Wednesday, November 6, 2019

For the November IWSG I'm saying Antarctica is the wierdest thing I've googled in the name of story research.

It's nanowrimo month (I'm not participating), but that also means the calendar has rolled over again. Being Wednesday, I'm going to tackle the Insecure Writer's Support Group's question of the month. If you too would like to participate, then go to this LINK and sign-up. It happens once a month, and was started a long time ago by Alex Cavanaugh.

November 6 question - What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story? 

It's not really all that strange, but I wanted to find out how people actually get to visit Antarctica. I found out that you can't just go there. If you are in the United States, you need to get the go-ahead from the National Science Foundation (NSF) first.

You see, everyone that goes to Antarctica has to be doing something, or they won't let you go. So (in other words) everyone has a reason for being there as well as having a job to do at the research station. However, your reasons for going can be pretty relaxed. I read a blog where one person was allowed to go because they wanted to write a book of poetry about Antarctica and about penguins or something like that. Their request was accepted, and they were allowed to go for six months, and they had a pretty pleasant experience. Antarctica has a lot more activity than most people realize, from parties and beer pong to people sitting on couches outside and watching television just because they can.

One book I read about the topic had an author who said, "Going to Antarctica is always the trump card in any conversation. If you are at a bar, and some guy is talking about all of his travels, you can play the Antarctica card and instantly 'steal' the spotlight, because everyone always has questions about Antarctica." Anyway, that's probably the weirdest thing I've googled. Pretty tame, right?

We are getting into "The Holidays" now, so I'm going to winterize my blog until the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post of January 2020. If you are a regular reader, thank you for all your support, and I'll see you in the new year. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 4, 2019

When I finally got SEE to stream on the Apple TV Plus service it was worth most of the trouble I'd gone to.

This weekend, I got a pleasant surprise. Two years ago, I purchased an iPhone 8 plus and at the time, I purchased the two-year Apple Care. Well with two years of use, being dropped, etc. it kind of wore out quite a bit and wasn't functioning like it should. I took it into the Apple Store here in Salt Lake City, and I used my Apple Care to get an exchange with a brand new iPhone 8 plus for zero dollars. The new phone has been working incredibly well, so I've got no complaints. I would have been completely satisfied with that by itself, but I got a text/notification from Apple that with a brand new phone purchase, I qualified for one year of Apple TV plus for free. So basically, Apple assumed my phone was new, even though it was "technically" an exchange. I was kind of overjoyed, because I don't like subscribing to new streaming services, and this was like a total freebie that came out of nowhere. And it's not one of those, "try this for a week and then we'll start charging you money." No it was a whole year for free.

So the first thing I started to try and watch was the Jason Momoa movie, "See." I thought it would be just a matter of going to a website and trying to watch it, but Apple has got some issues with their technology, meaning they are very cutting edge and unaccepting of older technologies because (in their mind) people should just "get with the program." Sure, I could watch it on my iPhone and my iPad, but I kind of crave something "bigger" if you know what I mean? Those screens are very small.

The first thing I tried to do was cast my phone's screen to my LG OLED Smart TV. This didn't work because my four-year old LG TV doesn't have AirPlay 2 on it. The next thing I tried was seeing if LG had an app I could download from the LG store called "Apple TV." I think the new ones have this app, but there was not one that was downloadable from the LG store for my older t.v. Okay then. What about seeing if I could download an Apple TV app from the Microsoft store for Windows 10? I checked, and that was a no go too.

Next I tried to go to the website and try to watch it in a browser (which the Apple website said was okay to do). Maybe because it was launch day or some other thing, I couldn't get it to stream in any browser but Firefox (I tried Google Chrome and Edge first). And the stream would periodically crash so that I had to reload it, and then it would never remember where I left off. So I ended up having to fast forward it to the point that I last remembered, watch it for twenty minutes, and then it would crash again. Sigh.

In any event, I made it through two episodes of "See" this way before switching to "Titans" and watching this week's episode with no hitches at all. And as of the writing of this blog post (which is happening on Sunday night), I was able to stream "See" in Google Chrome, so maybe Apple got the issue fixed and just had launch day jitters or something.

The two episodes that I did watch of "See" were an interesting story. It's weird watching a show in which all the actors are supposed to be blind, and I think the most compelling thing about it was to observe how well they get around and even fight while blind. One of the things I don't like about the show are the time jumps. Central to the story are two babies who are born who do have the "power to see" and in order to bring them into the story, they are about twelve years old by the time the second episode ends. That means there's a ton of time that passes in which nothing occurs other than daily life around a village.

This isn't the kind of story that really pulls me in, because I kind of detest big time jumps. It's what turned me off the Starz story of the White Queen, which I found compelling until the story immediately jumped years and years to satisfy certain things in which it wanted to concentrate.

Anyway, I do intend to continue to watch "See," and I'm hoping that a patch comes out to make it easier to view the Apple TV Plus streaming titles. I am reminded though (in my negative experience in using it), how cutting edge Apple tends to be. They are the epitome of a company that uses "planned obsolescence" as a bludgeon by which to browbeat consumers. I just find it dismaying that a television which is still beautiful to me that is now four years old, is purposely being pushed toward obsolescence by app makers who are making things available for everything bought this year...but doing very little for those things purchased in the very recent past. I guess that's just the way capitalism works.

Anyone else watching, "See" with Jason Momoa? The cinematography is gorgeous and there are many visually delightful scenes, which seems at odds with the premise of the story. It kind of reminded me of "Clan of the Cave Bear," only with blind people...which I think is strange now that I think of it. Oh, and no young Daryl Hannah, unless Jason Momoa counts as eye-candy (which he totally does in my book). 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A prequel money grab that didn't need to happen got canceled by HBO

When Game of Thrones ended, five possible prequel series got announced. Now it's down to one...tentatively...about Targaryens. I'm not sure who the intended audience is, but maybe there's just people who want to know more about Targaryens. However, the series that got canceled was going to tell the story of the Long Night and the Doom of Valyria...basically all the stuff I even had a remote interest in to begin with. Now, the only series that seems to be getting a "go ahead" signal of any kind is the one with the blond-headed imperialists riding dragons.

To be honest though, I'm not overly sad that the prequel series (set thousands of years before Game of Thrones's timeline) got canceled. Nothing about the show made any sense from the get-go. The events that happened 10,000 years in the past (from the perspective of the series) are pretty much irrelevant. It was a vague background window dressing at best. There would be no King's Landing court intrigue, no dragons, and only one or two major houses at best.

People might say, "Oh...but what about the White Walkers?"

Well the thing is...we have most of that mystery solved. We already know what the White Walkers are and where they came there's no use going into that unless someone wants to tell that story again (I would recommend against it). The Children of the Forest are basically Native American placeholders or the standard "elf" in most fantasy literature...and everything else can be summed up as a bunch of petty feudal lords squabbling with each other.

So (in my opinion) why did the prequel in particular get canceled? Word is they even filmed a pilot for it, so they were pretty serious, right? How does this make any sense? Here's my theory: it turned out to be a lot more expensive than they thought. Also, studio execs got scared that going forward, there was going to be even greater expense due to the magical bronze age element of all the things. Money is usually what kills projects, so this is where I'm placing my bets on what exactly happened.

I'm actually more excited for the Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon is doing than anything taking place in GRRM's world from A Song of Ice and Fire. I think I'm pretty done with that story (and its offshoots). What say you?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Will Doctor Sleep be any good?

I'm probably (most likely) going to a Fandango early release of Doctor Sleep this Wednesday, October 30. The thing is, I'm wondering if it will be any good. Early viewers of the movie have said this:

"Crafts visceral, disquieting dread not too dissimilar to Kubrick's masterpiece."

"Doctor Sleep is great...But bloody graphic with the violence in parts and very upsetting but so well done."

And then Stephen King weighed in as well by saying, "Mike Flanagan is a talented director, but he's also an excellent storyteller. The movie is a good thing. You'll like this if you liked THE SHINING, but you'll also like it if you liked SHAWSHANK. It's immersive."

The thing is, Stanley Kubrik was a legend in his own time, and he's kind of grown from there after his death. 2001: A Space Odyssey, which announced the experimentalism of new Hollywood at the same time that it created a different playbook for visual effects kind of defines who he was as a director. But it was a different age, with a bar that was far less crowded with people who didn't go to film school to learn all of the techniques to tell a visual story. I'm not even sure a director can even impress us these days, because the audiences have seen everything.

The fact that King is giving props to Flanagan (however) is good, especially given King's notorious dislike for The Shining's original depiction in film.

I'm going to try and keep an open mind, but I'm inevitably wondering if Doctor Sleep is going to be any good. I guess I'll find out.

Friday, October 25, 2019

If you want to give your kids the best chance at success in life you should strive to raise them free of all personality disorders.

I don’t think there is enough research going on between personality disorders and how those who have them are prone to use drugs and prone to end up in poverty or homelessness. However, there are lots of studies that go the other way. In other words, lots of people blame poverty and homelessness on creating personality disorders. But in my humble opinion, I think that kind of thinking is putting the horse before the cart. I think personality disorders are the cause (the root of the problem as it were) and the problems growing from this toxic root are poverty, drug use, and homelessness.

According to various psychology outlets and papers, there are ten kinds of personality disorders. They are as follows: 1) Paranoid personality disorder, 2) Shizoid personality disorder, 3) Schizotypal disorder, 4) Antisocial personality disorder, 5) Borderline personality disorder, 6) Histrionic personality disorder, 7) Narcissistic personality disorder, 8) Avoidant personality disorder, 9) Dependent personality disorder, and 10) Obsessive Compulsive personality disorder. If a person gets even one of these into their heads (let alone a whole bucketful) I think it increases a person’s chance that they will 1) get into illegal drugs in their adult life, or 2) end up unable to support themselves as an adult, or 3) both. It’s strange to think about, right?

So, why then did I start thinking about this? Let’s chalk it up to personal experience. I work and associate with a lot of people who struggle to “independently” support themselves, and I’ve noticed a trend: a lot of them are assholes. Many of them are terrible communicators, and this terrible-ness extends to avoiding communication altogether, ghosting, or lack of explanation and follow-through. Many of them exhibit toxic levels of narcissism by “splaining” away on various topics as if I were an uneducated slob. They can be bossy and rude. Many of them post a ton on social media, are very active on Instagram, as if every aspect of their lives was celebrity-worthy. Many post antagonistic things on social media as if begging others, “Come fight me, bro!” I suppose this behavior could be called, “Trolling,” but I’d also say it comes from a place of bitterness. Many of them cannot be counted upon to help out with manual labor requests, even though they have all the time in the world to do so. Many of them ask to borrow money with no intention of paying it back. Many of them are perfectionists, meaning nothing is ever good enough for them. They find a way to criticize just about anything. Many of them are ungrateful and undependable. And many of them act entitled as if they were prima donna’s in their own opera. Many of them are okay with casual exploitation. Quite a few measure value in physical appearance only, and this is usually because they have come to value this about themselves for whatever reasons.

This idea of mine grew out of all of the above experiences and with me asking a question: why are my interactions with people who struggle to support themselves so profoundly negative? You see, this flies in the face of what I was taught: that poor people were humble. I have found over and over and over that this is not the case at all. Then I picked up a report about homelessness and read a line that I had previously encountered before (and just never processed what it was actually saying to me): “Personality disorders in the homeless population are two to four times as prominent as those found in the general population.” This wasn’t a “new” thing, but my understanding of what that one line said was like a light bulb turning on in my head. It’s the personality disorder that created the homelessness, and not the other way around. I thought poverty and homelessness was the trauma that resulted in the personality disorder, but I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on here. And it makes so much sense with regard to the reality in which I live.

For example, no one I know (including myself) has fun working with people who have personality disorders, because (for want of a term that encapsulates what this means in practice) they are assholes. To explain it another way, it’s hard to work with a “jerk” (using another synonym), because they are abusive. It takes a very special person to sign-up to being psychologically and emotionally abused every day by another person. So these people with personality disorders end up being unsuitable for the workplace (and for a lot of life actually), which leads to casual and illegal drug use and the partying lifestyle (and generally heading straight for “rock bottom”).

In other words, I think personality disorders in adults are a gateway to illegal drug use and unemployment. And the thing is, no one talks about treating personality disorders as a solution (or nipping budding personality disorders in young people). What I see are people trying to address the symptoms, i.e., things like housing, donations, and the drug trade. But it also makes me think that this is all we can do as a society, because personality disorders are very difficult to cure or treat. For example, professionals are not even on the same page as to the cause of personality disorders in the first place, because it (potentially) can be anything in the environment. Is it parenting? Is it a social group that forms around a child at school? Is it commercialism and capitalism? Is it competition? Is it bullying? Or is it all of the above? Is it something I haven’t listed? If I were to give any advice to a parent, it would be this: raise a child to adulthood without any personality disorders, and you will give your child the best chance you possibly can for them to succeed. But as my friend has pointed out, when I told her my observation and idea, “How the hell do you do that in today’s world?” This comes from a mom who did everything she could to raise her daughter right, and guess what? Her daughter is brimming with personality disorders. Because of these personality disorders, the daughter is probably (and unfortunately) headed for rock bottom at some point. It’s like you can see the train wreck coming, and there’s no way to correct the course.

I do know people who are (to my knowledge) free of personality disorders, and they are a delight to be around and all of them are successful by every measure we have today to view such things. Is it a coincidence? I think not. And the fact that I know people who are free of personality disorders makes me believe that it’s possible to raise children to adulthood without them. I just can’t tell you how to do it. However, it seems like an awfully important goal to strive for, and one that (I believe) is not talked about enough when it comes to what it takes to independently support oneself in today’s society and to achieve some measure of fulfillment with regard to one’s life. “Don’t get infected with any personality disorders, folks,” is easier said than done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The online reactions to the final The Rise of Skywalker trailer are all over the board.

Star Wars is a beloved franchise, which I suppose means that reactions to it are going to be all over the board. Some love it, some hate it, and many seem to post something akin to "I have very low expectations for this film." Is "the bar" looking pretty weathered at this point? Are people still complaining about The Last Jedi? Yes, yes they are. Here are a few of the reactions I read that struck me as interesting:

"The sequel trilogy has NOT worked for me, but I bleed Star Wars through and through, so I'll see the shit outta this on general principle. I just wish this story and these characters worked for me more."

"If Reylo does not happen I am done forever with Star Wars. I will never buy anything Star Wars or Disney. Why did they bother even setting it up in TLJ?"

"I have very low expectations of this trailer for the final episode...Mainly wanted more of the Mother of All Space Battles. Rey vs Kylo duel? Haven't we seen that a few times before? I'll be there on opening day, but I expect to be disappointed."

"I'm still incredibly miffed at the fact there's been zero in-film explanation of how we got from the end of Episode VI to VII. I have no idea where the First Order came from, or why the apparent victory at the end of Episode VI ended up in the way we are now."

"I, too, have low expectations for this film. I've also found that I'm fine with that. The movie will probably be mediocre, but there will be another Star Wars soon afterwards, and another one, until the heat death of the universe, so whatever really. I've either disconnected emotionally at some point, or discovered that I never really cared in the first place."

"And in the original trilogy you had no clue why Boba Fett was a badass bounty hunter. Or where the Emperor came from or how he rose to power. Or how the original Death Star was able to be rebuilt or partially destroyed when you saw it explode into dust with your own eyes. Or how Jabba was a big bad gangster with so much power. Or what the Kessel run even was, and so on and so forth. Sometimes just accept that everything doesn't need to be shown and explained to you in a tidy way. People don't want to watch movies and the stories they tell. People want to watch fan-fiction and have their subjective imaginations beats confirmed."

And last (but not least) here is what I have to say regarding the last trailer for the last of the "Star Wars Saga":

For what it's worth, this throne in the trailer looks really cool. I'm sure someone good actually sits in it; the thing doesn't look evil at all (snicker).
Any opinions out there regarding "The Rise of Skywalker?" Is it totally going to suck? Is it going to be amazing? Do you have Star Wars fatigue? Is Disney just beating a dead horse? Is there any story left to tell? What say you?

Monday, October 21, 2019

The last two episodes of Titans have been great because they introduced a perfectly cast Superboy.

Superboy joined the Titans on DC Universe, and has been present more or less in the last two episodes. The first episode that introduced him, called Conner, was really good. And bonus...we got Krypto the Wonder Dog as well. Why am I excited? It's kind of fun seeing the dog shoot heat vision beams out of its eyes. Played by Australian actor Joshua Orpin, I think that the casting for Superboy is absolutely perfect.

***Spoiler alert if you are planning on watching the series***

Okay, if you have made it this far, then you probably have either seen the episodes or don't really care. Either way is good. So the way "Conner" (who is Superboy) gets introduced is a bit jarring and messes with the pacing of season 2 just a bit. However, it pays off because Conner is in the right place to scoop Jason Todd out of the air to keep him alive a bit longer (see "A Death in the Family" for more of Jason Todd's ultimate fate). It seems "hamfisted" just a bit. However, I'm so glad they went there. It was really embracing the whole "superhero comic book show" theme. Plus, I think live-action Superboy is better than any of his animated doppelgangers have been.

The introduction of "Conner" feels like a great new direction for the show. Now if we could just get Koriandr to fly around I think I might be a bit more satisfied. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

You can almost hear the shriek of the marmot in this photograph which won the most prestigious award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Yongquing Bao of Qinghai, China, captured the moment a marmot reacts in shock at a Tibetan fox about to pounce. Their efforts were rewarded when they won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award at London's Natural History Museum. I think the thing that stands out most to me in this photo is the expression on the marmot's face. It's shear terror, and it's a reminder that the natural world is brutal. You can view the gallery of entries at this link if you'd care to see some of the others. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

It's kind of interesting to me that the Watcher in the Woods is not going to be on Disney + on launch day.

The list of things that are going to be available to subscribers of Disney + on launch day next month is impressive. It took me about a minute to scroll through the whole thing which was featured on io9 and gathered from a tweet storm sent out by the Disney marketing machine this weekend. A lot of people pointed out that The Watcher in the Woods is not on that list. For me, The Watcher in the Woods was kind of a defining movie in the 80's, mostly because it was so scary. In the back of my mind, it was going to be a movie I revisited/rewatched and I'm not so sure how well it would have held up so many years later.

When it first came out, The Watcher in the Woods had its own controversy. For one, Disney told parents not to take little kids to it. The movie’s plot follows the Curtis clan, an American family that moves to England and finds a beautiful old house for sale, with a shockingly low asking price. It turns out the home belongs to Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis), who is selling the house–mostly because of the bad memories–and has moved herself to the guest house. Her daughter Karen disappeared suddenly 30 years ago and there’s been a strange presence in the woods ever since. The Curtis’ older daughter Jan begins to feel this strange presence and soon begins seeing images of a young blonde girl with a blindfold. Slowly, Jan begins piecing together the events surrounding Karen’s disappearance. She learns some locals know more than they care to admit and were messing with some dark powers during a solar eclipse.

Many people are saying that Disney might be shying away from making this film available because it's part of that generation of films, i.e., The Black Hole, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Watcher in the Woods, etc. that veered into the weird and strange. I think the weird and strange though is something that's very much in style in 2019. So these films (seem to me) to be ripe for obtaining some kind of cult following, which would only seem to be a good financial decision in the long run since it's just free money.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Titans has actually gotten pretty good.

I upped and re-subscribed to DC Universe again to watch the second season of Titans. It's parceled out at the rate of one new episode every Friday, so if you are a person who likes to blaze through content and then cancel, you'll still want to wait a few weeks for your binge-watch weekend. I did like the first season of Titans, but not as much as I liked Doom Patrol (which seemed to be a fresh-take on just about everything I'd learned about superhero shows). But, to be fair, I haven't been able to watch Titans and not think of Amazon's The Boys and realize how close The Boys actually is to the Titans. The only thing that separates the Titans from the shockingly and all too real The Boys is 1) empathy, 2) ethics and morality, and 3) the removal of scarcity via capitalism through the use of a wealthy benefactor, Bruce Wayne, who just buys everything so that the Titans can be awesome at just being good people.

Unlike some people who are complaining about the series, I actually like the actress cast to play Starfire. Additionally, I think that the casting for the other characters is really good. The guy that plays Nightwing actually has the butt Nightwing is internet-famous for having, and the guy that plays Jason Todd plays that role to the hilt. He's every bit the annoying brat I remember from Detective Comics and Batman comics, which led up to his demise in the four-part story, A Death in the Family (I used to own these but lost most of my comics over the years).

If there is one thing I am finding fault with, it's not story. No, it's the budget and the wonky special effects. They look...bad. However, not unwatcheable bad. Just more on par with your average Asylum film like Sharknado. You can tell exactly when the C.G.I. is being used and when the actors are (in fact) acting in front of a green screen. So there is that.

For example, in the season two premiere, Trigon the Terrible looked as bad as anything I've seen from the Hercules series or Xena series from years and years ago. Yeah...that bad. And Raven has yet to manifest a soul self. I would have thought that the soul self thing would have been an easy C.G.I. effect to do as it's just a shadow in the shape of a raven. However, the way they are doing it is by using clouds of billowing black smoke. When her soul self emerges, it just looks like a swirling/floating whirlwind of black oil bits shaped like razor blades. By far the best effects center around Wonder Girl and Gar. To be fair, Gar's tiger has always looked a "bit" fake. It's not nearly as good as the C.G.I. tiger The Walking Dead had a few years ago when Ezekiel became a main character. But I imagine that The Walking Dead has a huge budget, so they can afford to spend more on things to make them look real. And Wonder Girl's lasso has the same effect of golden light that we saw Wonder Woman using in her movies. So that all looks good.

We also got to see Aqualad in one episode. I thought that his water power looked a bit cheesy, however, it didn't ruin or spoil disbelief. Sure, it wasn't the fantastic powers that Aquaman wields in his own movie, but again, I knew that wasn't going to happen. And...I honestly don't like the way Starfire's powers work, but whatever. She should just be able to energy blast things the same as Captain Marvel. But the way it's working on screen is more like she raises her hands and fire just comes rushing forth in every which (and uncontrolled) way that fire usually goes.

All in all, I think that Titans has actually gotten pretty good. The writing seems to be tight, the actors are giving it their all to inhabit these characters, and the story does appear to be growing. I'm just hoping that more subscribers hop on so that DC Universe can add more budget to the series and give us some spectacular stuff down the road. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Here are nine things I've observed about humans and life on Earth as I know it.

There are people in our country that insist they have "great and unmatched wisdom," when I don't really see it. However, (and in that same vein) it has encouraged me to say about myself that I feel I am exceptionally observant of human behavior, which (then) leads me to this blog post. These are things I've "observed" and come to understand about adults in America (and human behavior in general). It's all personal opinion, and I'll leave it up to you to decide whether I'm right or wrong.

1) People who are grandiose narcissists admire authoritarians and dictators. They also support authoritarian rule, even if they (themselves) are subjected to it. In other words, they have no problem with giving over personal freedoms to a grandiose narcissist in charge of everything.

2) People believe a ban on vaping due to vaping-related illnesses and deaths will save lives. However, many of these same people would not ever use the same argument with regard to guns, because "the issues are completely different." Only...they aren't. But, whatever.

3) A lot of people want something for nothing. Free labor, volunteer work, callings, lending a helping hand, and it's getting harder and harder to come by because people are saying "no" in record numbers. Why? Because "free labor" is an indignity (see item number 6 below for more information).

4) The average person believes their opinion is way more important than it actually is within the scope of a nation. Example: getting a protest together of some 10,000 peeps for issue "X" in one city in America (or maybe several) means there's going to be change and signifies a movement. Then when this doesn't happen, depression and anxiety and hopelessness set in. The cause? They never realized that 10,000, as impressive as it might look in a photo, is nothing as a percentage of an entire population. This world has billions of people on it. That's a number that is hard to comprehend. It can be done, and I for one can grasp how big it is, but a lot of people fail to do so.

5) Most people are terrible at small talk. They try desperately to remember the last time they spoke with you and to think of something to say, and it just ends up awkward (or triggering in the case of reminding a person of things they might have done deep in the past but it's the only thing a person can remember to talk about). It would honestly be best if nothing was said at all with an admittance to the fact that they don't care enough to stay current with what's going on in your life. I've heard it said that the truth shall set you free. It just doesn't make you any friends. More people should just embrace this.

6) Beauty has been glamorized to the point that people don't feel beautiful or pretty if they are subjected to any indignities. And indignities abound in the human race. Taking out the garbage from your house is an indignity. Scrubbing your own toilet, let alone someone else's toilet, is considered an indignity now. Having to drive a used car or mow your lawn is considered an indignity. Caring for an elderly parent is an indignity. Working a low-wage job is an indignity. Not being the head manager is an indignity, and the list goes on and on.

So people who are faced with the prospect of doing any of the above behaviors (and countless others) which used to be perfectly normal are now trauma-inducing. Self-esteem plummets, depression and anxiety set in, and it becomes a huge snowball that just keeps growing until the person bottoms out in society and goes on SSDI or seeks out drugs to assuage the pain that they aren't "beautiful."

I'm actually seeing these behaviors everywhere, and people who are physically pretty and handsome think they are ugly because they must go through the indignity of schoolwork or the indignity of a job. "If I were truly beautiful, then I wouldn't have to do any of these things." And what's even "sadder" if that's even that one of these people "dating" a person who has accepted an indignity "such as a blue collar job" is in itself an "indignity," which makes the person feel ugly. So yeah...vicious circle there for which there is no escape.

I think this idea of mine is at the root of why there is so much fame-seeking these days. People see fame as a portal/exit out of having to be subjected to any indignities that are just natural to life. "I will never have to scrub my own toilet again which proves I'm a beautiful person." Ugh...if I'm right...the human race just sucks.

7) A lot of people don't know what's actually good until someone of status tells them that "X" is good. This goes for art and food and other things. It's almost like "Status Popular" is a real living and breathing entity. "I'm going to ask Status Popular what they think of this art piece. Oh you don't like it? I don't either...." Or another example: "Hey Status Popular...what do you think of this particular car? Should I get it? No? Oh you're so right, I thought it was frumpy too." There are actually few people who (in a vacuum) have legit opinions regarding anything. Additionally, people who get their opinions from "Status Popular" become missionaries in the Cult of Status Popular. In other words, it becomes their mission to point out to others why "Status Popular's" opinion on anything is now the bar by which all things shall be judged.

8) Some people will never be grateful for your mercy, intervention, or help and will resent you for it. No matter how horrific a thing, there is at least some person in the world that legitimately wants it (and in many case there are lots of people who do). So making sweeping generalizations like "everyone craves freedom" is absolutely wrong. There are people out there who actually crave slavery. I'm convinced of this. There are people out there who want to be lied to. And doing the opposite of what a person wants is "trauma-causing" to these people. So yeah...figure that one out. It's honestly something difficult to wrap my head around, but whatever.

9) A lot of people are not comfortable with what they are. Me saying this twists the old adage of "You've got to love yourself before love can enter your life," which I think really means what I said in the previous sentence. "You must be comfortable with what you are, before you can find happiness," is what I think that old adage means. So how is this applicable? If you are a monster, accept that you are a monster. If you are addicted to sex, then admit it, and maybe find a career someplace that allows you to indulge that. If you want to play video games for the rest of your life, then find a career that allows you to play video games. If you are lazy and don't want to work then you probably should try to be a manager of some kind so you can boss your wage slaves around all day and take long lunches and lots of time off on someone else's dollar. Either that or get good at robbing people. My point is that you should embrace what you are and stop fighting against it. Maybe you'll find some kind of happiness; just my two cents. You know how much that's worth.

Monday, October 7, 2019

I don't think running a big-time successful kickstarter can be done by just one person.

I recently started buying into Kickstarters that are both done by authors and by small businesses. I have various reasons for doing this. First, I'm able to get product before it hits the shelves (and much of the time there's a discount and perks), and second, it feels like I'm a valued part of the process by contributing money early to a project. Out of the Kickstarters that I have chosen to give my money to, I've witnessed work being done behind the scenes that quite frankly leaves me breathless. For example, look at the videos. Many of them are high quality, involve scripting, and must convey a large amount of information. On top of that, there's putting together the pledge manager, and communicating with all of the people who chip-in on a project. That's why I think any really decent Kickstarter is going to be the result of a team of people working together. In other words, like many things in life, it takes a village.

If you don't know, Kickstarter has been around for a while. It's a crowd-sourced fund-raising platform that's much different from "GoFundMe," which (quite frankly) doesn't seem to demand any skill since it is just a platform where people go to beg for money. You need money for your healthcare bills? That's GoFundMe and not Kickstarter. Kickstarter is where professionals go who want to raise money for projects that they intend to fulfill. And I've been extremely pleased with the things I've chosen to back (some of which topped a million dollars in Kickstarter funds). While participating in these Kickstarters, I've also analyzed what exactly they are doing, and I've decided to break it down in a post because I find the whole thing fascinating.

First off, these really successful Kickstarters have a great landing page. The landing page already has carefully edited videos for you to watch with details regarding the product usually in prototype form. It tells about the campaign and the different reward levels. In the case of one author (who self-publishes) and runs AMAZING Kickstarters, he already has the book completely finished and in the hands of beta and maybe gamma readers before they even start a kickstarter campaign. I find that to be impressive.

Second, they have stretch goals, which are no small feat. Maybe the goal for the entire Kickstarter to be funded is modest, which seems to be the way most people are going with these things so that they can say the project is funded and begin work on manufacturing said product. But with a modest goal attained early in the process, how then do these Kickstarter operators get people to contribute more money? Well, it's through stretch goals: if we hit this target, then this product gets unlocked. And so on and so forth. The thing is, you've got to have that product ready to be shown and demonstrated and in most cases, you'll want a nice description of it and even a picture so that people can check it out. And the more stretch goals you have, the more marketing potential there is in these things.

Third, social media appears to play a really important role. In the Kickstarters I've been observing, there are already carefully curated Facebook fan pages and YouTube channels where people who are interested in just this product can go and talk about the product with other people. The best Kickstarters are ones that have a community that already participates and shares ideas on a particular thing (and uses said product) who can then talk about the new and different ideas that a company has come up with for their current Kickstarter.

Fourth, FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) is a big driver of Kickstarters. Basically, what I'm saying is that it's important for the consumer to realize how good a deal a Kickstarter actually is. It helps to have people lament that they missed a Kickstarter publicly online (a Facebook group works perfect for this) or to point to the aftermarket sales of the product on ebay and say, "Look at how much markup there is in this stuff? Do you really want to run the chance of missing out on such a great deal?"

Anyway, it's been really interesting to kind of study all of these things as I've been buying into Kickstarters. I don't think a single person could actually run a good one. There's just too much work to do, and it requires skill sets from people in social media, video editing, writing, and marketing. But if a team of people can somehow get together behind something, I've seen some really remarkable stuff come out of these things.

What about you? Have you ever contributed to a Kickstarter? If yes, what for?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Grim Oak Press is going to publish limited editions of the five books of The Belgariad in hardcover next year and they're taking preorders.

The folks over at Grim Oak Press are putting out a limited edition hardback set of the individual five books that make up The Belgariad. They released the cover of the first book, and I've attached it below. It's by artist Allen Morris.
Do I like the artwork? Not really, but whatever. Maybe it will grow on me. The problem is that I'm so old that I remember when the "young adult" genre didn't exist and Eddings (who is now dead R.I.P.) was considered high fantasy. As soon as things became "young adult" then the covers switched to cartoons (or cartoon-like) drawings. The above looks like a screenshot from World of Warcraft (and anyone that plays WoW will tell you it looks cartoony). Also, Garion in that picture has a fat face...I've never pictured him like that. I'm on board with the drawing of Polgara and Belgarath in the back. I just wish there was more to this picture than three people standing on a farm that's clearly in Sendaria. Another thing this cover smacks of? Magic: the Gathering. It reminds me of artwork I see on Magic cards. I guess I was expecting Michael Whelan, and I didn't get that. I wanted to feel something epic from the painting.

At right is another cover from the UK edition of Pawn of Prophecy that was put out many years ago. You can see what I'm talking about, with the cartoon writing of the words "The Belgariad" and the cartoony sword. So looks like Grim Oak Press is going to continue this trend. Ah well. Who am I to question the categorization of why something is clearly written for children and another thing is clearly not? I'm nobody, that's who.

I still bought the five books and ordered a nice slipcase. All around, it set me back about $400 on pre-order. Why would I spend this kind of money?

Well (quite frankly) I've been looking for hardcover editions of The Belgariad for a really long time now. All you can easily find are the paperbacks and the omnibus editions (volume one has books 1-3 and volume two has books 4-5). And I'm not a fan of omnibus editions now that I own a house and have nice bookshelves. So yeah, you could say I've become a snobby book collector. But I don't care. I like my books and I like my snobbery, so there.

About a decade ago, another fine publisher called Easton Press (I think) put out limited edition hardbound and leather-bound copies of The Belgariad. Those are extremely rare and expensive to get. I saw them once on Ebay on sale for around $4,000. That's waaaaayyy beyond anything I will EVER get to afford. So picking up these five hardcovers seems like a way to check off a book I've wanted to collect from a list I've carried around for years.

And I still have one other concern: the newsletter mailed out to all of us that participated (thus far) in the preorder says they are looking for beta readers to look for errors in the original word processing text files for these books. In their words (more or less) they said, "these files are so old that they didn't update to modern software well." That made me shake my head. I'm not going to volunteer my time to sift through books I remember very fondly looking for errors, and I bet the people they do find will not be qualified to do so. You get what you pay for, right? So expectations on these hardcovers is plummeting with every update to the Grim Oak Press website.

However!...and silver lining as it were...the books I have seen from Grim Oak Press have been extremely high in quality. The stitching is perfect, the font is laser sharp, the paper is absolutely beautiful, and the interior illustrations have been incredible. So there is that. Maybe I just need to readjust my attitude and have faith that these books will ultimately be spectacular and make me smile in pleasure every time I see them (once they are on my shelves).

Anyone else intrigued out there? Andrew, I know you are/were a fan of The Belgariad. Are you picking up the five books for your collection? These are pretty rare things to come across, just saying.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The answer is complicated when asking if aspiring writers should read other people's books.

It's October, and that means (aside from Halloween) that the Insecure Writer's Support Group has yet another question to answer up on its blogfest link. So I'm participating :). If you too would like to sign up for the IWSG, please go HERE, and then at some point, thank Mr. Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting the whole thing. The October 2nd question is as follows:

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Ho boy...the IWSG went there, did they? Folks, I don't think people have any business writing when they don't read other people's books. But I realize that there are those who do this and use the above excuse (I happen to work with one) and I gotta say, it seems incredibly narcissistic. However, grandiose narcissism is really on the rise in this country so I guess...when in Rome? If you don't mind my thinking of you as a toxic narcissist, then write away.

The book industry owes nothing to anyone, and neither does capitalism. We have billionaire Kardashians who make all their money selling lipstick and who are famous for being famous. We have people with incredible educations who can barely make a living, and we have young people who were born pretty that become famous and rich for just looking good. So to be fair in answering this question, you don't have to do anything. You too deserve to be a celebrity; the world just doesn't know about you yet. "You are not the boss of me!" is a very fitting rebuttal to anyone who might suggest you actually read before writing a book. It's very "American." I have a toxic grandiose narcissist friend who regularly applies to be CEO of companies or sends his resume into jobs at colleges to be Dean of such and such. He only has a high school diploma, that's it. He hasn't gotten hired by any of them, but in his mind he thinks that this is the right kind of job for him. Anything less than six figures is a waste of his time. I could care less about what he does, because his business with me is related to Dungeons & Dragons. Whatever else he's got going on in his life is none of my business, and I happily embrace that.

The thing is, capitalism doesn't reward the smart any more than it rewards the reckless and stupid. That's just a fact. So a person who has never read a book can get lucky and (complete with spelling errors and terrible plot) get enough people to buy copies of their schlock to make a ton of money and count themselves as successful. Denying that this exists and does happen is just being naïve. Denying that the unskilled and the unworthy aren't regularly rewarded is a complete lie. In my own personal experience, I've seen it happens often enough that it seems commonplace (it's just never happened to me). Luck exists, and it shines its light in the oddest places, and you can beat yourself up over the hundreds of reasons your brain comes up with to answer the question: why can't I reproduce so and so's success?

When it comes to writing, I don't think that there's a formula for success. I don't think that any one person actually knows what makes something go viral, or what makes a person's book resonate with a large audience. If they did, it would be marketable and reproduceable and packaged. Seeing that it's not, then there's a hard truth to face: no matter how much time and effort you put into something there's a chance you will never see any reward of any kind. However, I do think that reading other people's books could provide you with at least some things that might help you. And that advice comes with a caveat: if you hate reading and you "must" read, don't waste your time by reading the writing of people who aren't producing the kind of success you crave. In other words, if money is what you want, then read books that are written by authors making a ton of money off their books. Don't waste your valuable intellectual time by delving into the latest fantasy porn book written by a self-published author that makes $8 a month in book sales. That's just a complete waste of time, even if you may feel deeply or superficially satisfied with such a story. That being said, here are things that reading gives to you that become tools for you as a writer:

1) You learn what's popular and who's buying. I'll give you a hint on this one: men of all ages aren't really readers anymore. People like me are very rare (I've read 36 books this year). Most readers are women, and women crave very different things than men. If you want your best chance at selling books, you're going to want to market your books to women to have the best chance at achieving your goal. For every dollar spent on a book by a man, there's probably a hundred dollars spent on books by women. So reading books written by women for women will give you an idea of what women like.

2) You'll find out if your idea has already been done before. I had a friend that wanted to start a business (and was looking for investors) to deliver furnace filters to homes every month. I googled furnace filter delivery businesses for him and showed him four in the Salt Lake area that are already doing this and then politely refused to invest in his idea. He never went anywhere with it...balloon popped as it were.

3) You will discover that every single human out there has a story they want someone to listen to or read. I think that's an important realization. And being a consumer instead of a content creator has its own reward. Since I bought a house, I've purchased beautiful book shelves, and I've been buying lovely hardcover book editions of favorite authors. My being a consumer has brought me pleasure, and made me realize that there's a lot of work and artistic love that goes into creating these things and that it was all done with me in mind. All I had to do was shell out some money. I didn't have to arrange for publishers to print said masterpieces, or to coordinate with copy editors, or to make arrangements with cover artists...someone else did all of that for me. 

So to finish this long blog post, I am one person, and I can tell if someone doesn't read books and is instead a "content creator" and "narcissist" wanting to direct others to their writing. The "I don't read, but I have something I've written for you to read" doesn't go far with me. I'm not interested in what that person has to say, and I'll politely decline and move onto things that pique my interest. But I am one person. Even if you sold me a book, you'd probably pocket $2.00. That's chump change. Go out and make your millions, be a success, etc. I honestly wish you well. Just don't count on a sale from me.

I gotta say, this was one interesting question from the IWSG.

Monday, September 30, 2019

What is there for Obi-Wan Kenobi to do in his own series eight years after Revenge of the Sith?

There's a lot of people who think that the Disney + streaming service is going to save Star Wars. It seems like a bit of an overreaction given that there seems to be an insatiable appetite for all things Star Wars. I guess when movies like Solo and The Last Jedi fail to hit certain expectations, despite it still making buttloads of money, the general "overreaction" seems to be to panic and then claim that the whole thing is now destined to go straight down the toilet.

I (among many) am looking forward to the streaming service's launch in November, not just for original series like The Mandalorian and the Obi-Wan Kenobi series (starring Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan), but for the other Marvel series that have been announced. However, I've got to say that after my initial joy of hearing that Obi-Wan was getting his own television series post Revenge of the Sith, I started to wonder what that might look like. And given what I know of what happens, it's actually starting to sound a bit boring.

From what I know, Obi-Wan basically watches over Luke on Tattooine until he's an old man, occasionally going into Mos Eisley for supplies and a drink and to rough some people up, but he's essentially retired. I mean...there's some obvious drama that could happen between Uncle Owen and Obi-Wan...the comics have hinted at this much in panels like the one below:
But how could stuff like that fill a series? The above conflict would be a single episode that I'd watch. And we know what happened...Luke Skywalker by the time of A New Hope barely knew Ben Kenobi. So he spent zero time around him (his uncle having won the argument against Ben training him).

I'm also hoping that it's not a whole series of things like a young Luke bullseyeing a womprat in his T-16 while Obi-Wan watches from the bluffs, using the Force to freeze them in place before each shot. That would just be silly. I'm hoping there's more to Obi-Wan than just hanging out on Tattooine. But with Darth Vader on the loose and the Emperor hunting down all of the remaining Jedi, it seems to me that hiding in one place might be the only thing he does for sixteen years. So what do you think? What is there for Obi-Wan Kenobi to do in his own series eight years after Revenge of the Sith? Any ideas? I look forward to your comments.

Friday, September 27, 2019

This week Greta Thunberg joined Anne Frank by denying that true evil actually exists.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably heard Greta Thunberg's emotional speech given at the U.N. Climate Action Summit this week. Lots of news agencies have covered it. But in case you don't know, she's a climate activist, and she is sixteen years old.

Just to get some political housekeeping out of the way before I dissect a small part of that speech that I was intrigued and horrified by, I want you to know that I agree very much with Greta. I also hope that her message prompts change, but the pessimist in me feels that it was just a bunch of wasted words. And in a way, she showed why they are wasted words in her own speech with this single paragraph (the bold is my emphasis and not hers):

"You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe."
It honestly reminds me of something I read in A Diary of Anne Frank a long time ago: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." And then...well, you know...she was caught and executed by Nazis.

So here's the thing, folks (and the point of my writing this): Ignoring evil is a good way to end up dead. It's a simple concept, and one that I find gentle-hearted people don't seem to grasp (and this statement stems from my own beliefs).

The universe owes any single one of us absolutely nothing. It cares not. Evil that is not rooted out and actively punished will find a way to grow. Denying that it exists is just stupid. There are plenty of evil people out there. They cannot be rehabilitated. They cannot be reasoned with. Even Game of Thrones rests its roots on this very basic concept: the world is only changed from the rule of tyrants through Fire and Blood ("Fire and Blood" being the Targaryen way of dealing with evil). And unfortunately, we saw in Game of Thrones that to employ "Fire and Blood" makes you "evil." So it's a catch-22. However, unless you're willing to get your hands dirty, then True Evil is just going to ignore everything you say and keep on going on.

That's the way it has always been, and that's the way it will always be.

But, on this Friday, I tip my hat To Greta Thunberg. I hope she proves me wrong. After all, I'm sure just one more impassioned speech from an innocent girl would have changed Cersei Lannister's mind, and the death of King's Landing would not have been necessary. We can all hope, right?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon from the 1980's got a live-action conclusion in a car commercial filmed in Brazil.

Back in the 1980's, I was a kid that liked getting up for Saturday morning cartoons (a few of you may remember these). I watched shows like "Thundarr the Barbarian", "Space Ghost," and the "Dungeons and Dragons" cartoons. There are some 27 episodes of the D&D cartoon, and the plot was very simple: kids at an amusement park got on a defective ride and got transported through a portal into the fantasy realm of Dungeons and Dragons. Here in this fantasy world, all evil was represented by a character named "Venger," who seemed to be in an eternal struggle with a five-headed dragon who went by the name of Tiamat. Most of this stuff is pulled from the various source materials of Dungeons & Dragons. However, there really wasn't a consistent audience for the cartoon, and it got canceled before the kids could find their way back home. So as far as anyone knows, they were stuck in this alternate fantasy universe for the rest of their lives.

Well, I guess that even decades later, the cartoon is still immensely popular in Brazil of all places (and the characters are very well known). I'm not sure why, but it just is. It does make me wonder if Brazilians play the actual roleplaying game enmasse, but I'll probably never know the answer to that. The popularity of the 1980's show is so big that there's a car commercial featuring the characters from the cartoon, and it shows how they get back to Earth. It's a live-action commercial, and it's in Portuguese (the native language of Brazil), and for what it's worth, I thought it looked kind of expensive with some pretty impressive special effects. You see Tiamat (the five-headed dragon), Venger, and Dungeon Master all show up (the last one in the getaway car that sends these five kids all back home). The actors playing the parts of the kids are good stand-ins for the actual cartoon characters.

Anyway, I'll link the video below. If you have the time (and remember this cartoon), it's honestly worth a watch. Also, you can find the 27 complete episodes of all three seasons streaming on YouTube (and you don't even need YouTube Red to watch them). 

Monday, September 23, 2019

This picture of Jupiter with a big black spot on it made me do a double-take and think of 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

When I first saw this image online, I thought it might have been a joke, playing on the old "2010" storyline by Arthur C. Clarke in which he envisions Jupiter being ignited into a sun through the collective power of the mighty (and mysterious) monolith replicating itself over and over again.

However, it was no joke. The large black dot is a shadow cast by Jupiter's own moon, Io, and the image was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft. It's pretty creepy though, right? It makes me wonder if Arthur C. Clarke got the idea from having seen an eclipse on Jupiter before. Or barring that, maybe he saw a picture of what an eclipse looks like on Earth (when seen from space) and thought, "Hey, doing something like that to Jupiter would be really creepy and mysterious and it sounds like a great idea!"

Anyway, I just thought I'd share the pic with you (and my thoughts). Have a great Monday.

Friday, September 20, 2019

I don't think people understand what the word "mediocre" actually means.

This meme appeared on my Facebook yesterday from a friend who shared it from the Utah Harm Reduction coalition. A bunch of people liked it and passed it on, but I don't think people actually "read" it or even know what "mediocre" means.  The word "mediocre" just means "ordinary." So this meme is suggesting that vulnerable, kind, and generous folks are "extraordinary" and that attracting "ordinary folk" is a toxic burden. It was the most pretentious thing I've read in some time. Why do I use the word "pretentious?" Allow me to explain.

First, you should know that I consider myself to be an ordinary person, and I can tell that whomever wrote this meme is (in Southern language) "putting on airs." In other words, they think they are better than me, and I'm like...whaaattt? Did you not get the memo that being vulnerable, kind, and generous does not make you extraordinary? There's lots of people who are vulnerable, kind, and generous. I work with hundreds of people who define this every day. There are millions and millions of people who are vulnerable, kind, and generous. The antithesis of this, psychopaths, make up around 4% of the population (I got this statistic from a book called The Sociopath Next Door). This means that 96% of the population of the United States could probably be said to be at least "kind" and "generous." Charity is huge here. So what the hell is going on? Why does someone who wrote this meme think this qualifies as extraordinary? Why is "mediocre" lumped in with the words "abusive" and "terrible?"

The non-profit organization Utah Harm Reduction is an organization interested in promoting safety and well-being among a population of substance consumers. I get that. I know some ravers and partiers who get super excited to dance under an electric sky, to engage in P.L.U.R. (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect), and they like their ecstasy and other drugs because it's fun and allows them to escape the banality of existing in a world which doesn't appreciate them all that much. Done. I understand and wish them all well on this journey. But using drugs, enjoying music, having public sex, wearing costumes, and saying "f*ck you" to the establishment does not make a person extraordinary. Not in my book, at least. It just makes you human. Congratulations, you do what you want. You pierce what you want. You tattoo what you want. You sleep with whom you want. It's nice to have freedoms and welcome to the human race. People have been doing this kind of thing for thousands of years. You are not extraordinary. You are, in fact, ordinary. And if you look at your life, and see how far you've come and what achievements you've put under your belt without the aid of others, you will probably see how ordinary you are. In fact, you may only be in a good place in life because you had the "luck" to be born in a country and a society which has allowed these things to flourish.

But here's the thing: being ORDINARY IS NOT BAD. I'm an ordinary guy. Everyone I work with is ordinary. I play ordinary games like Dungeons & Dragons, I read ordinary books (some of which are actually written by extraordinary folks) and I listen to music (a lot of which is produced by extraordinary folks). There are plenty of extraordinary people out there, but that's only because we have a world population of 8 billion. One percent of 8 billion is still 80 million people who have talents that are mind-blowing. Take Kodi Lee from America's Got Talent or Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnast. These are people who are truly extraordinary. And here's another moniker of the extraordinary: they usually make their mark on the world by their early twenties if not their teens. If you are past thirty, and you are not well known, chances are...YOU ARE ORDINARY. This isn't to mean that you cannot be successful and make it into the middle class. The Middle Class is full of ordinary people who drive cars, own houses, and can even afford cars like a Mercedes Benz or a Range Rover. Lots of middle class "ordinary" people live fulfilling lives, pumping out a few kids, getting married, getting divorced, smoking weed, and sexting with a partner or multiple partners (if you're into polyamory--which is also not extraordinary by the way).

This "idea" that I'm seeing where individuals hold onto a belief that they are extraordinary is toxic and poisonous. People who think they are extraordinary will not want to do everyday tasks that people need to do in order to live a healthy life. They will miss opportunities for love, because they believe someone is beneath them, and they will wait for a truly extraordinary person (or opportunity) to find them (and this will never happen). They will have unrealistic expectations about life, and they will come up wanting. And the thing is...all of this will lead to a mental health crisis. We will see enmasse depression and anxiety cropping up in the population, because that's what happens when people have unrealistic expectations about reality: you get depressed. It's honestly not rocket science.

I wonder (deeply) how we even got here as a society? Why are there so many normal folk who think they are better than others, and what kind of damage is going to be inflicted upon our society as a result? Can we please not demonize the word, "ordinary?" If you do, you risk not only demonizing me, but demonizing you are more than likely an ordinary person (especially true if I know you personally). 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Look at this spider!

I play Dungeons & Dragons, and I also collect minis. This particular mini is in the "Huge" category of sizes, which means it takes up a space of three inches by three inches on a battlefield grid. A human-sized miniature takes up the space of one inch by one inch. So this thing is three times as large as a human, which would be immediately apparent were you playing D&D and the little miniature you use for your character is suddenly confronted with this monstrosity.

I'm so excited to have this thing in my collection. The artist is a local guy by the name of Steven Oaks, and he operates an Etsy store for his 3D art (which is code for fancy miniatures that he paints and sells online). It cost me a pretty penny, but when it was delivered, I was wowed by the detail. I think when it gets used on the players this Saturday, there will be squeals of horror followed by in-game screams of characters as they are trapped within the network of this spider's sinister webs.

Let the (evil cackle).

Monday, September 16, 2019

Will Grand Admiral Thrawn appear in The Mandalorian?

Will Grand Admiral Thrawn appear in The Mandalorian? It's an interesting question. If you don't know who Thrawn is, he was first introduced in the book Heir to the Empire, which came out about the same time as I was attending college in 1990. It's written by the author, Timothy Zahn, and featured a cunning villain by the name of Thrawn, who studied art pieces produced by a civilization in order to develop strategies by which he could defeat them. In the course of the series, it seemed to work quite well, and I have my own personal theories that Thrawn was based upon Hannibal Lecter, and that Timothy Zahn was an admirer of Thomas Harris (the author of the Silence of the Lambs). Thrawn is a very Lecter-esque villain, minus the whole cannibalism thing, because Star Wars doesn't allow that kind of thing to be portrayed on screen.

Thrawn has appeared in the canonical animated series (like The Clone Wars for instance), so we do know that he is a character that exists within the framework of the Lucasfilm live action storyline. What I find interesting is that the showrunner for The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau (you may know him as Happy from the Marvel films), seems to hint rather heavily that Thrawn may make an appearance. It's an interesting and exciting thing to think that Disney is actually contemplating bringing the worlds of the television show and the movies together into a more cohesive package. There are astounding revelations that came from the animated series. Darth Maul is still alive is one of them, and it was confirmed when we all spotted him at the end of the movie, Solo. But if we meet Thrawn, then there's also a chance that we'll meet heroes like Ahsohka Tano, and that just gets me all kinds of excited. Ahsohka was an amazing character, and if we meet her, I think it may be enough to really energize the whole franchise.

Disney (in launching their streaming network in November) feels very much like it is breaking ground on storylines that sorely needed to find new directions in which to grow. Mining the expanded universe of Star Wars (for example) for gold nuggets seems like a great place to start. I wonder what all else may turn up as discussion points, and what we will actually see come November.

So what about you? If you are familiar with the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, would you be excited to see him in the live-action t.v. series? I'll look for your comments

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Dark Crystal Age of Resistance is a strange show.

There are spoilers in this post for Netflix's series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

I should have expected this, but my fondness of the things in the Dark Crystal movie are separated by a gulf of time and a lot of nostalgia. I'm about 70% done with watching the Age of Resistance show on Netflix, and I am having fun with it, but it's just super odd in its weirdness. However, it is very Jim Henson. So I think they nailed the things the great puppeteer loved when he was alive, and I think they've done very well by his legacy. Here are a few of my strange observations:

1) The podling scenes remind me of a personal friend who drives truck. He makes strange loud noises with his face, and it just makes me picture my friend doing that every time I see it on the screen.

2) The world of the Dark Crystal feels very original and richly detailed. Most fantasy genres will play on elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. and just go with that. The Dark Crystal doesn't lean on any well-established fantasy races. It has its own races, who come across as very authentic despite the fact that the puppets don't display much range of emotion.

3) The rock golem creature is asymmetrical. It messes with my sense of rightness every time I see it on screen and just weirds out my eyeballs. So there is that.

4) The carriage that the Skeksis use is powered by giant pill bugs that roll on the ground and respond to electrical shock. I just gotta say, those things go really really fast. Surprisingly fast. And they are all-terrain, basically making the royal carriage into a monster truck.

5) The hunter Skeksis is a lot faster and more agile than the other Skeksis. It makes me wonder why the other Skeksis are so slow and clumsy. I feel like I could outrun a Skeksis that wasn't the hunter, and that is saying a lot about how slow and clumsy they actually are.

6) The gelflings strike me as an entire race of well-meaning, compassionate, but ultimately defenseless (because they are kind and respectful) creatures who are into granola bars and hugging trees. It's all quite lovely, but in any version of the comic book story, The Walking Dead, these are the people that all died to the zombie menace within the first week. They just aren't equipped to handle anything truly evil.

7) Aughra is the most irresponsible wizard, and is definitely a far cry from Gandalf. She slept most of her life away, caring not for the job to which she was assigned. Then when she realized something was amiss, it was pretty obvious that it was because the crystal had gone dark and was being abused. It was also very apparent that the Skeksis were responsible and evil. She had several opportunities to just go to the tribes and tell them personally and help the gelflings prepare for war. But rather than do that, she decided to wait around the base of a tree to see if the earth would eventually teach her its song again. That seems like a colossal waste of time.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the show, but its definitely weird. It also does not shy away from gross things, which was another surprise. Who knew puppets could be so gross. I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing a Skeksis sending out three streams of urine...but ya know...that's just a thing I saw that I can't unsee.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Deception is a remarkable thing.

I know several deceivers, and they are small time creatures who weave webs of lies to cocoon themselves within their own realities. What strikes me as remarkable about this is that it seems so apparently obvious to me, yet it isn't obvious to their families and even one fiancée in particular (you'd think that a fiancée would know, but they don't). Though I don't care all that much, I wonder why I'm able to see things that they are not. And I think it all boils down to one thing: the family and the fiancée want very much for life to appear a certain way. The fiancée does not want to be single, and I think she believes she is running out of time with one failed marriage already under her belt. I believe she's put a lot of time into this relationship, and that she just doesn't want to see anything wrong with it. It's like a cost vs. benefits thing. "There's no effing way that I've spent this kind of time investing in this thing and I'm not gonna get a reward for it!" It's like a cognitive dissonance or something similar....

What the family wants is a bit different. They want things to be defined a certain way. To them, bad people look like non-whites who are flashy in the way they dress (or sexual). Bad people are the ones with the tattoos, the ones with the piercings, and the ones who are blatantly honest with their sexuality. A person who is very open and has no problem saying, "I'm gay and I like dick," is a bad person not to be trusted with underage boys because (obviously) they are just waiting to molest. But a person who is closeted, who outwardly says all of the right things...the deceiver if you the person they invest with all of the trust. It's truly baffling, and all of the signs that they are "in the closet" are right there (and perhaps up to nefarious things). But it's not worth digging any deeper to them because it might spoil what they really want (a Norman Rockwell life?), which in my opinion doesn't exist.

I've come to observe that a willingness to take lies as truth comes from fear, and I wasn't expecting this. I have a very healthy and honest relationship with fear. If I'm afraid of something I say it. I also embrace fear in many ways, realizing that (as an emotion) it's purpose is to keep me safe. But I've never been struck by a fear of truth (I guess) because I've always embraced truth and didn't care what other people thought of me. I'm gay, I'm fat, I'm two years from my fiftieth birthday...all of these things are true and I don't care. I say blunt things because this is how I think and I feel bluntness is good and solid communication that has no risk of being misunderstood. When people I've barely met ask to use my computer, they act stunned when I say. "Yes. But I should warn you that there's naked pictures of guys on there so don't open certain folders if you are offended by that kind of thing." I just don't care, but I'm also comfortable living a life alone. I've had people say to me over the years, "You are so courageous for living alone like this." I usually look puzzled and say, "Um...I like living alone. This isn't torture you know?"

One of my friends even said, "Living like you would make me want to commit suicide." I think I was eating ice cream and watching t.v.  I was like, "What?" And they clarified, "I just don't know how you do it?" And I was like..."Do what? Eat ice cream?" And then they started saying how it must be miserable to be single, and I quickly said, "Look, I only suffer from loneliness or depression honestly about once a month or once every two months. I actually love all the space I have and I love being single. It's great. I go to movies all the time, and I only have to buy one ticket. I never have to arrange myself around anyone else's schedule. I eat what I want every night. I watch what I want. It's actually pretty great." But they would have none of it. They thought I was miserable.

There's a weird kind of shaming that happens with our society around folks who are single. We must all be the biggest losers that humanity has ever pooped onto the Earth, and we must all be suffering and one inch away from suiciding out. But that is not the case at all, I assure you. But it's this "idea" and "fear of being single" and "going your own way" that opens people up to deception. It's the idea that there is only one formula for happiness, and that if you stray from that formula, well you're basically f*cked so you should accept anything that happens to you (or that is told to you) as long as it preserves the formula for happiness. It's complete and utter bullshit. And it makes me think ultimately, that a lot of people are not equipped to detect deception, because ultimately they don't want to do just that. Essentially, people find comfort in being lied to as long as it fits the formula for happiness. What they don't like are the things that threaten to derail the formula for happiness. Even if these uncomfortable things are facts and are completely true, they will be labeled as lies by people in order to preserve what they know.

That is so messed up. So yeah...deception is a remarkable thing. And it's just another layer of what it's like to live in this messed up world. Do I have any advice to people out there who want to be able to spot deception and to be free of it? Yes, and it's actually pretty easy. Embrace the fear of being alone. Embrace the fear of walking a path alone through life. Be your authentic self. Get to a point where you don't care what people say about you. Get to a point where you are not dependent on anyone else, and you can truly say "No" to opportunities (because if you wanted to you could just do them yourself). Once you've arrived at that point, you will spot people who are lying to you. You will unmask the deceivers and the manipulators.  And you will probably learn something about yourself along the way.