It’s That Time Of Year Again… December 11, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Film.
Tags: A Christmas Story, You'll shoot your eye out
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Coming Soon: The Compleat Winter December 10, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Books, Ebooks.
Tags: The Compleat Winter
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Yanno you want it.
Space Stuff! Thus Endeth Act II… In Outline December 9, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Writing.
Tags: My Dick is writing a novel, science fiction
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I did it. I finished an outline of Act II for the SF project. I wanted to keep going, but I really need to get back to writing this thing. After all, my Dick Bachman has to get around to building his presence, writing some supplemental material, and designing his web site. I also have to get back to being Jim Winter so I can revise Holland Bay one last time. (That one’s getting shopped.)
When I dropped what I was doing on the draft to outline, I was depressed. I thought I had this all figured out. So imagine what it was like to realize that was far from the truth. But a funny thing happened on the way to figuring out Act II. As I walked the tightrope between just sketching out a plotline and “pre-writing” the story, I started to get impatient. I might only sketch a scene or a chapter at a time, but after finishing one, I’d get ideas where I wanted to go next. I wanted to see what happened next. I was getting excited by my own story. Good news for you, because if the writer doesn’t know what happens next, the reader often doesn’t either.
So Sunday morning, I began writing again. Whereas my word counts plummeted from 1000 a day to sometimes 300 or less, I managed 1000 in one sitting. Since I have other things to do besides writing (like watching the Bengals), I had to stop. Butidowannastop!
Good. Maybe I can have those Stephen King-like 2000-word days, especially since the semester at school ends this week.
Then my Dick will really be like Dick Bachman.
Christmas As A Kid December 6, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Family, Music.
Tags: Christmas, Gene Autry
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You know, no one ever called out Gene Autry, one of the kings of the singing cowboys, for saying “Happy Holidays.” Everyday between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, from the year I was born until a couple of years after I left high school, my mother played this album. In our house, we had one of those big console “hi fi” systems from the 1960′s that could play hours of vinyl with the old style record changers. Most of the year, the sounds of Johnny Cash, an Eddie Arnold box set, and Loretta Lynn would emanate from it. Eventually, I was able to slip in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, The Beatles, and those cheesey K-Tel collections everyone used to buy in the days before mix tapes, burning CD’s, and iTunes.
But every Christmas season, mom owned the stereo. And every Christmas season, the day’s music started off with Gene Autry singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” There were a couple other albums she would play, but this is the one I remembered best. Long before Christmas became about Black Friday, fighting over which relatives I would spend Christmas with, and just a generally depressing time of the year for me (which is not the case right now), Gene Autry was the sound of Christmas. Gene Autry was fun.
I only remember a few of the songs off that album, mainly “Rudolph” (Duh!), “Up on the Rooftop,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” I did find it odd we had very little religious music that time of year. I came from a religious household, one that wasn’t particularly materialistic, and yet all the songs on that big ol’ Philco were about Santa Claus. The exception was Tennessee Ernie Ford album that included “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
And what about Christmas Eve? We weren’t big church-goers on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We also lived in duplexes for most of my childhood. Which, like a lot of duplex and apartment dwelling kids, led to the question “How does Santa get in the house when we don’t have a chimney?” When I was really young, like before my oldest brother was born, mom would come into my room while my dad went into the living room. She’d say, “Wake up. Daddy’s letting Santa in with the presents.” But, of course, I wasn’t allowed to see him. It’d spook the reindeer.
Nita came up with an even better Christmas ritual when AJ was very young. She would take AJ outside to sprinkle glittered oatmeal on the snow so the reindeer could find the house. Then Santa would get in the house with a magic key. I missed out on that, but it sort of put the magic back into Christmas for me when she told me that.
So Christmas has become special again. I think it’s because Christmas since I married Nita has been an intimate holiday. The tree stays lit all night. We give each other pajamas every year, then spend the day wearing them. It’s just Nita and AJ and me. I call my brothers, and we have a party with Nita’s family earlier in December. Too bad that album disappeared long before my parents moved to Amish country. Might be fun to hear Gene Autry again.
Especially when it clashes with our Foo Fighter-loving taste in music.
Thursday Reviews: The Mallet Of Loving Correction by John Scalzi December 5, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Books, Ebooks.
Tags: John Scalzi, The Mallet of Loving Correction
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A best of the blog collection, Mallet covers the last decade of John Scalzi’s The Whatever, one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. For this collection, he picks the ones that have caused the most controversy in the comment sections. The title comes from Scalzi’s policy of deleting, often with a snarky explanation as to why, trolling comments. He refers to this as breaking out The Mallet of Loving Correction. Among other things, Scalzi…
- Asserts his place in the geek hierarchy, telling a self-important CNN columnist that anyone can be a geek who wants to be.
- Simply tells the nation’s far right that they’re bat shit insane and lays out why. (To be fair, he’s not all that easy on liberals, either.)
- Live tweets Lord of the Rings because his daughter and wife are not home to stop him.
- In one of the more touching entries, explains how his recently deceased dog demonstrated her unconditional love for this strange man that mommy seems so fond of. (That one made me tear up a little.)
I spent most of my time reading laughing out loud. Especially when he grades hate mail.
Keep Calm And Call The Doctor December 4, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Film, Television.
Tags: Dr. Who, science fiction
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As the world prepares for the debut of the Twelfth Doctor (actually, Thirteenth. John Hurt sort of snuck in there and fought in the Time War), I’ve been getting into Dr. Who, going all the way back to the beginning. This past weekend, I watched a chopped up copy of the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child.” (I could have watched it all, but YouTube keeps yanking the middle part. Damn you, BBC. Damn you for enforcing your copyright!) I also watched the first part of “Tomb of the Cybermen” on BBC America. So I got to see the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. I also watched part of the Dr. Who television movie last week, the webisode “Night of the Doctor,” and the absolutely brilliant “Day of the Doctor,” which manages to feature all thirteen incarnations of The Doctor (and never mind that the first three actors and one’s replacement are all dead.)
I’m hooked. For a kid who was suckled, weened, and stoned on Star Trek, Dr. Who is the perfect nerdgasm for middle age. Here’s a character who is the same person across fifty years. If the actor leaves, as William Hartnell did in 1966, The Doctor just regenerates into a new incarnation. Change the actor and the personality and carry on. Plus, The Doctor is a time traveler. So you can have the old actors come back to let different incarnations of The Doctor meet each other. “Day of the Doctor” did this and introduced not just one (John Hurt’s tragic War Doctor), but two new incarnations (Peter Capaldi’s fleeting appearance as The Doctor’s future self.)
I did watch Dr. Who as a kid, only seeing a few episodes. So naturally, I thought that Tom Baker was the original Doctor. I also remember seeing a couple of movies on Superhost featuring Peter Cushing as a human scientist named “Dr. Who.” Those are discounted by Whovians, since it essentially is a reworking of the original concept. I remember seeing a later episode with (I think) Peter Davidson as The Doctor and wondering what happened to Tom Baker. Then I learned about regeneration and how The Doctor (who is never really named) changes looks and personality every time he regenerates.
But my real discovery of The Doctor came in 2005, when SyFy started running the revived series featuring Christopher Eccleston. He was a bit of culture shock. Most of The Doctors I’d seen had taken their cues from Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor (and a favorite of most of the currently living actors, particularly the outgoing Matt Smith.) This Doctor wore a leather jacket, had a short haircut, and a Scottish accent. He wasn’t as whimsical as Troughton or Baker or even McGann. He had the mischief the character had developed over the decades, but there was something dark about him. I also witnessed his regeneration into the Tenth (and my favorite) Doctor, played by David Tennant. His first words (later echoed by Matt Smith in his first moments as The Eleventh Doctor) was “I wanted to be ginger!” (Smith, after a brief moment of terror when he thinks he’s changed genders, says, “Damn. Still not ginger!”)
So my image of The Doctor is Baker, McGann, Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith. So how was it watching that first episode? William Hartnell was an elderly man with the hair of Franz Liszt. He was mysterious, gruff, and, let’s be honest, a bit of an asshole. Mind you, that’s my only experience with The First Doctor. And he is so unlike the later incarnations, more like Hurt’s War Doctor or Jon Pertwee’s angry, exiled Third Doctor than the whimsically dressed Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor or any of the newer Doctors. Mind you, the writers and producers had no clue their creation would last fifty years and be played by fourteen actors. They barely knew what “TARDIS” meant. But it was fun, and a bit creepy, watching the beginning of this journey. By the end of episode 1, you still have no idea who this Doctor person is, what his nature is, or what it is he does.
But Patrick Troughton, more than any other actor, is responsible for the Doctor’s look and feel across all the remaining incarnations. If he has an equivalent in American television, it’s Detective Columbo, a sharp mind disguised in the persona of a bumbling idiot. Later actors would use the distracted mannerisms in varying degrees, the dry egotistical humor, and the “Gotcha!” when it becomes clear that The Doctor has outsmarted his enemies.
We have yet to see much more than a glimpse of the Twelfth Doctor, but already many are speculating on the Thirteenth (now that the twelve regeneration limit has been quietly “debunked” (ie – The producers realized this is probably going to go beyond sixty years and thirteen incarnations). My picks? Eddie Izzard would make an excellent older Doctor, with his own personality, sense of humor, and long association with the Monty Python troupe. Harry Potter star Rupert Grint would give the Doctor his fondest wish: to be a ginger. Grint’s Ron Weasly coupled with the dark genius that is The Doctor would create a Doctor in the best tradition of Troughton. With the call for a Doctor who is black or female, producers would do well to look at Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) when Capaldi decides to call it a Doctor. Elba is English and would bring an intensity to the character that’s been somewhat missing (John Hurt an exception) since Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. A female Doctor? I honestly don’t know enough about British television or film to make an educated guess. I’ve suggested (in jest) that Emma Watson might be good as it would be a huge shift in the character (and hilarious if you have Eccleston, Tennant, or Smith’s Doctor run into her), changing not only the gender, but making him (her?) incredibly young. Plus I can see Watson having fun with her Doctor. However, a better choice might be (and was considered) Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley. Lumley, back when the thirteen-Doctor limit was still in place, starred in a parody of the show The Curse of the Fatal Death, in which Rowan “Blackadder” Atkinson (another one considered for the role) appeared as the Ninth Doctor, but kept meeting with repeated mishaps. Lumley, in the end, appeared as the Thirteenth Doctor, whom his (her?) nemesis, The Master, found rather attractive and rode with her in the TARDIS off into the sunset.
But we still have a few years of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor to see. Capaldi is older and looks somewhat like Tom Baker in his Doctor days. Should be fun.
Space Stuff: Lost In Place December 3, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Writing.
Tags: My Dick is writing a novel, science fiction
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First off, congratulations to those of you who finished NaNoWriMo. That’s a great achievement. For those of you who did not finish, there is a wonderful consolation prize: You no longer have a deadline.
Back to outlining. And I’ve come up with a completely different storyline. Well, two. My male protag is scheming to get off the planet even though there’s a war on. My female protag has demonstrated a combination of leadership and rebellion. She’s a fourteen-year-old Han Solo with ovaries in the making. (The Han Solo part. I’m pretty sure she’s had ovaries since her days as a fetus.) Originally, I planned to stop outlining yesterday (Really today, as I half-watch the Cleveland and Jacksonville while waiting for the Bengals game.)
Outlining is not a fast process. It’s faster than writing the narrative, and can make the narrative go faster. But a writer has to plan the next scene, and the next scene and so on, often going back and making sure continuity remains intact or, at the very least, manageable when new ideas veer off wildly. Still, it’s good to know where the story is going. I’m also learning how to balance plot points with the actual scenes. With a couple exceptions, I avoid writing out the dialog or the details. I simply write that this happens, then this, then this, and maybe a line or two of explanation just so I don’t go “WTF?”
Sometimes, I get detailed, because a scene is very clear. I actually wrote out the dialog between two characters in one scene, and in another, because the scene came to me so clear, I devoted two whole paragraphs to it. I don’t want to do this too often. I’m just building a framework. You don’t put the walls in a skyscraper until the frame is in place.
For the most part, I’ve written in a rhythm. One scene with one set of protags, almost always from the POV of the main protag, then the other set from their main character’s POV. But then something strange happened. My female protag hit a wall in the plot. And my male protag needed several consecutive scenes to launch into his drive to escape the planet (with his new bride). I found a built-in solution. Give one set of characters a couple of chapters on their own to give the other set time to settle into their new surroundings and setup bringing them all together for the final battle (and to setup the next story in the series.)
As I said, I was only going to do a week of this to get back into the narrative. Only on Sunday morning, when I wrote this post, I realized I wanted to see what happens next.
The War On The War On Christmas December 2, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in oxygen thieves, WTF.
Tags: stupid holiday tricks, War on Christmas
This is your only warning. I use “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” interchangeably. If you take that as an opportunity to go off on a rant about how I used the wrong one, I will punch you in the throat.
The fact is if you have to make the holiday season part of your culture wars, you have failed miserably to understand the season. It is a time for finding the best in people. If your default position is to go off on some self-righteous tirade about how you’re somehow being attacked because someone doesn’t do it the way you want, you are a very bad person. No one is stopping you from saying “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” Just because someone doesn’t do things the way you think they should does not mean you’re way of life is under attack. Leave that bullshit to overpaid pundits who make their living scaring people into buying foot powder. ‘Kay?
Happy Holidays, folks. And have a Merry Christmas.
Black Friday November 29, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in WTF.
Tags: Black Friday
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Sometime after the Act of Union permanently merged the thrones of England and Scotland, merchants figured out that they could make a butt load of pounds sterling by touting the giveage of gifts at Christmas. It was the dawn of modern capitalism, and already, retailers had figured out how to exploit its worst aspects. (Compare this with communism, in which everything is mandated to be dull, gray, and depressing.)
Fast forward to the end of the eighteenth century, and George Washington inadvertantly decrees a line of demarcation for this consumer frenzy to begin by creating Thanksgiving. The holiday did not have a somewhat permanent slot (Thursday of the last full week of November) until Lincoln set it by proclamation, but it always fell in November. Then after you eat all that turkey, the shopkeepers start with the sales, the advertising, the pressure to get that perfect gift. Even then, Thanksgiving was not all that big a deal until the Great Depression, when FDR made it a federal holiday, creating a permanent four-day weekend.
Following World War II, when America realized that 1.) the Depression was over, 2.) we were the only major world power that had not been cratered by air raids, and 3.) we’re really, really rich, merchandisers learned that they could make a huge buttload of money by luring consumers into the stores the day after Thanksgiving with low-ball prices. A new invention, television, reinforced this behavior. Then came the Internet. Since advent of this world-altering invention, designed to deliver questionable political rants, free pornography, and cat pictures, Black Friday has become a national sport. Year after year, we hear stories of trampling incidents at Walmart at 4 AM over $30 Blu-Ray players. Now stores are even opening on Thanksgiving, a trend I find rather disgusting.
I’ve come to have contempt for Black Friday. Retailers may make most of their money this weekend, but that doesn’t change the fact that workers are being denied time with their families. I’ve noticed there is only one holiday where stores are not open. Christmas. On Christmas, only gas stations and convenience stores are open, and only a handful of them, mostly along the Interstates. Now retailers are opening on Thanksgiving? That is absolutely disgusting. I think the people who start their Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving are just as bad. Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the year-end high holy days tend to bring out the best in people. Black Friday brings out the worst.
So what am I doing on Black Friday?
Sleeping in. So while I’m snoring away while all the idiots are fighting over the $10 laptop, enjoy this Steely Dan classic. Because, to me, “Black Friday” will always be a song off Katy Lied.
Giving Thanks, 2013 Edition November 28, 2013Posted by eviljwinter in Family, Health, Life, Nita.
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It’s that time of year again, when we in America pause to give thanks for what we have. In Canada, they do this in October (better weather) on a Monday (kills Monday for a week.) I sort of like the Canadian idea, but in America, it’s a rare four-day weekend. It’s a day for watching football (The Cowboys, the Lions, and, for some odd reason, now the Ravens). We consume huge amounts of the meat of a rather stupid bird, which puts us to sleep following dinner. It is a day for many families to embrace and indulge their dysfunction. Friday is a day that makes even Gordon Gecko despise capitalism, even if only for a day or so. It is the cultural end of autumn, the fiscal start of Christmas, and time when those of us who hate cold weather resign ourselves to that inevitable season we must endure for a few months: Winter.
But mostly, Thanksgiving is just that: Giving thanks. What am I thankful for?
I work. Unemployment is still high, mainly because we have a Congress that, collectively, is the most useless in American history. Nonetheless, I have a job. Since 2008, when the economy tanked spectacularly, I was only out of work for about six weeks at the longest. When I lost my job at BigHugeCo, the VP who broke the news to me – whom I’d worked with for years – told me he regretted doing this, but at the same time told me to enjoy my summer vacation. They handed me twelve weeks severance. Within a couple of weeks, I was contracting, with only a two-week break that summer. There was a scary six weeks the following January and February where work jobs just weren’t to be had. And then I found work at Medishack, a job that was a hybrid of my old job as a desktop support technician and what I wanted to do, development. A lot of my good fortune was luck. A lot of it was persistence. And one thing I’ve seen during our most recent recession is that some people had a sense of entitlement that kept them out of decent jobs because the work was “beneath them.” These are usually the same people who complain the loudest about other people not working. So why did I not join in their reindeer games? All I know was that my creditors were asking where their money was, and it was hard for my wife to put food on the table with only my unemployment check to add to her income. I took less-paying work because I believe if you don’t work when it’s possible, you have no right to complain about not finding a job. It’s not like some people who literally can’t find work. Those people I feel for. The ones I had no respect for were the ones who asked me if I was insane taking temp jobs only two weeks after a layoff. I found that question insulting. At one point in my younger days, I worked three jobs at 60-70 hours a week. I don’t like idle time. Not without a fat bank account to back it up.
I’m thankful I have a marketable skill. I write code. And I still fix computers. (No, I’m not going to fix yours. Forty hours a week of that is enough.) And I’m learning more about that all the time. Technology was a boon to me in the 1990′s. Through the Internet and cheap PC’s, I discovered several skillsets that will probably carry me through retirement, assuming I can retire. I don’t see why not. The more I learn, the more opportunities come my way. Add to that a business degree, and the opportunities open even wider. Nita is also getting a degree, a technology degree. This is going to help us open our own business. That, if successful, will secure our future. It won’t guarantee one or both of us won’t have to take a job welcoming people to Walmart at some point, but it makes it less likely.
I’m thankful for my health. Yes, I gained back all the weight I lost earlier this year. But after a recent hospital stay, my doctors were actually encouraged by what they saw. It’s only renewed my commitment to run the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. I need to renew my discipline – no snacking, more fruit, stick with and keep revamping an exercise plan.
My wife expressed some doubt about me doing the Pig, but I have 2 1/2 years to get ready. In the meantime, my health can only improve. It’d better. After 50 is when a lot of things start falling apart at inconvenient moments. I intend to be healthier at 50 than I was at 40.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the lovely lady to the right. Nita has been the best thing to ever happen to me. After five years, she still accepts me for who I am, is not afraid to be herself, and lights up my days and nights. Because of her, I’m a stepfather. And AJ looks at me as more than just the dude mom married. He is a great son, and I’m privileged to be part of his life. Our home is cozy and warm, and we all laugh a lot. I’ve married a hair metal chick and live with a boy who loves Monty Python. I look at Nita and know that I have a future. I watch AJ as he works his first job and goes to UC Blue Ash and marvel at how his adult life is a blank slate. Thanksgiving at our house is just us three with a small turkey and one rule: Stay out of Nita’s way until she puts up the tree. Once the tree is up, then we can get involved. Until then, shut up and eat your turkey. Oh, and could one of you do the dishes after lunch?