Category Archives: Writing

Music of 2014: A year in review

The last 12 months were interesting ones in music. Ignoring pop and rap, because I don’t listen to or enjoy those genre’s – nor do I really think there’s anything interesting happening in them – the rock/metal genres took interesting turns in 2014. One of the most important to note was the complete dearth of new and interesting music in hard rock.

The Foo Fighter’s release, Sonic Highways, was excellent, and a very interesting example of a unique way to record an album, but it didn’t completely blow me away. The new Rise Against album, The Black Market, stood out to me, but again, it wasn’t groundbreaking, it was simply good. Even the “new” Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, failed to blow my mind (nor was it designed to, it was basically a B-sides album for The Division Bell).

Rock was, seemingly, a let down for new music in 2014. A few of my friends have said so as well. Which left me with a single genre (with many sub-genre’s) to fill the void: Metal. Now, I am a self-professed metal head (not a purist, however), so this may not come as much surprise to anyway, but about 90 percent of the music I listened to last year was metal in one form or another. There were quite a few excellent albums released, although none that I would call truly groundbreaking or mind-blowing (I’ll touch on this again later).

This said, here’s a look at my top 10 (metal) albums from 2014:

10. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown (maybe?)
Number 10 is a bit of a toss up for me. There are about five albums I’d like to slot in at number 10 but I think I’m going to give it to ETID based on the fact that I saw them live this year, and they put on a phenomenal stage show (as always). Also, “Moor.”

If you haven’t given the new ETID album a listen I recommend starting with track 6 – “Moor” – first. If you’re familiar with ETID, this track will come as a surprise. If you aren’t, will offer an interesting look into their particular brand of metalcore. Beyond “Moor,” the rest of the album is a solid offering from the Buffalo-based group, highlighting Buckely’s impressive vocals and demonstrating how a band nearly two-decades old can still bring some new, impressive force to their music.

9. Caliban – Ghost Empire
Number nine is another metalcore album, with no apologies. Caliban is a fairly recent discovery for me (yeah, I know, weird), and I honestly blown away by this album. The ninth release from the German five-piece, Ghost Empire picks up where I Am Nemesis left off in the evolution of Caliban’s sound and takes it the one step further this band needed I think. The album blends in clean vocals more smoothly than their earlier releases and has some pretty heavy-hitting stand outs on it – specifically tracks 5, 6 and 7, “I Am Ghost,” “Devil’s Night” and “yOUR Song.” If you’re not a Caliban fan, check this album out and maybe give them a second chance, they’ve certainly won me over very quickly.

8. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
A fairly later release of 2014, the eighth album from old-school folk metaler’s Primordial was an excellent addition to the year. With their particular blend of black metal and Irish folk music, Primordial has been a favorite of mine since I was introduced to folk metal and they continue to impress. Where Greater Men Have Fallen provides a solid entrant into the annals of folk metal that I believe holds up equally well against the subgenre’s earlier contributions and modern metal. If you’re a fan of black metal, folk metal or even Irish folk music, I highly recommend giving the album a listen.

7. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
Mastodon certainly make waves with their followup to 2011’s The Hunter. While I personally wasn’t a huge fan of The Hunter, it was arguably a critical step on the path from the band’s earlier releases and Once More… Between the controversy over twerking in the music video for “The Motherload,” and the immediate fanfare over the album’s first single, “High Road,” Once More ‘Round The Sun made it onto a lot of top metal album lists this year, and mine is no exception. It’s difficult for me to pin down what I like so much about the album, other than it’s true to form for a band that hasn’t disappointed me yet, even with my general “meh” feelings about The Hunter, and continues to evolve their sound in interesting ways. *The below video is potentially NSFW.*

6. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
Somehow I managed to miss the existence of this band until earlier in 2014. Though they’ve been around for almost 30 years, The Serpent & The Sphere is only Agalloch’s fifth studio album, but it’s an impressive one. The album capture’s much of what I love about doom metal, the atmospheric dissonance and carefully constructed waves of sound that seem to lull me into a peacefulness. It also offers a very organic, natural sound, lending credence to the band’s other subgenre labeling of neofolk. I’d recommend this album to fans of nearly any subgenre of metal, and folk as well.

5. The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-Li
The Great Old Ones are a relatively unknown band, signed to an indie French label, but with their sophomore release they have won a place in my heart. Oh, did I mention they’re a Lovecraft-themed black metal band?

The Great Old Ones first album, Al-Azif, introduced their particular brand of Lovecraftian black metal to the world, and Tekeli-Li is an impressive extension of that first album. Themed after Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains of Madness” (which also happens to be my particular favorite of his stories,) Tekeli-Li is moody, immersive and a truly haunting example of modern black metal (or post-black metal) – fitting its theme perfectly.

4. Insomnium – Shadows of a Dying Sun
Melodic death metaler’s Insomnium’s sixth studio release was a breath of fresh air in the death metal scene this year. Interestingly enough, death metal is perhaps my least favorite subgenre of metal, but Shadows of a Dying Sun managed not only to make my top 10 list, but worm its way to number four for several reasons. The first of which is how much of an ear-worm track two, “While We Sleep,” is. A solid album from start to finish, Shadows of a Dying Sun provides a flow that few death metal, even melodic death metal, albums manage.

3. Volumes – No Sleep
Metalcore, and it’s offshoot Djent in particular, is a hotly debated topic in the metal community. While metal purists argue it’s not true metal, all things evolve and I think metalcore is a natural growth out of the technical death metal, progressive metal and nu metal sub genre’s that already exist. And I think few people would argue that metalcore is worse than nu metal.

Despite the argued place of metalcore in the metal genre, Volumes has quickly become of my favorite bands this year with their sophomore album, No Sleep.

Music is typically about emotions, and not just those that go into the songs, but also those that they invoke from the listener. My love of Volumes comes from the fact that they invoke similar feelings that the band Thrice does/did in me. Track three, “Erased,” in particular is an amazing, slower and more emotional track in the midst of a heavy hitting album that does the band’s talent justice and offers up an interesting look at where the metal genre as a whole could be heading.

2. Eluveitie – Origins
While Eluveitie’s Origins may not have been my second favorite album of the year based on the music alone, it earned the spot in part due to its theme – getting back to your roots. Track seven, “The Call of the Mountains,” in particular invokes some extreme emotions that draw the listener not just to a place of comfort, but also fond remembrance. These concepts might seem rare in the metal genre by folk metal has blended the extreme, brutal, often angry themes of metal with calmer, more introspective ideals, and Eluveitie has mastered the integration of these concepts with its particular blend of celtic folk metal.

1. Opeth – Pale Communion
Many in the metal community might take issue with my selection of Opeth’s Pale Communion as my top metal album of the year for the simple fact that it isn’t really a metal album. Opeth has evolved more than any other metal band over the years, from black metal into progressive metal to what some have called jazz metal, with the culmination into their 11th studio release, which could be considered more progressive rock than metal.

What appeals to me from this release, other than the band’s unique evolution, is that it demonstrates so clearly how metal can be more than most people think. Metal has stronger roots in classical than many other genre’s, taking directly from the complexities and intricacies of classical composers while blending all-too-modern distortion and instrumentation, and I don’t think anyone showcases this better than Opeth. Pale Communion is the marriage of metal, classic, jazz and progression rock in a way that I don’t believe has ever been done before, and it was the only album to be released in 2014 to blow my mind and worm its way into my list of favorite albums of all time.

So those are my thoughts on music in 2014. If you feel I may have missed an amazing release in another genre, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll check it out. If you’d like to check out my full playlist of the Best of 2014: Metal, you can listen on Spotify.

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To the land of Lovecraft

The stars align once every so often, and when that occurs hundreds, nay thousands, gather in a mecca of sorts – Providence, R.I. – to discuss and celebrate the life and writings of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Less poetically put, tomorrow marks the unofficial start of the NecronomiCon-Providence, which officially begins the following day on Friday. Crista and I will be traveling down by train to spend the weekend basking in the glory of my favorite American writer and the otherworldly horror of which he studied.

Tentatively, we will attend panels on Forbidden Knowledge in 19th & 20th Century Modernism; Religion, Philosophy and Cosmic Horror in HPL and other discussions of The Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraft’s work, as well as gaming and attending other various events around the city.

Should you be in Providence for this forsaken weekend, check out the festivities, and if not… Wish you were here.

I will be posting upon our return, and perhaps during the events, if the mood strikes me.

Till then.


NaNo – Day 1

TypewriterDay 1 of NaNoWriMo is officially over, and I have to say, went very well.

Most of the people I know met their word counts, and those that didn’t are planning on catching up at the first official Boston write-in tonight. My word count? Not as high as a few of the fellow Boston WriMo’s that I know, but 2002 isn’t too shabby I think. I’m happy at any rate.

Brandon informed me that I should have a quote of the day from each day of writing, so here was last nights. And I will preface it by saying yes, I am writing a horror novel.

I don’t bother telling her that my dream that night had centered around a man wearing her face as a mask slicing slivers of my skin off and feeding them to dogs with the heads of infants.

And that, ladies and gents, was my first day of NaNoWriMo. Expect more soon!


NaNoing Time!

TyperwriterIn just a few short days I will be undertaking, for the fourth time, NaNoWriMo. This time it’s different, this time it’s grander… this time… maybe I won’t fail. Haha.

I do have to apologize for the lack of updates lately. Things have been a bit hectic here. Job interviews and birthday celebrations and Halloween parties… etc, etc. And now I’m gearing up for NaNo. I can’t promise you regular updates through the month of November, but I can promise you this… you will get far too many posts about what I’m working on, excerpts, word counts… and the like. Far more than you’ll want to read.

But things will go back to normal in December… maybe. Chuck Wendig doesn’t call it “National Edit Your Shit Month” (NaEdYoShiMo) for nothing… Although if you need a break after the insanity of November, you could always wait for March and NaNoEdMo

So why do NaNoWriMo? I know I covered this before, but in an attempt to make my insanity understandable, as well as perhaps draw you, my faithful reader-s- into the insanity with me, I will address it one more time.

NaNoWriMo isn’t about winning. It isn’t about losing. It’s about writing. Whether or not you’re a seasoned writer, maybe even a published writer, or an amateur with maybe 500 words of fiction written down since your birth… NaNoWriMo can be for you. No one there really cares how many words you write, or how many times your main character magically comes back from the dead… or magically avoids an oncoming train… they care about writing. Getting words on paper. Making them mean something (at least to you)… and having fun doing it. The point of this exercise, if for nothing else, is to have fun.

NaNoBoston2011Now, there are people who would tell you that the point is to write a novel… yeah, sure… that can be a point. But some people really just can’t write 50,000 words in 30 days. Hell, some people don’t even consider 50,000 words a novel. But that’s up to you. Maybe you just want to add another 50,000 words to an already existing 60,000 word novel you’re working on. Maybe you want to write a series of short stories that happen to fit together in a cohesive manner. Maybe you just want a good excuse to take the time to write. Whatever helps you, let it help you. And most importantly, let it matter to you.

I think my final point, really, is that NaNoWriMo isn’t about meeting a word goal, it’s not about writing a novel (well, it is, but…), it’s about challenging yourself and having fun doing it. And it doesn’t hurt to meet other people who are insane about a similar interest at the same time – wrimo’s unite! haha.

So as November 1st rolls around, if you really aren’t the novel writing type… challenge yourself in another way. Start a blog on your favorite topic and try to write 50,000 words worth of posts by the end of the month. Start a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try but have been scared of failing at… Hell, READ 50,000 novels in a month (okay… maybe not that many). But the point is, challenge yourself, and as always, have fun.


The Silent Comedy, a Review

The Silent ComedyOnce in a while, I bother watching film/television show/video game trailers online. Usually only if someone points it out to me, it’s something I’ve been anticipating… or just something that looks really cool. This week pulled two of those on me. First off, The Tony Stark ExtravaganzaAvengers trailer looks fantastic. Much snark, much explosion, much awesome. I’m looking forward to that one. Then yesterday I noticed a video game trailer someone posted online that had an interesting title – Dark Souls. Fairly generic, but you don’t see many games with generic titles like that, so it actually caught my interest. I watched the trailer, and while the game looks interesting (sort of a dark, medieval, horror fantasy style game) I was more caught up in the song that played through the trailer. Amusingly, the thing that sold me most in The Avengers trailer was also the song (Nine Inch Nails – We’re In This Together, fantastic song), which fit really, really well… so this was a running theme last week apparently.

So, Dark Souls trailer, song… yes. The band is The Silent Comedy. The song in the Dark Souls trailer can only be described as western rock… almost like a split between The Raconteurs, Murder By Death, and old blues. While not all of the band’s songs are quite this style (though most are similar), it’s definitely a fantastic sound (and doesn’t quite fit with the game trailer, which has an interesting dynamic). Fast-forward a day…

Listening to the album Sunset Stables I can definitely get a feel for the band. This is their first album, which is impressive. Very, very well produced and put together. It has a very nice sound, and flows very well. Reminiscent of The Raconteurs, as I mentioned earlier… with a bit of a Mumford & Sons sound in there as well. The similarities with the latter are in fact impressive, considering they formed around the same time I believe.

Spinning through the tracks on the first album, it’s a cohesive and fun sound. Enjoyable to listen to, not too ridiculous, not too boring. Something I can sit down and listen to “cover to cover” and not skip any songs. But again, nothing overly impressive. Nothing in particular that stands out and grabs me. Onward to the second album!

Common Faults is the band’s second album. This album has a bit more of that bluesy feel to it that I mentioned earlier. The song from the Dark Souls trailer is on this album – “Bartholomew” – and is definitely a favorite for this album. The album starts out extremely strong with “‘49” and continues to soak into your skin. Unlike their first album, which, while impressive for a first album, is simply good, this album is damn fantastic. Some of the tracks stand out more than others… but like the first album, it’s all very well put together, and the production quality of this album is absolutely fantastic.

So songs… songs are important. I should mention the really good ones. Bartholomew, as previously mentioned, is fantastic. “‘49,” “The Well,” “Moonshine,” “Exploitation,” …and “All Saints Day” are the other really good ones off of the second album (Yes, I realize that’s just about half the album…). If I was going to recommend one song for you to listen to, though, it would be the whole albumBartholomew. It’s my favorite anyway… It captures that old blues underdog power that many, many songs try for, and most fail at. It just drives forward, beating you down and lifting you back up. “Moonshine” has a similar feeling to it, but doesn’t quite have that unexpected boom that “Bartholomew” has. So yeah, that’s my recommendation there.

The Silent Comedy live

From The Silent Comedy's website.

Overall, the band has a fantastic sound that I think few bands even go for these days. And it’s original… as much as this genre of music can be. I mean, hell, in “Moonshine” you’re rocking out along with the song and suddenly there’s a jazz organ jamming away in the background… very unexpected. So if you’re getting really tired of “wubwubwubwub” or the same generic sounding rock/rap/pop/etc. music, this is one of the few newer albums I would highly recommend to you. The new Foo Fighters, Thrice, and Authority Zero would be a few others… but… we were talking about The Silent Comedy. So yes, if you want something that actually sounds “new,” then check them out. I highly recommend them.


A-NaNoing We Will Go

TyperwriterSo in about 21 days all hell breaks loose. All across the country – nay, the world perhaps – mad people try their hand at writing a 50,000 word novel. Insanity, I know, but it’s a valiant effort. Here in Boston, there is a very strong community who attempts, and from what I have seen, usually succeeds at this task. I have heard amazing and fantastic things about this group of people from Brandon for a couple years now, but now that I have moved back to this fantastic city I will get to meet them firsthand. That’s right… I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again this year… and with a little luck, and hopefully some help from new friends, actually succeeding at it.

So for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. NaNo started in 1999 (in July, not November) in San Francisco with 21 people. The next year they moved NaNo to November, and it started growing to the 200,500 participants last year. Today, in fact, they are launching a new website for NaNoWriMo, so look for that soon!

The idea, really, for those of us who write outside of the month of November, is to really motivate ourselves. As a writer I rarely have a chance to say “I’m going to write for the hell of it.” Nine times out of 10 I’m writing for a paycheck, and therefore not only does that writing have to be good, but it also has to meet a certain standard; namely, that of the person I’m writing for. With NaNo, though, I’m writing purely for myself, and in general for NaNo – who cares about the quality? The point is to get 50,000 words written in just 30 days, and that is no easy task in and of itself!

Different people have different approaches to NaNo. There are some contestants who feel that in all fairness of the concept, they should start with a blank slate on November 1st, with nothing planned. I tried this my first year and wrote exactly 3 pages. That’s it. I had NOTHING. It was kind of sad, and almost pathetic.

Then there is another frame of mind, which creates not a one month event, but a three month event. Chuck Wendig (who wrote an interesting post on NaNoWriMo here) calls October NaStoPlaMo, or National Story Planning Month. And he calls December NaEdYoShiMo… National Edit Your Shit Month. His suggestion? Plan your novel through October, figure out your plot, characters, hell, etc. Then you hit November and you write like a madman (or woman) and knock out 50,000 words. Now, here’s the important part. Those 50,000 words. They don’t have to be perfect. You don’t write the next “Great American Novel” in one month. Hell, the story doesn’t even have to be good. Just written. Then you use December to edit. Turn that pile of crap into the next great American novel. Or if that’s not your thing… just turn it into something decent you’d let your friends read.

Chuck Wendig’s most important point about NaNo is something I am taking to heart this year, though.

“NaNoWriMo has a lot of rules: you’re supposed to “start fresh,” you’re not really meant to work on non-fiction, blah blah blah. This is all just made-up stuff. It’s not government mandated. This isn’t taxes, for fuck’s sake. Do what you like. Even better: do what the story needs. Hell with the rules. Fuck the police. Write. Write endlessly. Don’t be constrained by this program. It’s just a springboard: use it to launch your way to awesomeness. Anything you don’t like about it, toss it out the window. That certificate you get at the end doesn’t mean dog dick. The only thing that matters is you and your writing.”

Who cares if you start early? Who cares if you simply use the enjoyment of NaNo to work on the novel you started in August? This is about writing, not rules. So guess what? My NaNo novel? I already have a few thousand words written. Hopefully I’ll write an additional 50,000 in November, but if I don’t? If I only write 50,000 total? Tough shit. I’ll be satisfied, and that’s what matters.

NaNo2011

Not a big fan of this years badges...

So the point of NaNoWriMo? Write. The idea of NaNoWriMo? Write. Why should you do NaNoWriMo? To write. So if you want to write… want to write a lot… and want a motivational tool to get you going with it, join us for NaNoWriMo next month. And remember… don’t worry about the rules, just write.


Music Over Time – Thrice Edition

ThriceDespite the title this is not an ongoing theme… just a clever title that popped into my head, ha.

Earlier this month Thrice’s new CD, Major/Minor, came out. Before I begin talking about *any* of this, I will say the CD is fantastic, and you should buy it regardless of if you are a fan of their earlier work. It is quite possibly their best album to date. Now on to the good stuff.

While Brandon and I were discussing Thrice’s new album the other day, I realized I have been listening to the band for ten years now, about how long the band has been around. Thrice is known for their vastly diverse sound on each album, with no two albums sounding alike. Thrice’s sound has changed so drastically over the years that they have gone from being a Post-Hardcore band, to an almost “Experimental Post-Rock” band. I first heard their music when I was in high school, a little while after the release of their debut album, Identity Crisis. With their first album Thrice was easily “classified” as a Post-Hardcore/Melodic Hardcore group, with a very punk sound and stressed, screaming vocals.

At the time, this was the style of music I was very much into. I had just gotten into Tool, as well, the year before, so my music tastes were nestled somewhere directly between “angry driving Rock/Metal” and, well, “angry driving Punk/Hardcore.” It worked for me at the time. Tool, System Of A Down, Thrice, From Autumn To Ashes… etc. Then Thrice’s next album, and possibly my favorite album of theirs, came out – The Illusion of Safety.

The Illusion of Safety, while sounding similar to Identity Crisis, is much more impressive of an album. The songs have a lot more range of emotion, and the music has definitely matured. Just from listening to the album, you get a sense that the band learned a lot after the release of Identity Crisis and worked very hard to show it in the follow-up album. Deadbolt and The Beltsville Crucible are absolutely brilliant for the genre of music that they are, with the piano outro to Deadbolt showcasing a much darker tone to this album overall. At the time, this album again followed along with my taste in music closely, pinpointing a darkness I was feeling at the time (ah, angsty teenagers), while still sliding into that post-hardcore sound I was really enjoying at the time.

And then there was my senior year in high school, and then the album The Artist In The Ambulance. TAITA came out while I was actually in Europe (long story) so I picked up the album when I got home in August. The album again was very different, with a much richer sound than the last. Many of the songs seemed to drift almost entirely away from the Post-Hardcore sound entirely, hitting a more Hard Rock vibe. Yet the album overall was still influenced heavily by that screaming vocal style and driving guitar riffs. At the time, I was getting ready to go to college and start a new chapter in my life (one that would change my life significantly for the better) and this album struck home for me. It spoke to me of change as well, and it’s an idea I clung to. This remained my favorite album for my entire freshman year of college.

Then in 2005, Vheissu came out. This album is perhaps my least favorite album (though I by no means dislike it) of Thrice’s. It is also Thrice’s first album that delves into Experimental Rock. The album is by no means bad, as I said, I just didn’t feel as strong of a connection to it as I did (and do) to the rest of the albums. Vheissu did, however, come out at a time where I was beginning to get heavily into Philosophy studies and was very much into experimental music, so it fit in well with the other bands and albums I was listening to at the time. I gave it quite a few good listens, and enjoyed it immensely for its almost “randomness” at the time.

Then, as I was entering my final year of college, The Alchemy Index (Vols. I & II and Vols. III & IV) came out. Immediately I was struck dumb by the album, before I even heard the songs. The theme alone of the album, a mini-album for each of the four elements, played perfectly with how I thinking at the time. I was exploring a lot of my personal beliefs at the time and nature and alchemy were playing heavily into that exploration. This album, spaced between October 2007 and April 2008 fit perfectly into that. And the album itself is beautiful. Each mini-album captures the element it is trying to portray perfectly. When listening to Fire, you feel the heat of an inferno wrapping around you. When listening to Water, you feel the gentle waves lapping against you… as if floating on an ocean. With Earth, you feel the strength of mountains resonating, and the folksy/acoustic sound really strikes deep into the soul. And Air has this ethereal “Art Rock” sound that really floats through you… perfect for its name. The two-part album is considered by many to be the band’s greatest effort to date, and also seems to chronicle the band’s evolution as well, with Fire being a much harder sound, and each album representing a change in the band, with Earth and Air sounding much more like the band’s most recent efforts.

Then, in 2009, Thrice released Beggars. Beggars was a massive change, with a much more Indie/Blues/Rock sound than their previous albums, much like Earth and Air of The Alchemy Index. The album came out in a time where I was trying to work my way through life, aiming to put in a hard days (or nights, as the case was) work, come home, and relax. The album spoke volumes to me in this sense, and at the time, I was listening to *a lot* of blues… so it fit right in. Beggars also came as a bit of a surprise. At the time I was listening to a lot of older music. I had been ignoring new releases and new bands for about a year at the time, so when Beggars came out I almost missed it. Right around the release date I happened to be at the mall and noticed the new album and picked it up. I could also blame this album for my journey back to newer artists and music. All I can really say is that Beggars really hit home for me at the time, and I’m glad I found it when I did…

Enter 2011, and Major/Minor. Major/Minor is the exception to the rule. With a history of changing their sound drastically from album to album, Thrice really threw their fans for a loop with Major/Minor, which sounds like a much more polished, meaningful Beggars. A fantastic album, and (for me) their best since The Illusion of Safety, Major/Minor really tells a story I can relate to. At this point in my life I’m changing direction and trying to get onto the track that I’ve wanted to be on all along, as a writer… and other things. This album really just infiltrated my soul. And again, I found out about the album on its release day… I hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t even know the band was putting out a new album.

I find it fascinating that as my taste in music has changed over the years, Thrice has been right there beside it. I’m sure many people who grew up with The Beatles or The Who, both of whom had drastic sound changes over the years, could say similar things… but to me it’s nice to know that there is something I could always relate to at every changing point in my life.

And to wrap all this nonsense up, here’s a song from the new album, Words In The Water… enjoy.


Blocking A Writer

Writer's Block MugSo this weeks Blogenning theme is writer’s block. FYI – I’ve been very busy as of late, packing, so I’m cutting down to 3 posts a week (you’ll get the third for this week tomorrow, sorry). And tomorrow’s post will be on why I’m packing, promise.

So – writer’s block. That dreaded curse. That infamous whore. That.. well, you get the idea. Writer’s block sucks. The closest “real job” comparison I can make is going to work at a desk job, getting there, and your desktop won’t boot. Nothing you try makes it turn on and work. So you’re stuck all day trying to fix it, or doing random bullshit till it starts working. And when writing is how you make your living, it’s even worse.

Kas pointed out in her post that writer’s block is a little more difficult to get when you write nonfiction. As a freelancer I haven’t gotten writer’s block at all. Occasionally I sit at a sentence trying to figure out the best way to convey the information I want to with it, but that’s different. That’s more akin to trying to pick between Chinese and Indian for lunch. I know what I want, I just haven’t decided how to achieve the goal, but I know I’m going to decide shortly. No, writer’s block really strikes when you write fiction. It can really fuck up your day…

A perfect example of this is NaNoWriMo. For the last three years I have joined in and attempted to write a novel during the month of November. Not too horrendous a feat I thought… I can handle this. I failed miserably all three years. The first year I got about a thousand words written, maybe. Great start, but then I just got stuck and didn’t know where to go with the story. And suddenly it was December. Cue in 2009. I was smart and planned out my novel in October, figured out the basic story and characters. And then a week into November I was “too busy” and never got any further than the first chapter again. Utter failure. To be fair I had just started a new job… but still.

And then there was last year – my best attempt. I cheated a little and used a story I had already started writing. I had about a thousand words written and decided I would just start from there and keep going. I already knew where the story was going… and it worked really well. I got a little under five thousand words written. Then Call of Duty: Black Ops came out… whoops. Bye November… Obviously I haven’t had much luck with NaNoWriMo. But this year… ah this year.

This year I have a plan. It’s almost entirely me-proof. I don’t see how I can muck it up this year. No games are coming out I “have” to have. Nothing is going on in my personal life to halt my progress. My only worry is that damnedable writer’s block. She’s evil… and she’s out to get me… nay all writers. I tell you… we should have a witch hunt… if writer’s block was a real thing. But you see, it’s all in your head. Many writers can recognize this… but it’s still a difficult beast to overcome.

A little while ago someone on Google+ posted a thing from Ira Glass about “The Gap.” Brandon also mentioned this recently. The Gap is very similar to writer’s block, but different in an important way. The Gap is more along the lines of quitting because you think you suck. And the Ira Glass piece is basically a kick in the pants “you don’t suck, get back to work son, there’s writing to be done!” It’s nice. And it’s also currently printed out and hanging next to my monitor to remind me that even if this story sucks, I can learn from it and make the next one better. Because sometimes we all need a little inspiration, right?

Writer's Block

Sometimes you just want to smash something...

So while I don’t have any tips and tricks to help you overcome writer’s block… I do have advice. Don’t let it stop you. If you get stuck, either press on, or try something else and come back later. I know that 90% of the time when I get stuck it’s because I can’t figure out how to make the next part awesome… and if there is ONE piece of advice every NaNo-writer will tell you it’s, “don’t worry if it’s awesome, just write. You can make it awesome later.” So don’t worry… you can always fix something that’s broken, but if you have nothing to fix… you get nowhere.


Language Is The House Of Being

HeideggerStarting this off with a quote from Heidegger, as revealed to me by my favorite Philosophy professor was probably an evil thing to do. Because it sets the tone for this post… and any post in which something Heidegger related is the tone should cause you to hate me. Because at worst, you’ll hate me for reading Heidegger, and at best, you’ll just get a massive headache and hate me for that. And, on a very rare occasion, you might be interested in what I’m saying. But that just puts you into the same boat I’m in as I write this… so poor, poor you.

So… Language, a wonderful topic, which Kas picked for our weekly theme. Fascinating stuff, language. I could talk about the “elasticity of language,” but… I think Fry and Laurie already covered that…

But I digress. Language is the house of Being. For those of you who haven’t read Heidegger, there is a reason that the “B” is capitalized here, but that requires an entirely separate post to explain (actually, probably more than one). I will try, probably in vain, to explain the sentence, without delving too deeply into utterly confusing Heideggarian terms and philosophy. So… here goes.

In Heidegger’s Sein Und Zeit (Being And Time), he attempts to address the problem of the “fundamental question of the meaning of Being.” Primarily, how to even ask the question. The entire idea of Being is so complex and complicated that it is a “loaded” question anyway. And Heidegger pushes this even further by demanding that I, the reader, his “student” of sorts, ask the question properly. Of course, the basis of basically the entire 488 page book is how to ask the question properly… so he believes that this is an extraordinarily difficult question to ask. But the most important thing to remember when delving into the book, and the question, is that quote. “Language is the house of Being.”

Now… if I was going to do this properly I would take each word in that sentence and break it down to its roots, getting to the meaning behind the word, before trying to reconstruct the sentence… but again – an entire separate post would be needed. So for now I will address one part… which I hope will convey the complexity of the sentence. And it’s the word that probably raises the most questions in the sentence anyway – house.

Language Family Tree

It makes me quite sad how inaccurate this chart is...

What does Heidegger mean by “house”? Well, house has many different connotations. It can mean a building, which surrounds and shelters. It can mean a home, in the sense of where I “belong.” And it can mean other things as well… But let’s focus on house as a “home…”

A house is, as I mentioned, both a building and an idea. When I refer to my “home” I usually don’t mean the building I live in… I mean a place, or specifically, my idea of a place. If you really want to delve into what that means, go read Brandon’s post, because I think that covers it better than I could here. But yes, an idea of a place. My “home” is where I am happiest. This could refer to a building where my belongings and loved ones are. Or it could refer to the city I love being in. Usually it refers to some combination of the two. Or if I’m feeling particularly pompous Caring, it refers to this planet, Earth, which is my home for obvious reasons.

So what is the house, or “home,” of Being? Why is it “Language”? Well, in relation to Heidegger’s attempt to answer the question of the meaning of Being, this becomes fairly obvious. The only way to properly ask the question, is to properly formulate the question – use the proper language. This is where it gets tricky, because how do I know what the proper language is? Trial and error seems to be my general method… but I digress. Basically, if I don’t use the proper language, I can’t ask the question properly – which seems like a fairly obvious statement, but it goes much deeper in this case. Who determines what the proper language is in this case? Well… that’s what Heidegger tries to do for 488 pages… so I’m not going to attempt it in an 800 or so word blog post… sorry. My suggestions. Read the book. Or rather… forget you read this post. If you read the book you might try to hurt me… I have a feeling Brandon is already going to try and beat me with a shoe now…

Oh, and just to clarify – this was not a philosophical attempt to explain Heidegger’s Sein Und Zeit in laymens terms… it was simply a rambling rant on how language is a fickle bitch. Please don’t assume you know what Heidegger is all about just from this post… hell, I’ve read the book and TAed the class for 3 years and I don’t think I even know what the book is all about.


Writing, an Adventure in Itself

TyperwriterAs a writer, in particular a freelance writer, one has to occasionally turn a blind eye to certain things. Editors making changes to your work you don’t agree with, being paid far less than you think you are worth for certain jobs… etc. But you also get to do something you love – write. Because honestly, who would choose to be a writer if they didn’t love to write. It’s a trade-off. But how do you really get into the writing process? And how do you deal with those little things I mentioned?

As with most creative work, I think it would a fair assessment to say that a lot of people give up after a few attempts at becoming a writer. You get maybe one or two stories/articles published, and then there’s a dry spell, and you go looking for a 9 to 5 job again, and never come back. But then… some of us are stupid crazy enough to keep writing… The ones who end up crazy, broke, or both. So again, how do you deal with this? Drinking is an option, though your liver might decide it doesn’t want to continue its lease at the end of the year… And of course there’s smoking. But are there healthier ways?

I don’t know, tell me if you find one please.

Furthermore, what’s the point of dwelling on it? If you fail, no big deal, lots of people fail. If you succeed, you’re lucky. Just go for it, right? But how do you balance striving for your dream… and starving? At what point do you say “This wall of whiskey bottles and peanut butter jars can be my fortress of solitude no longer?” Well, if you really love it, you don’t. And they find you full of whiskey, with peanut butter smeared all over your face in a frenzied attempt to stave off the purple weasels living in your underwear (which you aren’t wearing).  Or you say “The hell with it, I’m going to sell my soul and get this published…” and make a few bucks off of an article you really only spent 10 minutes on Wikipedia researching. But hey, it sounds good, and they’re willing to give you 25 cents a word for it… right?

Will Write For Food

So really, how do you take away all the bullshit and get to what you really want to do, get paid to write? You don’t. I guess that’s the sad bottom line. You deal with it, or you find something else. Because in the end, if you actually want to make money doing this… you deal with it. And you hope that one day you’ll be lucky enough to be half as rich and famous as Stephen King. But until then, you deal with it to pay the bills.

So what’s the point of this rant? I’m not sure. Part self-motivation to stick with it. Part inspiration for you, my loyal reader (note the singular – hi mom). And maybe part explanation. I write because I love it. I write because there’s nothing else I can think of doing and still be happy. Perhaps I write because there is a problem in my brain… either way I know I’m nuts, but this is what I want to do. And by Cthulhu… it’s what I’m going to do.


A preview…

Here’s a… preview, of something I’ve been working on.

Every morning before starting work, but after showering (rarely), and getting dressed (also rarely, as he usually sleeps in his suit), Richard Snow plays Russian Roulette with himself. He loads a single bullet into his Colt Detective Special -a snub-nose .38 special revolver- holds the gun up to his head, and pulls the trigger. He started this practice approximately three years ago, and continues it only on the mornings that he works, being every single bloody day, including holidays. You see, Richard is a private detective, and he does a job that if you did it it might drive you to play Russian Roulette as well. It goes a little something like this…wake up and get off of the couch in the office (yes he sleeps in his office, he doesn’t exactly make enough money to rent an apartment), piss (hopefully into the toilet), splash water onto face and into hair, (this would be the point that Richard tempts death) grab jacket and head out the door. After this, promptly go to the generic corner store down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and an energy drink that makes the hand shake and heart beat 3 times faster than it should. Smoke a cigarette while walking once around the block, go back to the office, go inside, and sit down… spending the rest of the day smoking, drinking shit flavored coffee (until 4pm, when he switches to scotch) and glancing at the phone once in a while to see if it rings on command. It doesn’t. Anyway, put the gun down, there’s more story here to tell.

As usual, this is covered by my CC-NC-SA. I hope you enjoy it…


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.


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 :).


The Blogenning! 3.0

TyperwriterLet the Blogenning begin! Those of you who are longtime readers may remember the Blogenning. For those of you who are new to here, I will explain. The Blogenning was started by Brandon Schory and I as a way to motivate each other to write on our sites more often. Then we gathered a few more victims friends for our little game. And it worked out very well, for a while. Then someone (probably me) started lagging behind. Then another person… then another. And we all just kind of quit, without really saying anything about it.

Then, shortly after I moved back to Delaware from Boston, we tried again. This time we got even more victims friends together. And it went very well for a while. Then I got a high-stress job working nights. And I stopped posting. And they kept going for quite some time… then it slowly died again. Of course, even though I had stopped writing, I was still reading most of their posts. And about four months ago I realized it had been almost a year since Brandon had posted. So I started scheming. I knew I could get Brandon to start again, but what about everyone else? The only person still posting on a semi-regular basis was Tom…

So I schemed. And I pondered. And finally I plotted to get everyone posting again. So I set myself to a rigorous “one-a-day” posting schedule. Then I e-mailed everyone asking if they were interested in starting again. Obviously, being “unemployed” gives me an advantage over everyone else… but I said that instead of the previous “post for post” rule, we’d go “three a week.” Everyone agreed… and here we are! So without further ado… I give you… the Blogenning!

Aberro Specus, Dimestore Romance, Extant Musings, Independent Thought Alarm, Jaco’s Random Writings, Rachel Ober’s Life & Times of a Female Software Engineer, Time with Tom, and last, but not least, Words, Words, Words.

And for those of you interested… here are the rules of the Blogenning.

  • The first rule of the Blogenning is that you always talk about the blogenning.
  • The second rule of the Blogenning is that you ALWAYS. TALK. ABOUT. THE BLOGENNING!…
  • *ahem* The third rule, three posts per week, minimum, is expected from all members of the Blogenning, ere they risk countless ridicule, name calling, and badgering (with sporks… arse eels, and possibly even badgers).
Angry Mob

Or these guys will be coming for you!

  • The fourth rule of the Blogenning is that of “The Rotation.” The Rotation is a thematic challenge, started every week by a rotating member* of the Blogenning. The first post of this week by the scheduled member becomes the challenge theme, and the same topic/category of post must be written by all members of the Blogenning that week. This means that if I write about rabid bunnies as my first post on my week, you all have to write about them at some point. Or if my first post of the week is a poem, you all have to post a poem by the end of the week. This post does count towards your weekly total, so it is not “extra.” The punishment for failing The Rotation is to produce an extra post the following week to make up for it (meaning that if I do not make one of my weekly posts about furries during Jaco’s week to meet his challenge post of “The Wonders and Joys of Furries” then I will owe an extra post the following week covering that topic. If I still fail to produce said post… the group shall think up an appropriate punishment.
  • And finally, rule five of the Blogenning… have fun. This is meant to be an enjoyable and inspiring project. So if it begins to feel like a chore, or even like a second job… let the group know.

*The Rotation is alphabetical by blog title. So the order is Aberro Specus, then Dimestore Romance, then Extant Musings, etc. Also… Monday is the start of our week for The Rotation.


No Shades Of Grey

Alright… speaking of bad writing. So I’m going to admit that I have nothing to say today. Normally I work on my post the evening before, and last night I had absolutely no ambitions to work. So today you get crap. Not even Grade A crap. Because today I subject you to horrid horrid poetry. Horrid horrid poetry that I wrote easily ten years ago even. Back when the world was a dark and dismal place… darker and more dismal place in my mind than it really is. I was basically emo before emo really existed… and no I don’t mean goth, there isn’t enough self respect there to even approach goth. But all self-deprecation aside (at least I still have *that* down), it’s not good, it’s not bad… just something I wrote a while ago that I don’t think is complete  trash. I may have even had it published, I can’t remember… And if you want a downloadable copy, go to my Writings page. I posted a PDF. As always, my writing is CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

  No Shades Of Grey

This is my dream,
Torrid and surreal.
This is my nightmare,
Quiet and blissful.

This is my life,
Painful and horrible.
This is my death,
Peaceful and dark.

Finding my eyes,
Sunken and hollow.
Finding my voice,
Grating and harsh.

Finding my thoughts,
Horrid and disturbing.
Finding my body,
Hideous and deformed.

Hatred and love,
Lies and truth.
Chaos and peace,
Death and life.
Black,
Or White.

Creative Commons License
No Shades Of Grey by Ian E. Muller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Bad Writer! Bad! No Royalty Check For You…

Good Writing...Lately I’ve been watching Torchwood: Miracle Day. Now… I’m a huge Torchwood fan. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan… hence the TARDIS USB hub and TARDIS heat changing mug I have (amongst other paraphernalia). I even designed a D&D character after Capt. Jack Harkness, complete with bisexuality action. But “Miracle Day” is bad. So bad in fact it’s a “Miracle it’s still on the air toDay” after the first three episodes. And it’s not just me that thinks so. A few people have commented on the watered-down writing of the new series, as well as the irritating and over-the-top acting of Mekhi Phifer. Maybe this is because the show is now taking place in the US, and Starz (the cable channel airing the show) wants US viewers to be able to relate to the show. Maybe it’s because they were forced into a 10-episode arc instead of a 6-episode one, e.g. Children of the Earth. But for whatever reason, Torchwood: Miracle Day certainly does not live up to the earlier seasons of the show.

Torchwood Miracle DayNow, don’t get me wrong. I’m still watching it. Five minutes before starting this I finished episode four (I’m a little behind in the season due to not having cable… you do the math). I still love Jack and Gwen, miss Ianto and Owen, and look forward to scenes where Gwen shoots down a helicopter with a bloody rocket launcher. But then I cringe as she says “Welcome to Torchwood” to close episode 2. Really? I mean, the line wasn’t badly delivered. It just shouldn’t have been said. No… Bad. Which brings me to my point. Can good actors save bad scripts? Well, in some cases… yes.

In the 2009 film “The Maiden Heist” Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, and William H. Macy play museum security guards who choose to steal their favorite works of art from the museum, rather than see them shipped off to a Danish museum. Okay… I’ll buy it, sounds vaguely interesting and has three absolutely phenomenal actors in it. But no… something about this doesn’t jive right. I actually watched the movie twice to try and figure it out, and I realized it was the writing. The dialogue was… poor, and the entire thing seemed shabby… like a first year film student had managed to sell his unedited script to Sony Pictures and said “Please.” But it was still a decent movie. It was funny in parts, I enjoyed watching the three play bumbling thieves… it was actually an extremely entertaining movie. But in other cases…

“Closure” (known as “Straightheads” in the US) is a movie about a successful British business woman who gets gang raped, while her boyfriend is brutally assaulted, and rendered impotent. Later they end up moving into the woman’s deceased father’s home in the country only to discover one of the rapists is their neighbor. It’s more revenge-thriller than “Last House On The Left” horror… but it’s bad. And not just “unnecessary rape violence” bad, but “Why would anyone think to write that” or “Wait… what? Why did she say that” bad. And it stars Gillian Anderson, who I think is probably one of the better female actresses around. I mean really, would you say Scarlett Johansson or Christina Hendricks (though I did like her on Firefly…) is better? And even then, let’s not forget the second X-Files movie. A series I have recently come to adore… almost completely ruined by one 104-minute nightmare. “I Want To Believe” I never really watched that… Again, not bad acting… not bad direction. Just bad writing.

All of this strikes particularly close to home considering I just finished writing the script to my first movie. Lazarus is a collaborative effort between myself, Lawton Hughes, and Dean Cromer. I finished the final edit of the script yesterday, and I really hope I don’t pull this same mistake. Bad acting can on occasion be forgiven. Bad direction less so, but it can be saved by a good script and good actors. Bad writing? There are many examples of this, but very few that one can turn around and say “Well, it still wasn’t that bad.”

Gwen Cooper with Baby

I don't know... seems like a good mom to me...

So, to return to Torchwood: Miracle Day. Is the show bad? No. The show is entertaining. The acting (minus Mekhi Phifer) is excellent. And the plot is fairly intriguing. But the writing leaves much to be desired, and that is making many people – new comers and old fans alike – turn away from this new season. A lesson to take to heart…

Filming of Lazarus begins this month, visit the Facebook page for more information and updates.


A short…

So back a couple years ago I wrote a few flash fiction pieces centering around a specific character. I dug those back up and decided to post them after some editing. Here is the first I felt was polished enough to present… enjoy.

“Mother fucker do you want to die?”
I glance up at the man, my fingers wrapping around the grip of the Sig P220 .45 inside my jacket. “Excuse me?”
“Are you deaf too? I said get the fuck out of the car and give me the keys and your wallet.”
“Ah yes… that.” I turn the car off and open the door, palming the keys as I do so. “Not a very good car though, stalls if you accelerate too quickly, and the…”
“Shut the fuck up and give me the keys bitch.”
“I left them in the ignition for you.”
He laughs, a deep, booming laugh and pushes me backwards, pulling the door the rest of the way open and getting into the car. “Your wallet too.”
Yeah sure, it’s in my jacket…” I reach into my jacket, wrapping my fingers around the grip of my gun again.
“What the fuck, the keys aren’t in the…”
Before he finishes speaking I punch him in the throat with my keys sticking out from between my fingers. As he starts to choke, I pull my gun out and tap it against the side of his head. “You picked the wrong person to attempt Grand Theft Auto upon, my good sir.”
“Freeze! Put the gun down!”
“Oh… hello officer.”
“I said put the gun down!”
“Of course.” I say and set the gun down on the ground.
“Step away from the car.”
“If you would let me explain officer, this man was trying to steal my car, I was simply defending myself.”
“Shut up and put your hands behind your head.”
“I am only explaining officer, if you would look at my license and registration, you’ll see that this car belongs to me and the gentleman sitting inside was trying to rob me. Also, he needs an ambulance…”
“Holy shit, he’s bleeding everywhere.” As the officer looks into the car, I slide the icepick out from my pant leg and stab him in the knee. As he topples and begins to scream I stab him in the throat and stand up.
“Tisk tisk, you should have let me explain.” I wipe the icepick off on his uniform and toss it in my car. The would-be car jacker has already bled to death in my front seat, so I open the door and pull him out. “And your luck ran out a while ago.”
As I start to drive away I remember the remote sitting in the passenger seat. “Oh yes…” I flip the switch on it as I turn the corner, and smile as I hear the explosion. “Ah, too bad they wont know that the bodies were desecrated before the explosion…”

So there you go. It’s a bit disturbing, I know… but if you don’t already know that I’m a bit disturbed, then you probably should be at this site ;-).

~Ian