Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be More Productive and Fulfilled by Reducing Social Media Use


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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.

LINKS OF NOTE:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Karl Urban, Pranks and Alienation


Moderator closing out Karl Urban panel at Wizard World (paraphrasing here): "What we learned today, Chicago, is that you don't want to get in a prank war with Karl Urban."

In some cases, you may not even be on the same movie or set. Sounds like a high chance of becoming collateral damage.


Pranks cited included:
  • During filiming of Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen calling Urban's agent 2 am local time, impersonating Urban. Mortensen, as Urban, stated something to the effect that he couldn't get on the plane for an appointent [or shoot]. He had lost his lucky red socks, and he NEEDED them. Mortensen then just hung up. The agent called Urban soon at 3 am local time, waking him up from sound sleep, trying to coax Urban to get on the plane, they would by new lucky red socks. At 3 am. . .and Urban never mentioned whether he really has lucky red socks or anything like that.

  • In a prank on someone else, I think his driver, urban smeared peanut butter all over their windshield wiper. Later, while driving in the rain, the driver used the wipers. It smeared the peanut butter all over the windshield so bad that the driver had to pull to the side of the road clean up the mess.

  • There was something about someone smearing honey, peanut butter and whatever else sticky they had available on a traffic cone. They put the cone in someone's parking space. Suffice to say, they came to park their car. The mark made ready to get out of the car to move the cone. Instead somone else had come along. Thinking to be helpful, they moved the cone then end up with a mess on their hands.

  • On the set of Almost Human, (I miss that show more than I expected I would), Michael Ealy became some frustrating collateral damage. During a prank targeted at someone else, on the way out to a date, dressed quite nice, Ealy got smeared with a lot of some liquid that wasn't water. Hopefully that didn't ruin the date!
I've listed only a few of the pranks. All of them were hilarious, I'll admit, even if some edged closer toward dangerous. The panel just about dissolved down to retellings of pranks and the audience cracking up.

Funny and entertaining as it all sounded and probably was (or not), hearing about all these pranks got me thinking. These actors and other famous people that go on tour probably feel a bit of alienation and estrangement. They have to spend a lot of time away from home and other pretty drastic uprootings on a regular basis.

Ive heard about pranks from enough showbiz types in interviews to know that Karl Urban doesn't have a unique relationship with pranks. Also look at all the partying that these people do. Consider the stories of alcoholism and drug abuse that sounds more prevalent in this community compared to the general population.

People in the general population often engage in these activities and fall into addiction. I don't doubt that. It really seems much more frequent among these people engaged in such unrooted lifestyles/careers.

Many in the general population feel jealous of famous people. People living such mobile lifestyles and seeing the world receive much envy. These people in the general very likely have their own issues of alienation to deal with.

Their everyday alienation has its own characteristics: instead of going all over the place by someone else's dictates all the time, the general population more often than not doesn't have ulutimate free choice where to live. In many ways, they end up selling their time to prepare for jobs and careers then working those jobs and careers for someone else.

Even if they're contractors or self employed, they still sell themselves, just with more responsibilities to file taxes. Not many people become independently wealthy. Even if they do, they reached that point and maintain it by exploiting others and putting them into a state of alienation.

Retirement has its own batch of alienation issues.

Underneath that jealousy and envy for people like Karl Urban in showbiz, the general population very likely doesn't realize the alienation felt with that lifestyle. I know I hadn't until recently. TV episodes and movies about showbiz types experiencing alienation always bored and pissed me off. How come these types of people couldn't appreciate their success and jetsetting.


It took an NPR news story awhile ago to get me to understand that these people CAN feel alienated. Forget the story and when I heard it.

Hearing about the pranks and some other stories from Karl Urban yesterday, though, got me thinking. All this pranking, partying, addiction, etc. really could present itself as a form of alienation. . .and Urban didn't sound like anyone who has lost control and immersed himself into these activities in a way that gets in the way of living.

All of it just seems like a way to stay sane. They feel the pressure to perform, perform well and, if anything, to LOOK attractive. Just look at the tabloids and the reviews of performances all over the Internet.

Further throw on top that these people don't have a steady home and, even if they do, they may not spend a lot of time there. Their work associates change all the time when they finish one project and move onto the next.

I won't say these people in showbiz necessarily live better or worse lives and jobs than the rest of us. I just want to raise consciousness, among my readers and myself, that famous people that we often envy are PEOPLE, too.

Very likely, they experience alienation, too, and don't live a paridisiacal life that sometimes imagine them living. Sometimes their paradise just ends up a symptom of not having a grasp on their lives, like we all feel to various degrees.

[Signal sucked at the conference center that hosted Wizard World. The huge crowds overwhelmed the wireless data feeds. No one knew if we actually had a WiFi connection or what the sign in key for it was. It had become pointless to even try using Internet on my mobile until most everyone had left at around 8 or so in the evening. I plan to add my usual frills later.]

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Couple of My Thoughts on How to Survive and Succeed at Dating, Sales, Pitching and Job Searching


I haven't had to "Play the Game" for 12 years now, but here's a couple of my thoughts on dating and rejection:

1. If you've learned to stay sane while job searching, pitching stories or anything sales-related, it can be something like that. I'm not one to promote objectifying yourself or other people, but this is one of those places that it can be beneficial. Stay true to yourself, don't oversell, like yourself and respect other people, beyond that, it's marketing, sales and not getting caught up in closing the deal or things not working out.

One thing I've read and learned: some sales people focus so much on closing ALL their deals or that BIG deal that they don't evaluate the chance at success. They just keep pushing, spending money, losing time, etc. etc. on something that will never close and may slip through their fingers the next time the client is looking to make a purchase or renew the deal.

Most successful sales people work through references and the easy, profitable sales. Quality and receptiveness above quantity. The 80/20 rule - Focus on the 20% of your customers that make you 80% of your revenue compared to the 80% of the customers that make you 20% of your revenue.

As for the pitching ideas or job searching, the sanest thing to do there is send off the pitch or cover letter/resume. Forget you did it and work on the next pitch/resume. If it's something you REALLY want, maybe you'll follow up or something, but only if you REALLY want it. Otherwise, forget it until you get a call back for an interview. Do the interview, send a thank you e-mail/letter then forget it. Move onto the next prospect/sale. Keep prospecting/selling/pitching until you land the closing or job. Forget your inquiries until they come back to you.

2. The other thing is to always be observant of opportunities and jump on the ones you want. Don't hesitate to ask dumb questions. One thing I read the other day: "If someone compliments you on something you've done, ask them if they've got a project or job that will pay you to do it." Someone will inevitably have something for you.

In other words, if you see someone looking at you the whole night at a party or something, take action. In that situation, it doesn't even have to be snazzy or clever or anything.

My equation for success in this situation: Try to have a small conversation until you find something in common then Compliment them (You're pretty) then mention something you have in common (when I first met my wife, I said "You like Buffy") then make your move (something as simple as "Can I kiss you?"). If they're receptive, they'll totally go for it.

3. Move quick. Try to get a date the first time you meet them or very soon after. No one likes the phrase "The Friend Zone," and people can still avoid it. Nonetheless, the more you skirt around the issue, the more the other person will get confused, tired and just give up if they aren't sure but think you might be interested. Other people plain just don't know you're interested. Expressing your interest is something to be clear about.

And I don't mean telling them you love them or any crazy extravagant or disrespectful proposal or expression of feeling. In the beginning, we're all floating on clouds and melodramatic. Expressing our true feelings at that time can scare someone. I'm just talking about asking someone out on a date, following my step 2 of making moves and such. The crazy propositions and expressions of love are when you're both head over heels over each other and struggling to just think about everyday things.

4. If an opportunity for fun and adventure with someone pops, say "YES!" and take it. If it's someone or something that you can't stand, say no. But if you're not sure, don't have opinion and just plan plain neutral, say "YES!" and see what happens. It could turn out to be real fun. Worse that can happen is a break up eventually.

5. Don't get stuck in a rut. Try something new. If you're with someone and after a degree of serious analysis, if it's not working, end it. If you've been with someone for awhile, though, take time to analyze whether it's working or not. Trying to address objectively to figure out if it's really not working or just something you're feeling in the moment. But if you haven't made any serious commitment, end things and move on.

6. Be cool. Don't get worked up over things. Have fun. No one likes someone who's thinking too much or sweating.

The rejection might not be about you unless you make it about you. If you can learn something about it, cool. My main lesson was express interest and try to get that first date quick. You can always figure out stuff later.

If there's nothing to learn, though, don't fret and just move on. Life is too short to get caught up in self doubt that doesn't lead to growth, self doubt over stuff that other people don't mind and also, it's too short to being a dick and disrespecting other people.

7. Another important lesson/thought from my experience: Whatever you do, DO NOT dump someone in public.