Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Writing Experiment number 7

Sooner or later, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, this experiment is one of those. As much fun as this last week has been, I have other irons in the fire that actually will pay me money - if I get my act together. However, I've got plans for the new year, so I'll keep you posted as it draws near.
Anyways, enough about that preamble to the ramble... here we go with the topic for tonight's post:

Writing Experiment 7 - Why is my wife always right, Which came first: The chicken or the egg, and write my life story in seven words or less

I just love it when I open my mouth to insert my foot. Especially when I manage to say something when my wife, Melissa is around. While most of the time we agree, there are times when we don't really see eye to eye. Just like any married couple, we have our disagreements, even our knock down drag out fights. Irregardless of the outcome, we still love each other.
Now, any guy who has been married for any appreciable amount of time can attest, we can never win a fight. Not a smart ass remark, simply an observation.
The question is, why?
The short answer is that it's the right thing to do. The longer more complicated answer has many facets. I will be using my Wife as an example.
One the one hand, I'm wrong. Simple, to the point, I am wrong. I may continue to argue, but Melissa will present incontrovertible proof that forces me to shut up.
On another hand, it could be that we have a misunderstanding about something that once it is resolved, I agree with Melissa - thereby her being correct.
Pulling up another hand, I might be right. However, this is negated by one of three things: 1) I might be right, but then proven wrong at a later date. 2) I am right, but I can't prove it, or 3) I'm right, but I chose to abandon the argument because it is causing too much strife or stress in the house.
Of course, Melissa will disagree vehemently with me about this, but the majority of arguments are based off of differing points of view, and since I'm writing this, I'm right... up until Melissa tells me I'm wrong.
Now all of that above may seem immature and petty, and plainly on the page, it seems like it. However, there are subtle nuances to the verbal dancing that cannot be conveyed in text. It's a matter of respect, a little pride, and a lot of diplomacy. In a relationship like ours, both of us can't always be right, and as much as I like to parade around my superiority (see last night's post), I know it can get rather overbearing and offensive.
Melissa is always right because it works in this relationship - even when she's wrong, she's right, and I love her dearly for it. Besides, I would rather be with her than be right any day.
Cop out? you better believe it, but the fringe benefits more than make up for it. *wink*


A philosophical question for you, and I apologize for the cliche, but here it is.... What came first, the chicken or the egg? I suppose we could rephrase that as Heisenberg's theory of uncertainty. Granted, it is a bit of a stretch - one concerns the idea of what begun the perpetuation of a species, the other is an attempt to prove a being can be present in two states of being at the same time....
On second thought, let's skip Heisenberg.
I suppose if we go back far enough in time, we can show that the question is not valid - if you follow the concept of evolution, we find that it was actually the lizard that came first, so we can finally put (forgive the pun) this bird to rest.
But hold on, you say. That's a huge cop out! Well, again, you'd be right. I never said I was going to argue one way or the other, but I suppose that's what you were expecting so, let's take a closer look at this.
A brief run through my favorite search engine (yay GOOGLE!) offered up an interesting little nugget that "allegedly" proves the argument has a conclusion: The egg came first. They claim that even though the parent may not have been a chicken, if the egg was a mutation that creates a chicken, the egg is considered a chicken egg. Therefore, the egg came first.
If you want to argue ownership rights, that's a different post. This one is finished.
(Personally, I was rooting for the chicken)


Born warped, married smart, kids, write hard.

all together now...

Born, married, wife right, egg first, done.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Writing Experiment 6 - The incredibleness of your brother in-law Roger. His handsomeness, grace under fire and fabulous looks.

So, I would like to take some time tonight to talk about my Brother-in-law, Roger Smith. Now, anyone who has met Roger knows how studly and tumescent he is - his quick wit, his good looks, his prowess in the bedroom. Words cannot even come close to the amazing awesomeness that is the man that puts Adonis to shame and makes him hang his head in defeat. Women swoon over him, men want to be him, writers and poets weep and rend their clothes in futile attempts to discover the words that do this Hercules/Odysseus/Adonis/Don Juan the barest amount of justice.
But just who is this Roger Smith, the mere mention of his name liable to call down his ire, due to the utterer not being worthy to even breathe his name. Roger Smith, that god amongst men is a father, a husband, a brother and son. He is a caretaker, a provider, a soothsayer, a teller of tales, a sly profligate of the highest moral turpitude, and if whispers hold true; a lover of unmitigated passion and sensitivity whose can restore a woman's maidenhead if she so wishes - while he still lays with her.
His intelligence and wit is second to none - having bested the greatest minds of our time (he once went head to head with Stephen Hawking in a joke telling contest over particle physics - Hawking fled, weeping), he devised a manner of travel to turn back the hands of the clock to match wits with Heisenberg, Bohr, Einstein and other great minds. His crowning achievement was to prove to Heisenberg that the cat actually existed in two states at once by producing both a live and a dead cat at the same time from the box. On his return, he single-handedly out joked every comer at the "Def Comedy Jam", then took on every inductee to the comedy hall of fame.
Once, at a bar, he got into a fight with Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Stephen Segal, Chow Yun Fat, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Andy Kauffman. After yelling "Boo" really loudly at Van Damme and watching Van Damme run away with urine streaming down his legs, he picked up Segal, beat Lee and Fat to death with him, and proceeded to Shove Jackie Chan's head through Norris's chest. He then sat down to discuss the finer points of modern life with Kauffman, until a cute waitress came up and wrestled Kauffman.
Once, while he was studying to become a RN, he performed a quadruple bypass surgery on the teacher using only a ball point pen, the wire from a spiral bound note-book, and five feet of invisible tape. Not only did his teacher survive, but she also lost 50 pounds, looked ten years younger, and gained two bust sizes.
Last Thursday, Roger walked into a hostage situation. The hostage takers were demanding that the United States cease all actions in the Middle East and withdraw completely, and then have everyone in America convert to radical Islam. Not only did Roger talk to hostage takers into letting all the hostages go, he also got them to renounce their radical beliefs, convert to Christianity, give up their weapons and rat out their superiors, where they were at, what weapons they had, how they wore their underwear and what they liked in their coffee. On top of that, he got their superiors to renounce their violent ways. He then shot Osama Bin Laden with a gun fashioned out of two pipe cleaners, a rubber band, and five pounds of C-4.
He faced off against Galactus, the World Eater and not only kicked Galactus's ass, but knocked him completely out of the Marvel Universe and into the Magic Kingdom where he now runs the "Peter Pan" ride.
Roger tends to be so calm, cool and collected that he sweats ice cubes. His demeanor is so mellow, he constantly has penguins and seals resting on him. Greenpeace once named him the "safest place for endangered arctic creatures".
At the Academy Awards, he swept every honor - even "Best Female Lead".
He is the alpha and omega - he is the beginning and the end, he is all that was, and all that will ever be.
I suppose it's just a damn shame that he's second best to me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Writing Experiment 5 - Jack and Jill

So who the hell is Jack and Jill? Until now, I had never heard of them myself. When it was first suggested to me, I thought Jack and Jill? Isn't it Jack Off Jill, the Ft. Lauderdale alt rock band of females? Did they get back together?
Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Jumping on my favorite search engine (Google FTW!) failed to turn up anything that looked remotely favorable. Knowing full well that a straight "Jack and Jill" search would only bring up the venerable nursery rhyme, I tried "Jack and Jill band". The only thing I could pull up was a band based out of Illinois, and there were no mentions of electric violins, so... had to go back and redefine my search. Remembering that someone said they were going to be at Hot Topic at the local mall this weekend, so I punched in "Jack and Jill Hot Topic".
Bingo! Found a Facebook page about an upcoming gig at the mall. Unfortunately, still didn't explain much about the band. Upon further exploration, found a link to their Facebook page, and clicked on it. On the left, further down, a link to MySpace music. Clicked on it, and suddenly, I realized that I know these folks. They're friends of my Brother and Sister-in-law.
On their MySpace page, there is a list of tracks from their debut album, so I figured I would check it out. Now I like Aaron and his wife - they are very warm, friendly, outgoing people. I figured that their music would be offbeat and eclectic, like them.
Looking at the tracks, I find one called "Dwelling on what is dead..." Figuring it was fairly dark with some heavy power chords (I'm on a dark, heavy power chord kick right now - don't know why). Instead, I hear violins and slow melodies. Not exactly what I would associate with power chords. Then, the singing begins - and I doze off. Nodding myself awake, I try a different track. Looking at the play list, I try "dreams not even formed"... dozing again. Damn! I'm trying my hardest to find something that I can get into on this album! So I look one more time... this time, I look at the most listens, and end up on "you are my sunshine". For some reason, it just strikes me as a half-hearted pseudo-country drinking song.
Now, I'm not saying that Jack and Jill are not a good band - far from it. What I am saying is that Jack and Jill is not a band that I can see myself listening to.
Just because I'm not a fan of their music does not mean they are a bad band; in fact, listening to their music, it was readily apparent that they know their craft well. Any time you listen to a musician, you can almost instantly tell if they know their craft - and these guys know it in spades.
I wish Aaron and Jessica the best in their endeavors - I know how difficult it can be starting out with something you love and believe in.
BTW - they'll be playing at the Mesa Mall Hot Topic this weekend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Experiment 4 - Graphic Novels

Writing Experiment 4 Why are graphic novels a great tool for reluctant readers?

Graphic novels are a unique sort of medium. Not a compete picture book, but not a straight prose story. Instead, graphic novels are an amalgamation of two forms - pictures and text. Unlike a picture book, which relies on static images and extensive text to tell a story, a graphic novel uses text to relay dialog and basic plot setup while allowing sequential images to show the action of the story.
So what exactly is a graphic novel? Obviously, it's not a prose novel, nor is it a picture book - we've already established that. But it's not just a comic book either. Comic books and graphic novels look a lot alike, and as time wears on, comic books are being written to eventually become graphic novels, but in the strictest sense of the word, comic books and graphic novels are two separate entities.
Therefore, some terms need to be defined:
Prose: the written word. Basically what you're seeing right now.
Picture: any image that shows something - even an image of prose is still a picture.
Comic book: A (usually) monthly publication that traditionally told a self contained story or stories about a character or characters. Collectible, but for the longest time, considered the realm of children and social outcasts.
Graphic Novel: A book designed to tell a more complex story or story arc than what was originally possible in comic books. Over the years, the lines between comic book and graphic novel have become quite blurred, to the point that they're almost synonymous.
Graphic Novels were originally designed as the more mature version of comic books. Writers and illustrators (quite often one in the same) often like the liberation that comes with writing a graphic novel - in a graphic novel, violence, sexual content, complex adult themes, political agendas or religious ideologies are allowed free reign, unlike a monthly comic book - which has to fall within the constraints of popular culture and censors.
The first graphic novels actually came from the comix movement of the 60's when artists decided that they wanted to tell stories that they were interested in, in ways they wanted to. This resulted in a lot of misogyny, rape fantasy, violence, drug use, political dissent, sex, religion, and autobiography. In fact, Will Eisner, the creator of The Spirit had much to do with the birth of graphic novels. In 1978, Eisner was trying to publish a recollection of experiences from his childhood in New York in the 30's and 40's. He was going to talk to a publisher who he knew would throw him out of the office if he called it a 'comic book'. So with a quick bit of thinking, Eisner called it a 'graphic novel'.
Ultimately, he was thrown out of the office. He did get the book published (through a different publisher), and one of the seminal and groundbreaking cornerstones of the modern graphic novel was created. A Contract with God became the go to guide on how to do not only autobiographical works, but also what sort of subjects could be examined. It has it all, religion, violence, subterfuge, skulduggery, sex, violence, domestic abuse, failed marriages, first loves, lies, truths and enough humanity in it to populate a good chunk of the five boroughs.
Subsequent writers flocked to the banner of the graphic novel: there were new talents that were redefining the genre as they created it - Moore, Miller and Smith. Old school names joined in - Kurtzman, Pekar and Gonnick jumped on the bandwagon as well. The graphic novel was forging ahead at a break-neck pace, hell-bent for leather to redefine what was possible. For Moore and Miller, it was how far you could push the envelope of acceptability. For Smith, it was redefining tropes in new and exciting ways. Kurtzman, Pekar and Gonnick all wanted to talk about things that facinated them: Gonnick was a history buff, Kurtzman was fascinated with the big war, while Pekar was basically a vicarious narcissus, pouring his soul onto the paper while others illustrated it for him.
Then something happened that nobody saw coming - mainstream comic book publishers took notice. They realized that this "new" form was attracting eyeballs. They wanted a piece of the pie, and they went after it with gusto, but on their terms. Thus the comic giant DC went through a re-birthing process - Alan Moore created The Watchmen while Frank Miller released The Dark Knight Returns. Watchmen was originally issued as monthly installments, then collected into book form after the series had run. Dark Knight was released as a book from the get go. Both redefined what it was to be a superhero. Up until that time, superheroes were moral, upstanding members of society who chased around crazy, yet ultimately benign villains who seemed more interested in trying to embarrass the hero than trying to act true to themselves.
After these two books, everyone began to look at superheroes differently. Gone were the days of straight black and white good and bad roles. Instead, there were only varying shades of gray. Batman now worked off of fear and superstition of his opponents. His villains were truly crazy, inscrutable, evil or any combination of the three. Superman was no longer the "boyscout", but was now willing to take some risks to eliminate the greatest threat. His opponents began to play for keeps, with the stakes only being the destruction of the entire world if not the universe.
Another thing that graphic novels were able to do that comics were long loathe to step away from was the superhero genre. Graphic novels were about people or experiences that normal people suffered through. The plots were ones that people could relate to. Honestly, it's difficult to relate to a incredibly cut alien flying around in spandex who can look at your underwear whenever he wants to.
Graphic novels hit close to home - they talked about things that comic books couldn't (or wouldn't) address. Even if comics address those issues, they would treat it like those torturous worst case scenario shows they used to show in the 1980's - y'know, the AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL. where they would either gloss over it, or spin it so that whomever was engaging in non-acceptable behavior basically got what was coming to them. Graphic novels were just the opposite. Not only did they not ignore the issue, they would sniff it, realize it smelled horrible, roll around in it, and then make a big deal about it afterwards.
I suppose ultimately, that is what makes graphic novels so enticing. There is a sense of taboo and voyeuristic intrigue that pulls people in. There is something immediate about a graphic novel that demands your attention.
However, that is not the point of the question above - This long, rambling explanation was needing to be put down so that I could get to this point: Graphic novels are excellent tools for reluctant readers. There are five major points to that statement:
1) Graphic novels are not straight prose. Reluctant readers are readers (usually pre-teens to teens) that never got into reading. It could be that they cannot easily visualize what is written, or they've got a learning disability (dyslexia is a perfect example) that makes it difficult for them to read. The simple fact of the matter is this: next time you go to read a book, take a look at the construction of the book. 300+ pages, 25 - 30 lines per page, all those black marks on the page that tell a story. For someone who is not a good reader, they don't see the story, they see a struggle to understand what is being said.
2) Graphic novels are not 'picture books'. So called 'Picture books' are basically just that - static pictures with text below it to explain what the picture is. The picture does nothing to move the story along, it just illustrates what the text is saying. The picture can work independently of the text, and vice versa. While something a reluctant reader may be interested in, the stigma of being 14 and reading 'kid's books' can be quite traumatic.
3) Graphic novels have an 'edge'. Most reluctant readers want to be known by something they do, or something they are. They definitely do not want to be known for what they cannot do. By reading graphic novels, not only are they honing their reading and processing skills, they're showing the world that they are not reading 'mainstream' works. They're living outside of the status quo.
4) Graphic novels are more accessible. By combining both pictures and text together, it allows reluctant readers to better understand reading and writing conventions. Speech balloons are tied to the speaking person. When there is action in the story, it is shown on the page. From a simple wink to a thrown fist, the reluctant reader begins to understand and mentally visualize the action.
5) Graphic novels simplify things. In a prose novel, it can take up to 30 pages to explain a fight scene - more if you're really into detail. Regardless of how well you write a fight scene, a reluctant reader is going to probably put your story down and find something easier to read - say the back of the cereal box (if you can even get them interested enough to read the box). In a graphic novel, the pictures tell the story about the same fight, often in as little as a page. By condensing the action down to a series of sequential images, it makes the subject much more accessible to one who may have not looked at it otherwise.
In the end, graphic novels are a great "gateway" to reading. It creates a sort of friendly, yet non-patronizing environment that a reluctant reader will find inviting, and will want to continue to follow. Eventually, this reluctant reader may strike out on his or her own and decide that it is time to tackle something without pictures.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Writing Experiment 3

Prayer, Does it work? Faith vs. Fate

First, a caveat... I will do my level best to remain as neutral as possible in the following post, as my belief system differs from most other peoples. This will also be the first 'serious' piece of hour writing, so please bear with me if this seems a bit disjointed.

A brief primer: Faith is a set of principles or beliefs. Fate is an outcome. I don't think I can put that any more succinct than that. I also borrowed that verbatim from Hector Callejas, in a speech he presented about one leading to the other.

Truth be told, I think Mr. Callejas nailed it on the head. It's not a question of Faith vs. fate - the two are not mutually exclusive. If you believe in something strongly enough, you will ascribe it effects, events or outcomes that become pre-determined - i.e. fate. The best example of this is "It's God's will." Maybe it is... perhaps there is some ultimate power out there watching over us all, pulling a string here, nudging a body there, falling into some ultimate plan.
Now prayer - prayer falls into the whole concept of faith. For if you believe in something strongly enough (or, for most test taking children, desperate enough) you will offer up supplications to your belief structure. We as humans are rational creatures who act in completely irrational ways.
We are people who say "show me the money" or "I'll believe it when I see it". Two statements that just scream logical thinking. However, we willingly believe in some omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being (or beings, as the case may be). This is not rational behavior; and it is directly because of this "irrational" behavior that allow us to believe that prayer works.
If there is a horrible accident, people begin to pray and offer up prayers to our various gods or focal points. If people survive, we then say that our prayers were answered. If people do not survive, we then rationalize that it was god's will. Either way, we are applying an irrational idea in reaction to something beyond our control.
Now faith is something that you just cannot prove, nor can you disprove it. Much like the "Law" of gravity, there is a lot of empirical evidence that it exists. But, there has not been anything that has been able to disprove it yet. Over the years, we have come to believe that this "law" is immutable - simply because we have not devised an experiment that will conclusively disprove the law. Faith on the other hand, is not something you can test in a physical sense - not like gravity.
Faith is not something you can throw off a large tower to see if it will fall to the ground. Faith is tested more in the realm of the mind - it is something that has to be tested through logic and deduction - testing it in various hypothetical events. Unfortunately, testing something hypothetically is not the same a testing it physically. You can't prove that you can levitate by belief alone, and I think ultimately, that is the crux of the matter.
Prayer/Faith cannot be proven or dis-proven without first making it concrete and tangible - which is a physical impossibility. Even if we were able to do such a thing, how would we even begin to test it? The simple fact of the matter is this: Prayer works if you want it to. It falls back to the maxim "If you want it bad enough, you will get it."
My feelings on this? Everyone prays. Sooner or later, everyone prays at least once in their lives. Does that make them any better or worse than anyone else? I'll leave that up to you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Robert, I hate you... AKA Writing experiment day 2

Midget Lesbian neo-Nazis and the Men Who Love Them

Host: "Today we interview Midget lesbian neo-Nazis and the men who love them. After these messages, we'll get right into the thick of it."
Announcer: "We'll be back to The Varg Discussions after these messages."

Announcer: "Now back to The Varg Discussions with your host Vaaaaaaarg Viiiiikeeeeeerneesssssss!>peppy background music plays<
Varg: >stomps onto stage with microphone in hand, painted up in death metal colors< TURN THAT SH*T OFF! >music cuts out abruptly< ALRIGHT YOU MUTANTS, MY NAME IS VARG VIKERNES AND YOU ARE ALL PUKES!
Crowd: >whistles, hollers, yells<
Varg: >Glares at the camera< Now today, all of my guests have something in common. Not only are they neo-nazis >Throws devil horns hand sign<, but... they are also midgets... >throws devil horns again< and... they're LESBIANS! F*CK YEAH! >Head Bangs for a minute< Also, we've got the panty-waste puke douche-bags that love them. >Flips the bird<
>stomps across the stage<
Now my first guest is an anti-Semitic little tart who ended up single-handedly firebombing a synagogue while making love to a one-legged circus performer and spray-painting swastikas on a group of bound and shaved rabbis. Please give a totally brutal welcome to Adolphina Metzger!
Crowd: >wolf whistles, yells<
Adolphina: Heil Varg!
Varg: Heil Herr Metzger. So tell us a little bit about yourself...
Adolphina: I have always loved women, from when I was a little girl who would wander through secret mass graves, I always found the female form so sensual. I especially like the way the firelight from a synagogue plays across the naked curves of a woman's body as we join together in an erotic display for the fourth Reich. I do not like jews, blacks, protestants, communists, gypsies or any inferior races. I do however have a weakness for handicapped women.
Varg: You have an admirer, do you not?
Adolphina: >gets serious< Yes... he is some dumkopf who I met at a book burning several years ago. He just happened to have a copy of a filthy jew's book by the name of Angela's Ashes - which was based on a bunch of lies that the United States perpetrated after the Fatherland was defeated. I pointed out to him that I despised that book and he made a bad joke about fires and ashes. Being polite, I laughed.
Varg: Well, let's invite this garbage out here. >looks at card< no F*CKING WAY! >looks off screen< ar- ar- are you serious? >drops head for a moment< Alright.... HERE'S ØYSTEIN AARSETH!
>Aarseth walks onto stage looking meek<
Aarseth: Hi Varg...
Varg: F*ck you! What the hell do you have to say for yourself? Huh?
Aarseth: >looks at Adolphina< Adolphina... I love you... I can give you everything... I want to be with y-
Adolphina: Look you non-aryan pile of sh*t, I told you before, you have nothing that I want!
Aarseth: I'll renounce my heritage!
Varg: What? What do you mean by that?
Aarseth: I''m Jewish!
Varg: >Howls unintelligably and grabs a knife< YOU BASTARD!!!!! >Charges at Aarseth with knife<

Announcer: We'll be back to the show after Varg gets out of prison.... again