Tuesday, August 31, 2004

GOP Convention: One of the things I think Bush could do a better job of is conveying the purposes for the war in Iraq to America.

I think this is partially because he's confident enough that what he's doing is right that he's not as concerned with the political repercussions as some of us would like him to be, so he doesn't "sell" the war to the public enough.

Last night, on the convention night the networks didn't cover, Rudy Giuliani did a good job of explaining the war. It was a good speech--despite the jibes at Kerry, it was a very uplifting and inspirational speech. There was a lot about September 11th, but it wasn't fear-inspiring. Rather, it focused on the heroism of the aftermath and the resiliency of the American people.

And, despite the jibes, talk of Kerry's service to his country earned Kerry a classy round of applause from the Delegates--but with all the talk of the shot at Michael Moore, I'm sure that won't be brought up.

Anyway, read or listen to it if you have the chance.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Job Opportunity: Yes, you could be the next editor of Amazing Stories.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Writer At Work: Online comic about writing if you haven't seen it.

Price Of Admission: I love Disney. I know that it's become some sort of rite of passage in this country that you're supposed to reach an age where you see Disney as a giant, uncaring, evil corporation masquerading as a family-friendly organization while mass-producing pre-packaged wholesomeness made from parts of slaughtered dolphins.

Or something.

But I still love the company. And I particularly love Disneyland. It still accomplishes its goal--it makes you feel like you've left the real world behind for a while. If you go at the right time of year, you can still get on all the major rides by noon and spend the rest of the day enjoying the intricacies of the park, the care and details which have gone into its design.*

Ever since I was little, I've always measured the value of things in how many days at Disneyland you could get for it. This toy was half a day at Disneyland--the GI Joe aircraft carrier was almost three days at Disneyland. It's sort of my own personal gold standard.

What's it at now? I checked today, and one day of fun at the Magic Kingdom will set you back $49.75. If you live in Southern California, and you go in the winter while adults get in at the kid's price, it's $39.75.

And $39.75 is the everyday price for kids 3-10.

Which means in two weeks, when my daughter has her birthday, a day with Mickey for her and her little sister would set me back two Jacksons.

That's not counting the Grants it would take to get me and my wife in.

*- From what I understand, this is part of why Roy Disney left the company. At least publicly, he's complained that the same level of care and attention to detail is not being paid to the construction of new parks as was put into the old parks. You know--you can't spend a day finding nooks and crannies to explore and looking for hidden Mickeys at California Adventure.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Friends in the News: Okay, not really friends, more like acquaintances.

I heard a fairly disturbing news story on the radio the other morning. It bothered me enough that my mind kept coming back to it. Aspects of the story really affected me. I was going to blog about it last night.

Only when I got home and checked my email, I discovered I knew the people involved. They were far enough removed from me that we could probably walk by each other in the mall and not really notice who we were passing, but close enough that none of us would have had to say, "Who?" if the other person was brought up.

It's highlighting something I've been thinking about for a while now--how safely anonymous so much of our news has become, how free we think we are to pass instantaneous judgment on situations we know nearly nothing about.

I've realized one of the reasons I've blogged less than I thought I would when I started is that I'm hesitant to offer commentary on things I know little to nothing about. Often when I post about news items, I post a link with no commentary because I figure you're as capable as I am of forming an opinion on the matter.

And then along came a news item I felt perfectly comfortable linking to and blogging about and commenting on, and I discover I'm linked to the people involved. Some people I care about deeply are really in turmoil over how to deal with what happened.

And after talking with them a little, I realize the situation is so much more complicated than five inches of newsprint.

None of this stops me from being opinionated or telling you what you should think about the issues. It definitely doesn't stop me from being right all the time.

But it does reinforce something I've been right about all along--the media is not motivated by caring, or by goodness, or by altruism any more than any other kind of business.

They're just granted first amendment protection for the people they chew up and spit out in the name of the almighty dollar.

Unlike police officers, who are forced to show up at places and situations you and I would run away from so that peace can be restored, all the while hoping it's not as bad as they think, the media runs like maggots to a carcass, hoping the maximum amount of flesh, of depravity and vileness is exposed, the more meat to suck a few dollars out of.

The sad part is, if we all just ignored them, the invisible hand of capitalism would make them go away. If we all stopped slowing down for the crashes, stopped huddling around the wounded body, stopped staring as the media branded people with bright scarlet letters so we'd all know their sins, they'd be forced to turn to other, more worthwhile and fulfilling things with which to fill the broadcast time.

So go out and rent Mad City and start looking at that anchor out of the corner of your eye.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

They Might Be Leaving Gaps: It seems like unlike most of their recent shows, the August 17th They Might Be Giants show at the House of Blues is not going to be available for download.

There could be any number of reasons for this. It might be a venue thing--the House of Blues might have some restriction against it. Also, they brought out the opening act, Corn Mo, to do Particle Man with them, and it might have been a royalty issue with his performance. It might be that somebody just messed up the recording. It might be they have spies hiding in my kitchen cabinets and they wanted to tick me off.

It was a great show. My brother and I had a good time. In a standing room only show, there were only a couple of people between us and the stage. My brother and I both stand well over six feet, though, and with a girl almost as tall as us standing beside us, just by coincidence, I feel sorry for whoever was immediately behind us.

They tried to change things up from the April show in the same spot, which meant no spin-the-dial, which was a disappointment. Spin-the-dial is about the best bit they do.

But either way, the show was still rockin', and my brother, a budding musician himself, was suitably impressed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

10 Years: It was 10 years ago today that I went into the MTC to prepare for my two years in Brazil.

I missed a lot of '94 and '96 and all of '95 because of this. I missed the OJ trial, Cuthroat Island and Waterworld, a bunch of Clinton stuff, Full House getting cancelled, the Macarena craze . . . .

Y'know, come to think of it, I really didn't miss out on all that much.

But I sure would have missed out if I hadn't gone.

Abraços to my adopted pátria. I've got a whole boatload of saudades.

Harry's Mum: If you haven't seen it yet, J. K. Rowling's site is worth a look-see. It's some fun flash stuff that's subtle rather than being chaotic and in-your-face, like so much of the flash stuff that's out there.

Web designers face tough challenges--challenges that, I think, will eventually shape the entire direction of the internet.

One observer pointed out, a few years back, that a lot of the internet was just a glorified brochure format. That still remains true--the internet is still, in large part, a bunch of blocks of text that references other blocks of text.

I remember thinking, when I was first learning HTML, that it would make for great choose-your-own-adventure-type stories.

We're moving past that, to a large degree, with flash animations that are actually interesting rather than annoying, and DSL making it possible to distribute more films that otherwise wouldn't get around (Have you seen Grayson or Batman: Dead End yet?), but we still haven't got to the point where the text and the interactivity have really hit their crescendo.

In fact, I think (maybe hope is a better word) that the true interactivity the internet has made possible, the real connectedness, hasn't even been concieved of yet. The fine authors of SciFidom have been giving us scenarios where the the internet becomes a vast, fully-realized world we all live in rather than facing our real lives since before there even was an internet. However, I think the real place the internet is taking us, a place where not just scenarios, but information, all the world's knowledge, is available from our own desktops, is a far more interesting one than any convoluted D&D rip-off virtual world could ever hope to be.

But until we get there, go see the pretty pictures on JKR's site.

Monday, August 23, 2004

"Media" SciFi: An old pet peeve showed up again last night while I was reading Gardner Dozios's introduction to his most recent Year's Best Science Fiction anthology, which my brother got me for my birthday.

On the one hand, he was arguing against the "SF is dying" crowd by pointing out how good a lot of the numbers are for SF publishing houses and how many books are being published compared with thirty years ago. On the other hand he was openly contemptuous of most "media" science fiction, the movies and TV shows that give a lot of people their first taste of science fiction and lead them, hungry for more, into trying out the books and the magazines, and driving those numbers up.

Star Wars, the single movie probably most responsible for making people begin to claim appreciation for SF who otherwise wouldn't have, is the biggest target of contempt. Didn't the first one come out just under thirty years ago?

Of course, media tie-in books remain beneath contempt, the unmentionable sin.

Is there such a phrase as "mocking the hand that feeds you?"

It's also funny because Dozios, in this same intro, points out how Michael Chabon, in his anthology Thrilling Wonder Tales, is pretending to be rediscovering genre fiction, while so many people (including Dozios himself) have been hanging out in that territory the entire time. Dozios's attitude about being disregarded so flippantly is ironic, given how quickly he's willing to disregard films that reach a much broader audience than the books or magazines manage to.

They don't do this in other genres. They mystery fans don't poo-poo mystery movies. The romance fans don't whine about "those simple-minded, factory produced Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan popcorn films." Why do the sci-fi folks gotta be all snobbish about it?

I think the answer is this--a huge part of the Sci-Fi literary establishment still wants mainstream literary types to take them seriously. They see the SciFi movies as standing in the way of this. They hope that by repeatedly and publicly disassociating themselves from the movies and TV shows, they can eventually convince the mainstream literary establishment they're different, and should be examined differently.

Mystery and romance reader's don't have the same problem because they've already accepted the fact that they're not accepted as literary, and they're willing to enjoy themselves anyway.

But the SciFi folks still think that's a party they want to get into. So they do what anyone would do who thought an embarrassing sibling was keeping them from getting into the "right" circles--they publicly and loudly ridicule him every chance they get.

So what did you think of the guy in high school who made fun of his somewhat goofy brother in order to impress the snobs?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Besides: You can't possibly have finished reading all the Hugo nominees, anyway.

Where Am I?: Sorry I haven't been posting more, but between work and trying to write the story that will win the Writers Of The Future grand prize, I've been busy.

I've discovered something about writing--just because you know how to do it right, doesn't mean you're going to do it right. What do I mean by that?

When I was a kid, my church basketball team had a really good coach. He was a high school coach at the time, but now he's a college coach, and he's even worked with some Olympic basketball teams (although not ours). He taught me how to play basketball, and play well. He knew his stuff.

Now here's the thing--despite that, I never actually played well. Just because I knew it intellectually didn't mean that I could get my hands and arms and legs to do all that stuff.

So that's what I've run into now with writing. The workshop I did with Dave Wolverton was phenomenal, and now I know what I'm supposed to be doing in a much more fundamental way than I ever have before. Not just about how to write, but about how to entertain.

That doesn't mean I'm getting it right yet.

But it does mean I'm moving in the right direction.

Step back!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

And The Nominees Are . . .: As usual, you can find most of this year's Hugo nominees online.

A few years back, they also added a "retro" Hugo category. Done partly to inspire interest in classic SF, and partly to provide a chance for all the people who think all the good stuff was written 50 years ago, the competition is tough and the novels are fantastic. It's partly depressing to look at the list--this year's retro nominees for best novel include The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov,
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Are we really producing anything that good today?

I think we are. But nostalgia is a tough spice to outflavor, and these stories still have something to them missing today.

As much as we hype nostalgia, though, most fiction quickly stales with age. The fact that these still feel so fresh and revelant--how many of this year's nominees will withstand that test?

(I'm honestly asking--I haven't read them yet. I'll post reviews as I do, though.)

Bradbury will win of course. Clarke will get to take comfort in his "The Nine Billion Names of God" winning in the short story category, though. Check that one out, if you haven't--it really is short.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Movies: I actually saw two movies in the last week--I, Robot and The Village. I liked both movies, pretty well and a whole lot, respectively, but you know what else?

I don't know if movies are getting better, but trailers sure are. Go watch a few and have a good time.

Oh, and I will also bee seeing Napoleon Dynamite very soon. This will be a record setting couple of weeks for me, post-marriage.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Eric's New House: No, not me. The Eric who spells his name wrong posted a new adventure somewhere along the line.

If you haven't seen it, check it out.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Wiki Madness: Wikis are kind of fun. I've stumbled across wikis for They Might Be Giants and Homestar Runner.

The TMBG one is good for tabs and finding online videos, and the H*R one is good for finding easter eggs you missed.