Archive for the ‘Reading’ category

Be thou not half-assed

July 30, 2013

I had a dream last night (the last thing you ever want to read or hear from someone) where I was part of a production with Zooey Deschanel, only it was pretty clear that she considered it a career evisceration to be partnered up with me. In the dream, I attended the production meetings, where I was constantly questioned as to why I was there. Nobody bothered to check to see that I was on the “talent” sheet, and I obviously wasn’t a big enough name for them to say, Oh, that’s Renpiti. That dude is really going places. So I latched on to Zooey and followed her everywhere…until she ditched me in a food court. She’s dream-wily like that.

It dawned on me when I woke that my brain was fighting with the imaginary friends who’ve been created by (and now plague) me. The biggest and most powerful of these is (ironically) The Lazy. Dude is all about naps, snacks and video games…and death to all aspects of hostaged Creativity (not including new and ever more vitriolic curses while playing video games). The thing is, The Lazy’s got a point: why stress?

Writing, for me, is rather like going to a supermarket without a specific agenda: you wind up all over the place, easily distracted with lots of stuff you don’t need. I’d like to have more structure and direction when I write, but then The Lazy forces a signed confession out of Creativity stating that true genius for me comes out of the gooey ether of my unfocused mind. I can see the sub-text, though: Creativity is just struggling to stay afloat in the tank The Lazy is holding him in. Any mediocre port in a bland storm.

Self Doubt, who delights in supporting The Lazy in his brain-couch campaigns, tells me that either way I look at it, I’m screwed. If I write, it will suck; if I don’t write, I’m the epitome of loser. The Lazy coos into my ear at that point and tells me that Self Doubt is a whore, that he’s all about making me feel bad about any choice I make, but that it’s okay not to make a choice at all.

At this point in the mental debate process, something shiny catches my eye and I’m off to forget what I was fighting myself about in the first place. But it does give me a moment’s pause. It makes me think of all of the things I’m interested in and how I’ve really only put marginal effort into each of them. I wont blame it on a cracked skull, but it does make me wonder if I was more motivated before that.

I got a friend of mine interested in SCUBA last year. Now he’s a Master Diver while I hold on to my advanced and nitrox certifications like they’re the pinnacle of diving advancement. I started out freeflying (skydiving) with a young lady who was about my same skill level who now is requested to organize freefly jump loads at big events, while I still flail around in the air like plate of spaghetti (minus the plate). The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

The reason that all of this has become so prominent in the general chatter of my brain is that I’ve started taking the first steps toward planning to possibly think about writing a book…maybe. It’s quite a departure from anything I’ve ever even remotely conceived of writing before, so it’s taking some time to coalesce into a few key points to start from. To help me stall prepare for this gargantuan-seeming task, I’ve gone back to read some of my favorite authors, not the least of which is Paul Neilan and possibly my favorite book ever, Apathy and Other Small Victories. This process actually helps me to iron out issues that The Lazy and Self Doubt collaborate on to get me to quit by showing me what modern entertaining writing looks like.

It’s going to happen. Maybe not soon, and maybe not efficiently, but it will happen. I just felt myself flinch writing that, as if The Lazy was scouring the Internet for something to create a monumental distraction so I don’t make a fool of myself. Self Doubt just crossed his arms and shook his head in a condescending way. Both of those bastards can suck it. I’m going to try.

Now, back to dreams of chasing celebrities off of production sets and into dense crowds where they can lose me easily.


Writer’s Rape

March 22, 2013

Let the bashing over the title begin…

Let’s be honest, you either “get” something or you don’t. You find what you want in each and every aspect of living this life and you cling to it like a toddler to plague. Some people even bring out the industrial strength backhoe and dig industriously in each moment of their life for what probably wasn’t there in the first place. These people I’ll call “The Bristly“. This next statement is for them:

Hey The Bristly, don’t get your thorns in a bunch over the use of the word “rape”. Just know that it’s often used to over-sensationalize something bland to get your attention. In other words, take the imaginary gun that’s making you read this away from your temples and go champion some other online cause.

Moving on.

Last year, my good friend Katie over at Domestiphobia got me motivated to start writing again. Her blog is fun, insightful, adventurous and funny. She recently had an excellent article on choosing to be childless published at the Huffington Post. You really should go check it out here: Katie’s Article. While our styles differ somewhat, she really knows how to capture a moment and make it engaging, even when she references girly-girl shows that interest me like a bath full of live scorpions. When she and my sister, another talented writer, began blogging together, I did everything but beg to guest-post.

Here’s a tip for the men: we often complain bitterly that we can’t read womens’ minds, but they can’t read ours either, apparently. Unless we’ve done something wrong.

Katie and my sister embarked on a 3-month working adventure to Costa Rica, and my jealousy started a war on two new fronts (in addition to the writing one): they quit their day jobs, and were working off the grid in COSTA-FREAKING-RICA! I stewed for a month at least. But then it dawned on me, nobody was stopping me from doing my own thing. Writing that is. I mean, I’m sure there are at least a few people that would stop me from moving into their billion-dollar mansion, eating all the snacks and clogging all the plumbing.

When my sister and Katie returned, they had all sorts of stories and memories and mental stuff to weave into brain catching tales. I badgered them both for a while, asking all sorts of questions about their travels and the writing…always the writing. My sister returned to a more scholarly bent and went back to school to advance her degree (not because of my badgering…hopefully), so she opted out of the team-blogging deal. I contemplated petitioning Katie for a chance to step in as her gender-opposite new partner in literary shenanigans. Several email exchanges later, that idea fizzled. I could tell she was doing fine on her own and didn’t need me to muddy the waters for her readership. Pestering her about starting a blog would continue, however.

Katie gave me some pointers, offered some advice on hosting, page layout and content, but essentially let me know that this had to be mine. Between her, and Chris Hardwick’s book, The Nerdist Way, I was feeling more motivated than ever. The Awesome was simply gushing out of my brain. I promised myself that I would write at least one article a week, intially, to get my bearings and smooth out my style. The thing is, sometimes it doesn’t feel right.

Anyone who’s read here from the start can probably tell when I’m writing to fill the weekly objective, when the inspiration simply isn’t there, but I go through the motions to keep my ego happy. Those articles don’t grab you by the junk and make you giggle, gasp or groan. They probably make you wonder if you left the stove on, or if those darn kids are on your lawn again. Believe me, I feel your pain.

Any time I sit down without an idea burning in my mind, it feels like I’m forcing myself to jam something into this space, and that’s not fair, to me or to you (because really, who writes in a blog just for their own benefit?). All of the experts will tell you that you should keep writing, no matter what: write, blog, jot, scribble one-liner notes to yourself about that guy air-drumming his heart out in the car next to you, anything. Just write.

What I’m finding is that you can’t force it. When you do, it serves as an example of how you could have simply gone back to mining digital asteroids on your day off from work, or whatever distraction keeps you from creating. Holding yourself to a self-imposed deadline can take the fun out of this process, and that’s not just The Lazy talking. Sometimes focusing on meeting a contrived deadline can make you miss that tiny blip on your creative radar, external or internal. So while the experts say to write no matter what, an upstart like me would say to write when it’s right, and let your mind be clear and receptive to new ideas the rest of the time. Observe, soak everything in, and keep an eye out for the quirkier moments in your life, because those make for excellent (embellished) stories.

And to the lady in the car next to me who looked ready to call the nearest mental-mobile, it was a long stoplight and you can’t pass up the chance to pretend to play drums with Jack White…unless you’re The Bristly.


Brief Interlude

November 14, 2012

***The trip to Costa Rica was a rich mixture of fun, frivolity and frustration, and I promise to share many stories about how I managed to survive without causing my girlfriend to castrate me. For now, please enjoy this little promotion for a good cause: child literacy made fun.***

It’s no secret that I am as easily distracted as a house cat on crack (something you’ll have to take my word on and not attempt to study independently, please). Give me a few billion choices of what to do while seated at a computer, and whether or not I’m actually supposed to be accomplishing something, I’ll do my best to explore as many of those billion options as a I can in any given 10-minute period. However, I am known to gravitate to where I’m most comfortable: here (where I attempt to woo you with words and promises of eye-candy), social networking sites that don’t need me to promote them (same concept as colds, flus and warts) and one other site that actually has a noble purpose: child literacy. That site is The Rings of Orbis.

The owner/creator of the site is PJ Haarsma, author of the Softwire book series. Now, you may ask, “How on Earth can you make reading more fun than planting tail on the couch to watch other people live?” I’ll tell you, slacker: the books detail a world in the outer reaches of space where kids from Earth find themselves stranded without their parents. Now, you may be saying, “So? You still haven’t answered my question, smart-ass.” You’re quite the impatient one, for all that sitting in front of the blinking box you do. If you’d let me finish, you’d see where I go on to add that this amazing world where it seems like just about anything can happen, a world where aliens, humans and other things combine to send you on a wonderful voyage through your own under-exercised imagination is all accessible on the web site!

If you’ve ever read a book (or series of books) and wished that the theater of your mind could be played out visually as well, then you’re in luck. The Rings of Orbis web site is absolutely stunning. The artwork all across the site, from the character you’ll create on your own, to the beautiful vistas of far-off worlds, even down to the items you’ll collect (and hoard for mission requirements) are absolutely gorgeous. A lot of love and bodily fluids (the non-disgusting ones) went into creating a place where you can learn, grow and share with others as you explore the worlds created by PJ.

In addition to all of this, PJ also visits schools to promote reading and offers incentives for teachers and students to get involved in the books and the web site. Why, you ask? Because it’s a good idea. Now, if all of this hasn’t given you the least bit of curiosity as to what might be going on over at that site, here’s an incentive for those who need a little pop-culture push: celebrities are on the Rings!

Many of you may know Mr. Nathan Fillion from his appearances on some of your favorite shows. If you’re a Sci-Fi acolyte like me, you’ll have grown enamored of his Captain Malcolm Reynolds character on Firefly, a show that was so engaging that it has fans still trying to get it resuscitated to this day; also another Joss Whedon classic, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, with Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day. Others of you may know Nathan from Castle. However you may recognize this talented man, know this: he’s on the Rings as CaptnMal. No joke.

Okay, if you know anything about the entertainment industry from the working side of it, you’ll know that Nathan has about as much time to hang out online as airport security has to take smiling lessons. But he is there from time to time and does his best to answer private messages. You’ll never know when he’s on and participating, but it won’t matter once you get there.

So, you’ll come for the chance that a celebrity might respond to your giggling-fit-induced post about how much you adore the characters he portrays (you do know he’s not REALLY a spaceship captain, or a pompous jerk of a hammer-shirt wearing pseudo-good guy, right? Just so we’re clear?), but you’ll stay for the rest of us frolicking on the forums. Think of it as collaborative story telling with very creative people (kids and adults), and with the rules and constant moderation, you’ll find it to be troll-free…something the rest of the Internet could take a cue from.

I won’t tell you who I am on there, but I will tell you that there are many fun, creative and friendly Citizens on the Rings that are more than happy to include you as part of their ever-growing family. And did I mention it’s a game? You know, for those of you still looking for that hook to draw you in? It’s a huge role-playing game (without the creepy sensation that your parents are frowning at you from the picture on the desk) that is augmented by the forums. It may take some getting used to, but between the tutorial and the forums, you’ll quickly become adept at navigating the Rings and putting your ships & workers on their respective tasks: making you the most powerful Citizen in the ‘verse.

Come take a look and see what you can add to the cause of child (and heck, even ADULT) literacy.

Where dreams go to dream

October 31, 2012

I’ve always been fascinated with fiction. Mainly science-fiction and epic fantasy (no, not leather-&-chickens type fantasy). Immersing myself in worlds different enough from mine that I could picture pissing some mystical buddy off there, but similar enough to know I could piss them off, has been a hobby of mine from the moment I knew what these squiggly lines all jammed together meant. I read…a lot. Or, at least I used to.

All talk of my childhood genius aside (which terminated in a skull-cracking drop from a Houdini-esque contraption in the garage that put me in the hospital for 2 weeks my freshman year in high school), I had a tendency to thoroughly embed myself in the stories I read. If I wasn’t the main character (or one of the more fascinating sidekicks), I was at least his silent conscience. Here’s a partial list of the people I wanted to be back then:

  • Bink (and later, his son Dor) from Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. Bink struggled with his nonentity status in a world of remarkable people, but later discovered he was more remarkable than the rest. While I don’t envy him his choice in wives (read “A Spell For Chameleon” to find out why), he certainly had an interesting life. His son, Dor, had the ability to speak to any inanimate object (you know, like anyone in a maximum security psych ward can), and was himself the object of intense interest from his land’s most intriguing young woman (watch, you’ll notice a trend in these).
  •  Stile, from another of Piers Anthony’s creations, The Apprentice Adept series. Stile was short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose and wide of vision ($1 if you can guess that quote correctly without searching for it on the Internet). He was a voluntary serf in a technologically advanced world, and a burgeoning super-magician in the parallel world adjoining his. He was pursued in both worlds by the most beautiful and fascinating women (though, one was a robot and the other was a shape-shifting unicorn).
  • Garion in David Edding’s Belgariad Series. Most of Garion’s childhood was spent in obscurity, until it was discovered that he was actually a badass super-sorcerer with the destiny to save the world, defeat an evil god and marry the most beautiful human/dryad woman in the land (typical fare for us super-powerful wallflowers). Oh, and he would likely live forever, because he’s badass like that.
  • Pug in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga. Do I really need to go through this again? (sigh) A child born and raised in obscurity; longing for more; chaos ensues where he’s taken away and trained to be such a crazy-good sorcerer that it scares his trainers, and makes him the most eligible magician in two worlds (see what I mean about trends?).
  • And who could forget Bilbo Baggins? I mainly wanted his share of the riches so I could afford to train to be a badass and be the most eligible ninja-genius on my world.

Later, after I had spent some time trying to mature (unsuccessfully, of course), I moved on to role models like Michael Gallatin, Russian émigré
to the British Secret Service in Robert R. McCammon’s Wolf’s Hour, where this lone badass was expected to sneak into Hitler’s encampment and steal secret plans, then foil them in the larger tapestry of the story later. The twist? He was a werewolf. One who could control his change. Plus, he got all the beautiful women.

There were many other voyages into self-indulgent literary fantasies, but those stand out as the most prominent. When you’ve been exiled to your room for weeks on the trumped-up charge of “you did something“, you quickly learn to submerge yourself in your alternate realms for as long as your jailors will allow. It works the same for when you’ve missed the numerous warning signs that your partner is about to go Mortal Kombat on your ass because you just don’t know when to stop being an ass. Hello, “Apathy and Other Small Victories” (by Paul Neilan)…

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