26 August, 2010

Four things I do when I decide to sit down and write.

Lists. I love lists. the internet loves them, too. There are a gaggle of experts out in the electronic ether that will guide you through the trials and tribulations of your life in 5 to 10 easy steps. For me, I'll just share with you a handful of things I do to procrastinate when what I really want to do is sit down and write. Then, I suppose as a bonus, I'll share three things I do to get me in to a writing mood.

Four things I do instead of writing:

1. I stumble.

StumbleUpon is an app that allows you to stumble your way to random websites based on your tastes and preferences. for instance, I like technology, architecture, design and pictures of naked ladies, so you can usually find me watching TED presentations, checking out new artists like DubFX, or closing my laptop when someone walks up because I have bare breasts adorning my screen.

2. I Netflix.

I love Netflix. Absolutely and forever. I recommend it to anyone and everyone and, to me, no one can really match it in terms of value and convenience. However, having thousands of films and TV shows at my fingertips only serves to hinder any progress I might have with putting something on a page. It's sad that I have four Netflix-enabled devices sitting in my living room. --Five including my laptop.

3. I annoy my dog.

Like this:

Pillow avalanche! Where is your doggy god now?!

4. I do chores.

What's that old chestnut: "If you want to write, make sure your dishes are clean"? Yeah. I'm one of those people who needs a to-do list to check off before I can put my head in a place to think about anything creative. I envision it like that scene in Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land where Donald's mind is a filthy broom closet and needs to be dusted before he can grasp billiard geometry.

Three things I do to get myself to write:

1. I write letters.

A couple of friends and I like writing letters to each other. It's a lost art, I think. Whether by snail mail or electronically, there's a certain finesse about the whole affair. Plus, it goes a long way to teach you the craft of writing: you have to know your audience, be concise, engage quickly and get out on a button. Check out some of the published letters of past authors like the Romantics or from around the world wars. Cool stuff.

2. I get out of the house.

Leave me in the house for a day and I'll maybe turn out a page of material. Put me in a public place with a good playlist to put me in the mindset and I'll increase that output by at least four more pages.

3. I do R & R:  Reading & Research

Find your local library and use it like a cheap dollar hooker. Nothing beats free, even if it's just a place to go that doesn't charge you $4.00 for coffee. The library in the town I'm living in is a bit pitiful, but it'll do. If you want a really fantastic place to accrue overdue fines I suggest trying out the Cerritos Public Library. This is probably the coolest library I've ever been in.

4. I blog.

It's a good way to stay limber.

26 March, 2010

The only question that has been asked of me so far....

What would you tell your high school self now?

Cut your hair. Pursue that singing career.

21 March, 2010

"Osbourne Cox? I thought you might be worried... about the security... of your shit." -Burn After Reading

A few days ago, my fiance, her mother, my dog and I were strolling along the beaches of the Georgia coastline when I spotted something in the sand dunes. It was small and white, and figuring it to be something like a bleached animal bone which are not too uncommon in places like that, I gave it a small kick to uncover it a little and poke around. To my surprise it was something completely different. It was an iPhone. Correction: It was a newer, better iPhone than the one I have currently. Now, I have to admit I had a personal, inner struggle for a few minutes and I feel I came to the right decision: I decided to keep it. .. Nah, just kidding. Actually, I logged on to this kid’s Facebook account (I discovered that he is a freshman in college) and posted a message on his wall, which has become a big hit with all his friends, apparently... This says it all:

“Dear Brutus, (name changed)

First of all, kudos, I found no naked photos or evidence of perversity on your iphone. Well done!

Secondly, a couple of tips for owning an iphone:

Password protect your shit. I know everything about you now and could serious wreck havok if I had wanted to.
Invest in MobileMe and it’s GPS finding function.
Don’t go wandering off on to a beach while high with a $700 phone.

Obviously this thing cost someone a lot of money and they would probably like it back, and that person probably wasn’t you. Thus, I’m sending it back to your dad. (who is very well spoken, by the by)

P.S. Stop doing drugs and use protection.


The guy who found your Iphone.”

17 March, 2010

John’s hierarchy of today’s entertainment

    Last week (yes, I am quite lax when it comes to writing things down), I laid in to a heated tangent about one of the absolute geekiest things you will ever hear come out of my mouth: I explained, in great detail, to my fiance why I preferred American Role Playing Games like Mass Effect and Fallout over Japanese, or J-RPG’s, like the just-released Final Fantasy 45, or whatever they’re up to now. The crux of the argument I made hinged on a couple of things which were; 1. Identity with the characters and story and how I felt American storytelling excelled in stories that grounded you somewhat in our reality. What I mean by this is that I prefer that my protagonist not be an androgynous waif like this:

But more this:

....Much more James Bond.

    Also, I threw in that I don’t like melodrama, and the fact that most of the FF games now have very sappy, falsetto love themes. This led me to muse over what a game is and ruminate on why I’ve never gotten emotionally attached to a game like most overweight LARP-ing recluses of my generation. (I blame my lack of social retardation, really.)
    I am also reminded of an argument I became involved in with an actor on a set last year in which we discussed why I think books trump film in terms of experience for the audience and what has the most impact on us as human beings. And lo, it was thus:

John’s Hierarchy Of Entertainment

1. Music
    Immediately powerful and present, the oldest of entertainments, music can recall a memory or image in the mind in mere seconds, tell a story in minutes, and stay buried in our flesh for a lifetime. It’s demands participation both to make and to listen. What I love about music is that it only truly exists in the moment that it’s created and is gone just as quickly; just like our lives are wont to be.

2. Literature & Poetry
    Why books? Besides being the de-facto source of critical thought for centuries, books are the purest of experiences because we are forced to use our imaginations to bring the text to life. (That was a bit obvious, isn’t it?) I place it on top because it causes one to exercise one’s imagination and prompts deeper study and understanding. It also demands concentration, which I’m sure is why a lot of people, especially young adults and children of the newer generation, find it hard to engage in anything more than 200 pages or on the level of the classics. It’s also tops because it is essentially a pure dialogue between author and reader, it contains genres but follows no mandated structure, and can take it’s time in building whatever point the author has to make. It’s a form of leisure that doesn’t quite fit in to modern American life anymore. Luckily there are podcasts and audiobooks to fill this void, and that takes us back to the even older oral tradition.

3. Theatre
    Whilst on the subject of oral traditions; coming from a life of experience both in front and behind the stage I can say that theater is the mid-step between literature and film. It’s also the second oldest attraction on the list, if you’re not counting games like chess, etc. Theatre’s strength is in the engagement of the audience. The fact that the players and audience are breathing the same air and participating equally with the opportunity to blow the entire illusion is magnificent and largely underplayed by society.
    There’s nothing like watching or being in a play when someone blows a line. It’s fucking magic. I’ve always had the urge to run up on stage during performances. It’s a weird tick that plagues me and surely would ostracize me from the theatre community if I let it happen, but the fact I can do this if I wanted and totally destroy or change the performance is what’s so appealing to me. Theatre, like a book, depends largely on imagination; especially when attending smaller theater productions. Lastly, the theatre also allows leeway as to the structure and topics of what you experience. You can get away with more, be more poetic, be more raw with emotions and have a greater impact on the shared experience because of the intrinsic mechanics of how the art form manifests. Lest we forget Shakespeare applies as literature, theatre, philosophy, and the basis for good filmmaking.

4. Film
    The facts that it’s a two-dimensional image that is physically separate from the audience and that stories must adhere to certain run times and be pigeon-holed in to genres are the biggest reasons why film is number four. The growing lack of creative interest by those running the industry and marginalization by the audience who’d rather pirate films than support their artists has constricted the young art form severely and left it in a stranglehold also plays in to this decision as well. There’s no room to innovate and grow. (And the 3D gimmick they’ve been pushing on us since the, what, 40’s? isn’t the answer either.) I can’t tell you what is, what I can say is that my argument for this list is that, to me, film is almost disposable and more forgettable than, say, a book. I can remember the book that made me want to become a writer, but not so much the film that prompted in me the desire to craft films. I can quote movies and deconstruct them to a point, but the endpoint of these exercises come far sooner than what I accomplish with literature or even dissecting good performances of theatre. Also, I’ve had the privilege on many occasions  to watch performances adapt and grow over a run whereas a film is a one-shot deal. Unless it’s remade or ‘rebooted’, as is the trend.

5. Games (specifically Video Games)
    Video games are popcorn. You consume everything until you reach the bottom of the bag and then throw it away. What else do you do with an empty bag that’s served it’s one-time use?
    That’s a harsh criticism, but I’ve been a video gamer, shamefully, for two decades. What all games are are pattern recognition and short learning curves. Mario and the sort I put in the category of quick-itch relief. A difficult challenge at a quarter a pop. Then we have Final Fantasy or Mass Effect who strive to become filmic, at best, but are encumbered by being manipulated by people like me who enjoy watching the characters take suicide dips off of cliffs or desire that most of the supporting cast be summarily rounded up and shot in the face. In terms of experience, VG’s are the most encumbered and one-dimensional of this small pantheon. Mostly building on worn stereotypes and pastiches of Campbell’s Hero Cycle, how well a game can cover up the inherent monotony of the gameplay with a decent story dictates my willingness to ignore  the “go fetch” quests, terrible battle schemes or sheer inanity in which I’m wasting away my life and money.

In summary: Yes, I’m a snob.

Addendum: I didn’t include art as entertainment because it’s only modern utility seems to be for parody or to distinguish class systems.

Addendum: For those who may argue these things: MMORPG’s, LARP-ing, shameless devotions to sci-fi and fantasy shows, and fascination with Nazis, housewife-made vampires and/or zombies et al. denote that you need therapy, social interaction and a treadmill.

05 March, 2010

Disney/Pixar's "Up" -2009

I am going to post a series of short essays about where I was in my life when I first saw a certain film and how it tied in to that moment. Intensely personal and very much biased to the faults of my memory, they are more recollection than film review.

    I simply have the most difficult time watching Pixar’s Up. It’s not that the film is horrible or unwatchable. Hardly. I think it’s possibly their best film with the exception of Wall-E. It’s just that the first five to ten minutes are completely unbearable and I’ll explain why.

    In late May of 2009, my father, who was ill with all manner of problems, began coughing up blood in copious amounts. Deep, rich, brownish coffee grind blood that comes from so deep inside that most of us never know it’s ever there. Much more important than the cut on the finger blood and almost as sacred as the monthly blood of future mothers, it came out of him in convulsions and wouldn’t stop.

    He had spent the night doing this, crying out for his elderly mother who was in the next room who called out for him, neither being able to reach the other. It was only on the morning after that one of the vagrants he let live on the second floor of his home alerted anyone outside to what was happening. When my mother, his first ex-wife, arrived and saw the human wreckage that was Dad he was rushed to the ER of perhaps the worst staffed hospital in the state of Georgia. Because of his worsening condition, my father received a complimentary upgrade from the windowless ER room to the ICU suite, complete with a sweeping window overlooking the street corner. They decked him in the finest array of tubes and scopes and sensors and this man who once towered over me in my youth now laid shriveled up and engulfed by warm sterile blankets on a bed that growled and beeped.

    It is important to know that this man who once pushed 250 lbs. was then a mere 90 lbs., give or take. His large glasses slipped off his face even when he was completely still. He lay in the bed for almost four weeks and I was solely responsible for every medical decision on his behalf. It was the second day in the ICU that I sat in my car in the parking lot of the hospital and broke down in sobs because I knew my dad was going to die.
    About two weeks in to his stay my family suggested that we do something that resembled normal to try and take our minds off of the matter at hand. That activity was, of course, going to see a movie; specifically: Up.

    The story is this: An old man wishes to fulfill his wife’s life-long dream of traveling to South America, so he retrofits his home in to a helium dirigible to travel there and the adventure happens. ...And it has a talking dog, and heart-felt moments and is utterly brilliant and wonderful... And the wife dies in the first five minutes in a montage that not only reminded me of my then current predicament, but forced me to imagine my future wife who sat right beside me in the same calamity. So I shamefully broke down in the goddamn theater, gulping down my emotions as to not disturb the other paying theater-goers.
    Otherwise; I loved the talking dog.

    I can now watch the rest of the film without conflict. I just have to fast-forward a little past the inciting incident. But, even then, when throughout the film Carl Fredricksen looks at his home held aloft by balloons, his reminder of his lost Ellie, I’m reminded of the last real interaction I had with my father. I walked in and his eyes turned from the nurse towards me and from underneath the breathe mask I could see a smile on his face and he winked at me. I asked him if he liked my haircut. He nodded shallowly and with care.

04 February, 2010

First Post.

Hello, everyone!

I'm John, and I'm here to answer your questions about... well, anything, really.

The purpose of this blog is three-fold: a continual writing prompt for me; a source of bi-weekly entertainment for you; and an engaging, interactive way to bring back the 'art of conversation'.

The only way this blog can thrive is through continual input from readers like you, and I encourage commenting below and putting in your two cents. Please, be a semblance of intelligence and civility. It's all I ask.
Well, that and proofreading.

Questions about cars? I'll answer it. Do you have questions about the stars, and bars and how not to name your first born child Larry? I can do that, too. Love life a wreck, or want advice about movies and music? Sure, I'll take a stab at it.

I can't promise life changing results, but I do promise honesty and the creative precision of a life-long smart ass.

I'll be building the site up over the next year, so keep in contact and we'll suss this shite out as best as possible.