Friday, November 18, 2016

Taking a break. See you in 2017.

I'm going to sign off from my blog until we're done with the New Year. I'm preparing for a move next week, and the place I'm moving into might not have internet service for a while because of some misunderstanding with Comcast. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitching about Comcast because they've been a reliable and good service provider for years. But they are having trouble determining whether or not they even offer service to my new address. Sigh. They are sending a tech out to investigate and maybe a line will need to be put in or something like that. I've actually no idea since I've never worked for Comcast/Xfinity. Apologies (ahead of time) to all for missing the December 2016 Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Rest assured...mine would have been amazing to read ;).

So until then folks, I wish you luck with all of your writing projects. Have a great Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stranger in a Strange Land is coming to television on the SyFy channel but it really belongs on HBO.

Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favorite books. In thinking about the upcoming adaptation scheduled to debut on the SyFy channel, I do worry that the network will be unable to do it justice. Much of what makes Stranger in a Strange Land so compelling are the observations made by Valentine Michael Smith, an earthling borne on Mars and raised by Martians (thereby making him the sole owner of the Red Planet as far as corporate rights go). I think it's one of Heinlein's greatest works, because it skillfully navigates the craziness of human existence from the concept of god and how we choose to worship god from faith to faith to faith and even how sexuality all ties into these concepts in ways that most of us fail to notice.

It's also a timely novel and doesn't seem to lose any of its relevance by today's standards. As soon as Michael Valentine Smith is discovered on Mars, corporations and institutions of various kind all try to bend him to their will. Within short order, he's essentially put into prison "for observation" and it becomes clear that institutions (which have an obligation toward self-preservation) will override basic morality if it means they can accomplish their goals. How is this any different than what we saw this year in plurality? But the greatest irony is that Mike learns that in order to connect with the public at large, he must build his own institution because that is the way that people seem to work. And thusly, he founds his own religion (not unlike another "Smith" from history) and eventually meets a fate that is also eerily similar, i.e., he's killed by a mob.

The novel also gives us the word "grok" which originally means to drink water, but morphs into many other things. It comes to be an understanding between two people, or a substitute for some deep understanding of the universe. By the end of the book, "grokking" comes to embrace Mike's idea of god on a cosmic level, and he becomes enlightened to the idea that sexuality (and sex itself) are the greatest gifts that belong to humanity. On Mars, "grokking" is to share water. On Earth, to "grok" extends to kissing and then sharing of other bodily fluids in the ultimate version of what it means to grow closer to another human being.

Now that I've written all of this, I feel that this series should have landed with HBO. But I'm definitely going to give SyFy a chance. I suppose in the end that Syfy just needed to mine another source like Grossman's The Magicians for a profitable series with a built-in audience. Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler (and other others) are too political subversive for television right now. The hard science fiction crew of Asimov and Niven are probably too difficult for most people to understand, and Orson Scott Card is too damaged to take a chance on any more of his works (seeing as he's basically become a foaming at the mouth alt-right conservative). So Heinlein it is.

Eh, either way I'll be excited about this venture.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Take a moment to educate yourself by watching a video about the depth of the ocean.

This video is amazing if you've ever wondered how deep the ocean was. Things I learned:

1) Penguins dive to a depth where pressure is the equivalent weight of a polar bear standing/balancing on a quarter.

2) If you are flying and look out a window and see the clouds and think, "Wow...I'm really high in the sky," then that's about the depth that the ocean goes to. Impressive, right? It's also a good way to visualize just how much salt water there is out there.

3) We don't really know how deep the ocean is. We're discovering spots that are deeper than we thought from time to time, and most of these places seem to be off the coast of Guam.

4) There are a lot of scary things that call the ocean home, and we've only really explored 5% of it.

Yeah...I don't think I'll be going swimming in it any time soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This year we got three technologies that have great potential to be the game-changers of the future.

Pokemon Go
I was looking at Pokemon Go last night. Not so much because I love the game, but because of what it represented in breaking as big as it did this year. If you at all followed the phenomenon, it was impressive. And as far as technologies go, Pokemon Go was one of three things that I saw explode on the scene in 2016 that gave us a vision of the future. The other two are the launch of HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift (these both happened in the spring). All of these offer some really unique opportunities to gain enhanced insights by applying their analytics technologies to things people use every day. Allow me to elaborate.

HTC Vive
VR and AR hardware and software could be used by to complement ground force GPS tracking data with a near real-time display of the troops on the ground. This would give commanders an immediate familiarity not only with troop movements but with the type of terrain they are moving through, the route ahead, and other such information that could only previously be gleaned by an observer present on the scene. Homeland security organizations and emergency response personnel could make use of the same kind of information in the wake of disasters. Pretty cool, right?

It's even possible that applying VR or AR technology to the analytics information could allow the Census Bureau to save money by zeroing in on households they need to contact.

The Oculus Rift
But it doesn't stop there. Analytics-infused VR could allow the medical industry to make informed decisions that could save millions of dollars a year. Imagine having a doctor in your home, conducting a telehealth consultation where their hologram interacts with you in a virtual reality environment. Present on the VR device you might be wearing are all the health analytics from previous checkups, current vital signs, and other information that's pertinent to your body.

Honestly, when I think about it, the applications for analytics-infused virtual or augmented reality are as unlimited as the creativity of those using them. 2016 has been so different from other years because of so many reasons.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let's talk about that Wonder Woman trailer that dropped last week.

I absolutely loved the new trailer for Wonder Woman that dropped last week. It is filled with incredibly beautiful shots, however, none grab me so much as this one, where Diana dives into the sea just off the shore of the Amazonian island of Themyscyra to save Steve Trevor. It rightly illustrates just how outside the realm of human athleticism and ability Diana actually is.
Because of press releases, we already know that the movie is set during the first World War. Even Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) correctly calls it "The War To End All Wars," which I believe is how it was referred to back then. It makes me curious if the German troops will be the villains in the film. The Germany of World War I is a lot different from the Germany in World War II. There's a lot more "moral gray area" than the second. The clash of empires slaughtering the flower of youth of an entire continent isn't as good a story as the defeat of an Evil Nazi Empire. However, the distance back in time is difficult for contemporary writers to empathize with, i.e., it's difficult for us to depict class, gender, or race at all accurately for that time and to still feel like we have heroes to for whom to root.

That being said, this adventure that Diana undertakes is supposed to disillusion Wonder Woman for decades to come and make her unwilling to interfere in the world of men. Another thing that occurred to me from watching the trailer is that Diana must have some kind of precognition. She doesn't appear to be moving fast enough to block the bullets by sight (like the Flash). So something about her abilities allows her to see projectiles in time before they actually occur so she knows where to be in order to block them.

Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it yet.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Walking Dead has been telling us for nearly seven years that the key to leadership is playing a role different from your actual self.

The Walking Dead has been full of interesting villains. However, aside from just being evil, each has adopted a certain "character" to play in leading their disparate groups. I also think this is pretty accurate to how society actually functions. For example, F.D.R. didn't want people to know he couldn't walk, so he played a carefully curated role that people could believe that suggested that he was far healthier than the truth. And over the decades, this kind of thinking hasn't changed much. Just recently Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton "weak" and impled that, "she doesn't have the stamina." It's essentially the same thing.
In the second episode of the new season, we met King Ezekiel who is this larger-than-life character living in a place appropriately called "The Kingdom," and who has a sidekick that's a Bengal tiger. All of his men-at-arms are knights and wear armor, and it's kinda/sorta like a modern renaissance fair. And King Ezekiel owns up to what he's doing in a conversation with Carol that takes place near the end of the episode. He says that he knows it's all a ruse, but it's something that the people just needed with all the horror in the world. That's when it occurred to me that all the other "leaders" are also playing a role. The only reason Ezekiel's really sticks out is because it's so wild.
For example, Rick Grimes is still playing at Sheriff. He's changed a lot because of the world, and doesn't hesitate to just kill people these days, but deep down inside he's still very much into justice. And justice from a certain point-of-view can look a lot like revenge. Still, he seems to be able to mete it out without his mind suffering permanent damage because he's sheltered his psyche within this role he's created for himself...he has a job and a responsibility to his people and how he actually feels about doing certain things need to be separated from his duty. As long as he can focus on that, he seems to be able to survive just about anything.
The same could be said for the Governor. Before he ran arrears of Rick Grimes and company, the Governor was a politician, playing this larger-than-life charismatic role as the leader of Woodbury. Anyone that remotely crossed him ended up dead. However, he was fair to most people as long as you had nothing that he wanted or questioned him in any way. And a glimpse inside his psyche via one of the books revealed an even deeper layer: the fact that he was actually playing the role of his twin brother (who died) and the undead daughter he was keeping wasn't actually his biological daughter, but belonged to his brother. He basically assumed the entire role because his brother was a charismatic good man and that's what he wanted to be. People had "admired" his brother. But you only got that story from the book Rise of the Governor.
The latest batch of people, called "The Saviors," and led by Negan are no different. Negan's playing the role of a Mafioso. He's in charge of this huge family that extorts The Walking Dead's version of "protection money" from communities in exchange for keeping the "undead menace" under control. That's basically what his roving army does. It maintains the herds so that they don't overwhelm and threaten the settlements of Alexandria, Hill Top, and the Kingdom. In truth, of course, they're just parasites feeding off the communities and not really doing all that much constructive. But it's the character that Negan has decided to play. It's why he insists on following through and keeping his word in front of everyone. People need to see that he means business so that his orders are never questioned. Who knows what he's actually like in person, or what kind of person he was before the event that made the dead rise from their graves.

It's an interesting thing to think that successful leadership may depend on how well you can play a certain role. I suppose it makes sense that some of our most powerful leaders (and those aspiring to the highest offices in the land) are essentially actors. It's a truth that the Walking Dead has been telling all along, but it took me seven seasons to actually see it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Insecure Writer's Support Group asks what is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

It's the first Wednesday of November, and everyone knows that the first Wednesday of a new month is when we celebrate the blog celebration known as the Insecure Writer's Support Group. The November 2nd question is:

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

This is a really fun question, and one that's easy to answer. My favorite part is getting sucked into a story that I find really interesting and then getting feedback/validation from a fan that someone else got sucked into it too. That feeling is just super awesome, and yes I save all of my fan mail.

Thanks for visiting and be sure to check out other insecure writers in the list.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Check out the awesome Alex Ross preview prints for Universal movie studio's shared universe of monsters.

This weekend, website io9 showcased a bunch of Universal movie studio's monster prints commissioned by the amazing Alex Ross. I've been a fan of Alex Ross for decades now. Just about everything he's drawn has been "drool worthy" in my opinion. Anyway, these are just a preview of a bunch that are going to be released at next year's San Diego Comic Con to celebrate Universal's shared monster universe (you know, like Marvel's shared universe and the shared universe of CW's DC lineup). Check these out because they're awesome.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Okay it's time to weigh in on the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead


Along with seventeen million other people, I watched the premiere on Sunday night. I was shocked that we lost two main characters in the same night, and Glenn's death struck me much harder than Abraham's. The camera stayed on him so long...with that eye just bulging out...and saying, "Maggie, I will find you." As if somehow those two could be happy in an afterlife, because the world of The Walking Dead is so cruel.

Negan as a villain is a game-changer for the series. Nothing will ever be the same. Rick's a broken man, Maggie will be ruminating over the death of Glenn for the rest of her life, and the others will have PTSD at seeing their friends bludgeoned to death in front of them by a maniac with a barbed wire baseball bat.

However, I didn't like the way the showrunners handled the introduction of Negan. I think putting all of this into the last season would have been a much better storytelling play. The premiere just seemed to drag on and on and on. It's like The Walking Dead decided to heavily troll its very loyal (and powerful) audience, which smacks of a television show taking its viewers "for granted."

That being said, there are hundreds of articles already written about the season seven premiere. I want to point out that there's always a disconnect between when critics think a show is no longer conveying a meaningful message and when viewers grow tired of it. I consider myself a viewer and not a critic and yes, the show had me on the edge of my seat, frustrated that it was taking soooo long to figure out who Negan killed, and it will have absolutely no impact on whether or not I continue to watch as that is a given. I have to see the new characters, the leader of the Kingdom, and his tiger companion. That will be just too cool.

I have to believe after watching all of this brutality and seeing characters I get emotionally invested in get destroyed, that there is an endgame plan. I want it to be some kind of conclusion that offers a glimmer of hope, where humanity overcomes an insurmountable apocalyptic situation. I also know though that Kirkman (the creator of the comic book) has said this is a really long story. So whatever ends up happening, we won't know for many years to come. And if the premiere is any kind of foreshadowing, there is much more darkness to come before things start to improve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In Full Frontal Samantha Bee asks female heads of state around the world about misogyny.

If you have time, watch this six minute clip from Samantha Bee's Full Frontal. I found it interesting, because she goes around and asks female heads of state around the world about misogyny. If anything, it's a real eye-opener.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Works of fiction should not be edited to conform with political correctness because they aren't real and are only there to entertain.

I got into an interesting conversation this weekend with my friend Meg about The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Basically, she said she wasn't interested in it because the movie (playing at a local theater with live shadow acting) promotes "rape culture." It was an interesting comment because I came back with the opinion that it's a work of fiction. Dr. Frankenfurter is not a real character. I followed up with the question, "Does our fiction need to be edited so that it doesn't promote 'rape culture' or so that it becomes politically correct?" When I asked her this question, she indicated in not so many words that she didn't mean it that way. However my question did give her pause to think about the implications of being able to distinguish between reality and fiction.

We live in a very peculiar world right now. Facts and everyday realities, if they don't agree with what a person believes to be true, are now being dismissed as partisan opinion. There are many people who (because of this environment) are unable to tell truth from lie, fact from fiction, or fantasy from reality. I've never seen anything quite like it. You can actually present a video to some people, and if that actual video doesn't agree with what they believe, they'll dispute it saying it's faked. I'm troubled by the new realities that seem to be sweeping the nation, where facts no longer seem to matter, and conspiracy theories and untruths are things that people believe with all their heart.

That being said, I'm more thankful than I ever have been that the First Amendment exists. I never really expected the threat to actual fiction to come from the political left, but I see that there's a bunch of people out there who believe that works of fiction need to be "edited" so as not to portray anything that may be "triggers" for people. For example, there are people who believe that Game of Thrones and Westworld should be modified so that they don't portray so much sexual assault. I of course disagree with this. The programs should feature as much sexual assault as the writer wants. No one is forcing anyone to consume either the programs (or the books). If someone is against these things, then start a discourse as to why.

The argument (of course) is that some people are being encouraged by what they see in film and in fiction books and even (by extension) video games. And that's where I think society needs to really think about what's going on here: people are losing their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Why is this happening? Do we blame education and belief systems? Or do we look at ourselves and realize that there are conversations taking place every day meant to break down trust and faith that once existed between people only to shift that trust and faith to someone else who has a singular objective: to make money. I suppose this is one of the real downsides of capitalism. Anyone care to weigh in?

Friday, October 21, 2016

This over the top Halloween display makes me thankful that I don't live in a community that would tolerate this.

I think I'm thankful that I don't live in a community that would tolerate this mess of a light show. Sure, it's a fun video, but can you imagine this going for hours every single night until Halloween? Ugh. Why do people get so wrapped up in Halloween anyway? I blame Peter-Pan syndrome

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

While you were distracted by the looming November election scientists in Tennessee discovered how to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol with great efficiency.

While everyone was busy being disgusted at their fellow citizen's behavior as a result of the looming November election, something wonderful in the science world happened. And by wonderful, I mean it was one of the rare "happy accidents" that resulted in something that I think could be "game-changing" and give a lot of hope to a human race struggling with the inevitability of climate change.

According to the journal ChemistrySelect, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee discovered a chemical reaction that turns carbon dioxide into ethanol. The process can happen at room temperature (so doesn't require hardly any energy), and it can be started and stopped easily and with little cost. When combined with the electricity grid, it could take advantage of times when there is abundant electricity by using it to create ethanol for long-term energy storage (during times when there isn't enough electricity).

Then there's the whole fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so this process could potentially take some of the CO2 out of the air and turn it into energy to power all kinds of things. No matter where you stand on climate change (or if you believe it's a conspiracy invented by democrats), I think everyone can agree that turning carbon dioxide into ethanol is a win win for the entire human race.

Don't you think that's exciting? I'm excited. Science! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

I don't like westerns and I think it's because there's something I don't get about them.

I think I've given up on Westworld, but not because it wasn't high quality. It is exactly that. It's a high quality series that's well-written and showcases some of the best talent in Hollywood today. And it has an important message, not only about how we view the Turing test but about the dark depths of humanity's inner cravings. But every time it's on, I almost fall asleep on the couch. I just don't like Westerns. Living out here in Utah, I'm a standout. Out here, lots of people love Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Unforgiven." They love TV series like "Lonesome Dove" and they decorate their homes with antlers and guns. I think I'd just rather watch something that didn't have guns and horses in it. I like cowboy boots, but it's not enough to want to watch a Western just like it's not enough to listen to country music.

Westerns...I don't like the look of them. They're not colorful movies, are usually poorly lit, and are filmed on grimy sets. There always seems to be a holiness and heroism aspect to westerns with one guy standing out that has far superior skills to everyone else. And "the guy" is the epitome of western white ideals of masculinity that seek to walk a fine line between being unemotional and restrained with the ever present threat of gun violence. Of course, every western has to have some kind of storm. It wouldn't be complete without one (with the horses running scared, everyone getting wet, and ominous flashes of lightning). And there's the inevitable bromance that develops, and when it's interrupted when "the guy's" bro gets killed, it becomes a story of vengeance and justice (maybe with a woman crying her eyes out thrown somewhere in the mix). In a sentence, maybe it's because it glorifies redneck culture.

When I start watching Western movies, inevitably I look at the clock. It blows my mind that westerns used to be so popular. It says volumes about Michael Crichton that he wrote Westworld when I couldn't even contemplate positioning any kind of story in the Old West. Maybe they were so popular because in the early days of Hollywood, endless dull retellings of the great American frontier were easy to shoot.

Anyway, there's clearly something that I don't get about westerns.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The final trailer for Rogue One has sent chills down my spine and December 16th can't get here soon enough.

The final trailer for Rogue One recently hit the interwebs, and it gives me chills I tell ya. I think my favorite scene is this one, where Vader is totally marching (with menace) towards the dude in the white cloak. It gives me shivers, and it reminds me a lot of why Vader is so legitimately terrifying.
Still, the dialogue for this scene could very well go like this (putting on screen writer cap):

Vader: "I understand that you just had lunch...a BLT with that correct?

Poor Bastard: "Y-Yes L-Lord V-V-ader."

Vader: "I see. Now when you picked up this BLT with mayo...did you perchance bother to check for a name, written in large black letters on the bag?"

Poor Bastard: "L-Let me explain! It was a miss.... Gah!" (Vader raises his hand and points. Poor Bastard starts choking to death).

Vader: "This is a yes or no question...."

Hmm. So many feels about this trailer. How to sum them all up.

First: it looks and feels like Star Wars and yet also looks and feels like no Star Wars that's ever been. Anyone else getting that vibe?

Second: Is it just me, or is the most beautiful looking Star Wars movie yet? Maybe I just like all the summertime jungle shots or the Star Destroyers hovering against the sky or the Death Star coming up on the horizon of a planet looking like an awfully strange moon. It just tweaks all of my science fiction coolness buttons.

Third: The rock statue that looks like a fallen jedi reminds me of the ancient rock statues we saw all over the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember Peter Jackson saying, "We wanted the viewer to get a sense that there was this ancient civilization by showcasing its remains." It kinda has that "feel" to it, and I likes it...a lot.

Fourth: Does the trailer seem kind of dark to you? I could feel the oppression in the movie, and it may be a divisive film to Star Wars fans. I love darkness in films, so I think I'll be in the camp of those who feel it's just right. 

Five: It's possible that this film is more about the creator/engineer of the Death Star's super laser than of the vessel itself. That being said, I hope we get to see a rear view of the Death Star. I've long suspected that there are huge engines back there allowing it to go into hyperspace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Six things I absolutely loved from the premier of Supergirl on the CW.

Supergirl premiered on the CW for its second season Monday night, and of course I loved it. They didn't hold back on anything either. Right off the bat, Clark Kent (as Superman) showed up, and it was refreshing to see a more light-hearted version of the Supes (instead of the brooding dark one that we've seen in the movies destroying cities in practically every scene). Maybe we should all just admit that this series (and Benoist) are a national treasure. After all, her bursts of silliness are what all of us need this month leading up to the election.
So here are six things I loved: 1) the Flash cameo in the opening credits (because I can never get enough Grant Gustin), 2) the fact that even with Superman around the show managed to stay central to Kara Zor El, 3) Cat Grant was back (I heard a rumor that the actress that played her was thinking of moving on from the series, and I'm so glad that didn't happen),  4) Cat Grant yelling, "Miss Tescmacher!" was awesome (for those of you who don't know...Miss Tescmacher was Luthor's love interest/henchwoman from the 1978 Superman film, and she comes and goes in comics canon), 5) the idea of Cat Grant sending Clark Kent drunken sexts was the absolute best, and 6) an actor and writer got both Supers right. They managed to capture what makes Superman and Supergirl dynamic heroes. Case in point: after they save the rocket and are confronted by innocent bystanders, Kara says, "This is where I usually say hi," and he says the same. It's moments like these that build character.

All in all, this premiere episode felt like a reboot (or a pilot for a brand new series). It's got me excited, and I think Supergirl has found its home alongside all the rest of the DC lineup on the CW.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Great Wall movie by Zhang Yimou promises to be the valentine's gift I totally deserve.

I want to see The Great Wall movie that's coming out in February even though it's a Chinese spectacle that's somehow found it reasonable to cast American Matt Damon as its star. Just to be clear, I like Matt Damon, but I kind of think that it's a little strange to have an American in a title role for a Chinese film. Not too weird...but it gives me pause in the same way as Tilda Swinson's casting as the Ancient One in the upcoming movie, Doctor Strange. But...whatever.

Or maybe I'm just noticing Matt Damon being so important in the movie, because the movie is being marketed to American audiences. Gotta admit that this is probably the more likely explanation. In that case, never mind my above comments. We do have assurances from Matt Damon that him being cast is "not whitewashing."

I know most of you probably haven't even heard of this movie, so I'll embed the trailer below. And to tell you a little about it, the movie is from director Zhang Yimou (who made Hero), and it's a complete fantasy about giant monsters attacking the Great Wall of China in some ancient, alternate history. Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal are mercenaries fighting alongside the Chinese armies. And as usual, Zhang uses color really well.

If you get around to watching the clip, I do have a question for you: Did anyone else find it odd that Damon is playing a man from the West but has an American accent? Meanwhile Pedro gets to do a Spanish accent even though his real accent is decidedly American. That just seems odd and is probably something that not too many audiences will notice. But yeah, I noticed it so I'm pointing it out :)

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Insecure Writer's Support Group wants to know when a writer acknowledges that their story is ready.

I'm a few days late for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post, but at least I'm in the same week. I guess October snuck up on me, so I apologize to those who participate in the Insecure Writer's Support Group that came here on Wednesday looking for my answer to the question of the month.

So October's question was, "When do you know your story is ready?" I think I'm reading this question in two ways. It's either asking me when I know I'm done with the first draft or when do I know I'm ready to publish. So, I think I'll go ahead and answer both questions.

Q1: When do I know when I'm done with the first draft? I am a fairly traditional writer so I do a detailed outline that picks off the events that I want to accomplish and these all lead toward a climax. Once the climax is over, then it's usually just one chapter after that in which I finish. Fairly boring, right?

Q2: When do I know when I'm ready to publish? It's basically a feeling in that I'm sick of working on it, and I know I've taken it as far as I want to and I just want it done. I want it that I can get on with my life.

I may be different than some authors when I say that the most fun comes in writing the first draft. Revising and editing and formatting is tedium ad nauseum. There hasn't been a piece of writing I've finished yet in which I don't groan when a beta reader suggests a major change to a story plot piece that will entail hours of work.

To check out other bloggers participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group, go HERE and read their stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Contemplating the hollowness of his own existence the Flash changes timeline after timeline looking for the perfect reality.

There may be some spoilers ahead.

There are times when watching the Flash seems like it's actually a tale of one young man's descent into madness. After all, when you get too deep into the weeds of time travel, I would think that any specific timeline would have just as much validity as the one you left. So how could you justify changing one thing (or everything) when in the end it's all rendered irrelevant by the simple fact that time travel exists? Being a time traveler then is the ultimate self indulgence because you would in fact be choosing which reality was (in fact) the reality for everyone else.

I was expecting more of Flashpoint--the season three premiere, which happened last night on the CW. But I wasn't necessarily disappointed? I just thought it would go on for longer than it did. That's (I think) when it hit me: the idea that this series (and everything connected to it) is just Barry Allen's emotional journey in determining which reality is the one that viewers consume. Maybe the entire DC universe is actually just Barry Allen's version of events because he alters one thing here and there through time and doesn't seem to be able to control himself.

As for the death and life of his mom, I'm not sure why Barry caved so easily in letting his ultimate enemy go back into time and kill his mother after he worked so hard to save her. He apparently was losing memories of an irrelevant timeline and would eventually even forget that he was the Flash. However, why was any of that important? Barry's relationship with his parents has been a really strong point of the show. It's full of richness and depth, and it spins the coin on the all-but-worn-out plot of a hero being an orphan with no parents.

Barry Allen being played by a millennial is kind of perfect. He wants everything, but when things aren't the perfect story that he feels he deserves, he's left to contemplate the hollowness of his own existence and then must strive to change it.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Netflix channels a very honorable superhero in Luke Cage who slugs it out with the thugs of Harlem

A lot of care went into filming Luke Cage. The acting is superb, the story is riveting, and the hip-hop soundtrack is awesome. In watching the first two episodes, I loved how the music is so thoughtfully used to complement the visuals and the story. Another thing I'm really taken with is Luke Cage's character. He's a very honorable super hero, and he probably has more integrity than even Captain America. I mean, Cap was used by the government and compromised some of his ideals from time to time. That doesn't seem to be happening at all with Cage. Or maybe it's just that Luke Cage's ideals align better with normal people. Perhaps that's what I'm picking up on.

Anyone else take a turn at binge-watching Luke Cage on Netflix?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the perfect movie for people who love weird and strange things.

There are a few spoilers in this review.

I never read the book Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, but after seeing the movie last night, I wish that I had taken this phantasmagoric trip into the squirmy delirium of the author's mind. Upon its completion, I couldn't imagine another director that could handle the odds and ends of this peculiar tale better than Tim Burton. In much the same way as fairy tales can lend themselves to shocking moments by throwing an old woman in an oven or meeting a girl with no hands, the movie captures this same kind of viscera by giving us a Lovecraftian villain that has to eat human eyeballs in order to not be monstrous. How undeniably clever.

Asa Butterfield is Jake (who is perhaps at the lankiest that I have ever seen him), and he's a good hero for the story. I liked seeing a male cast in a sympathetic role, as the thing that makes him most peculiar is his ability to see the monsters coming. It's an interesting twist, because unlike Cassandra in the Iliad, Jake's ability to see the evil coming is believed by everyone, and it's through their unique combination of talents that all the peculiar children manage to come together to protect one another.

The one negative criticism that I have for the movie (I think) is entirely me. I found it difficult to keep track of the timeline and the loops through time. It was a fascinating (and ingenious) way to create bubbles of fantasy in our modern reality, and it lent the movie an "Alice in Wonderland" feel. But my mind kept wanting to try and resolve how things worked exactly, and sometimes I got confused with the looping and wondering why sometimes they could emerge in 2016, and at other times they were in 1943.

But perhaps all that we were supposed to take from the story is wonder. After all, how often is it that you see a boy walking with a rope tied to the waist of a girl who's floating like a balloon behind him? Maybe that's the stuff that dreams are made of.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sweet Christmas...Luke Cage is the hero Foggy deserves.

You've probably watched Daredevil on Netflix. If so, will you at least agree with me that Matt Murdock is pretty much a dick to everyone. Jessica isn't much better (as in Jessica Jones). She's snark all day long, and it could really be tiresome hanging around that. Of course, Jessica's baggage comes from her father getting killed and somebody raping her while controlling her mind, but still.... I'm gonna borrow a word from Monday night's debate: temperament. Luke Cage has got good temperament. I like it, and he's the hero that Foggy deserves.

It's obvious too that Claire prefers Luke Cage to Daredevil in the trailer. After all, she's a nurse and probably gets tired of stitching Matt up every other night. Luke Cage is unbreakable. That's a nice if not boring quality to have in a superhero. I just hope that the villain is good. Compared to Kingpin and David Tennant's mind controlling rapist, the bar has been set pretty high.

For those of you who don't know, the dude with the XXL hoodie in the bodega in the trailer below (which Luke Cage trades out for his own) is Method Man, from Wu-Tang Clan. He shows up in lots of movies and was in The Wire.

This Friday is gonna be great. We've got an interesting movie coming out and on top of that,  I can begin binge-watching Luke Cage. I'm so ready to see him punch people like it's no big deal again. I'm calling it right now: this year's lazy Halloween costume will be a "bullet" ridden hoodie.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dust is a short film that is one awesome example of how crowd-sourcing and Kickstarter can make amazing things happen.

This is the matte painting of the mine that's featured in the film. I wish I could draw with this kind of detail. What amazing talent some artists possess. I wonder how they do this? Photoshop? Click to Embiggen and really get an eyeful.
I watched this short film called "Dust" over the weekend (it's about 23 minutes long), and I thought it was really good. The story is pretty straight forward. Most of humanity lives in walled cities, and there are people called "Trackers" who are basically a kind of medieval "witch doctor"? At least that's what I got from it. The only one of note is of course the main character who has been studying a lifeform called a hydra which has the ability to basically evolve to cure anything. It cleaned up the streams of the world (making them non-toxic), and it appears to be able to neutralize diseases too. It's definitely an interesting concept.

Here's the official description of the movie from the Vimeo site:
A Sci-Fi/Fantasy inspired by anime and classic horror, Dust is set in a harsh and unpredictable natural environment where people have isolated themselves in an ancient city behind a massive wall. A socially marginalized tracker teams up with a black-market merchant to save the society that has rejected his way of life.
I kind of wonder if the dystopian world of "Dust" is some alternate Earth of the future or if this is a story of humans who have come to live on an alien world and essentially lost any technical advantage over the environment that they used to have. The alien life evolves rapidly, which is interesting to think about.

If you have the time, I highly suggest that you watch the embedded video. It's good to see a sci-fi story with a Japanese influence in it (was it filmed in Japan?), and it's really well done (I heard it was crowd-sourced). That and the dialogue is quite good (as is the acting).
Dust from Ember Lab on Vimeo.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The drug company Allergan challenged other biotechs to self-police themselves for reasonable price hikes and no other company in the world joined them.

Great beauty is a fairy tale blessing bestowed upon princesses at birth. There's a reason for that: everyone wants to be beautiful. And whether you like to admit this or not, money is the same thing as beauty in the United States (and in many cultures around the world). People who are beautiful have many social advantages in life. Well, the same thing can be said for people with money, i.e., they have many social advantages in life.

It's honestly time that more people accepted this for truth.

Yes, I'm actually going there. I'm saying that people who have money are "in a sense" beautiful. They have as much power over society (sometimes more so because beauty fades with time). If you think rich people don't have as much power over society as beautiful people (or you don't value money) then congratulations, but you're wrong (and in the minority). If it horrifies you that I could sit here and write that, "a beautiful person could have their pick of sexual partners" and insist that the word "beautiful" in that sentence could be swapped out for "rich," then I think you're naive. I think that there are a lot of angry, delusional young people out there who have been struck by this reality, are having difficulty wrapping their heads around it, and very much want society to change. Well I've got news for those people: that kind of thinking has been happening for thousands of years. It's also not going to change.

It's not a new idea to actually be young and think it's reasonable to be 1) young, 2) beautiful, and 3) wealthy enough to never be dependent on anyone else for anything. After all, chances are a young and reasonably fit person already has the first two qualities in the bag. That third quality seems perfectly attainable, right? If it weren't for society and capitalism standing in the way. But more and more, that third quality is (in all reality) the size of a mountain equivalent to Everest. The fact is, most people will not have what it takes to reach the top of that mountain (or to even make it to base camp). Most of us (no matter how you feel) will be mediocre.
It's a nice thought. But I think a lot of people are born to
just do this very thing. Again, not my rule. Just a fact.

Sorry to pop your narcissistic balloon.

But that's what narcissism is, right? It grows from that sense deep inside you that you deserve better and people just don't recognize the greatness you are due. I think it's healthy when you examine those inner feelings of bitterness at not being appreciated and the light comes on and you realize, "Hey, the reason I'm being treated like this is perfectly valid. I'm a mediocre person, have accomplished nothing that society deems as great, and as far as I can tell...never will."

Like being born with natural beauty, it is possible to be born "rich." But for most of us, this just isn't a feasible reality. For most of us, you will be born into a system in which you (and your children) will live in socio-economic bondage for your entire lives. In other words, you will always be "beholding" to someone for survival. And if they ask you to jump, you better learn to jump just right.

So where do the young get their idea of it being reasonable to ask, and be given, just three "small" things in life? Perhaps they were coddled too much by parents who told their children, "You are a special snowflake."

But here's the thing. Saying,
"All I want in life is to be young, beautiful, and to have enough money to not be beholding to anyone. I don't think that's asking for much..."
is what I would call a complete "break" from actual reality. It's insane. That anyone wouldn't look at that and see that it's actually asking for everything just blows my mind. And if I learned one thing in life, very few people ever get everything that they want. Not my rule. I'm just stating how it is.

Sure, there are people who insist that money isn't important in a partnership. They turn their noses up and live in denial. It's a demonstrable fact that arguments over financial matters and stress is the greatest cause for divorce and the destruction of relationships. Having six-pack abs only goes so far.

Is this how it should be? I have no answer with regard to this question. I can only say that this is how it is. This is how life works for many people in the world. And here is my point: greed is part of the culture of America, and no where is this more apparent than with drug pricing.

Drug price hikes for a life-saving epipen from drug company Mylan recently created a "media hurricane." I watched the CEO of Mylan addressing congress on Thursday on CNBC. She flew to her meeting in a privately-owned jet. And she showed nothing but contempt for anyone that doesn't see that these drug prices are necessary to ensure the proper delivery of the life-saving drug. If people can't afford it, well those people just die I guess. Why does she think this way? Because she wants to be beautiful, and having lots of money is the same thing as beauty.

This isn't the only example. Another CEO of a drug company a few months ago got called on the carpet before congress over a tear-inducing 5000% price hike to a drug (Daraprim) that saves lives for people afflicted with a rare "life threatening" disease having to do with exposure to dirty cat litter.

Again, why is this happening? Simple answer: people desire to be rich. We call it greed. Greed happens because money is so incredibly powerful. It makes wishes come true. It gives you power over society. People respect, worship, and envy those who have it in vast quantities. It has the same importance and desire associated with it as a straight man's fascination with a super-model. Cry in horror all you want, but unless the power that money has over people is lessened, things will only get worse.

It's not reasonable to expect people to not crave beauty. Therefore, it's not reasonable to expect people to not crave money. And I think I'm being perfectly honest when I say that very few ugly people would ever want this to change, because money gives them the social advantages that youth and beauty would naturally bring.

On September 6th, the Allergan CEO promised in a blog post that their company would limit future price hikes (in response to widespread criticism of the drug industry's practices). If you don't know, Allergan is an enormous biotech company. The CEO, Brent Saunders, also challenged other companies to join a pledge, fearing that someone like Hillary Clinton would start a push for federal regulation of drug pricing. This (of course) would make it harder for pursuers of money to become happy because there'd be fewer dollars to spread around for things like private jets, wining and dining, and being "pillars of the community"--another way of saying, "person with too much money gives it away for social status."

That seems promising, right? Someone in a big drug company finally got a clue and challenged others!

But here's the thing: No other company since then has accepted the challenge. Nada.

Allergan is the only one.

They've talked about this on CNBC. Some of the hosts of Squawk on the Street were kind of shocked. No one accepted the challenge? Is there no goodwill?

Yes, you are correct.

There is no goodwill.

No one in their right mind would say, "I choose to be ugly." No one in their right mind would say, "I choose to be poor."

That's our society. It's time everyone accepted it as fact. Look...I wish it wasn't so. I wish that money wasn't so powerful, but the rules to the game were set long before I ever arrived. I just happen to be useful in explaining them to people who may not understand how life works.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Can I hope that the Netflix Lost in Space series is a hybrid of the movie and the original series from 1966?

Netflix is remaking the 1960's television series, Lost in Space. I liked the original series, and although I did not hate the movie (made almost two decades ago), there were some things that I'd like Netflix to take from that too.

Yes, the movie had flaws. There was terrible computer graphics, and the monkey was an awful choice. The inclusion of the monkey is how you know everyone involved in the movie is probably doing cocaine.

But the father/son relationship was really interesting. Will was brilliant but the father was distant. I also liked the way Dr. Smith manipulated Will, because it brought out the real strength in the father/son relationship. Also, the same guy who did the voice for the Robot in the 1966 show did it for the movie. That's kind of cool. Also, will the Robot shout out "Danger, Will Robinson!?" You know that has got to happen, or it isn't Lost in Space.

As for the original series, I enjoyed it. Of course, I only saw it on reruns but there wasn't really any complicated back story that you had to swallow. These people were all on a colony ship that got lost in space. How easy of an explanation is that? It's pretty much an invitation to make every episode crazier than the last, because anything can happen in an infinite universe.

My hope is that the new one borrows gritty elements from the movie and somehow fuses them together with the silly, comedic vibe that made the series worth watching (especially if you are a kid). Netflix has a good track record for making quality programming, so here's to hoping that it's good.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ironhead Studios just revealed the maquettes for the Flash and Cyborg for the new Justice League movie.

Maquettes are sculptures that are made before production so that a film studio can see what the final appearance of a certain something might look. Just a day or so ago, Ironhead Studios (they worked on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) instagrammed (is that a word?) their maquettes for Flash and Cyborg. Although not quite complete, I think they look pretty awesome.

In the photograph below, Cyborg is on the right and the Flash is on the left. The Flash's suit looks really interesting, and kind of reminds me of the body armor that you see in first-person shooters like Crysis and Halo. Body armor is all the rage now peeps (at least among young men). It's kind of interesting how you now see skin-hugging sci-fi suits popping up everywhere from video games to comic book movies.

It's almost as if the whole nerd world kind of went and got itself an armor and weapons fetish.
A photo posted by Ironhead Studio (@ironhead_studio) on

Friday, September 16, 2016

Apple has done it again because I love iOS 10 and I'm totally buying the iPhone 7.

Apple has done it again because it knows its fanbase really really well--a group of infantilized, computer-illiterate, selfie-snapping, emojingoist, heart-fingered, consumer zombies. It turned its messages app into something that's really fun to use with iOS 10. I wasn't expecting any of the features that I found, and when I discovered what they could do, I started sending invisible selfies, confetti, hand written notes, and gifs to friends and family. Figuring them out is messy, chaotic, and challenging. But I still love it.

I think I need to thank the sticker-loving millennials out there who obviously drove this product update like the crack of an overseers whip from their offices in the Cupertino-based tech giant. Sure, a lot of these features are absurdly frivolous. However, they (strangely) seem to add a lot to the very banal experience of texting. However, just be careful because I could see it being super easy to accidentally send your in-laws kissing lips. And my criticisms don't necessarily stop there.

First, the multi-functionality of the new send button also has the potential to throw off a lot of people. Now, it's just a small circle with an arrow in it (easy to miss) and you have to hold it down for at least a second before it gives you other options.

Second, the message app features a little circle with everyone's photo in it. I don't think there are any actual people in my phone who have photos on their contact cards (I'm not a millennial so I don't snap selfies all the time, and I don't have many friends who are millennials...but there is this one guy...later on that). So, long story short, I get to look at a stupid circle with the person's initials in it for no reason. It makes me think that the expectation might be to walk up to them and say, "Hey, let me take your photo so I can add it to your contact card on my phone."

Overall though, all of these new features have way more entertainment potential, and they easily outweigh the bad stuff.

So have you tried out iOS 10 on the iPhone yet?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

This footage from Mad Max: Fury Road just proves that it was robbed by Spotlight at the Academy Awards

Mad Max: Fury Road was a miracle of a film from beginning to end. I'm still a little shocked that it failed to win Best Picture earlier this year at the Academy Awards. But if you still aren't sold on how much effort went into making this film, please PLEASE watch this video. It shows just how much of the movie was real, how much was stunt work, and that the actors were totally committing themselves to a very controlled (dangerous) chaos.

Twenty years from now, no one will even remember Spotlight (the film that actually won Best Picture). But people will still be talking about Mad Max: Fury Road. And to anyone that says the plot was too basic, I think it was actually brilliant. After everything the characters had gone through to get where they were, they realized they had nowhere to go but back the way they had come. And after a solid thirty minutes of heart-stopping action sequences, the entire audience groaned “Oh shit!” exactly at that second because we ALL knew what would come next. And we were not disappointed.

Thank you, George Miller.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Here are ten solid reasons why Game of Thrones keeps garnering new viewers and is the fantasy phenomenon of our age.

Game of Thrones has won a lot of Emmy's. In fact, it's won so many that it's the most awarded drama in history. Cue Walter White's dissappointment. You may already be aware of this fact. You all know that I'm a huge Game of Thrones fan, and in the lingo of the Californian millennial I declare, "It's super cool." However, I also want to answer the question (for those who have yet to take "the plunge" into this series) of "Why should I watch it?" There are (in fact) ten solid reasons that don't have anything to do with Emmys (who cares about awards, amirite?).

1) You need to fill the void the Hobbit movies left in your soul. This was a huge "Battle of the Five Armies" void. No amount of Legolas spins and flips felt like a bandage to this particular horror. And let's face it, the Shannara Chronicles falls waaayyyy short.
2) Glance at it for the renaissance fair costumes. Cersei was rockin' an impressive dress in the finale episode "The Winds of Winter."
3) Stay for the guilty pleasure of all the boobies.
4) Feel terrible seeing what the creators are doing to all of the boobies.
5) The Red Wedding.
6) WTF just happened?
7) Accept that everything you love is going to die horribly in this show, and then realize that this is actually pretty close to how it is in real life. Nihilism memes I luv u. :)
8) Watch a few more episodes out of self-hatred.
9) At some point (if you have a brain) you'll realize that this is a masterpiece of a series...well acted...and an impressive show.
10) You become a dedicated fan and infect others with your enthusiasm. You invest in Game of Thrones merchandise that may (or may not) include a dragon egg that you proudly display in your house.

Friday, September 9, 2016

It's weird to think that the story of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet is the ultimate ode to male violence at having been friend-zoned by a woman.

I read on io9 that Marvel's capstone movie, Avengers: Infinity War, is due to be released in late 2018. It seems like a long time away, but it really isn't for us older peeps. I (for one) feel like I take a nap and my rent's due again. That aside, in the new Avengers movie we finally get to see a lot of Thanos on screen...a bad guy that's been hinted at (and plugged) in almost every single movie featuring an Infinity Gem. It all started with Iron Man in 2008...that's ten years...and one hell of a project. I've got to hand it to Disney to have kept it all together through three different phases. And between now and then we still have a Doctor Strange movie, a second Guardians of the Galaxy, another Spider-Man movie (starring the incredibly cute Tom Holland), Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. It blows my mind at the amount of maneuvering (and money) that all of this took in order to bring a dream of an entire superhero universe into reality.

When I think about the ultimate villain, Thanos, I also realize that (despite the copious quantities of action) the build-up of every single character thread ends with a powerful love story: that between Thanos and Lady Death (whom we have not seen). Here's a panel from the comic that explains what I'm talking about:
Or maybe (and more appropriately) Thanos is just an angry schmuck who ignores a woman's rejection of him to the point where he kills half the universe in a futile attempt to impress her. Just think about that for a moment. Thanos' story is the ultimate example of male frustration at having been "friend-zoned" by a woman he obviously wants to shag badly. I think it's a good story, but I'm sure social justice warriors on Facebook will point out the obvious in that "Thanos" (being a stand-in for the modern man) is owed nothing by "Lady Death" (a stand-in for the modern woman). They might also point out that the film is the ultimate testament to male violence, which we really can't argue with since Thanos does end up killing half the universe. Pretty terrible, right? But it makes for a good fiction.

All of this also makes me ask where Marvel (and Disney by extension) can possibly go after Thanos? How do you top saving an entire universe? The escalation seems a bit "problematic." I sure hope they don't decide to reboot everything, but then again, look at how many times Spider-Man got rebooted already. What was once old is new again and so on and so forth. Whatever happens, I'm sure that it will be entertaining. Disney rarely disappoints.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I spend my time and resources exactly how I want to because I deserve to have that freedom as payback for all the crummy years of my childhood.

Today is the first Wednesday of September, and because of that special occasion, I'm once again taking part in the Insecure Writer's Support Group. For more information on that, click on this link HERE.

This month's question that we participants answer is: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

This question is actually pretty easy for me. My life isn't as full as some others, either because of choices I've made in life or through a lack of distractions due to my own personality. I think I do really engage with people, but I engage with them in non sexual-tension-filled ways (not my choice...believe me...I'd love to be the flirty one that gets all the attention). For example, I'm the person that people always go to in order to solve a problem (which I actually hate) but they never go to when there's something fun to do.

In other words I just emanate a general aura of "Oh...Mike is uber responsible and will never drop the ball...but...yeah...we don't want him at the party because he's uncool. If he wants to PLAN the party...that'd be great...." And just so you know, I'm 45 so this is a far cry from teenage angst. It's how I actually feel as an adult, and it's based upon decades of behavior that I've analyzed in an attempt to answer the question, "Why do I feel that people just want to assign me unpleasant work to do?"

But to be fair, I'm quite capable of self-criticism. On the subject of "spontaneity" (and my lack thereof) it's something I will own up to (you will never see me use my iPhone to make cute videos filled with laughter and warmth). It's hard for me to cut loose and dance and to be comfortable in my own skin. However, I think its fair to say that my ability to be cute and fun loving was destroyed by years and years of psychological and emotional abuse that made my childhood kind of a living hell, but at the same time it inoculated me to the harshness of the world. In a way, my father and mother simultaneously managed to be the worst/best parents (if that makes any sense) that they could possibly be. And just to be clear, I would never wish the kinds of things I went through on anyone. However, the "emotional skin" I grew in order to deal with the psychological abuse made me able to deal with life in ways that I could never have imagined. Events that absolutely crush/devastate people (that I know) are barely ripples to me on the Sea of Fate, and I actually love that. But the side-effect is that I don't naturally cuddle with dogs and talk about how new babies smell and take selfies with everybody. I wish I could do these things comfortably and naturally, but they always feel awkward to me. What doesn't feel awkward is scrubbing toilets, because for the longest time, that's how people treated me. I was the person people always called upon to scrub the toilet and clean out the garbage.

So needless to say...I don't have people banging down my door to do "Happy Fun Time." And with no partner, this leaves me with a lot of spare time after work and on weekends. I fill that spare time with whatever I want to do. It could be an art project (which I started this weekend) or perhaps it could be another writing project. When I get bored of one, I go and start another. So yeah...I've got the luxury of time...and I know that's just not something that most people have an abundance of. I truly wish I was one of those people with such a full life that I had to juggle everything. As a caveat though, I also guard that time like a zealot. Allow me to explain.

I've got used to saying "No" to people. Believe me when I say, there appears to be an endless supply of people knocking on my door with the goal in mind to put some brown-skinned single Asian guy to work doing some shitty task they don't want to deal with (the "scrub my toilet!" theme fits nicely here even though that's not what they want). A lot of people consider that the "bar offriendship" when it comes to me. "Hey I've got something shitty that I don't want to deal with. You're my friend...I could use you to help me out with it!" Unfortunately for them, I don't share this viewpoint on life. I think true friendship is deeply reciprocal and is built upon a foundation of immense respect. If I knew a task was even remotely unpleasant, I would never foist that on a friend. If I did ask for help, I would compensate them monetarily with hundreds of dollars (that I toiled very hard to get) or not even ask. Friendship is to be treasured and not exploited. Maybe that's the Japanese in me...a belief that one "honors" friends and keeps all the unpleasant things in a closet to deal with on my own time.

Some don't take my "No's" very well, and verbally attack me, pointing out (obviously) that I have resources that could help them. There's no arguing that fact at all. So I make it very clear that I'm saying "No" because I am choosing not to help them and am perfectly happy with that decision. Of course, this really pisses some people off and causes them to throw all sorts of insults at me (which I don't deserve but it happens anyway). It's almost like people are punishing me because I have a lack of blessings in my life, which seems ironic if you dare to look at it from my point of view.

The way I see myself, I'm a survivor/former victim of incredible psychological and emotional abuse. As a result, I'm abrasive enough and uncharismatic enough (in real life) that people only seek me out when they need help with something (no "Happy Fun Time" with Mike). If they do seek me out, they are sure to crowd enough other people into the hang out time that spending emotional time with me is vastly diluted. So (essentially) I have a lack of fun activities planned by others to fill my hours with (but I sure can get people interested in "Happy Fun Time" activities when I organize everything and do all the work) when the "average person in America" has the blessing of a house of children, a partner, a spouse, etc. to help them deal with life. Admittedly, a lot of those things happened because a person was born the right race, the right religion, the right politics (and world-view), the right sexual orientation, etc. to be "attractive" to peers to bring on those kinds of invitations (and had the emotional well-being to survive a society of narcissists). They were born into bodies that had very little challenges (as far as disabilities go) and into families that genuinely loved them and gave them trophies for participation and actually "valued" and would talk through their feelings one on one. Again, please know that I'm not complaining (because I sure as hell know I could be a lot worse off). Rather, what I'm trying to do is explain to you (the reader) why I have so much free time outside of work. The answer is simple: a life-history of a lack of inclusion.

On that earlier topic, I guess what galls me the most is when I get verbally attacked for saying "No" to a person's request to feed at the trough of my resources is that I know that the other group of people (those with children and partners) can say "no" and the person asking smiles and easily understands the rejection. But when I say "no" I get verbally attacked. These are "facts" in my mind, even if there's no way for me to prove them. However, it is very interesting that the guy who has probably suffered the most trauma is the one that continues to get assaulted by people who see him only as a problem a resource to be used and abused in their tool belt...because life is too difficult for them to deal with and they think (because I have things together) that it must be easy for me and therefore it's my duty to help others. To say it a different way, "the guy who lives a pretty miserable life (by average standards) is the one whom miserable people choose to use as a punching bag."

Anyway, this has been a long, emotional post, but I think it explains a lot about me that I wish more people knew regarding how I manage my time, and to some extent, the resentments I feel toward people who do nothing but try to take (instead of give). And yeah, I have no problem at all saying "No." It's time for someone else to scrub the toilet because this guy is not going to do that (for others) anymore.

I hope that if you take one thing away from this post it is this: it answers the question of "How do I manage my writing time in my 'busy' life?" And the fact is, my life really isn't all that "busy" due to intentional design. I spend my time and resources exactly how I want to because I deserve to have that freedom as payback for all the crummy years of my childhood. If I choose to spend that time writing or drawing, then it's because those activities make me happy. Would I rather spend those hours with a person who appreciates having me around? Yes, yes I would. But as I learned a long time ago, "You can control all the things in your life except love. There is no force in the universe that can make someone love you." And in this sense, the word "value" can also be used interchangeably with the word "love" and still ring true. It is my frustration to this truth--which then leads to acceptance--that (for me) is perhaps the greatest motivating factor behind my creativity in any form. It's why I write, I draw, and I read. At the end of the day, this world is cruel and mean and filled with a lot of nasty people (I know there are a few good ones), and my mind wants to seek out better worlds where I feel respected, wanted, and loved. Stephen King wrote:

"Writers remember everything...especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he'll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory."
My memory holds a lot of scars and most of them aren't pretty, but at least I know who I am.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This amazing video of a watermelon being dropped 150 feet kind of shows the challenge helmet makers are up against when trying to protect football players from concussions.

In an amusing video that I found this week, some guys took one of those miracle sprays that promises to protect the lining of your pickup truck from damage and applied it to a watermelon. In proof that these sprays do indeed work, the watermelon survived the fall with a bounce. It was so hardy, that they couldn't get through its new skin with an axe, and they eventually took a drop saw to it. They discovered that the innards had been scrambled into slush, but the rind was intact and pretty much whole.

In some ways, my mind immediately drew a connection to concussions, which have been a source of fascination to me (I've done some research). Concussions happen when the brain sloshes around inside the skull and gets bruised or damaged as a result, a.k.a., what happened to the watermelon's innards. And there's not really any effective way of stopping this with gear that doesn't address the force rendered on the innards of something due to rapid deceleration. So stopping concussions isn't really going to be about armoring something to withstand an impact. We have the technology to keep a skin whole. We just don't have the technology to keep what's behind the skin whole.

Anyway, it's an interesting video if you have the time to watch it. And watching watermelons explode is entertaining, whether or not you are even thinking of concussions.

Monday, August 29, 2016