Thursday, April 30, 2009

Script Frenzy 2009: DONE



I got started late, but I finished strong, thanks in large part to thrice-weekly write-ins with my fellow Portlanders.

You can read an excerpt from my finished screenplay over at 512 Words or Fewer.

~CKL

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The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 4: Zines and Thoughtcrimes

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Over the last three days, I've discussed why self-publishing is, at best, a huge time sink for writers who should be writing, and at worst a way for scam artists to prey upon those desperate souls and steal their money. As I noted yesterday, there do exist legitimate print on demand (POD) services who don't pretend to provide the editing, advertising, and other services that real publishing houses do, and those companies are a great asset for certain creators. But that's printing, not publishing. There's a difference.

There's a long tradition of people printing their own stuff when no one else would, because they were passionate and wanted to put their work out there. Here in Portland, Oregon, the public library system and Powell's ("The greatest bookstore on the planet," says PNH) both feature entire racks of zines covering a wide variety of interests and topics. They come in all shapes and sizes, many obviously handmade. They serve small, local audiences. They have no pretensions or wider ambitions. This is what they're for. (Science fiction fandom also produces tons of fanzines, but that's a whole other discussion.)

These days, it's trivial for anyone to create their own "e-zine" by setting up a blog or a web site. Of course, just because it's easy for anybody to find your content, it doesn't mean that they'll go looking for it, or that they'll like it. If you build it, they will not always come. And even if they come, they may not stay.

So who gets to be a "real" publisher? These days, short fiction writers can submit their work to a lot of online-only markets. Many of these are little more than blogs, and most don't pay writers a lot (if anything) for their stories. Mac Stone, whom I met at Viable Paradise XII, runs Coyote Wild Magazine out of her own pocket. She doesn't make any money doing it. She does it because she wants to help get good stories out there.

Leonard Richardson and Sumana Harihareswara just released Thoughtcrime Experiments, "a free 2009 anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories and art, published under a Creative Commons license." As Leonard explains in Appendix A: How to Do This and Why, he and Sumana spent $2,300 and nearly 400 person-hours putting together the anthology, and the main reason they did it was so they could find and share stories that suited their own personal tastes. In other words, for fun. They're not making any money off TE; in fact, they're losing money. But they consider it money well spent.

Are Mac and Leonard and Sumana publishers? Sure; they've found content they like and helped present it to a wider audience. Are they professional publishers? No, and they don't pretend to be running a business. They're publishing because they want to give back to the community. They have no illusions about reaping financial gains from these transactions, and that's okay. We all do things for love that we would never do for money.

Tomorrow: the anticlimactic conclusion!

~CKL

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quote of the Moment

if you look up "horse lubricant" on google you deserve what you get
-- mschlock on Twitter

(Yes, she provided a link. No, I didn't click on it.)

The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 3: Eragon vs. Hogwarts

My favorite anecdote regarding Eragon comes from our friend Suzie, who saw a billboard for the movie adaptation and thought to herself: "Hey, they misspelled DRAGON."

I haven't read Eragon, and I don't intend to. The history of its publication is similar to Daemon and Scratch Beginnings, the two self-published books I read recently, and if its quality is also similar, I have better things to do with my time. Besides, I'm more of a science fiction than fantasy man. And I spell "dragon" with a "D."

Anyway. Teenage author Christopher Paolini's parents printed their son's first novel and marketed it themselves, but by all accounts Eragon was not considered a success (or, I imagine, remotely profitable) until Knopf acquired it and reissued it in hardcover. I'll admit I haven't done extensive research, but I've yet to hear of a single self-published author who turned down an agent or editor after attracting media attention.

It seems pretty clear that "self-publishing" is a misnomer; it's really just printing up bound versions of your manuscript, which may or may not be any good, and then selling it yourself. It's no different from the people who make arts and crafts to sell at swap meets or street fairs or on Etsy, except that there is some status associated with being "an author" and not just "a writer."

There's nothing wrong with printing your own book--we've done it with our 2008 road trip photos and the Hogwarts Game textbook, and every year I print a copy of my finished NaNoWriMo novel because my wife doesn't like reading 50,000+ words in Courier font. But that's not publishing. That's printing. We're doing these things for fun, not as a business.

If you're crafty and like making things, it can be a lot of fun to make a book and sell it at your local flea market. Print on demand (POD) services are great for low-volume, special-interest items like the Hogwarts textbook. Ironically, we moved 107 copies of that thing in 2006, which makes it more successful than many actual, published books:

"Here's the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million [in print] tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies."
-- Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006

Of course, we weren't trying to turn a profit, or even offer the book as a separate product--it's just a souvenir of The Game. We also want to stay under the radar so Ms. Rowling's lawyers don't come after us.

~CKL

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In case you were wondering...

...what people do on Facebook all day:



~CKL

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The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 2: Scratch Beginnings

Scratch Beginnings is not a well-written book. To his credit, the author--Adam Shepard--admits in the introduction that he is not a good writer. But someone telling you he's an awful cook won't make the meal taste any better.

I became interested in this book based on the description of the author's recent visit to Powell's. I didn't attend the event, having learned of it after the fact, and that's probably a good thing; I might have been tempted to actually purchase the book, and I would have suffered some serious buyer's remorse around page 12. (I later found it at my local library.)

The gimmicky high concept of Scratch Beginnings--which is a good hook, I'll admit--is a recent college graduate's personal experiment to bootstrap himself out of poverty. He selected an east coast city at random, traveled there by train, and debarked with only $25 to his name. His goal was to go from homelessness to having an apartment, a car, and $2,500 in the bank by the end of one year.

I'll save you the pain of having to read the book: he succeeded. To be honest, I never doubted that he would; I was curious about the details of his actual experience. And the stuff about the homeless shelter was interesting, but his frequent use of sentence fragments and constant self-aggrandizement got old real quick. Several sections could have been summarized thusly: "Dear diary, today I did cool things and made people like me. Because I am awesome!"

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but it really does get that bad at some points. I'm pretty sure "Shep" is one of the "white people" from Stuff White People Like.

Even though Scratch Beginnings and Daemon are touted as self-publishing success stories, it's important to note two things:
  1. They are the exception, not the rule; and
  2. both authors took pains to disguise the fact that they were self-published.
Daemon was put out by "Verdugo Press," a company created by the author and his wife for the express purpose of marketing the novel. Scratch Beginnings came from "SB Press," whose business address is a condominium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Guess where Adam Shepard's family lives? Yup.

Scratch Beginnings has since been acquired by the Collins imprint of HarperCollins and reissued in hardcover--hence the book tour. Isn't it interesting that the ultimate goal of most self-published authors seems to be getting an actual book deal from a real publisher?

Anyway, here's a half-hour interview with Adam Shepard from a Triangle-based public access cable show. He seems like a nice kid, and I hope he enjoys his fifteen minutes:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz_BNXuBgq0

~CKL

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And Speaking of Flu Pandemics...

The excellent podcast This Week in Science used this song as a bumper all the time:



It's by The Flying Fish Sailors of Houston, Texas. I imagine they're getting some mileage out of it these days.

Also, I seem to be attracting some Twitter followers after posting an original #swineflu link. Hooray! I guess.

~CKL

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Patient Zero



Thanks @bergopolis! Now get back to writing #leverage. ;)

~CKL

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 1: Daemon

You may have read last year's Wired article about the novel Daemon, detailing how three agent rejections discouraged first-time novelist Daniel Suarez so much that he started his own company to publish and market his half-baked techno-thriller.

You may also have seen novelist J. Steven York's deconstruction of Daemon's success--the book was later acquired by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin, and reissued in hardcover (and with the author's name spelled forwards instead of backwards).

I have nothing to add to the information presented in those two articles, especially the second one, except to say that the Big Ideas name-checked in Daemon are presented much more completely and plausibly in Charles Stross' Halting State (which opens with a bank heist inside an MMORPG) and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (which delves into actual hacking in great detail; complete text available free online).

I've been programming computers for over twenty years, and I know from personal experience that automation is hard. Maintaining the Internet is a war of attrition. Someone discovers an exploitable flaw in the network--e.g., in TCP/IP or DNS or some other protocol--either by research or accident; then somebody figures out how to fix it; and the security hole gets patched. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I don't care if you're Lex Luthor; there's no way anyone can create a single automated system that can hack the planet for over a year without some human intervention. Also, the repeated threat that the daemon will crash the global economy falls flat, since we've now demonstrated that we can do that pretty well all by ourselves.

Anyway. Skip this nihilistic crapfest and read Stross and Doctorow instead. It's a huge plus that Halting State and Little Brother, in addition to being authored by competent writers with a firm grasp of narrative language, were also vetted by experienced editors who knew from good storytelling and copy-edited by professionals who knew where to put quotation marks and how to join separate phrases together to form actual complete sentences. It's not a coincidence that Halting State was nominated for a Hugo Award last year, and Little Brother is nominated this year.

Finally, speaking of Charlie Stross, here's what he had to say about the continued value of real book publishers in 2007:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApcNzwy9Zas (skip to 46:47)

~CKL

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Warren Does Joe

If you want to give your tired old media property a badass reboot, Warren Ellis is clearly the man to call. He helped elevate Ultimate Fantastic Four, and now he's done it again with G.I. Joe: Resolute, the new animated movie that's been airing in installments on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It's a solid junior techno-thriller.

The final installment airs tonight at midnight. You can also watch the entire show online (or on YouTube, for those outside the USA). It's not perfect--you'll see stormtrooper marksmanship and heroic sacrifice tropes, among others--but I love the science fiction procedural in Parts 3 and 4 (I now have a tiny crush on the new Dial Tone), and the ninja fight in Part 8 is brutal.

I really don't expect this summer's live-action movie to be anywhere near as cool as this.

~CKL

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The Trouble With Reaper

I like Reaper a lot. It's one of the few TV shows D and I both like enough to pay for (we download all our TV a la carte from iTunes or Amazon). And I appreciate that it's not to be taken too seriously, but there's gravity and then there's consistency.

When you make a show with the Devil as one of your regular cast, you'd better have a good handle on your theology. For the most part, Reaper avoids any heavy theological entanglements--the characters discuss God rarely, and never by name--but when you make up your own rules, you need to stick to them.

Toward the end of the first season, the writers established that the Devil couldn't eavesdrop on any conversations that occurred inside of circles. This was a major plot point during the demon rebellion arc; characters would meet inside circular rooms or draw chalk circles on the ground before discussing their plans to overthrow Lucifer. This season, however, the characters seem to have forgotten that trick, and it's gotten them in trouble more than once.

I don't have a problem with the characters being ignorant of certain supernatural things, but they've seen the circle-cone-of-silence demonstrated, and they know the consequences for pissing off the Devil. It doesn't make any sense that they wouldn't continue using the circle trick, and the writers haven't even attempted to explain why they don't. I guess they were hoping viewers wouldn't notice, or that we'd also have forgotten by now.

Well, I haven't, and I'll say it again: Insufficiently rigorous! I know Reaper's a comedy, but fans are fans, and we don't like unexplained retcons.

The thing is, Sam and company didn't have to forget about the circle thing. They screw up almost everything else; why couldn't they think they were protected, but then later find out that they hadn't drawn their circle properly, or that someone or something had broken the circle when they weren't paying attention?

You could even make it a running gag. Have Sam carry a hula hoop in the trunk of his Prius so he and Sock and Ben can have private conversations wherever they are. Show the three of them squeezing into a hula hoop that's too small for their bodies to fit comfortably.

Need the circle to stop working? Maybe the plastic hoop gets warped after a particularly warm day; maybe Sock sits on the hoop and accidentally breaks it, but is too embarrassed to tell Sam. Everyone stays in character, you still have any number of failure options, and you get additional opportunities for comedy. Am I wrong?

But I guess they had more important things to worry about.

~CKL

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Customer Surface"

What if there was a store like Fry's Electronics, only it sold magical implements instead of technological ones? Would cash-poor aspiring wizards still take advantage of the "Fry's rental plan" (very lenient 30-day return policy)? Would dealing with their low-paid, poorly trained employees still be a pain in the ass? You've got questions. I've got a short story to answer some of them.

Read "Customer Surface" at 512 Words or Fewer

~CKL

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

With the Shopping and the Dropping and the Never Stopping

After suffering a variety of unresolved problems with my laptop over the last few months, I will probably never buy a Lenovo machine again. Thinkpads were good, solid hardware when IBM owned the brand, but now they're living down to their reputation as cheap crap from overseas.

Tonight was the last straw. Without warning, my laptop's primary battery failed. The error message was singularly unhelpful: "Battery 1 : A battery error has occurred. The battery cannot be charged. Replace the battery." This was, of course, after the machine suddenly died when my secondary drive-bay battery ran down. The power management software leaves something to be desired.

So I requested support via Lenovo's labyrinthine web site, and got a call back from a very courteous but also unhelpful call center drone. He verified that my battery wasn't included in their recalls, confirmed that my extended warranty did not cover the battery (its warranty expired at the end of January), and offered to sell me a replacement battery for the discounted price of $150 (retail for this thing is $180). I politely declined and went to the Internet to find a better deal.

Amazon matched the $150 for an OEM battery, but there are lots of companies who sell knockoffs for much less. It's just a battery, for crying out loud--get the right voltage and current, mold the plastic case into the appropriate shape, make sure the terminals fit, and you're good to go. And no, I'm not worried about quality, because even OEM batteries catch fire. Roll the bones.

After half an hour of research, I found a replacement battery for $80 (that's 55% off retail) from Level 8 Technology, a Texas company which has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews on several merchant rating sites. They offer free shipping for orders over $50, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and 1-year warranty. By going through Microsoft's Live Search Cashback program, I'll get an additional 8% rebate, which covers most of the Washington state use tax. And because I used my Discover Card (via PayPal) for the purchase, I'll get another 1% back eventually.

I would have preferred to not spend any money on computer parts tonight, but as consumer object lessons go, this one was pretty inexpensive. Online shopping FTW!

~CKL

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

State of Play

Capsule: a smart, well-paced thriller which also reminds us that, yeah, Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck are good actors, too.

D decided we should take Monday off and go see a movie in the afternoon. She gave me a choice of three local theatres and two movies at each venue; I chose State of Play at Cinetopia, because it is the best movie house in the Portland area, and I'm researching thrillers at the moment (the novel I'm currently rewriting is a near-future techno-thriller). I'd also heard good things about the BBC miniseries on which this American remake is based.

Though D had little interest going in (she was sure I would pick Monsters vs. Aliens instead), afterwards she had no complaints except for the obscure title (a chiefly British phrase meaning "state of affairs" or "the current situation"). The trailer is pretty info-rich, but it actually doesn't give too much away:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHziENfOX34

And now I've added the BBC series to my Netflix queue. Nothing against the American filmmakers, who produced a great picture, but I fully expect the British original to be superior:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL9AMuVvqMI

~CKL

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Bug!

It was warm today! The humans left the big window open and uncovered all day. Bayla and I spent hours lying in the sun. It was great!

A tiny flying bug got into the mini-house. It was real! I chased it all around. When the humans noticed me, I caught the bug and ate it. It was crunchy and satisfying.

Real bugs are the best. Catch them before your humans can!

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nathan Fillion: King of Castle

Castle gets a lot of things wrong. It wildly misrepresents--or, at best, cherry-picks--the experience of being a bestselling novelist or a New York City detective. But damn that smarmy motherfucker Nathan Fillion. He's just so entertaining to watch.

Also, as Leverage showrunner John Rogers notes, the techie clues have been real smart so far. I still don't buy Stana Katic as murder police, but I'm giving her Kate Beckett character the benefit of the doubt for now. Maybe the writers will come up with an interesting and plausible backstory for her.

The fourth episode was the one that really sold me. Lots of nice little moments, including the uniform searching the dumpster, Castle and his daughter cutting onions, and the closing scene in the bookstore. You can get the full show from iTunes. Here's the Lame TV PreviewTM:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCTj7sPjxTU

Episode three wasn't bad, either. Like everyone else, I really enjoy the father-daughter scenes with Nathan and Molly. And I'm thinking about making my own "You Should Be Writing" screensaver.

~CKL

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Physics in Action

Well, what do you know? Light does travel faster than sound!


http://vimeo.com/4171907

Thanks to the Leverage crew for putting on this Tax Day demonstration in downtown Portland. I much prefer exploding cars to teabaggers.

~CKL

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Friday Flash Fiction: "Sam Spayed"

It's about as bad as you think it is.

Read "Sam Spayed" at 512 Words or Fewer

~CKL

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Finally, I get to play with the new toy.

The humans brought home this interesting toy a few weeks ago. It's this little device with a button on it. When a human holds the device in their hand and pushes the button, a little red dot appears wherever they are pointing. The human can wave their hand and make the dot crawl all over the house.

The dot acts just like prey, and can get really far away from the humans. I love the way they can make it quiver with terror. It's a great toy.

Of course, the humans wouldn't let me play with the toy when they first brought it home. It was for Jasper. He was the only one who got to play.

Ordinarily, I'd be a little miffed at this treatment. But Jasper and I have an arrangement. He gets first pick of all the toys. I get first pick of everything else: food, water, treats, catnip, freshly cleaned litter box, sleeping spots.

And the best part of our arrangement? Jasper always gets tired of his toys. Then I get to play with them, too.

I love our arrangement. I don't miss out on anything.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Out of work? Start a blog!

This is what my former colleague and IT/security guru Jason Sylvester has done. Is it wrong for me to hope he stays jobless for a while so he'll blog more?

~CKL

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Game Theory 123

I can't comment on Peter Sarrett's blog (hello, 500 server error), so I'm posting my remarks on "Puzzle Hunt 123" here:

Wei-Hwa said: "Except for the teams at the top, most teams don't realize when they can be meta-event-ing to increase their fun."

I think what's actually happening is that newbie teams, who are less familiar with how puzzle events run, are more likely to adhere to whatever explicit rules have been given. If there are no rules for something--e.g., how often they can ask for hints--they go by their own prejudices or assumptions about the event.

More experienced teams, on the other hand, know more about what happens behind the scenes, and in some cases may even know the event organizers personally. You're much more likely to call your friend for a hint than to call a total stranger who you know only by his or her imposing title of "Game Control."

Both experienced and newbie teams are following the rules as they understand them; it's just that more experienced teams have a better understanding of the unwritten/unspoken rules. There's no way to eliminate that knowledge gap, but GC can do their best to be explicit with the most important stuff and treat everyone fairly and equally.

There have been times when Team Snout was running a Game, and we had to make up a new policy on the spot to deal with something unexpected. We didn't always make the right call, but we had to stick with our decision until the end of the event to be fair to everyone. It's always tough, because the issues that come up are inevitably ones that players care deeply about (in our case, skipping and scoring). But we didn't decide to run a Game because it was easy.

And now for something completely different. :)

~CKL

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Bad Boy of the Spelling Bee"

This week's story has its origins in an actual, personal experience of mine, which you can discover in the notes, if you're so inclined.

Read "Bad Boy of the Spelling Bee" at 512 Words or Fewer

~CKL

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Fraud!

Remember how I was telling you about this great bug we have in the mini-house? The one that runs really fast and the humans don't even care how much I play with it?

It's a fake!

I thought it was kind of strange that the bug only appeared when the humans were around. And I knew something was up when I kept catching the bug only to have it crawl on top of my paw. I couldn't feel or smell anything!

But I was having so much fun that I didn't really pay attention.

Then I noticed that mouse-shaped thing the humans were always holding whenever the bug was around. It went "click!" The bug appeared. It went "click" again and the bug disappeared. They pointed, and the bug appeared where they were pointing. When they moved their hand, the bug moved too.

It's so disappointing! The bug is a lie.

I just wish I could quit playing with it. It's so much fun!

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

How'm I Doing?

Short answer: Pretty well.

Long answer:

Remember all those commitments I made at the beginning of the year? I haven't managed to meet all of them, but I'm making the effort and accomplishing a decent majority of everything I set out to do. Hooray! Detailed breakdown follows.

post a new 512 Words or Fewer story (text and audio) every Friday

I've met this 100% and am very happy about it. I only came close to missing my deadline once, and I was even ahead of schedule last week. You can expect to see more trunk stories and novel excerpts if I ever get too busy or lazy again.

finish "Freefall: No Fate" - post a new chapter every month

I finished two chapters in three months, so I'll call this one 67%.

1 NEW short story submission to pro/semi-pro markets every month

This one, I need to improve. I finished one short in January and two in February, but the latter pair were for my Clarion application, which was rejected, and they're now being critiqued by my VPXII peeps prior to another rewrite pass. I need to write at least one new story this month.

critique 1 VPXII classmate's story per month

I slacked off on this for a long time and then critiqued three in March, so on average I'm doing okay.

finish 2nd draft of Waypoint Kangaroo by end of March

Well, that didn't happen. I'm still working on it, but at this point I'm leaning toward starting the agent query process and sharpening up the first three chapters just so I can get the ball rolling before mid-year.

do Script Frenzy in April

In progress!

upload all home videos to YouTube

Still doing this most Fridays. I'm prioritizing longer videos so I can get them uploaded before Google Video turns that off, and I got sidetracked in February with editing the GC Summit stuff.

It turns out that most of my old VHS tapes are marching band performances from high school. Here we are in the 1992 Rose Parade (scrub to 1:36 for my close-up, Mom):



~CKL

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

I am an old Jewish man

I know, I know. You thought I was a twelve-year-old girl, right? Well, that was Tuesday. This is Saturday. You gotta keep up here, JAFO.

Last night, D and I watched the mostly atrocious Get Smart movie remake, which suffers from the same problem as so many remakes these days--it trades on the brand name and packaging of the original without really understanding the appeal or capturing the spirit. The Avengers movie (remember that?) failed even worse, and though the new Battlestar Galactica managed to make its own mark, I'm still dubious about the upcoming Star Trek reboot.

This version of Get Smart just didn't get the old-school Jewish humor that permeated the original series; it pasted punchlines from the original series into scenes that had no setup or follow-through. The retooled Maxwell Smart character simply didn't match the old jokes ("Would you believe...," "Missed it by that much," etc.), in either personality or backstory. It took its action setpieces too seriously, and its comedy not seriously enough. Which is totally missing the point of Get Smart.

~CKL

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "The Incredible Machine"

In this case, I'm using the first sense of 'incredible,' i.e.: "So implausible as to elicit disbelief." I hope, however, that you are willing to suspend disbelief for the five paltry minutes it will take to enjoy this week's tall tale.

Read "The Incredible Machine" at 512 Words or Fewer

~CKL

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Last Night, in Portland

 
 

Yes, we won the on-site lottery for $25 tickets to see Wicked, and that is what we saw from our "limited view" seats. That's the good news.

The bad news is, I seem to have caught the throat cold which I hear is going around Portland. Took a long nap this afternoon and am headed back to bed now. Need to get better so I can go judge a middle school science fair on Friday.

~CKL

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Huh?

I read this article in The Oregonian today. See if you can see my problem with it.

Here's the third paragraph of the article:
In 2008, there were 131 overdose deaths from methadone, and another 39 involving oxycodone. That compares with 119 heroin-related deaths, 106 methamphetamine-related, 51 cocaine-related and 46 deaths resulting from a combination of these drugs.
Since I'm that kind of girl, before I read the article I added up the numbers:
Prescription drug deaths: 131 + 39 = 170
Illicit drug deaths: 119 + 106 +51 + 46 = 322

Of course, more than one drug could be implicated in a single death. Just adding up the numbers might not give the true picture.

Looking a little further, I found this:
The state statistics show 229 people died from the illicit drugs of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or a combination of them in 2008
There's no mention of the total deaths from prescription drugs, but the above paragraph does match the state statistics. The state press release also confirms something like 170 total deaths from methadone and oxycodone.

So...

Let's imagine that the lady who wrote the article is shopping for an iPod, and she sees two identical units. Would she buy the one for $229 because it's cheaper than the one for $170?

Or is it a joke and I just don't get it?

Today is April Fool's Day, after all....

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March Readings

This was a strangely lopsided reading month. All books were finished in the first two-thirds of the month, with an eleven-day break at the end. Interesting, but I guess the middle of February was quite similar

Heh. I never knew that I was the kind of reader who went at it in fits and starts. I'll have to see if April turns my two data points into a trend.

Here are the books I read in March:
  1. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (3/5): This is YA Urban Fantasy. As is my norm, I had to fight my way through the beginning. I have trouble with Bella's endless sighing and Edward's games of dominance and control. But I was good once Bella remembered that she was the kind of girl who got her way, even if she had to be devious and underhanded with everyone, including herself. That, I enjoy. Also? Best. Comic. Ever. * [Warning: SPOILERS].
  2. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn (3/7): This is a paranormal but not a romance. I found the werewolf society deeply repugnant and almost quit reading. I mean, why should I choose to hang out with people--now matter how fictional--who just grossed me out? But then it occurred to me that this might just be how werewolves lived where the main character was. After that, I was okay. I can deal with repugnant societies that are limited to a specific time and place. I'm also getting kind of tired of books that assume that one has to be a werewolf to be all about pack dynamics and dominance games. That's all human, pure and simple.
  3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (3/8): This is the paranormal romance that provided the basis for the HBO series True Blood. It's a fun, murderous romp through the life of a mind-reading virgin and her boyfriend, Bob the vampire.
  4. Much Depends on Dinner by Margaret Visser (3/9): This is a nonfiction book on food history, specifically: Corn, butter, salt, lettuce, olive oil, lemons, chicken, rice, and iced cream. It's full of fascinating, interesting trivia. I had no idea that ice was pretty common i throughout history (if you were rich enough). The book is also concrete proof that people were warning us about factory farming 25 years ago.
  5. Suite Scarlet by Maureen Johnson (3/10): This is a YA contemporary. Maybe it's even marketed as teenaged chick lit. I dunno. It was a fun, fluffy read, kind of like cotton candy. Once the sweetness evaporated, I felt like something was missing. It took me a while to figure this out: it doesn't feel like anything that happened in the story matters--not even to the characters. But I was very impressed by the pitch-perfect description of what it's like be the poor kid in your crowd of friends.
  6. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (3/11): This is the third in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, first published more than 20 years ago, and my second-ever Terry Pratchett book (unless you count Good Omens, but that's half Neil Gaiman too.) Equal Rites is subversive, interesting, hilarious, and groan-worthy, all at once. I had a great time.
  7. Frost Bite by Richelle Mead (3/15): This is the second book in the Vampire Academy series. I think now I know what the second book slump looks like. The prologue and first 100 pages were so weak I put away the book and decided not to finish. But, you know how it goes: I couldn't sleep; I got bored; I didn't have anything else with me. So I picked the book up again. The final 100 pages took for a nice, solid ride. I'm probably coming back for a third.
  8. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (3/18): This is a retelling of Snow White, Rose Red. Despite promising, beautiful character introductions, the story never came together for me. Reading the book felt like my time on galley duty in the Navy: we took beautiful, fresh fruits and vegetables and turned them into mediocre meals.
  9. Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa (3/18): This a graphic novel, translated from French by Edward Gauvin. When I finished reading, I thought the story was too compressed. Haunting, tender, and sad, but still too compressed. Then I remembered that fables are supposed to be compressed. We're supposed to unpack them later. There's a lot to unpack here.
  10. Cooking Beyond Measure: How to Eat Well without Formal Recipes by Jean Johnson (3/20): The tagline on this book is, "for people too busy to do the equivalent of a small chemistry experiment when all they want is good food." I say to that, "Bah! Humbug!" This book isn't about principles of easy cooking. The only thing Jean Johnson dispenses with is the amount of each ingredient. The ingredients are all still there--just harder to find--and mixed in with a lot of text. As any technical writer will tell you, that is NOT the way to give instructions. The busy people reading this cookbook had better already know how to cook the things that they plan to throw together. Heaven help them if they don't know what a frittata is, or how to cook the prepared ingredients (quinoa, polenta, etc.)


* Now that I've seen the comic summary, I'm desperate to read Breaking Dawn... and I even have it on good authority the summary takes very little artistic license.

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