Monthly Archives: August 2011

Obsession, a new scent, by the Blogenning…

ObsessionOkay, before I go any further, I can guarantee that I wouldn’t wear a cologne invented by these psychos… But anyway! Obsessions. We all have them. Even if you think you don’t… you do. Some people have unhealthy ones (heroin and booze!) and others have productive ones (knitting, writing…) but we all have them. Some of us *cough* have a lot of them.

One thing that has been both my triumph and downfall for most of my life is my wide variety of interests. I act, I sing, I play piano (and guitar, sax, trombone, etc..), I rock climb, I write, I remodel houses, I play D&D, I philosophize, I play around with computers and techy gadgets… and that list barely breaks the surface. I have a lot of interests, and only so much time to spend on them. So I improvise – I focus on one for a while, then switch. The problem with this is that it gets summed up by the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” very well. So how does one get around this?

Jack of All Trades

Bruce Campbell is obviously the exception to the rule...

Focus – Focus on a few interests despite your interest in many. This lets you spend a lot of time on a few… but then you start to feel bad because you’re not stretching your interests. You feel shallow, because you’re not well rounded and exploring new things. This works for some, but not everyone, and certainly not me.

Timeshare – Rotate your interests, as Brandon suggests. Spend a few months on one, then switch. Spend a few months on the new one, and switch to a new one. This works well also, for a number of interests. But when you have “too many,” it falls apart. You end up spending 3 months on one, and then never returning to it.

So how does someone with that many interests handle it? I don’t know… I haven’t figured it out yet :). But what I do know is that I love everything I do. And some of them I would consider myself a “master” of… as much as I believe someone can master anything (which is not at all). So it’s not all bad. The real key is to enjoy what you do, I think. I used to play World of Warcraft – a game that many people call addicting, or an “obsession.” And I used to play it a lot. But when I got bored with the game, I simply stopped playing… and trust me, there are a lot of aspects of it to be bored with. It’s a matter of knowing what you enjoy, and doing what you enjoy.

World of Warcrack

Lovingly dubbed "World of Warcrack..."

In time, many obsessions can be “relaxed.” We call those “hobbies.” But is there really a difference? I’d say no. If it’s something you enjoy doing, and do with some frequency, it can be called an obsession. And on the other side, you can be obsessed with disliking something. I despise a few things… but there are some I’m obsessed with despising. I make sure I know everything about them so I can tear them down. This might not necessarily be healthy… but it sure is fun to come across someone who supports one of those things… heh heh. Yes, I’m evil.

Lately, I’ve finally gotten a breakthrough as a writer. And this is good, because writing is something I’ve never gotten bored with. Sure I’ve taken breaks from it (sadly…) but I’ve always come back around to writing. And now it’s my profession. This I like. I can get comfortable with this. But am I going to sit by contentedly now? No! I’m going to write more! I’m going to challenge myself! Because that’s the other side of the coin for me… an obsession isn’t something you just “do,” it’s something that you constantly strive to be better at.

So what does it mean to be obsessed? A lot of different things… but the trick is to handle your obsessions healthily… and enjoy what you do.


Angry Brain…

RageFaceI don’t know if I’m necessarily the odd man out in this scenario, but once in a while I wake up Angry. I’m not talking “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” here… I’m referring to uncontrollable “if you even fucking look at me I’m going to gut you with a soldering iron then use your eyeballs for beer pong” anger. Normally this is caused by a lack of sleep, or perhaps hunger (I get rather grumpy when I’m hungry… what?), but some days (like today… HI!) nothing fixes it. And this isn’t really an anger management issue either. I can be civil, and it’s not directed towards anyone in particular… but it’s best to just leave me the hell alone. Aka – I put headphones on, sit at my computer, and rant (Hi!). And people steer clear.

But some day’s that just isn’t possible. For example – with my trip to California coming up this weekend, I have a lot of things to do this week. People to see, places to do. Wait… You get the idea. So I have to run around town, talk to people, get some final housework done, etc. Deal with people. But today is angry stabby-stabby day. So I really don’t want to be doing any of that. Solution? Death Metal and Red Bull. Hop myself up on caffeine and listen to god damn angry music. It soothes the inner beast. Or at least distracts it.

Epic Gridge

Solution! Or... perhaps the problem in the first place...

So, don’t worry, I won’t stab you today. Though I might think about it… unless you appease me with Red Bull, whiskey, or ciga… crappit I quit smoking… need a new appeasement mechanism!


The Updates! I can reveal them!

TyperwriterSo I can finally give some links for these shenanigans! For those of you who don’t know already, I’m now a freelance writer for Technology Review (online), which is a MIT publication. My first article, which is on the augmented reality/GPS navigation Android app Wikitude Drive, went live today. And I’m currently working on a second article. Good times!

Additionally, I’m a staff writer for the gaming/geek culture website The Critical Table, which I have mentioned before. My first interview went up today. It’s with Chuck Wendig, freelance “penmonkey,” and game developer for White Wolf Publishing. For those of you who know my gaming background, I’m a big World of Darkness fan (White Wolf’s main line). Specifically Vampire and Hunter, the latter of which is the game that Chuck was the main developer for. So this was exciting for me on two fronts.

These are my big two announcements this month. Feels good to know that I’m getting somewhere with this writing nonsense… 😉 I’m also cracking down on another project, but I won’t be talking much about that on here till it’s completed (probably towards the end of the year). This one’s an even bigger secret… Shhhhhh…. So look forward to that.

Not much else to say today, working on a few things and trying to get myself organized for my trip this weekend. I will be flying out to California on Saturday, then driving cross-country back to Delaware. Looking forward to that, I love traveling.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned tomorrow, when I’ll get something solid up.


Survivor: East Coast Edition

So, a variety of humor comes to mind when considering the events of this weekend. Panic set in, people were scared, and a hurricane swept up the east coast causing… far less damage than everyone expected. And many of us did not take it too seriously. I for one, made sure my family was well prepared, then spent  most of my time mocking the hurricane and playing storm/apocalypse related music on turntable. Including Come On Eileen (Irene), Riders on the Storm, Hurricane… etc. And it did about what I expected it to… rained a lot, and got a little windy. I honestly slept through what was supposed to be the worst part early this morning. And it didn’t wake me up… If you can’t even be bothered to wake me up for your little tantrum Mother Nature… don’t bother.

But in all reality, this was a serious event. Lives were lost, property was damaged, and people were scared, and lost things. And it only goes to prove that we humans cannot stand up against mom. She will continue to prove to us that yes, she (possibly) brought us into this world, and she can sure as hell take us out of it. So respect her for fuck’s sake, please?

I took yesterday off for a variety of reasons. Preparing for the possible storm, talking with friends, and in general relaxing (and doing some work…). But I would also like to dedicate yesterdays “silence” to both those who lost their lives in this event, as well as to the event itself, as it was in fact, serious business.

A Moment of Silence

Sorry, this was the best picture I could find.

So for those of you who were affected far more than I was by this, yesterday was for you.

~Ian


Sorry… Hectic Times

Sorry for such a late post. Things have been busy, what with some work I’m doing advancing, and the hurricane preparations.

Utility Work Ahead

Yes, this is my sign for “I’m busy, you only get a post on why I’m not really posting today.”

A few things of note!

Our house is as storm proof as I can make it for now. I’m going to throw emergency bags together for the rest of my family later, just in case.

Work is going well. I am now officially a freelance writer for Technology Review (a MIT publication) online. My first article hits the site Monday (barring some disaster… oh wait…), and I’m working on my second article currently. Awesome. Sauce. I’ll give you a full update on the TR writing job after the storm, and after the article gets posted online.

And that’s why I’ve been busy. And if you don’t hear from me by Monday, I may have died. But don’t worry, If I die I’ll try to let you all know…

~Ian


Disaster Survival

Hurricane DevastationSo, this morning I woke up to the news that Hurricane Irene is heading directly towards Delaware. Now, for many this is a frightening experience. Especially for the woman who works with my father who moved here because she lived in New Orleans and lost everything during Katrina… I am sure for her this is a nightmare. But for me it’s actually rather exciting. For a variety of reasons.

  • I am a survivalist nutjob. – Yes that’s right. I get excited during disasters. I love researching survival plans and techniques. And I am always prepared. I have an emergency kit put together. I have everything I could possibly need in case of a zombie apocalypse within arms length from my desk/bed. I like to be prepared, and I like to be ready for a worst-case-scenario.
  • I like storms. – I have always loved thunderstorms since I was a little kid. They fascinate and delight me. I’m the kid that would get screamed at because I’d run outside in the middle of a thunderstorm to play in the torrential downpour… lightning doesn’t scare me. And this is potentially the worst storm I will have ever experienced. It get’s the blood pumping!
  • I like fixing things. – As odd as this sounds, I really like repairing things and the like, so if our house gets damaged, or something goes crazy wrong… I’ll have a blast repairing it afterwards. Unless our house is demolished… I wont be so happy then… no. Bad juju. BAD!

So yeah… I’m excited. Many of my friends know that I have planned extensively for a zombie apocalypse. I had a survival plan in Boston. I have a survival plan here. Not quite as good of one… but that’s because our house is a zombie death trap… one story, weak interior doors, huge windows… ugh. Just not zombie proof. It makes me sad. My apartment in Boston was a different matter though… second story, great doors, a reinforced back entrance with a steel security door on the basement, roof access… it was great. Very secure, very safe.

In Case of Zombies Break Glass

In case of Zombies, break glass!

So how does one plan for a zombie apocalypse? Well… “going to the tavern, having a nice cold pint, and waiting for this all to blow over” isn’t the best idea – no offense Shaun. Having supplies is. Non-perishable food, renewable water source, weapons, home repair supplies (plywood, nails), and survival/first aid equipment is a must. Having a protected garden (ie – tall fence, preferably not chainlink) is even better. For long term survival the farther south you are the better. Once you lose electricity or heat in the north you are screwed. Unless you have electric heat and a manual-powered generator… which isn’t hard to build. Just time consuming. And you don’t want it IN your house/apartment, so it’s also a potential safety hazard.

What about fighting? Well… fighting off the zombie hordes sounds heroic, and fun… but think about it from a more realistic standpoint. Do you have the weapons? Do you know how much force it takes to shatter a human skull? Are you really capable of killing another human being, regardless of how “dead” they look? Be honest with yourself on that last one… I’m not even sure I am. And what about weapons knowledge? Are guns your best option (no)? Do you know how to sharpen a machete? Clean a gun? Properly maintain and care for that cheap, decorative katana that will probably break after one swing? Probably not. Do you even know how to properly swing it without throwing yourself off balance? Do you know how to properly defend yourself with a knife? Defend yourself unarmed without exposing yourself to being bitten? It’s tougher than it sounds, or looks. Think about it carefully… maybe enroll yourself in some Aikido or Jujitsu classes…

And what about your family, your pets? Do you know how to care for them when you lose power permanently? Do you have a newborn? Dogs? Even cats? Can you continue to feed them? Dispose of their waste safely? Will their uncontrollable noises attract the advancing horde? Are you prepared to abandon them if they become a liability? If you’ve never been a parent… don’t even think you’re prepared to answer that question in relation to newborns/children. I’m not. And it might be harder to part with Scruffy than you think, unless you’re a cruel, heartless bastard – in which case I hope the zombies get you.

Zombie Bunny

Aw, so cute and cudd... wait a minute... OH NO!

So… are you prepared for a zombie apocalypse? Are you even prepared for a hurricane, flood, tornado… earthquake? Think about it long and hard.

Because the next one might be in your backyard.


Kitties!

Cat ProximitySo this weeks Blogenning theme is on pets. Easy one for me. Since I was… born we have been owned by cats. Usually a lot of cats. I think we have had 13 at one time when we were living in New York. Insanity! We currently have five. Mew, Beast, Morgwen, Mr. Mistopheles, and Max (yeah… we like “M” names). But, obviously, not all of those cats were mine. My cat is the venerable Mew. Or Mu, depending on my mood. Mew was a cat that we rescued when my grandfathers neighbors called him after they have moved and said “By the way, the cat is still in the house, will you take him to the SPCA for us?” Yeah… fuck you tools. My grandfather called us, and we came and got the poor guy, scared and confused… And I he quickly became his my cat. I say my cat because he follows me around constantly, acts almost exactly like me… and is, in general, a prick (like me). So I’m he’s definitely his my human cat… He’s also the oldest cat we own currently.

Mew

Mew: "Okay, what do YOU want?"

I say this because we recently lost our “first” cat, and my mom’s baby, Mim. Short for Mad Madam Mim, and boy did she fit that name. “Oh, you’re petting me. That’s nice, I like that… Nevermind. *sounds of clawing and screams of pain*” She was feisty. And she was also over 20, which is pretty old for a cat – their average lifespan is only 12-16. We’ve always been very attached to our animals, so any passing is particularly difficult, but Mim’s was the worst of them all. We had belonged to her for over 20 years. That’s the majority of my life, and almost half of my mothers. I dare say that Mim’s passing hit us even harder than the passing of our Chow “Drusilla” several years ago (though, I was living in Boston for that luckily, so it didn’t hit me quite as hard as it did my mother).

Mad Madam Mim

Mim: "We are not amused."

If we discover the key to immortality I am entirely in favor of granting it to our pets before ourselves… Trust me, when Mew goes I will not be… happy for quite some time.

One thing that has always stuck me particularly interesting though is the grieving period. We grieve differently for animals than we do for humans. Personally I grieve longer. I’ve always felt a closer connection with my pets than with most of the people that have come in and out of my life. Obviously, none of my immediate family or friends have passed, so this is difficult to gauge, but I’ve always been particularly susceptible to my pets. So it’s interesting to observe other people grieving for their pets, and when they hit the point that they are able to be enslaved by a new master pet. Is there a proper period? Does it differ between different type of pets? People tend to be “closer” to dogs and cats than other animals, but does that change anything? It’s a very interesting phenomenon to observe…

Ahhhh but this is depressing, so I leave you with a pallet cleanser to lift your mood. Face-melting cuteness!

Face-melting Cuteness!

That's right... try and escape this black hole of cute.


Work Ahead!

No time to post right now, I have work to do! For science!

Utility Work AheadIn all seriousness though, I’ll try to have something up later. I just felt like posting something silly and random for now.

Sorry.

~Ian


Turntable.fm – Bringing the fez back.

Avatar Tier 1000-9999So, It’s been a few weeks since I wrote about Turntable.fm, and I have to say that I’ve gotten some interesting feedback about it. For instance, most of my spam comments go to that post. Most of my new readers read that post. And that post has had more hits than any other (except if you combine my two posts about Google+). So what makes turntable.fm so magical? Well, some say it’s the social interaction while playing music. Some say it’s the fact that you can discover new music from people with similar tastes. I say it’s the fez.

Turntable’s avatar system is fun to toy around with, and is, currently, the only motivation behind racking up DJ points. I recently hit 1,000 points, which opens up the tier of avatars I was most excited about, a monkey with a fez. For reference…

Aberro Specus Room - Fez!

See! Fez Monkey always rocks out.

So why are the avatars awesome? Well – for one thing, you can do synchronized DJ’s. We’ve had rooms with all Gorilla DJ’s, or rooms where we had symetrical gummy bear DJ’s – you get the idea. It’s fun. It’s humorous. And like always, an intensive productivity killer. Though I have been able to manage playing on turntable.fm and writing, which is good. Yay multi-tasking.

In all seriousness though, turntable.fm has become my new favorite website. It lets me keep in touch with groups of friends (at the same time), and lets my friends who live states away introduce me to new music, without having to tell me about bands, let me guess which songs are good and listening to them myself. They can play the song, we can discuss while listening, and I can give my opinions right there (and we all know how much I like stating my opinion…). Turntable has opened up an entirely new venue for keeping in touch with friends, and a particularly fun one for myself and my friends, because we all love music.

So if you get a chance check out the Blogenning turntable.fm room sometime. We’re usually in there in the evenings, playing theme games or just ripping it up with good tunes.


Sunday Reviews: Suspiria

SuspiriaMany of you may know that George A. Romero’s “…Of The Dead” series of movies are my favorites. Not just my favorite horror films, but of all movie genres. Many of you may not know however, that Romero worked quite a bit with Dario Argento, an Italian movie writer/director/producer, who made/worked on such wonderful films like Opera, Once Upon a Time in the West, and of course the two Masters of Horror shorts Jenifer and Pelts. But one of Argento’s earlier directorial works is Suspiria, a horror film about witches at a prestigious ballet school.

Suspiria starts off fairly strong. Good music plays through the credits, then a voice explains the opening plot (remember, ‘70s movie)… then you see a girl leaving an airport to flag down a taxi, and the cinematography masterwork begins. This is one of the finest areas of the movie actually. The camera work is just astonishing throughout, it’s not all fancy (Inception) nonsense, but rather simple yet effective beauty. Argento uses angles and a focus on simple actions (an automatic door’s mechanism opening and closing) to break the flow of movement in a way that actually seems to enhance it. It’s quite impressive, and really adds to the film rather than distracts from it, unlike poorer attempts in other films.

So the movie develops, and you see the girl arrive at her new ballet school. You see a girl get murdered. You see strange things happening! And as all this happens you are drawn in by the soundtrack quite nicely. At times I found myself paying less attention to the screen and more to my ears. The soundtrack of this movie, which was written and performed by Goblin, flows phenomenally, really drawing you in at the right times, setting the mood perfectly. Sadly, the dubbing does not. We were watching the English dubbed version, and I hate to say they did a really poor job with the movie. I need to acquire a subtitled copy. But besides that, the sound editing is amazing and, overall, of extremely high quality. Onward!

One thing I do have say about this movie is that some of the plot points are extraordinarily weak. Primarily the main “twist.” The entire witches idea comes out of nowhere, and could have been easily replaced with any sort of “horror” ideal, like demons, vampires, etc. It was not a well thought out plot point, but it worked. Although, the interpretation of witchcraft is so off base and misinforming that it’s almost offensive… but it was the ’70s. It just seems like they had this great idea for creepy things happening around this school… but thought up a reason for those things to be happening at the last second. An afterthought.

Also, the room full of razor wire? Really? Where did that come from? Why would that even be in there!? Silliness…

Room o' Razorwire

Those bales of wire you ordered? Yup! Loosely piled in that storeroom like you asked!

Throughout the film we started noticing certain things. “Why are they using watered-down paint for blood?” Or… “Wow, the movement in the pool scene was very graceful, well in keeping with the ‘dancer’ motif.” Both good and negative. Though we really developed a dislike of the dubbing. The English dialogue does not flow well in this movie… as I mentioned. At parts it makes the movie almost unbearable. So trust me, if you’re going to watch it try to find the subtitled version. But enough repeating… there are certain points of this film that really do stick out, both good and bad. The pool scene, the razor wire scene, the fact that every female basically has the exact same hair type and style… The fact that a young Udo Kier is playing a nice, intelligent psychiatrist (weird!)… Not so much distractions from the movie, but amusing things that we noticed while watching. Or things that add an entirely new level of excellence. It really seems that Argento’s success in this film is entirely in the technical work, leaving a little to be desired on the creative side. Although it’s hard to tell if the actors were good or not… DAMN ENGLISH DUBBING!

Overall, I personally really enjoyed this movie, as an example of excellent storytelling and cinematography in ’70s film. I wish I had the subtitled version, but things being what they were, it’s a good movie. Just keep in mind that its over 30 years old… Also, if you’re not into good horror, but more the slasher-Scream/Jason type, you may not enjoy it. It’s more of a subtle horror.

Creative: 3/5
Technical: 4/5


Sunday Reviews Explained

Sorry for the delay today, we had a power outage this morning, and a few other things going on…

So! I figured that I would lead up to my first review with an explanation of the reviewing process. I am going to do these as a two-fold review, so there will be two rankings per movie – Creative and Technical. Basically, the reviews are going to cover points that stood out to me throughout the film – specific scenes that were good (or bad), specific technical aspects that I took notice of, etc. Also, there will be a basic explanation of the plot, acting, camerawork, etc, as a breakdown of my ranking. I intend to try and keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible… so at points they may feel vague, but I feel that you as readers are more likely to want to watch the movies I give high praise to if I don’t give away the entire movie in the review. So, to break down the two categories…

Creative – The “Creative” category covers the acting, writing, and plot of the movie. The acting will simply be based off of the skill/talent of the actors involved. I will also be trying to keep my considerations of this within the era of the movie. Movies were held to much different standards in the ’70s than they are now, so a movie that might be considered a bomb today could have been a box office hit in 1975. Things you have to keep in mind… Also, the writing will basically cover the flow of  dialogue in the movie, as well as the quality of the dialogue. Finally – plot will cover just that – the plot. How interesting it is, how well laid out it is, and whether or not it’s well delivered. I will take a “grade” into consideration for all of these categories, and then my final rank will be the average of them.

Technical – The “Technical” category is more definite than the “Creative” one. It will cover things like the sound editing, cinematography, lighting, direction, soundtrack/score, etc. This rating will probably be more strict than the other, as it isn’t as open to opinion as the “Creative” side – aka I hold movies to higher standards in technical aspects than creative aspects, heh. So basically I’ll point out anything I think was done poorly, or particularly well, and at the end give you my rating, which will once again be the average of all the individual grades that make up this category.

So for example – say I watched Fight Club (one of my favorite movies). I think the acting, dialogue, and plot of this movie are fantastic. The plot twists are well done, and the over arching imagination it took to write this movie was superb. 5/5. And on the technical side, the movie is extremely well shot, the soundtrack rocks, the lighting fits well with the themes, and the movie, over all, delivers in every way it sets out to, artistically.  Again, 5/5. So at the bottom of the review you’d see this…

Creative: 5/5
Technical: 5/5

Got it? Good. Now stay tuned for the review of Suspiria!


Changes!

Movie ReviewsI expect there to be a few changes around here! I expect this place to be kept tidy! I expect you to stop jumping on the bed! I… wait… no.. wrong context. Sorry… Sorry everyone.

So yeah, I know I mentioned changes, and obviously one of them was revealed yesterday, and you’ll get more information on that later. The next change is much less impressive. I’m going to do a little format changing on Aberro Specus here. This includes getting some more regularity in post topics, as well as a higher standard of material. Which hopefully you’ll see less posts with Colbert facedesking, and more posts with lengthy editorials on the Google+ nym wars. I have intentionally had little real content in my posts this week, because A: I’ve been busy, and B: I was working up to this post. Not that this one has much real content in it either, but it’s an announcement for real content coming soon. I guess that counts, right?

So – this is this the first change you’ll see coming to Aberro Specus – movie reviews.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to review a movie every Sunday. I love watching movies, usually horror, and I might as well put that to good use. Lately I haven’t been watching many movies, so I figure now is as good a time to start as any. There are no specifics in this, they might not be new movies. I like watching old movies. But, for example, I’ve never even seen Citizen Kane. Some would consider that blasphemy. I just haven’t gotten around to it… Hell, if you look at Time Magazine’s list of the All-Time 100 Movies, I’ve only seen… 27 of them. That number goes up on most other lists of “Greatest Movies of All Time” so… Time magazine probably just likes boring movies… but you get my point. I watch a lot of B-Horror, a lot of crappy action movies. I also watch a lot of classics and a lot of thought-provoking films. I also watch a lot of trippy stuff… So it’s not that I don’t watch a lot of movies, I just don’t watch a lot of what most people consider to be “the best.”

So what does this mean for you, the reader (all five of you)? Well, you get to read potentially entertaining reviews. You get to learn about a movie you might never have heard of. And you even get to give input! That’s right. Every Sunday, I’ll be taking recommendations/requests for the next week’s movie. So tomorrow, when I post my review (I haven’t even decided what movie yet), you can make recommendations in the comments as to what you’d like to see my review for next week. This comment thread will be open until the following Saturday, when I’ll make my decision, and watch that weekend’s movie. And hey, maybe I’ll watch Citizen Kane for tomorrow.

Clapping

I approve! Watch me!

So! Get to thinking. I’ll get to watching, and writing. And let the games begin.


In Other News…

Writer's BlockI now have a paying job. Well, as much as a writer can have a paying job.

A pitch I wrote for an online magazine was accepted, so now I have a freelance position with them. I’ll release more information if the story is put out and whatnot (still a chance they will kill the story…)

I am very excited though. This is a great opportunity for me.

In other writing news – The Critical Table is doing well. I should have an exciting new post up on there soon, waiting for someone to get back to me for it though… You’ll see!

Anything else… anything else… Oh. Yeah.

Working on short stories is odd. Right now I have two written, one in the mid-stages of it’s first cut (re-writing an entire page because I just didn’t like the flow of it), and the other in a final edit, waiting for me to be happy enough with the last changes I made.

Why all the edits? I’m trying to get both of them published in magazines, so I want them to be extra-awesome. So stay tuned for news on that.

The movie script is finalized. Working on other things and waiting on scheduling conflicts right now. Also, lazy actors.

One thing that I’m gearing up for is NaNoWriMo this year. Every year I sit down to start it… and then get about 5k words in and die. I think it’s my insistence on perfection, which I’m trying to break. It’s also my “crap, what do I put in here” feeling, which I’m trying to fix. One of the ways I’m trying to fix that is writing on here every day. I figure if I can make myself come up with something at least vaguely interesting for you… I can write 1k words a day in a story I actually care about in November. 😉

Another thing that might help are Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fridays. He does a week long contest every week, winner getting something randomly cool. Just for writing a flash fiction piece on a different topic (he picks) each week. This week is a genre mashup, which I’m considering. If I do it I will probably start doing it every week, just for something new. Besides I pop out 1k word stories like they’re candy… so yay candy!

That’s all for today, if you get the hint from the post… I have writing to do :).


What’s In A Name?

HancockWith the advent of Google+, there also spawned a great topic of argument. I am referring of course to Google+’s name policy. This has spawned more debate and anger than I’ve seen on the Internet in a while, ranging from people who agree completely with Google, to people with legitimate reasons to be against them… to people who just like to argue. But what does it really boil down to? Is Google enforcing a “real name” policy, or just trying to enforce honesty?Lately I’ve noticed a lot of news sites, like Mashable, are reporting on the name bans, citing the Google TOS (Terms Of Service) as saying that “the policy, designed to fight spam and prevent the creation of fake profiles, suspended several high-profile users for using their commonly-known pseudonyms instead of their real names.” Even the top link on Google when you type in “Google+ Pseudonym Ban” comes up with faulty information. Where the sad fact of the matter is… this blatantly isn’t true.

As more discerning members of Google+ are beginning to notice and point out, Google’s TOS does not specifically ban users from using a pseudonym. Rather, it bans them from using an alias which they are not commonly known by. This would, for example, be like me only going by “ravnos” on there. I am known as ravnos to some people, but not commonly. Ian “ravnos” Muller would be more appropriate. The TOS also bans people from going by only one name (mononym). “Ian” or “Muller” would not be appropriate (more on this later). So what is the actual deal?

The TOS states…

“To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable.”

This does NOT mean you have to use your legal name. That is simply the example that they give. It does mean you have to use your common name, what the majority of people know you by and call you. To use a celebrity example – Lady Gaga. Or 50 Cent. They simply want a first and last name, and what you are commonly known as. Makes perfect sense to me. But is this still an issue?

Artist Formerly Known As Prince

I'm not even sure how to enter that into the name box...

Well, what about Banksy? Or users with a legal mononym? Or hell… PRINCE (the artist formerly known as…)? How are these people affected? Currently? Negatively. One user, who’s legal name (recent change) is simply “Sai” has had quite a few problems getting Google to recognize this, according to a lengthy post he made on Google+. At this point, however, it seems Google is almost too embarrassed to continue trying to solve the issue – their silence is very telling. Which is understandable, they are being attacked by a very small but vocal community, who has the backing of a lot of angry users.

So, is there a simple way to solve this problem and make everyone happy? Probably not, but the best approach right now would be to make an official announcement stating… basically what I just did. Additionally, it might help Google to access their stance on mononyms… obviously they have hit a roadblock there. My personal suggestion would be to have people list their name, as well as a nickname. Then allow people to control which name is visible to the public vs. Circles. This way I can be displayed as “ravnos” to someone who isn’t already in my Circles, but “Ian Muller” to those who are. I would also be searchable by either name. It makes sense to me…

I think the anger towards Google is misplaced at this point, but I do agree they need to clarify things more. Otherwise people are going to continue to be confused, and other media isn’t helping much.


Sorry about that…

Been busy today, working on a few things, and counting money (literally penny pinching… heh) trying to roll up all the loose change I’ve had lying around for a few years.

So, you still get a post – just a short one. Plus awesome linkage…

Related to yesterday, I ended up watching the documentary Choosing to Die last night, which features the prolific author Sir Terry Pratchett. Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007, and it is a particularly rare form which causes the rear of the brain to actually grow smaller. Initially he was taking this all in rather good form, but as his condition has gotten worse he has had to rely on his assistant to type out his books while he dictates. He can no longer type. And he is only going to get worse.

Sir Pratchett filmed this documentary in 2010, and it was released a few months ago, and in it he presents the idea of assisted dying. In most of Europe, people are in fact allowed to choose to die, rather than live with a debilitating illness. Sir Pratchett would like the option to make this choice for himself, for as he states in the film “When I can no longer dictate (write), I no longer wish to live.” However, assisted dying is still illegal in the UK, where he lives. It is also still illegal in the US.

More or less, it’s an extremely depressing documentary about people choosing to die in a dignified manner, rather than live in agony and/or  die an undignified death in a hospital somewhere once their disease has run its course. And I think everyone should watch it. Because not only do you learn something, but you see what two men who have chosen to die go through on a day to day basis, and they explain why they have chosen this path. You also see Sir Pratchett discuss with them and their families why they made this decision, and why they think that the UK should join with the rest of Europe in allowing assisted dying.

If you have no other reason to watch it, watch it for the simple fact that Sir Terry Pratchett is a phenomenal writer, and a phenomenal human being, which he shows time and time again throughout this documentary.

My grandmother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s a while back as well…


On Dying…

Death ComesOr as most people call it “growing older” or “aging.”

As many of my friends know, I started school a year early. My birthday falls in late October, which for most grade schools is late, and pushes you into the later year category. But considering I was already reading chapter books at the age of four or five (Roald Dahl primarily, but I was also reading The Hobbit… apparently I was smart, what happened?) they let me start… I was also apparently supposed to skip a grade (fifth or sixth, I can’t remember) but the school decided not to let me because they weren’t sure I’d be “mature enough.” On that second part… I’m actually glad they didn’t let me, because that would have messed with a lot of the good things that have happened in my life (going to Europe when I did, meeting the people in college that I did, taking certain classes that changed my outlook on life permanently when I did… etc.). But now that is all behind me. I have grown old. Older anyway. At this point in my life there is nothing resembling an “age boundary” that I still need to hit, except for maybe “retirement” age… which I probably will never retire anyway, so I doubt I’ll care about that when it comes (and I certainly don’t now).

So what am I talking about? Well – a funny thought occurred to me the other day. A lot of my immediate familys (and friends) birthdays are in this three month period. My mother and father are both in early August (the 5th and the 10th), then Tom’s on the 11th, my good friend Dave’s was the 14th, and my good friend Will’s is the 29th (muahahaha). And that’s just August. Then Brandon’s is in late September, along with a few other friends. Then October… October is the bitch. We kick off October with my uncle Michael Thomas Ford’s birthday, as well as Erica’s. Then Crista’s is on the 4th, followed by my cousin’s on the 5th. Then mine is at the end of the month, followed by Dave’s right at the tail end of the month on the 28th. And there are a bunch of other friend’s in the middle of October as well. If you would note, I called out half of the Blogenning members here, but conveniently left mine absent… some of them know it already. So what exactly does all this mean? Well… I realized that I will be turning 26 this year. And my mother had me when she was 26, making me exactly half her age. Huh.

So this came as a bit of a shock to me, really. I finally hit an age that has some small amount of meaning to me. 16 didn’t really matter, because driving is fun, but it wasn’t a privileged for me… 18 didn’t matter because at the time I didn’t smoke (I didn’t start till I was 21… and recently quit). 21 didn’t matter because I had been drinking since I was 16 (and had learned to respect alcohol and drink responsibly, which is what is lacking in most American youth… but that’s a story for a different topic). But now I have hit an age that actually makes me think – my mother was my age when I was born… huh. And this pulls through all of the other life questions like “is this where I want to be in my life,” and “where do I want to be five years from now,” etc. Additionally, this is something that only happens once in a person’s life…

So am I where I want to be at this stage in my life? Ah… no. Honestly, no. But am I working on that? Yes. Very much so. And you will probably see some changes because of that here in the near future. Big changes. Massive changes. Huge tracts of… wait… no. So I guess that’s not all bad. More like… 50/50. I’m halfway to where I want to be. Which, yes, I should just be there, but shit happens. Now, as far as where I want to be five years from now? Meh. Don’t care. That’s five years from now. If the changes I’m making now are successful, then I’ll worry about that. One step at a time, as many people have said. So where exactly does that leave me in all of this? Behind… but on the path I want to be on. And as I have said, it’s the path that matters, not the destination. Because the destination is the same for all of us, right Heidegger? (Please don’t hit me Brandon, I had to tie this back in to the title.)


World War Z – No Longer an Oral History…

World War ZIn 2007, Plan B Entertainment (the production company owned by Brad Pitt) acquired the rights make a movie of (the sequel to) the book that one could argue ably say returned zombie to popularity in 2003. World War Z. Long time fans were excited. New zombie minions groaned with anticipation. And then we heard very little. For a while. Then we heard about early leaks of the script, which all looked promising. Faithful to the book. Starring Brad Pitt, which is never usually a bad thing. Excitement abounds! Then Paramount brought another writer in to rework the script. And that’s when things started going downhill.

Paramount, in a press release earlier this month laid down the plot outline for the World War Z movie, slated to be released in December, 2012. And it’s not the book. It’s barely related to the book. Infact, I’m not even sure I recognize any of the character names from the announced characters. Any many, many fans are unhappy about this. I have yet to hear rumors of boycotts, but I’m sure it will happen. You see, fanatics are a fickle group of people. They like things to be exactly the way they want them to be. It’s a slippery slope movie companies have to climb when making an adaptation. On one hand they want to remain faithful (hopefully) to the source material. This makes the fans of the original work happy, as well as the creator of the original work. On the other hand, they want to make money. This is kind of the point of backing a movie (sadly). And when you a cater a movie to the people who were fans of the idea in the first place, you tend to alienate everyone else. So they have to change things to try and make a movie with broader appeal. Sadly – this is difficult to balance, and most production companies lean more towards money making than remaining faithful. So we get movies like World War Z, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which I still like), and… anything by Uwe Boll based off a video game

Bloodrayne Movie

Really? Ben Kingsley, you should be ashamed. Actually... you all should...

But, returning to World War Z… You take a book that is originally a “Oral History” of the zombie wars… with a interviewer meeting with various people discussing the actions they took and things they witnessed during this zombie war… and you collect these stories into a narrative. Excellent premise, great result. Now take World War Z the movie – A UN representative racing against the clock to stop the zombie pandemic from destroying the world. Stereotypical zombie movie. Guaranteed to fill the box office (if people aren’t sick of zombie movies by now). And also a stereotypical action/thriller. Nothing new, nothing innovative. Boring premise, great result (if the only result you’re looking for in ticket sales). So the original fans get screwed.

RedNow… obviously this doesn’t mean the movie will be bad. Many great movies are based off of other media and make drastic changes to the source material. Just look at Red, a movie based off Warren Ellis’ short comic. They had to make changes and add material because the comic was a oneshot… there wasn’t enough material to base an entire movie off of. But they did a fantastic job and made a good, enjoyable movie, that remained faithful to the feel of the comic. And of course there are others. But with a book like World War Z, which is a best-selling novel and has garnered thousands, if not millions, of fans – why deviate? The book is already an amazing tale with a strong fan base, why change things? Well – movies are of course a drastically different animal than books. It’s easy to be entertained by a book about someone interviewing people. In a movie though… that’s about an hour and a half of two guys sitting in a chair talking. I wouldn’t really mind that… but a lot of people would.

So on one hand there’s an action/suspense movie of a man racing around the world trying to stop a zombie apocalypse from happening. And on the other hand… a bunch of phenomenal actors sitting around being interviewed about a zombie apocalypse that was diverted… Personally… I’d like to see both made. But I wouldn’t call the first one World War Z.


Today is fail.

Today is fail for here. That is all.

I have the dumb, I cannot brain.

Colbert Facedesk

Yeah, this pretty much sums it up. Thanks.


Beer Workshop

Varieties of BeerSo, last night I was involved in a “Beer Workshop” on Google+. A few of us from the Whitechapel forum got together, under the leadership of Robin over at The Thirsty Wench, and formed a Google+ hangout, wherein we drank beer, discussed beer, and had a grand ‘ole time. Now, why am I writing about this? Well… to inform you about beer! You see, beer comes in many different shapes and sizes. You have lagers, ales, stouts, porters, lambics. But even beyond that… take ales for instance. There are IPA’s or Indian Pale Ales. There is Irish Ale, Brown Ale, Strong Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Belgium Ale… And they all taste, smell, and brew differently. There’s a wide, wide world of beer out there. And a lot of them are very tasty.

So, to return to last night. The beer of choice was stout. Now, on a personal note, stout is one of my favorite varieties of beer. However, I was unprepared for the Beer Workshop last night, so I didn’t actually *have* any stout in the house… shame on me. So I was more of a casual observer than an active participant. I have to say, though, for the first Beer Workshop (of which there are many planned) this gave me a great advantage. I was able to observe the proceedings, and get a much better idea of how the future workshops would go… as well as any possible improvements. So to start things off Robin insisted that everyone have a Guinness and a locally brewed stout, or at least their favorite (besides Guinness).

Anatomy of  a Guinness

The Anatomy of a Guinness

As everyone began to sip their brews, Robin explained a little of the history of stout and where it acquires its stereotypical flavors and smells from. Then each person went around, describing their reactions to it. There were a few of us who were long-time Guinness drinkers, and a few that this was their first time tasting Guinness, so it was quite interesting hearing their various reactions to the brew. The unanimous opinion was that drinking Guinness is much like “going home.”

Old Rasputin Imperial StoutFollowing the Guinness tasting, everyone chatted a little longer while they finished their pints. Then Robin called the second half to order – the local, or favorite stout. Everyone poured their individual brews, and then they went around again, describing the personal choice, explaining why they liked it, or didn’t like it if it was a new experience. This was rather successful as well, with only one mishap – a spilled drink.

Following this, Robin asked for feedback, and we discussed possible suggestions for the next Beer Workshop. Then one of the members broke out another bottle that he had purchased, something new – a Brooklyn Brewery “Local 2.” We proceeded to hang out, chat, and get a little silly as we wound down from the workshop itself. *The funny part of all of this is that the member that brought the extra bottle had one with a cork, and the cork popped and beer showered him, getting in his eye… This got quite a few laughs and is really what set the silly mood for the remainder of the evening.*

Overall, I would say that the first Beer Workshop was a huge success, and I’m sure that Robin will have a more in depth post about it on her blog – The Thirsty Wench – in the near future.


To hell with this…

No I’m not quitting, don’t worry.  Just for today. Because it’s gorgeous outside. And I don’t feel like sitting here and typing away when it’s this nice out. So I’m going out. And you should do. Stop reading. Right now.

 

Why are you still here? See… this is what it looks like out there… go!

The Outside World

The Outside World

GO OUTSIDE!

~Ian