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Category Archives: culture

In the Interest of Not Being a Sarcastic Jackass All the Time part 2

I’ve done this before. It’s inspired by the great folks on Pop Culture Happy hour. It’s nice to take stock and look at the good things that are happening once in a while, so here are 5 things that are making me happy right now.

1. Stupid Summer TV is here! Summer is traditionally seen as a a dumping ground for all the shows the networks didn’t feel strongly enough about to show during the actual TV season, and for the large part, that is true. But the good news is that I like stupid stuff. I like goofball ideas and experimentation. So bring on Primeval New World, Under the Dome, Siberia, Sinbad, and all the rest.

And oh, Sinbad. This is the platonic ideal of a silly summer show. Just in the first episode Sinbad: won a street fight, stole an artifact from a mysterious father-daughter duo, got chased by guards, got captured by Sayid from Lost, got his brother killed, broke out of prison,was cursed by his grandma, got chased by guards again, stole away on a ship, discovered a perky thief, was thrown in the brig, sailed into the middle of a storm, battled water demons, saved perky thief from drowning, guided the ship through a tidal wave, found himself and his companions lost on the high seas.

Again, this was just the first episode. It wasn’t even double size or anything, just an hour in length. It’s new on the Syfy channel, but it probably first aired in Canada or something.

2I finally replaced my laptop. My old laptop was five years old, and though it was mostly working it had this annoying habit of turning itself off for no reason while I was in the middle of doing something. At first I thought it was overheating, so I bought it a cooling pad, but this didn’t seem to help. Recently, I became able to afford it so I replaced it.

My new laptop has 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive. Do I need 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive? Not really, but it’s nice to know it’s there. It runs on Windows 8, which is a mixed bag because windows 8 has a habit of forgetting it has things like, oh, say, wifi, but this is a minor annoyance and doesn’t happen very often. Beside, there are time it would be very good for me to have a computer that doesn’t have wifi. And it doesn’t turn itself off for no reason.

3. I have a couple of days this week to get caught up. The kids are home from school now, which means my writing time has been curtailed to say the least. I have a short story that needs editing, and a novel that needs an updated outline and a new start. So when my wife had to go to a conference in Santa Cruz, I decided to go with her, which would leave me a couple of days in a hotel room with nothing to do but write (and yes, watch TV and surf the internet, but I’m really trying to avoid those things). This blog post is the first result of that time, so so far I am doing ok.

4. My wife and I are taking an actual vacation. And no, I am not counting the Santa Cruz trip. It’s our fifteenth wedding anniversary in August, but she’ll be working, training teachers at a conference in San Diego, But the kids are going away to camp in July and we decided to take that time for an early anniversary trip. We are going back to Seattle, which is where we spent our honeymoon. Hopefully this will be a better trip since on our honeymoon we both got the stomach flu and spent two days retching in our hotel room. It was not very romantic.

My wife, the travel planning expert, has a lot of stuff planned. It should be a lot of fun.

5. Perry. I finally broke down and gave into the begging and let my daughter get a new puppy. She wanted something small that could live in the house with us with a minimum of fuss (we have a bigger dog who stays mostly outside because every time he comes in he pees on something). She selected a Yorkshire terrier and we found a breeder who didn’t want to charge $1000 for one. We brought it home last Thursday and the thing breaks the cuteness scale. The best part is I get to play with the dog, enjoy hanging out with it, bask in its adorability, and hand it over to my daughter to train and clean up its messes. I imagine it’s something like having a grandchild. We named it Perry, mostly so that we could look at each other and say “Hey, where’s Perry?” (yes we are big fans of Phineas and Ferb)

anyway, here’s a pic: Image

And that’s five things that are making me happy right now. I’d love to hear about yours.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in culture, life, writing

 

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Grimdark Fatigue, or Why I Broke Up with The Walking Dead

Spoilers for The Walking Dead comic and TV series, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire.

When I was younger I really like horror movies. Every Halloween I would have a group of friends over and we would watch movies all night long. My favorites were The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but I liked them all. Start out with a group of characters, whittle them down until only one or two are left, then beat the bad guy.

Pop culture commentator Tara Ariano says that what you get out of these movies is catharsis, and she’s right. You deal with fear, anger, work through it and feel better at the end. That was certainly true for me.

As I got older my tastes in these things grew more selective. I liked the Alien movies, then came Pitch Black which I thought was absolutely astounding.

From here I moved on to other things, my favorite of which was The Walking Dead comic. I loved the revolving cast of characters, the situation, the sense that anyone could die (and did!)  at any moment.

However, as time went along, instead of developing a high tolerance for horror, I started to lose my ability to deal with it a little bit, lost the ability to shut out the grimness and enjoy the story. Instead of becoming desensitized, my triggers got a little more sensitive.

And one of those triggers was violence against children. I made it though a mother and a baby being shot to death, an eight-year-old twin murdering his other twin and then being shot in the head by another eight-year-old. What finally did me in was when a little boy who was running from zombies pissed himself, then was eaten while his mother tried to save herself.

That was it for me, I couldn’t deal with the grimness anymore and dropped the series.

Before this, however, came the tv series. At the start I loved it for all the same reasons I’d loved the comic series. All the death didn’t get to me. And then came the plotline where a little girl ran away, was turned into a zombie, and had to be shot in the head. I couldn’t deal with the tv series anymore and dropped it too.

In an ongoing story like this, there is no catharsis, no sense that we’ve pulled through and everything will be ok soon. It’s just one more grim situation after another.

From this, death in stories itself started to bug me more and more.

I love the Song of Ice and Fire series, but all the death there is starting to get to me too. Martin has killed off all the interesting, noble characters and replaced them with those that are much less compelling. I wanted this series to be about the triumph of the Stark family, and now the Starks are (mostly) dead. I understand that good stories don’t necessarily give readers what they think they want, but it would be nice if the good guys could get a win sometime. Then Martin goes and kills who I thought was the main character, the only one left who was fighting the good fight that needed to be fought. Just kills him dead with no warning. And I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. Too grim.

From here comes the Game of Thrones TV Series, based on the books. Now I haven’t seen any season 3 episodes because I don’t have HBO and am watching on Blue-Ray a year later. This series has been even more grim than the books, and talk about violence against children. They’ve slaughtered a baby, among others. In many ways the TV series has gone beyond the books in the violence they are willing to portray, but maybe it’s just the difference between reading it and seeing it.

Come this last week’s episode and the red wedding. Like I said, I haven’t seen the episode, but I knew it was coming, and I wondered how they would deal with it. If anything it seems like it goes beyond what happened in the books. They gut a pregnant lady. That did not happen in A Storm of Swords.

So now I don’t know if I can go on with this series either. Too grim. I don’t need more grim in my life. I have enough issues with mental stability as it is.

I know death is necessary in fiction. I killed off a little kid in my first published story. But there needs to be some hope in there, some catharsis, or it just overwhelms. And I don’t need to be overwhelmed by that any more.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in culture, writing

 

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I Give Up!

There are certain versions of myself that live only in my head and have no connection to reality. I have discovered as I get older, that more and more of these things are just not going to become things for me. And I need to let them go. It’s just too much pressure! So here are a few of them, in no particular order:

1. I am never going to be a runner.

I’ve run before, a lot. I have bought new running shoes, a treadmill, scheduled time in the early morning (ha!), gotten myself really psyched up. And every time I quit after a few days. I just have to admit to myself that I hate it. I don’t get a runner’s high, I don’t feel good after doing it (it actually once made me vomit into the neighbor’s rosebushes). A run starts out badly and gets worse. My asthma kicks in. I roll an ankle. But it’s always been something I wanted to do. The truth is, I mainly want to be able to tell people I run, and post nike updates to twitter (and seriously, if you’re doing this, I’m impressed but it really bums me out). These are not good reasons to nearly kill yourself.

I love walking. I love hiking. So from now on I’m going to do that. I can set the treadmill on an incline and watch Buffy while I walk. It’s better for everyone this way.

2. I am never going to learn how to play guitar.

I have a guitar. I have taken lessons. I have payed around and even learned a song, but what all of this has told me is that I have a spectacular lack of talent. I lack physical coordination, finger strength, and rhythm. I also lack the discipline to practice. So for this … it’s not happening. I’ll give my guitar to my daughter and hope she has more talent than I do (from what I’ve seen of her dancing, rhythm might prove a hurdle for her as well).

I realize this seriously affects my chances at winning American Idol, but I’m just going to have to live with that.

3. I am never going to become a Neil Gaiman Fanboy.

I like Neil Gaiman. He seems incredible witty and big-hearted and like an overall exemplary human being, but something about his work just leaves me cold. For a long time, I’ve felt bad about this, that this is some indication of a defect within my own character. And I do like certain things that he’s done. I loved Stardust (the movie is one of my favorites) and American Gods stayed with me for a long time. I understand the quality of the craft in his work. It’s just not my thing I guess. Our story sensibilities are just a little far apart.

I hope he can forgive me. I suspect he’ll lose little sleep.

4. I am never going to be the cool parent.

Let’s face it: my kids think I’m a dork. Let’s face it: I am a dork. I’m clumsy and mumble-mouthed. I say the wrong things. I do the wrong things. I come out when they’re playing with their friends to make them take their medications. I am hopeless about sports, only barely registering some feeling when the SF Giants have made it to the playoffs (that’s a baseball team, right?) I don’t understand the positions on the soccer team. When the parents played the kids I had a handball twice (twice!) (for my fellow non-athletes, a handball is a term in soccer when the let the ball touch you on the arms. I forgot about this and unwisely used an elbow to keep the ball from hitting me in the face. Apparently you’re supposed to let it hit you in the face) I get waaaaaay too excited about books and tv shows, but when I play video games I am the one who gets stuck in a corner and can’t figure out how to turn around..

So I may be a dork, I just hope that I’m a lovable dork and that they forgive me.

So these are the things I am letting go of today. I already feel better and now I can shift that mental energy into accomplishing goals that really are important to me, like becoming a champion line dancer.

OK, not really (my daughter just squeed in horror, if that’s a thing you can do).

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2013 in culture, life

 

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A Modest Proposal

image from slash/food.comThere are two main cable channels we watch a lot in our house. Anyone who knows us can probably guess what they are. Syfy (still hate that name) and The Food Network. I’ll leave it up to you to wonder which of us belongs to each channel. Given how often we flip between the two of them I was surprised it took me as long as it did to realize the one thing they have in common.

Both of them had a lot of adds from dating websites. Not just a few, A LOT. Like three of them every commercial break. Match.com seems to love Food Network. With Syfy , it’s mostly from eHarmony, probably hoping the geeks will approach the Hari Seldon-like mathematical formula, and Chemistry.com, which has, as its main selling point, that they will accept you when eHarmony won’t. Insert your own joke here, but I’m still waiting to see a spot from loweredexpectations.com (MadTv fans will get that one. The rest of you can move on).

What does this mean? Are both of these groups, as a whole, in NEED of these services? Does no one else see the opportunity here?

Let’s get the foodies and the geeks together. They have a lot in common anyway. Both have an obsession with things normal peopple would call ephemera and like to play with toys (trust me, my action figure collection had nothing on my wife’s obscure, it might peel a potato, it might make James Bond tell you where the chip is, kitchen tools). Both worlds have their own celebrities that aren’t recognized by the rest of the world. Best of all, their skills are complementary. Most geeks are awful cooks (molecular gastronomists not withstanding), and most foodies could reeeaaallly use help with their computers.

I propose we combine Comicon with Taste of San Diego, and let nature take care of itself. Think of the awesome snacks we can have at the D&D parties of the future.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2010 in culture, life

 

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One-sentence reviews of movies I have seen lately.

For most of these, this would have been an improvement.

Children of Men — The nativity crossed with the apocalypse, of course i loved it.

Monsters vs. Aliens — AWESOME! (no really, that’s it, it’s not even an ironic “awesome!”)

Coraline — Gaiman’s version of Alice in Wonderland, gorgeous and life-affirming in that way Gaiman always is, but that you never really expect him to be.

Watchman — Took an original work and stuffed so much of it onto the screen that it TOTALLY RUINED IT, mostly because it got the spectacle, but missed the heart. (and once again, sorry, Honey!)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian — about what you would expect; Amy Adams as Amelia was a lot of fun.

Up — can’t comment. still. bawling.

Star Trek — Squeee! But I feel kind of dirty about it.

Race to Witch Mountain — The most boring story about aliens ever!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs — Cute story, fun characters, animation kind of didn’t work for me, not sure why.

Charlie Bartlett — You had me at, “Meet the principal, Robert Downey Jr.”

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra — This is the kind of movie in which one character, without apparent irony, utters the exclamation, “Damn! That ninja’s fast!”

9 – Bury my heart at Joe-Ann’s fabrics.

Bride Wars — This spot sat here blank for a while while I thought about it, which I guess is it’s own review, isn’t it?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine — I’m glad I read so many negative comments because by the time I actually watched it, I found I really enjoyed it. Huh.

27 Dresses — Shouldn’t say this out loud, but I kind of want to be James Marsden when I grow up.

Fool’s Gold — Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year, this was one of them.

I love You, Man! — Relatable in a way that made me deeply, deeply afraid.

And that’s about all I can remember right now. Others, like HP:HBP I’ve already commented on, and there were many I meant to see, but haven’t yet (Terminator, 2012, Jennifer’s Body, Zombieland, Avatar, etc). And I guess that’s my “The year in cinema” post you have to write so you get your card stamped or they throw you out of the guild.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2009 in culture

 

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The Night of Writing Dangerously

Ok, so I’m doing this. A six-hour write-a-thon in San Francisco sponsored by NaNoWriMo to raise money for the young writer’s program. I feel really straongly about this cause because I was one of those kids who could have used a little help to believe this was possible and give me the actual tools to do it.

So, please, please, please, please sponsor me. And you are encouraged to come to the event in costume. The theme is Noir. I promise to go in costume and have embarrassing pictures taken. And yes, all right, posted.

Here’s the link to my fundraising sight. All donations are tax deductible.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2009 in culture, life, writing

 

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Guilty Pleasures #1(of a series)

Stupid movie of the Summer (meaning stupid movie of all the ones I watched this summer which did not include Transformers 2, which I have not seen and do not plan to): The Happening
the_happening_movie_poster_m__night_shyamalan
Otherwise known as “Ooohhh, scary trees” which would have been a better title than what they came up with. The Happening. Really? That’s what you got? Something’s …. happening? Perhaps we can distract you from the awfulness of our title with this shot of wind through the trees? No? Well, how about this close up oon Zoey Deschanel’s eyes, looking like she’s ready to cry … ok now? Ok? Good …

The story is stupid. The trees want to kill us. And they do it by making us kill ourselves. M’k, I guess I can accept that as the plot of a B movie. At least the title told us that this movie was wearing the stupid as a hat, not trying to hide it. And the thing that really sells this movie is Mark Wahlberg’s “acting.” He’s ok running, ordering other people to run, and watching sad things, like people laying down in front of lawn mowers (yes, really). The talking? Um … obviously, he knew he was playing a science teacher, and he was channeling every too-hip-for-the-room high school teacher on network television in 1985.

Now, I like M. Night Shyalaman. I even liked The Village and Lady in the Water. This one? I actually kind of love it, but it is a really, really bad movie. At no point in this movie do you ever look at anything any of the characters do and think to yourself, “yeah, that makes sense.” Look, people, when nature’s trying to kill you, do not seek shelter by running away from the room into a forest-ringed meadow. That’s just asking for trouble. And please, if you know suicide is the major risk, you might want to make sure no one has a firearm, like, oh, the soldier who is carrying the firearm right in plain sight.

And when Betty Buckley shows up as the crazy lady who’s lived alone in a scary house for years with no contact with the outside world and does not know what is “happening?” It just goes waaay so far out the stupid end that it circles back around and ends up at awesome, which is an amazing feat, and I’m sure, not really what they were intending.

And that’s the thing. Shyalaman thinks he’s making a serious movie with an important point. I have the feeling Wahlberg does too. John Leguizamo is cashing a paycheck. Zoey Deschanel is … you know, Zoey is awesome no matter what she does so I am not even going to fault her, except to say I think perhaps her extreme vegan/no soy/gluten allergic diet may have started affecting her brain.

But it entertained me. And I am tempted to put it on my “to own someday” list. There’s a lot going wrong here, but I think enough went wrong that it all came together as something horrifically, gloriously, right.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2009 in culture

 

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