramatic conflict ends, the victor takes their spoils, and the play ends. The audience never becomes privy to the actual final synthesis or any final answers.

Sometimes creative works should do just that. They should open frontiers, not close them. As with Amarantha, we need to exprience things on our own, through success and failure then think on our own to find our own mature answers and identity. Maybe it means exalting in the undefined wild or return to civilization on our terms, using what works for us and discarding what doesn't.

I think my initial uneasy reaction to the seemingly formulaic Queen Amarantha came from my own desire to be led into an "innovative" formula that I had never seen before. Finding on the surface a seemingly unoriginal plot arc that sacrificed answers for still somewhat controversial issues, I had felt the narrative strangling the interesting parts to please everyone for the cost of not making anyone happy.

For a play written 18 years ago, though, it can still give an open mind something to think about. We may have same-sex marriage gaining support more everyday, but when that becomes fully accepted without question, how do we define ourselves after the fight?

Wasn't there something out there about Barack Obama getting into office meant we entered a post-racial world? But now, eight years later, some of the biggest news out there is Ferguson, Baltimore, white cops of privilege having unconscious against black people contributing with their ease to shoot and put black people into dangerous strangleholds.

We, as human beings, have a lot of maturing and growing to do, both as individuals, as societies and as a world. We need to ask a lot of questions to ourselves and the world around us to find out who we all are. Sometimes we may have to for the identities, justice and surivival of ourselves and others at the expense of those who try to overdefine everything else around them.

Like the ambiguity at the end of Queen Amarantha, we have to get used to uncertainty. All the questioning and seeking will have its slow times and other moments of progression that we have a hard time keeping pace alongside but gets our dopamine and blood pumping. We can't give up on the battle of the human spirit, though. We have to keep pushing for a more just world.

Tiffany Keane, artistic director and founder of Otherworld Theatre made a good choice with Queen Amarantha for getting this energy out there. A theatre company focused on putting science fiction and fantasy onto the stage makes for a fitting vehicle to do so (even though I can't help but express some disappointment in some in the wider SFF community for pushing more for a closed off, overly defined world).

The cast and crew seem to agree with Keane on this decision. Passion emanated from them both during and after the productions. Congratulations on a job well done!


I now very much regret missing out on their production of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. After all, that book very much inspired the creative path that I now find myself. Ah well. Such is life. We all miss out on things we would have liked to witness.

Don't worry, though. I'll be keeping my eyes open for future Otherworld Theatre products.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Increasing Workflow Productivity and The Misnomered 80/20 Rule/Pareto Principle: More Process, Less Projects


I have a philosophy about establishing processes in workflows rather than looking at every task as its own individual project. Addressing each task as an individual project might help highlight unique situations that can become problematic in the future. Maybe addressing the issue before it becomes a problem can cut down on stress later.

Nonetheless, those unique situations come up rarely compared to the norm. The misnomer of the Pareto principle ("80/20 rule") applies here. 80% of our attention goes to 20% of the load. Nuance can make the principle more complicated, but while working on that 20% difficult load, the other 80% of the load gets ignored. Either tasks pile up or people get pushed aside, making routine tasks that should take a relatively short time to address become part of the problematic load.

Making as many things into processes vs treating every single thing as a project can increase overall productivity. It may make those unique situations a little more difficult and taxing at the time. A process heavy workflow, however, reduces escalating routine tasks into problematic projects.

That being said: Always keep eyes open for when problematic situations become routine enough to warrant a routine process to address. Making identification of the problematic as part process help integrate it into the routine. If you don't, someone else will, either the competition or the client/prospect. Whoever makes the problem into a process will win. You will lose. Don't let your competition take away clients because of bad workflow habits.

Please note this approach can have problematic issues on the social, cultural and sociological level. In light of social justice, this approach causes problems. Integrating a proper routine for recognizing problematic injustice (in yourself and others), identifying it as injustice and addressing it as a project that requires proper attention can prove a valuable skill to yourself and the world. Productivity does not give an excuse to treat people like shit and as not human in your eyes. Don't be surprised if you feel like they treat you horribly. They're just giving back what they're giving.

Tips to Increase the Performance of Your Windows Computer


[I expect this entry to get long. I don't want to post a series, so I'm posting it piecemeal. If you find it at this stage, cool, thanks for coming by. Hopefully you find some useful tips. Keep coming back to find more. Given time, I'll finish listing all my tips and post a link to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Follow me on one or all those social media sites if you'd rather wait until I'm done to get all these tips at once.]

Our computers have a lifespan longer than four and half years. Yet, on average, home computers get replaced that frequently.

With proper maintenance, however, our Windows PCs can last quite awhile. This blog entry will provide tips on maintaining your computer for speed and performance. I stay away from manual adjustments to the Windows Registry and other sophisticated hackery. That type of stuff can make the computer unusable, so I don't want go near that type of advice.

These types come from a Windows 7-centric viewpoint. I will base all instructions on Windows. I think Vista and 8 will have some type equivalent structure. Some features may have been added or removed between Vista, 7 and 8, though, so I wouldn't worry too much if you can't find what I'm talking about. If you can't find it after 10 or 15 minutes, I suggest moving onto the next tip.

I'll stay away from Apple computers, too. I've seen Macs last almost a decade without any tweaking. I don't know enough about Apple products, either, to provide this type of advice.

Some of these tweaks, I discovered myself. Others, I found on the Internet. Considering a couple posts I've posted on Facebook elicited a few responses from frustrated Windows PC users, I think The Lextopia makes for a great place to provide these tips. I also don't think I've seen all the tips I'll provide all in the same place, either.

TIP #1 SEE HOW MUCH VIDEO MEMORY YOU HAVE

This tip has more the point of getting information. Some of the first few tips I provide might not worth your while if you have a lot of video memory. I don't really know how much is little and how much is a lot. I've fiddled around with computers with anywhere between 16 MB to, I think, about 128 MB.
That whole range of video memory proved too feeble for many of the graphical features that come with a Windows PC that you bring home from the store at factory settings. I don't why Microsoft or the computer manufacturers send these systems out with the implicit impression that they have the optimum configuration. They don't.

Anything with a higher video memory than 128 MB might work fine, for all I know. I just know that up to that point, eliminating a lot of graphic features encourages better performance in a Window's PC.


Find out your graphics memory by:

  1. Go to your desktop
  2. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  3. On the pull down menu, choose "Screen Resolution"
  4. Click on the "Advanced settings" link that's in the middle right side of the new window
  5. In the middle of the new window, it lists "Dedicated Video Memory" and a value. That is your video memory
I don't know at what level video memory makes for a good amount. My next few tips have the goal removing and downgrading graphical features to free up resources. You're free to use what you want and discard the rest. High video memory might make the tips pointless.

Some people prefer the nice graphics over a high performance computer. They, and you, have that right. These are all tips, after all, not commands.

TIP #2 TURN OFF AEROS

I'll admit, the Windows Aeros graphics features make for a pretty interface. It's enjoyable to watch. It also provides some useful tricks to help with human memory, like when you put the pointer over an active icon on the taskbar, it will show the active screens for different documents, web pages and what have you. It's cool and useful if you prefer visuals. It slows your computer down a lot, though.

Turn off Aeros by doing the following:

  1. Go to your desktop
  2. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  3. Click on "Personalize"
  4. Choose a non-Aeros theme. Switching between theme will take some time, but it will be worth it.

    The Aeros themes are under "Aeros Themes." For my home computer, though, my "Installed Theme" from the manufacturer is an Aeros theme, but it's not under the "Aeros Themes" category. Each selection has two or more simulated screens. if there are more than two, it's definitely Aeros. If it's two screens but the front one is transparent, it's still Aeros.

    If the front screen is opaque and has a couple lines, it's non-Aeros. You can be sure that the options under "Basic and High Contrast Themes" are not Aeros.
After changing to a non-Aeros theme, I like to find a memorable picture from a relaxing vacation to put on my desktop. Do that by:

  1. Save picture to your desktop
  2. Right click on icon of picture that's on your desktop
  3. Choose "Set as desktop background"
  4. If it works for you, great! Leave it alone. I like mine to stretch, so it fits the whole screen
  5. Go to your desktop
  6. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  7. Click on "Personalize"
  8. At the bottom of the screen, click on the link "Desktop Background"
  9. At the bottom of the new window, there is a pull down menu for "Picture position:". I look to choose "Stretch"
TIP #3 ADJUST YOUR GRAPHICS CARD TO PREFER PERFORMANCE OVER QUALITY

Per my previous spiels, this blog entry focuses on increasing performance, not graphics. That said, adjusting this setting at home and work has only improved performance and my computing experience. Adjust your graphics card for performance, not quality, by doing the following:

  1. Go to your desktop
  2. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  3. Choose "Graphic Properties"
  4. Wait. The next window can take a few seconds to pop up
  5. Click on the bubble next to "Advanced Mode"
  6. Click the "OK" button
  7. Click on the "3D" tab on the left side of the new window
  8. At the top of window is a slider with "Performance" on the left and "Quality" on the right. The selection bubble should start in the middle. Move that slider all the way to the left over "Performance."
  9. Click on "OK" to accept the setting and leave the window. You can also click on "Apply" if you don't want to leave this control panel just yet.
TIP #4 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN INTERNET BROWSERS

We're still gearing down those graphics! Hardware accelaration has the intent of offloading the heavy lifting of graphics onto the graphics card. Problem comes down to with little video memory, the graphics card really can't handle too many things at once.

At this point, your computer's CPU ends up doing a lot of work organizing and mediating what work and jobs go to the graphics card at any time, put not so urgent graphics information into regular memory and switches between the all these jobs. . .all the while handling non-graphics calculations and actions.

By turning off hardware acceleration, your computer's CPU doesn't offload the work to the graphics card. That doesn't sound like a good idea at first. Why have the CPU do all that work when you have a graphics card that should do it?

In the long run, turning off hardware acceleration takes a step out of the process. Your computer then can use the resources it had been using to shuffle data onto the graphics for actually processing the graphic data. Having your CPU process this data ends up more efficient than a graphics card doing it.

This status may not prove true with a powerful graphics card. Experiment a little if you have a powerful graphics. I plan to when I get my next laptop that will have a more powerful graphics card.

Turning off hardware acceleration in Internet Explorer 11 (obviously this advice will become obsolete in a year or so when Microsoft stops producing and supporting IE):

  1. Load Internet Explorer
  2. Choose "Internet Options" under one of two drop down menus:
    1. Under "Tools"
    2. From the gear symbol on the top right side of the screen
  3. Choose the "Advanced" tab at the top of the screen
  4. Check off the first option at the top of screen under "Accelarated graphics" that reads "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering"
  5. Click on "Ok" then restart Internet Explorer to see the improvement; click on "Apply" if you want to fiddle with more settings
  6. Exit and re-load Internet Explorer for the settings to take effect
Turning off hardware acceleration in Mozilla Firefox:

  1. Load Mozilla Firefox
  2. Similar to IE, "Options" can be chosen from one of two drop down menus:
    1. Under "Tools"
    2. From the three horizontal line symbol on the top right side of the screen
  3. Click on the "Advanced" option on the top right of the new window with a gear over the text
  4. Click on the "General" tab
  5. Uncheck the box in the "Browsing" section next to the text that reads "Use hardware acceleration when available"
  6. Exit then re-load Mozilla Firefox for the settings to take effect
Turning off hardware acceleration in Google Chrome:

  1. Load Google Chrome
  2. Cick on the three horizontal line symbol on the top ride of the screen
  3. On the pull down window, choose "Settings"
  4. Scroll all the way down on the screen
  5. Click the "Show advanced settings..." link
  6. Scroll down to the "System" section
  7. Make sure to uncheck the box next to "Use hardware acceleration when available"
  8. While you're at it, you find some benefit to keep the box unchecked next to "Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed," too
TIP #5 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN MICROSOFT OFFICE

Turning off hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office has the same goals as turning it off in Internet browsers. Specific directions can help a lot of people.

These directions will apply for Microsoft 2010. With a couple adjustments, though, you should be able to figure out how to make these adjustments for later versions. I don't know if earlier versions have the options available.

Without further ado, here are some directions:

  1. Load either Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. Change the hardware acceleration option in one will change it for the other. For the purposes of these directions, I'll provide directions for Word
  2. Click on the "File" menu on the top left of the screen
  3. Click on "Options," second from the bottom on the left side of the screen
  4. Click on "Advanced," just about in the middle of the options on the left side of the screen
  5. Scroll down the right side of the screen until you reach the "Display" section
  6. Put a check mark in the box next to "Disable hardware graphics acceleration"
  7. Click on OK
  8. I suggest exiting out of the program then loading it again, if you need to use it again or just to see if load faster
  9. In Excel, the "Disable hardware graphics accelaration" option looks to be in the middle of the Advanced: Display section
I have yet to find a hardware acceleration option in Microsoft Outlook. If you find one, don't hesitate to point it out to me.

Disabling hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office won't necessarily speed up general performance of your computer. If you use Microsoft Office a lot, though, it can help a lot.

TIP #6 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION AND LOAD AFTER COMPUTER BOOT IN SPOTIFY

As with Microsoft Outlook, turning off hardware acceleration only really makes a difference if you use Spotify on a regular basis, like I do.

Telling the program to not load after boot will help a lot, though. Note that a later tip will provide directions on not loading Spotify at startup, also. Both these steps should be done.

I'm providing specific directions in different places, however, because they're options in totally different programs. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Windows has multiple places to turn the same thing and off.

The directions for within Spotify:

  1. Load Spotify
  2. Click on "Edit" at the top to open the drop down menu
  3. Select "Preferences" at the bottom of the menu
  4. Slide to the bottom of the new screen
  5. Click on "Show Advanced Settings"
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the new options that pop up
  7. Move the little slider to the right of "Enable hardware acceleration" to the left
  8. A couple sections up, move the slider to the right of "Open Spotify automatically after you log into the computer" to the left
  9. Under display options, turning off "Show friend feed" can free up resources, too
  10. Exit Spotify then load it again for new settings to take effect
TIP #7 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN INTERNET BROWSERS

Extensions add functionality to browsers and the computer. I like having Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts available without having the respective Websites open.

The downside: Those extensions use up valuable resources, downgrading computer performance. A bunch of random extensions get installed onto the browsers, also, especially onto Internet Explorer.

Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Internet Explorer:

  1. Load Internet Explorer
  2. Under the "Tools" or gear-symbol drop down, choose "Manage add-ons"
  3. Choose one of the options under "Add-on Types"
    • I just noticed for the "Toolbars and Extensions" option, there's a drop down menu at the bottom of the section labeled "Show:" with a few sub-options. Count these options as additional "Add-on Types" in the directions below
  4. Each chosen Add-on type will display add-ons on the right side of the screen, categorized by manufacturer, I believe
    1. Click on the first add-on that you don't think you need
    2. Under "Currently loaded add-ons" under "Toolbars and Extensions," I have the following add-ons that I don't use:
      • Office Document Cache Handler
      • Windows Live ID Sign-in Helper
      • Add to Evernote 5
      • OneNote Linked Notes
      • Send to OneNote
      • Norton Identity Protection
      • Noron Toolbar
    3. Click on the "Disable" button on the bottom right of the screen above the "Close" button
    4. Repeat to disable all add-ons that you don't use
    5. If you have the option to remove an add-on, feel free to do so
    6. Don't feel obligated to disable all the add-ons or all the add-ons that I've disabled. I suggest only disabling add-ons that you know what they do & you know you don't need it. You may also want to do some Internet searches to identify add-ons you're not familiar with but sound useless
  5. After disabling and removing unused and unwanted add-ons in each "Add-on Types" section, move onto the next section
  6. Exit the add-on section
  7. Exit out of Internet Explorer then load the program again to see how much better the browser works
Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Mozilla Firefox:

  1. Load Mozilla Firefox
  2. Under the "Tools" or three horizontal line drop down, choose "Add-ons"
  3. Choose one of the options on the left side of the screen
    • Feel free to ignore the "Get Add-ons" option
  4. Each chosen option on the left will display add-ons on the right side of the screen
    1. Click on the first add-on that you don't think you need
    2. Click on the "Disable" or "Remove" to the right of the chosen Add-on
    3. Repeat to disable or remove all add-ons that you don't use
    4. If you have the option to remove an add-on, feel free to do so
    5. Don't feel obligated to disable all the add-ons. I suggest only disabling add-ons that you know what they do & you know you don't need it. You may also want to do some Internet searches to identify add-ons you're not familiar with but sound useless
  5. After disabling and removing unused and unwanted add-ons in each "Add-on Types" section, move onto the next section and repeat the disable and remove process
  6. Exit the add-on section
  7. Exit out of Mozilla Firefox then load the program again to see how much better the browser works
Disabling/Removing Extensions in Google Chrome:

  1. Load Google Chrome
  2. Under the three horizontal bar drop down menu, choose "Settings"
  3. Click on "Extensions" on the left side of the screen
    1. Chrome keeps things simple. They list the extensions all on one screen
  4. If an Extension is enabled, it will have color and a check in the box on the right next to the word "Enable"
  5. If it's disabled, the box won't be checked the and the Extension will be grayed out
  6. Check Extensions you want enable, uncheck the ones you want disabled
  7. If you want to remove an Extension, just click on the trash can and say OK to removing
I like Chrome because it makes turning Extensions on and off easy. As I said above, I like to use Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts when I'm not on the webpages. In the Extensions page, I turn them on and off.

If you find yourself unfamiliar with an Add-On and Extension, I suggest researching it online before disabling or removing it. It might be useful when you least expect it.

This point provides a good time to start doing this kind of research, too. Names of programs, apps, extensions and Add-ons can start becoming esoteric at this point. Learning some research skills now will prove invaluable for the rest of these tips and for as long as you're using a computer. Get good at it!

TIP #8 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN MICROSOFT OFFICE PRODUCTS

Turn off these extensions has the same rationale for turning them off in Internet browsers. Let's just get right to it.

Microsoft Outlook 2010:

  1. Load Microsoft Outlook
  2. Click on the gold "File" menu bar option at the top left
  3. On new drop down/screen, click on "Options" on left menu, second from the bottom
  4. New window/menu, click on "Add-Ins" on left menu, again second from the bottom
  5. Microsoft Office categorizes these Add-Ins into different categories. I only have one current category of Add-Ins, so I'll only give directions after this point once. Feel free to apply them other categories, if you have them, feel free to apply these instructions to them, as you believe appropriate (if you use it, keep it; if you don't, turn it off)
  6. At the bottom in the "Manage" drop-down menu, choose the appropriate. For this example, I will use "COM Add-ins"
  7. Click on the "Go..." radio button to the right
    • Oh, hello, Add-Ins that had turned themselves on again! This marks a good place to state that you need to reman vigilant by going through these tips regularly that updates and other installs don't change your settings when you're not looking.
  8. Go through the list, uncheck Add-Ins that you don't use
    • I'm hardcore for performance, so I've unchecked all but a few Add-Ins. The following are some observations that I have about some:
      • Microsoft Exchange Add-In If you use a Microsoft Exchange, keep this Add-In on. I don't know what happens if you turn it off. It sounds more trouble than it's worth to turn it off. If you get your e-mail through POP3 or IMAP, though, don't hesitate to uncheck it
      • Microsoft Outlook Social Connector: Cool and all to see someone's social media profile while looking at their e-mail but slows things down too much
      • Evernote & OneNote: I'm sure they provide some cool functionality, but I haven't discovered it.
      • Windows Search Email Indexer: I don't know if a Solid State Drive makes e-mail indexing useless, like it's supposed to for indexing the file system. Not really a matter since I've turned off the Email Indexer on my Outlooks that use both Solid State and Hard Drives.

        My rationale: I use the search function infrequently in comparison to my overall Outlook use. More often than not, I'm more concerned about going through my e-mail boxes linearly to clean them out than finding particular e-mails or e-mails that fit a particular search string. Indexing uses so much resources all the time that it destroys my productivity on a regular overall basis compared to the ad hoc frustration and time used for particular times. I'm willing to suffer occasional increased frustration and impatience rather than suffer it all the time for infrequent convenience.
      • Microsoft VBA for Oulook Addin: I keep this one around because I dont know what it does and doesn't do. I know Virtual Basic can be important, so I leave it alone.
    • Be careful not to click on the "Remove" radio button unless you really don't want the Add-In. I just did on one Add-In I use all the time. I had to get the latest version online then reinstall it.
  9. Once satisfied with the Add-Ins you have on and off, click on the "OK" radio button
  10. Exit and load Outlook to make sure all the changes take hold
I will add more to this tip section later. I got distracted with another blog entry inspired by this one. Oops!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be More Productive and Fulfilled by Reducing Social Media Use


Jump to LINKS OF NOTE

I got a lot done one night last week or the week before. Minimizing my time on social media, mostly Facebook and Twitter, likely had a lot to do with it. I cut down after noticing a correlating relationship forming between my exploitation of social features on my phone and frustration about not getting as much creative/productive things done as I would like.

When people talk about changing their relationship with social media, they often talk about taking a break or vacation from it or just dropping it completely. Let's be frank here: they're talking about Facebook. People have strong reactions to Facebook. I don't know why.

I don't intend to go cold turkey. I want to remain involved, just in a more limited capacity. Social media, on its own, doesn't cause me to have a direct emotional reaction. I like to think this decision comes as a rational response to feelings triggered by many responsibilities and dreams not getting attention.

A few months ago I had gotten a bunch of writing done. I wrote semi-regularly here. I had done a bunch of brainstorming for my project, then I rewrote a couple sections. I had a hard time progressing forward but had a bunch of ideas/goals for some earlier scenes. Other things got done, too, including chores around the house and financial shenanigans.

Even more frustrating: the social media stuff hadn't helped me progress in the short term, professionally or personally. Maybe I've planted some seeds and gotten some attention. Without substantial material to present someday, though, this attention doesn't mean a thing.

I found myself appreciating tropy criticisms about society just cycling weekdays, stories involving time loops of characters experiencing the same day over and over again and, heck, even the Nine Inch Nails song, "Every Day is Exactly the Same".

I felt that weekends sucked, too. Both weekdays and weekends, I never felt like I had the time to finish what I had set out to do. Cutting down social media probably doesn't free up all the time I need, but it helps.

Social media and chores may put me into addiction territory a little. Griping about people wanting to hang out doesn't sound healthy. People want to be around me, but I don't want to be around them. They get in the way of me getting things done. Alone, I can hopefully do things I REALLY want to do. But I never get the cyclical daily things done.

I like the idea of people. I don't always appreciate people.

I force myself to hang out with people. Rationally, I know it's the healthy thing to do. Makes for a great reason, right? We should all hang out for health reasons, not for fun and enjoyment.

I had reached the point of living in the moment. It didn't give me serenity and peace of mind, though. It stressed me out. It anesthesized me. It turned off my brain rather than help me reach mindfulness and awareness. It had silenced my monkey brain, not through calming it, but by exhausting and deadening it.

All the same, these attempts had a goal to free up time for actual productive activities. I don't enjoy cleaning for the sake of cleaning, packing lunch for the sake of packing lunch or packing clothes for the sake of packing clothes.

Maybe working with the numbers of finance takes me into the moment of letting go. It gets repetitive, though, and still acts more as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. This state becomes especially true when I have a system together that has more to do with numbers than the reality those numbers represent.

Instead of continuing on the daily rotation and rather than go cold turkey, I've cut back on social media. I try to keep my social media to morning and evening dental rituals and during lunch time.

Most of my activity involves catching up on groups and people that I've set up to receive push notifications on my phone: Close friends on Facebook, starred people on Twitter and some groups on Facebook.

One of the more interesting things: Intense tunnel-vision interactions don't happen as much. The many hours between online social time keeps me from falling in hard. I find myself able to filter my thoughts rather than obsessing over the next clever retort to some acquaintence or stranger.

As intensity dies down, though, I find myself having more genuine interactions with more immediate circles. I can catch myself from spouting off intense emotion.

I learned indirectly through a friend's kid that Google Chrome has a silly game embedded in it. When the dinosaur pops up because a Web page doesn't work, you can push space bar to start a game of hurdle the cactuses as a T-Rex.

When I showed it to Michi, I might have gotten her a little addicted to it. Oops!

Interesting opportunities also pop out more to me, too. Rushing through feeds, thoughts and comments, I'd feel too emotionally fatigued to take advantage of them. Someone invited bloggers to check out a play they're putting on for review. I plan to make the time to see it then write about it here. I haven't gone to a play in a long time!

If you're curious, it's Queen Amarantha being put on by Otherworld Theater.

Carving time away from social media challenges me, though. I try to use my Smartphone Wi-Fi at home for just podcasts and music. When I can, though, I try keeping the Wi-Fi off while working on the computer. I'll play music on the stereo or computer. Spotify has more power on the computer, anyway.

But the social media calls to me through the Smartphone. When I have a spare second, transitioning between tasks or even doing a boring chore that fits into the neverending cycle, I want to turn on the data to look at Facebook or Twitter. I want to get down and dirty with people, joking about stupid stuff, post articles, share articles, having witty arguments, argue politics then get into an all out writing brawl every once in awhile. I want to feel that surge of dopamine and endorphins as I tear and lash into social media.

I've done it, too. The weekend, without the structure of schedule, proves especially hard. Social media constantly calls, By habit, the phone comes out of my pocket. As I'm about to touch the Wi-Fi button, I stop myself. I have better things to do. And sometimes, I still turn it on and engage.

When I stay away, though, I get quite a bit done. I can swim in my thoughts. I can make progress. I can spend quality time with Michi. I can feel myself experience moments, not in a rush of endorphin flow. Rather, it has more of a relaxing bubbling up of thoughts and feelings.

I engage with parts of me I've forgotten. I buried them. I've had to make more apparent progress or not even progress, but productive procrastination.

I will try sticking with it. My quality of life has improved. I've had some innovations here and there. I've felt more serenity and enjoyment than I've felt in awhile. I've even touched upon those moments from the past where I've grappled with emotional road blocks and growth challenges, defeating for the spoils of blossoming into life.

I plan to keep minimizing my social media activities to a minimum during the day. I still want to engage with it. I plan to still get something out of it. I just plan not to over indulge, not to lose myself in it. I guess it can fall into that old saying, something about the person who talks a lot doesn't say much. The person who speaks little, however, can say a lot.

Don't write me off as a curmudgeonly Luddite. You'll see me around, probably even moreso here on the blog. For all I know, you might even see me more standing out rather than all buried in the masses of social media. I hope to contribute to more big things getting out, too.

Yeah, you'll see me around.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Uncanny Magazine Having a Subscription Drive


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The release of Science Fiction & Fantasy (SFF) Uncanny Magazine Issue 4(a) excites me a bit, but what gets me going even more: Uncanny Magazine has started a subscription drive that ends May 19, 2015 (you better run and take part! Don't hesitate, just go).

Someone might ask "Why should I subscribe? After all, I can get the content for free by just going to the Website."

This someone has a point. You can read the SFF stories, poems and essays for free. You don't get all of them at their initial release, though. Notice how I put the "(a)" after the "4" when I stated the issue number above? For Web readers consuming for free, they get half the issue one month then have to wait another month for the rest.

I guess that works fine for people on a budget or casual readers. What about for people who like to stay on the cutting edge? Who want to have all the material at hand to enter into those water cooler discussions (how cool would it be if more workplaces had water cooler discussions centered around literary SFF)? And how about those of you who want to avoid spoilers?

A softer argument probably has better footing, though: By subscribing, you're supporting, nurturing and growing talent with unique perspectives and styles. Undeniably, Uncanny has their tent-pole pieces. Nothing wrong with that, in all honesty. Having worked in small insurance businesses over the last thirteen years, I've learned that tent-poles have their place in keeping businesses afloat.

When handled well, tent-poles can help pull up little known and undiscovered talent. Uncanny utilizes this tactic well. They've published Neil Gaiman's poem, "Kissing song", republished Anne Leckie's "The Nalendar" and Jim Hines's essay, "The Politics of Comfort".

They also published Sam Miller's "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History", which was submitted unsolicited and went through the "slush pile" process.

My favorite story, Hao Jingfang's "Folding Beijing" (translated by Ken Liu) would probably have had a hard time finding a place in other English-language publications. It would have had no problem (it's beautiful and lovely!), if it were submitted in English, that is.

Uncanny goes out of its way to look for amazing non-native-English stories. Look at the new story, "Restore the Heart into Love" by John Chu). It provides a piercing perspective on the relationship with language a young Chinese man has who is also a second generation immigrant to an English-speaking land. Non-English-native-speaker stories definitely provide perspective and innovation that English-as-first-language stories don't.

Unfortunately the the call for submissions has closed since they can't purchase new works. They want to purchase more, but that's all they could budget from their initial Kickstarter financing.

I didn't do the reckoning until now, but after this issue (first half published on the website this month, next half next month), there's only enough material for two more issues! Things get real when you do the math.

Uncanny Magazine has a lot more to offer consumers SFF: supporting content creators. Uncanny has as one of their goals to publish experimental, challenging content. Issue 3 had a lot that challenged me. My belief system didn't feel challenged or anything, but my sense of story structure and grounding in convention felt grasping and without a foothold. I had a hard time getting into it, but I sensed quality that as an aspiring writer, I would like to emulate some day.

New talent, non-English-as-first-language-speaking talent, experimental talent, challenging talent and good talent always need help for exposure. Uncanny Magazine has shown itself as good vehicle to do it. The Publishers/Editors-in-Chief staff, Lynne M Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, and Managing Editor, Michi Trota, all show commitment to curating this type of material.

They also show their commitment to nurturing and exposing this talent to the world by paying professional-grade (if not higher) for content:

  • Original fiction: $.08 per word (including audio rights)
  • Poetry: $30 per piece
  • Nonfiction (unsolicited submissions not accepted): $50 per piece
  • Fiction Reprints: $.01 per word
  • Art: $60 for reprints

Over the last couple years as Michi and I manuevered our way into the professional and fannish SFF world (mostly through her hard work), we have learned a hard lesson. Rarely will fiction writing pay well enough to quit your day job.

I know. It has burst my bubble and dream, too. Seriously: Practically all our writer friends and acquaintences, even the well known and prolific ones, either have day jobs or live the not-as-secure-but-independent-entrepreneurial-freelancing-and, often, multitalent-utilizing lifestyle.

I don't know how they do it. I have trouble doing my daily chores for survival alongside my day job. I'll have to ask them for tips.

Every little that can send more dollars and exposure to good writers helps. In our current state of things, it seems that we want everything for free. I'm not even talking about illegal downloading of pirated material via Torrents or illegal streaming at YouTube or anything.

I'm part of the crowd that takes free legal products for granted. I've got a ton of online stories bookmarked in my Web browser (without the time to read them). I use the free music-streaming services provided by Pandora and Spotify. I download free apps/programs for my computer and smartphone. I accept the ads and loss of privacy by using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

If it's there, it's free and I want/need it, I'll use it. I'll admit: I'm in on it. I'm part of the Internet Freerider Problem.

There comes a time when, in our current economy, any producer of a product needs to get paid, whether directly or by some other means. If app producers, music streaming services, Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth decided to all charge a fee or lose access, I wouldn't hold it against them. I may not make the purchase, but I wouldn't hold it against them.

I want to encourage more good, cutting edge writing for me to enjoy. If you're a fan of good SFF writing, too, I bet you want to, also. Uncanny Magazine probably provides one of the best vehicles to invest this kind of encouragement. It curates quality, experimental, challenging and poignant work and pays well. In addition to providing great product for the consumer, it contributes to producers creating MORE quantity of great product for the consumer.

Not to say that other SFF magazines don't do so, in their own way, though, Uncanny, focuses a lot on getting quality voices in its "pages" that other magazines might not give as much of a chance because of too much experimention or challenge.

Don't worry, though, they do provide balance with some fun pieces and others that might not be as extremely challenging. A couple of my favorites in this category:


And if that isn't enough for you, like any good fundraising drive (I know this because I listen to NPR and watch PBS). . .Uncanny Magazine also has other incentives for subscribing by May 19. Quoting from the subscription drive entry, the first incentive:

When we reach a total of 50 new/renewing subscribers we’ll unlock an ebook of Issue One for *every* new/renewing subscriber. Plus, we’ll randomly draw 2 winners for Uncanny swag packs: postcards, a sticker, and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!

Find out more of the incentives by going to the Uncanny Magazine announcement then go to the Weightless Books subscription page for Uncanny Magazine. If we're lucky, they might have drawings for more stuff than already listed.

And one more reason to subscribe: Navigation. While reading, your device can bookmark or keep your last read spot active. You can walk away then come back to where you left off. You don't have to do all types of navigating and cursing to find your place again. Darned Webpages making reading the long form difficult!

You want additional good writing in the SFF Library, right? Be a part of making it happen by subscribing to Uncanny Magazine.

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

All Supporting SFF Fans Can Nominate and Vote for The Hugo Awards


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A week or so ago, I tweeted the following:



I would love to see all Science Fiction/Fantasy (SFF) fans know its relatively easy to participate. Read on for an introduction.

Disclosures: This blog entry has no direct bearing on the current Hugo Awards controversy. I'm not qualified nor have done enough research to provide an educated opinion or record on the matter.

What facts I've used in this entry come from what I've found online from official-looking Websites of Worldcon, the Hugo Awards and Worldcon: Sasquan. I did not fact check beyond this points of access intentionally since these sites are official and, for purposes of this entry, demonstrate the importance for ease of entry.

UPDATE: Uncanny Magazine has a published a summary history of the Hugos with Mike Glyer's "It's the Big One". If you want some history, go there.

I currently do not nor have I ever had any membership or affiliation with Worldcon or the Hugo Awards. Frankly, I can't dedicate the time that I would want to feel that I would meet the level of "citizenship" for full value from participating.

I'm setting the bar pretty low for dedication to this "citizenship": Regularly reading science fiction/fantasy and nominating/voting on who gets to receive a Hugo.

Over the last three or so years, I haven't read much. I recall reading the first two books of Graham Storr's Timesplash series probably back in December.

Before that I read John Scalzi's Redshirts and the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman team up novel, Good Omens, a couple years ago while on a Carribean vacation. I haven't been the best SFF consumer since getting what could be called an adult career.

The neat thing, though, as I understand it: By no special virtue other than ponying up a financial consideration (presently $40 to become a supporting member), anyone can become a supporting member of Worldcon for a period of time. The most apparent benefits of a supporting membership include, but not all inconclusively: Helping deciding who gets awarded the Hugos.

I didn't fully understand the ease with which someone could nominate and vote. Even Michi and other friends talking about this ease over the years didn't penetrate my thick idea/brain barrier. It took reading up on the latest kerfuffle to grok it.

The Hugo Awards have an ubiquitous presence in area of SFF, too. Publishers, studios, receivers won't hesitate to put this status on their products. SFF essays in periodicals will name drop the Hugo when discussing cultural relevance and nominees/winners. I'm sure literary non-fans have heard of the Hugo. The Hugo has a presence in the cultural consciousness.

Such presence doesn't translate into communicating how to participate. Instead it creates a certain mystical, esoteric air that only the Select know how to participate. Not a unique situation, since many awards and organizations fall into such a state. The non-participants just watch, taking it for faith that if they should have anything to do with something, they would know about it.

This phenomenon has become pretty common in all human societies and groups. What makes the phenomenon so tragic most of the time: it usually happens subconsciously on the part of humans without meaning to. It often comes out of the best intentions.

The phenomenon had become such a sticking point in the '70s Feminist Movement, Jo Freeman wrote "The Tyranny of Structurelessness".

Go ahead, click on the link and read the essay/speech. It's not too long and has use for understanding human nature. Even if you don't sympathize with feminism, it still provides useful insight into human and social nature.

Frankly, it saddens me to see this phenomenon with Worldcon/The Hugo Awards. I feel frustrated that I feel compelled to amplify the low base of entry into the ranks of "official" SFF fandom, which includes professional authors and other media presences of all levels, and participate in deciding who gets a Hugo. Professional status and relationship to the media shouldn't become basis of fandom.

I want it to become common knowledge. I could almost feel happy if it reached a level of peer pressure to become a supporting member. I'm all for independence of thought, liberty and freedom. Nonetheless, I would love to see the knowledge of how to join Worldcon become so common that people ask non-member SFF fans "Why aren't you member? You're a fan, right?"

For reasons already listed, I don't plan on becoming a member in any capacity. I can still help spread the word that participating can be pretty darned easy. All it takes is $40 and a bunch of time. Let those with the capacity of citizenship do it.

So, SFF fans with the time and energy to dedicate, become at least a supporting member of Worldcon, so you can can participate in nominating and awarding The Hugo Awards. As of the time this entry has been written, you can do so at https://sasquan.swoc.us/sasquan/reg.php.

After the current Worldcon, you'll likely have to search around the Internet for the next Worldcon then find their registration page.

OK, maybe it's not the easiest thing in the world. It takes some investigatory research skills to find the right knowledge and Webpage. That definitely plays a part in how the Tyranny of Structurelessness works against the ease of entry.

We live in the Age of the Internet, people. Investigatory research skills are everyday now (stop depending on just Wikipedia!).

Hopefully my amplifying this information can help fans join up. I encourage others to do the same: amplify the ease of contributing to nominating and awarding the Hugo. Start today and keep doing it.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Shortest Time Travel Story I Know Of


Copyright 2015 Jesse Lex

Before Godfrey could tell Emily to push the time travel ignition button, the doors crashed open. A haggard looking man in his underwear came running into the room.

The man yelled, "Don't push that button! Don't allow time travel to happen!"

"What?" Godfrey said, "Who are you?"

"I'm Clarence Vanderbilt," the man said, "You can't push that button!"

"What? Why not?" said Godfrey.

Clarence said, "You'll start a predestination paradox. The whole mess you're trying to fix will by created by you trying to fix it."

"How do you know this?"

"I just read it in a novel written by you, published a hundred years ago." said Clarence.

"Interesting. How did it end?"

Clarence said, "I don't know. Once I read up to this point, I ran here."

"So. . .," said Godfrey, "You haven't read any further and don't know what will happen next?"

"Um, no. . .," said Clarence. He got a confounded look on his face.

Godfrey pulled out his gun, aimed it at Clarence then said, "Good. I would have hated to ruin the surprise." He shot Clarence through the head. Clarence's body slumped to the floor.

"Emily, Sear," Godfrey said, "Could you call security and asked them to take away this body?"

Emily looked up calmly. She said, "Yes, Dear," then reached for the phone.

"Poor man," Godfrey said, "He really should have read further. We could have avoided this whole mess. What a waste. . ..

"Oh well. Now to get on with our work. We have a civilization to save. "


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Doctor Who: Dark Water & Character Arcs


* * * SPOILER WARNING * * *


This entry is something of a response to my previous entry The Twelfth Doctor: Too Freudian for My Taste

My Tweet on Doctor Who: Dark Water encapsulates my feelings pretty well.

I could care less about the big reveal and the impending doom. I want to. Really, I do, but I don't.

In response to the question I raised in the last entry: My faith that Clara will leave well has gone up. Betrayal but remaining friends. I can see it not being a graceful exit, but I can see it being natural and acceptable.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Disruptive Question Leads to Health Insurance Sales Innovation


During a sales phone call yesterday, a perspective client asked a question: "Will I be locked into the policy?"

I stuttered a bit then answered, "No. That's the wrong question. The answer is, though, if you don't enroll soon, you'll get locked out of the individual health market until Open Enrollment or you have a Qualify Event." They had a couple days left of a Special Enrollment Period because they had lost their job and employer-sponsored benefits a couple months ago.

The prospect asked a great question because it disrupted my rote thinking. I had a whole bunch of long answers to how Open Enrollment and Special Enrollment Periods. They always came out awkward, stuttering and tiring, for me at least.

With my new answer I can just say, "If you don't enroll by so-and-so you'll be locked out Open Enrollment or you have a Qualifying Event." It's quick. It's too the point. It gets the message across.

It took a disruptive question for me to figure out this great phrasing. So sales people, service people, tech support, teachers, whatever, don't fear disruptive questions that stump you.

Like I read often, see the challenge as opportunity. Use it as a learning opportunity. Use it to consolidate your thinking and phrasing.

Maybe you'll even make the next encounter with a learner less tiring and stressful. Maybe the job could become easy and fun. Maybe you'll enjoy yourself and look forward to the next encounter.

Who knows? Maybe you'll even look forward to the next disruption.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Twelfth Doctor: Too Freudian for My Taste


THIS ENTRY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. EXPECT PERIODIC IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR SAKE OF CAUTION: Freudian references to symbolic incest and castration. Also lightly crude language to emphasize execution of Freudian aspects.

SPOILER WARNING: A lot of broad sweeping emphasis and analysis on first half of season 8 and second half of season 7 of New Who. One reference to episode 9 of season 5, Cold Blood.

When I express my disappointment in the 12th Doctor, people often resort to arguing that Clara is such a huge improvement, they don't care about the portrayal of the Doctor. So I'll start with a disclaimer on Clara (and River):

I like the improvements to the writing of Clara Oswald. Many have it right that she, more than any other companion, has become a much better character after her first season.

Her alternate incarnations act as exceptions to this statement. Rather, seeing her awesome alternates before seeing the original mousy Clara set us up for disappointment, much like experiencing River Song's mostly in reverse narrative. Excepting how the aspects of the Doctor I'm criticizing affect Clara, I don't want her to change.

I love Clara. I wouldn't mind her not having to react to the Doctor's annoying aspects. She still has become much more interesting.

Twelve stated he has no interest in Clara at the end of Deep Breath. I'm not entirely sure. Maybe his interest has something more disturbing to it.

When it comes to Clara, the Twelfth Doctor has too much of an Oedipal Complex and fears symbolic castration. I see it evidenced in Robot of Sherwood then in the episodes after he meets Danny Pink. Some of it presents itself even before he meets Danny, with the foreshadowing statements about not liking soldiers.

The Doctor started showing his Oedipal complex when the Sheriff of Nottingham had Clara, Robin and the Doctor tied up in a dungeon. Robin and the Doctor focused on arguing and insulting each other rather than trying to escape. Put in crude terms, they were measuring their dicks.

The Doctor did it to prove to Clara he was the better man in an immature manner. The Doctor wanted to impress Clara. The scene fails because of the immaturity and, narratively, the audience didn't learn anything new about the Doctor or Robin.

A counter example I can think of is when the Zygons or the queen imprisoned the War Doctor, Ten and Eleven in The Day of the Doctor. They argued and quibbled. The difference in this example: we learned something about each of the Doctors that added to themes of the episode and the series.

And, well, it IS the Doctor. He will bluster and put up a front around himself. It's the doppleganger effect. Often when someone argues with themselves in literature, something will become revealed about themselves.

The Doctor tries to impress himself, but he has expectations of perfection. Can anyone ever meet their own perfectionist standards? It must get even more complicated when the Doctor is someone else, but it's still the Doctor.

In some ways, the Doctor expressed his castration vulnerability whenever he made fun of Clara as she readied herself for a date during the next couple episodes. Did the Doctor protest too much when he tried acting naive about such affectations?

The next direct threat comes from Danny Pink in The Caretaker. Notice the Doctor all but ignored Orson Pink in Listen and Psi in Time Heist. Similar to the Ninth Doctor and the majority of characters in the Universe, the Doctor dismissed them as boring and not worth his time. That reaction works much better. It shows an annoying arrogance, but it's pretty much equal opportunity hubris, well deserved, at that.

But Danny Pink in The Caretaker raises a Oedipal threat. The Doctor finally meets Clara's love interest and, if time doesn't change, her future husband. The Doctor's Oedipal reaction to Danny gets obfuscated by a couple other prejudices: the Doctor disliking soldiers, which an informed audience knew would be used in this way when first notified of it in Into the Dalek, and the incompetence of Danny when he removed the devices in The Caretaker.

If we had an innocent awkward "that's not what I expected" moment from the Doctor, it wouldn't raise too much attention. The whole thing about Twelve thinking that Clara started dating the Eleven look alike? The situation goes into a weird thinking that the Oedipal fantasy had come true, but by a random look alike human emulating Eleven. The situation stands to mention that an individual's looks do not translate into personality and the essence of a person.

DANNY PINK AS SEASON FOIL TO DOCTOR'S OEDIPUS COMPLEX

The Oedipal factors become less apparent but subtextual at the end of The Caretaker and Kill the Moon. At the time of writing this entry, I have not seen Mummy on the Orient Express. I probably won't see it for a couple days. Michi has been out of town for work. Plus I want to post this entry before getting influenced by the newest episode.

The show portrays Danny Pink as a perfect character because he's well rounded. For one thing, he's perfect but in humanizing ways. He's manly (soldier) but vulnerable (sensitive by what people think this makes him). I appreciate that the show makes a point that he did horrible things. At the same time, he also did great humane things for people who couldn't do it themselves. He's attractive but socially awkward.

His reactions at the end of The Caretaker and Kill the Moon will make practically anyone want to date him. I'm a guy, prefer genders not my own, and I would want to date Danny Pink. Danny has become the foil for the Twelfth Doctor by doing the good man things that Doctor can't seem to do.

At the end of The Caretaker, the Doctor doesn't accept Danny. He doesn't think Clara should. The Doctor only kind of accepts Danny because Clara won't take crap from the Doctor when it comes to things she values.

The Doctor, on the other hand, needs her. I forget where to cite it, but in New Who (or at least Moffat's), the Doctor notes that he makes a special connection with the first companion of a regeneration. The Doctor needs Clara like a baby monkey needs a mother monkey, except the Doctor is a grown entity and won't die without affection. That connection won't allow HIM to reject her.

Danny, on the other hand, behaves maturely. He doesn't like the Doctor. He characterizes the Doctor's attitude toward soldiers accurately and says it clearly. Obviously, the Doctor's prejudice goes deeper than that, but the Doctor cops his attitude.

Despite not liking the Doctor, Danny knows that he has no right to go further other than expressing his feelings. Danny respects Clara's independence and integrity as a sentient person.

Danny's disappointment and frustration with Clara doesn't from come his dislike of the Doctor. Tension comes from Clara not telling him about her crazy other life and, essentially, lying by omission. She hid a part of herself from him. When having serious intentions with someone you're dating, how respected do you feel when your significant other doesn't share an important part of who they are with you?

Danny uses it to draw a mature line in their relationship, not as a present cause to end it. We've all probably seen or heard instances that someone would get overwhelmed, scared or whatever by this type of thing. If Danny had ended the budding relationship with Clara then and there, even used the lying by ommission as an excuse, I think most of the audience would have accepted it.

This standing by Clara, who he has only gone on a couple dates with, put the first cherry on top of his well-rounded perfectness. Danny wants to join her in her life and wants to hear about it. Maybe the adventure would get too much for him since he just learned about, but Danny wants her to share with him. He doesn't want to shut her out. If he has an ounce of jealousy or anything negative, he doesn't act like a jack ass about it.

Kill the Moon has become interesting controversy with the abortion subtext, whether intentional or not. In this entry, my discussion revolves around comparisons of the Doctor and Danny Pink. The two of them don't have direct contact in the episode, but their characterizations feed into the Oedipal subtext. In full disclosure, though: the abortion subtext contributes this interpretation.

The Doctor and Danny act similarly to themselves at the end of The Caretaker. The Doctor has put at least one other companion into a siimilar situation as handing over responsibility of choosing whether the baby space dragon lives or dies to Clara, Courtney and Lundvik. The decision is not a fixed point in time, but it will affect the future course of humanity.

He made that argument when he sat Amy down with the Silurians to negotiate on how to share Earth. One big difference between Cold Blood and Kill the Moon: In the latter episode, the Doctor left the scene, abdicating responsibility for the decision. Honestly, I didn't think much of it until the end of the episode when Clara unleashed her anger.

I don't think The Doctor putting this decision on the three woman caused Clara's anger. His leaving caused offense. He didn't provide support for the difficult decision, whatever it might have been. The tough got going, so the Doctor got the hell out of there. By his rules, He didn't have to endure the process, so he left.

Danny, on the other hand, provides emotional support. He even provides good advice on making a rash decision while Clara's emotions ran high. The situation provided an opportunity ripe to taint her opinion of the Doctor. Danny could have easily convinced her to kick the Doctor out of their lives forever.

Instead, Danny relates to her with his own past experience, provides rational advice that she should wait until she has calmed down to make an actual decision. He let's her know that he's available for her when she needs him. Danny didn't cause the situation, but he'll help Clara deal with it on her terms.

This guy should give a course on Good Man 101 (not Nice Guy 101, that myth is for men who think being sensitive means being moody). With the amount of confidence Danny Pink has IN the relationship, I wonder why he got so awkward starting it.

Suffice to say, fans know where the season or Christmas Special will end. Clara and Danny Pink will commit to each other. Why that means Clara would leave the TARDIS rather than Danny joining the crew is beyond me. However it pans out, though, Clara will make the decision for herself, not the Doctor or Danny. Despite the second half of Season 7, Clara has become a strong, independent woman.

I also don't think Danny would let her give up the TARDIS life if that's what she really wanted. He knows that if he did, Clara would always listen for the sound of the TARDIS as the Doctor rides Sexy's brakes.

The Twelfth Doctor also seems to have an arc similar to Martha's. He's not getting crapped on by the writers in so many other ways other than his relating to Clara. He also may have more complicated feelings for Clara than Martha had for Ten. Maybe he does. Maybe stating his lack of romantic interest in Clara at the end of Deep Breath had more to do with him. Maybe he told himself he shouldn't have those types of feelings instead of speaking for Eleven.

Nonetheless, I see the Doctor having some growth to do. Very likely he won't take Martha's approach at the end of her time on the TARDIS by quitting Clara. I don't see him kicking Clara off the TARDIS. I really hope they don't have the Doctor erase her memories, either.

It wouldn't work for the progression of Clara's character, not even to mention the intertextual relationship with fandom. Considering the about face in season 8 for Clara, I have a hard time seeing the BBC going for it. Increasing the Doctor's position in that power dynamic would ruin the stupendous growth Clara has made (and probably make the Doctor even less enjoyable).

Doctor Who has disappointed me before, though.

MAKES SENSE TO THE DOCTOR'S PROGRESSION

I get how the Doctor got here. I do.

Clara has become a presence throughout his life, ever since he was a young child before becoming a Timelord. Three of them (The War Doctor, Ten and Eleven) all expressed their extreme admiration for her at the same time in The Day of the Doctor.

Throw into the mix that Clara has become his mother symbolically not once, but TWICE! The "first" time occured in the Time of the Doctor. Her pleas to the Timelords got him his second round of regenerations. The "second" time, she gave him, as the First Doctor, the speech on fear that gave him courage to become the Doctor.

Maybe Clara has also given him birth in The Snowmen, as a "third" time. It took Clara to yank the Doctor out of his grieving the Ponds. Grief is a process that can feel like unlife. The process ideally ends in a slow re-birth of sorts.

The Eleventh Doctor had an interesting familial relationship with Amy Pond. Their bond had grown so strong that he hallucinated her for comfort in his final moments. It combined into a strange mother-son/brother-sister/father-daughter thing.

Only in grief over the Ponds did Eleven become truly infantile and frustrating to watch. Eleven and Amelia meet early in their lives. The Doctor's maturation and time fast forwarding occur so fast that it provided an interesting cognitive dissonance.

Amy Pond took on much of the psychological baggage of their scewy relationship. We can see why, too. Her parents got sucked into a crack in spacetime. A raggedy man showed up on her doorstep, promised her the Universe then disappeared for almost twenty years. On top of that no one believed her that the Doctor existed.

Clara, however, has become the first companion to have a presence throughout The Doctor's whole life throughout all his regnerations. Again, three Doctors came to admire her at the same time. The Twelfth Doctor has accumulated about 2,000 years of psychological baggage and, for all intents and purposes, has been reincarnated. The Doctor has become a newborn with Clara as his symbolic mother thrice over.

I can appreciate the craft that has gone into the characterization of the Doctor. I tried writing a criticism on River's character development (with that conclusion stated in first couple paragraphs of this entry). I ended up appreciating the overall characterization of the Doctor's alienation in season six but not the execution of it.

A similar experience has occurred for me with the Twelfth Doctor so far. We have an interesting characterization, but the execution could do better. At least it failed spots highlighted above. The execution of this characterization could likely be done better with minor changes here and there.

I haven't come up with any of my own improvements (I have for many instances in season six and seven). With only a few instances that I've had the opportunity to highlight, I don't think it would require too much.

Twelve is cranky. Twelve is mysterious. Twelve is very much alien. Twelve is arrogant and self confident, except when it comes to Clara, his Oedipal Complex and his fear of castration/impotence. Most of his "unpleasant" aspects I can appreciate and accept.

The exceptions I listed, though, just rub me the wrong way. The relationship between him and Clara stunts him. I've loved Clara's growth. Her expansion feels like it chokes the Doctor, making him less of an interesting character. Unlike in season six, I feel that it doesn't add to the story.

I don't foresee much redemption for him until the Christmas Special this year. Hopefully the BBC and the production team will craft a graceful exit for Clara while allowing the Doctor to grow into a well-rounded mysterious spacetime traveler.

Friday, September 05, 2014

VStheUNIVERSE's The Geek Show: A Nerd Variety Talky Thing


Note: I wrote the bones of this entry during the first half of the show and later. Now a couple weeks later, I have it edited to post again.
Michi has just gotten on the stage of TVStheUNIVERSE'S The Geek Show: A Nerd Variety Talky Thing. I first heard about it a week ago when a friend invited us to a party. Checking our online calendar to confirm we wouldn't have a conflict, I saw this stage variety show. What a fun way to learn about what I would be doing on a Friday.

Lauren Faits is co-hosting with Aaron Amendola, so Lauren got up first. Michi got up there as the first official guest. Other guests will include Jamie Sanchez of Bit Bash, Anime Chicago and Indie Boothcraft.

Right now Aaron and Lauren have Michi grading Batmans from TV, motion picture & photoshop. VStheUNIVERSE has projected different versions of Batman on a screen at the front of the room. They've delivered some fun.

TVStheUNIVERSE projected a couple recorded skits that I'm guessing you can likely find on their Youtube channel. Writing this a couple weeks later, I can't remember too many details. My memory is shot these days (Other day, I was asking myself what that piece of furniture in the bedroom was called). They were entertaining, though.

I've written the next couple paragraphs a couple weeks after the event. I have to write about something that happened.

Aaron, Lauren, Michi and Jamie played a super silly game. They formed two teams then flew cardboard X-Wings into Death Stars. The Death Stars were actually cardboard boxes. . .and the teams flew the X-Wings by throwing them.

They competed to see who could get the most X-Wings into the Death Stars. I don't know who won. It doesn't matter. Everyone looked like they had a lot of frantic fun, jumping and scampering all about. I have the feeling most everyone in the crowd wanted to join in.

They've put together a cool stage show here. Chicago has some awesome nerd and geek talent. It also has a lot of hilarious comedians.

VStheUNIVERSE gave the impression that they'll put on more "episodes" of The Geek Show: A Nerd Variety Talky Thing. I look forward to more.

So far VStheUNIVERSE has done a good job, in one episode, getting some laughs and highlighting a lot of geek projects and nerd organizations. I expect this show to attract a bunch more attention, introduce a lot of stuff to the public and give people a good fun time on Friday. That last one will probably prove attractive to people who could care less for the bar scene alone.

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