Reader Request: Facial Hair

Ziggins wants to know about “Growing chin hair. And how fun it could be.”

OK, here goes.

Here’s a picture of me clean-shaven.

Yes, I know.  I look goofy as hell.  This was actually taken to post for a couple of Internet dating sites.  My adventures trolling the Internet for potential post-marital playmates resulted in…

Well, there’s a reason Internet dating still squicks people.  Thankfully, I met Nita through standup comedy, so she got to see me looking stupid on purpose.

And this is your humble narrator now…

Yes, I’m sporting a goatee these days.  And I have to say I think it looks a lot better.  I tried growing one last spring, but it just started to fill in as the weather warmed up.  It also started to itch because the weather warmed up.

Well, now it’s fall.  I have a full goatee, and I can go a day or two without shaving before anyone notices.  Best of all, the wife thinks it’s hot!

Is there any other reason to grow chin hair?  I think not.

Got a Reader Request for me?  Comment below or send me an email at jamesrwinterATyahooDOTcom.

Reader Request: The Bungles

Graham Powell asks, “So, how ’bout them Bungles? You flashing back to the glory days of 1996 yet?”

What the Bengals need is a new owner who isn’t a complete moron when it comes to football.  It’s been said that Bengals owner Mike Brown is a nice guy who knows football, but wants to win his way.

The problem is his way hasn’t worked since 1991, when the ghost of his father, the legendary Paul Brown, still hung over Riverfront Stadium.

Baltimore stole the original Browns, and the current franchise is nothing to write home about.  I only rooted for the Steelers because the Browns didn’t exist for four years of the Bengals’ Lost Decade.  And I sure as hell ain’t rooting for the Ravens.

Right now, Mike Brown needs to turn the team over to daughter Katie Blackburn, who likely would hire a general manager and let Coach Marvin Lewis do what he needs to do to win.  Mike needs to be a good Cincinnatian and retire to Hilton Head Island, or a good former Clevelander and move to Winterhaven, FL.

I firmly believe Marvin Lewis will coach a team to the Superbowl.  I also firmly believe that team will be located in Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, possibly Los Angeles.  It won’t be on the banks of the Ohio.

Got a Reader Request for me?  Comment below or send me an email at jamesrwinterATyahooDOTcom.

Reader Request: Standup Comedy

Patti Abbot asks, “What comics you like? What makes them good or bad? Who’s the best you’ve ever seen?”

What makes a comic good?

Timing, timing, timing!

Well, that’s the most important thing.  There are others.  A comic has to get up on stage, be completely confident in his material, and not be afraid to bomb.  In fact, that’s why a lot of material is worked on in bar shows.  There are people who go into bars and positively suck, turn around, and jump on stage at a comedy club and kill with the same set.  The best two that I’ve seen locally are Ryan Fohl and uber-geek Ray Price.

What makes them bad?  Disrespecting your audience for one.  I’ve seen two nationally known comedians get on stage and pitch tantrums because the audience didn’t respond.  Some believe that, because they went to New York, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco and stood in line at the clubs and paid their dues, their audiences are obligated to laugh at them.

Bull.  One well-known New York comic came to Go Bananas over the summer, referred to Blue Ash as a hick town (It’s where the upper middle class lives), moaned that the audience didn’t get his humor (We did.  He wasn’t funny.), and picked a fight with a patron.  In the comic’s defense on the last one, the guy was an idiot.  However, the fight started a steady stream of patrons leaving, telling people waiting for the 10:30 show to save their money.  Many of those people left.

I know the clubs want to see people who paid their dues in New York and LA, but New York and LA does not make comedians good.  It just makes them bookable.  At the end of the day, I’m likely to ask for my money back.

Now, who’s the best?

No question.  George Carlin.  You had to ask?

Got a Reader Request for me?  Comment below or send me an email at jamesrwinterATyahooDOTcom.

Kickstarting The Way Of The Cheetah

A couple of years ago, I downloaded Lynn Viehl’s ebook on writing, The Way of the Cheetah.  Great stuff if you want to be able to produce more writing without trading off too much on quality.  However, I have just one tiny problem, one that keeps me from doing what Lynn suggests.

It takes me as long to do a detailed outline as it does to write a short novella.  I still have to think of the scenes.  Part of the issue is I have a day job.  And for 8 hours everyday, BigHugeCo would like me to, yanno, work, since they’re nice enough to deposit a decent amount of cash in my bank account every couple of weeks.

BigHugeCo, ironically, provided me a solution.  About two weeks ago, I had a machine infected with the icepoint.exe virus*. One of the apps the user had was FreeMind, a mind mapping application.  What’s mind mapping?  Well, it’s easier to show you than explain it.  Go ahead and read that.  I’ll wait.

Finished?  Good.

So how’s this apply to writing, especially if you’re going to indulge in The Way of the Cheetah?  Simple.  The reason outlines take so long for some writers is because you still have to make stuff up as you go along.  In other words, you’re either flying blind, or you’re working from a bunch of notes spread out and disorganized.  The it takes to formulate a scene doesn’t change, only the time spent on the prose.  Mind mapping lets you put all those elements into one document.

Last weekend, I installed Freemind on both my tower and my laptop.  I then started a map with the name of a novel I’ve wanted to write in the middle.  From there, I created “nodes” for each element I wanted to write about:  Protag, antagonist, crime, setting, supporting characters, etc.  The mind map that resulted was elaborate, too long to print out, but very, very organized.  I could easily create a short outline from this.

I did another for a novel I’d like to do after that.  That, too, came together rather quickly.  So I know what I want to do with two projects.  I can draw short and long outlines rather quickly now while I work on the current novel (which I’m writing blind.)

On a lark, I mind mapped a third project.  I discovered I didn’t have as much on this one as I thought.  Therein lies another advantage to using mind maps.  You can see where you have holes in your story idea and close them as you come up with new material.  What’s the protag’s name?  What’s the conflict?  Where is this set?

Is it perfect?  No.  And it’s clearly not for everybody.  But if you want a way to organize your story fast before you’ve even done the outline, Freemind is a great tool to put in a writer’s toolbox.

*If you see icepoint.exe anywhere on your drive, back up your data and just wipe the hard drive clean.  Like Cleveland Brown says, “That’s nasty.”

The Sex Talk

Being a stepdad is great.  I got to skip childhood and diapers and 3 AM feedings, and can deal with AJ as he becomes more and more an adult every day.  Plus, we’re both Family Guy fans, the foundation of any good parent-child relationship.

However, the job comes with responsibilities.  Since AJ is 14, both Nita and I have had to talk to him about sex.

I’ve let Nita take the lead, since I’m still new to the family.  She’s talked to him about the dangers of teenage sex, the importance of contraceptives, the consequences of teenage pregnancy and STD’s, and how to treat a girl when that moment finally does arrive.

So what was my contribution?

“You’re not allowed to have sex during Leno or Letterman until you’ve been with someone for five years, preferably after you’ve had at least one child.”

My own wisdom astounds me.  And AJ is smart enough to know that his generation will begin Tonight Show sex during the era of Conan O’Brien.

GNR Lies: I Now Have New Respect For Tom Scholz

Tom Scholz, the technophobic central member of Boston, has been known to take years to record albums other arena rock bands might have produced in three months.  Was it worth the wait between Don’t Look Back and Third Stage?  Well, let’s put it this way.  I was a sixth grader into disco for Don’t and a recent high school grad in the throes of a mad Deep Purple addiction when Third appeared.  So to ask whether it was worth the wait implies that I was waiting.  I wasn’t.

I can’t say the same for Guns N Roses’ (really Axl Rose’s solo) release Chinese Democracy.  Since Use Your Illusion came out in 1991, Metallica has usurped GNR’s hard rock throne, grunge has come and gone, as have three American presidents, and MTV no longer shows videos.  To top that, the actual band Guns N Roses calls itself Velvet Revolver and is on its second lead singer.  That’s right.  Axl has taken so long to record this album that Velvet Revolver’s Scott Weiland has had time to start a career, quit his band, join the former GNR members, quit that band, and reform Stone Temple Pilots.

So, after hearing the new single 15 years after The Spaghetti Incident, do I think it was worth the wait?