Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Binary Society

I'm a bit disturbed by how entrenched a binary society has become in our culture. By binary society, I mean, that as a whole, Americans see most decisions as either one thing or the other. You win or you lose; you're successful or you're not; you're with me or you're against me. This perspective is in everything that goes on in our culture.

In politics, you're a Republican or a Democrat, and you either agree with everything in that party or you don't. The concept of politicians talking, negotiating, and reaching a compromise seems to not have just become foreign, but a negative -- as if the politicians are selling out rather than arriving at a better solution.

However, this sort of behavior expands through everything. Look at online message boards, call-in shows, any place people express themselves. You'll see how people are determined to be either good or bad, no gray, they can't be a bit of both. I was talking with my girlfriend the other day about American Idol. You see people constantly pointing out how people from that show, other than one or two are failures. Failure is a pretty absolute word. The fact is, if you're in a creative field - singing, acting, writing, etc - and you can actually make a living doing your art, you are an unqualified success. However, success is now determined to be ultra-rich and mega-famous, or you lose.

Is it any wonder than many Americans, especially younger ones, aren't trying as hard? The definition of success is almost impossible to meet. The with me or against me culture batters people and tears them apart, unless you're either overwhelmed with apathy or completely lacking empathy.

It's no wonder that most other cultures are having problems understanding us. However, we've also helped form a world where our main export is culture -- so, sadly, many nations are starting to adopt our methodology. It's something we've always wanted, right? Well, the problem is, what happens when their opinion differs? They won't back down or compromise because we won't. It makes our world much less friendly and definitely more dangerous.

It seems to me the biggest danger facing America is extremism, not from without, but from within. We're breeding extremism and it's time to step back from that chasm and start talking again -- not as enemies, but as neighbors.

If you hear a politician from either side use the language of enemies when talking about opponents, send them an e-mail and chastise them. It only takes a minute. If enough people did it, this sort of behavior would stop. Playground behavior has to end, and we have to expect everyone around us to act like adults.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

You could even use a piece of chalk!

I just came across an interesting opinion piece on the Computerworld site regarding the iPad. The conceit of the essay is that the iPad is actually a good piece of hardware for creativity. Much of the noise regarding the unit was that it was only for content distribution and not creation - and, it's take quite a few hits in that regard.

When the iPad was first announced, I wrote up an entry regarding how I'd like to use it to write. I mentioned this in several places and received an awful lot of flak regarding those intentions. I don't really understand exactly why people were so threatened with the idea I might actually compose on an iPod, yet they were -- to the point of denigrating my interest in it.

The paragraph that struck me the most was this one:

In Japan, millions of novels have been written on cell phones. My great-grandfather wrote his Ph.D. dissertation with a #2 pencil. Chaucer, Shakespeare and Jefferson wrote their brilliant works with bird feathers. Yet the iPad's critics say creation is impossible using a device that would have been a Pentagon supercomputer 20 years ago. The computers that today's writers say are absolutely necessary for writing didn't even exist 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Is that when they think literacy started?

So, it's really kind of weird that people think that this device is somehow less capable of either creating an environment in which to be creative or generating the tools to allow someone to be. Anyway, you can check out the entire article here.

On to my writing -- the deadline-based screenplay competition I entered started this weekend. I have until Monday to submit a scene. I've been running a couple through my head since last night - so, I'll start writing them down today. The scene descriptor is so immensely broad that I don't think it does me any favors. I believe the more specific it was, the better I'd be able to do ... as it stands, it's so generic, people can just lift a scene from an already established piece and use it. Oh well.

I'm also scribbling a whole bunch of stuff in a notebook for something. Probably won't actually finish it for six months to a year, and I don't plan to talk about content at all until it's complete. However, I've settled on three themes that I'm weaving through every part of it. I may talk about that.

It's weird how that if you talk about a creative piece before you complete it, it can just die ... wither on the vine, if you will.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Well, it IS a game movie after all ...

Ok, this is a story from MSNBC -- and, it's so ridiculously absurd, I'm in shock. And, yes, the story IS serious:

Expect a solid performance from Jake Gyllenhaal in his new film, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (out May 28). Gyllenhaal took the role so seriously he stayed in character even when the cameras stopped rolling, according to an Us Weekly report.

“Jake would chat with crew and visitors in a British accent,” according to an onset source who spoke to the magazine. “It was funny to hear this American guy talking in an accent when he wasn’t shooting. He took it very seriously.”

Ok, so a white guy in an American film is using a British accent to portray a Persian character, which, therefore, makes him a serious actor.

I'm having serious Tropic Thunder flashbacks ... at least he didn't go full retard.

Something else random -- an anime opening for you; this one is from Beck!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Not going boom is good

I want to take a quick moment to correct some erroneous beliefs about the nuclear reduction treaty that President Obama just signed. It seems that a lot of people haven't really looked at the treaty and are, instead, following Fox News on the subject.

The US stated it will not use nuclear weapons on countries that do not possess the capability. This is true. However, there are some lies about the the limitations of this treaty -- simply, the Republicans are stating that it will make us weaker because we can defend ourselves against Iran, South Korea, or countries threatening us with biological weapons.

This is false. First, any country that has not signed the UN nuclear non-proliferation treaty is fair game -- namely, Iran and North Korea ... so, they are exempt. Also, it's specifically stated that those countries that attack with WMD, primarily biological/chemical, are also fair game. Basically, all the treaty says is, if you don't have WMD and don't use them against us, we promise not to use them against you.

People, this is good. We want nuclear nations to agree to this. You don't want some tiny pan-Asian nation being nuked to the stone age in a proxy war, because that'll get us bombed ... and, friends, no one wins a nuclear war. No one. We seem to have become blase about nuclear weapons; we've forgotten that both Russia and the US have enough weapons to destroy the planet several times over. I think it's time we act like adults and stop bullying the weak kids on the playground

Anyway, very funny report below by Jon Stewart if you're questioning my picking on Fox News since he directly calls them out for ignoring the facts -- with proof. So, check it out.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Big Bang Treaty
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An update on the pen

There haven't been any blog updates mainly because I had pneumonia. I've never had it before, didn't particularly enjoy it, and I would prefer never to have it again. You heard it here first kids: Just don't do pneumonia.

The two further screenplay competitions just closed out their submission periods, so now everyone is just waiting to hear back if they get to move on or not. For obvious reasons, this is a long process. I wouldn't be surprised if each of the contests got in the neighborhood of 1500 to 4000 submissions each. I can only imagine how brutal it is reading through all of those. Usually, the first cut is the top 10% of submissions. If I don't make that, I'll be pretty depressed. Usually, if you have decent writing ability, good formatting, and a capable story, you'll make the quarter-finals.

To me, that fact is scary. That means 90% of submissions are absolute and utter crap, to the point where the story isn't even cohesive. Then again, it never ceases to amaze me how many people THINK they are amazing writers -- I mean, they have deep-held beliefs that they are the next Faulkner or King, depending on whatever genre they're focusing on. Yet, they just plain suck. Why doesn't anyone ever tell them this? I mean, I don't want to hear that my stuff sucks -- but, I'd rather know than live in some dream world and waste my time.

I expect the first announcements will be made in June -- so, I have several months to stew. The winners will probably be announced closer to October/November. One of the contests, I don't have any reasonable chance of winning - I entered it because you get a screenplay analysis, which was very useful. My goal there is to make the semi-finals. The other has genre breakdowns -- however, the genres are much more broad than the competition I won. Still, my goal there is to finish in the top 3 of my genre. Hey, if I make the finals in the Thriller/Horror category, I'll be pleased -- but, I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted to place in the top.

I still haven't heard back regarding the two stories I submitted for consideration for a couple anthologies. I'm not surprised. My experience with these things is that they always tend to run behind -- selection and editing is a lot of work, especially when people submit so much garbage. I have to admit, I do favor one of the stories over the other ... I kind of hope that one sells.

I'm still weighing my options about applying for a low-residency MFA program. At some point in the next few years, I'll have to start gearing up for what I guess they call your second career. I've taught before, and I'd like to do it again. I'm hoping that if I sell a few works and get my MFA, I'd be able to start prepping for that in some manner. One of the programs actually has a teaching practicum, so ... well, we'll see. I'm not really that anxious to get further into debt.

Anyway, that's my complete update on the status of my writing projects ... except, of course, for what I'm working on next. I hate equivocating, but I just don't know what it is going to be. It's a mix of procrastination, fear, and literally having too many subjects I want to work on. Wish me luck.