Victory is mine…and a whole bunch of other people’s as well

nano_2006_winner_small.gifThe last thirty days have been spent undertaking a truly grueling task, one that happens to fall upon me every year at this time. I’m speaking, of course, of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to those in the know). I finished my 50,000 words just moments ago, on this very computer, then promptly went to put dinner in the oven. Again, I’ve been handsomely rewarded with a full set of icons (better looking than last year’s) and a charming PDF certificate I can print out for myself.

I took a minute to look over my post-mortem from last year’s event, the first that I managed to complete, and found that most of the things I said there held this year, despite the fact that I’ve been writing professionally for nine months now. There are still days where I feel like I can’t produce an intelligible sentence, and I still hate writing the word “turned” (add to that any form of the word “look”).

While I have reached the requisite length for the contest, the novel itself is only about halfway done, if my previous efforts are any indication. This is the third and final book in a series which I began to write, in its earliest form, more than seven years ago. I think I’ll save recollections on that long and arduous journey for when I complete this volume, probably some months hence.

What have I learned from this past month? It’s even harder to find time to write when you’re employed (even when—or perhaps especially when—said employment consists of writing). That said, if my notes on last year are accurate, I managed to finish about the same time, with around five plus hours to go before the deadline. I also seemed to have paced myself slightly better, having written around 4500 words today, rather than the 6000 I pumped out on the penultimate day last year.

One difference from last year was that I got to add a couple of writing buddies this time, my mother and my boss). While it was handy to be able to pace myself against them, and occasionally discuss things with them, the whole thing still remained mainly a solitary task.

Writing wise, did I learn anything? Certainly. My ideas for this book being somewhat less fleshed out than last year’s, I ended up skipping around quite a bit, moving ahead to chapters that I had a better feel for. One of my two main characters’ plot line came very easily; the other was like pulling teeth and it needs substantial revision (probably involving tossing out whole chapters). But writing’s a process, and editing is part of that process, though I may leave it until I’ve at least finished a rough draft.

Finally, I’ve made no more progress on getting any of these books published, but that’s something that’s high on my list for the coming year. Of course, there’s plenty of other stuff to deal with in the next couple months, including the holidays and quite a bit of travel for both work and pleasure. But I’ll still be finding time to write, and hopefully to start submitting some more of my fiction (and perhaps non-fiction as well).

Once again, I own thanks to family and friends who put up with me through this ordeal. I’m looking forward to finishing this story sometime in the next year, perhaps just in time to start with a wholly new idea for next year’s NaNoWriMo.

Tom Cruise can handle the truth

Suddenly it’s all clear. Tom Cruise is really just pretending to be a Scientologist in order to get to the root of a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. I mean, it happens to him an awful lot. He’s just acting on behavior patterns, really—you can’t blame the man.

Five Short Movies and Three Guys Named Paul

Angel, connoisseur of things cute and geeky, sends me a link to Tony vs. Paul, a great stop-motion short.

This reminded me of a work by my former animation instructor, Paul Fierlinger. Perhaps you remember Teeny Little Super Guy from children’s shows like Sesame Street or Pinwheel; I believe it still appears on the former from time to time, over twenty years later. I got to see the original Teeny Little Super Guy cup when I visited Paul’s place to do an interview with him for a class project (which turned out to be more of an experiment in questionably duplicitous editing than an actual debate).

And I figured as long as I’m flaunting my own half-finished-looking final project from the documentary filmmaking class, I might as well throw out my half-finished-looking final project from Paul’s animation class, for those who never saw it. And – oh, what the hell, here’s me and another guy named Paul dressed up as clowns.

Jeez, Angel. Look what happens once you get me started.

Spam of the Day

From: Stanislaus N. Key
Subject: In sum, there are different ways that you can honor your mother without subjecting yourself to further abuse and you don’t need to feel guilty about it.

[The content is an image with information about stock in some company, followed by a bunch of random text beginning with the sentence, “He is at the mild end of TS thankfully.” I’d like to believe that nobody is stupid enough to actually follow up on emails like this, but somebody keeps sending them, so I have to assume that there’s a market.]

Look, it’s fun. It says right there at the top of the screen: Fun!

Someday, maybe I’ll have a Wii. Until then, I live vicariously through Cabel Sasser of Panic. Unfortunately, Cabel’s Wii is in for repair. How sad is it when I can’t even get a Wii in my vicarious life? Still, I did learn about one new “feature” of Nintendo’s console from Cabel: The Help Cat.

Everything beautiful about the Nintendo Wii can be summed up in one embodiment: The Help Cat . Living deep within the Photo Channel, this is my 2007 vote for the greatest, weirdest, most terriblewonderful User Interface Design idea of all time — contextual help you have to catch. Something about this is so totally Nintendo, totally ridiculous, and totally a great use of the Wii Remote. While we’re easily amused, make no mistake, people: we spent five minutes having fun just trying to catch a cat that gives you help. What more can be said about the Nintendo Wii?

The video proves it; that fricking cat could beat the shit out of Microsoft’s paper clip, no problem.

My Favorite Color is Death

I’ve read in a few different places that publishers shy away from green covers. When I first encountered this idea (and I wish I could remember when that was), it was presented as a simple truth about markets. Surely, with all the money at their disposal, major corporations have conducted research demonstrating that green covers simply do not sell well as covers with other colors. This must be why sometimes quite excellent covers, such as original cover on Craig Thompson’s Good Bye Chunky Rice, get replaced with inferior covers. The next edition of that book had a ridiculous orange cover, perhaps (I assumed) because the first edition was cursed by its greenness. (That cover has since been redesigned with the same image but with blues instead of orange.)

According to a recent article in Slate, however, that’s all malarky, and the magazine industry is just as silly about this superstition.

Cindi Leive, now the editor in chief of Glamour, remembers getting into “an almost physical fight” at Self over a cover that pictured Stephanie Seymour in a dark green sweater. “I liked the cover,” Leive recalled. “But my art director … not only was she screaming, she was screaming in a thick and impassioned Finnish accent and telling me that dark green was the color of death … in Scandinavian mythology, but also on the newsstand.”

Green has always been my favorite color, so I’d just like to make an open call to designers to make more green covers. Don’t be afraid. We can do this together.

The O.Z.

The SCI FI Network is remaking The Wizard of Oz as a TV miniseries. Don’t, however, expect dancing munchkins and ruby slippers. The working title is “Tin Man.”

The miniseries is a sometimes psychedelic, often twisted and always bizarre take on The Wizard of Oz. It centers on DG, a young woman plucked from her humdrum life and thrust into The Outer Zone (the O.Z.), a fantastical realm filled with wonder, but oppressed by dark magic. DG discovers her true identity, battles evil winged monkey-bats and attempts to fulfill her destiny. Her perilous journey begins on the fabled Old Road that leads to a wizard known as the Mystic Man. Along the way, she is joined by “Glitch,” an odd man missing half his brain; “Raw,” a quietly powerful wolverine-like creature longing for inner courage; and “Cain,” a heroic former policeman (known in the O.Z. as a “Tin Man”), who is seeking vengeance for his scarred heart. Ultimately, DG’s destiny leads her to a showdown with the wicked sorceress Azkadellia, whose ties to DG are closer than anyone could have imagined.

DG in the O.Z.? That’s right, kids, initials are in this year. While SCI FI has hit it big with its Battlestar Galactica remake (or, if you prefer Jason’s nomenclature, B*G) that hasn’t stopped it from producing winners like Manticore and Mansquito.

The folks behind this project are Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle whose career high point seems to be The Pretender, a show which I liked in its early years, but which later suffered the X-Files-like fate of becoming mired in its own mythology without hope of resolution.

The miniseries is a format which holds a lot of promise: it’s long enough to get the benefits of serial storytelling (arc, character development, multi-threaded plots), while being short enough to hopefully avoid filler. And I’m very intrigued about different takes on established properties, so I’m not ready to cry “abomination” on an Oz remake just yet. Besides, the story has been done several times before, though for every Wicked there’s also a The Wiz. And, of course, the movie, which many people think of as the ur-story was itself an adaptation of L Frank Baum’s book. As for the premise of the series, I’m a sucker for dark fantasy, so I’ll be keeping my eye on it. Another decent production, and I might not cringe every time I hear the phrase “A SCI FI Original.”

My Secret Christmas List

When my parents ask me each year for a Christmas or birthday list, I just direct them to my Amazon wish list. It’s a lot easier than compiling new lists twice a year, since I actually use Amazon to keep track of things I want to buy for myself. However, there are some items that don’t make it to that list for one reason or another. I’d write to Santa directly about these things, but I realized some years back that he was just replying with form letters (but not until I finally had so many brothers that two of us were bound to get duplicates).

Still, in the interest of maintaining the veneer of self-importance expected of interweb superstars, I have decided to share with you friends the list of things I expect to not get for Christmas this year. In no particular order:

Item: McSweeney’s t-shirt about working for the circus
Reason I won’t get it: Can’t add it to my Amazon wish list, and ease of list distribution trumps desire to get everything I want.

Item: Kid Koala robohoodie (with sewn-on design on front)
Reason I won’t get it: Only comes in girl sizes, and I’m not that secure with my figure.

Item: A neat leather jacket
Reason I won’t get it: I’m not actually capable of explaining my taste in clothing to anyone sufficiently well that I’d end up with anything I’d ever wear. Also, friends will give me grief for compulsively hoarding jackets.

Item: Onitsuka Tiger sneakers
Reason I won’t get it: Cool shoes are for people with narrow feet (but I’ll probably keep trying them on in the store until I convince myself that they fit). Also, see above comment about hoarding jackets, only replace with “sneakers.”

Item: A Wii or Xbox 360 video game system
Reason I won’t get it: Santa’s not made of money, you know.

Short Game Review: Gears of War

I played the first two hours of Gears of War on a friend’s XBox 360. As of this week it is the fastest selling Microsoft title, and with good reason: it is a fun first person shooter with the most amazing graphics in a game to date. The story doesn’t seem too interesting, you play a super soldier in a distant future saving humanity from “The Locust Horde” which is a fancy-pants name for Zombies and friends. The game play places a focus on navigating areas while staying behing cover, leaving cover tends to get your shredded by gun fire pretty quickly. The animation of the character diving for cover, navigating the terain, and destroying zombies is very nicely done and visually impressive. Your assault rifles does include a ridiculous chainsaw attachment that one can use to bisect zombie with a sanguinary spray. The graphics are amazingly impressive, the screenshots themselves only barely do the justice, the characters and environments have to be seen in motion to be fully absorbed.

Short Music Review: Kid Koala at World Cafe Live

I don’t know who came up with the idea to use the actual record and needle to make music in addition to playing it back, but I think that person must be proud of Eric San. I got to catch San/Koala at a local venue last night, and he was grand. They had a neat setup with a camera pointing down over the turntables (he had three), projecting an overhead view of his hands at work on the wall behind him. The actual music that resulted was fun, though not as re-listenable as his recorded albums. Still, seeing him go at those turntables was a performance in itself. Also, on a dare (made before the show), he had got some audience members to do glowstick dance-off. It was not as cool as the time I saw Spider-man get onstage and start dancing with Moby, but I am still a fan of seeing folks mixing things up on stage. Then again, if Kid Koala had actually been joined onstage by superheroes (or, for that matter, robots or ninjas), my heart probably would have exploded.