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Posts published in January 2009

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a highly distractable, highly unscheduled, highly undisciplined writer of things. For example, the beginning of this post has been sitting in an open tab since Friday morning. It is now very early Sunday morning and I am just writing the third sentence. You can imagine how difficult it is for me to compose anything of significant length or seriousness. As I’ve also mentioned before, I find it quite inspiring to read about how other people structure their work since it is such a struggle for me.

Friday morning I was reading an article on the Locus Magazine website by Cory Doctorow called “Writing In The Age of Distraction” that I might have found on BoingBoing. You can, no doubt, understand then that, as a fan of Cory’s, this article got me all excited up on a number of levels. It addresses something I like (Writing) in light of a problem I wrestle with (Distraction) by someone whose writing I like (Cory). In particular, one passage really stood out and screamed at me.

Short, regular work schedule
When I’m working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I’m working on it. It’s not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it’s entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there’s always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn’t become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day’s page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you’ve already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.

This is a very interesting idea and something I’m going to try and keep going through The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories, which I am already behind on. Typically, I don’t write on weeknights because my work schedule can be so crazy at times that I have difficulty coming home, regaining my focus, and sitting down to work, especially when all I really want to do is eat something, hang out with my ladyfriend, and mellow before I go to bed. Of course I am never going to fulfill my obligations to TYO5KP&50SS by giving in to my base need to be lazy and “chill out,” as the kids say. That said, it is ridiculous to expect hours worth of work from myself when I come home at 10pm from work, maybe eat something, and sit in front of the computer at midnight. But 20 or 30 minutes I can do.

Since I don’t write in a program that shows a page layout like MS Word would, I don’t have a good indication of what a “page” is or when I reach it. A Google search shows that 250 words in 12-pt Courier per page is generally considered standard for a manuscript submission. Some of my own tests using a regular US Letter piece of paper with standard margins suggest that a page is about 350 words in 12-pt Times New Roman. Either way, two pages is, what, 500-700 words? That I can do. I think. Maybe. We shall see. I am really terrible at this whole “schedule” business.

Man on Wire

Here is the trailer for a documentary film I worked on last year.

It’s pretty awesome and if you like cool stuff—which I assume you do because, well, you’re here, right?—then you’ll like this. It’s about Philippe Petit’s wirewalk between the as yet unfinished World Trade Center towers. Philippe is a maniacal raconteur, a showman, a giant personality in a little body.

It came out on DVD a few weeks ago, so if you haven’t yet, check it out. It’s worth your time and money, I promise. I’m waiting for the Blu-ray.

On this rainy Wednesday afternoon…

I thought I might share with you the finest fight choreography I have ever had the distinct misfortune of seeing.

I know this clip has been floating around for a long time, but, God damn, it is good.

Keep an eye out for ya, Stingray.

Yeah! See ya!

Update – It’s from a movie called Undefeatable. Does anyone have this? Can you please send it to me? Seriously, I would love you forever.

Lasers and Ken Nordine.

Have you ever seen something so perfect that you weren’t sure if you were still alive? As if, perhaps, a small sliver of heaven had come down to you and blessed you with visions of the Divine? The voice of God whispering sweet nothings into your ear? Then you have an idea how I felt when I saw these ads ( ! —I know) featuring not only lasers but Ken Nordine, the sweetest voice to ever grace my ears. Why don’t people make ads like this anymore? Were the late 70s so intense that this sort of thing flew, but we couldn’t possibly handle it now? I think it’s high time to bring lasers back into advertising.

They were made by Robert Abel & Associates, who also had a hand in Tron. Why did this company ever fold? I understand that Robert Abel passed away, but could not this beautiful laser motif have continued into the present day? I think it is quite clear to ANYONE reading this site that I love bright, gaudy design. If anything, these ads make me realize that I don’t have nearly enough lasery goodness on this site. I need grids! I need laser beams! I need more glows! I need explosions! BOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!

Do not fear, fearless readers, the laser style has not died. It’s just gone underground. Here is the proof.

Sweet. More lasers for everyone!

Headbanger’s Ball’s Top 10 of 2008… Sucked.

Last week I watched my DVRed episode of Headbanger’s Ball from this weekend which counted down the top 10 videos from 2008. All in all, it was a horrible Top 10 list. So bad in fact that I nearly threw up the cold steak taco and chips I had eaten for dinner. That bad.

I went to the official Headbanger’s Blog to get the track list of the top 10 so I could rant about it here and I discovered that it was actually a top 25 of 2008, but they only showed 10 videos. That changes nothing really because the top 10 still sucks. Here’s the list.

  • 10. Brian “Head” Welch “Flush”
  • 9. Whitechapel “Possession”
  • 8. Slipknot “Psychosocial”
  • 7. Underoath “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”
  • 6. The Devil Wears Prada “HTML Rulez D00d”
  • 5. Dream Theater “Forsaken”
  • 4. 3 Inches of Blood “Trial of Champions”
  • 3. Avenged Sevenfold “Unholy Confessions”
  • 2. All That Remains “Two Weeks”
  • 1. Dir En Grey “Dozing Green”

Let’s break this down shall we?

Number 10 – Brian “Head” Welch “Flush”. I only saw the second half of this video and, correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t “Nü-metal” die in 2001? This video is terrible. Oh jeez, you’re chained up? Is that a metaphor for something? Aw, what’s this crazy pixie stix powder the porno looking chicks are licking and pouring all over each other? Is it supposed to represent something?

Well, if all the ham-fisted, inept imagery weren’t enough to convince you that this is a complete piece of trash, then how about this sampling of lyrics?

Life is boring/Same old story/Get drunk, throw up/Sleep all day/Like I’m something/I’m not nothing/I can’t let myself decay

Wow, “Head”. Deep. I love your delicate, sophisticated word play and the imagery you employ while calling to mind the words of master poets like Eliot, Keats, and Byron! This is playground poetry of the highest caliber. I know you’ve found Jesus, but that is no excuse for spouting such inarticulate nonsense at unsuspecting listeners. This was the first time I watched your video and it will also be the last.

Number 9 – Whitechapel “Possession”. I’ve discussed this video on this site before. It was awesome then, and it is awesome now. Next.

Number 8 – Slipknot “Psychosocial”. To be perfectly fair, this video isn’t all that bad. It looks nice for sure. I could do without the song. And the performance parts of the video. And Slipknot. But it looks nice, which is ONE good thing. I take exception to the title which is ALMOST the worst title on the list. Psychosocial? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I suppose that it makes the song sound tough to have the word “psycho” in the title, but I can’t help but think of the Biopsychosocial assessments my girlfriend does when she has new therapy clients. GRRRRR THERAPY IS SO METAL!!!!

Number 7 – Underoath “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”. This video is well executed. I am not a fan of performance in videos, typically, and I’m not a fan of it here. But, the dark fairy tale styling of the animated parts is excellent. The song is totally underwhelming and could easily find itself the topic of another “On Singing In Metal” if there were not two other songs on the MTV list more qualified for that distinct honor.

Number 6 – The Devil Wears Prada “HTML Rulez D00d”. Ok. This is horrible. First, let’s take a look at the band’s name. The Devil Wears Prada? The band is named after a book that’s a vaguely fictional memoir of a woman’s experience in the fashion industry in New York? For real? I’m not even going to get into how bad of a choice I think that is. That’s not even cleverly inane. It’s just stupid.

The song title, “HTML Rulez D00d”? Again, I demand to know what the fuck they were thinking when they thought of this idiotic stinker of a title. Is HyperText Markup Language some hilarious thing with the kids these days that I missed out on? Is the deliberate misspelling of the word “rules” with a z (zed for those outside the US) trying to convey something about the dynamically evolving nature of language? Does using two zeros in “dude” expand on that notion while tying back into the digital nature of the original HTML call out by referencing the l337-speak of computer yore? No? It’s just a stupid fucking title chosen by a bunch of morons? OHhhhhhhh. I get it now.

Let it not be thought I have something against inane song titles. I do not. But at least a band like Curl Up and Die had the sense to use asinine song titles to great effect with winners like, “Doctor Doom. A Man Of Science, Doesn’t Believe In Jesus, Why The Fuck Do You”, or Drowningman’s “Yeah, You’re Pretty But Do You Think You’ll Really Get Away With It?” There is a difference between stupid and irreverent that The Devil Wears Prada (again, that name, horrible) just don’t seem to get.

Ok, now that I’ve bagged on their obvious lack of decision making prowess, let’s approach the song, shall we? It’s totally generic, metalcore garbage, complete with god-awful whiny singing. Why do people think this shit is good? The singing in this song makes me want to stab knives into my ears and thereby deprive myself of the world of sound for the rest of my mortal existence. It’s really terrible. I have already written at length about how I feel about shitty singing in metal songs, so I’m not going to do it again, but god damn this song is terrible. It is still not the worst singing on this list though.

Number 5 – Dream Theater “Forsaken”. Dream Theater is classic metal band. I mean, really, there basically wouldn’t be prog metal without Dream Theater, so, like them or not, you can’t deny that they have been an important force in shaping the metal landscape. This video though is not that good. It’s not bad, exactly, but it sure isn’t good. It’s just cheesy. This whole rotoscoped animation thing they have going screams cheese, like the first Heavy Metal movie. Or the second one. Or the magazine. I think the video itself is well made, but I question the taste that went into it. All in all, not bad if you’re 13 and play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons.

Number 4 – Three Inches of Blood “Trial of Champions”. I’m into Three Inches of Blood. They’re an all right band. I dig the whole “pirate power metal” thing they do. This video fucking blows big ones, however. This is the perfect example of how having absolutely no budget can ruin a music video. Whether it’s the super “edgy” band against black background performance footage, the “acting” by the “actors”, or the complete lack of set design and decent cinematography during the non-band sequences, this video looks like crap. Note to the colorist: desaturating and pumping up the blues do not make badly shot footage look good. It makes badly shot footage look blue.

Number 3 – Avenged Sevenfold “Unholy Confessions”. Why is an Avenged Sevenfold video of a track off their 2003 record Waking The Fallen in the top 10 of 2008? Really, I couldn’t tell you. That doesn’t stop this video or band from being complete trash. I am going to hold my thoughts on Avenged Sevenfold for a future entry in “On Singing In Metal”. Let’s leave it at acknowledging this is one of the worst bands on the scene today and the worst abuser of bad singing in metal songs on this list.

Number 2 – All That Remains “Two Weeks”. This shit is so boring it puts me to sleep faster than that Isis show I went to see at The Bowery Ballroom where I nearly fell asleep over the balcony.

Number 1 – Dir En Grey “Dozing Green”. The Japanese have given us many gifts over the years: Godzilla, Robotech, Akira, Kwaidan, Kurosawa films. But did they give us the best metal video of 2008? Fuck no. Yeah, the projections on the screens are cool, but not groundbreaking. But that’s about everything that’s not just totally plain in this video. Ok, some animation, some scans of weird manga, some other crap—none of it good. Oh look! There are maggots and a chinook and some comics and the film burning and a sunset! WOW. WHAT STUNNING VISUALISTS THESE JAPANESE ARE. My mind is so blown, like oh my god.

I am totally offended that this was picked as the best video of 2008. No, not offended, ashamed. I am ashamed of America for picking this miserable top 10 list when there have been many other, BETTER videos this year.

To be fair to the people at MTV responsible for Headbanger’s Ball, their staff picks for the top 10 are significantly better than the fan picks. You can see both lists of 25 here: Headbangers Viewers, HBB Blog Pick Best Videos of 2008.

Major props for putting a video that I am in at number 6. Fuck yeah, The Sword is awesome.

Look out for another post where I list at least 5 videos from this year that should have been in the top 10 that weren’t.

A tad more New Year’s goodness

Auld Lang Syne on the theremin.

I hereby propose an addition to the popular lexicon— “thereminist face”. Everyone is (or should be) familiar with the concept of “drummer face”, that is, the often ridiculous face a drummer makes while playing the drums. Every drummer has a drummer face, and each face is unique. Thomas Grillo shows us that thereminists too have a face they make. Thomas’s is quite subdued, focused, serious. But with the way his eyes glaze over, it is clear that he is focused on the moment, hitting the fierce jams on his travel Theremin.

Happy New Year.

I hope all of you had a festive, safe New Year’s Eve celebration last night and that you aren’t feeling it too hard today. I spent it with Juli at a friend’s house and today I am enjoying the tail end of the Sci-Fi Channel New Year’s Eve Twilight Zone marathon. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the Twilight Zone. It’s a tradition.

In case you missed the old post, today begins The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories, so keep your eyes peeled for more solid content here in the coming year.

Good luck, and I hope your first coffee of 2009 was as nice as mine.