Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Surprising Things I've Done (Which You Likely Haven't)

There's a meme of sorts going around the SF writers' blogosphere lately, in which participants detail ten of the most remarkable things to happen to them in their lives -- experiences that most of us have probably not been privy to. In fact, even the current president and vice-president of the Science-Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have joined in on the fun. So, naturally you know I just had to add myself to this august list of goofballs.

Now, I must first make note that these 10 items are not meant as bragging rights. Honestly, some of the entries on this list are not the proudest moments of my life. Although a few are. Also, I'm sure *some* of you out there have done a few of these things, or at least something similar. But I'm willing to bet not many.

So, without further delay, here are my "Top 10 Surprising Things":

1. Chatted briefly with, and gave a hug to, Mother Teresa.

2. Got married in Las Vegas (although not by Elvis).

3. Had a full-length dream in Mandarin Chinese, complete with English subtitles.

4. Crashed into a speeding car head-on while riding a bike down a hill at top speed, and survived with no broken bones or emergency room visit.

5. Hiked 18 miles through a national park in one day while carrying a full pack with camping gear.

6. Drank a diluted cup of Clorox bleach and lived to tell about it.

7. Had picture taken and small blurb written about me in the New York Times.

8. Had eight shots of Tequila in one hour and not only did not die, but was still coherent afterwards.

9. Read a 350-page sci-fi novel in under 6 hours.

10. Gave James Gandolfini (Mr. Tony Soprano!) change for a $20 bill.

EDIT: If anyone would like elaboration upon one or more of the above points, ask me in the comments section below and I shall oblige. :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is This Truly Portland?

Jacked this from the blog of SF writer and Portland, OR native, Mary Robinette Kowal. It's a skit poking loving fun at the city of Portland and starring Saturday Night Live alumn, Fred Armisen. Apparently it's a promo of sorts for an upcoming mini-series on IFC called "Portlandia," which I'm guessing takes place in this northwestern city. The tune of this video is catchy at the very least, but I can't attest to the authenticity of its claims of being perpetually stuck in the 90s since I've never been there. But check out the video for yourself below. And if you're from Portland, please chime in on the comments section with your impressions:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Validation For My Crazy Plans

Recently on his blog, acclaimed sci-fi author and current SFWA president extraordinaire, John Scalzi, put up a bucket list of sorts detailing the things he would like to do in life. It's a good list. You should check it out. Speaking of which, I should write up my own sometime this week.

But in the meantime, what caught my attention in particular was this passage:

"In the case of writing a script I can see myself doing what I did when I first tried writing a novel, which is to do a “practice” one first — just thinking up some story I’m not hugely mentally invested and then going off and writing and not worrying if it’s worth reading by anyone else, but rather just doing it to learn what I need to do better the next time. It worked reasonably well with the novels."

See? I knew I had the right idea when I announced nearly a year ago that I would be writing a practice novel as my very first attempt at the long form. As I recall, I received many raised eyebrows from friends, family, and peers alike at this announcement. My reasoning at the time--almost down to the same wording--was very much in line with what Scalzi says above.

Of course, many people felt that I shouldn't bother with a practice novel and just try my hand at a serious run for broke. The product of which I just knew I would have to shop around and try to sell. But this to me didn't sit right with my goals. See, I'm not in a rush to get published. I want to first learn the craft properly. I'm not going to hide in the shadows forever, no. But for the time being this practice novel I'm writing is purely for me to get a handle of what it's like to put together such a daunting project. You know, to rob the idea of writing a novel of its mystique and intimidation factor. The novel I'm writing now is no lightweight, though. It's a fully fledged undertaking. But on a subject I did not come up with on my own, based on an already existing property.

For me, this is my safety blanket. I'll spend the better part of a year writing and revising this baby, and learning all that I can in the process. Afterwards, I'll let a few friends and family read the results before shelving it away for good.

Such is life. Don't cry for me, Argentina.

But I'm floored that this crazy idea of mine turns out not to be so crazy after all. In fact, in retrospect of what Scalzi had to say, now I seem rather clever, don't I?

Now if only that cleverness can translate over to the novel in progress. We shall have to wait and see, won't we?

The Christmas Blizzard of '10

So, as you may have heard, New York City got gob-smacked by nature's wintry fury the day after Christmas. For the second time this year, we got blasted by a blizzard dumping close to two feet of snow on the Five Boroughs. It started around 10:30 am yesterday morning, and got particularly bad around 6 pm in the evening. I woke up this morning to find quite the winter wonderland spread out below my 10th story vantage point. I even took a few time-lapse panoramics over the course of a 24-hour period with my iPhone 4. I started at 11:30 am on Dec. 26th, and took my last photo at 11:30 am on Dec. 27th. Check out the progression below:

The South Bronx is actually kind of peaceful looking when it's buried under over 20 inches of snow, ain't it? This is part of the reason why I love the winter so much. It makes a much more honest entity out of this murderous beast I call home.

I hope those of you dealing with the aftermath of these winter storms are safe and warm in your neck of the woods. Thank god I'm off from work until after New Year's.

Now This Is How You Remake A Show!

I don't know how many of you remember this, but back in 2008 NBC remade a classic show from my childhood called Knight Rider. Yeah, you might have heard of that one. Most 80s brats know it well. Aside from being a pretty cool show that all the kids were talking about in class the next day, what I remember most is the kick-ass intro. Usually, for me at least, a show's opening credits is what makes or break it in my mind. So when the rebooted tv series premiered over two years ago, one of the most pressing questions for my money was how well they handled the opening.

See for yourself: Here's the original opening from way back when . . . and here's the shitty 2008 intro.

Now, you tell me -- WTF was that? Setting aside the visuals, how can you take such an awesome musical theme as what you had with the original version . . . and then crap on it by going off on a completely different cue? And I tried to make the new show work, really I did. But in addition to the crappy cast and boring plots, having to listen to this new theme music just really pissed in my pudding. Blech!

And for a while there, it seemed The Powers That Be at the big networks were content to continue taking huge, collective shats on my childhood memories. Remaking shows from the glorious past and reworking the theme music. Anyone see ABC's V last year? Yeah, 'nuff said.

The people who make these decisions are idiots. How can you alienate the old time fans by completely slapping them in the face with intros that don't pay proper homage to the original shows? Who does that?

Well, I'm happy to say the folks over at CBS have done it right. Yes, I'm talking about the remake of Hawaii Five-O, which premiered earlier this Fall. Yet another favorite of mine from when I was just a wee tyke. And, if anything, it was a show with an even more memorable opener than Knight Rider! *gasp* So naturally I was ready to hate on this new 2010 update. Of keen interest to me was the extent to which they would mangle the famous brass instrumental music of the theme.

But, color me surprised! Not only is the show actually compelling and entertaining to watch, but the intro was clearly crafted by someone who loved the original opener and wanted to pay proper respect to the music. Below I'll post up a clip of the original 1968 opening sequence, followed by the 2010 one. Although the newer intro is far too short thanks to modern ADD sensibilities these days, I have to say I love this reworked theme. It still retains all of the important cues from the older theme, but with a nice contemporary interpretation that works just fine for this fan. Also, I love some of the visual ticks that the new one borrows from the original. Watch both clips closely and see if you can catch the similarities:

I don't know about you, but that alone made me HYPED to see this new show. And lo and behold it actually does not suck! If you have not checked out this series yet this year, do yourself a favor and catch up before the new episodes resume in late January. Particularly if you were even a middling fan of the original. This is remake television done right!

Plus, I love any show that is filmed in and supports the local economy of that wonderful island state of Hawaii. If for nothing else, it changes the tired scenery from so many shows which use L.A. or Vancouver as their filming base. So refreshing!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So It's Only, Like, About Damn Time!


As you can see above, we're finally getting Blu-ray releases of El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico -- the films that were Robert Rodriguez's own take on "The Man With No Name" trilogy. This time, though, the gunslinger is a mariachi . . . and he's in modern-day Mexico!

Of course, I have no idea why the hell the first two movies are being packaged together on the same disc, while the third film is being sold separately. All three will be hitting shelves on Jan. 4, though, so we have less than two weeks for awesome greatness!

Well, only Desperado was awesome. The other two are "meh" at best. I think they knew this, which is why Desperado is not being sold alone. Heh, heh . . . smart, Sony. Smart. Even smarter would have been to release all 3 together in one nice trilogy box set. But then, what do I know about video marketing?

Anyway, click here and here if you want to read the one-sheets.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Taking A Short Break From The Novel . . .

If anyone's been paying attention to the "Novel In Progress" tracker in the upper right corner over the past couple of days, you might have noticed that it's been stuck on 56,560 words all this time. Let me clear up what's happening.

First of all: No, I haven't given up on the novel. I haven't burned out, nor ran out of juice. And I'm not suffering from writer's block. In fact, one of the things I've been blessed with on this novel is knowing exactly how and where I want to take the narrative, thanks to a rather extensive outlining process I worked on over and over again over the course of 2010.

Secondly: I'm doing okay myself. I'm not dealing with personal issues, or going through a rough patch at work or at home. There's no current crisis keeping me away from my writing. In fact, short of the zombie apocalypse, there's very little excuse for me to take a break from writing even if I happen to be dealing with some issues in my life. After all, writing for me is therapy. I genuinely have FUN writing my stories -- it's why I got into this whole crazy spec. fic. writing thing anyway.

So, thanks for worrying about me everyone. But both me and the novel are in good shape, so no need to keep asking. And, no, this is also not the scheduled break on the novel which I was planning on taking anyway after I wrote the core chapters. You may recall in this post that I mentioned I would be taking a 4 - 6 week break in order to work on some other stuff, not the least of which was researching the remaining chapters.

Well, this current break is a much smaller beast, though somewhat related. I decided the short stories that need to be written . . . need to be written RIGHT NOW! Which surprises me because I'm actually on a pretty good roll with the novel and just finished writing a very awesome scene that I'm proud of. But, see, that scene marked the exact middle point of the core chapters I'm writing. So far I have 13 chapters written completely, out of a planned 26 core chapters. Moreover, I'm at a natural pause within the narrative itself, where my characters were just hit with a major revelation and are now about to embark on the most dangerous leg of their journey. In other words, I've entered the dreaded 3rd Act -- that part of the novel which makes or breaks it for the writer. I don't know about you, but this seems to be the perfect opportunity to take a step back and breathe a little.

So, I have some short stories to write in the interim, including a rewrite of the piece that I just had critiqued by the fabulous Altered Fluid group here in NYC. I've been thinking long and hard on this rewrite and it looks like--just as I had suspected 2 weeks ago--that I'm going to end up tossing the entire story out and writing it from scratch all over again. This time with major changes to the plot, tone, and even the main character. Some of the secondary characters will still be present, but retooled to perform different tasks now. At least, that's what I *think* I'll be doing. Part of the reason why I've been non-active on the writing front these past few days is that I'm trying to organize everything in my head before I sit before the computer. I should be starting the rewrite sometime tonight and working through the week, including Christmas Day if so needed.

So, this is just a warning to you all to not bug me about the fact that my novel isn't being worked on. Yeah, I know all about it and am on top of things. I promise. No need to point it out to me anymore. This is a self-imposed break for very necessary reasons. When I do resume work on the novel, you'll be the first to know. Until then, let's talk about other things, 'kay?

Thanks, all. You're the best!

P.S. -- Oh, and the reason I keep referring to the novel as "THE NOVEL," and probably will until the very end, is that I rarely assign titles to my works before they're finished. I always found that practice by other newbie writers a bit presumptuous, given the fact that a story can change a great deal from the initial drawing board stage to the final rewrite. Which is why, of the fews time I *do* mention a title for a work-in-progress, I always provide a disclaimer that the title is only temporary. To put it plainly, the title of a WiP is the least important thing a writer should be worrying about.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Most Anticipated Movie This Month has their review up of True Grit, a movie who's trailer I gushed over here on this blog a while back. You can read the full review by clicking here. Besides giving the film 4.5 out of 5 stars, and calling it "the best Western since Unforgiven," IGN's Jim Vejvoda also had this to say:

"Just when you thought the Coens had made their career best with the neo-Western No Country for Old Men they make this gem. True Grit is one of the top films of 2010, and can now be added to the ranks of Best Picture Oscar front runners such as Inception, The Social Network, The King's Speech and 127 Hours."

I mean -- WOW! I knew this movie was going to be good, but from the sounds of it True Grit is even better than I imagined. I don't think next Wednesday can come fast enough, and I'll almost certainly catch this on opening day.

I'm also especially pleased that the young actress portraying the 14-year old Mattie Ross--newcomer Hailee Steinfeld--is receiving such great praise for her performance:

"Steinfeld is a revelation here . . . [she] simply owns the screen from her very first scene, fast establishing herself as a commanding presence to both the other characters and the viewer. She is smart, tough, vulnerable, funny and has range. It will be very intriguing to see where Steinfeld goes from here professionally as she'll most likely earn an Oscar nomination for her performance."

I had a feeling from watching the trailer that she would be one of the film's many shining gems. Glad to see my hunch may be right. Of course, I'll see for myself come next week. But so far everything about this movie is looking fantastic! And, hey, Barry Pepper is in this one, too!

And speaking of the trailer, I'm going to re-post it below for those of you who haven't seen it and want to know what all the buzz is about. I'll probably have a good time watching that other big December sci-fi movie coming out this week -- but True Grit is what I'm hurtin' to see right now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GRRRR . . . HRRRR . . . UNGH!!!!!

That's me today, because I feel like one of the living dead.

Last night was one of those unexpected moments when the wife and I crawled into bed together fully intending to sleep and . . . ended up talking the night away until 4:30 in the morning! HOLY HELLS, I am so brain-dead tired right now! It's amazing I even have the presence of mind to type these words.

What did we talk about? Oh, just life. Well, mostly our respective families, and also about how much we worry about today's children. Especially our nieces and nephews, who are so smart and adorable and deserving of the best life can bring. Unfortunately, if they continue living in the Bronx, they will most assuredly end up not living to their full potential. It's a fact of life around here. The entire borough is a cesspool for destroyed childhoods and unfulfilled dreams. It eats you up and spits you out unless you have the extraordinary strength of will to persevere despite all the obstacles. Which I did, and my wife did. But to which too many younger family members in both our respective families have not. Some who paid with their lives for the shortcomings of this ridiculous "ghetto fabulous" culture that permeates here.

I want those little toddlers in our family to live a good life, and so we agreed to keep on keeping on the parents, and push them to move away from this place. We will ourselves at some point, too; definitely if we have children of our own. The Bronx is safe to raise kids up until around the age of 7 or 8. Then you have to get the hell out of Dodge if you want to salvage their futures. For real!

Anyway, as you can see, we talked about some heady stuff. Mostly our fears and our hopes. It's nice to have that connect in the dark of night when the tv is off, the writing stopped, the PC shutdown, the cell phones left in the coat closet, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't seem to take into account that I had to wake up at 6:30 for work. So now I'm paying the price, operating on just 2 hours of sleep.

I have a loooong day ahead of me . . . but strangely, it feels worth it. Just one more way I'm reminded I married the right person.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Awesome New Game Trailers In One Day!

So, anyone watch the VGAs over the weekend?

For those who don't know, Spike TV aired its annual Video Game Awards show Saturday night, this year hosted by none other than NPH himself -- Neil Patrick Harris! He and some of the other presenters flubbed up a few times, but all in all it was a decent show. I was a bit miffed that Heavy Rain wasn't even nominated for Game of the Year, though, despite the fact that the title which did win (Red Dead Redemption) was my very close runner-up for that particular honor. Seriously, though, Heavy Rain is the clear winner for me. I mean, DAMN I love that game!

Of course, the most important reason to watch the VGAs is for the exclusive sneak peeks at the upcoming big games of 2011. And in this category, Spike TV did not disappoint! A bunch of big trailers were shown--like Resistance 3, SSX: Deadly Descents, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Forza 4--and we also learned that Kratos will be playable in the next Mortal Kombat game, which is just off the chart AWESOME!

But to be honest, 3 particular trailers stood out for me above the rest. It helps, of course, that these are sequels to games I just absolutely adore, each representing in their own way what I consider to currently be the primo best titles in their respective genres and/or console platforms. I'm going to embed a clip of each teaser trailer for you to enjoy after the jump below, in ascending order of personal excitement. Even if you never played these games but are interested in gaming in general, you simply *must* check these out. Trust me on this.


Milestone Weekend

Well, looks like my last entry achieved a milestone I should have been more aware of, but was not. Seems I crossed the 200 post mark for the year on The Bimillennial Man.

Wow, where has the year gone? And WTF did I have to blabber on about so much? Dunno. But I'm glad I can keep this blog going even despite my hectic schedule and other writing responsibilities. Portioning off specific times of the day to devote to various activities help. For one, I almost never blog at night. Night time is creative writing time for me. I'm useless in the morning and early afternoon when it comes to creative endeavors, so I usually reserve those times for less creative work. From years of schooling and the drudgery of working in an office, the daylight hours have rewired my brain for more mundane work and tasks which I can accomplish by rote.

Not that writing this blog falls under that category . . . but it hardly takes nearly the amount of mental resources as crafting an engaging narrative from scratch does.

Anyway, last year--my first full year of The Bimillennial Man--I was able to rack up around 230 posts. I'm not coming near that this year, nor does it really matter. But I will say that my commitment to keeping this blog from falling by the wayside has resulted in steadily increasing traffic numbers throughout the year. I won't say exactly what those numbers are (the truth is still embarrassingly low), but on a percentage scale I'm averaging almost a whopping 300% increase in the number of daily unique visitors to this site compared to the beginning of 2010.

And that, my friends, is simply CRAZY talk!!!

But I thank you all for continuing to join me on this journey. I know, according to my counter, that the majority of you are coming here for my Highlander Paris tours and trip report photos . . . but it's all appreciated. Your continuing interest in this site makes it all worthwhile, truly.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My New Favorite Small Press SF Magazine

As I mentioned earlier this week, I recently had a chance to meet with the Altered Fluid Writer's Group here in NYC to have a recent story of mine critiqued. Well, it turns out a good many members of this group also put together a great little SF 'zine that's been garnering rave reviews over the course of its run.

I only found out about Sybil's Garage over the summer, unfortunately -- rather belatedly, to my chagrin. But I recently purchased and downloaded the latest issue, No. 7, onto my iPhone book reader last month. And, WOW . . . I was stunned by not only the amazing stories and poetry pieces themselves, but by the breadth and scope of the different genres covered. All of the works represented within this smartly designed booklet fall under the umbrella of "speculative fiction," so you'll find a little of something for everyone.

My favorite short stories were: "Under the Leaves" by A.C. Wise, "The Noise" by Richard Larson, "The Unbeeing of Once-Leela" by Swapna Kishore, and "My Father's Eyes" by E.C. Myers, to name just a few.

However--and this goes out to all my movie buff friends out there--you really need to check out this amazing non-fiction essay written by Avi Kotzer, in which he explorers the themes (hidden or otherwise) on display within Quentin Tarantino's seminal WWII masterpiece, Inglourious Basterds. The title of the essay is "Glourious Homage: Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Cinema", of which an abridged version appeared in this latest issue of the magazine (click on the link above to read the full version).

This essay just blew my mind. Those of you who I've spoken to about the film already know how much I love Tarantino's latest work . . . but reading this piece brought a new facet of understanding to the way I now see the movie. In other words, Inglourious Basterds is even more awesome than most of us probably realized.

I know! Is such a thing even possible?

Certainly Avi Kotzer believes so, and I have to say he makes a compelling argument for just why it's such an important movie. Especially with regards to Tarantino's self-avowed love affair with cinema.

So if you love great SF, and small press publications of such in particular, you can't do any better than Sybil's Garage. I'm now a devoted fan, and am eagerly awaiting the next issue. If you're interested, click on the link and peruse the various methods by which you may procure a copy for yourself. Whether you're a writer in the genre or just a fan, you owe it to yourself to see what's coming out of this small Brooklyn-based publisher these days. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sci-Fi Friday Movie Trailers

No, this is not the start of a new series of blog entries. It's just that, for some reason, I seemed to have woke up this morning and found not one, not two . . . but THREE new sci-fi movie trailers for films coming out next year.

More Advice From A Cartoon Princess . . .

Last September I introduced to this blog a series of short comedy pieces from Second City alumn, Danielle Uhlarik, titled "Advice For Young Girls From a Cartoon Princess." If you recall, the first two pieces lambasted the Disney animated films Beauty and the Beast, as well as The Little Mermaid. You can click on this link to take you back to that entry and view the original clips.

At the time, I speculated on what the subject of the next go-round would be. Well, looks like my first pick was correct. This time around, Danielle pokes the sarcasm stick at Snow White herself. I still think the Beauty and the Beast skit was the best, but check out this one too for a quick chuckle:

LOL! "Fair, fair, fairest . . .white, white, WHITEST!" Oh man, that stings. If you would like to see more of Danielle Uhlarik, check out her (very) short film, "Stages of Emily," by clicking here. She produced, wrote, and starred in this short, which I thought was fresh and very well done.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Favorite Sword Duels At The Movies

Swords. Let's not deny it, we all have a weird fascination with the bladed weapons--a romance, let's say--that you simply cannot get from kicks and punches, or even guns. Sword duels in particular capture our imaginations in the media like no other form of personalized combat. Unlike gun fights in Westerns, swords by their very design require the combatants to face off in close proximity to one another like real men (or women). You know that the victor of a sword fight will not make it out alive by sheer luck. Swords require real skill and years upon years of vigorous training to master. Yet, in Hollywood at least, the good sword duel is hard to come by these days. Back in the time of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks movies, sure, the swashbuckling tales were a dime a dozen. But that era has been long gone. While cowboy and pugilistic genres have risen and fallen only to rise again in Hollywood, the sword movie has never recovered its true heyday of old.

Which is why, when a film does come along and display not only a competent sword duel on the big screen, but one that's a true crowd pleaser at that, I for one take notice. You might not concern yourself with such matters, but rest assured I *live* for these types of films. Without fail, if you were to look at a list of movies that influenced me the most since childhood, more often that not you're seeing a list that contains movies where sword fighting plays, at the very least, a marginal role in society.

Highlander, Star Wars, The Hunted, Excalibur, Dune, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, etc . . . . Need I go on? So what better way to celebrate the more subtle art form of good movie combat than for me to create yet another "Top 10" list? Below you'll find my list in descending order from best to BESTEST of my favorite sword moments in film. As with my other lists, these choices won't necessarily represent *your* favorite scenes. But then you can just write up your own list now, can't you? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Without further ado, I give you my Top 10 sword duels at the movies . . . after the jump.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So, A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way Home From Work Last Night

I came across this bunch of roving misfits:

From left to right: Tom Crosshill, Rajan Khanna, Kris Dikeman,
Matthew Kressel, K. Tempest Bradford, David Mercurio Rivera,
Alaya Dawn Johnson, Nora Jemisin, Paul Berger, Devin Poore.

Actually, this is the Altered Fluid Writer's Group -- the folks who agreed to critique a recent short story of mine in return for favors of a demeaning nature out of the kindness of their hearts. What's cool is that they meet up in an office building just one city block north of my own office, so the walk over took me all of 1.5 minutes! You may recall I won a guest spot with them via the KGB Fantastic Fiction raffle back in October, which I gushed about in this blog entry.

Well, as you can see I lived to blog another day. It was truly an honor to get my ass handed to me, critique-wise, by this group of supremely talented writers -- some of whom I've been a big fan of for years! Gosh, I don't think words alone can explain how much fun I had spending over an hour putting one of my latest stories--"Beethoven's 10th"--through the proverbial ringer. It might not sound like fun to some, but you have to understand how much I crave constructive criticism on my work. Every story of mine to see publication has only done so after first going through a lengthy and harrowing crit process. What this tells me as a writer, and what I knew going into the meeting last night, was that my stories always need a lot of work in the initial stages. And that, when I am receptive to the suggestions being thrown my way by other writers, my stories cannot help but change for the better as a result.

I have a lot to think about in terms of where to take this story in the rewrite stage to follow. Of course, I am in the middle of writing my first novel, as well as mulling over not just one but TWO "big ideas" for short stories that are begging me to hurry up and write them already.

For now the novel takes priority until I reach a natural break point (which should be at the end of the month) during which I can focus on other writing. I think I'll write out one of the two new ideas first (a sub 5000-word short, tentatively titled "How I Spent My Summer As A New York City Taxi Cab") straight off the bat, since that is the story idea I currently can't stop thinking about. Afterwards, I'll try the rewrite of "Beethoven's 10th," including a most probable title change. If I have time before resuming the novel, I'll write out the 2nd of my nifty new story ideas. That one will most likely be a dystopian short story, also under 5k, with a horror/alien body snatchers twist at the end.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: aren't you biting off too much at once? And I can see why you'd think that. But, really, this is the way my mind works best. I compartmentalize the projects I work on, so that one doesn't bleed over into the other. I'm going to need a break of about 4 - 6 weeks from the novel anyway, so that I can research Eastern Christian Orthodoxy, which I think should be more than enough time to work on some short stories in the interim.

So, all-in-all I have to say meeting everyone at Altered Fluid paid off in a HUGE way. It got me thinking about how to make my story a whole lot better, and yet didn't send me running home to curl up in a ball, crying. That's a win-win right there by my standards.

Lisa was so cute about it, though. After I came home and crawled into bed, she said to me:

"I kept worrying all day long, hoping that they would be nice to you."

I told her "nice" doesn't enter into the factoring, but that, yes, they actually were very good to me. Too good, in fact. It's sweet that she worried, though. I guess she picked up on the fact that this experience meant a lot to me.

To all you guys over at AF . . . thank you, thank you, THANK YOU so much! For the record, you guys rock hard!!! Hopefully I'll see most, if not all, of you around at KGB.

My Booklist

I recently signed up for Dropbox, a very cool service that allows you to create an online virtual folder in which you can place all your stuff (e.g., doc, pics, music, etc.) and have it accessible across any number of platforms -- home P.C., laptop, work P.C., iPhone, and so on . . . simultaneously! So, for instance, if I'm working on my novel, I can back up any new scenes into my desktop's Dropbox mirror folder, and then make small edits via my iPhone if I'm out and about and remember to add some minor plot detail I forgot. This also eliminates the need for me to constantly transfer my Word files back and forth via thumb drive, as well as providing a handy online backup of everything I write. If anything should happen to one of my computers with the Dropbox folder installed, I can still access the same files on another PC, or any platform with Internet access for that matter. Nifty!

You can take a video tour of the service by clicking here and deciding whether you want to sign up for yourself. If you do, please use that link since it's a referral linked directly to me. This way, if you do decide to join after watching the video, we'll both get an extra 250MB of storage free! And we all like free stuff, right? RIGHT????

One of the other things you can do is to allow the public to view certain items -- only those you specifically allow public access to (duh!). I wanted to try it out, so I thought I'd let the world see the book list I've been keeping all these years. In theory, this is a list of all the books I've read ever since the 1st grade. I say "in theory" because, quite frankly, trying to remember every single book I've ever read is a pain in the ass. I've been compiling this since around 2000, based on a more extensive list I kept in high school, circa 1993. And while I've only included the titles that I for a fact remember reading, a lot more have slipped through the cracks of this faulty vessel of mine I call my brain.

Click here if you want to view this list. Actually, please click on it and let me know in the comments below whether or not this works for you. The link will open a dialogue window asking if you either want to "Open" or "Save" the Word doc. I would recommend you "open" it if you just want a quick glance at the list. I'll be putting a more permanent link in my sidebar soon for archival purposes.

In the meantime, check out Dropbox and see if it's the right fit for you. Personally, I love it!

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Behind-The-Scenes-Footage On Game Of Thrones

So, HBO aired a behind-the-scenes look at their upcoming new show in 2011, Game of Thrones, last night before the season finale of Boardwalk Empire.

For most of us fans, this is our first really in-depth look at the faithfully recreated land of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms, as adapted from the novel. And all I have to say is: this is so fucking AWESOME!!! No, seriously, I can't believe how much I've been geeking out over what I'm seeing. I was particularly worried about the snowy scenes in the North, beyond the Wall, since the original footage was shot using fake snow and it looked horrible. Either they re-shot these scenes with real snow, or else the CGI department worked over time, because now the snow looks fantastic! (I'm leaning more toward the latter explanation, btw.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Three Celeb Crushes In One Movie!

Lisa and I went to see two movies tonight -- Black Swan (posterized above), and The Warrior's Way (pictured way below).

Surprisingly for me, Black Swan was the better movie. It was supremely good, in fact. Save for the ending, which kinda sucked . . . and not just because it wasn't a happy ending, which I can deal with normally. It just seemed tacked on, I guess is the best way to explain it. Done just to be "tragic" like the ballet of Swan Lake which the movie revolves around. At the end of the movie, when I asked Lisa what she took away from the experience, she said: "Why are women always such bitches to each other?"

Yes, why indeed!

But I have to say, one of the biggest highlights of the movie for me was seeing not one, not two -- but THREE of my top Hollywood dream women in the same flick! Natalie Portman (yum!), Mila Kunis (super YUM!), and my all-time fave, Winona Ryder (mega superlicious YUMMY!). Sure, she's crazier than a sack full of cave bats, but damn if this actress doesn't represent everything I find sexy in a woman!

So, yeah, this movie's done good by me. I highly recommend it to you all. Click here to view the trailer if you had no idea such a movie even existed. I believe it's in limited release this week, although I might be wrong. If so, it should see a wider release later in the month I imagine.

As for The Warrior's Way? Eh, no. This is one of those high-fallutin CGI action movies not dissimilar to Kung-Fu Hustle . . . if Kung-Fu Hustle sucked ass. It had its moments, but ultimately the story is so barely there and the characters never truly fleshed out that you walk away from the experience feeling like you wasted your time and money. Which I did, both.

I say: skip this. If you really need to know what this movie is about, check out the trailer by clicking here.

What about you? Did you see any movies worth mentioning this weekend? Or, do either of these two movies interest you? Sound off in the comments section below, please.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oops! No New Life Form On Saturn's Moon

Two days ago I mentioned here a Gizmodo article concerning a NASA press conference scheduled for later this afternoon. At the time, the educated guess was that arsenic had been discovered on one of Saturn's moons, Titan. Further speculation generated the possibility that there may have also been evidence found of an arsenic-based bacterium living on Titan.

Well, looks like everyone was WRONG! The announcement, in fact, was about an experiment conducted on bacteria dredged up from a a poisonous, arsenic-filled lake in California, which had the phosphorous element of its DNA removed and replaced with arsenic. Bacteria have been known to process arsenic before, but never to actually be made from it. The fact that this bacteria was able to propagate after the replacement has broad implications for the possibility of life existing on other planets where Earth conditions are not the norm.

So, sorry. No alien life forms discovered. But, for biologists, this is actually a very cool moment. It was previously thought unlikely that anything could live based on arsenic. Now we know better, and thus we learn that life doesn't have to be unique to Earth.

That's pretty awesome in my book!

For more info, check out this article in today's Popular Science update.

Latest Trailer For Game Of Thrones

HBO aired the latest teaser trailer for their upcoming Spring 2011 show, Game of Thrones, based on the popular fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, by the acclaimed George R. R. Martin. If you recall, I was a huge fan of the books long before this show was a glimmer in anybody's eye, and heartily recommend the series to anyone who prefers gritty "realism" to their fantasy -- rather than sissy elves and fairies and wizards waving wands around. Click on the video below for a first glimpse at what's shaping up to be another awesome hit show for HBO. My brief reaction follows after the clip:

You know, up until now, I didn't know quite what to make of the early pics and brief footage shown of the production thus far. Only after viewing this teaser does it start to hammer home just how deep and wonderfully produced this show has become. Filmed mostly in Northern Ireland, but also in parts of Scotland and Malta, the footage truly does have an epic look to it, doesn't it? I wonder if this makes anyone want to go out and read the first book? So far, everything I'm seeing in this teaser is taken directly from the opening chapters of the first novel. Seeing Sean Bean as Eddard Stark is so AWESOME, and the conversation he has with Bran about how "the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword" is one of those moments you simply never forget reading on the pages of the book, no matter how many years have passed. It's also an eerie foreshadowing of Ned's own terrible fate to come.

Apparently a 15-minute behind-the-scenes look will be airing at 8:45 this Sunday night before the season finale of Boardwalk Empire. If you have HBO, don't forget to check it out. If not, I'll eventually post the video here (if I have permission). In the meantime, let me know if you cannot get the video to work above. You might want to check out this YouTube version instead, if that's the case.

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...