Monday, October 24, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Looking For Words

The english language seems to languish on the pages I've written recently, but the words are flowing in the right direction. It's like fishing in a canal, you won't always like what you catch or see float by, but water is water. Even when you're doing what you love, it isn't always roses and blue skies.

I beginning to see the value of editing your own text. There is so much in the conventional realm that teaches that we're better off letting someone else alter our writing in the aftermath of writing it. As distasteful as it might be, there is some value to cleaning your own fish, even if it was caught in a canal.

I'm beginning to see words and the structure of my own language differently. Mostly, I'm just disappointed. I've got very little rhythm, but I see myself having improved a lot since 2009. My writing before that was pretty stagnant. It's true what they say, if you want to get better, you need to make a lot of text before that will happen.

Giving myself the time and space to write in bulk has been really valuable. Looking at the sum of my work, it's clear most of what I've written in that time is pretty underwhelming. I'm glad.

People always wish for this sort of instant success, to win the lottery of life, while discounting the journey. They, who were never amateurs relative to their craft, have no stories, and no perspective on their professional identity. In having to be humble about what I've done, I'm probably avoiding a gut punch by way of hubris later.

It's going to be a peaceful winter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My blog has been pretty negative lately. Not sure why I'm such a cranky man these days.

Maybe I need pills. :-)

Monday, October 17, 2011


I spent the day editing text. In the aftermath I sat down to Netflix, loaded up some of my favorite shows, and proceeded to watch. Now, as I sit down to write this, I find myself in contemplation.

After spending the day scrutinizing every word and sentence I wrote, I find it difficult to enjoy any of my favorite shows. Granted, these are new episodes I hadn't watched yet, and maybe Season 3 of "Lie to Me" really does suck. Maybe the folks that produced "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" Season 9 were completely out of their minds. I'm having a hard time discerning whether I'm just being hyper-critical because of what I spent the day doing, or if my favorite shows took a turn for the worse at a certain point.

I started watching "Sons of Anarchy" Season 4 about the same time I started editing this particular document. I like the show less and less as episodes are released. I'm beginning to suspect that taking the mindset required to edit your own work effectively changes and colors your perspective on everything else.

Ending the day with a couple episodes of my favorite TV Shows is relatively new. It used to be I'd just have something playing in the background while I worked and play video games after I'd logged my time. I particularly liked shows that took place in workplaces and were accompanied with the sounds of those workplaces. So much of "Law and Order" takes place on city streets and in an office. I think I like the way the show sounds a lot more than the stories, characters or acting.

I think I need to find some way to unwind after my work that doesn't involve fictional works, staring at a screen or enduring another episode of one of the various "Law and Order" television programs. I spent the weekend painting miniatures and listening to the rain, maybe some combination of that should be my pastime for awhile.

Maybe I'm just cranky because I'm forcing myself to edit text so I'll have an assortment of finished products by the end of the year instead of an ever-growing stack of drafts and manuscripts. That's highly plausible in the wake of dreaming about books I've only outlined and longing for some sort of creative release. Whatever the case, I'll be glad when my two novels and this 90k word piece of non-fiction I'm editing right now is safely behind me.

2012 can't get here soon enough. I want to get back to just creating text and procrastinating recklessly on the task of editing it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun with OS X Lion, iCloud Services

It's 2009 and my Asus Laptop has just crashed due to an update from the manufacturer causing the device to brick. While my journey to iOS 5 and OS X Lion hasn't been so dramatic, I'm certainly getting flashbacks of that fateful day I knew the laptop I had chosen couldn't function as a reliable consumer device, let alone a work machine.

In the last few days since I've made the switch to OS X Lion, I haven't encountered as many problems as I did when it was first released. Not being able to retrieve my email from my addy is maddening to say the least. Migrating from MobileMe was painful, like bidding a trusted friend farewell.

iCloud (MobileMe's successor) is buggy, prone to gaps in service, or it just doesn't work. I've spent some time exploring it's functionality and only the Calendar and Contacts syncing services seem reliable. Everything else either fails, works half the time, or not as intended. My iOS devices seem to be weathering the transition better than my Macs, which at least gives me an option.

Bottom line, I'll be seeking out replacements for the services iCloud provides and using my Lenovo Thinkpad to generate the more important text for my work. At the core of the issue is OS X Lion struggling to interface with and manage the cloud services Apple provides. I'm thinking they'll be fixing those things pretty quickly, but I've been wrong before.

If you haven't yet migrated your MobileMe account, upgraded to iOS, or made the switch to OS X Lion, I'd go ahead and wait a while longer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

iOS 5, iCloud and OSX Lion

I'm anxious.

I got about half way through downloading Lion, for the second time, got cold feet, and cancelled the download. It occurred because of the lengthy list of things iCloud does not do when compared to the soon-to-be defunct MobileMe. They actually tell you as you're going through the process of transferring services. It's cool they did that so people wouldn't freak out in the aftermath. I think Apple will probably integrate all those old features as iCloud gets stable but my last experience with OSX Lion was less than stellar.

You need OSX Lion for iCloud to sync everything between Apple's desktop and mobile platforms.

I like the idea of everything being integrated, but it feels like a distinct shift from being a service professionals would use to one tailored for consumers. With Apple's increasing market share, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I can still be disappointed.

I went ahead and put iOS 5 on my iPad because I hadn't yet given it a chance. While the new features are provocative, the walls around the garden have gotten higher. There are yet more applications shipping with the device you can't get rid of if you don't want them. They've even got one you can't hide in a folder because it basically is a folder.

iOS 5 signals a departure. Instead of holding a mobile PC in my hands, I'm saddled with a content delivery device I don't fully control. Maybe I was deluding myself before, but my eyes are wide open now. Looking at what Amazon intends to do with Android and what Apple has now done with iOS, I'm hoping the Windows 8 Tablet devices take a higher road.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Organized Religion & Fiction

I've largely avoided addressing religion in any of my fictional works. I've always constructed complex belief systems to serve the same function in their place. I've tried to give the protagonists and antagonists powerful ethical and personal reasons for their actions during the course of the story without any particular real world faith being involved.

In outlining a book I intend to write in 2012, I haven't had that same luxury. I will have to include certain elements of real world religions in the story because so much of it is told with our modern world as a backdrop. It's forced me to confront a lot of my own demons with regard to organized religion.

When entering into any sort of discussion about the benefits one finds among the fellowship of a particular faith, people are very quick to point out how they personally benefit. They basically imply that they gain access to celestial benefits everyone else is bereft of because they don't jump through the same hoops they do. They are essentially "better" than other people and derive a great deal of dubious personal worth to that end.

There is rarely mention of how they are able to access opportunities to do good in the temporal realm, and if there are, it's an afterthought. Worse, serving one's fellow man is generally a commandment one is expected to accept blindly because obedience is better than comprehending one's personal agency. For this reason, organized religion has little that appeals to me.

I'm not sure how being part of a traditional religious organization will grant me the contrivances one needs to aid others more than worshipping privately would. I see many of the intrinsic benefits one finds in such organizations, but I also see the long shadow such institutions cast. Looking around our once great nation, there is little benefit in supporting huge monolithic organizations these days, and even less in giving them money.

Then there is all the pseudo-social hoops one must jump through to gain acceptance into religious institutions. Honestly, being a creative person, I already spend enough time worrying about getting the perfect stranger to like and appreciate what I do. Mixing that with my desire to worship seems like a bad plan. I don't need the temporal body of a religion to tell me I have worth and a purpose. These are things I can just as easily provide myself, at no additional charge.

Clearly, I have strong opinions on the issue.

That said, I do not want my fictional works to become a soap box or platform for my views on organized religion. I don't think it would serve others, or my story, in doing so. In trying to be objective, it's made me realize a lot of things about myself and how I quantify faith.

I do tend to make my works something of a message about how important a person's agency is. Preserving one's own ability to choose while infringing no one else's is paramount to seeking Righteousness and the preservation of Justice. Both of those concepts, I believe, are intrinsic and require no validation on the part of men, Gods, or authors of fiction.

Communicating that same message in a fictional setting possessing elements of real world religions, will be a difficult challenge. I already have thousands of words worth of content collecting dust within previous attempts to do so collecting dust. Hopefully my latest attempt will be different.

I think that if I were to push my views in a work designed for commercial consumption I would be just as bad as the religious institutions I try to hold myself separate from. I do want people to know it is equally fine to practice one's faith in private or in the public forum that is organized religion provided they are doing so with their eyes wide open. Of course, the outcome of that choice isn't as important as how you live with and apply it.

Both require that you seek your own ways to be righteous in the world, and as much as it is promised, neither can really guarantee any celestial reward. Doing good while preserving your own agency and the agency of others is a reward unto itself and should be done as a matter of course relative to our very human condition. There need be no promise of ethereal blessings or heavenly protection. Relying on your own power to choose should be enough to navigate our temporal world.

It's easy to communicate this on my blog, but not so easy via a fictional work. It's easier when I take myself out of the equation and cease to worry about being commercially successful or what people will think about me when they read my work. Of course, my Twitter account does nothing to aid me in this endeavor. ;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wayne Static's Pighammer

As of today, I used to be a huge Static-X fan. Their last two albums very gently shoved me away. I really liked the idea of the metal crowd reaching across the gap to something with an obvious industrial influence. Their early stuff is very inspired, much the way Fear Factory was in the early 90s.

On to my point.

Wayne, Static-X's front man and song writer, has gone ahead and done a solo album. I went ahead and read the reviews and interviews relative to the release and listened to some of the tracks. I half expected it to be like picking up Fear Factory's "Mechanize" album and the music would sound like a moment of clarity.

It wasn't.

It does sound a little better than Wayne just fooling around in the studio for a weekend, but it doesn't fill me with confidence that either he, or Static-X will ever return to the pre-"Start a War" album days. Wisconsin Death Trip, Machine and Shadow Zone are amazing albums that defined a time in my life when I was mostly out of control, endlessly angry, and conflicted as a creative.

I'm better now. I promise.

If you're a hopeless fan of Static-X, it's better than Cult of Static and most of what's on their Cannibal Album. I think it will probably do well in that regard because the fans have been craving something closer to the Static-X's first four albums. In that regard, Pighammer delivers, and I may still pick it up to support Wayne.

Tomorrow is, after all, another day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank You Steve Jobs

I spent yesterday morning in my bed using my iPad to generate text using the WriteRoom App. I didn't know yet that Steve Jobs had passed away. It wouldn't be until later when I'd pop open Safari and see Apple's site that I'd receive the news, and again when a friend called and left a message on my phone.

My good friend Dan suggested that we have some sort of gathering of our friends, with our Macs and iPads to reminisce about the fruits of Steve Jobs' labor. It felt silly for a moment, I mean it's not like I actually knew Steve Jobs. Then I thought about how much Apple's products had really changed my life.

I got my first Mac in 2009, at Elle Phillip's recommendation, a tool that would be integral to my personal metamorphosis. What a difference it is to have devices that will work as hard as you do. Tools that were crafted with the same care as you would craft things. My work in the last two years is a testament to that synergy.

In the last two years I've written close to a million words (I'm almost there) toward my books, rendered hundreds of hand drawn images, communicated with dozens of colleagues and peers, and done hours and hours of tireless research. My iPad and my Macs helped make those things possible by being incredible tools that redefined my workspace and my workflow.

Steve Jobs is responsible for the company that provided me those tools.

I remember vividly the day my iPad arrived at my home. I'd wanted such a device since there'd been even a hint of them, outside the boundaries of science fiction, back around the turn of the century. Steve and Apple understood what it would take to make such a device "Magical" for me. It wasn't the screen or the user experience delivered by iOS on a tablet, it was the 10 hours of battery life that would allow me to go anywhere I wanted and generate text and images without worrying about finding a outlet.

There are a great many people who do not understand Apple as a company or the type of person Steve Jobs was. The more callous of those folks make jokes about cult-like behavior on the part of their customers and Steve's own ability to warp reality. I think that if all you do is surf the Net, check email and play games, one can appreciate a Mac.

If your work ethic is such that you generate thousands of words of text and/or hundreds of thousands of pixels worth of visual content in a year, you'll come to more than appreciate a Mac. You'll depend on it. When you push your own limits as a creative person, you need tools that have no limits.

For me, Steve Jobs and company provided. I am hopeful that he's planted a seed at Apple that will allow them to continue to provide folks like me with the tools we need. I think for the foreseeable future, his legacy is secure.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator, using the BlogPress App, edited on my MacBook Pro

Monday, October 3, 2011

Junk Drawer

Everyone has one and every writer should have two. All the things I've written that go nowhere often help me climb otherwise impossible creative obstacles when reviewed. Hindsight is twenty-twenty when it comes to creative things. There are so many things you can do right in the present if you knew what you did wrong in the past.

Make sure you keep what you did in the past, no matter how terrible or malformed.

(Edit: It occurs to me there's two ways to read that last sentence, comma arrangement notwithstanding, both work...)