Friday, June 13, 2014

A Quickie: Someone Put He-Man Into My Transformers

Look at this picture.  Tell me you don't see the loincloth.

This movie is gonna hurt.  Stop doing this, Michael Bay!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chase Says, "Yeah, You Know That Novel? Finish It In 18 Years After You Work Like a Corporate Drone"

I've participated in NaNoWriMo since 2011.  The challenge of NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days; this usually takes place in November.  Basically, it's the idea that since many people say, "I would love to write a novel someday," "someday" becomes today.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Fifty-thousand words?  That's impossible.  It's really not.  It's difficult, but not impossible.  In four years, I wrote four novels and half of a fifth.  I wrote two in one year, and last year I admit, I crapped out at 25,000 words.  Finding time to edit is actually the harder part.

So, I used to get up in the morning and watch the morning news.  I used to watch the local Fox affiliate's Good Day New York mainly because this guy gets the weather right more often than not.  But then I realized how awful the rest of the newscast was.  It's not really news to find out what a spornosexual is, is it?  I mean, Russia destabilizing the Ukraine (supposedly)?  Trouble with Iran?  Not important.  A spornosexual is.

Dude is modest, right?
Image found here
So during the morning news, I would see this commercial.  Watch it yourself here.  I'll wait.

I don't think my reaction was rage, just mild irritation.  As a writer, society sends what I believe are mixed messages to me and others in my profession.  Writers such as Tolstoy, Shakespeare, or Joyce, the Giants, are seen as visionaries, people who have unique perspectives who've written books that have changed the world.  I wholeheartedly agree.

But attempt to follow in their footsteps, and people ask questions like, "What is your day job?"  "Do you teach?"  Don't get me wrong.  I know writing is a tough row to hoe.  I do teach to pay my bills as I try to get my portfolio edited and ready for the public.    But why be dismissive about writing?  Why automatically assume it's a secondary job?

Some people tend to think writing comes from no where.  That movie description you read on Moviefone or that copy on the back of a paperback novel had to be written by someone.  That someone may have a dream to write The Great American Novel, but there may be more important things he should be doing, according to the writer of this particular commercial.  While I didn't go into a homicidal rage over this commercial, I felt it was just another pinprick in my life, another dig at society in general telling us to go to this bank and get cheap credit, keeping us slaves to the credit treadmill so we can buy things we don't need, like a bigger house or a better car.

Now, I decided to post this video to the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook to see what kind of reaction it would get.  I was somewhat surprised.  One person thought because I had mentioned being offended, I had made some sort of connection that Chase was directly attacking NaNoWriMo.  I didn't.  I was offended as a writer.  But we agreed that the commercial itself was kind of clueless about what real writing was all about.

What surprised me were the "hobbyists."  These were people who write for fun.  The first comment I saw was: "Why do you find it offensive? It's a lot of how life goes, we all have a dream, but sometimes, a bigger one comes true first."  "Bigger" by whose standard?  I don't assume anything about the people I encounter on the Internet.  In fact, the only assumption I can make is this woman just enjoys writing for writing's sake and finds it fun.  I'm glad.  The question then becomes, how can one write fiction without the ability to empathize with the idea that some see writing the Great American Novel as more than just a dream for "someday"?

Writing is hard work.  NaNoWriMo tries to show people that, while hard, it is not impossible, the province of magicians, or the domain of geniuses.  Language belongs to all of us.  But we treat language like crap, and those who make their living using language as not worthy of any significant respect.  As I said, the commercial was just a way to pull at heartstrings to get you to take out a loan so your princess can get her prom dress and Sweet Sixteen Little Red Corvette, because you can't be a good provider if she doesn't have these things, and you have to put off your own dreams for hers.

Do we need more manipulation like this though?  Just don't be the guy who finishes one novel in 18 years.  Finish it in a month, the way you should.  Then slide it in the drawer if you want to.

But then slide it out every so often and ask yourself if waiting to edit your book for 18 years so you could afford that crap you never really needed was worth it.

Update: Apparently, the thread I put up in the NaNoWriMo group got a life of its own.  People apparently were okay with this commercial moreso than I was, mainly because they could relate.  My pleas to look at the fact that they were white knighting a major corporation using emotional manipulation to send the populace into debt was not heard, and I was accused of being insensitive to the elderly, mothers, fathers, feminists, pro-lifers, pro-choice supporters, pro-family supporters and the human race in general.  I decided to just leave the group before the pitchforks and torches came out.

One good thing came from this.  My hater count went up.

You damn right, they do.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Adventures with Public Transportation: The Rainy Day 25 Cent Bus Ride

Got writer's block?  Try riding the bus!
Picture by Mike Imprixis
Riding the bus on Long Island is not easy.  It's harder because you have people always telling you riding the bus on Long Island isn't easy because the public transportation system sucks.
Personally, I don't mind.  I know that the infrastructure of Long Island wasn't designed with pedestrians or bicyclists in mind.  Most people own cars.  I own a car myself.  However, back in 2011, I crashed my truck, my baby, a dark blue 2003 Ford Ranger with over 200,000 miles, during a snow storm.  I ended up borrowing my parents' SUV (don't ever buy an Explorer and expect to live on a modest budget), but even that truck ended up being more problems than it was worth.  So between February and July of 2013, I started using public transportation.  Even when I ended up getting a 1997 Honda Civic, I still ended up taking the bus when I could.

Why, you may ask.  Because the bus is full of stories!  It's a writer's dream come true for curing the dreaded Writer's Block.  I have a lot of stories about the people I've run into and talked to.  Today was no different.

I had to get to the post office today to send out some paperwork.  It was miserable out.  Rainy, a little humid, probably not the best day to go walking.  I've been walking in weather like this since my teens though.  Don't ask why, but I get these bouts of claustrophobia something awful.  Bad weather makes it worse.  Last winter was like a death sentence to me, and we all know how bad the weather was last winter.
The bus stop is about a 15 minute walk from my house.  There are two bus stops actually.  One is by the King Kullen and is a little farther away, but it has a shelter, unlike the closer stop.  I also had to stop at the ATM and my bank is there.

So I'm sitting in the bus stop shelter with another guy who has a bike.  The rain is coming down steadily, like a shower with bad water pressure, the kind Kramer on Seinfeld would hate.  (I have to agree with Kramer; give me the Silkwood shower anytime.)  All of a sudden, a woman came from no where (or at least I wasn't paying attention) and asked us if we wanted bus tokens.  I'm used to this.  People who have to attend mandatory drug rehab programs get bus tokens.

See?  It even says "Special Program"!
Found here.
Sometimes these people decide they'd be better off selling these tokens, usually for a dollar, which is half the price of a ride on the bus.  I don't want to speculate why they sell their tokens.  I do know however that tokens and cigarettes are also considered fair trades.

So, I asked this young lady, "How much?'  She said no charge, had four tokens, and ended up splitting them between me and the guy with the bike.  Then she vanished.  I mean, I seriously did not see which way she went.

So thanks to this random act of kindness, I only ended up paying 25 cents for the transfer (when I travel locally, I take one bus to my destination and take a different route home, so a $4.00 round trip ride goes down to $2.25).  I have no clue why this woman did this.  Was she a Joan of Arcadia-like vision?  Was she fulfilling some Step 9 obligation?  All I know is that this randomness doesn't happen while driving a car.  Walking in the rain didn't seem so bad after that.  And I got a story besides.

As a post-script to this story, when the bus did arrive, the bike rack in the front of the bus was full.  For some reason, the bike guy left his bike in the shelter unlocked.  That makes me wonder what that story might be.
Adventures with Public Transportation: The Rainy Day 25 Cent Bus Ride