Thursday, September 25, 2014

Premier Week is NOW!

As of this moment (me typing, not you reading), a new television season is getting ready to premier for most of the major networks. I typically don’t care about that sort of thing. But now I do. I’ve had a bit of a shift in my life over the past year or two. Nothing too major, but my life now has more television in it than it used to.

See, my wife has an incredibly stressful job. It’s a really long story, and not a very interesting one, except to us I suppose. But she really, really gets overwhelmed by her work. So, she spends what few free moments she has trying desperately to unwind. Typically by getting swept away in a television show or movie.

Now, I like TV just as much as the next person, I mean, we have 6 of them. You can’t really hate them if you own that many. We have one in the living room, the bedroom, her office, my office, and both of the remaining kids rooms (I say remaining because they’re getting older, they all don’t live at home anymore).

They’re all big and glorious in their HDness and all that. I’m just telling you that in full disclosure. I’m not a hater of TV. But I am a guy that prefers to read for the most part. As much as I love Star Trek, it doesn’t compare to a great novel. Books are just where my heart is.

But the missus wants to enjoy things with me, not separately. So I have, quite reluctantly, this year, been reading less of the books and watching more of the television. It’s our time to spend together and enjoy something. And it’s been here that I made a startling discovery.

Television is awesome.

And I’m speaking specifically as a concept I thought I invented,* but it turns out I didn’t, so damn. But it’s still interesting, and that is: A show as a novel.

So the missus was actively looking for a show to watch, something to geek out over as a respite from her day job, and I told her we should totally watch this show on HBO called True Detective. It’s a buddy cop show starring Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson.
This is like me trying to explain True Detective

So we watched. That show affected me in a way that I’m not sure a show really has, ever. It was a novel, broken down into 10 parts, it was slow, deliberate, and reeked of mood. The characters had arcs and the overall plot was tight and there were relatively few digressions.

It blew my mind. This wasn’t a serialized show, like Dallas or Falcon Crest (um, those two came to mind, I’m sure there have been more recent ones), this was a series that had a clear beginning, middle and end, all in a single season of television.

I didn’t know they could do that on TV.**

Then later, after that was gone and I’d spent a few months screaming at everyone I knew to go watch that show, we started on Breaking Bad.

And again, I couldn’t believe it. This was as enjoyable to me as 95% of the novels I’d read. It didn’t have the spec fic elements I’d need to put it at the very top of all time entertainment, but it was close. And I know it had a pretty deep connection with me, because once we were watching the show, I had a hard time reading after that. A book series that I’d started out thinking was pretty good became a chore to read. It was good, until I found something infinitely better. Going back to what I had before didn’t seem so palatable anymore.

Breaking Bad wasn’t as tight of a narrative as True Detective, but it was better, in my opinion. Nonetheless, I’m a guy that has been standing alone, screaming into the night that the masses are morons for wasting their lives watching TV when they can have the most amazing worlds on the pages of a book.

Now, I’m not exactly taking it all back - but I’ve shut up. Some of those scripted television shows are stunning. As good as a great novel.

What does that mean for me? Well, like I said, it’s premier week for the major broadcast networks. As of this writing, nothing has been shown yet, but the missus is a huge fan of the Agents of Shield show (which was, in my opinion, pretty awful for 3/4ths of its first season), and I’m pretty excited to just try some stuff out and see how it goes. Hopefully something great will emerge.

*This should totally be a subject of a post in the future, I have probably around two dozen great ideas, revolutionary ones, the ones that could start a whole branch of philosophy to explore their genius in greater detail.  But all of them, and I do mean all of them, have already been thought of, and explored ad nauseam, since well before I was born. Some of them going back thousands of years.

Stupid people, stealing all my ideas before I had a chance to think them. Every damn time I think I have something new to offer the world, EVERY. TIME. I find out in crushing fashion that I wasn’t the first. Or the most thorough, thinker.   

**Turns out, they couldn’t. It wasn’t TV, it was HBO.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Missed IWSG But It's Okay... Robots Might Want to Kill Us After All!

Hey all, I swear I was going to post yesterday. I got sidetracked. I don't say that because I expect that anyone was disappointed, but because I have an awful affliction where I feel like I have to make people like me. Studies have shown that people that apologize a lot tend to garner sympathy.

I'm so sorry I wrote that.

Did it work? Do you like me now?

Regardless, I stumbled onto this talk last week on the interwebanets and was pretty floored by the talk. The real quick of it is, we're all about 20 years of being jobless, no matter what profession we choose, and also, robots will most likely want to kill us all.

Great stuff. The vid is about 20 minutes long, but I guarantee it's the best thing you'll see all day.*

In case you didn't watch, because you're crazy. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I read a book, called The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzwell. Any would-be musician from the 80's might recognize the name, because the man invented the most awesome keyboards on the planet. He's the guy that invented the keyboard that had pressure sensitive keys. A pretty big deal, if you ask me. His Kurzwell 2000 was the most awesome thing the world ever produced at the time.

Anyway, inventing musical instruments was just a hobby, his day job was being a futurist. He's the guy that introduced me to the technological singularity as a concept.**

In his book, he produced a piece of prose... hang on while I try to find it downstairs.



Waiting...  ....

Dammit. It's about two hours later and I just got back to my computer. I forgot that I was going to go get my copy of the book to look up the thing. I did, however, manage to go for a walk (my 10,000 steps per day, remember?) , and eat supper, and watch about 5 youtube videos (while I ate, multi-tasking). Basically, I was awesome.

But I forgot to get that book. I decided to see if that passage was on the interwebanets. Couldn't find it. Shazballs.

Anyway, in it, he had a short story printed, entirely written, I might add, by a computer. It was readable. Not blow-you-away-with-it's-insight-into-human-nature-amazing, but readable. The point I took away from it was not 'can I do better than that?' but 'how much better will programs be able to write fiction in the future?'

Well, I read that a very long time ago, now, in the future, where are we? Well, here is a video I found about that (which does seem ironic, because I'm trying to tell a story for those who can't spare the time to watch a different video).

To summarize, it's still early, but we're screwed.

Fiction Prototype from Phil Parker on Vimeo.

*There is no guarantee. I made that up.

** If you don't know what that is, think of the terminator movies, except that machines that fall in love with humanity and just take care of us instead of killing us. Well, that's his version anyway.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm No Hero... I'm a SUPERHero

I believe I mentioned last time I posted that I wasted spent most of the spring and summer walking. What I DIDN’T share with you, is that it was there I first discovered I have a gift, or, dare I say, a superpower.

Laser eyes? No. Telekinesis? No again. I can do something much more amazing. Since those are the only two powers I’m sure most people care about, I’ll stop there. Instead I’ll back up for a second and ask a question. It’s really rhetorical, but you know, answer if you want. 

Anyone but me get really excited by the sound of a crunching leaf? Anyone? Not many greater joys in my life than when I step on a leaf and the sound is indistinguishable from biting into a spoonful of Cap’n Crunch cereal.


I love it. I love it so much, in fact, that walking with people is apparently no fun for them. I suppose there can be something vaguely embarrassing about going for a walk with a fortysomething year-old man and have to watch him stomp around the street like Godzilla trying to destroy Tokyo. I can’t help it, it’s my cross to bear in this world. And if you can’t accept that about me, well, then you just can’t accept me as a person. Because that’s just who I am.

At this point, I feel it’s my duty to point out that I have a similar, but unrelated, need to kick any pebble I find whilst I walk. There have been a few incidents where a pebble just happened to be placed right near a dried leaf on the street in front of me. It’s then that I learned that kicking with one foot while stomping with the other is really hard to do. I have the scrapes to prove that.

That is not, in case you’re curious, my superpower.

No, my gift, the one that has made me wonder if I should be wearing a costume to hide my true identity, is my uncanny ability to predict which foot I’ll need to use to crush said leaf without being forced to break my stride.

Please, quiet down. I can’t hear myself type over the sound of your collective sounds of awe. I’ll say that line again so you can know it’s true: I can crush a leaf, as soon as I have it marked with my mental map, by just walking over and stepping on it.

Wait, when I rephrase it, it doesn’t sound that amazing. Let me try again:

If I were to see a leaf from, say, 20 feet away, and I was walking and didn’t want to break my stride, I could immediately tell what foot will fall closest to the leaf. I DON’T HAVE TO STUTTER STEP.

*mind blown*

Imagine the world we’d live in if we all had this power. I shudder at the thought. Is this what Superman feels as he walks amongst mortals? I guess only he and I know for sure.

Happy day, world.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How I Spent My Summer (Hint: Being Lame)

What a summer, eh? Way back late last winter, the paying job offered me a fitbit. In case you’re uninitiated, it’s a little pedometer that you strap to your wrist and it will record the number of steps you take per day, how far you’ve traveled, how much you’ve slept, and a few other things that make me feel a bit creeped out.

I mean, I’m not sure what the criminal underworld would do with the knowledge of how many hours I slept last Tuesday, but I’m sure in the hands of the appropriately evil, it could be worthy of an expose on 60 minutes.

Well, the actual point of all this, of course, from my employer’s perspective, is to make sure I’m fit enough not to drive up our healthcare costs as a whole (joke’s on them, my wife carries my health insurance), and one of the big indicators of overall health is body weight.

I’ve spent most of my life being skinny, way too skinny as a kid and teen, there was a brief period in my mid-twenties where I plumped up, but then another decade (almost) of being skinny through exercise and a relatively strict diet.

Then, around the time I started this blog, I kinda let myself go. I stopped exercising and starting eating a relatively horrid diet. I got pretty big. Early last summer (2013) I managed to drop a about 25 pounds by living off of V8’s for a few months. But that leveled off once I determined it was untenable for me to live that way long term.

Cut to late Feb of this year, and these fancy fitbits that they were handing out at work. At the time I’m still 20 pounds overweight, despite having dropped the 25 I mentioned a moment ago. I think, Gee, I can take care of those last 20 pounds now.

So I start to walk, the target is 10,000 steps per day. For a stride like mine that’s just under 5 miles. Given my walking speed that’s about two hours of walking per day. Well, maybe an hour and a half, I’m rounding here for simplicity’s sake.

And to my great surprise, I found that I liked it. Turns out that I get about a mile per day just doing things like walking to the bathroom and piddling around the kitchen at home. The rest is something I’d have to do on purpose.

To rephrase that, the rest is me walking on purpose – for no reason. None at all. At first it was a bit tough, having to remember to walk, even if I had nowhere to go. My dogs appreciated it, they don’t mind walking with no destination. For me, it was a learning curve. I grew up believing that if you start going somewhere, well, there should be a somewhere you're trying to get to. You can’t just go off and wander about aimlessly. That’s the devil’s playground, or something.

Soon, getting 10,000 steps in in a day was too easy. By May I was regularly hitting that many by lunch. Putting in 10, 11 miles in a day wasn’t unusual. If I could only get a time machine and go visit the younger me that said he’d never consider ‘walking’ as an exercise, I’d show him.

So it was great. The spring came and went, and before I knew it I was in the middle of the dog days of summer. August came in with a whoosh and I was still at it. Maybe not quite putting in 20,000 steps per day, but still churning out 10k without a problem.

We’d purchased a fancy digital scale a couple of years ago, to better document my descent into Jabba-the-Huttness. I realized that I’d not weighed since I began my walking regiment.

Wow, six months. I had a routine when I weighed before. Same exact time every day, wearing the same thing, just to take out any possible things that might cause me to get a weird result (Like a big lunch). I had no problem getting ready to weigh in.

I stepped onto the scale last week. Wondering what 6 months of clean living would mean for me. These fancy scales don’t work like the old ones used to. I liked stepping on it and seeing the numbers spin by, slow, go in reverse, slow again, then start counting forward, and back and forth until settling on a nice number.

No, this one sucks. It just spits out a number, down to a tenth of a pound (as long as that tenth is an even number) and that’s what you are.

How’d I do, you ask?

I gained 8 pounds.

Sonuvabitch! I’d been wasting 3 or 4 hours every day, walking in the hot sun, including weekends, and in the rain, and when the mosquitos were out for vengeance, and when I wanted to just stay in and read a book, just to get fatter?

And with that it all came crashing down on me. I’ve been living a lie. Walking isn’t exercise. Younger me was right. It might be exercise when I’m 80, but it isn’t now.

So, whatever.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG: The Blogfader

Hi all, it's been a while since I was here. But it's IWSG, brought to you by the indomitable Alex J Cavanaugh, whose dreams of a day where writers can blubber about all that scares them have come true, at least on the first Wednesday of each month.

This month, like every month, I'm really interested in talking about me. But instead of discussing my never complete manuscripts, or my paralyzing fear of rejection, I wanted to talk about a thing that I think is real, except I don't recall where I heard it from, so it's at least possible I made it up:


It's a term I made up (if you think it's a cool term, if you think it's lame, then I'm just borrowing it - I heard it elsewhere) to describe people like me who just sort of slow down blogging to the point that they're sort of fading into the night.

I'd complained for a very long time about the real world keeping me away from the interwebs for so long that it's tough for me to visit anyone nowadays. But the truth of the matter is that I think I'm at a spot right now where I probably could start blogging again.

But I haven't.

Like a lot of things, I have choices to make with my time. I've dreamt of being a big-shot author for a long time now. I talked about writing for many years before I actually wrote, and it's been about 10 since I wrote my first draft of a novel (A novel, btw, the blog is named after).

And about 5 years ago I decided I was really close to being a super-famous author and decided to start this blog. And in that time I managed to self-publish a few short stories, have one or two appear in the occasional anthology, and that's about it.

I started this as an investment. In a belief that I could commit to this and just make it part of who I am. Now, I'm starting to think this is the sort of thing that I just won't be keeping up for much longer.

I'm going to try to pick it back up. But it's there in the back of my mind, that one day I'll look up and it will have been a year since I posted, or two, or ten. It makes me sad. Especially since I'm not exactly moving on to bigger things.

So, wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: July 2014: I've Invented Time Travel

I haven't posted since mid-May. Wow. Time flies. Let's see if I can remember how to do this.

Back when Geocities was futuristic and AOL was the only internet most Americans knew of, Alex J Cavanaugh dreamed of giving writers across the globe access to therapy. It took a while for technology to catch up with his vision, but now, nearly a century later, here we are.

I watched that movie with Tom Cruise a few weeks ago. The one that's half Groundhog Day and half Saving Private Ryan and half Halo (the video game) and it made me dream of having that do over button that the movie explored so well.

I mean, the do over button is getting killed, so it's not easy, and there's that interpretation of quantum theory that states that we're all immortal (don't ask, it's weird). So it occurs to me that I actually have do over button. I write down words. Those words suck. I get to delete them and try again. And keep writing and deleting and writing those words until I get them right.

It's like I've actually invented time-travel. So, the conundrum: How do you know when you've accomplished the mission? As time has gone on, that has increasingly become my dilemma. I've become stuck in a cycle of writing and rewriting, much like Tom Cruise, and Bill Murray before him.

I'm trapped.

Happy IWSG day, guys.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Z is for… Wait, is this thing over?

Z is for… wait, is this thing over?

I never did a Z post for the A-Z Blogging challenge. I came limping over that finish line on fumes. Apparently just enough fumes to only see the finish line, not actually cross it. But, honestly, sometimes it feels really good to quit things. So, yay.

There were several things I wanted to bring up today, but upon attempting to write them, I realized I had way too many things to talk about. So, after some self-editing, I thought I’d narrow it down to three.*

·         I'M A MEMBER of the IWM group blog, and contributor to the monthly mag. I continue to be, not only impressed with the contributions of others, but so much so, that I can’t figure out why they haven’t kicked me out yet.

For the very first ANNUAL of the magazine, the editors are asking for your best time-travel stories to be submitted to the mag. From the submissions, real money will be given to those stories selected as winning entries. Actual money they can be spent, I’m told. Not soda money either, but $15 for the winner, and $10 for the runner up. So dust off that old time-travel epic and send it on over <Click here for the details>

Although I'm not eligible for prizes, I'll be submitting.

·         THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 has been out for more than a week. One of the kids in the house (have I mentioned we have a family of 4 living with us now? They’re pretty cool, with our boys being older and never around, it’s nice to have people in the house) watched the last Spider-Man last week with me.

And I suck at reviewing stuff, this is no exception. But like most americans, I don't let my inability to do something interfere with me doing it anyway, and expecting an audience. I feel like that the 2012 flick was a much better movie than the second installment, but am amazed at how, in the second movie, the director so perfectly nailed Spider-Man’s comic book look, character, and gave us the best Comic Book love story I’ve ever seen on film. Marc Webb gets the emotions perfect. The actual action-y plot part though… it’s a bit of a mess, and the more I think of it, the more I feel like all that is frustratingly poorly done. Still, the characters and the small moments make this film worth watching.

·         AND DID ANYONE ELSE see this adorable little film that popped up over the internet recently. Best 5 minutes I’ve seen in a while. Great stuff!

And that’s pretty much it. The new Rusty has almost no control over his schedule anymore. I’m a tornado of entropy, everything I touch turning immediately into chaos. Anyone who stops by has my sincere thanks.