Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomorrow Is The 2-Hour Camelot Premiere

I'm a huge fan of King Arthur stuff. So I guess my blog today is a reminder to everyone that shares my enthusiasm that Camelot by Starz is going to air tomorrow with a two-hour premier. I'm already set to record it just in case something comes up (like surprise parents rolling into town) etc., that may seek to pry me away from being planted in front of the television.

I've become a real couch potato. It's wierd...I never thought I'd be THIS into television. But in my defense, I think that television these days has a ton to offer. I think I prefer television over movies unless its the summer season and all the huge hits are coming out...then yeah...I like movies better.  There's just no competing with 3D and DBOX (I may blog about DBOX later in case you have no idea what that is).

Above is the second trailer to the very "adult" version of this tale. I want to say, "Finally! A proper R-rated show here." I mean, hats off and all that to all the clean singing cartoon versions of this story but I think I'm ripe for a little skin and some nice adult situations. So yeah, if you're gonna watch it...I think the kids should be in bed.

At left is Arthur and the actress that plays Morgana. I'm pretty sure we can expect Morgana to have some nude scenes and probably Arthur will be showing some skin too (programs usually are conservative on the guys).  However, the show's producers are the same that brought us Spartacus: Blood and Sand so most likely, nudity will be splashed on the screen as much as it is in that show.

Next up is Joseph Fiennes who's taking the role of Merlin. You may know his last name from another Fiennes who plays Voldemort in the Harry Potter films (although he looks like a dude with no nose in those films I guess cause it makes him serpent-like or something akin to that). Interesting that two Fiennes are carrying such powerful wizards to the silver screen.

I kind of wonder why they chose to make him bald. Maybe in this particular rendition of the tale using and channeling all that magic causes you to lose your hair.

Anyway, I hope someone out there will watch this so that you can be my Camelot gossip buddy (Gazes at S.M. Schmidt to pressure her into watching the show). Seriously ladies, if you don't mind a little adult content the manuscript can wait a night.  Put it off to the side...yes that's it...put the keyboard away Misha and come sit on the couch with the popcorn and enjoy yourself.  Sara, your next chapter of "Social Skills" can wait and so can all your friends on G.A.

I'M A LOVELY BLOGGER AGAIN (You should be jealous):

Ciara over at her blog recently gave me the One Lovely Blog Award again.  I already have a copy of it in my Awards section but I'm honored to receive it again :))) If you haven't stopped by Ciara's to say hi be sure to do so because she is amazing and her blog is indeed lovely. 

I bequeath the Award to T.D. McFrost and to Munir at her blog entitled Focus :) because these two are both overachievers and you really should check their blogs out. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Elsewhere

Time. We all want more of it to go around, right? As I go and visit the blogosphere out there I see entries lamenting the passage of time and the search to find more of it to do the things that you want to do. It got me to thinking about what I've come to learn about time and how it's peculiar in so many ways.

So, I thought I'd discuss one aspect of it that most people don't realize.

As fiction writers we all know of past, present, and future. But did you know that there was a fourth aspect of time called the elsewhere?  I'm not making this up.  Allow me to explain beginning with the simple concept of cause and effect.

An understanding of time requires that you know a little about the speed of light (most fundamentally that nothing in the universe travels faster than light). With this in mind, the state of time really depends on your reference point in an existing space.

Basically, what I'm saying is that the time order of events can be different in different reference frames. I know that this seems to wreak havoc with cause and effect. For example, is there some frame of reference in which your death could precede your birth? No, the only events for which the time order can be different are those that occur far enough apart in space that it would be impossible for a light signal to get from one event to the other. Because no information can travel faster than light, such events cannot influence each other and can be neither cause nor effect of the other.  Those events define a new realm of time, called the elsewhere.


Time between any two events depends on the frame of reference from which the events are measured. An event is basically specified by giving both a place and a time. However, the time order of events can differ in different reference frames only if the events are far enough apart in space that not even light travels fast enough to get from one to the other.

PAST: The past consists of those events that can influence the present.

FUTURE: The future consists of events that the present can influence. Events that will happen tomorow on Earth are in the future, and all observers will agree that events on Earth today come before those on Earth tomorrow. However, events that will happen tomorrow at the galactic center of the Milky Way are not in the future of the present moment on Earth, because there is no way we can influence them.

ELSEWHERE: Those events that are neither in the past nor the future are in the elsewhere. They can have no causal relation to the event here and now, and different observers will judge differently whether they occur before, after, or are simultaneous with the here and now. The elsewhere is not some mysterious realm that is forever inaccessible. It's just inacessible to the here and now. Events that are now in your elsewhere will sometime later be in your past and, at some earlier time, they were in your future.  But there's a band of time centered on the present during which events are unrelated to the here and now.

The above illustration is really good at explaining the concept of the Elsewhere. Since it takes 11 minutes for a signal to reach Earth from Mars, an event that takes place on Mars has a 22 minute window of Elsewhere.  It's not in the Past because it hasn't happened yet for us; it's not in the Future because it already did happen but events that are in our present have no ability to influence it.  And it isn't in our present because we cannot detect that anything has happened.  Wierd huh?

I got to thinking about this blog entry based off of my size comparison of stars entry that I put up yesterday.  The largest star ever observed has a diameter so great that it takes light 8-hours to cross its circumference. That was just amazing to me...that something was so huge and massive that it could be one body (and if sentient) would be completely unaware that something happened on one side of it for 8 full hours.

Anyway, Happy Hump Day and I hope that I didn't confuse you with my blog entry today. These are the kinds of things I think about all the time and it creeps into my writing a lot.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Little Thing Called Size

Some things in the universe are huge. My friend William sent me this video.

Let me know if this video makes you feel small. I know after I watched it, I felt that way. Plus it has really cool music. Happy Tuesday

Monday, March 28, 2011

Captain America Looks Awesome

It comes out 7/22/2011.

You can look at the official site here.

I'm just going to make the statement right now that this is going to be the top grossing movie of the summer and the one that I probably go and see four times over opening weekend (Yes, I'm being completely serious). Captain America (and comic books in general) is a guy-version of Twilight. And just like you ladies that dragged all your boyfriends and husbands to go and endure Twilight you might as well get prepared now because every man in your life is going to have a total bromance with Captain America this summer.

Anyway, here's the latest trailer for it (and also here's to much kicking of ass). I love how they used CGI to put the actor's face on a really scrawny body and it looks convincing (cause the actor is a bodybuilder in real life).

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Few Thoughts On The Business Of Publishing

He scoffs at the publishing industry.
The more I educate myself on the whole publishing process, the more I think I'm becoming a little disillusioned by it and that makes me sad. When I was a kid, I loved reading books (more so than I do now). I devoured them and could go through five a week easy. Now, I go through about two a month.  I follow buzz because I figure that's where the good books are and the lesson I learned was that a book never lives up to the hype. Now, as a child and a teen I had the utmost respect for authors. I thought, wow...this is the coolest thing ever. I'm enjoying this story so much and what must it be like to have this kind of influence. I quite frankly believed that it might be the coolest thing in the world.

Young Adult Loot Pinata
So then we have books like "I Am Number Four". I never read it, but I saw the movie and it was terribad. I know Michael Bay's movies so I shouldn't have been surprised but you know, the material for the movie comes from the book. Unlike some people, I'm a firm believer that unless the director is an absolute moron, then there's got to be some blame that falls to the author (the originator of the source material). So I looked into this. It's penned by an author called Pittacus Lore and I discovered it was the pseudonym for James Frey. He's the same guy that penned "A Million Little Pieces"...the memoir that Oprah endorsed and later became infuriated when she discovered it was fiction.  A media storm followed and James Frey became a pariah in the publishing world. His agent left him saying essentially that she could never represent a person once the trust had been ruined. So how did James Frey get paid millions of dollars for "I Am Number Four"? Answer: he remains well connected and the publishing business is all about money. They apparently don't care how bad you stink or that Oprah hates your guts. They seemed to have enough faith in James Frey that he had a "formula" for making money that it was like nothing ever happened. So here is what James "Pittacus Lore" Frey did.

He went to Columbia University with a book contract (read about it here) and hired the starving MFA students there (and from other reknowned universities) and created a writing factory. "I Am Number Four" is the result.  Here are some choice words from that article:

"Frey believed that Harry Potter and the Twilight series had awakened a ravenous market of readers and were leaving a substantial gap in their wake. He wanted to be the one to fill it. There had already been wizards, vampires, and werewolves. Aliens, Frey predicted, would be next." 

So yeah...take the Twilight script cross out the vampires, insert aliens, make them hot teenagers that show plenty of skin and bam you have a bestseller?  I would be laughing...only... I guess the answer is yes you can do exactly this.  Like WTF? Seriously?

Here are more details from that article:

"Frey handed him a one-page write-up of the concept, and Hughes developed the rest of the outlined narrative. Frey’s idea was a series called “The Lorien Legacies,” about nine Loric aliens who were chased from their home planet by evil Mogadorians and are living on Earth in the guise of teenagers. Through early 2009, Hughes told me, he delivered three drafts of the first book, I Am Number Four, to Frey, who revised them and polished the final version. Hughes wrote the novel without any compensation and signed a contract, without consulting a lawyer, that specified that he would receive 30 percent of all revenue that came from the project. The book would be published under a pseudonym, and the contract stipulated that Hughes would not be allowed to speak publicly about the project or confirm his attachment to it. There was a $250,000 penalty Frey could invoke if Hughes violated his confidentiality terms."

Well all I gotta say is that people bought it in droves and the book has been sold in 44 countries and translated into 21 languages. When asked about memoirs, Frey responded of the genre that it was "bunk" and "bullshit".  Nice eh?  When asked about truth, James Frey said "It doesn't exist." When asked about Oprah he said, "I should never have fucking apologized." How about self-editing?  He responds, "A trap for young inexperienced writers." I would laugh at him and hold tight to the ideals that I've learned but the industry is rewarding this guy with millions of dollars in his pocket. If you didn't catch that I'm going to spell it out for you:

He's getting paid millions of dollars.

As writers of fiction, is what we do a joke? From where I stand it almost seems like, yes, it is. Readers embraced the first books out of his young adult fiction factory so well that honestly, it looks like a huge "loot pinata" that James Frey is pounding at with a bat, using formulaic plots, crossing out vampires and inserting aliens and whammo...Harper Collins book contract and movie deal produced by Spielberg (and it bears repeating that the movie sucked and that they moved on the movie rights before the book was even published).

Paramount cannot afford to
make this movie apparently.
Meanwhile, the remake of Dune has been canned because the studio needed 100 million to get it off the ground, Max Brooks' excellent zombie apocalypse novel World War Z got scrapped (again for budget) even after star/producer Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster already agreed to make it a PG-13 picture, and Universal dropped Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness because he wouldn't budge from an R-rating for that $150 million dollar epic.  Why the hell are studios quibbling over these numbers? Films were being made 20 years ago that cost this much. But there's more than enough money to throw at every Young Adult novel that gets pushed out. I'm so confused. Whatever happened to plot? What happened to originality? Is writing now just a formula and as long as you fit into the formula you get paid? Are readers just sheep chewing on grass and if you're somehow smart enough to find the formula then bam, you get a book deal?  

Is this what we are when we read?
So I look to restore some faith in the book market and I discover this. The book is completely blank and it has sold out its first print run, hitting no. 744 on Amazon's list ahead of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Like f*cking really?!? I can understand gag gifts but this is absurd.

Anyway, this post is not directed at any of you fine writers to whom I visit often on your blogs. On the contrary, your honesty and willingness to share your struggles with me is the only thing that keeps the spark of my youth (where I used to think being a writer was awesome) from completely going out. Rather, it's a disillusionment with an industry that I perhaps had on a pedestal. Now, maybe...not so much. I know all of you out there are working extremely hard. I just think that what James Frey has done is a slap in the face to every author trying to make it out there and seems to be endorsed by an industry that really could give a sh*t to be honest. Making money is all that matters and there appears to be a formula (which I don't know) on how to do exactly that. I'm sure Faulkner, Twain, Hemmingway, and Austen to name a few are rolling over in their graves at the question, "Where has all the integrity gone?" The trailer for the H.P. Lovecraft movie is a fake but done so well I included it to give you an idea of what the movie may have been like if it hadn't been canned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Home For A Hobbit

Check out this home. It has a beautiful interior and could probably work for one person. Honestly though, I'm thinking that Bilbo Baggins lives here. My apartment has 600 square feet...this house is 300. I feel like I have so much space now.  It's being sold for $179,000 in Toronto.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Second Crusader Flash Fiction Challenge, New Award, and Opinion On The New Wonder Woman Costume

Rachael Harrie over at her blog has got the second crusader challenge posted with a deadline of this Friday (so I figured I should get busy and get my entry posted). The rules are simple. Basically, write a flash fiction piece of no more than 100 words that includes "The goldfish bowl teetered"... and then fill out the form on her website. Anyway, here is my slightly less than 100-word entry into that contest and I hope that I win a prize :).

   The goldfish bowl teetered on the desk as Kian pushed on it with his pencil. Brianna looked up from her ornithology paper and put her hand to the cold glass. “Stop it,” she said.
   Kian’s blue eyes were filled with mischief. “You know, a few years ago the city council of Monza, Italy, barred people from keeping goldfish in bowls because gazing outward would present a distorted view of reality.”
   “Your point?”
   “How do we know that our reality isn’t similarly distorted? Assuming that it is, wouldn’t you want someone to break the glass?”
Okay I won another blog award and this one was passed to me from the amazing Rogue Mutt and you can find his blog here.

You are supposed to answer three pointless questions and I assume that they are "of your choosing" so I made the following questions (similar to the ones that Patrick chose for his):

1) What is your favorite condiment? For me, it's probably salsa.

2) Who is your favorite 80's singer? I'm going to say Madonna.

3) What character do you relate with from any television series past or present?  I think I relate to Harriet from Harry's Law. Played by Kathy Bates, I could totally see myself being her (if I was a lawyer) with her same attitude and desire to do good.

Next, recipients of this award are to pass this on to five other bloggers (similar to a chain letter) but the idea being that their blog is awesome. So, I wracked my brain to think of the most awesome blogs out there. Oh, and you should visit all of the blogs you picked and let them know that they've won heehee. :-)

1) The awesome Rachael Harrie, Queen of the Crusade.

2) Michael di Gesu and his blog "In Time..." Michael is such a wonderful spiritual person, really, if you haven't visited his blog, please do so. 

3) David Powers King and his science fiction blog.

4) The Focus blog by my new friend who posts under the name Munir.

5) The Lady On A Roof blog showcasing some of the best places to go in New York & Brazil (or wherever she travels). If anything, I love peeking in on her blog because I can live vicariously through her travels :-).

Okay, now for your opinion on the new Wonder Woman costume.  I've always been a fan and I had an earlier post on wonder woman located here.

My opinion... I don't like it.  It's too shiny and I don't like the covered legs and the boots with the stars running down the sides.  Now, I may get to like it in the future, but as of right now...not a fan.

Anyway, what's your opinion?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Can You Guess What This Sculpture Is Made Of?

Can you guess what this sculpture is made from?  As you scroll down the page each frame gets closer and closer so that the last one shows you the composition with clarity.  Anyway, let me know if you guessed what it was made from before you got to the last frame and post that in a comment :) .

Know what it is made of yet?

How about now?

Hint, something you might wear.

How about now?

Yup, regular ole flip flops.

Kinda cool huh?  My friend Lynn sent this to me and I thought you'd like to play along too :) Sculpting is a lot like writing in that all those little parts (the flip flops) come together to make one huge thing for the world to see. To explain further, all those verbs, nouns, and adjectives are just different colored flip flops for you (the writer) to form into any shape that you desire.

See ya Wednesday.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Concert Weekend

I really wasn't intending to write a review of Saturday night's concert but after seeing it, I was so stunned at how awesome it was that here I am doing just that :)

Lady Gaga was everything that I expected her to be and more.

Before the show, there were these huge television screens that people in the audience could text and Lady Gaga responded to the texts so it was like watching a huge chat room.  Plus, all the proceeds from the texts were going to her favorite charity (she donates $20,000 from each concert to help homeless LGBT youth that have been kicked out of their homes.

One of the first costumes that she wore early in the show.
When she took the actual stage, the lights dimmed and everyone in that sold-out Energy Solutions Arena (a crowd of 20,000) absolutely screamed. There was this four-story curtain that separated the stage from the general admission crowd that started showing a black and white short film to her music that slowly became more transparent revealing what was behind it.  In silhouette was Lady Gaga in costume, standing on ironworks, overlooking a beat-up rolls royce with the license plate "Gaga".

Then the show started and wow was it good.

Before she started to sing her "Telephone" song much later, she called one of the numbers chosen randomly from that billboard and the girl that answered it got a spotlight on her (she was in tears). Lady Gaga told her that she was the ambassadoress of her favorite charity that night and represented all of those people that had donated, thanked her, and invited her backstage after the show to have a drink and get a picture taken.  How sweet is that?

She had a camera on the end of this
staff and was using it to highlight
people at the ede of the runway
stage as she spoke to them and
complimented them on their costumes.
Lady Gaga impressed me on so many levels. Her vocals are astounding (keep in mind I'm not musically trained but they blew me away) and she said she wasn't lipsyncing in her own way, "No one wanted to come out to this concert just to see some blond bitch lip sync!" She was also incredibly humble. While playing the piano version of "Born This Way" to a suddenly quiet audience focused on her, she asked for us to remember that her album comes out May 23rd.  Here is the biggest pop star in the world, smiling, being appreciative of her fans, and reminding us of her release date.  I was taken aback by it. I've been to concerts before...Elton John wouldn't have done that. He would have just assumed you had nothing better to do than follow his greatness and be in line at the proper time.
Lady Gaga also stopped the show several times with profound messages. But the one that hit me personally was that she told us about how she was a nobody that got bullied, that got told by other people that she was a failure, and that she'd never make it.

She said to all of us in the audience to not believe that.

Hold on to your dreams because they can and will come true.

Don't let any one person bully you and tell you that you are a freak.

If you feel that you are a freak, she said, look around you because this whole place is filled with fellow freaks. Twenty thousand like-minded individuals. She said that she'd made a home for her little monsters that night and that her song was sitting proud at the number one spot in America for the fifth week in a row and that nothing looks better than a number one done with a middle finger.  Then she stated that tonight, the people on the outside that judged her and judged any of us were the freaks.

So there it is...I'm passing this message on to you.  Hold onto your dream.  If you ever thought you were a freak for anything you believed in or wrote, you aren't.  Don't let any one person bully you or destroy your dream. You were brought into this world perfect just the way you are. Stand up and be proud because just like Lady Gaga, you are amazing and the world will take notice of you. Any of us that haven't found an angent or a publisher for our work, well...we're just in a BAD ROMANCE with publishing right now. But it won't last forever...our break is going to happen. Hang in there my colleagues and don't ever let life get you down.

You are wonderful and don't ever forget that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Gaga-riffic Weekend

Faith is not a gift that I ever received, but I can respect those that do have it as long as it isn't used to destroy human rights. Thus, I was curious what this icon had to say about the topic. When asked by Larry King what her feelings toward religion and the church were in general, Gaga replied in a very candid fashion, "I struggle with my feelings with the church and that really, religion and the church are completely separate things. In terms of religion I'm very religious, I was raised Catholic...but at the same time there is no one religion that doesn't hate, speak against, or be prejudiced against another racial group, religious group, sexual group...and for that I think religion is also bogus. So, I suppose you could say that I'm a religious woman who's confused about religion that dreams of a future where we have a more peaceful world for the younger generation."

Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and raised Catholic. Her inspiration was glam rock. Her fuel is fame itself. What she does with her fame, however, is amazing.

What has she shown writers?

<=== 1) To bare your soul.  To not be afraid to show your most personal inner self to the world through your writing.  This is where the good stuff lies and many of us shy away from it for fear of being judged.  Lady Gaga gets judged every day of her life and does she care? Not one bit

2) To dance in your underwear when you have cause to celebrate. When was the last time you finished that extraordinarily difficult manuscript that you've been laboring over to produce and got up from your chair and just danced? You owe it to yourself to do'll feel amazing and you totally deserve to feel amazing. Writing is hard.

3) Lady Gaga showes us that if you live in America, when you add amazing looking men to anything, it makes the production that much better and makes a hell of a lot of money. Stephanie Meyer knew this, Hollywood knows this, the CW (creator of Smallville, the Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural) knows this, and young adult writers know this. But do you know this?

I'm seeing Lady Gaga in concert this Saturday and I can't wait.  She's a living legend and she's going to be at Energy Solutions Arena in downtown Salt Lake City (the place where I live).
Have a Gaga-riffic weekend!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Do Not Trust Space Monsters People. They Eat Radiation for Breakfast!

This is the new logo chosen by the International
Atomic Energy Agency in 2007. You can see
here that they are clearly concerned with space
monsters. It's a spacecraft shooting death rays
at a pirate flag and a stick figure. The message
is clear: Do Not Trust Space Monsters.
The top story of any hour is going to be the ongoing cooling attempts at the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan along with growing fears of radiation. People are good to fear radiation. I mean, in high doses it's deadly, right?  But even worse, it could turn you into a monster that destroys cities.

My proof is all the literature and film that arose in the fifties (a great era of radiation-induced creativity):

Here's a list of the monsters I've come up with so far:

Godzilla defeating a terrible monster!
Godzilla and his buds on Monster Island (a very cool place if I must say so myself). You know, Godzilla can breathe fire and his spine lights up like a Christmas tree when he does so. Not only is it festive, but if you're a smoker and were friends with this guy, you'd never be without a light. But if that wasn't enough to make you think that he's badass, he also subscribes by the idiom "Size Matters" which is totally how every guy think, right? That, and the special effects that brought Godzilla into being still hold up to today's standards. Just look at the .gif I included for you viewing pleasure. I know it inspires you to go off right now and create your own radiation inspired bad guy.

My face looks like
The Incredible Melting Man (radiation from Saturn's rings).  Not only did it cause this guy to melt but it also gave him the craving for human flesh. That's so unbelievably come no one has used it since then?

Monster From Green Hell (again radiation from outer space).

Night of the Living Dead (radiation from a returning Venus probe).

Quatermass Experiment (An astronaught infected with living radiation).

Island of the Burning Doom (although radiation was used to kill the creatures it also was used to create them in the first place).

Hulk Smash! Did you really expect me to say
anything else here?
The Magnetic Monster.

The Island of Terror.

The Atomic Kid.

Spider-Man.  Let's not forget the radioactive spider (this still counts) that turned non-assuming pretty boy Peter Parker from a Justin Bieber to the web-slinging hero of New York City.

The Incredible Hulk (gamma radiation turned Bruce Banner into a green freak). That and muscles are just cool...afterall, guys that read comic books have no chance of getting them anyway. It makes total sense that radiation would be the answer.

Edward Cullen. Vampires sparkle. This is scientific proof that he is a radiation monster. If you don't believe me, there's a discussion going on right now at this link about whether or not the Incredible Hulk could beat Edward Cullen (one radiation monster slugging it out with another). In my professional opinion, Hulk wins.
Hulk is angry cause he's ugly.
Do you write about monsters? If so, where do they come from? Hopefully this post inspires you to churn out stories of radiation pickled monsters galore!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do You Have Toilet Paper For Your Manuscript? If No, Grab A Euphemism

The euphemism really is writer toilet paper. It cleans up a lot of foul stuff for us.  In a generation where people are bullied, bruised, and offended constantly, the euphemism just may be our salvation. Take for example the great American novel, Huckleberry Finn.  They're taking out that ugly word "nigger" and replacing it with "slave". Some call that censorship but maybe they just didn't get the memo that stated everyone needed to be coddled.  So what exactly is this long word and how exactly can it be used to comfort us into entitled bliss?  Well let's examine it with our critical, scholarly eye.

Euphemism (n)--the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.

It originates from the Greek "euphemismos" or the  "use of a favorable word in place of an inauspicious one," from euphemizein  "speak with fair words," from eu-  "good" + pheme  "speaking," from phanai "speak"

Please...I know you're speechless with admiration at my google-fu so I'll continue.

In ancient Greece, the practice of euphemisms arose from superstitious avoidance of words of ill-omen during religious ceremonies, or through the use of word substitutions such as Eumenides  "the Gracious Ones" for the Furies (divine ass-kickers).

No wonder the English seized upon the use of the euphemism with such gusto. And yes, I see the main difference in language between the Yanks and the Brits (aside from a gorgeous accent) is essentially, euphemisms.

My mom had a pearl necklace. So lovely as pictured here.
Have any of you ladies ever worn a pearl necklace?
But in this day and age where we rely upon China to supply us with everything, how do we create one without an Apple iPhone application?  I knew you'd want to know, so I wrote the four steps of euphemism creation (slightly less fantastic than Biblical creation but both have their place in the world of fiction). I totally stole these from the Chinese factory that makes them. Isn't it exciting? No more euphemisms with that "made in China" stamp on it. Ahem...the steps:
1) Identify the word or word combination that you find offensive and imagine it in context.  Here's my example: Hmmmm...I want to ask those people over there at that funeral who died but without using the word "death" because death is icky.

2) Think about the word. Know it. Feel it. Define it.  In this case, the word is death and it's icky. We look it up in the dictionary and discover: 1) the end of life. 2) the total and permanent cessation of all the functions of an organism.

Okay...I think we know what death is.  Now we grab the trusty thesaurus that we all kept even if Stephen King told us to throw it in the garbage. Who listens to other writers anyhow even if they make a gazillion dollars (gazillion dollars is a euphemism for rich--C whut I did thar)?

3) In this step we examine and pick from either one or any combination of synonyms for the word that we really mean (but which has a softer appeal--think Charmin or Quilted Northern--yes I'm sticking with the toilet paper theme as this whole blog post is essentially, toilet humor). Synonyms as given to us by the thesaurus for the icky word "death" are: afterlife, annihilation, bereavement, casualty, cessation, curtains, darkness, decease, demise, departure, destruction, dissolution, downfall, dying, end, ending, eradication, eternal rest, euthanasia, exit, expiration, extermination, extinction, fatality, finis, finish, grave, grim reaper, heaven, loss, mortality, necrosis, obliteration, oblivion, paradise, parting, passing, passing over, quietus, release, repose, ruin, ruination, silence, sleep, termination, and tomb. 

4) Pick your euphemism.  In this case since it sounds like something that would happen in a library which is very bookish and thus related to writing, I'll pick the word "expired".  So now you can go over to that group of people and ask them "Who expired today?"  Now doesn't that sound so much better than the icky "d" word?  I knew you would agree hee hee.

That's totally not a thumbs up because he just
ate there...ya know?
My favorite euphemisms have to do with female anatomy.  Oh writers of the world...why is the term "passion pit" not popular?  And male anatomy can be just as fun.  I'm particularly fond of the term "administrative leave". just been fired biatch--that's all that means.

Brits have such good ones.  About a fat person, "They're a little broad in the beam, if ya know what I mean."

This is my srs
face cuz writing
iz srs biznizz
Tell me about your euphemism experiences! Oh, and do you use them in your writing? If not, you totally should. Otherwise, someone may be offended at what you write (I know that offending someone will cause you to lose sleep at night, oh my writer colleagues)!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do You Want A Flying Car? I Do!

"I'm leaving...on a jet plane..."
I like sci-fi. I suffer through horrible movies on the SyFy network, I read sci-fi books, and I go to the movies trying to find more sci-fi. I even write sci-fi (though nothing is published. But I look up to most sci-fi writers and peers who dare to pen the next sci-fi novels as heroes) Here's a shoutout to Munk Davis on his blog as his sci-fi novel is going to be published soon (and yes I plan to read it).

I remember when I saw Back to the Future 2, I future is going to have flying cars.  Well, all the future has provided thus far is more wrinkles and a slower metabolism.  However, the flying car may just be around the corner.

A car/plane hybrid its inventor calls a "roadable aircraft" is finally just around the corner.

The Woburn, Mass.-based company Terrafugia already has customers placing $10,000 deposits for the light two-person Transition plane, which the company plans to begin producing at the end of 2011 or early 2012. Awesome, eh?  Or maybe I should say, "Awesome for the rich, eh?"  But ya know...stuff will trickle down to my'll just take longer.

There is one hitch. You won't be able to fly from your own driveway.  You'll still need to drive to and take off from an airport, where the wings will extend in 20 seconds. But before and after you get there, you'll be able to drive legally on regular roads.

So why is it taking this long to make that sci-fi dream come true? Turns out the reason more than 100 prototype flying cars failed to make it to market was less due to technology troubles and more the fault of marketing woes. It's not easy jumping through all the regulatory hoops required to be deemed worthy for both air and land, and keeping the FAA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other agencies happy can be an insurmountable problem.

But Carl Dietrich, one of the cofounders of Terrafugia, seems confident that they'll be the ones to get it right. Says Dietrich, "This has been just around the corner for 50 years!"

Personally, I want a jetpack reminiscent of Sean Connery playing James Bond in Thunderball (I think). Here's hoping that more sci-fi becomes actual reality. Happy Tuesday.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Digital Books, Bookshare, and Accessibility

My day job is in assistive technology. This means that I recommend technology solutions to people with disabilities to hopefully provide an improvement in their standard of living. For example, one of the job duties I perform involves the set-up of voice-controlled computer systems and voice-controlled environmental control units for quadriplegics. But those are just two examples.

Being in this field has some perks and one of them is knowing about all the new stuff that's being created to solve disability issues. What I wanted to talk about today has to do with how digital books can close learning gaps for students with print disabilities.

Let's start with a question: why digital books?

Well, 59% of students surveyed by the Association of Educational Publishers (May 2010) said online textbooks would have a positive impact on their learning.  In contrast, only 56% said the same thing regarding laptop computers. Simply put, digital books equalize educational opportunities. Here are more statistics for you regarding digital accessible materials (a thing I found to be both exciting and surprising):

  • 95% graduated on time.
  • 85% improved academic achievement.
  • 55% increased time spent in general education classrooms and decreased the time spent receiving special education services.
  • 95% decreased reliance on human assistance.
  • 55% experienced increased levels of parent satisfaction.
  • Checkout the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials for more information.
The Long Reach of Bookshare: serves individuals who are blind
or have severe visual impairments that prevent
them from reading ordinary newspaper print, even
when wearing glasses or contact lenses, individuals
with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, which
interfere with the ability to read print material,
and people with mobility limitations that interfere
with holding or turning the pages of a book.

What is Bookshare?  Bookshare is an online library of accessible media for individuals with print disabilities. Bookshare believes that people with print disabilities should have the same ease of access to books and periodicals that people without disabilities enjoy. It operates under the Chafee Amendment to U.S. Copyright Law, worth a read and located here. It's funded by an award from OSEP, the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education. Because of this award, Bookshare can offer memberships and books to all U.S. students for free. As of January 2011, it has more than 125,000 members, more than 8,000 schools and other organizations, more than 95,000 titles, and more than a thousand new books added every month.

What does Bookshare offer?
  • Digital books for individuals with print disabilities.
  • FREE memberships for qualified U.S. students through the OSEP award
  • FREE assistive technology software.
  • 24/7 access to books.
  • 2,300 + K-12 textbooks with images.
  • College/University textbooks.
  • Classroom Reading Books.
  • New York Times Bestsellers.
  • Newberry, Caldecott Winners.
  • 1,000 books in Spanish.
  • More than 75 publisher partnerships.
  • 270 national and regular newspapers and magazines.

They basically come from four different places. 1) Volunteers chop-up, scan, proofread, and send the books off via email. 2) NIMAC. 3) Publishers. 4) Universities.

Bookshare uses the DAISY format. But what is this exactly?

DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System. In other words, reading books on a computer using visual presentation and/or synthetic speech (multimodal). Examples of DAISY-Compatible AT software are:

(NOTE THAT HumanWare Victor Reader Soft and Don Johnston READ:OutLoud Windows and Macintosh both have FREE versions available for download for Bookshare members. Additionally, both feature FREE high-quality Acapela voices)
  • Don Johnston READ:OutLoud Windows and Macintosh.
  • HumanWare Victor Reader Soft.
  • Kurzweil 3000.
  • TextHelp Read & Write Gold.
  • Freedom Scientific WYNN.
  • Freedom Scientific OpenBook.
  • GhPlayer.
  • Dolphin EasyReader.
  • DAISY Consortium AMIS.
  • Nextup TextAloud.
  • Innovative Rehabilitation Technology eClipseReader.
  • DAISY software players.
If you want to find out more, I suggest visiting the Bookshare website. Anyway, with all the buzz in the writing circles about the impact of ebooks and a debate on what it means to you as a writer, I thought I would share a little examined aspect of digital access with you that I see as a huge positive impact on the world.  Know that someday, when you get published, your writing may be enjoyed by someone that is severely disabled. If it were just 20-years earlier, they may never have been given the opportunity to enjoy what you wrote. I think that's a miracle in and of itself and should be something of which you can be proud.