September 29, 2009

Podcasts I Listen To

A person's reading, viewing, and listening habits say a lot about them. Here's a peek into my listening habits. If you're visiting my blog, it's probably because you're interested in a lot of the same things I am, so you'll probably find something here that would interest you. My current crop of podcasts runs the gamut from serious to geeky . . .

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.)

EXTRA CREDIT:

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."

~ Ben

September 25, 2009

September 21, 2009

THE WAY OF THE WRITER: Intentionality, part 2

This is the second part of my thoughts on "Intentionality".


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

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.

FITNESS

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!

SPIRITUALLY

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

~ Ben

September 11, 2009

Some Freaky Cool Blogs

Okay, here's a short list of some really funny blogs out there.

Animals with Lightsabers: Someone posted this link through Twitter and it's AWESOME. I wish there were more to it, but it seems to be relatively new. Some of those pictures look just plain hilarious. The title alone should say it all. It is what it is: animals with lightsabers.

Awkward Family Photos: This one has been around longer, has a much larger database, and, honestly, is a lot more funny. As much as I love kittens wielding Star Wars inspired weapons . . . these pictures are just a bit more universal. And painful to look at. All you can think while looking at these pictures is "thank God no one has sent mine in".

Check them out.

~ Ben

September 5, 2009

I'm Batman . . . (last night, in my house, that meant something!)

So it's been a little while since I've just done a fun update here.

Actually, it's been a little while since I've done ANY posts!

See, I've had some heavy duty deadlines that I had to meet, for Hand of the Morningstar and for the Christ project I'm working on.

But last night, I got to be a superhero in my house!

Two years ago, I posted this about mice in my house. We've had mice in our house since then (not as often as I've expected, actually), but last night . . . last night we had something else. And last night . . . I was Batman . . .



I watched an awesome movie last night. Started it at 10:00, meaning I didn't get to bed until after midnight. My wife was asleep. I put on my iPod and listened to a bit of an old time radio podcast . . . but heard something rustling in the corner. As I popped out the earbuds, my wife heard it as well and snapped awake. We listened for a moment and then, while confused about having a mouse in our room (we've NEVER had mice upstairs, that we know of; we never bring food upstairs), I went downstairs and got a trap ready. I set two traps downstairs in the usual spots (if a mouse was upstairs, that had to mean they were downstairs) and brought one upstairs to put in that corner, by the dresser, where the rustling could be heard.

My wife couldn't sleep, so she read for a while. Then, we heard it. The mouse, again. That quick? Was he really going for the trap already? We heard something that sounded like a soft thud. The trap? Then, in the dim light of my wife's reading lamp we saw it. Flying around our room . . .

A bat.

My wife and I have two doors in our room: one to the hallway, one to the bathroom. We shut those doors and went into my daughter's room, where the attic access is, to check . . . I don't know what, actually. Apparently, we didn't shut the door quick enough, because while I was in the closet, my wife said, "Ben! It's in here!"

Suddenly, my wife is screaming to my three daughters (who were now awake) to cover their heads with their blankets; the bat is flying back and forth in their room; my two oldest girls are crying and screaming and terrified and confused and, amazingly, covering their heads with their blankets; my youngest daughter is just laying in her bed, watching calmly, sucking her thumb like this is a normal, everyday occurrence; and I'm trying to figure out what we're going to do.

I decide to get the girls out of there and try to trap the bat in THAT room, but as soon as I grab my middle daughter and before I can even explain to my wife what I want to do, the bat leaves the room. Problem solved. We put my son in the girls' room (he was awake by now, and there was NO way he was going to miss out on the action) and I trapped the bat in he bathroom (which has two doors -- one to our room and one to the hallway).

I'm going to catch this thing.

I try to net it in a bed-sheet for a little while, tossing the sheet out like a net while its flying back and forth in the bathroom. No dice. Not even close. The bat finally lands up on top of the windowsill. I leave it alone. It's obviously better at this game than I am . . . but I'm not done. I'm not going to give up. This bat is mine.

My wife and the kids, rather than be cooped up in the girls' room, all go downstairs while I plan my new strategy. It's 2:30. Other my middle two girls being terrified to the point of tears and shaking, it's party time. My wife breaks out the milk and graham crackers, let's them play some educational computer games.

There's no open doorway upstairs, nor are there any windows without screens in them. This bat cannot be made to go outside. I have to catch it.

My plan: a wet towel, an oatmeal can, and a plastic colander and plate. Step one: use the colander to catch the bat on the windowsill, because it's so close to the ceiling it's hard to get anything else up there in that corner, then slide the plate under it. Step two: if the colander just disturbs it, and it's able to fly away, hope it lands on the floor, clap the oatmeal container on it, slide the lid on. Step three: if it doesn't land, throw the wet towel on it while it's flying. Step four: take it down to the empty giant garbage can outside.

I look at that bat, and it's obvious to me none of those plans will work. I decide to skip steps 1-3, skip to 4. I get that garbage can and the lid, thinking I'll just use the lid to pull it off the windowsill and right into the garbage can.

That just makes it fly away, and it flies to the doorway that leads into the hall. It crawls under the door and stops halfway. Out-loud, I say to that thing, "You're smart, but I'm smarter."

It's thinking, I'm sure, "You're the one talking to a bat. How smart can you be?"

I run through the other door, into our room, and into the hallway. New plan. Set the oatmeal can over the bat, push open the door, and BAM! Snap the oatmeal can on it.

I look down at that little bat. It looks up at me. It's tiny. Flying around, it seemed so much bigger. It had a wide wingspan, and especially in the dark, when it was fluttering around, it seemed huge!

We look at each other for a moment, and I go to make my move. I put the can over it and it backs back into the bathroom. I hear it screech.

This ends now, I think. It flies back and forth, back and forth, trying to find a way to escape. There is no escape.

I pick up the garbage can. Slowly, I close in on it, holding the can up in the air. It flies by me, veering off, its flight path shortened with my every step . . .

I watch. I wait.

It avoids the can.

It will not go past me.

"C'mon," I hiss. "Closer."

It comes close to the open end of the can. Close enough! I swing the lid of the can around, force the bat inside the garbage can, and slam the can on the ground a I force the lid into place.

I stop. I listen. I look. I see nothing in the room. But I can't hear . . . wait. Yes! It's in the garbage can!

I did it.

The kids didn't calm down, even after we all decided to sleep downstairs in the living room. Party time. Celebratory, this time. Eventually, they fell asleep. But I couldn't.

Yeah. I was the superhero in my house last night. Last night, I was Batman.


~ Ben