Saturday, June 23, 2012

Big Geek Saturday


I didn't mean for Saturday to become a Super Geek day, it just sort of happened that way.

The day started early enough, sometime not too far after 10 am. I managed to get up, get dressed, and set out into the heart of Minneapolis' fast-food-bags-in-the-gutters district to meet Mark Teats, famed fellow Agent of the Scribblerati. Saturday was a big day.

It was John Scalzi day.


Who's John Scalzi?

John Scalzi is a Science Fiction author, current SFWA president, and--I gather--a lover of bacon and the ukulele. He's written some pretty entertaining books and his blog--which I linked to above--is kind of a geek Internet hub, home to the nerdy and the uber-nerdy alike, sure, but it is also home to a lot of informative writer/industry type of stuff, some personal life stuff, the occasionally controversial discussions, and it's a place where authors can get some exposure for their new books. Also, he was once on Oprah.

So, Mark and myself went to lunch--Manny's Tortas in the Midtown Global Market (delicious)--and then we walked over the Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, the dusty and tightly packed old hot-box sweat lodge of a grandfather of the Twin Cities genre scene. The place has more books then you could shake a stick at and a very ineffectual air conditioner. I broke my self-(and Little Ms. Super-cute wife) imposed moratorium on new books, broke it with gusto. I picked up Mongoliad, despite concerns over a possible quality consistency issue due to so many authors being involved. I got The Magician King, which could be most easily described as "the American Harry Potter", but that's not really accurate and totally not dark enough. I also purchased The Drowned Cities, the companion piece to the excellant post Peak Oil set book Shipbreaker. And finally, I got Redshirts too, of course, so that Scalzi could scribble down his name in it for us (which was the whole point of being there). So, we waited in line with all of the other sweaty degenerates and fringe folks in questionable outfits often involving vests and/or fedoras and usually fanny packs, in general, a crowd that wore their OCDness like a badge... or maybe a cloak... We waited for Scalzi.

He looked pretty much like I expected, just like his photo.


We chatted. We seemed to get on. He seemed to be a pretty nice fellow. Surprisingly wee, but then he was sitting down, and I am impressively large. Either way, I am reasonably certain that I could take him in a fight. Although to be honest, at the end of it, it probably wouldn't be the most flattering of rows for either us...


Anyway, he signed my book: "To Jon, who is NOT the worst person ever."

Which is nice.

Afterwards, Mark and I went to the comic book store and I bought my weight in funny books. I've long been a big Marvel head, but DC recently rebooted their entire universe, stopping every book and starting them over from scratch. Unfortunately, most of the new books are terrible as most of DC's current stable of writers and artists are the same guys who were considered D-list hacks back in the 90s when they were working at Image, and they haven't gotten any better in the intervening years. That being said, the Trinity? Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? Well, all of the sudden, all three of them are chugging along with great, really great books, so I'm buying those. I'm also picking up Hickman's Fantastic Four books, a title I've never been interested in at all, but I guess the old adage is true: "If you make it awesome, I will come." Hmmm... unfortunate phrasing... fuck it, I'm leaving it. Anyway, I'm still reading Ultimate Spider-man too, the one starring the new biracial Spider-man Miles Morales. Remember the controversy? That book started out great and has only gotten better. Other than that, I think I'm getting tired of Walking Dead, maybe it's been too stained with the wretched stink of the fucking God awful TV show at this point, but for now, I'm still buying it. In a few months from now, who knows? Also, I'm dropping some of the Avenger titles, the art is just too crappy.

And then on the way home, I swung by Filmzilla, returned a couple of flicks I had been sitting on for too long and picked up one of Tuesday's new releases to watch this weekend.

And what did I get?

Did I bring home the multiple Academy Award winning movie, The Artist, the film most likely to be considered an obnoxious, gimmick based waste of time in the very near future?

No, I did not.

Did I get the surprisingly funny 21 Jump Street, a film that proved that despite the massive amounts of information carried in our pockets and right at our fingerprints, people are really dumb and prefer to not only stay that way, but like to advertise it to the world?

No, sir.

Did I pick up the award winning and beautifully shot Belgium film Bullhead, about shady cattle farmers and growth hormones, a film about crime and punishment and destiny and waaaaaaaay too many steroids?

Nope.

Did I decide to try out the winner of the "How the fuck did this film happen" category Mirror Mirror, a film that is apparently some kind of idiot slapstick film version of Snow White starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, and Nathan Lane, even Sean Bean--a man who has never met a film script he didn't like--and directed by Tarsem Singh, in what has to be some kind of penance for the box office failure that was Immortals?

Good God, no.

What did I get?

Wrath of the Titans.


The monsters look cool, but it's gonna be soooo stupid. People, really. It's gonna be so stupid. I mean, it's got Sam Worthington in it, it's not like there's any other option but to be really, really stupid. I also like how the Nu-metal version of "Sweet Dreams" has taken over for "Let the bodies hit the floor" as the international sign of "here there be cinematic poop". Should be fun.

Tomorrow, I've got to mow and do some writing, but right now, later tonight, I've got to do some reading for the next Scribblerati meeting and if I get most of that done I'll play a little Batman: Arkham Asylum. You see, the sequel Arkham City, the new edition with all the downloadable content, is available now and I want it (mostly because I want to play as Nightwing), but I won't let myself buy it until I complete the last one.



70% done...

And I didn't even have to use my AK,
I gotta say it was a geek day,
Jon

Friday, June 15, 2012

TV that I watch



I'm kind of bored and I'm not doing much right now, and since I enjoy lists so much, I thought I might list off some shows I enjoy watching that are on TV currently. If you have good taste, or maybe just wish you did, here are some good things to watch in no particular order.

1. Girls

Girls is new. I haven't seen all of it yet, but I like what I have seen so far. Also, Girls is not Sex in the City. Not at all. Thankfully. Hey, did you ever see the episode where Carrie's bus ad gets a penis drawn on it? In the network TV version, they changed the penis to a moustache, so her reaction just ends up seeming really weird. Anyway, Girls is about girls, girls in their 20s and it does a great job of both romanticizing that time in your life and yet exposes the horrible realities of it at the same time. The leads actresses are all talented and the writing is sharp. People hate on Lena Dunham, the show's creator, but those people are stupid. This is a good show. You should watch it.

2. Fringe

Ah, Fringe, how I love it so. At first, I didn't. I almost did, but it was a little too "monster of the week" at first and I was really put off by the fact that the creators (J.J. Abrams and his ilk) refused to admit that there might possibly be some similarity between the general idea and set-up of Fringe and that of the X-Files. That just bugged me. They bug me (J.J. Abrams and his ilk), in fact. I mean... come on. FBI agents investigating weird stuff? Just admit it, assholes. Anyway, I returned to the show after the first season and I am so glad I did, because it's great. Who would have thought that Pacey from Dawson's Creek would be great? Joshua Jackson? He's great. And John Noble and Anna Torv deserve all the awards for their work. Their subtle but distinctly different doppelgangers? Amazing. Torv once had to play her character as if she were inhabited by the mind of Leonard Nimoy's character and she completely sold it. She sounded just like him. It was awesome. Fringe has consistently delivered for four seasons and with just a half season left until it wraps up... oh, I will miss it when it is gone. Honestly, it's fantastic. Take the Papa Tomato's advice, man: Ketchup.

3. Justified

"Put your guns down, ya' hillbillies!" I really like the mythology this show strikes. The white hat Marshall with the gunslinger's rep, chasing fugitives, solving crimes. Hillbilly moonshiners. It's just so damn cool. It's based off an Elmore Leonard short story. Timothy Olephant is Rayland Givens. Walter Goggins plays Boyd Crowder. Maybe one of the best good/bad guy chemistries ever. This is my favorite cops and robbers show currently on the TV.

4. Sherlock

There's been a lot of Sherlock Holmes stuff lately. Robert Downey Jr, most widely known, of course. Johnnie Lee Miller and Lucy Liu will soon be joining the scene (Yes, really.). But I'm not talking about them, the one I am referring to is from Stephan Moffat and the BBC. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch, your number one go-to answer should you ever find yourself stuck in a game of Celebrity Super Password (Number two being Kristin Chenoweth, of course) and Martin Freeman (known to snobs as Tim from the British version of the Office and known to nerds as the future young Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming Hobbit) who plays Dr. Watson. Manic, modern, brilliant. All those words. Many more. Good fun.

5. Mad Men

What can one say about this show that hasn't been said already? You should watch it. Like the Wire, it is improbably good, demanding more from you the viewer than most shows would dream of asking and like the Wire, the effort is without a doubt worth it. Yes, the "dress up" people who cling to this show are annoying, yes, but that's true with all cos-players, right? Yes. Yes, it is. Ignore them. Enjoy the show.

6. Community

Best sitcom ever. If you're dismissing it BECAUSE it's a sitcom, then you are dumb. Ya' hear me? You are dumb. People point to the paintball war episodes as examples of how amazing the show is, but for me, the true genius is found in episodes like the one where the monkey in the air vent steals Annie's pen. Or the one where they're rolling a dice to determine who will go all the way downstairs for the pizza delivery and each role creates a horrible alternative universe? It's brilliant. The D & D episode? Loved it. The Ken Burn's faux documentary episode about a blanket fort and a pillow fort warring for dominance of the school's hallways? Amazing. Best show ever. So, of course, the news that creator Dan Harmon was unceremoniously booted from next year's last season is so very, very bad. I almost wished they had just canceled the damn thing.

7. Doctor Who

This show has been on forever, since the beginning of TV, I think. It may have been the very first show to ever appear on TV. I could be wrong, but either way, Doctor Who is a British institution and until recently (2005-ish or so) finding an American fan was the easiest way to identify the biggest nerd in a three state area. However, those days are long gone as the new episodes and especially the last couple of doctors (There have been 11 of them, he regenerates, you see) have brought this show to the forefront in American Geek Culture. See, the Doctor is an alien and he travels in time, usually with an attractive English girl, and the two of them fight monsters and aliens and demons or whatever, you know: bad guys and stuff, and all in the past, the future, and the present, on Earth and on far flung planets too. It is a show of constant shifts, it can easily be some many different types and tones. Good stuff.

8. Breaking Bad

This show is about a high school Chem teacher in New Mexico, a good, bumbly type of guy, who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live and realizes he has nothing to leave to his pregnant wife and teenage son living with CP. Nothing. So he starts cooking and selling meth. Right away, it's fair to say that this is a... dark... show. Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) starts out with the noblest of intentions and watching how things spiral out of control, how those intentions are corrupted? Brilliant TV. Nothing but tension. Sometimes hard to watch, but incredible.

9. Young Justice

Hey, a cartoon. A nice palette-cleaner. Young Justice is set in the DC Universe, the world occupied by Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. and it features the sidekicks. It starts out with the recognizable names: Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Ms. Martian (she's new...) and then adds names like Red Arrow, Zatarra, Captain Marvel, Nightwing, Impulse. Batgirl and Wondergirl, etc. I'd call this the best cartoon version of DC's stable of characters, but most of you don't give a shit... Jerks. Anyway, the first season ends great and the second is shaping up to be even better. If you only watch one superhero cartoon (which, honestly, would be weird, right? I'd bet most people are either all or none.), this should be it. Well, this and another one. I'll get to that one later.

10. Game of Thrones

You must have seen this show. You couldn't not. It's huge. It's winning awards. It stars Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. They were recently in the news because a prop of W's head can be very briefly seen on a pig pole, if you know where to look, and boy, are a bunch of mouth-breathers who have never watched the show upset... Anyway, the books the show is based off of is one of the, if not the best epic fantasy series since Tolkien. Gray characters. Betrayals. Murders. Wild and dangerous magics. Mysteries. Battles. Romances. Dragons. A looming apocalypse. Lot's of food. Lots and lots of food. Suckling pig with honey and lemon. Sweet rolls. Buttered greens. Roast Pheasants. And sex. Some sex. Actually, a lot of sex. It has everything. And it's maybe the best TV adaptation I've ever seen, definitely more than I would have dared to hope for. "Oh, but I don't like fantasy..." Then why are reading my blog? Who are you? Get lost. Listen, even if that's true (Weird-o... how'd even you get here?), I would be hard pressed to believe that a person who enjoys any of HBO's other, more mainstream dramas wouldn't enjoy this one as well.

11. The Legend of Korra

The other cartoon you should watch. Really. It's just starting out, but if it pulls off its promise, it could be brilliant. Legend of Korra is a sequel to a show called: Avatar, the last Airbender. M. Night Shamalyan made a movie of it and it was awful beyond words. Pretend like it never happened. In fact, let's never speak of it again. Moving on, the show is set in a world where some people can "bend" (manipulate) the elements. Earth, wind, fire, and air. The Avatar can bend all four elements and it's their destiny to maintain balance in the world, kind of like a Kung fu Dalai Lama. Korra is the latest Avatar and she lives in Republic City. Republic City is a kind of Chinese/Jazz Age/steampunk-ish type of metropolis. A cool mix of tech and fantasy. But the coolest part of the show is this: the world is kind of ruled by Benders and as a result, there is a movement growing among the regular people who can't bend called the Equalists. They claim they are oppressed by the Benders. They are on the verge of revolt. Are they wrong? Is Korra wrong for standing against them? It's refreshingly complex, a cartoon that doesn't talk down to its viewers, a smart show with great animation and imagination and still stays fun. Plus, it has some kick ass kung fu fights.

12. The Gordon Ramsay Cooking Shows

I don't care what you think. I'm so happy Kitchen Nightmares, Masterchef, and Hell's Kitchen are back on. I don't know why, but I love those show. I could watch a marathon of them. Kitchen Nightmares all day! Maybe it's rooted in one of the reasons I loved the Game of Thrones books.... Mmmmm... food porn....

So there you go, some TV I like.

Jon

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The State of Jon (Updates)



Hey there! It's been awhile, right? Long enough that in the time since I started this particular post and then put it on hold, I've started a new job. And it has kind of thrown a wrench into my usual schedule. I go into some detail about it over at the Scribblerati blog.

The good news is: Things are beginning to settle back down. They're finding a new groove, the storm clouds are breaking and the sun has started to shine through again. Sure, I've got some stuff I could watch. Sure, I've got some stuff I could read. Sure, I've definitely got some stuff I could be writing, I'm a busy, busy, busy man, but you know what? I had a realization and that realization was that right now? Today? I would rather spend a little quality time with you guys, my favorite blog-readers. That's right, you're my favorite. You. Not those other people, but you specifically. Aw... shucks, right? Feels good, don't it? And you know what else? I had a second realization right on the heels of the first one. Do you know what that realization was?

I realized it has been way too long since the last time I did an Updates post...

Let's do this.

UPDATES!

So, if you took the time a few paragraphs ago and read my last post over at the Scribblerati blog, then you already know the horrible new truth: I am a working man again. Shed your tears for the death of a dream, my friends, for I have left behind the life of an unemployed artist and I have re-entered the world of part-time drudgery and endless wage-slavery. It's not all bad news, of course, they do give me a few pennies here and there for my sisyphean efforts, not to mention free coffee that only kind of tastes like old pee. So there's that, but as I said over at the Scribblerati blog, this new flesh I have donned has thrown off my writing schedule some over the past few weeks, but it is a situation that will have hopefully achieved a little more of a life-balance once again, starting this weekend.

Fingers crossed...

Monsters (WIP)

I'm well over halfway done with the shitty first draft.

The bad news is that the next few chapters are going to be a bit of a stumble and slog, because I really only have the vaguest idea of what I'm going to be do in them. This is the "mushy middle" and it will all definitely require a lot of attention down the road, but for now I'm just trying to get though it and out the other side. The upside is that--due to the aforementioned new job situation--the question of what happens has gotten a little more clear, benefiting from the chance to percolate these past few weeks, so I anticipate wrapping them up in a few days or so.

After that?

After that I estimate there being only six, maybe seven chapters left? Maybe? Give or take? Close enough. Regardless, my intention of getting "done by summer" is still possible, job or no job. That's the good news. The bad news is that finishing the shitty first draft only means that there's a real bitch of a second draft waiting for me out there... biding its time... Also of some concern, as the end of the shitty first draft draws near, is the fact that Monsters is just a generic working title, and a bad one at that, so the question has begun to nag at me:

What the hell is this thing going to be called?


Status: Questions, questions, questions...

Gunslingers of the Apocalypse

I am currently waiting for an edit to come back. Then I'll work through that and hopefully boot 20,000 or so plus words out of the thing, hopefully, and then we'll see. Any further forward momentum will depend totally upon how the book looks after this latest edit.

Status: Stayin' alive, stayin' alive

Short stories

My short story "Harris" (The one that appeared in Cifiscape, Vol. 2? The one I blogged about here?), well, it will be appearing in the June 2012 issue of eFiction Magazine. They're a digital magazine with some short stories and poetry and stuff in it, some published and known folk, some unpublished and unknown folk. You never know what you're gonna get. You should check it out. It's a good time. Plus it's cheap. A year's subscription is only $20, that's chump change, man, what more do you need? Give it a try.

Other than that, my short story efforts are all on the backburner for the time being. I've got other shit to do at the moment (mainly my second WIP novel). However, during some of the downtime between ending the shitty first draft of Monsters and starting work on the second, I intend to pump out some new ones. I've got some story-starters saved, so who knows. Also, I may send off one of my done ones for the next issue of eFiction, if I'm feeling a little bit loco...

Status: Still crazy, after all these years...

Avengers

Just as good the second time, man... maybe even better.



Status: Thank you, Joss Whedon.

So that's it. I've got some blogs planned, so hopefully you'll see a little more of me around here for the next month or two before I inevitably disappear again for a few weeks. It's my pattern. I accept it. I know you understand, dear reader.

Anyway, it sounds like Head Overseer Mungo is cracking the whip again.

Back to the Slat mines...
Jon