December 30, 2009
"When functioning as it should, in secular as well as religious contexts, imagination is the most important means by which higher truths can be communicated." - Robert Houston Smith, Patches of Godlight: The Pattern of Thought of C.S. Lewis
Samurai art by Tim Baron, (c) 2009
December 29, 2009
December 21, 2009
December 20, 2009
Nano-film review: Entertaining, if cliche, story and characters; amazing world creation; spectacular special effects and action sequences.
Longer version: I’ve heard a lot of people comparing Avatar to other movies. Most of them are fair. Dances with Wolves. Ferngully. Even Delgo. (My old review of Delgo is here. And apparently after the Avatar trailer came out, the people who made the Deglo movie were considering suing James Cameron, which is ridiculous, although they may have sold one or two more DVDs from the publicity.)
The movie I’d compare it to the most, honestly, is The Dark Crystal. (The Dark Crystal, by the way, has a much better case against the Delgo people than the Deglo people have against Avatar when it comes to stealing visuals, I think.) The Dark Crystal is an incredible example of world building. And Avatar’s weakness is also The Dark Crystal’s: an amazing, visually stunning world and characters, but with a weak story to hang it on. (This is something Jim Henson himself would agree with, and with their follow up Labyrinth they started with the story first, not the world.)
Avatar was being hailed before release as a groundbreaking cinematic experience, and to be frank it is. It’s the best motion capture animation ever. The characters look expressive, move fluidly, and feel alien. The world they live in is an example of incredible world building. It is a fully realized world with believable, alien environments. It’s the best scifi/fantasy world I've seen. It totally blows way Lucas’ prequel trilogy in that regard. It’s a big, epic scaled world they created. It was made as a 3D movie, and the gimmick here is not things flying at your face, it's instead a layered, huge, textured world.
The creatures are graceful and vicious and just plain cool looking, although the humanoid creaturs and their semi-naked attire may take some getting used to. They’re just human enough to be relatable and alien enough to be different. The biosphere and environment of the world are carefully crafted and a wonder to experience on the big screen.
But then there’s the plot. You've seen this movie before . . . just never this big in scope. You'll know the plot and almost exactly how it's going to resolve five minutes in, if you’ve ever read a book or seen a movie. You've seen these characters before. Remember Paul Riser in Alien? He’s in this movie. Remember the gruff sergeant toy from Toy Soldiers, or Robert Duvall from Apocalypse Now? He’s in this movie. Remember every scientist from every science fiction movie? They’re all in this movie. But it’s okay, because this movie is bigger than any of the other times you've seen this story and looks prettier.
I will say, though, that I really liked the main character. He helps the movie rise above the cliches by being a likable character with emotional motivations. He's the perfect character to experience this whole new world with.
The underlying message is cliché, unfortunately, but you do get some interesting Big Ideas that can only come from science fiction. Things about the natural of individuality. Our place in this world. Our relationship to God. You also get lots of hamfisted references to current events, like the casual tossing out of "shock and awe", that sort of thing. It would have been a much better movie if it had left those connections up to the audience.
The music was James Horner doing James Horner. The familiar echoing horns did their thing, and the music settles in to the background. I’ve decided that even though many of James Horner’s film scores sound very, very similar, it’s familiar.
All things considered, Avatar is a visual feast, with exciting action sequences and beautiful effects. Plot is mostly predictable, but forgivable because of the world building. Avatar should be seen on the big screen. The 3D was awesome, although it took a while to get used to. (I want to see it in 2d.) It was a big, epic scaled world they created, very sophisticated. It should be seen on the big screen.
I just can't wait until this technology and this level of world building is matched with an equally sophisticated story.
December 14, 2009
But here I am. And here it is, the most recent ad to pop up on my Yahoo! free e-mail account:
You know, when I was a kid I remember one year the Santa who came to visit my school was a woman! She was an old woman with white hair and thin glasses and a fake beard. She looked like Santa until I got close to her. That kinda ruined the whole illusion of Santa.
Now, if they had just gotten the mom from the above photo . . . you know, the mom that Obama REALLY wants to go back to school . . . she could have played Santa no problem! Just some white hairspray and she'd be good to go!
This new image shows me that the original was not a mistake or oversight. Indeed, it was a conscious decision to match the headline with the photo! Because that's not a new photo of "bearded mom" with a hat. No, that's a photoshopped hat on the original "bearded mom" photo, along with a revised subheadline! Time, effort, and thought went into creating and using that picture for this ad.
I'm really curious now. What are they thinking?
December 10, 2009
"Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago." - C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Graves
Samurai art by Tim Baron, (c) 2009
December 9, 2009
Now, the question I have is if this program is open to ANY mom? Or just moms who could play the part of Joseph in their church's nativity scene?
Look, I know they just use stock photos for these ads. I understand that the people in these ads has nothing to do with the product being advertised. But don't you think who ever is responsible for these ads would think "If I'm going to use the headline 'Obama Asks Moms to Return to School', I probably shouldn't use the picture that looks like the mug shot of a guy who just got arrested for domestic terrorism after spending three months in the mountains"?
Then again, I'm glad they didn't. Everytime I look at this ad, I can't help giggling. I kept the screen with this ad active in my browser for a few minutes. As an advertisement, it did it's job. I caught my attention and kept it.
December 4, 2009
When I go running, I find myself facing two things: growing fatigue and growing discouragement. And when I run and I start to feel tired and discouraged, I find myself lowering my head. Pushing through. I started running with my head down even when I wasn't tired or discouraged. It just became the way I usually did it. Now, I don't mean my head was bowed and I wasn't looking where I was going, but generally speaking my face was angled down. My eyes were looking ahead maybe half a block, if that.
When I noticed this at one point when I was just not feeling like I was going anywhere, and I lifted my head and fixed my eyes on a point down the road. It seemed to me that this SHOULD be more discouraging. It was a LONG stretch of road ahead. (Actually sidewalk, but who care.) But instead, I found a bit more energy. Looking ahead of me, I was able to run with more purpose. I had a destination. I wasn't focused on where I was; I was focused on where I was going.
If you are creative artist, you've got approach things in much the same way. You can't just focus on where you are, you have to be looking ahead at where you're going.
Doing this can requires having a destination in mind. With a run, I know my destination. Down the road, around the corner, and back home. But if you are a writer or artist, the destination is not nearly so well defined.
That means you've got to define it yourself!
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1. Personal Goals. Personal goals are just that: personal. These are somewhat abstract goals, and some of them may never really feel like they've been attained because they are really a work in progress. These can be goals like "learn something new today" or "be the best I can be".
These personal goals are goals that help you become more self-aware. They are goals that cause you to take a look at who you are and how you do things and, hopefully, push you to be better. Because they are abstract, I debated not putting them on this list, but I think that as you strive to be a better, successful creative artist, you also need to strive to be a better human being. These are spiritual goals.
The success of these goals can be hard to measure. "Hmm, I'm a 7 in 'be a better person' today." it just doesn't happen, does it?
In writing and art, it is just as hard to measure. Saying you'll "write better" is difficult to measure, yes, but setting goals like that will cause you to take steps toward achieving them. You may not be able to see how much better you are in your chosen art on a day to day basis, but you will be able to see if you've worked toward bettering yourself or not every day.
These goals are abstract, as I said, and as a result are somewhat amorphous. That's okay. As you grow and change, these goals should grow and change with you.
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2. Professional Goals. Professional goals are hard, because success is, honestly, out of your own hands. You can set a goal like "get an agent in two years" or "get published before 2012", but the success of these goals lie in the hand of agents, editors, and publishers. And frankly, they don't have the same enthusiasm for your goals as you do.
Still, it is good to set these goals. Use them as milestones you can point to as you grow as a writer or artist. For me, in the past, one of my professional goals was to be published by someone other than myself (Community Comics, a comic book publisher, was run by myself and three other men -- being published by Community didn't count) before I turned thirty. And when I was 29, Image Comics published The Hedge Knight. My current professional goal is to have another project lined up before my current project is finished. The first of these goals was about my career, the second of these goals is tied directly to providing for my family.
But do not let them get you down if you do not make those goals. These goals are meant to help you move forward, not stop you in your tracks. If you find a goal becoming unattainable or if you do not make one of these goals, adjust them. Or use the failed goal as an opportunity to assess what you are doing to meet the goals. If "get published before I turn thirty" is a goal, and on your thirtieth birthday you still haven't been published, take a look at what you've done to meet that goal. Is it because you didn't write anything? Or is it because you just never found the right connection with a publisher, even though you did try? Do you need to get some help with your cover letters?
Success with these goals means moving on to the next goal; failure means assessing what went wrong and addressing it for the future. Either way, you're pushing yourself to become better.
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3. Practical Goals. Practical goals, unlike professional goals, are completely in your hands. These are things that can range from the tiny to the enormous. And they provide the most encouragement, I think, when things get tiring or discouraging. Challenges like NaNoWriMo, in which people set a goal to complete a novel in a month, or the 24-Hour Comic, in which people write and draw twenty-four pages in twenty-four hours, are extreme examples of a practical goal. There's a timeline (one month or twenty-four hours) and at the deadline there's a tangible product (a novel or a comic book). Practical goals can include things like "1000 words a day" or "half a page of art a day" or "three submissions this month".
A practical goal is a goal that you can easily measure. It is a goal that gives tangible results. And, as a result, it is a goal that will often times encourage you as you look at your other goals.
As with the professional goals: success means moving on to the next goal; failure means assessing what went wrong and addressing it. You should have both long range and short range practical goals, for immediate accomplishment and satisfaction and to have as a destination to strive toward.
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There is a fourth type of goal-setting. It is one that I didn't think of until just now, and it is one that many people do not think is valid. It is one that other people put too much stock in. Me? i think it is important. However, I think that you can't build your career on it.
4. Dreams. These are those big idea, crazy wishes. For me, an example would be that I have a dream to write a Man-Thing story for Marvel Comics or an Aquaman story for DC Comics. It's a dream. It fits into my career nicely, but it's not a practical goal by any stretch. Marvel and DC have plenty of amazing writers at their beck and call. The likelihood that they might be interested in someone like me writing a C-List character like Man-Thing and Aquaman (although Aquaman SHOULD be an A-List character!) . . .
Well, let's just say it's a dream. It's not bad to dream.
Some people say "there's dreamers and there's doers". I disagree, I think we need to be a little bit of both. But don't let your "dream" of selling your science fiction novel idea to Steven Spielberg get in the way of, you know, actually writing the novel!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So keep your head up! Keep your eyes on the road ahead! With each step, with each day, push yourself to be not just the BEST you can be, but to be BETTER!
November 13, 2009
So, I'm working and my friend David sends me an e-mail with a link to this old television special. If you thought Star Wars Holiday Special was terrible . . . wait until you see this:
Donny and Marie's Star Wars special!
It has everything: dancing stormtrooper, terrible puns, Red Foxx (complaining that this year planet Sanford "has no sun" -- his show Sanford and Son came back in 1980, but it was just called "Sanford"), Darth Vader escaping in the (SPOILER) (what?), jokes about the "farce", jokes about dental hygiene. But, really, you just need to see it to believe it:
I have to say, the designs for the female troopers were kind of cool. And hey, at least they got the whole "Luke and Leia are brother and sister" thing right!
But listen, I can't drop this proton torpedo on you and just leave it like that. I want people to like me when they come to this blog. So from the WORST of Star Wars, we come to some of the BEST of Star Wars:
RALPH MCQUARRIE'S WEBSITE!!!
I jsut discovered this website last week. It has a whole lot of his concept designs from Star Wars and many other movies. I happen to love Mr. McQuarrie's concept designs, some of them moreso than what actually ended up on film. My local comic shop has some action figure sets based on his character designs, and I almost bought them and used them as models for my 24 Hour Comic. The main problem with that being I didn't have the $90 for the two sets and I can't draw people worth two cents.
So, in this blog post we get a glimpse at the best and worst of what Star Wars can do when it captures your imagination.
I don't know what this means. I'm sure some sort of spiritual application could be made . . . but truthfully, my brain hurts too much after wartching Donnie and Marie to really put that much thought into things.
November 7, 2009
Here's a quick peek at some stuff I've done so far:
These are the character designs I decided on:
Some sort of "beast of burden":
Deadly little guy, this:
The "bad guys", so to speak . . . I will prob not keep the "mustache":
The protagonist. I like the puppet vibe of this guy.
So you can see why I'm a little bit embarrassed of my progress. However, keep in mind I am a writer. not an artist.
Doing this ALWAYS gives me an appreciation for artists!
You can follow my progress on Twitter, where I update a few times every hour or so. I'm @whisperingloon and I'm using the hashtag #bens24hourcomic for it.
October 31, 2009
Here's my two word review of "Where the Wild Things Are":
Yes, it had some AWESOME character design and character portrayal. The effects were amazing, and my wife was disappointed to find out that the facial effects were CGI, but it was nearly impossible to tell where digital effects began and practical effects ended.
But the movie had a weak narrative and a weak resolution. I love Spike Jonze's work, and I expected to love Where the Wild Things Are because of that. Adaptation is an amazing film that anyone who wants to be involved in any type of story telling art needs to watch. Being John Malkovich was a work of beauty, and the puppeteering scenes are breathtaking. His movies aren't traditional, and that's okay. But this movie was unsatisfying.
Where the Wild Things Are, ultimately, COULD've been a heart felt, fun, children's movie that resonated on a deep level with adults. Where the Wild Things Are, instead, was a well crafted downer of an adult therapy session working out childhood issues.
You can't deny the craft and art of this movie, but ultimately it was a MISSED OPPORTUNITY for what could have been a great movie -- a heartfelt, fun, children's movie that resonated on a deep level with adults. Instead, we're given a well crafted downer of an adult therapy session working out childhood issues.
The saddest thing about Where the Wild Things Are is that the great children's movie that could be made from the book will NEVER HAPPEN.
October 30, 2009
A bit longer quote today. My friend Tim Baron pointed me at an article in the C.S. Lewis collection of essays "God in the Dock" that I hadn't read for a LONG time. Pulling that book out to peek at the article he wanted me to read, I left it in our front room. Tonight, I picked it up and flipped through it and found myself getting interested in another essay, and there was this passage:
"Until quite modern times -- I think, until the times of the Romantics -- nobody ever suggested that literature and the arts were and end in themselves. They 'belonged to the ornamental part of life', they provided 'innocent diversion'; or else they 'refined our manners' or 'incited us to virtue' or glorified the gods. The great music had been written for Masses, the great pictures painted to fill up a space on the wall of a noble patron's dining-room or to kindle devotion in a church; the great tragedies were produced either by religious poets in honor of Dionysus or by commercial poets to entertain Londoners on half-holidays.
"It was only in the nineteenth century that we became aware of the full dignity of art. We began to 'take it seriously' . . . But the result seems to have been a dislocation of the aesthetic life in which little is left for us but high-minded works which fewer and fewer people want to read or hear or see, and 'popular' works of which both those who make them and those who enjoy them are half ashamed . . . (By) valuing too highly a real, but subordinate good, we have come near to losing that good itself."
From "First and Second Things" in God in the Dock
"The Way of the Writer" articles:
The Weight of the Writer
Intentionality, part 1
Nothing New Under the Sun
Intentionality, part 2
It's So Rewarding
Samurai art by Tim Baron, (c) 2009
October 22, 2009
Don't be a blockhead . . .
The blank screen can be interchanged with the blank page or the blank canvass. You know, there just comes a point where you gotta start making some marks so it will stop being blank!
I'm realizing that drawing W.S. is really becoming a self-portrait. I'm afraid that posting these things is almost posting too much information about my life!
My good friend Tim Baron, who also happens to be THE Tim Baron who drew the samurai from the above image, e-mailed me after looking at my "Writer S. Blockhead" cartoon about inspiration. Basically, he said, "You need to block about what to do when that inspiration doesn't come."
The answer is not easy, and I'm pretty sure there's no really good right answer. The closest I can come to, and what I was trying to hit with the cartoon, was this:
Do something about it.
So saying this, I reminded of the financial expert from Saturday Night Live last year:
But there's more to what I'm saying than just, "Identify the problem; fix it!"
When inspiration just falls, it's heavenly. It's a feeling unlike any other. It's like connecting with God. It's almost as if the Creator says, "I'm going to give you a glimpse into what it's like to be me." When words flow, it's an amazing and powerful and triumphant thing. (Speaking of the initial output. Sometimes, it feels bad when, looking over the work, it's not as good as you thought!)
Conversely, when words do not flow it can be a frustrating and terrible thing. It hurts. It's demoralizing. It feels like, at the worst of times, a complete disconnection with the world, with God, and with self. At best, it's a source of frustration.
And there are other factors, too, and when those other factors figure in it's even worse. A lack of inspiration in the face of a deadline, self-imposed or not, makes it even worse. For me, recently, I faced a writer's block when I had to get a project done so we could pay our upcoming mortgage. Talk about heaping a nice scoop of terrible onto a plate full of awful.
But here's where it comes down to that whole "fix it!' idea. (And actually, this ties into my next Writer's Blockhead cartoon.) If you don't feel inspired, you have two choices: put down your pen or pencil or keyboard or whatever and walk away, or push through. Make it happen.
The inspiration didn't fall like rain today? Do a rain dance! You gotta call down the rain, man!
How? Praying helps. Going for a walk. Taking a break. Those sorts of things. The article I came across from Yahoo about energy has some good things to do that will stimulate the ol' brain cells. These books, Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block and The Write Type (both available in my "Way of the Writer" bookstore -- ordering from it gives me a little kick back . . . just sayin'), have a lot of practical advice as well as some introspective exercises that can reveal some interesting things about how your unique creativity and your creative process.
But there comes a point where you just have to do it. Make yourself do something, anything, no matter how awful it feels like it will end up being. If, like Writer S. Blockhead in the cartoon, you're just going to wait for inspiration to fall on you, it's not going to happen. Getting inspired, sometimes, is a battle, not a gift. It is something that you must choose to go after. It is something you have to fight for. You have to pursue inspiration when it does not pursue you.
Some practical ideas:
- set goals for yourself -- concrete goals you can keep track of like page or word counts
- spend time surrounded by other creative people who are also working on something creative
- just write or doodle, letting whatever happens happen, and then "ride that wave" into whatever it is you want to work on
- take a break that involves physical activity -- this will not only stimulate different parts of the brain, it will get blood flowing to your brain as well
- work on something else, perhaps something smaller, especially something that can bring about a feeling of success
(Ironically, Tim didn't know this, but the next Writer S. Blockhead cartoon also tackles this subject.)
Other "The Way of the Writer" articles:
The Weight of the Writer
Intentionality, part 1
Nothing New Under the Sun
Intentionality, part 2
It's So Rewarding
Samurai art by Tim Baron, (c) 2009
October 20, 2009
Just read an awesome article that popped up on my front page when I fired up my computer this morning.
It's about energy, and how to effectively fight against habits that drain your energy during the day. And it's amazing, I think, how much this applies not just to a 9 to 5 setting, but to writing as well.
The link: http://health.yahoo.com/featured/50/out-of-energy/
Let's see, which ones am I guilty of?
Energy Zapper #1: Being Addicted to E-mail
Check. And it's not just e-mail. Twitter, I've learned, can be a creative black hole for me. How much energy have I spent composing a message, rewriting it multiple times to make it fit into the 140 character limit.
Energy Zapper #2: Visual Clutter
Check. That little cartoon I just did is accurate in one sense: I'll spend time tidying up when I really should be writing. It's inaccurate in another sense: my desk has never, ever been THAT clean!
Energy Zapper #3: Being Bored
Check. I've found that often when I tackle a new project, or come back from a break on a project, I have a hard time getting into it. I think part of that comes from the idea they talk about in the article: "Ever sat around for an hour or more not tackling a chore or work because it's just so darned monotonous? Mental foot-dragging, boredom and lack of motivation are draining, says Dr. Salerno. "Put simply, we like to see results, and getting things done gives us a mental energy boost." So avoiding tasks deprives you of that high."
Their solution is one that I plan to explore in a future "Way of the Writer": I call it the "Biggest Loser factor", but that's just because The Biggest Loser made me think of it. From the article: "Find a partner for encouragement."
Energy Zapper #4: Poor Posture
Check! Check! Check!
Energy Zapper #5: Toxic Indoor Air
No. Well, at least one of these doesn't count against me. Working in the home has SOME advantages!
Energy Zapper #6: Eating Too Much at Once
Check. But not as big of a check as it used to be!
Energy Zapper #7: Living in Artificial Light
Check. When I was running outside, this wasn't as big of a factor. Now, however, I'm using an exercise machine that's in the same room where I do all my work! I really need to remember to get outside more.
Energy Zapper #8: Listening to Negative Nellies
Not check! First of all, working in the home has some more advantages here. I determine who and what I listen to. But there have been some toxic people that I've just had to cut myself off from, because I let myself get sucked in and I realized that I didn't like that. And when they couldn't or wouldn't stop, even after I tried to talk about it with them, I chose to stop.
This happened when I was a teacher as well. I stopped eating in the teacher's lounge because, frankly, the teacher's lounge is a bastion of negativity and toxicity. Those teachers called it blowing off steam. I called it mean-spirited and ugly. And I found myself doing it, too! So I took to making intentional contact with teachers who were not like that, and found my own attitude changing in the process!
Energy Zapper #9: Holding a Grudge
This goes back to #8 as well, though. I've used the word before: "toxic". They use it in the article, too. A grudge doesn't just hurt you, it poisons the people around you. Forgiveness isn't just for the other person, when we forgive it helps us heal as well!
This article is an excellent article, all things considered. The many different solutions for office productivity also apply, I believe, to my writing.
What do you think? Which of these apply to you?
October 19, 2009
October 16, 2009
Join W. S. Blockhead as he seeks to fend off a nasty case of writer's block!
I'll post one or two of these every so often. I'm not an artist, and it shows, but I enjoy drawing. Hopefully that shows too!
Drawn w/ a sharpee on one of those slightly larger than normal index cards.
October 15, 2009
Seems that someone actually purchased one of my sketch covers that I drew for the Marvel 70th Anniversary party (detailed here).
When I went in a few days ago, I noticed that "Avengers Assemble" was no longer on the shelf!
Whoever it is, I hope you enjoy it!
Personally, this is very interesting. I'm keeping my eye on these things and prepping some material right now for both the iPhone and the Kindle. A B&N reader adds another into the mix, along with the Sony Reader.
October 14, 2009
In the book Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period. by Karen E. Peterson, Ph.D. (is it bad that I actually enjoyed putting so many periods into this sentence before the end?), Dr. Peterson has a chapter about rewarding yourself for writing.
It's an interesting concept, and one worth exploring . . . writer's block or no. I found that I already did this, although in two different ways. On one hand, whenever I finished a large project I used to "celebrate" by going to a movie. (I usually go alone. Every time I start a new large project my wife and I flirt with the idea of going out to dinner together as a celebration, but that usually doesn't happen. Four kids, you know. These days, if we get to go out on a date, it's jut to celebrate being able to get a baby-sitter!) The other reward has been being able to pay the bills.
Peterson's strategy is different, and more structured. Every minute you spend writing, reward with another minute of something else. In some ways, the reward strategy becomes a replacement for the things you were using so you wouldn't write. An example she gives is this: checking e-mail. Think about that. Instead of checking your e-mail when you should be writing, you use checking e-mail as a reward for writing! She uses a one to one formula for the "time" rewards. Twenty minutes of writing "equals" twenty minutes of reward time.
It's an interesting concept. I'm not sure I could pull off the 1:1 ratio of reward time . . . until I think about how much time I waste when I really should be writing. Just last night, I sat in front of the television with a movie, thinking to myself, "This would be a good time to work on that one idea."
Looking at my day, I see a lot of wasted time. A lot. And, as much as the phone commercials would like you to believe . . . time cannot be recycled.
That doesn't mean that time used to do things like watch tv or reading a book is automatically wasted time! Not at all! We need to recharge our batteries, take in some input when we're spending so much time pouring out. But, with a personality like mine, it easily becomes wasted time. It easily and quickly goes from "recharging my batteries" to "being lazy". That's where I need to work.
September 29, 2009
Peter Kreeft: Not a podcast in the usual sense: this isn't someone sitting down at a computer and recording his thoughts, it's actually free recordings of Peter Kreeft's lectures. Kreeft is a scholar and theologian and expert on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. His "podcasts" are interesting and insightful, dealing with spirituality, literature, and more often than not connecting the two. Already, I've enjoyed Kreeft's writings in hte past. Finding his lectures online was an incredible discovery.
Kaijucast: Kyle Yount is a huge kaiju fan. (Kaiju, basically, is the Japanese word for giant monsters like Godzilla.) Kaijucast has news, reviews, and interviews about Japanese monster movies and related things. He always has a guest with him, which is a good thing. I can't stand listening to people just talking on and on at length about things, even though they are things that interest me. I'd much rather listen to the give and take of a conversation. If you're a fan of giant monsters (like I am) you'll enjoy this podcast.
Gateworld Podcast: I'm a Trekster. And ironically, the best Star Trek podcast I've listened to is actually a Stargate podcast! I enjoy Stargate, and recently I've started watching many of the episodes free on Hulu.com, which has been a lot of fun. I can't remember how I stumbled on this podcast, but it was around the time the Star Trek movie came out, and I noticed they had a review of the movie in one of their episodes, so I downloaded it. It's a fun podcast, again a podcast with more than one host. The primary focus is Stargate, but they drift into many other geek areas, like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc.
Old Time Radio: A lot of old time radio is in the public domain, or something that resembles the public domain. I don't know, really, what it is. Here's a few old time radio shows that have been converted into podcasts that I enjoy listening to:
Gunsmoke: Marshall Matt Dillon keeps the peace in Dodge City in this series, which is pretty gritty at times and touching at other times. Sometimes the bad guys get away, sometimes the good guys make mistakes, and there's a dramatic tension that makes for good storytelling. Much of that coems from likable characters. I just started listening to some of these episodes based on the recommendation of a friend. Glad I did.
Box 13: Because of this series, I want to see some movies with Alan Ladd, although I'm a bit afraid to do so! It cant match with my imagination of him from this series. Dan Holiday is a newspaper writer turned novelist who places an ad in the newspaper: "ADVENTURE WANTED! Will go anywhere, do anything. Write BOX 13, c/o Star-Times". He won't accept payment. Instead, payment comes in the form of the story ideas he gets. he won't break the law, although he frequently ends up as a suspect in a number of different crimes because of his adventures. Very fun, and Alan Ladd's portrayal of Holiday makes it awesome.
Six Shooter: Jimmy Stewart plays a thoughtful gunfighter. He plays the character in classic Jimmy Stewart fashion ("Well, now, let's think about this before you start shooting. I mean, I'm faster than you are and it wouldn't be wise to, you know, call me out.") The reputation of his character proceeds him, and as he travels from job to job, trying to just quietly get along, he ends up in some pretty serious and dangerous situations, and also in some pretty absurd and funny situations as well. How many westerns can you think of where the main character takes on a gang of cattle rustlers in one episode and then judges a town fair jam contest in the next?
Bold Venture: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall bring their chemistry and banter to this radio program. Every episode has them trading barbs and flirting while they deal with a crime in the Caribbean, usually something that has to do with Bogie's boat: The Bold Venture.
Zero Hour: Rod Serling hosted this series of suspense stories that were usually adaptations of current books. Each story was, at the beginning of the broadcast run, broken into five half hour episodes, which would air each weekday. I really enjoy these stories, although at first I was disappointed that they didn't have the same kind of "supernatual allegory" of Serling's Twilight Zone. This series was from the '70's.
Film Score Monthly: This is a great podcast that updates way too infrequently. They discuss different film scores, as you guessed from the title. I enjoy listening to film scores, and because of this podcast I've discovered a couple new scores to use while I'm writing. Again, this is a podcast with more than one host and they do a great job of making things informative and interesting.
MyMac Podcast: I'm a Mac guy, exclusively. This is the first Mac related podcast I've listened to. Truth is, I only started listening to it because of a Twitter contest they sponsored. But I like their podcast. Like the others I enjoy listening it, they have a topic that interests me, and they have more than one host, giving it a conversational give and take that is more enjoyable to listen to. I'm just getting into their podcast, and so far I want to keep on listening to it. They bring in guests and have news items and stuff. (Full disclosure: I actually won the contest! But that's not why I like their podcast.)
Here's a podcast I'm not listening to, but only because it hasn't started yet! Their first episode goes live tonight. There's a lot of webcomic podcasts out there, although all too often they can be pretty raw. This podcast looks to be something more in line with the type of thing I'd like ot listen to:
The Lightbox -- Illuminating Webcomics: From their website: "The podcast will focus on the craft of creating comics, the business side of the online comics industry, upcoming events, and webcomics news."
September 25, 2009
September 21, 2009
Practical intentionality. What's that all about? Well, it's about all the stuff you do in real life. Money. Family life. Spiritual life.
If you are a writer, you simply must take note of these other parts of your life. Writing and creating are good, but often I see people letting other things take a backseat to the creative parts of life.
Money isn't a bad thing. It makes the world go around and is the root of all evil, but it's not really a bad thing. But, if you are making a living with your writing/creativity or supplmenting your regular income with it, here's some things you should remember:
1. If someone pays you to write something, that's income. And you should report it on your taxes. When you are doing small jobs for people, it's easy to hide, but it's also illegal to hide it. If you made enough money to pay income taxes, and you got paid to write, it's part of that.
2. It's not a bad idea to get help when figuring out how to deal with those taxes. There are some special things you can do with your taxes when you write and make money . . . or even it's it's considered a hobby! Things like write off comic books. :) But you really should get help with that. My blog does not qualify as help, by the way. My blog is telling you to get help.
3. Be smart with your money. Keep track of it. Don't use credit cards. Etc. Creative people aren't really very good with numbers, often times. Keep track of your money and ask for help with taking care of it. Be intentional.
I've banged this drum in some other posts, but I'm doing it again here.
Creative types are too often lethargic types. Heck, Americans are too often lethargic types! DO NOT let that be you.
Now, if you're like me it's either too late or it's getting to be too late. By "too late" I mean you're already overweight and getting worse. But it's NOT too late to get started taking care of that!
If you work a desk job, any desk job, it means you need to work extra hard at getting yoru body healthy and keeping your body healthy.
There simply is no reason not to set aside three hours every week to work at getting healthy! There simply is no reason to stop eating so unhealthily! (Bonus: it's being smart with your money, because if you eat less you're buying less!)
But writers and artists are already working low impact jobs. If you are into science fiction, fantasy, or comic books then you are even more likely not to be into physical activity. (Let's face it . . . you know it's true. The Simpsons' comic book guy wasn't created in a vacuum!)
But that doesn't mean you have to stay the cliché! But you have to be intentional about it! You simply must.
I've written enough about this, but I just want to close with this: a healthier life is a better, longer life. And a longer life means you get to share more stories with the world!
Americans don't just ignore the unhealthiness of their physical bodies. We're also pretty good at ignoring our spirit. This topic is a little difficult to talk about, of course, since so many people believe so many different things. Of course, I approach things from a Christan perspective.
But Christian or not, as a writer you spend a lot of time looking inward. When you are creating, you are playing the part of God. And if there's emptiness inside, that emptiness will be expressed. But if you are seeking truth in your life, that search will be expressed in your output.
The bottom line is this: you shouldn't just be seeking to be the best writer you can be. You should be striving to be the best person you can be . . . which will help you to be a better writer. You should be intentional with your entire life. You should strive to be empathetic in your relationships; this will help you get into your characters' skins. Healthy body = healthy mind. Etc.
The point is, you CAN be a great writer. But you have to be intentional about it.
September 11, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 12, 2009
It was a lot of fun and I got to see a lot of people I haven't seen for a while. We ate cake, which was good, and we decorated the cake, which was a LOT of fun.
Here's a picture of the cake:
The artwork was done by some of the artists who were at the party. I can't remember who did what, but you'll notice the Thing, Ghost Rider (drawn by my friend Andy Jewett), Human Torch, and Spider-Man (drawn by my Oz/Wonderland co-creator and artist Casey Heying). I also got in on the fun, drawing one of my favorite Marvel characters:
That wasn't the ONLY artwork I did, though. A special comic to commemorate the anniversary was put out by Marvel. The Marvels Project #1 went on sale at 9:00 PM on Tuesday across the country as many comic shops put on anniversary parties. One of the variant covers was a blank sketch cover. Now, the artists who showed up at the party last night are all talented guys and did some awesome sketches of things like Two Gun Kid, Stan Lee, the Avengers, G.I. Joe, and a number of other Marvel characters.
Not content to just sit back and watch, I decided to get in on the action. Of course, I couldn't just do a sketch . . . a drawing by me just isn't going to stand alone. I'm a writer. There's a reason you will probably never ever see me referred to as a writer/artist.
So if I was going to do this, I had to rely upon what I could do. Write. If my drawing was going to have any value, it would be in a different context. So here's what I drew:
The "Avengers Assemble" gag was the third one I drew. I like it, though. It's fun.
Here's the second one I drew. I got the idea from two sources: first, one of those awesome artists I was talking about drew an incredible sketch of Two Gun Kid riding through the Old West, and I made a joke like, "Hey, awesome Lone Ranger"; second, I just yesterday was reading Maurice Horn's book Comics of the American West, specifically a section about masked cowboys and the glut of them that appeared in the '40's and '50's, ripping off the Lone Ranger in an attempt to capitalize on superhero comics. (I'm reading the book because of my new-ish webcomic, Ace of Diamonds, which takes a public domain comic series about one of those masked cowboy rip-offs and "remixes" it -- I'm rewriting the dialogue and the plot but retaining the artwork to create a something new.)
The first one I drew is probably my favorite, though:
I love Aquaman and Sub-Mariner. Aquaman is the one DC character I'd like to get a chance to write. Sub-Mariner I like as a character, although I don't have the same desire to write him. However, I can't STAND Sub-Mariner's costume. I love that costume he wore in the '70's with the fin/wings and the jacket. The Speedo styled shorts with the shell belt buckle? Ugh.
Anyway, I had a fun time. Casey and Kelly know how to put on a fun party, and it was interesting to see the different people who came into the store for the festivities.
August 10, 2009
August 6, 2009
July 22, 2009
I bought a new book yesterday:
July 21, 2009
Favorite bits from the article include:
By Inner Four co-founder John Swartz’s own admission the app “doesn’t do anything.”
Even inside the company, the developer who created the app has become the butt of jokes. Its description on the App Store actively discourages users from downloading it, saying “Honestly, don’t download this. It is just a blank screen with a frame.”
AdWhirl’s co-founder Sam Yam says the app could generate as much as $2,000 a day in ad revenue. “Maybe because there’s no use for the application, they click on the ads,” says Swartz.