Boy, Dan Savage is Smart

June 30, 2011 Gay and Lesbian, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 111

I’m a fan in general – the Savage Lovecast is one of four podcasts to which I subscribe. In the video below he makes three or four really important, salient points, in very simple and clear language, about the gay rights movement, the nature of its opposition, and the role of the anti-gay movement in American politics. Great stuff.

I’ve cued the video up to the beginning of the really good stuff – the earlier portion is an entertaining and lengthy discussion of The Book of Mormon.

httpv://youtu.be/mkpx8QwlWX4?t=7m13s

via Towleroad

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NYC: Marriage and Front Runners Pride Run 2011

June 30, 2011 Gay and Lesbian, Personal Comments (4) 252

I had the good fortune to be in NYC visiting Elizabeth this past weekend – pretty much the best time in the past 100 years or so to be in New York. We stayed up Friday night watching the State Senate debate (and tweeting – I tend to do a lot of that when I watch parliamentary process) and waiting for the historic vote. As you all know now, we were not disappointed. I won’t go on about it, except to say that I’m delighted, awestruck, and incredibly proud of the state of my birth. I only wish my current home state could buy a clue.

Saturday morning Liz and I ran the NY Front Runners Pride Run, my first official Central Park race. As expected after the vote on Friday, the mood was upbeat and celebratory, though there were far fewer costumes than I expected – and not a single man running in a wedding dress! The fellow at the top of this post was one of the exceptions. As I ran past I got to hear his advice for anyone considering such a costume, “Lots and lots of Body Glide.”

I learned several things in this race. I learned that many runners don’t respect corrals. I also learned that speed walkers, and some regular walkers, feel similarly toward corrals. Lastly, I learned that when I am slowed down by people who started two or three corrals in front of their designated corral, I get super bitchy.

Not that I was the only one. As the race kicked off, with eight thousand runners jockeying for position, a bicyclist came riding at high speed from behind us, nearly plowed into the crowd, all while shouting “oh yeah, like there’s nobody else here!” Would that I could have conversed with the man, I would have pointed out that there were eight thousand of us and one of him, and which one of us was acting self-important? Alas, my attention was occupied with trying to get around the speed walkers and the groups of ladies who were forming human walls so they could converse while running slowly, something that wouldn’t have been problematic had they started in the right corral (have I communicated my annoyance about this whole corral thing?)

Despite feeling slow and stiff before the race, Liz set a PR, coming in 9th among all women and 4th among women in her age bracket. I finished about two and a half minutes behind my best 5-mile time, thanks in part to the hilly terrain in Central Park but mostly to the stupid corral jumpers.

Here’s some video of Liz just after her surprisingly strong race. You’ll also get a good sampling of my attitude after my own finish. I manage to slander an entire city on the basis of a few slow runners. Behold the bitchiness.

By the way, it sounds like I don’t like the popsicle, but actually I thought the popsicle was awesome.

Liz and I also marched in the NY Pride Parade on Sunday with the contingent from the New York Civil Liberties Union. More on that soon.

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Sun Fizz!

June 29, 2011 Pop Culture Comments (0) 181

My brother and sister and I spent years searching YouTube for this commercial. Note that this is not an endorsement of Sprite – just an endorsement of the commercial.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOuc3nDFweY

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Sometimes it takes a lot to drag out 1,000 words…

June 22, 2011 Writing Comments (0) 131

…and sometimes the words flow like a newly tapped gusher. I hate myself for spending a good two hours dallying on the Internet before getting down to work last night, but once I actually got to it I crossed 1,000 words and ended up with something more like 1,500 – and I know exactly where I’m going to pick up tonight. That’s been rare lately.

I don’t like to write too much about works in progress, but I will say that while I approached the current novel with an outline as always, there were a couple of gray areas where I admit I didn’t exactly know how characters were going to get from Point A to Point B. It’s that point in Star Wars when the good guys are stuck in that trash compactor, and the weird eye-snake has tugged Luke down into the drink [No, not literally.] and the next thing on the storyboard is they’re all back in the Millenium Falcon making their daring escape.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve finally figured out what comes in the middle. Well, most of it anyway. As often happens with a work in progress, a character has surprised me in a very unexpected way, one I certainly would not have predicted when I wrote that original outline. Continue Reading

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I have single-handedly saved the NHL

June 22, 2011 Hockey Comments (8) 2028

Here, according to Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy, is a comparisson between the NHL’s old (as in one-year-old) and new rules regarding headshots:

…and here is my proposed headshot rule, circa March 7, 2010:

(1) Any hit that either (a) contacts only the head or (b) contacts the head before any other part of the body, whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the player initiating the hit, should be a minor penalty.

(2) Any hit where, in the referee’s determination, the player initiating the hit deliberately (a) targetted only the head or (b) targetted the head before any other part of the body should be a match penalty.

I referred back to that proposed rule in two other posts, one on March 9, 2010, and one on April 17 of that same year. Combined, those three posts have 173 hits. As I see it, the evidence is incontrovertible: I have single-handedly saved the NHL from its headshot problem. While I’m at it, let me say hello to Brendan Shanahan, who is obviously a reader. Hi, Shannie. Nice work. Sorry you didn’t join the Blueshirts when you were a little younger. Continue Reading

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Sharing the road

June 21, 2011 Personal, Philly / Pennsylvania Comments (0) 224

I took advantage of the gorgeous evening in Philadelphia last night with a long-ish bike ride through the city and along the Schuylkill River Trail and Kelly Drive. Not too many cities offer 30+ miles of prime riverside trail, and Philadelphia residents are generally quick to take advantage. Lots of residents. Lots and lots of residents. I know, because I nearly hit damn near every one of them.

Like those out for an evening stroll with the family, walking four abreast on a crowded recreational trail – holding hands. Heavy ladies, side by side with ample room in between for arm swinging. Inline skaters, most of them inexperienced, legs kicking wildly like newborn deer. Then there are the serious cyclists – of which I am not one – who tear through the crowd at approximately seven hundred miles per hour, a barely perceptible streak of neon lycra and entitlement.

How one’s perception changes with their station in this melee! When I have been a pedestrian, I curse the reckless bicyclists who warn me with a staccato “onyourleft!” a split second before nearly bisecting me. When I run or ride my bike, it’s the pedestrians who are the assholes, utterly oblivious to everything happening around them. When they aren’t head-down in their personal electronic devices, they’re caught up in conversation, or staring mindlessly at the clouds like a hapless cow heading for the bolt gun. Continue Reading

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How to respond to a critique

June 16, 2011 Writing Comments (0) 175

You say “thank you.” That’s it.

You remind yourself that this person took the time to (a) read your work, (b) give it enough thought to formulate comments, and (c) took the time to share those comments with you. You don’t get defensive or tell the person that he missed the point, that he doesn’t understand good writing, that he obviously wasn’t paying attention, that he doesn’t know or understand your genre, or that you never realized what an idiot he is in general until now.

If your reader asked any questions, you can answer them. If you are unclear about a criticism, you can ask for clarification. If you want to bounce a potential revision off him and see how he likes it, you can do that. And if you must – absolutely must – you can explain what you were trying to achieve with the work. Under no circumstances, however, can you tell the reader that he or she is wrong. Continue Reading

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It’s official: I am anti-self-publishing

June 15, 2011 Writing Comments (2) 218

I’ve been beating around the bush for a while, but it’s official. I don’t like self-publishing. I think it’s bad for writers, and it’s bad for readers. I am opposed.

Not in every circumstance. There are cases when self-publishing is a good thing, and the right choice: When an author just wants to get his or her book out there, dammit, and has no aspiration to build writing into a career. When a book is suited only to a niche market, and the author already has a platform from which to promote it. When an author is an early adopter and excited by the new opportunity and wants to play in the sandbox. Otherwise, I am decidedly anti.

And why? There are a lot of small reasons, but there’s one big reason: because I’ve met and talked to WAY to many authors who have virtually abandoned the study of their craft. Instead of writers, they have all become marketers. They don’t want to talk about technique. They’d rather talk about blogging and Amazon ratings and Kindle shorts and Twitter.

Self-publishing means self-marketing, and the “democratization of publishing” has turned writers into carnival barkers. Instead of putting in the time and effort and thought and revision to turn a mediocre book into a great book that will win an agent and a publisher, they self-publish the mediocre book. Then they pour time and effort and thought into a blog and a Twitter feed and a Tumblr and a YouTube channel and a cross-promotional campaign with fellow self-published authors. Some of them join writers groups, where they never talk about the craft of writing but steer every conversation into marketing. Maybe they’re there to recruit the members into their cross-promotional campaign. The bottom line is they aren’t thinking about writing. Continue Reading

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My brief X-Men: First Class Review

June 9, 2011 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 135

Comic book movies can be broken into three categories: Watchable, Really Pretty Good, and Godawful. Fans of comic books and/or action movies will enjoy the Watchable ones, while Really Pretty Good movies can be enjoyed by almost anyone capable of suspending disbelief for two to three hours. Only the biggest die-hard fanboy in denial or brain-dead special effects addict can sit-through, let alone praise, films in the Godawful variety.

A few examples: Recent watchable comic book movies include the first Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Bryan Singer’s Superman, and the first two Spider-Man movies. Really Pretty Good selections include both Christopher Nolan Batman movies, the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, Iron Man 1 and maybe Iron Man 2. Ang Lee’s Hulk, X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider, and Fantastic Four 2 were Godawful.

I am pleased to say that X-Men: First Class is Really Pretty Good, though I can’t agree at all with the folks who are claiming it contends for “best comic book movie ever.”

What X:FC does well is to introduce a historic context and a retro-feel into the super-hero milieu, better than any movie except perhaps Brad Bird’s under-appreciated “the Incredibles.” Comic books themselves are, after all, a bit of a holdover from a bygone era, and while most super-hero movies have planted a flag squarely in the “gritty hero” era of the late 20th Century, the Golden Age of comic book heroes was undeniably the decades following World War 2. Placing the origins of the X-Men against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis is inspired – it gives the franchise depth and history, allows the production to play with costuming and sets in a genre where costumes and sets have become hackneyed and boring, and permits the writers to blend bits of plot lines from X-Men comic books published 30 or 40 years apart. I award a few bonus points for managing to work in a couple of very brief cameos by former X-Men cast members Rebecca Romijn and Hugh Jackman that actually fit the narrative and make sense (provided, in Jackman’s case, that you know some background about the character). While my fanboy heart does break a little bit that they scrapped the original team according to comic book canon, they were able to pay tribute to some classic X-Men ignored by previous movies. Continue Reading

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A Song of Books and TV Series

June 3, 2011 Writing Comments (0) 143

The absolutely stupendous job that HBO is doing adapting George R. R. Martin‘s “A Game of Thrones” to the small screen (which seems a lot larger in these days of affordable high-quality CGI) has sent me back to reading the Song of Ice and Fire series. My first excursion to Westeros was by audiobook in 2009, and I will confess that I was a bit overwhelmed. All the many names, locations, languages, histories – it was more than I could keep straight. Perhaps it was the drawback of experiencing GRRM’s brand of fantasy by audio, or perhaps my talent for abeyance (to use Orson Scott Card’s term) lags behind that of the seasoned fantasy reader. I certainly enjoyed quite a bit of the book, especially those incredibly memorable scenes that HBO viewers are now being wowed by, but much of the depth of the work was, sadly, wasted on me.

Well, I’m back for another visit, and I must say I’m enjoying the hell out of it this time around. Maybe it’s because this time I’m actually literally reading (on my Kindle, granted), but more likely it’s because watching the HBO series sent me to the HBO viewer’s guide, and then to Wikipedia, and I finally feel like I have a handle on my Lannisters and Tullys, Winterfells and Harrenhalls, dragons and direwolves. Truth be told, I’ve been on a bit of an all-GRRM-all-the-time kick recently.

The trouble is that the novel I’m presently writing is a futuristic science-fantasy adventure, but reading GRRM and admiring the way he manages to build a magical world for adults, populated by such fully-realized characters, puts me in a mind set to go back to epic fantasy. Does anyone else have this problem? I find that after watching a movie featuring strong accents – say, Braveheart, for instance – I often leave the theater unintentionally affecting that accent. In the same way, when I read an author with a strong voice, I find my own voice gravitating toward theirs. Continue Reading

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