Monday, April 30, 2007

Shame on Fan Fiction

Over the last few days, I've taken part in an enlightening interchange about the dangers of Fan Fiction, most especially when fanfickers accuse the original writers of plagiarizing their work. Then it can possibly turn into a libel suit.

All very confusing, but a worthwhile conversation. My stance comes out well enough in the interchange, so I'll let it all speak for itself.

The interchange:

Dead Things on Sticks:
Wherein Kirk and Spock Make the Love With the Cast of Heroes and Jane Eyre Makes Fun of Rocky Balboa

(Hilarious guilty pleasure clip if you can take the profanity and sexual/violent connotations)

Dead Things on Sticks:
On Fanfic II: Weinman tries to Separate the Good From The Bad from The Ugly

Dead Things on Sticks:
Sorry, No Fanfic Sale

Just annoys me a little that I come off as a naive fool. As they say, though, there are no stupid questions. . ..

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Student Charged with Misdemeanor for Doing School Assignment

Not only is this student having his first amendment rights trampled on, he's gotten in trouble for doing a class assignment, and doing it really well:

Massacre Fallout: Charges for Essay
High school teacher 'disturbed' by violent content of assignment

Burn the witch! Burn the witch! Burn the witch!

And to think, at the same time, people can get away with domestic abuse but a high school kid gets charged with writing a story so well it accomplishes its intent, eliciting emotion. Has anyone ever heard of social services and counseling?

What is our country coming to?

Personally, I think this kid and his family should sue every party that's responsible for this charge. They should take it up to the Federal Supreme Court, if they need to do so. The kid is being punished unconstitutionally.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Utopian Communities in Sitcoms

My friend, Kirk, has ruminated on the idea that the apartment set up in Friends was an ideal living situation for him.

For most of the show's run, Monica and Rachel live in a huge, beautiful apartment on one side of the hallway; Joey and Chandler live on the other side of the hallway. Ross and Phoebe generally live outside of that apartment building. There is never any real reference where the Central Perk is located, but since it is convenient enough to go whenever anyone was in the apartment, I always believed that it was on the ground level of the building. I guess it could be just around the block or something, but it probably doesn't really matter. It's a convenient place for the characters to go and meet, just like the guys' and girls' apartments.

Kirk has apparently lived in a similar situation and sometimes looks longingly back to those days.

Last Sunday, during coffee hour after the church service, this guy mentioned a similar kind of situation that he enjoyed. Instead of Friends, however, he cited Seinfeld as the show that exemplified his image the ideal living situation.

Jerry lives alone on one side of the hallway and Kramer lives on the other side. George and Elaine move around the city, even though Elaine has once moved into apartment below or above Jerry. Having her around drove him crazy. Like in Friends, this group of friends has a hang out place nearby the apartment. It's a diner that, once again, I assume is at the bottom of the apartment building but nothing I know about really provides a reference to the location of the diner compared to the apartment building.

I once had a similar situation, too, when I first moved to Boston. An alumni of my college and a semi-regular to my church young adult group moved together on the first floor. On the center floor lived a family that we never really talked to, and near the end, I thought they were kind of eccentric but felt bad. I think they had to move out because the man of the house had a heart attack or something that either killed him or left him debilitated and needing constant care.

Some friends from church lived on the top floor. We all hung out every once in awhile and traded off at having parties. I think we even had a party that spanned both floors, too. To top it all off, we had a friend from relatively close by who would come on over pretty regularly and hang out (we sometimes got worried when she didn't come over). There was a cafe where some us hung out, but never really together that much and it was a 10 minute walk away. In the end, I have the feeling that we all went our own ways just about the time the first group of people moved out and away.

I feel like there's something to the Friends and Seinfeld model of setting up some kind of community and sense of community. It can work out organically and unintentionally, like many things in life. These portrayals of a small community and the space created in these apartments and hang out places can really provide people with a model of how to improve their feelings of community and connection in the world, whether they create it by getting a group of friends together to rent/buy apartments/condos in the same building or by getting to know the neighbors really well and hang out with them. And on top of that, at least two or three people in my life have brought up enjoyable experiences and compared them to the community situations in Friends and Seinfeld.

And on top of that, the people involved don't necessarily have to suffer through the tediousness of planning and organizing to make this community happen (well, maybe in a condo or co-op, but that's a whole other issue). They may not be acting as any type of revolutionary utopian, but this model could certainly make life more enjoyable. I guess, at the same time, it could help elucidate some useful principles about group dynamics, help come up with ideas for a more utopian model for society and culture and maybe even inspire the people involved to do a little more to create a utopian community and somehow affect change on a larger scale.

Who knows?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wrong About Writer's Intention in Heroes

Many months ago, in the entry titled "Representing Gays in Narrative", I supported a press release that Tim Kring put out. I misinterpreted the press release, thinking that he had taken a smoke & mirrors explanation to the situation (implying that a character may be gay then not resolving the character arc) then not having a resolution to the character's sexual orientation.

In essence, I thought, and still, think they created an ambiguous characterization of the character, Zach (the cheerleader's best friend), even if they intended on him being gay. I enjoy the unclear presentation. Like a wild dog, I defended this position along with Kring not revealing their intention for the character's sexual orientation, my feeling about the implications of stereotypes possibly perpetuated by the characterization of the character and the logical fallacy of his classmates taunting his homosexuality leads to the characterization that he is gay.

Nonetheless, after reading Kring's press release again, I see that he believes that the show had misled the viewers on this front, having betrayed their intentions for the character to be gay. Bryan Fuller confirms their intention (search for "gay" or "Zach" to find the relevant passage).

I prefer the ambiguous interpretation. I think the writers made a mistake of even addressing the issue other than saying "no comment" or "it's material." Frankly, I think that matter is pretty immaterial to the show. Along with a lot of people, I still enjoy the show. Sure, if they pulled off the effect intended with this character, it probably would have rocked. Nonetheless, it didn't.

Sure, the whole thing along with matters like a mostly white, "American" cast with a couple black characters, one Indian character, a couple women (and, at one time, a gay character, apparently), all types of identity politics and cultural criticism issues come up -- and couple that Heroes centers around "mutants" that could potentially become outcasts (this theme only really comes up with the cheerleader's story and minisculy in the politician's story, however. . .which requires insight supplied from outside the show rather than necessarily from archetypes and such. . .especially when there's really not much, if any experience, emphasis on the experience of minorities in a dominant culture. . .except for a couple mutants trying to hide their powers, mainly because they want to or stay popular, not for survival).

So barring that the show has minorities in the cast and centers around mutants (and there's plenty of sources outside of the show that can provide interesting insight), I don't really find the sexual orientation of one character material enough to the show to make that big of a deal out of it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Friday Grindhousing

This past Friday, I rushed downtown to see Grindhouse, the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez double feature. The two movies were Planet Terror (Rodriguez) and Death Proof, with mock trailers before both of them.

I won't go into too much detail about the trailers. Machete (which I guess will be expanded to a feature length DVD) really took the cake on this one. The trailer introduces the story of a Mexican guy who takes a job as a hit man, but it turns out to be a set up. From there, he decides to take his revenge, so he gathers together his padres, including a priest who forsakes his frock for Machete. Can't really remember much from the trailer, but I remember laughing my ass off yet thinking, "This could be one great movie!"

Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror played first. Simple premise: a group of jaded soldiers release a gaseous weapon onto a small Texas town. The gas turns most of the townspeople into packs of zombies with sores all over and a taste for flesh. . .and their bite, of course, turns other people into zombies. Not much else to the plot, other than uninfected humans running about, shooting zombies, trying to survive and kicking some ass here and there. Plenty of random explosions abound. Also bunches of silly subplots, cheesy yet clever turns of phrase and plain random chaos.

Lovely appearances by major stars like Bruce Willis and Naveen Andrews. TWo actors stand out, though: Rose McGowan, simply because of some great lines and her machine gun/grenade launching leg, and Freddy Rodriguez because he never misses when he shoots, kicks major zombie ass with switchblades and provides a major bad boy performance.

Do not try to make any sense of Planet Terror. I repeat, do not try to make sense of Planet Terror. The explosions happen because they happen. The zombies attack because they attack. The people who don't get infected don't get infected because they don't get infected. This movie provides plenty of fun for the sake of fun, and any attempt to analyze it or look for some deeper meaning will take away from the fun. Just lose yourself in the mayhem, disgusts and explosions.

Death Proof, on the other hand, bored me to no end until the second part of it. It pretty much shows two vignettes, one of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) killing a bunch of girls with his death proof car, and the other one shows when the girls bite back.

Before I tear Death Proof a new one, I just want to urge everyone to take a restroom break during the fake trailers before Death Proof. Remember, these two movies and the trailers, all combined, come out to three and a half hours or so. When I came back from the rest room, I didn't much care for what I saw on the screen. I could appreciate the principle of it, but I didn't like. Straight out: someone screwing a decapitated head. Ick.

As for Death Proof, until the action started, it felt like the usual self-indulgent Tarantino having people act all "cool," "bad ass" and playing off each other with word play. I could've taken all of that if the topics of the conversations didn't really bore me, become annoying and purely tangential. Yes, it had realism and some of it supported the plot, but ack, most of it just felt like boring filler. I could live with the cell phone making an appearance, but. . .the focus on it went nowhere. I repeat, NOWHERE!

In the long run, Kurt Russell made the first part. He pulled off the lame psychokiller perfectly while also coming off as slick and charming. Not really having paid attention to trailers or any briefings on the movie, I found myself liking the guy. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by him killing girls with his death proof stunt car, but it just struck me as tragic that this actual character was such a bastard.

Action in the first part doesn't really bare much attention. It happens at night, and only the beginning of it when Stuntman Mike really starts acting and the very end of it when we see the pretty graphic death of the four girls really provides any kind of satisfaction.

Second part starts slow again, and even the action starts off pretty annoying and repetitive. Then things turn on Stuntman Mike, and we're all in for the ride of our life. We get overtaken by the excitement of vengeance. At first, the turn on Stuntman Mike triggers some cognitive dissonance, then it sucks you in, and your cheering for him to die, die, die a very horrible death at the hands of these three angry, angry girls. It's very primal and exciting. I just wish it wasn't drowning in the Tarantino-esque faux bad assness and faux feminism.

If you try to find deeper meaning in all movies, don't see Grindhouse. If you dislike swearing and flagrant violence, don't see Grindhouse. If you get annoyed by things that don't make logical sense, don't see Grindhouse.

If, however, you like irony, excitement, gore and all types of in your face political incorrectness, see this movie. It's bald faced ironic homage in only the way that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez could do (even though I bet $1 million that Peter Jackson could pull it off, too. C'mon! You've seen Meet the Feebles, haven't you?).

It's all in good fun!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Vonnegut and Frankl

In response to my asking what attracted a good amount of attention to The Lextopia in the entry titled, "Random Notes and Yay for Writing Workshops", Chuckling wrote:

Since you asked, I did a google search on Frankl and Vonnegut and got your site high on the list.

First off, cool. I am pretty high up there on Google with a search for "Frankl" and "Vonnegut." Ninth, to be exact. Thank you for bringing that to my awareness. I regret that I couldn't provide any good insight into the topic at hand, though:

I picked up Man's Search for Meaning yesterday and read it pretty much straight through. I've read most everything by Vonnegut, but couldn't remember if he had written about Frankl. I'm thinking that he did, using him as an example of someone who had similar, albeit worse, experiences and came to opposite conclusions. Maybe not. The search shows I'm far from the only one to connect the two philosophically.

I have only read Man's Search for Meaning from Frankl's writing and the beginning of Galapagos for Vonnegut.

After scanning through the Wikipedia entries of Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five (sidenote: entertained by the fact that this book has elements of time unstuckness while I've been posting about The Time Traveler's Wife), though, I didn't pick up on anything contrary to Frankl's logotherapy. In fact, barring Wikipedia's level of possible accuracy, I would say that Vonnegut would even agree Frankl's main theories, just on a more humanistic and secular viewpoint.

Being something of an agnostic, myself, I'm very much a supporter of Frankl's logotherapy, as it provides meaning without the need to refer to a premiuse that may or may not exist.

You've struck my curiousity, though. Without spoiling any of Vonnegut's novels, is it possible for you to expand on your claim of "opposite conclusions"? Not trying to be negative, start an argument or anything of the sort. Not really knowing enough about either of these two fellows, I simply want to know more.

Thank you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Random Notes and Yay for Writing Workshops!

Before I get onto the joys of last night's writing workshop, I want to know something: What attracted all the new, obscure people to the site? The Dark Knight or The Time Traveler's Wife?

Also, notice as we take another step closer to Orwell's 1984, 59 years after the year he satirizes and 23 years after the year his publisher wanted to predict: Student Arrested After Talking About [Virginia Tech] Gunman. I'm not a sympathizer of this gunman (as my upcoming short story will attest -- come on, Lex, finish it and get it published!), but neither do I agree with the government arresting someone exercising their First Amendment rights before investigating further. . .maybe someone's trying to making up for not looking into the VT gunman with all the telltale signs he had broadcast (come on, finish your story and publish it!).

And another stray thought: The death of Kurt Vonnegut pushed me to finally start reading some of his work. Picked up Galapagos the beginning of this week. Published in 1985, makes me think the writers of LOST were heavily influenced by Kurt Vonnegut and Galapagos. Hmmmmm. . .?

Writing Workshops

Last night, went to the monthly Chicago-SF writing workshop. So happy I went. This and the other workshops I've joined really have become the monthly event that I looked forward to. . .after spending time with the fiancee and family. This recent one really live up to the anticipation.

We had a lot of fun beyond just critiquing our works, too. Fun and stimulating conversation without things becoming argumentative or trying to force someone's world view on someone else, except for maybe a minor little thing when I confused details about an institution that two of us acquaint ourselves.

Other than that, good stuff. I think an easy chemistry with other members of a workshop becomes key. We, after all, expose ourselves to these people in ways that we don't to the rest of the world. Yes, some of us may have publishing as a goal, but we show the people in our group stuff in development, not publishing-quality. It takes some degree of courage to say, "Look at this incomplete thing that may suck. Tell me what you think, no matter how negative your thoughts." In a world that makes us feel that we have to do everything right the first time, this kind of workshop can take a lot courage. . .similar to the courage to get stuff on paper in the first place (in other words, the courage to possibly suck).

We also talked about some interesting technical matters when we got to the meet of the meeting, critiquing. I, for one, am immensely grateful for the other two people pointing out that one of the characters in my novel prologue didn't stand out as much as other characters. The ironic thing, he's supposed to stand out and tends to do so after this part. Will need to work on that.

The meeting also got me to re-read that section of the novel. I had a lot of the same feelings as my "associates" about the mechanics of the piece. For a piece written something like four or five years ago, it somewhat passes the test of time. It mixes a lot of bad writing style that I had back then trying to "write properly" (still working on that one) but had a great "innocence" that imparts a certain excitement that I don't seem to have in my current writing. I'd like to channel that energy while keeping the more recent enjoyability of the grammar and other technical matters.

I won't get into any detail about the other people's works, since they own them. Nonetheless, we got into some very interesting conversations about point of view, first- and third-person narratives (make sure to visit Tightrope Girl's blog for some great writing geek ruminations on that topic), how to transfer information about a world without overwhelming or boring the reader, the potential of flashbacks and starting a story earlier, later or on certain notes of tension or excitement and the artifices allowed in literature (narrator, characters only in there for commentary, events and social codes in there or not in there, etc.) but wouldn't happen so much in real life. Unfortunately, I can't really articulate much of the conversation or my thoughts, mainly because of my executive dysfunction.

The workshop experience last night really reminds me how much I'd like to express my process and craft geekiness rather than just talk about things in general or the "courage to create." The geek stuff of writing fascinates me, a ton, especially with how useful it becomes to make a good story.

I love Tightrope Girl's and Denis McGrath's blogs when they get deep into technical and craft topics of narrative. Even Alexander Epstein and Will Dixon can have some great stuff, even if they can get more involved in the movie/TV technology side of things. On that note, Denis McGrath's seems to be losing his emphasis on the narrative craft side of things and moving onto the Canadian TV business and more of an emotional response to his experiences in the biz. In the end, though, I enjoy the narrative/storytelling craft type stuff and would like to expound more on that stuff, if I can get inspired and have the chance.

Maybe if someone had any questions about narrative craft. . .?

EDIT: Jane Espenson also writes some great stuff about craft, just in a not so geeky way. She writes in much less technical terms. Quite a lady, with her great advice.

EDIT 2: Forgot to mention two other things for the workshop. I don't think there's necessarily enough discussion nor do I feel like my gets enough criticism. The latter issue could be that I simply have submitted some good stuff (see this discussion for my changed mind). In regards to the discussion matter, I think the low attendance contributes to it, but the newness to fiction writing and workshopping could be a matter for some of the people. Not trying to criticize. . .I just enjoy discussion of things. Could just be me.

And I do still receive a lot of value from the workshop.

Some Chicago Movie News (for those outside the city)

From what I heard on the radio, The Dark Knight will do five days of filming here in Chicago next week, head on over to London then come back here. . .I think in June.

EDIT ON BATMAN: The Morning Show on Q101 FM, says the movie people are doing exterior work (and other things?) until Tuesday then heading to London.

And, according to Entertainment Weekly, [Eric] Bana, [Rachel] McAdams Tapped for 'Time Traveler's Wife.'

For those who haven't heard this story a million times, a friend of mine gave me The Time Traveler's Wife, the novel, a little more than year ago as a going away gift. An appropriate gift, the story takes place mostly in Chicago and parts in Michigan. I read it in one day at a hotel in the suburbs while waiting for the new apartment to become available.

The story of a man unstuck in time uncontrollably made me cry, laugh, smile and, in the end, feel satisfied in a bittersweet fashion. Everyone else I know who read it have enjoyed the book, even though a select few join me in criticizing a couple holes, mainly the why's for the main male character doing certain things and the character background or misadventures that motivated him to get certain skills and knowledge. Nonetheless, we all generally could look over those parts and enjoy the book.

Then there's also the person who thinks the main female lead is a super-bitch.

Personally, I think this story could get translated horribly to a movie. Whoever does it has a lot on their hands. They have to convert and translate a very well rounded novel with comedy, drama, tragedy, mystery and even a little action in it into a 90-minute or 2-hour movie. I can easily predict that the committee oriented writing of this type of thing will attempt to pigeonhole it into some kind of genre and somehow screw up any "explanation" it may have while that should be overshadowed well enough by the story's plot. I'll give the movie a shot, but if it comes off amazing or even just really good, I'll be surprised.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Have I Fallen that Behind on Internet Trends?

The Chicago Red Eye says:

Blogging Over?
Experts say craze fading, some say it's just evolving

Well, crap! I've fallen behind, yet again. Maybe I really do need to get on over to Second Life or get my butt on over to China.

Seriously, though, my ability to keep with this stuff has gotten horrible with age while my dreams and ambitions have stayed the same as my teenage self. I really do need to get a best seller sold or get moving on some kind of freelance writing career. This whole hanging out an insurance agency and doing things for money really just doesn't cut it anymore. I'm turning into a dinosaur.

On a good note, finished another draft of the angsty mental power short story, and it has gone into some interesting directions. Now to type it up, submit it to the Chicago-SF writing workshop then get some writing done on that novel. Yay!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Social Media Survey Question

How long does it take for the comments section of a blog to become redundant, incoherent and pointless to take seriously?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kinda Sad but Excited

This evening hasn't turned out bad for my first day off from studying. I wrote two more pages in my short story, which I hope to have a draft done soon. This one has started feeling like an albatross, even though I enjoy the story. It just feels like it has taken a lot of writing to reaching my current point and it will take a bit more to reach the conclusion.

At least I don't have to study anymore.

Just a couple other notes:

Lately, I've found after cleaning up my desktop of adware, loose ends in the registry and the hard drive, the World-Wide Web needs a little patience and cajoling before it comes up to speed. The most recent time has come as a surprise, since I turned off the Windows Firewall (have a router, so it takes care of the firewall duties). I think everything has returned to normal, though. Maybe it just needs a reset to do some further clean up processes.

And just as a way to garner attention from a certain group of my audience: Heroes comes back next week. Yay! Woohoo!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Moving Onward, Upward and Forward

Well, I did it yesterday. I passed the life, accident and health insurance licensing exam yesterday. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that I passed. I had too much time to do it and felt weird that I pretty much finished 1 1/2 or 2 hours early, especially when I felt as if I didn't feel comfortable with a fair amount of the questions.

The whole only giving me a pass/fail result kind of annoys me, too. I would have liked to get an actual score to see how much better than the passing score I had gotten. I wouldn't have gloated or anything, but I would have liked to know HOW knowledgeable I am and how much it could help me, in the long run, to possible do a little more brushing up on stuff. But oh well. . .I passed. Everyone keeps telling that's the important part.

I passed it, though, and now can have my work-life balance more equitable. Nonetheless, I'm dealing with a small amount of withdrawal from how much I've dedicated myself to the project over the last couple weeks, when I decided to go from dividing my attention between writing and studying. After passing the test yesterday, I came home and spent the rest of the day watching stuff on the TiVo to make space available for future recordings.

The fiancee and I even took a couple hours to watch the not so great movie, Ultraviolet. The fiancee really put it best: It's like a 14-year fanboy thought up some great scenes then slapped them together. I see that point, but I generally think that the movie had some really interesting ideas that pretty much failed in execution. It could have happened because the movie had SO many ideas or the characters didn't have enough characterization to transcend the unoriginal ideas.

The Wikipedia entry for the movie, however, mentions plenty of valid reasons how the movie could've started well then sucked after post-production. In the end, though, I enjoyed the movie on the level I enjoyed Aeon Flux, which I apparently more than most people.

After seeing Ultraviolet and reading the Wikipedia, though, I'd like to check out Equilibrium. How bad can it be with Christian Bale in it? I'm not a girl, but he acts well. In addition, Equilibrium fits into the utopianism field.

But alas, I need to get ready for some chores soon. I'd like to get that stuff done, so I can spend more quality time with the fiancee (watching The Riches lately, reading Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning as support for the bachelor's thesis and learning more about the ethics of care have all inspired me to try appreciating the importance of close human relations over many other things in the world -- and OK, maybe even some inspiration from Orson Scott Card, too, despite how much we'd probably disagree about theology, international politics and other values), work on wedding stuff and get moving on my writing and bachelors project.

I guess the work never ends. This time, though, at least it's for stuff that I enjoy and, deep down inside, really value.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Charlie Jade in England

Yeah, yeah, I'm late on this one, but. . .

FX U.K. Takes Charlie Jade

Does that mean we're one step closer to getting Charlie in the US. . .and maybe. . .just maybe. . .more seasons?

We can hope, and we can dream. . .and maybe it will happen.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dramatic Irony on LOST

I've really gotten back into LOST again. This season, especially after the hiatus, the show really has taken the turn for the better. It also returns to keeping my attention like the first season without necessarily using the same literary techniques.

The use of dramatic irony does a lot to keep my attention. The LOST people have started doing an amazing job at revealing information about characters and some of The Others that the camp protagonists or other characters don't know about. They reveal the information in such a way that (A) they keep the integrity of the LOST "surprise" ending while also (B) revealing just enough information to sate the audience's appetite while also actually creating more mystery. GENIUS!!!!

In last night's episode, one character obviously did it to get the advantage over two other characters. Nonetheless, I've gotten to love the current strategy of revealing information not just because the mystery grows deeper, but also because we've gotten to the point where we don't know if we can trust the characters. We don't even know if we can trust the flashbacks of characters! How does the order of the flashbacks affect the truth of a situation? What information in a flashback attracts sympathy and what detracts the sympathy?

We, the audience, know that the drama and flashbacks manipulate us, but I, for one, don't mind the current manipulations. In fact, I like it. The narratives have become that much unreliable, but we know the truth of the relationships that depend on trust will eventually come out. The fun becomes who's thinking what when, and can I figure it out before the reveal. And this fun doesn't just happen in an individual episode, either, it now continues long-form, through the series. LOST has got me hooked again, and I don't think I'll have a problem going back to watch the show again, except for season 2. Blech!

To think, I'm speculating about what I think is happening! The Shock!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For Casual Fans of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

I mentioned the

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 as Comic Book

to a couple friends of mine who get much more passionate about Buffy, but they didn't seem to know about it. Figured I'd let my readers know about it.

Read the first issue last night. Plan on reading the second one tonight. Apparently, Joss and his staff (comic and old hats from the TV show) will write a total of 22 issues for the "season."

First issue did a good job of introducing the new situation and even answered the whole thing about her dating the Immortal in the first couple pages. Not really much else to say except that it masterfully introduced the new milieu with a good act out at the end. Also, one of the characters has a funny situation, even though we wish that she would just go away.

EDIT: You can also go here for even more information. It's in the last message on the forum thread.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Search for Real Life Jobs on Second Life

This one really takes the cake:

Help Wanted in Second Life

Dang! I thought I would just have to market my writing on Second Life. Now I have to search for a real life job on Second Life.

I have a whole lot to catch up on, on top of working on wedding vows and writing a novel and bachelors project. It should all come in time after I've finally gotten my insurance license.

Still. . .it's a lot for someone near-30 to take in. Thing is, except for this falling behind the tech, my dreams and aspirations make me still feel like a teenager or college student. I feel disconcerted. . ..

More Tech Geek Research

This link doesn't hit upon the area that has given me some anxiety, but I probably will have to address it a little while writing the novel:

Shirkey -- Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links and Tags

And the reaction to it that I e-mailed the person who told me about this paper:

Other than taking issue with the philosophical definition for ontology put forward, I think I'm pretty much sold. . .especially after reflecting on trying both ontological and Google/Amazon research on the topic for my bachelors thesis. Through ontological searches, didn't really find anything. Through Google/Amazon, it took me years, but I found worthwhile Webpages and information.

Only argument I could still make for hierarchy is mainly for newbies and casual users of a Website. . .I think hierarchy probably works best for newbies because they don't necessarily know how to think about something and want guidance and for casual users because they don't necessarily know what they're looking for, but they'd like something that will help them pass the time. . .at least, that's how I am as a casual user of anything.

Interesting how the ontology article pretty much takes the opposite stance, but I can appreciate that stance for someone who's set on reaching a certain point. For someone who's just looking around or doesn't have much context for something, then I think hierarchy works, mainly for grounding them into a "culture."

Monday, April 09, 2007

More Science Fiction User Interface

Last night, at the end of a potluck, I had something of a disheartening discussion with a guy who works, to the best of my knowledge, as a sound/voice recognition engineer. He has a lot of involvement in the tech/user interface world. When I described the user interface in my novel, he said that it sounded unrealistic for the future but provided some constructive tips, like have the characters complain about the bad user interface (which I actually have one character kind of do).

Anyway, the following link provides me with a little bolstering for the current interface I utilize in my novel:

Usability in the Movies --
Top 10 Bloopers (Jakob Nielsen's

Courtesy of BoingBoing.

Even better, it's copyright 2006, much more recent than the survey on computer interfaces I linked to the other day.

Last night on the way home from the potluck, I mulled over the conversation I had with the voice/sound recognition guy and came up with a similar rebuke as mentioned in the link: "Designing good input devices is a tricky human factors problem, and you can't substitute devices willy-nilly and retain the same performance. A foot pedal, for example, is not as good as a mouse for text editing, because you can't move your legs as accurately as your hands and fingers."

Basically, in the long run, as much as it sounds cool to have a virtual environment in which to interact with computers and such, the Windows, MacOS, Linux, UNIX an the Web environments probably work best (until someone really does come up with an amazing innovation) when it comes to the types of stuff we do with computers (like Word Processing, e-mailing each other, buying products, etc. etc.). And probably, similarly on another level, a handheld book probably does a better job than reading text on a monitor, a laptop or even some kind of tablet PC. Flipping a page really proves more convenient then scrolling on a screen or pushing a button to reach the next page.

I like it, I like it. . .until someone does really come out with some kind of paradigm breaking innovation for human-computer interface in regards to files and such that works easier than the ones that we have now. Then I will have to gnash my teeth and curse quite a bit.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Culmination of 2 Years

This upcoming Friday, the 13th, should become the culmination of about 2 years of my life. I take the Life, Accident & Health licensing exam. If I pass it, I'll consider my job search complete, as I will fulfill the qualifications for the job I've worked for the last three months or so.

I feel pretty confident about passing. Each day until then, I will study but mainly to keep myself sharp on the subject rather than to learn anything new. I don't have full knowledge of the topics, nor do I expect to get that kind of score on the exams. The knowledge I have, though, I believe will be enough for me to get a 70% and pass.

Then I get back to really writing and working on my bachelor's thesis. I feel so confident about the exam, actually, that I think I'll probably get back to working on my current short story. Yay.

Things get serious after Friday, though. I will get moving on with my life, finally!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Maybe I Have Nothing to Fear. . .YET!

Link courtesy of,

Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies

Oh crap. Just noticed that it's dated 2003. Maybe I do have something to fear.

Nonetheless, the report doesn't have much for any critical innovations or anything. It's more of a survey of user interfaces in science fiction movies, and it's not very comprehensive.

If nothing major has changed in the last 4 or so years, though, I may not have anything to fear. And the more I think about it, the more I think the user interface for my novel still has a little more fuel to it, as long as I can release the novel in the next 3 or 4 years.

Get a move on with your life, Lex!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Scary Revealed Truth About Speculative Fiction and Publishing

The title of this entry almost says it all about:
Jason Stoddard: Science Fiction Writer

Majority of the time, the author addresses fears that I've mostly been able to bury under empty rationalizations. Digital distribution can skew the supply and demand economics of traditional storytelling writing that pitching novels and short stories to publishers may not necessarily cut it anymore. That market may go obsolete eventually, simply because the Internet and its distribution channels has created an expectation of free entertainment. New models must get created, and this guy, even though he doesn't know what will work, doesn't fear bringing up the problem and ruminating about possible solutions that may or may not work.

On a nice note, he publishes his less successful stories on his blog that he couldn't bring himself to polishing enough to sell or just couldn't find a home elsewhere. They have some compelling elements, and I can respect the man for having the imagination and balls to have horrible things happen to people and to have real callous people that you can believe could exist and, scarily, prove relatively compelling.

Overall, though, as an amateur writer, I can see why they haven't found homes. They need tons of fleshing out for both details and showing expostion rather than telling it. Plenty of interesting situations show and intimated, if only he took the time to develop the stories into something amazingly enjoyable. To each their own, and a writer can only handle so much of working on one story or idea. And, personally, I'd have a hard time working a ton on these stories with horrifingly and callous aspects.

Don't fear too much, though. Jason also provides plenty of advice on how to market during this transition stage from the traditional publishing world to the world of, as he calls it, the Mediapool. He has plenty of good ideas, but honestly -- and this may have to turn into another entry of mine -- all the social media overwhelms me.

I don't know how much of this intimidation comes from having a busy life of working as an insurance agent while trying to write fiction, from ADHD or from any other aspect that may influence my semi-instinctual aversion to all the stimulation and work it takes to get involved in social media. Hell, real time face-to-face socializing can overwhelm me at times. At least social media doesn't happen in real time, mostly. . ..

Also, he seems to take a strong stance on trying to make something happen, similarly to Demis McGrath. Jason often complains that traditional science fiction writers have moved away from writing in hard science and having lost their appeal to much of the world. At the same time, the people with tons of potential for becoming fans spend a lot of time on social media like Second Life or Boing Boing. This guy just about describes me when he describes the science fiction writer, and it strikes fear in my heart. Admirably, though, Jason wants to bring the social media users (hopefully not filled with Trolls) and science fiction writers for the good of both.

So yeah, this Website scares me because it reveals the Truth about the future of publishing and other forms of entertainment that can get recorded combined with the shrinking potential of becoming a content creator without also becoming a minor marketer. For those who don't know, both things take a lot of damn work. Hopefully I can muster up the time, the energy and know how to make it work for me. Until then, though, I'll just have to hope that the traditional publishing world can prop me up. Here's to people enjoying a book with pages in it over reading electronic devices with text and the part of human nature that is conservative when it comes to innovative (even as I curse that nature when it comes to socially just innovations).

Yeah, I'm something of a hypocrite. Sue me.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gamy Social Media

This link goes out to the gamers:

Nearby Gamers

The site has really just started out but already has a fair amount of people signed up to it, from all around the world but I think mostly in the Midwest. It has this general idea: gamers sometimes have a pretty hard time finding each other. I'm a pretty good example, having just moved to the Midwest. With Nearby Gamers, they can have an easier time searching each other out and actually playing, rather than complain about the scarcity of gamers in the area.

And like MySpace, Friendster, blogs, forums and all the other types of social media, this site gets better with the more people that sign up and get involved.

I've signed up, myself, but unfortunately haven't had the time or explore it to any worthwhile extent. Writing, work, thinking, chores and other work-vocation-life balance issues keep getting in my way, sadly. I initially have some criticims about the user interface, but I often find myself in the minority when it comes to this type of matter and also haven't take the time to articulate the thoughts and reactions.

In conclusion, if you game (from sports to board to card to RPG), go to Nearby Gamers.