Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Titanic/Avatar

Joss Whedon may be my favorite Storyteller, but James Cameron is my favorite filmmaker. I've seen two of his films: Titanic and Avatar, and both were breathtakingly beautiful. They may not have had the more original stories, or been the most historically accurate or logically sound films, but you don't realize that when you're watching it. When you're watching one of his movie all you think about is what he wants you to think about, all you see is the beauty of his worlds.

There are two reasons why people don't like, or won't watch, Titanic. The first is content issues. The second is the tragedy aspect. We'll deal with the content first. To begin with, it's not as bad as people think it is. My mom, for example, thought that one of the characters was a prostitute, which is not so. The plot, however, revolves around a drawing, and the drawing is of the main character without any clothes on. The drawing is shown several times, and the scene where it's actually made is part of the climax of the film. But, overall, it's cleaner than Firefly.  One girl I talked to said it's not a film for mixed company, and that about sums it up. When I watched it is was with my younger sister, her best friend, and her best friend's grandmother who's house we were staying at.

Now on the other hand, if you're not someone who doesn't like tragedy, you might be very well advised to stay away from this film. I cried. I cried through the entire second half. The story, in a nutshell, is of a young woman named Rose being pressured into marriage with a controlling man by her overbearing widowed mother. Her mother is concerned only with the money she'll get out of the match, allowing her to maintain her place in society, rather than have to face the prospect of working for a living. Rose is dissatisfied with her pointless life of luxery and despairs to the point of being ready to take her own life. She is saved by a witty, penniless young man named Jack who is going to seek his fortune in America. He saves her twice, but his actions put them both into compromising circumstances.

Rose and Jack continue to see each other. He becomes her only friend, and takes her to the lower decks to parties with other passengers of his class. She finds real companionship among the poor, and a meaning to life that she'd never experienced in her own class. He saves, not just her life, but her soul. He teaches her to live, to love, and to give.

Is it sad? Of course it's sad! It's about the Titanic. Everyone dies in the end, and it's long, drawn out, and horribly tragic. I'm told by people who know such things that it's woefully inaccurate historically, and I'll take their word for it. At the same time, though, it shows the reality of what disaster is like, especially when brought about by pride, and how cruel human nature can be.

I've recently heard Titanic accused of feminism. Try as I might I've been unable to figure out how this can be. Feminism is women's desire to take the place of men in society. Titanic is a romance, with no opportunity for that kind of worldview. Rose chooses to take her life into her own hands rather than continue on the path chosen for her, but that's rebellion, not feminism. Her father is dead, and she is unmarried, so she's not even rebelling against a male authority. Rebellion is not always wrong. Choosing to follow Christ when your family forbids it is rebellion also. One might frown upon her reasons for rebellion, but it's not feminism.

Can we get to the good stuff now? I loved this film. To answer the perennial question: if I could choose one film, only one, to study to become a filmmaker, it would be this one. There isn't a single shot, a single light cue, a single line that wasn't carefully thought out and placed to make an impact on the viewers. The cinematography, the acting, everything blended together beautifully. It was amazing. I have never seen anything like it, before or since. I would recommend this movie, in spite of it's content, to anyone who wants to study film. If you object to nudity keep a remote on hand and skip those scenes. There's only two or three, and the rest is sheer beauty.

I saw Avatar twice in theatres, first in 2D with some siblings and then in 3D with my father. The general consensus is that it's better in 2D. If there was an award for worldbuilding this film would win, hands down, in film and in literature. James Cameron blends alien with the familiar just enough to create something both amazingly different, and beautiful. Sure, the story is basically Disney's Pocohantis, and if there was a sequel in would involve nuking Pandora from orbit, but you don't think of those things until later. You don't care, because the entire reason you watched the film was for the scenery.

A lot of time, when authors take it upon themselves to invent a new landscape, it becomes garishly different. Stray too far from the beaten path and all you have is strange, not beautiful. We, of ourselves, are not capable of creating beauty. We can only embellish beauty that already exits. Reading "Out of the Silent Planet" made me positively dizzy when I tried to picture the bizarre landscapes the Lewis described. Watching Avatar was simply breathtaking. Everything was bigger, and everything was blue. He used bio-luminescence liberally, and colored everything in blue and purple. He drew heavily on colors of the night, and messed with the laws of physics as only a true artist can do.

The aliens win a prize all their own. Most aliens tend to look either like Vulcans or Moties; practically human or totally weird. The Na'vi strike a nice balance. They take some getting used to, but we can recognize them as people, rather than animals, and they have their own kind of beauty and grace. And by the time you walk out of the theatre you've decided you want a tail of your own.

Content issues for this film are pretty simple; none of the natives wear any clothes. Well, for practical purposes. It didn't bother me one iota, because the aliens are eight feet tall, blue, striped like a zebra, and have tails. Other people think differently, however, so there's a very simple test. Look up any picture of Neytiri and see if it's something you're comfortable watching for three hours, because that's what she looks like for the whole thing.

Then there's the religion aspect. At first you're kept guessing whether or not it's going to turn into some weird new age/mother earth time piece, but eventually we find out it's actually a form of Whovian Science. It may sound like a religion, but there's actually an explanation: the entire planet is telepathic! Now that is downright cool. (My favorite Doctor Who/Avatar crossover is A Moment of Peace. Whovians will enjoy it, even if they haven't seen Avatar, just 'cause the idea of a telepathic planet is cool!)


Have I not mentioned music yet? Both films were scored by my favorite film composer; James Horner. The music for Titanic carries the plot perfectly, and the love theme is enough to make most people cry regardless of if they've seen the film or not. The entire score speaks poetry and urgency at intervals, never completely letting you forget that this is a tragedy, never letting you forget that this is a romance.

The score for Avatar is simply amazing, in my uneducated opinion. The rhythms are unique, the tones are unique, and let's not talk about the key changes! One reason I was really excited to see this film was because I knew James Horner was scoring it, but then I kept forgetting to listen to the music. (Which is a good thing in film, since the music should not be obtrusive.) When I did, however, I was not disappointed. Listening to the soundtrack makes you feel like you're flying. The theme is one of my favorite songs by him, ever. It's one of the few songs I can identify that actually uses a parallel major, instead of the relative. To put it simply, it's amazing.

In Conclusion
Put James Horner and James Cameron in the same film and you're sure to have a winner.
James Cameron may not have the most incredible or unique stories, but he's talented enough to make you not care. Imagine if James Cameron made Joss Whedon's films... I have never heard anyone quite give Titanic justice, and Avatar seems like one of those often underrated films. Hopefully this review served to give a more balanced view to two of the most influential films in the modern history of filmmaking. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Tron

 Greetings, Programs.

Let's see, where do I start? Tron... I saw Tron:Legacy for the first time on vacation, actually, at a friend's house. I also saw it for the second and third time. The family I was staying with watched it in groups. The parents one night to approve it, the boy the next afternoon because he thought we wouldn't like it, us girls that evening when we insisted we would, and again the next night because the little boys had to go to bed the previous evening. Told from the start it was boring and pointless I and my friends were, of course, determined that it wasn't.

I didn't fall in love with it, to start. I was intrigued, definitely. It wasn't boring, but it was confusing. I theorized that it was heavily based on the original Tron, and that the filmmakers mistake was that the people who'd seen original Tron had forgotten it, and the people watching Tron: Legacy had never seen the original. Ultimately it was the discussion, the confusion and the warnings of boringness that made me really fascinated.

I came home with this otherwise pointless movie on my list to see again after I saw the original. I hunted down the original, and suddenly was converted. Legacy has little to do with the original Tron, although there is tribute after tribute nestled into the cinematography. Somehow, though, I liked both. Tron is old, the graphics are old, and the plot is a little flat. But I loved it. I loved the characters. I loved how noble the character Tron was, I loved how potentially dangerous theology was easily dispensed with.

From left to right: Tron, Ram, and Kevin Flynn
Tron: Legacy did not deserve it's name. Tron isn't even in it. Well, he is but... [spoilers.] I've heard it said that it should have been called Flynn's Legacy, but the how would we have connected it to the original, eh? Anyway, titles aside, Legacy is of interest as a film student, if nothing else. It's as much on the cutting edge of what's possible in film as its predecessor was in its day. The cinematography is startling, as it centers heavily around light. Everything seems made of light and glass, and is blue or orange on black. While this is very unique, it personally gets tiring on your eyes after two hours. A lot of people probably will find Legacy boring. It has a lot of rather long lightcycle chases, and it successfully put my dad to sleep. But the real reason this is one of my favorite movies is the music.

When my friends younger brothers were watching it the next night I originally started out in the kitchen playing go fish. We could just make out some of the sounds from the movie through the wall and on occasion I would life my head and listen thinking "That's really cool music." It's more than cool music, it's brilliant music. It's become one of my favorite soundtracks. You can read more about the music in a review by Aubrey Hansen.

In summary, my favorite character is Tron which makes me very excited for Tron: Uprising next summer.  I think that both movies have equal merits and were brilliantly done. They may not have the most original plot on the block, but they've certainly got a unique premise. And just to prove how much I loved them I made this nice mashup with my favorite (and only) computer game, Myst.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sanctity of Life

As ya'll know, I'm a bit obsessed with Doctor Who. It's influenced me heavily, both as a person and as a writer.

First, let me take a moment to do something very brave, and explain that I am very, very much a pacifist.  I cannot justify any war, any where, or for any cause to myself. I don't usually talk about it; it's my own conviction. So it was unusual for me to start a thread on the subject on my favorite fantasy writing forum.

The Doctor  is not exactly free from innocent blood. He's responsible for the deaths of millions. He kills when he has to. He's committed genocide multiple times. Almost every episode deals with death is some form. And that is exactly what makes the show so powerful; because he grieves over every single life. Bad guy, good guy, friend or enemy, it doesn't matter. Whether it's thousands who perish as a result of him saving the world, or just a single being he grieves over it. He may not see much, but it never goes unnoticed or unmentioned. Everything comes at a price, and the makers of DW make that price abundantly clear to us.

One night Netflix vanished on me, so I settled down to watch another show you've heard me mention, Stargate. I realized my worldview had changed. Whenever they save the world, there's a price. Shoot and run, leaving a trail of dead enemy soldiers behind you. It never occurred to me to question that before; it's not a deep philosophical show about death. But how many books have you read and how many movies have you watched where random people randomly die for random reasons and no one mentions it again?

No one cares. Even when there are regrets, it tends to be an offhand "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I had to kill him." No one grieves. Not even in real life.

Every day across the sea people die. American troops, yes. Innocents caught in the crossfire. The enemy. We pray for our troops, but is that all you can do? What happened to the sanctity of human life? That any option is better then mass slaughter? Every single human life is sacred. Everyone, guilty or not guilty, saved or unsaved, is a miracle. Every death is a tragedy so great it should never be forgotten.

Starting the thread on this subject led to a three page discussion with views from all over the spectrum, and the end result was a five part series I wrote for the Holy Worlds Blog on the subject of the Sanctity of Human Life. I addressed every topic I'd ever pondered about from torture to suicide and back again. I want my own readers to be able to read these as well, so here are the links to the original articles for your browsing pleasure.

Part One: Torture
Part Two: Suicide
Part Three: Sacrifice
Part Four: Killing
Part Five: Conclusion

Review: Firefly/Serenity

(This post is dedicated to Luke Alistar, who figured I'd be a fan once I watched 'Serenity' and figured correctly.)

What did I love about Serenity? Everything. The music, the cinematography, the characters, the plot, the jokes, the tragedy... it is a masterpiece of film, and proof of how amazing good science fiction can be. But let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I've heard a lot about the film Serenity, but every time I sat down to watch it I rediscovered that it was the sequel to a TV series called Firefly. Of course, I'd seen and loved Doctor Horrible, and this was by the same director, but I really didn't have time for an entire show, and I really didn't want to see the movie out of context. One day, however, I decided that Firefly was only one season, I should be able to get through it eventually, and I really wanted to see this movie everyone had been talking about.

Firefly was good. Not my personal definition of brilliant, but good. It is unique as far as scifi goes, and has a definite Western flaire to it. It's got a very lovable cast of characters. I was very dubious of it for the reason that the main character, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, is played by Nathan Fillion, who is Doctor Horrible unlovable nemisis Captain Hammer. I thought "Am I going to be able to take this guy seriously, or am I going to think "Captain Hammer" every time I see his face?" It's a testimony to Nathan's acting ability that the two characters have absolutely nothing in common. There is maybe one or two "Hammer" moments in the entire series. They don't even look the same.

When it came down to it, though, I was still only watching Firefly so that I could see Serenity. And as time went on and I got closer to the end I began to be afraid that Serenity would not live up to all I had been promised. I inadvertently encountered spoilers and I was afraid it would be too gory, and not as beautiful as I had hoped. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Serenity was, in a word, beautiful. Definitely on my list of favorite science fictions. Every bit as good as Firefly and, in some cases, better. My one complaint is that the characterization seems to have gotten messed up, but that's because of the time lag between series and film, I suppose. That brings us back to the beginning:

What did I love about Serenity? The cinematography was some of the best I'd ever seen. The settings were incongrous, and really drew your attention to the story. Realism is one of the major selling points for Firefly, and Serenity carried this to it's maximum potential. Planets of peace and harbour were dusty, dirty, and people worked hard. The planet where death waited behind every door was a shiny, ideal science fiction city. The contrast was brilliantly portrayed, both in story and in film.

The story... the story is about the crew of a space ship who make their living on the fringes of the law. The entire system is under the rule of the overbearing Alliance who think they can control people's individual lives. The Alliance is afraid of rebellion, because their rule was won in a war not long past, and there are still those who resent it. The Captain of Serenity, Malcolm Reynolds, is one such who fought against them. And during the course of the movie he becomes ready to fight again.

River Tam
Malcolm's first mate Zoe fought beside him in the war, and she is married to their pilot, the funny and lovable Wash. Their mechanic is named Kaylee, and she can fix anything. A mercenary, Jayne, fights only for personal gain... most of the time. Simon Tam is a young doctor, a surgeon with a brilliant future, who left it all behind him to rescue his sister, River. River is quite possibly my favorite character. Whatever the Alliance did to her it left her strange, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous, not to mention the most wanted fugitives in the inhabited universe.

In short, I loved it. It was violent, yes, but not gratuitously so. And actually, the movie was cleaner than most of the Firefly episodes. It's a brilliant portrayal of realistic futuristic scifi with some of the most incredible characters I've ever seen. We need more films like this. But then, we need more films by Joss Whedon in general. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's Your Wordcount?

The most immediately obvious thing about the month of Nanowrimo is that it's a goal. A very rigid, very tight goal. Write. Write every day, and write a certain number of words a day, or else. As a writer I think Nanowrimo should be every day. If we pushed ourselves as hard the rest of the year as we did during November, imagine what could get done. Imagine the discipline and devotion we would learn. Imagine all the procrastination we could accomplish.

At midnight, on November 29, I hit 50,000 words. I woke up November 30th and wrote another 800, neatly finished my short story series. I spent the rest of the day cheering my friends on as they crossed the finish line, sometimes at the very last moment. Watching them write with my goal achieved gave me a curious feeling of detachment. I was suffering from post-Nano disorientation.

Not to worry, a new goal was approaching! Back in October I promised my friends that come December I would begin editing and revising and otherwise making presentable last years Nano: City of Lies. I woke up December 1st and wanted to do anything but. I got a lot done that day. I made paper snowflakes. I wrote people I hadn't talked to in six months. I worked on music related stuff. I chatted. I read. I typed up an old story. I chatted some more. I opened up all my versions of CoL and looked at them without really reading. But my favorite thing that I did all day was count my words.

No, not my Nano words. All my words. Every word I'd ever written. Ever. From boxes and piles in my room and on my desk I drug out all my notebooks. 42 of them, when all was counted. I had blue notebooks, red notebooks, green notebooks, yellow and black notebooks. I had wide ruled and college ruled. I had notebooks with glittery butterflies on them and psychedelic designs. I had hard cover and spiral bound and some with pages falling out from overuse. I drug them all up into the living room and stacked them on my computer chair. And then I counted.

Top Row: 2006-2007; Second Row: 2008; Third Row: 2009; Fourth Row: 2010-2011
I counted words per line, and line per page, and page per notebook. I stacked them according to the page ruling, and whether or not they had more single sided or double sided pages. I wrote out some complicated equations that looked like this: 140x200x14. Then I got out a calculator and started adding up numbers.

They say that you have to write a million words before you're truly a master of your craft. On multiple occasions I've tried to count up my words, but I always tried to count my novels which are in multiple parts of multiple drafts in multiple folders in multiple location. I always ended up bored, distracted, and out of time. Writing fifty thousand words by hand and having to count them without the aid of an electronic word processor taught me an easier way. I have always written by hand, except for my previous two Nanos, which were easy to add up to a single hundred thousand. I dragged out my notebooks and I counted.

I have, since 2006, written 900,000 words.

Anticlimactic, I know. You wanted to hear me say I'd reached 100,000,000. But who's nitpicking here? That's a lot of words! And it means I'm very close to that mythical million. But most of all, I got to spend about an hour counting them and taking pictures, which means I didn't have to go back to my revision project right away. Procrastination always wins, right?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pixar vs. Dreamworks

Cars 2 has been met with an interesting reaction from my peers. Many of them were disappointed in it, claiming it didn’t live up to Pixar’s standard of quality. Some even said it “felt like a Dreamworks film.” For Pixar geeks, that’s just about the worst insult you can give.

- Aubrey Hansen
Aubrey Hansen (check out her blog!) is a dear friend of mine, who's been slowly educating me in the world of animated film. Aubrey is a great lover of good stories, beautiful animation, and wholesome morals. I blame Aubrey for the fact that I've been getting Disney Princess films out of the library to watch. But that's another rant for later...

I have been superhero movie hunting as a result of writing superheroes for Nano. I knew there were two animated superhero movies, and I couldn't keep them straight, and neither was ever at the library when I checked: Megamind, and The Incredibles. It wasn't until after I watched Megamind that I realized it was the Dreamworks film, and Incredibles was Pixar. For a few moments I was horrified. What had I done, falling in love with a Dreamworks film?

See, I am not an animation geek. I am not a Pixar geek. The number of animated films on my favorites list is one: The Swan Princess. I like Gulliver's Travels too, but it doesn't really qualify for favorites. Suddenly the number of animated films I loved had doubled. I watched Megamind five times in the week before it had to go back to the library. I eventually got Incredibles too, but after watching all the Behind the Scenes videos I discovered the actual movie was too damaged to play. It was weeks before I had another chance to watch it.

So the final assessment?

The Incredibles

Absolutely brilliant premise. I love seeing Superheroes trying to cope in an every day world. It was very cute, especially having child Superheroes. I bet my siblings would love it. But, it simply cannot compare with


"Incredibly handsome criminal genius, and master of all villainy!"

"Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?"

Megamind is Classic Doctor Who (specifically the Doctor/Master relationship) meets Doctor Horrible (without the tragic aspect). It is brilliantly funny, and a bit sad in places too. Unlike Doctor Horrible, Megamind's enmity with Metroman is their version of a friendship, and he gets a happy ending. But it's the only other movie that has ever made me laugh and cry simultaneously. Who would have thought that an alien with a giant blue head could be so... cute?

A lot of people get confused by Megamind. They're not sure what the message of the story is, or whether Megamind really reformed. The "message" is one of my all time favorites in stories and can be summed up neatly:

"It's never too late to do the right thing."

That's the beautiful thing about Megamind, as a character. He tries so hard in the beginning to do the right thing, and learned from negative feedback it wasn't possible for him to ever be popular that way. The second half of the movie teaches him that's not true. It's never too late to do the right thing, and even villains can be sorry and become heroes.

"Did you want to hear me say it? I'll say it. I am sorry."

This review is a bit lopsided, notice? What can I say? I may not be a Pixar geek or an animation lover, I can't discuss the finer points of filmmaking or give a realistic analysis of Dreamworks, but I am absolutely a die-hard fan of Megamind. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Avenging Superheroes - Part 1

Next summer the superhero movie to top all superhero movies is coming out: Avengers. And I couldn't have cared less a few weeks ago. My brother told me about Iron man, my friends talked about Thor, and still I didn't budge until the day the trailer came out and I watched it. I've never had my mind changed so fast, and all it took was one name. It wasn't the trailer itself that impressed me, it was the discovery that Avengers is written and directed by none other than Joss Whedon. (I think my exact reaction was "Why did no one tell me?")

Suddenly I went from not caring less about Avengers to being very, very interested in seeing it. But I was already behind the game. I didn't know any of the main players. So I set out to find the characters' original movies and watch them. This meant stalking the library for Thor, Green Lantern, and Captain America, and getting the rest on Netflix.

Ivan Danko
Iron Man 2

"Did you see Iron Man 1?"
"No, it wasn't available instant view on Netflix. The library had two copies, but managed to lose them both. So I read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia instead."

Besides, the villain in Iron Man 2 is more cool. No, seriously. Maybe not the character himself, but his weapons are cool. This is definitely a symptom of the villain being cooler then the hero...

Tony Stark is, in his own words, "a billionaire playboy philanthropist." He's also dying. I can't help but wonder, in a society as advanced as this, isn't there some better method of preventing shrapnel from penetrating to your heart? Can't you do surgery, or something? I feel very sorry for Tony; not because he's dying, but because the writer's are clearly putting him through everything for the sake of the furtherance of the plot.

My favorite character, though, was Tony's friend James Rhodes. I love that sort of friendship in a film. Romance is all fine and well, but romance is overdone. I like just seeing ordinary friendship built on mutual trust. James stole the Iron Man suit, but Tony trusted him with access in the first place. It was James who didn't trust his friend, which he later realized and apologized for and everything was happy.


Betty Ross
My mom talked about the Incredible Hulk sometimes, the man who turned giant green when you made him angry. As children we always thought that was funny. As a film, it's still funny. It's so totally an old superhero they're trying to bring up to modern standards, but I always got the Jolly Green Giant and The Incredible Hulk mixed up and so all I can think is "Oh, he's big and green!" I don't care how dramatic the music was, how flashy the cinematography was, or how long the movie was. Nothing can eliminate the entire dated feel of the storyline.

The cinematographer clearly thought he was brilliant, but he only succeeded in being distracting. There were a couple of really pretty shots, and there were a lot of really flashy ones. Instead of cutting from the character talking to see the look on the face of the character listening Frederick Elmes would show us both at once, in a split screen or an inset. I never knew which one to look at or pay attention to. To make things worse, the movie was way too long. 2 hours and 18 minutes is one way of measuring it, the fact that it took a full minute for anyone to say anything was another, and the really long and drawn out fighting/rampaging scenes was yet another.

Also, the villain is more cool then the hero! Bruce's dad can blend with the elements. And elementals are just plain cool. Also, elementals are the good guys. Raging green hulks are the ones you should be afraid of. The reversal of roles was confusing, disorienting, and dissatisfying. The real villain was the idiotic military commander who tortured Bruce into changing.

Incidentally, Bruce is also the name of Batman, so we have two superheroes with the first name. How shall we ever keep them straight?

Remind me what makes Hulk a superhero again?

In Conclusion
Patiently waiting for the library to get the other movies on their shelves. The last time it took two months. Meanwhile I'm going to stick to animated superheros like... Megamind!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Cliff-face and the PTO Shaft

[We have] seen the valley itself, which is as dark as pitch. We also saw there the hobgoblins, satyrs, and dragons of the pit; we heard also in that valley a continual howling and yelling, as of a people in unutterable misery, who there sat bound in affliction and irons; and over that valley hangs the discouraging clouds of confusion; death also doth always spread his wings over it; in a word, it is every whit dreadful, being utterly without order.
- Pilgrim's Progress
I had a friend once, an ex-Mennonite who'd been excommunicated because he wouldn't back down on what he believed. He was also a self-taught vet, and we spent a lot of time together in the barnyard. Sometimes conversations about what semen to order turned into discussions about theology, and he would sit at the kitchen table with my dad for hours. I sat on the other side of the room, listened, and wrote.

Mennonites are legalistic, even excommunicated ones. My dad is very not legalistic, and of necessity debate ensued. A debate that took an interesting turn, when it became a discussion about why it was necessary to discuss differences...

I saw then in my dream, so far as this valley reached, there was on the right hand a very deep ditch; that ditch is it into which the blind have led the blind in all ages, and have both there miserably perished. Again; behold, on the left hand there was very dangerous quagmire, into which, if even a good man falls, he can find no bottom of his foot to stand on. The pathway was here also exceeding narrow, and therefore good CHRISTIAN was the more put to it; for when he sought in the dark to shun the ditch on the one hand, he was ready to tip over into the mire on the other; also when he sought to escape the mire, without great carefulness, he would be ready to fall into the ditch.
- Pilgrim's Progress 

 Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. And it is narrow, very narrow. Dangerously narrow, so that keeping to the center of it is a difficulty even for the strongest. Perpetually one is straying to one side or the other, but on both sides lie dangers. The way my friend described it thus:

One one side of the path is the sheer drop of Legalism. Fearful of that the liberals stay as far away as possible. Too many friends have gone over that cliff and never made it back onto the path.

On the other side, however, is the spinning PTO shaft of License. I'm afraid of heights and want to stay as far away from that cliff as possible, but my friend had seen too many people chewed up in the PTO shaft, and wants to avoid it at all costs.

Time out! What's a PTO shaft?

That, my friends, is what makes this description so vivid. A PTO shaft is a moving part on the back of the tractor that makes things turn. It's what makes the blade of a bush-hog mower go round and round, or the bands on a hay-baler. It's metal, and it spins, and you do not get near it when it's spinning. You do not ride on the back of a tractor when the PTO shaft is engaged. You do not stand too close to a spinning shaft with loose clothes on. If something gets caught in that shaft it will wind you in, mercilessly. If the operator of the tractor is fast enough to shut it off you might get out alive.

It's a description only a farmer or someone who lives with tractors would understand at first glance, but it's a description farmers and people who live with tractors can not easily get out of their mind.

So you're walking along that cliff I'm so afraid of, but I'm dangerously close to that PTO shaft, and my hair is down. I'm calling out to you, "Get away from that cliff!" and you're holding out your hands to me, begging me to get away from the PTO. And we are both backing into danger.


You are my friend, and you trust me, and you hold out your hand to lead me away from the PTO and I take it to pull you away from the cliff, and we walk that way, each balancing the other, pulling each other back from the every present danger.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fear of Falling

"I realized, the moment I fell into the fissure..."
Riven's Star Fissure

Where angels fear to tread... even now, standing on the edge. It's that feeling you get. Right in the back of your head. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on... ... It's not the urge to jump, that's too kind. It's deeper than that. It's the urge to fall.”
- Doctor Who; the Satan Pit

 Somewhere all my darkest fears are gathering,
It's not enough to save the day, I can't escape my nightmares.

- Chameleon Circuit; Nightmares

We're writers. As writers we take the role of God in our stories, dealing out life and death, happiness and despair. As writers we are entitled to a certain amount of insanity, and we revel in our power, make jokes about tormenting our characters, and gleefully keep a death toll. As writers we mirror and exaggerated real life, and what would any story be without a bit of conflict?

Then comes the darkness. The nights alone, with our pen and paper, typing out desperately the fate of our favorites. The more we love a character, the worse it seems we treat him. We grow out of fairytales and develop a vicious desire to show the world how bitterly hopeless life can be. We exalt in this rite of passage, in our ability to tear at our readers heart strings, and to bring people to tears with the grief and pain we depict.

And then, we look back on what we have written, and are ashamed. I wrote that. I was capable of writing that. And more then that, I enjoyed it. If I can write about it in such detail and with such pleasure, what is to keep me from crossing that line of reality, so fragile already in my mind?

We write because we have to. We are compelled to. And when we fear our own writing that is when we write the best. We argue, we debate. How dark is too dark? How violent is too violent? At what point should we cease to shed our characters' innocent blood? Even once we've convinced ourselves that what we write is true, is just, and is acceptable, we do not cease to fear it. We do not stop awaking in the night, haunted by the darkness in the world and in us.

We ask, is this our conscience calling to us? Is this an alarm telling us to stop? Is being a sadistic writer really something to be proud of? And, above all, how do I know when to stop?

When you stop being afraid.

When you wake up one day and the violence doesn't affect you. When your characters' cry for mercy and you no longer hear. When what you've written before really doesn't seem all that violent, and the scenes your friends cry over don't touch you. When you can't see the horror and the pain, then you have gone too far. When you become proud of the goriest parts of your story, instead of ashamed, then be afraid.

A construction worker far above the ground is afraid of falling. It's a long way down, and there's nothing keeping him from falling except his own will. Stand too close to the edge and you could fall over. He is afraid, and he stays away. Don't be silly, his friends say. It's perfectly safe. You couldn't fall off of here any more than you could fall off your front porch. “I've fallen off my front porch,” he says, and stays away from the edge. Still, his co-workers taunts haunt him. Perhaps it is silly to be afraid. Perhaps it's just something he needs to get over, this fear of heights. Or maybe this is the wrong job for him, if he can't stomach him. Day after day these things eat away at him, and over time he becomes less afraid. He stands up straight near the edge, he looks daringly down at the street below. He walks with confidence, bold and fearless.

That is when he falls.

Confidence betrays, you can no longer distinguish between bravery and foolishness. Fear the darkness. Be afraid of heights. Be afraid, and live. Cry for your characters; lie awake and keep watch for your demons. Be hesitant of blood and pain. Never wish to meet your villain. Never wish to be him. Shudder at your vulnerability, and never loose sight of the darkness. Stay away from the edge in case you lose your footing and find yourself...


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Doctor Seven

Star Trek: Assignment: Earth

 The last episode of Star Trek; the Original Series Season Two was the first episode of a new, spin off series. This was the only episode of that series to air, and no one is quite sure what became of it. Doctor Who fans will assert, however, that Gary Seven was either an impostor or the Seventh Doctor in disguise, for who else could possess the same marvelous technology?

Gary Seven's "Sonic Device."

The Tenth Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver

Gary Seven's manufactured credentials

Psychic Paper

However, there is one difference which we can be quite sure of... at least when it comes to the Tenth Doctor's incarnation. The Doctor is not a cat person.

Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

October 31st. I know what everyone else is writing about: costumes and candy and pumpkins and witches. It's a day of skeletons, of harvest time, of black and orange. It's a day of worshiping Celtic deities and appeasing potentially malevolent ancestors. What day is that? All Hallows Eve, of course, or Hallowe'en.

But that's what everyone else is writing about. Boring. Not to mention a bit creepy, once you start studying the ancient and pagan rites that surround it... so I'm going to tell you about another event that occurs on this day. Tonight, at midnight, all over the world, writers everywhere are going to pick up a pen, or touch fingers to keypads and start typing on one of the most popular challenges anywhere: Nanowrimo.

Ah, the marvelous magical madness of mayhem that begins on the first of November and continues until the end of that fair month. This is my third year, and I like to think I know the process fairly well. This then is your grand tour to that mystical place called Nanoland.

First you need to meet the important people behind this madness. First and foremost is Chris Baty, the insane writer who founded the program, and this year stepped down to pursue his dream of becoming a published author. He is known for wearing a viking hat, for running, and for making hilarious videos to inspire others to write at a pace as insane as his own. He's the author of "No plot? No problem!" the handbook for wrimos and "Nanoland Chronicles; Bedtime stories for Wrimos."

I hear your pleas for mercy. "Slow down," you say. "What's a wrimo?"

National Novel Writing Month abbreviates as NaNoWriMo. Now forget what those words stand for, because only the abbreviated version is important. Nanoland is the place where novels are written. Nanowrimos are the people who write them in Nanoland. Wrimo is an affectionate abbreviation for those people.

Next in the line up of Important People is Lindsey Grant. She is the voice of reason behind the throne of genius, or in this case, the voice of insanity behind the throne of Chris Baty. (Really, I don't know what Nanoland will be without Chris Baty. It's like Holy Worlds without Jay Lauser, or Apple without Steve Jobs. It kind of defies the imagination...)

And the third person you absolutely must recognize is Dragonchilde, also known as Heather Dudley. Dragonchilde is the head moderator of Nanoland, the sort of Marshall or Enforcer. She posts the rules, she notifies you of infractions. She's everywhere at once, a veritable whirlwind of moderating. She makes it her goal to read every single post on the forum, although she confessed that eventually that becomes impossible. All hail the moderators!

Continuing on our grand tour! Like with most writers wrimos are skilled at the art of procrastination. Rulers of Nanoland recognized this fact and, rather than squash it, they chose to foster it. There are many ways of procrastinating.

1. The Procrastination Station. This is the lower right tile found on the Dashboard, which is the Nanowrimo homepage. Every day it is updated with new links to suck your time such as "How many gallons of ketchup it takes to flood a cave" and "How many cubic feet of jello would fill the White House?"

2. NanoVideo. Every day last year a new video was posted by the staff at Nanowrimo, ranging from the pointlessly hilarious, to plot dares, to effective word boosting tips.

3. Nanotoons. Some made cartoons about wrimos!!!

4. Games and Diversions. "If there's one thing more exciting than working on your novel in November, it's not working on your novel in November!" Thus proclaims the description of this forum, who's sole existence is the playing of word games such as: Convince Cleverbot to join Nanowrimo, Last Post, and The Abbreviation Game.

However, November isn't all about fun and games. It's about writing, seriously writing. And sometimes you need to talk about that writing. The forums are equipped with rooms for every type of conversation imaginable, from age grouping to occupation, to genre. But if you're really stuck then you venture into the world of Nano Tips and Strategies. Here is the Adoption Society, where you can hunt down a sidekick for your MC, or an annoying sibling for your villain. Or you can adopt a setting for that gruesome murder, or a food to eat at your MC's favorite restaurant. Or check out the Reference Desk for help on the distance between Alaska and New Hampshire, a believable speed for knitting a carpet large enough to carry an army, or the amount of hot chocolate packages you would need to fill a bathtub. Get help on how to reach those 50,000 words with tips, tricks, and just plain cheating, or go over to plot doctoring and find away around that persnickety wall that has reared itself in your path.

NanoLand is a kingdom with a culture all of it's own. Obsessive Word Counting is one aspect of the world, but there are others as well. I'd like to introduce you straight off to some favorite elements.

1. Word wars! I love word wars. It's such a pity that they tend to go out of season after November. No better way to boost your word count and feel competitive at the same time. Best done with people you know, preferably people you can chat with.

2. The Traveling Shovel of Death. Death by Shovel. How does that work? Well, if you're really stuck, maybe the TSoD will find it's way into your novel. It can be sneaky, sometime's it's a murder weapon, sometimes it's just a means of tripping the unfortunate character.

3. Plot Bunnies! Plot bunnies are the makers of Rabbit Trails. Very similar to Idea Fish they hop about wreaking havoc with your plot, taking your novel in directions you never intended it to go. One method of dealing with plot bunnies is to drop them off at the Adoption Society, or leave them at the bunny daycare center.

4. The Knights of Nanowrimo. For years these friends have ridden together, courageously battling through the Plains of Writer's Block and the Forest of Procrastination, being stopped by Rabbit Warren, or the Gloom of Real Life Duties. Mounted on brave steeds and armed with sharp weapons they press onward, always onward, fighting their way to the kingdom of 50,000. Melodrama is ours, banners waving high in the air proclaiming our quest, and never mind the laughter of those upon the site of our awkward appearance and progress. Join us in epic speechifying as we get our wandering quest underway!

Those are the highlights of Nanowrimo as I have experienced it for the past two years. To explain it all would take a book the size of a Nanoer's novel, and I do not wish to bore you anymore. You must proceed to the site and see for yourself other wonders such as Shoutouts, and Donation Halos. No where else will you find such freedom to be a writer, to write with abandon, to care for nothing but that final word count. Whether you actually turn out anything useful can be arbitrary, if you have truly joined into the wonderful group effort of writing a novel in November.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Parallel Episodes: Turn off your blue tooth!

Turn off your bluetooth! It may be manipulating you. 

 Stargate: Revisions
SG-1 visits a planet that is uninhabitable except for a small bubble of life. During their stay they notice the bubble shrinking, but the inhabitants have no memory of it being any larger after each shrink. To make matters more suspicious they refuse to remove their ear pieces that tie them into the central network.

Doctor Who: Rise of the Cybermen

Beware of using the same EarBud your neighbor does, they might be connected to a secret network that can control your mind. John Lumic was a brilliant, if a bit off-kilter inventor of cybernetics, including the popular EarBuds used by nearly everyone to directly access a central network. Unfortunately, when Lumic decides that the world would be better of safely encased inside emotionless metal frames he is able to use this network to force everyone with access to comply.

Doctor Who: Sound of Drums

Check your cell phone too. In the Year That Never Was the Master used the Archangel Cell Phone Network to send a message around the world, unseen, creeping into people subconscious. Four drum beats had a hypnotic effect, guaranteeing his election. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Perfect Ending

I'm sure Doctor Who isn't the only show that has recently reached an astonishing conclusion, before returning to entertain us all next year. But since it's the only show I've actually watched as it was airing it's the only comparison you're going to get.

Season six was season to top all previous seasons. Rumors of the main plot had been growing as far back as season five. Not typically having a plot that reaches across seasons this was somewhat unusual, and had everyone a bit excited. And the plot thickened, until the list of questions that had been asked was long enough that we were constantly forgetting something, and remembering new things, and waiting with bated breath for the finale. And the finale came, with all the brilliance we'd expected of the producer, all questions answered, all loop holes tied up. For not planning in advance it was amazing.

But, days and weeks passed. We talk and talk about the finale, making connections, figuring out complex time loops. And this unsettling feeling grows that there were things that weren't properly addressed. Story arcs that started, and never ended. A host of things that weren't explained to our satisfaction. But it's a TV show. They make it up as they go along. Sometimes things just don't line up, we live with it, and hope they do better next time.

We are born with an innate desire for completion. Whenever we read a book or watch a movie we like everything to be explained at the end. If something is really complex or involved we sometimes wonder how it's even possible for everything to tie together. If it does we admire the writer, if it doesn't we grumble about them. This is most easily seen in mystery stories. So often we get hung up on a particular clue, certain it's the answer, only to find it's only purpose was to mislead us, and what kind of purpose is that?

Let me present to you the most confusing story in the history of long running plots. It's most often referred to as the Holy Bible. Reading through the books of Daniel, of Isaiah, of Revelation it reads almost like gibberish. How can any of it make sense? Many, many interpretations have been made of what it all means, but do any of those take into account every last verse or prophecy? The ones that have been fulfilled are marked by startling accuracy, such as the fall of Jerusalem and the fall of Rome. But who can make sense of the ones yet to come?

We can guess, obsess and speculate. But ultimately we must wait for the finale. No, The Finale. The finale Finale. The end of all things, the beginning of all things. The Finale to end all finales. And do you know what? It's going to be a perfect ending. Every last word of prophecy is going to fit in somewhere. There aren't going to be any loose ends or superfluous remarks. Every last, tiny detail is going to fit into that ending in complexion that we can only stare and wonder at. It's going to be brilliant. It's going to be the most awe-inspiring complete ending that the world will ever see.

Remember that. Every time you see an ending you think was well done or poorly done, it's only our feeble attempt to achieve that Ultimate Finale; the Perfect Ending.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Never Say Never....

When I was writing Prince of Yen I was never going to write an epic battle scene. I was Never going to write adult fiction. I was Never going to write anything but fairytales. I was certainly Never going to write non-fiction.

I had my box, I liked my box, and I was never going to leave it. But the Ideas outside of the box broke down my barriers and restrictions and crept in simply to spite me. I had dreams that begged to be stories. I wrote fantasy that got increasingly darker. Magic, sorcery, mind control, murder, blood even, the list went on until I shuddered at my ability to write what I'd sworn never to write and switched to science fiction, abruptly breaking another Never.

I've Never liked superheroes. I always thought they were too perfect, too corny, too outdated, and too completely unrealistic. I hated Supervillains even more. The entire genre was the last thing on earth I thought I would find myself writing.... until two weeks ago. Now I have a telepathic tinkering genius teenager who's really an alien prince fighting a revolution. While trapped on earth he is unaware of his true identity and spends his time building gadgets, wearing capes, and saving people from imminent disaster like any true Superhero would. His weakness is his dreams and his enemies are people of his own race, come from his home planet to find him.

I've Never written fan fiction. I prefer to create my own characters. I couldn't fathom working with anyone else's. See this account here? A Teaspoon and an Open Mind.Yup, that's me. Writing fan fiction.

I was also Never going to waste time on a TV show. Guess what above fanfics are about?

As for Never writing non-fiction... well, look around. I write it twice a week, and I like it. All I can conclude is that I'll Never say I'll Never write something again because the minute I do it seems it comes back laugh at me when I find the words I would Never write flowing out of my pen.

What are your Nevers and how have they overcome you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Superman

Every time one turns around these days new Superheroes are popping up. With new movies like Thor, Green Lantern, and Captain America we can sometimes find ourselves feeling a little outnumbered by men of steel. Especially when you're as behind on the classics as I am.

Somehow, the night my family chose to rent Superman I was not at home. I suffered patiently for years thereafter, for having already seen it everyone else wanted to move onto new, exciting films, and Netflix has a grudge against putting anything I wanted to watch available instant view. (This is very similar to the fact that if the local library ever has a movie I want it always vanishes from their shelves the day I arrive to check it out.) That is why I love Spiderman, hate Batman and yet knew nothing about the one superhero you couldn't miss: Superman.

Netflix at long last took pity on me, and I finally met Clark Kent in person. I got to watch Superman, Superman II, and Superman Returns. I started on Superman IV and quickly realized that the reviewers who said the series went downhill were very, very right.

So the first Superman movie was pretty good. I got rather confused more than once though, but managed to blame everything on the fact that it's a comic book. Clark Kent is a little too perfect, a little too invincible, and not quite bright enough. I didn't quite understand why he needed an alter ego, when everyone knew of his existence already. (Contrary to Spiderman who had to live an ordinary life because he had an ordinary life to begin with, Superman had the freedom to fly around and just be Superman.) I don't understand what he sees in Lois. I've never really liked her name, and she screams entirely too much. And I didn't really figure out what was going on at the end, or why the mere sight of Kryptonite had such an effect on him.

There's an interesting logical problem, Kryptonite is part of the planet Krypton, right? So... Superman's race lived there. So how can it be dangerous? The planet was made of it. If it's that dangerous, no one could live there... right?

Superman II
I actually liked this one better than the first one. The stakes were higher. Dangerous criminals who can equal Superman's strength; there's some real conflict for you. Not to mention they had pretty cool costumes. Superman's decision to give up everything for love, I love that. But... why was that required? It wasn't very well explained why he had to become human. And then he becomes a total wimp. Even without his superpowers he should be able to defend himself.

The interesting logical problem in this one is the final battle at the end. The bad guys start picking on the citizens, and of course Superman should have known they would. So why did he lead them away to some place deserted from the get go? He should never have allowed them to choose their own ground.

Superman Returns
I found out about this one and thought: Aha! It's new. Modern movie standards to the rescue. No stilted dialogue or unbelievable plots. This is going to be good. I was quite disappointed. I did, however, really, really get involved in the scene where he get's beat up by the bad guys. It was... intense. But then the resolution just kind of flopped and the entire thing went back to being lame...

Interesting logical plot hole of all plot holes (and a major spoiler): the child who's supposedly his son could only have been conceived when he was human, which means the child can't be a superhero because of the entire plot of Superman II!

Overall Thoughts
He has the most beautiful name. Kal-el. And what do they call him? One of the cheesiest names ever, Superman. The only person who uses his real name is his holographic parents. Kal-el. Just say it out loud a few times and you'll start to wonder why they didn't use it more...

Despite being a perfect gentleman and the ideal man I really don't like his morals.

There's entirely too much worship going on. Worship of Superman, worship of the government, etc, etc.

When I'm all grown up and rich and famous I want to produce my own version of Superman. In the meantime I must content myself with fanfiction; something I never thought I would ever write.

(Or what I think the story of Superman should be.)

He has never been truly happy.

He's tried of course, he's pretended. Even as a child something was calling to him, telling him he was different; he would never belong.

He's an alien, so far from home. His world is destroyed, his people are gone, and he is so very, very alone. He struggles to reconcile his past, his culture, with the ordinary world he's grown up in. He's young and ill-equipped, and feels positively inadequate for his position. He's shy and uncertain, and when around the girl he adores he's positively clumsy. He wants to explain, he wants her to help him. He needs her to fill the emptiness he feels, to take away the horrible aloneness, but he can't.

Krypton is gone, shattered into a million million pieces. Parts of it keep drifting down to earth, reminding him of what he's lost. A bit of metal, a few criminals, shadows of his father's name; the father he never knew. He tries to escape it all, to leave it behind. He tries to abandon what the crystal showed him. The world was fine before he came, it will continue without him as it did before.

He is so weak, so helpless. Nothing feels right. Nothing fits. This is not what he had hoped it would be. Even as he realizes he cannot escape who he is he knows that he cannot abandon what he has become. The people count on him, they look to him for protection. He cannot leave them alone now, he cannot abandon them. He has failed, he has betrayed them after giving them a false sense of protection.

He returns to his godship, to the cold emptiness of the stars. He swears he will not abandon them again. He will not betray them. They thank him, they worship him, but he shakes it off. He wishes they would not. He is nothing but lonely, afraid, and empty. He turns away from them, still smiling, and flies off into the night. Only then does he hide his face and weep, giving up everything he loves and desires for duty that has been pressed upon him. He will protect the earth.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Idea Fish

Writing a story is not all that difficult, once you have an Idea. Ideas come in different shapes and sizes, and appear to different people different ways. There's no telling what form an Idea will take when it presents itself to you. But sometimes, once you have an Idea, you don't know where to begin with it. This is where the Idea Fish come in.

If the mind is a fishbowl than your thoughts are Idea Fish. They swim about, generally in schools, and most of them have "Start Here" written on them. Have you ever had a really messy room and you set out to clean it but never succeeded because you had too many options to start with? Should you make your bed, or pick up your clothes, or straighten your desk first? Have you ever been confronted with an error screen that says "Press any key to restart" and fled screaming from the room? This, my friends, is the attack of the Idea Fish.

Once you have an Idea it's time to start writing, but where to begin? The Idea Fish float over and make suggestions. Sometimes there are just a few, the choice is simple, and we all survive. But sometimes there is a very large school of them, and the assault can cause a temporary paralysis: the fear of choosing wrong.

Endless Possibilities
Let me give you a very simple example. Your prompt is to write about four children who run away from home. Well, if you tell anyone you're writing about four children who run away from home their very first question is going to be, "Why are they running away?" It's a good question. It deserves a good question.

Why are they running away? The Idea doesn't cover anything other than the running, so the Idea Fish swarm over to offer advice... and what a lot of advice! Maybe their mother died. Maybe their father is a criminal. Maybe their house burned down. Maybe they want to see the world. Maybe they were lured away by a stranger. Maybe they received a mysterious message. Maybe they're not human.

Where to begin, eh? Suppose I close my eyes and point and pick that way? Can't do that, I'm the writer here, I'm going with the most interesting once. So they're not human. What then? Maybe they're elves. Or aliens. Or maybe one of them is an alien and is secretly preparing to kill the others. Maybe their mother escaped from the Otherworld and that's why they're running now. Or maybe they've been experimented on and had their memory of the incident removed. Maybe they're genetically engineered to be superhumans.

Bang head here. 
This is the point at which my brain gets overloaded and I wander off to speculate about something that makes sense, even if it's a pointless kind of sense, like the future of television. I have succumbed to the attack.

Sometimes it's possible to prevail against the attack, to find your way out of the maze, and banish the IF's from your mind. But they don't really go; they lurk in your subconscious saying "If" "Maybe" and "Perhaps." They ask if this is really the best idea you could have chosen. Perhaps if you picked out a different one your story would be even better. But how many stories about four children who run away from home does a body need? I just want to get to the running part, never mind why!

Running.... now that's a good idea... Ahem. Anyway. Those are the Idea Fish, the bane of my existence. In fact, I'd say the attack of the Idea Fish is more trouble than Writer's Block. Which do you think it's easier to get past? A brick wall or a tree of infinite possibilities?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Becoming the Doctor

I just got back from an audition today; a Disney audition. I had to be prodded into going, which isn't usual for me. But armed with a monologue from Doctor Who, and Doctor Who audio books to listen too, I drove myself three hours and got through the biggest audition I've ever attended. And every time I felt myself drifting off into the land of exhaustion, boredom, or pessimism I snapped myself back with a persona not quite my own, how would the Doctor react?

Why am I so obsessed with this character that I've started trying to copy him in daily life? Well, he's funny, friendly, happy, outgoing, inspiring, cheerful, intelligent, and generally fun to be around. These are all traits everyone should try to emulate, regardless of where they get inspiration from to do so. We tend to get wrapped up in our own little world, consumed by worry, doubt, and fear.We don't see outside our own little circle to the amazing universe and incredible people beyond. But the Doctor does. So here is your handy list to start you on your way to becoming the Doctor.

1. Smile. A lot. And then smile some more on top of that. Practice your smile, don't let it get rusty and out of shape. Smile at everyone, even if they don't smile back. Especially if they don't smile back. If someone gets annoyed at your smiling, smile bigger.

2. Talk. Whenever you find yourself next to someone, start a conversation. This includes people at the gas station, on the bus next to you, in an audition hall, or in line at the supermarket. Start a conversation by introducing yourself. This helps them to feel like you're not a random stranger, and indicates that you're interested in a real relationship, rather than just making a random comment and moving on.

3. Make eye contact. Guess what? People aren't robots, or cars, or vegetables. Each one is an individual. See them as that, rather than rushing past, trying hard to be invisible. Greet everyone as an individual as much as possible. When you're walking down the street or the grocery aisle make eye contact, smile and nod, as though greeting an old friend. Your smile is wasted if no one sees it.

4. Be helpful. Did someone drop their bag four aisles down from you? Be the first one there to help pick it up! When a child is lost and crying, don't rush past, stop and help. Do you notice trouble going on? Don't stand back like a curious spectator; see if there is something you can do to help sort it out.

5. Don't be afraid to stick out. Dressing different is a good start to a conversation. Wear a funny hat, or a cool shirt, or a crazy scarf. Be original, and exciting and different. But don't be weird for the sake of weirdness, just do it because it's meant to be for you. Not everyone is cut from the same cloth... or wears the same color shoes. Don't think you have to because everyone else does, but don't think you shouldn't just because no one does either!

6. Listen. Talking is good, listening is better. Be outgoing, but be respectful. Notice when something is wrong, and know when to shut up. This takes practice, but it's well worth is. Observe your surroundings, rather than isolating yourself in by hiding behind a book or with earbuds. It is by listening and observing that you can learn how to be the most helpful. Study the people around you, so you can reach out to them effectively.

7. Be bold. Don't be afraid. Don't shrink back because of what people will say about you. Don't be afraid to stick out. Be honest. Admit when you've made a mistake, even to yourself. But forgive yourself for your mistakes and risk trying again. This is the hardest part, not slinking off ashamed the first time someone glares at you, or mocks you for being so atypical. Remember, they're just people. Pick yourself up, put on your biggest, brightest grin, and carry on. Never give up. Never declare it useless.

"When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it'll never end. But however hard you try you can't run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever, for one moment, accepts it."

Saturday, October 8, 2011


 Dear Idea Factory,

Random Doorway

I know, I know, I haven't written anything for you lately. Well don't give me that look I've been... busy! And I've been under attack by the Idea Fish.

Frightened Spike

No, I haven't written about the Idea Fish yet. 

Yes, I will. When? Soon. Soon, I promise! And, all right, stop giving me that look... what? Yes, I have a post for today! If you'll just let me get on with it! 

Lots of Spikes

Right. So today I'm going to tell you about Spike.Who is Spike, you ask? Well, simply put, Spike is what you look like when you get out of the shower and your hair is sticking straight up. If your hair is short enough to stick straight up, that is. If not then it's what your brother looks like when he gets out of the shower. 

Worried Spike

Unless my brother is the only one who has a sister who tells him he looks like Spike when he gets out of the shower and his hair is sticking straight up... or perhaps my brother is the only one who's hair sticks straight up after a shower making him look like Spike. Or maybe other brother's don't let themselves be seen when they've just emerged from a shower. So maybe Spike is really my brother and not a representation of all recently showered brothers at all. 

Random Treasure Chest

But whatever he might represent, Spike is one of the few drawings I actually don't throw into the trash can immediately after attempting it. As a matter of fact, I've kept careful posession of the scrap of paper that bears his only incarnation, and now have finally bestowed upon him the form of Digital Immortality. 

May Spike rest peacefully forever, here in this blog post of Randomness to beat all previous Randomness. 

The Entire Original Drawing