Tag: rant (page 1 of 8)

From The Vault: An (Old) Writerly Rant

It’s been two years since I first went off on this particular rant. I’ve updated some text accordingly.

Red Pen

“[A] writing career is about putting a bucket on your head and trying to knock down a brick wall. It’s either you or the wall.”

~Chuck Wendig

Reality’s a stone-cold bitch. That’s why I mostly write fiction.

I identify first and foremost as a writer, not necessarily a programmer or a social media guru or mediocre gamer. As such I’ve come to accept several truths about myself.

  • Any emotional problems from which I actually suffer will be exacerbated by the short-sighted stubborn sociopathy inherent of being a writer.
  • If I take up writing as a full-time profession I am going to dodge debt collectors and utility bills even more than I do now. (Don’t panic, family members, my knees are unbroken and will remain so. I’m just not dining on steak and drinking cognac. More like dining on pasta and drinking cheap pop.)
  • The longer I do not write full time and cram writing in whenever I can into the nooks and crannies of a packed schedule, fueled by whatever energy I can spare, the more my writing is going to suffer for it and the less likely I am to get published before I’m facing off against Gandalf and Dumbledore in a long white beard growing competition. Which I’ll win because they’re fictional.
  • While writing is an evolutionary process that requires several drafts, torrents of trial and error, and accepting that one’s final effort might still be a flaming pile of poo, processes in the professional world are very different, and being writerly will rarely be tolerated long in the face of clients who want what they want yesterday for less than they want to pay. If you don’t get something right the first time, there’s the door, don’t let it hit you on those fancy pants you thought you were wearing.
  • I am never, ever, for as long as I keep breathing, going to give up writing.

Sure, I’ll be miserable more often than not. Who isn’t? I’ve learned to seize and capitalize on my joy when I find it. The smile of a loved one. Pulling off a win in Hearthstone. Meeting fellow geeks in person instead of just over the Tweetsphere. The open road on a sunny day. Enforcing. A decent movie or video game with a coherent story and three-dimensional characters. My mom’s cooking and my dad’s laughter. Good pipe tobacco.

And finishing a story.

That’s the hidden beauty of writing. If you do it right, you get to finish it multiple times. After your first draft, you go back and edit it. And when you get through the edit? Guess what, you finished it. Awesome!

Now go do it again.

Work, edit, revise, cross out, swear, drink, work, write, grind, swear, edit, DING.

In my experience it’s not a case of diminishing returns. The next round of edits might not be as heady in its completion as the last, but it’ll be different and it’ll still be good. And let me tell you, it’s a long hard road to get there.

Even if you do write for a living, you still have to produce. Instead of the aforementioned clients you have looming deadlines, a constant and gnawing doubt that your writing just won’t be good enough and the cold knowledge that at least a dozen younger, hungrier and more talented penjockeys are just waiting for you to fuck up so they can take your place, and your paycheck. Pressure from clients or deadlines or those lean and hungry wolves becomes pressure on you, pound after pound after pound of it, and when you go home at night with even more words unwritten, you’re going to feel every ounce of that pressure on your foolish head, and every word you haven’t written will pile on top, each one an additional gram of concentrated dark-matter suck.

It’s a love affair with someone who never returns you calls when you need them but always calls just when you think you can’t take another day of this tedious, soul-eroding bullshit.

I said earlier I mostly write fiction. This, for example, isn’t ficton. I wouldn’t mind writing more recollections like this, but guess what, I’m not getting paid for it (I could be if somehting hadn’t gone wrong with my ad block, thank you SO much for that, Google Ads). My movie & game reviews, short stories, commentary on geek minutae, Art of Thor series, IT CAME FROM NETFLIX!, the Beginner’s Guide to Westeros? Not a dime. I don’t write any of that because I get paid for it. I do it to entertain those couple dozen of you who cruise by here every day. I do it because I feel I’ve got something to say that hasn’t quite been said this way before.

And yes, I do it because I love it.

It’s in my blood and my bones. It keeps me awake at night more than bills or code or politics or Protoss cheese or ruminations on the Holy Ghost. And since I doubt I’m going to be getting rid of it at this point in my life, I might as well embrace it and make the most of it.

I’m going to suffer more hardship. I might have to move, or change jobs again, or go through some embarassing procedure because I tried to hock my words at passers-by on the train and had made one of the first drafts of my manuscript into what I felt was a fetching kilt (nae trews Jimmy) and a matching hat that may or may not have been styled after those conical straw numbers you see atop badass samurai in Kurosawa movies.

So be it.

Say it with me, writers.

I will not whine.
I will not blubber.
I will not make mewling whimpering cryface pissypants boo-hoo noises.
I will not sing lamentations to my weakness.

I am the Commander of these words.
I am the King of this story.
I am the God of this place.
I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.


500 Words on Personal Space

Today I’m taking a break from talking about stories and games. Today there’s something on my mind that really bothers me. Since it’s not personal, I won’t be tucking it away in a note or text post elsewhere. It’s going to be here, for all to see. Because not only is this bothering me, I think it’s important.

We all have the right to some personal space. The more we can get, the better, especially in times of trouble. Sometimes, our circumstances dictate that we only get a small measure of it at home. But public parks are always there; go for a walk or drive, find an out of the way park, wander away from the parking area, and just breathe for a few minutes. Get away. Escape, if you must. Reclaim some personal space, even if it’s in the outdoors.

I’m not just talking about physical space, either. As amazing as the human brain is, there’s only so much room within our minds for things on a day to day basis. It can be occupied with tasks at hand, projects to complete, concepts for new endeavors, recollections of the past, and hopes for the future. It can also start to get crowded by other people. The concerns, needs, and imposition of others takes up headspace. It occupies personal space. It crowds out the thoughts we need for ourselves.

We want to be there for our friends. We have moments where we are the ones in need, as well. Neither of these things is bad. It’s part of human nature. But when you start to forcibly occupy someone else’s headspace because you can’t stand to be alone, or you’re overly worried about something, you become selfish. Friends will be there for you, yes, but you can neither expect nor demand that they sacrifice all of their time and resources for you and you alone whenever you want. A legitimate, extant crisis is one thing. The anticipation of something that may turn out better than you expect is quite another. If you want your friends to still be your friends, and you want them to be there for you in the former, do not crowd out their personal space in the latter.

Let me give you a specific example. You have something coming up that worries you. You contact a friend for support. This is fine. You have a conversation with them, maybe two. Sweet! But then they start not answering your calls right away. You follow up with a text, and do not get an immediate response. What do you do?

If you continuously text, get angry when they do not respond, call them selfish for not giving you their attention when you demand it, and get angry when they give their attention to others instead of you, you’re not only taking up their personal space, you’re making a mess in there. You are decorating your so-called friend’s personal emotional space with your bullshit.

Be a friend. Stop that.

Mother, Should I Trust The Government?

Courtesy Warner Bros.

You know, I had a nice, light post ready for today. I was going to talk more about big robots. Go into a little more detail about where my love of the genre comes from. Give Pacific Rim a bit more love. But I can’t in good conscience do that. Why, you ask?

My government is having a tantrum that puts most four-year-olds to shame right now.

More specifically, the House of Representatives is doing the governmental equivalent of crossing its arms, pouting, and refusing to do anything whatsoever because it didn’t get what it wanted. It didn’t convince the President and the Senate to consider changing the Affordable Care Act. So, this august body of elected officials has decided that if it ain’t happy, nobody’s happy, and has pulled the plug on the federal government. The Library of Congress? Closed. NASA? Shut down. Employees? Out of a job, at least for the time being. A lot of so-called journalists are asking “Who’s to blame?” and pointing fingers at the President, at the House, at the Tea Party…

and it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, even if the answer should be fairly obvious to a reasonable human being. I would love to just tell everybody I know what bad news the Tea Party is or has been for years, but Chuck Wendig’s already covered that far better than I ever could. In the end, though, it’s not about blame. It shouldn’t be about who’s at fault for the United States government being in this sorry state. What should matter is, how are people going to live? Why are families with no connection to this particular debate being made to suffer because of obstinate thinking and overblown rhetoric on such a massive scale?

And what can we, the people, do about it?

That’s probably not a question the government wants us to consider. They’d like us to forget that “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is the assumed manner under which they’re meant to operate. Instead, for years the government (Congress in particular) has operated of themselves, by themselves, for themselves. I’m not a big conspiracy nut, but I don’t consider this a conspiracy. In fact, in light of recent events, it seems rather obvious. With rhetoric aimed at instilling fear and pointing fingers, they have taken power away from the constituents and squirreled it away in the hopes of putting the disenfranchised in an even worse position so they can elevate themselves. As much as I think making the blame game the central question of the shutdown is detrimental to progress, it should be clear that no matter how it began, the end result of this is a government uninterested in the common citizen to the point of refusing to do what’s in the population’s best interest.

I’m not saying we should rise up against our leaders. I’m not calling for revolution or anarchy or anything like that. Violence won’t solve this. It’ll just make things worse.

However, I don’t want this to be forgotten.

Sooner or later, the parties will come back to the table. Some sort of compromise will be negotiated. A deal will be struck. And the government, Congress in particular, will hope that we just forget this ever happened.

If you and I have anything to say about it, we will never forget.

We should remain vocal. We should assert our rights. We should make our leaders aware of what this will cost them. We should keep in touch with one another, do what we can to keep ourselves going, share stories, offer comfort. And we should vote.

I’m not calling on my fellow Americans to take up arms. Instead, I want them to remember.

I know the first of October does not lend itself to catchy rhymes as much as the fifth of November does, but…

Hey, I’m just saying.

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

The Abuse of Opinion

Courtesy Penny Arcade

We live in a day and age where it can be scary to think for oneself.

This should not be the case. Today’s world is more connected and coherent than ever before. Some countries are still outside of certain loops, of course, and there are those individuals who simply refuse to participate in the new public consensus because they’d rather sit in their dark homes and reminisce about simpler times before everyone had Internet access and women so openly thought for themselves. This constantly evolving society continues to grow as more people share, confer, and disagree with one another.

It’s those disagreements, however, that can make things a bit scary.

Each individual has the right to maintain their own opinion. It’s a simple fact. And it’s also a fact that not everybody is going to share that opinion. When someone is in a position to transmit that opinion, it would be ludicrous to assume that all recipients of said transmission are going to agree. The mature thing to do is accept or discuss those disagreements and, at the very least, part ways with the understanding that individuals differ. And yet, this is how wars get started. This is how accusations are lobbed against skilled professionals. This is how young people feel so trapped and isolated that they’d rather take their own lives than face the people who disagree with them. We have the right to disagree with one another. Seeking to harm one another over a disagreement is another matter entirely.

It seems to me that there’s a lot of this going around. It’s becoming unfortunately rare for the response to a stated interpretation of a fact or a broadcasted opinion to simply be: “I disagree, and here’s why.” More often that not it’s accompanied with some form of dismissal or derision. “This person’s getting paid to say the product is better than it is.” “They’re being overly sensitive feminazis over something that is actually empowering to women.” “These people are going to burn in Hell for not believing the universe was created over 144 hours.” “Little Jimmy has simply been brainwashed by the liberal media and it’s our job as his community to pray, shout, and beat the gay away.”

Each of these stances, and those like them, are knee-jerk, immature, misguided, and ultimately destructive. They’re all born from fears. Resorting to accusations of bribery, dismissal of progress, condemnation, shaming, and violence is clear indication that the opinion being promoted in this way is too weak to stand on its own. Subjective viewpoints and individual experiences do not constitute irrefutable evidence. Resorting to the aforementioned weapons of the ignorant is, unfortunately, easier than forming one’s own opinion based on the evidence that does exist, even if does at the very least make you sound like an entitled or bigoted moron.

Yet these moronic voices are so loud, so prevalent, and so forceful as to make the venturing of an opinion frightening for some. Professionals do their utmost to maintain their opinions in the face of such stupidity, and God bless them for it. There is support out there for kids who feel bullied based on something they’ve said or the way they live. But it’s still pretty scary. You can ignore some of the stupidity up to a point, but there’s always the chance that insecure jerks looking for power and validation will flock to some focal point of negativity just to be part of this damaged culture, and rather than adding an individual viewpoint or piece of evidence to support the dissension, the newcomers just lob words at the target intended to harm, like “whore”, or “heathen”, or “faggot”.

It’s very difficult for me to get into the mindset of hating an individual. Yes, I can get upset at being cut off in traffic or someone out-performing me in a game, but these things pass. I can’t even say I hate the individuals to whom I’m referring that participate in this stupid and damaging behavior. I hate the behavior itself. I hate the culture that looks down on intellectualism and enlightened opinions. I hate the fact that I continually see professionals I respect dealing with or suffering because of this behavior. I hate the fact that children kill themselves because they get bullied. I hate the fact that people in the 21st century don’t realize the world has changed and some ideas just need to be left in the past.

I am an individual. I believe what I choose to believe. You have no obligation to believe the same things I do. And if you don’t, that’s cool. You don’t have to like everything I like. You can adore something I despise. It’s part of what makes the world a beautiful and interesting place in which to live. We all deserve to be treated like human beings, and if you treat me like one I promise I’ll do the same for you.

Just stop abusing your opinion. You are ultimately not helping your case. And, in the end, it makes you look really fucking dumb.


In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill…

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

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There are certain experiences that are consigned to particular media for one reason or another. As well as HBO has adapted Game of Thrones, the full expansiveness of the world and characters created by George RR Martin is best experienced in its original doorstopper book form. Hearing a song by Lady Gaga doesn’t hold a candle to seeing her perform the song live on stage. And some video games are best left as video games, and not made into, say, movies. Nobody told this to director Christoph Gans, however, when he took the helm of 2006’s Silent Hill.

Courtesy Rogue Pictures

Chris and Rose Da Silva adopted a little girl named Sharon nine years ago. Sharon’s started having some really bad dreams and always screams the words ‘Silent Hill’. Convinced that the haunted town that bears the same name holds the answer to her daughter’s torment, Rose puts Sharon in her Jeep and drives to the town. When Chris follows, he’s stopped by a police cordon and the ladies are nowhere in sight. Rose, however, loses Sharon quickly after her Jeep crashes, and wanders the town pursued by a dedicated motorcycle cop, a fiendish cult of witch-burners and, for some reason, nurses with big tits. Because big boobs sell more tickets.

For those of you just coming out from under your rocks, Silent Hill is a video game series in which the town of the title is plagued by a singular problem. You can be walking through the town, which seems normal, only to turn a corner or emerge from an elevator and find yourself in another world entirely. It’s a dark reflection of our own, populated by creatures spawned from abysses beyond our ken and, in some cases, based heavily on our own fears, doubts and unrequited appetites. As the games progressed, the stillness and isolation that brought those fears out of us as we played petered out, replaced with the typical slavering bad guys to be bloodily dispatched with blunt objects seen in most horror games released in the West. But we’re here to talk about the movie, right? Right.

Courtesy Rogue Pictures
Remember, even if you don’t smoke, always have a lighter handy.

The problem with many adaptations, provided they aren’t coming from a studio dedicated solely to bridging the gap between two media (which Marvel appears to have done with fraking rainbows), is the committees assembled by the money-hungry executives are so busy patching together fan favorite characters and moments that they completely miss whatever point the original story might have had. The point of the Silent Hill games defended to this day in spite of their dated graphics, terrible voice acting and asinine plots is being alone in a cloying darkness with something that hates you, not simply disgusting monsters and fiends in human skin just waiting for you to put a hole in them with a bullet or a bludgeon. Instead of a story of self-exploration, the film Silent Hill pits Rose against the town with the town’s only motivation being the sort of generic evil force that chased Bruce Campbell through a forest and forced him to cut off his own hand with a chainsaw.

The interesting wrinkle in terms of story is that the cult isn’t motivated by drug deals for tourism or awakening eldritch abominations, they’re just good old-fashioned Bible-thumpers that know their Jesus, loving savior of all mankind that He is, cannot and will not suffer a witch to live even if said witch is a nine-year-old girl. The purity of purpose these people cling to is something actually frightening about this story, since I know people this simple-minded and blinded by unquestioning religious fervor exist. It’s one of the things about the movie that works.

Courtesy Rogue Pictures
Hey, kids! It’s Pyramid Head! *applause*

What doesn’t work is the transition between worlds. Silent Hill usually consists of our world and its dark reflection, but Silent Hill the movie ups the ante with a third world in between. There’s our world, a sort of parallel dimension covered in perpetual fog and ash and the signature dark hellish place populated with creatures from the franchise who pretty much showed up because representations of sexual repression and masculine aggression have bills to pay too. As mentioned before, switching between worlds in the games often happened without preamble, effectively blurring the lines of reality and causing the player to question what exactly was happening. The line between worlds in the movie is a very bold, clearly defined one, and there’s a nice loud air raid siren just in case you aren’t sure. To say nothing of all that nice creeping CGI on those environments! Boy, I bet those games from the PS2 era are just besides themselves with jealousy.

Despite having all its subtlety removed, its signature creatures reduced to generic horror baddies, the world structure unnecessarily complicated and the twist ending having no explanation whatsoever and all the impact of a wet noodle, Silent Hill is not without redeeming qualities. While the world of fog and ash is somewhat baffling, it and it alone brings on the feeling of stillness and isolation that made the games so memorable. It’s juxtaposed with our world once or twice to great effect, and if the movie had just been about that divide and Rose and Chris trying to reach each other across it, the film might have really worked. There’s some excellent sound design, some effective use of music and a scene in a bathroom that carries more tension in a few short moments than most of the exposition-laden second half holds. And then there’s the way the character of Cybil looks in those leather pants. … Sue me, I’m a straight male human.

Courtesy Rogue Pictures
The movie also passes the Bechdel Test like a champ.

Imagine, if you will, a cookie where the chocolate chips are actual chocolate, but the dough is actually made of insulation foam, and you don’t realize it until it was already in your mouth. That’s the film adaptation of Silent Hill put concisely. The few moments where some artistic choices overshadow the Frankensteinian construction of the movie and the fraying threads of plot used to stitch it together are simply not worth watching it fall to bloody pieces. I have to say this one is not worth your time. There are better horror films, better psychological ones and better video game adaptations.

Oh, I almost forgot. Sean Bean is in this, and he doesn’t die. It would have been nice to see his character do something useful, but I guess that he, like us, became trapped without recourse or pity in a lonely world not of our making. At least Pyramid Head didn’t show up out of nowhere to decapitate the poor guy.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

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