Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy 800th!

So, it's come to this? I don't know how I managed this unprecedented feat, but somehow the Bimillennial Man is still up and running four and a half years and exactly 800 posts later.

Yes, you heard me right. This is officially post number 800. Wow! I didn't even realize this milestone was approaching until I viewed my stats page last night. And I thought I would plan something special to commemorate the occasion. But then I got sleepy and went to bed. And when I woke up, I realized I was too lazy to do anything remarkable. Such is life sometimes.

So instead I will revel in my laziness and re-post the very first blog entry from way back in 2008 when I first started this whole crazy shebang. Yes, travel back in time with me, won't you? Point and laugh at how ridiculously optimistic and happy I was about starting my very own blog.

(If only he knew what he was getting himself into, poor sap.)

On a serious note, it's amazing how well I've stuck to my mission statement all these years later. Not bad, Batista. Not bad at all.


August 26, 2008

Argh, mateys!

Hello there, glad you could join me. This is the narcissist post, all about me. I promise not to do too many of these (if any) in the future.

Now, who the hell am I? Nobody, yet. I'm the original David Batista, and not at all related to that poser wrestler (who's real last name is spelled with a 'u' in there, btw). I'm just an average guy living in the big, bad city of New York. I was born and spent most of my life here, and it's not too bad of a place to call home.

I'm of mixed heritage (anglo-saxon mother, dominican father) with almost no hispanic identity. Which is a shame, as it would have been nice if my father had stuck around to teach me some spanish. Anyway, I was raised solely by my mother, and then her mother (my grandma) after the age of nine. I am who I am today thanks to being surrounded by strong-willed, independent women -- my mother, grandmother, and aunt.

In high school I learned Spanish for the first time. Some of it stuck, most of it didn't. I had far more success in college where I majored in Chinese Studies. As a result, I came away with a pretty solid mastery of Mandarin and an unwavering love of all things China. I enjoy learning languages, especially difficult ones.

Now I spend my days toiling in a high-profile legal publishing company located in the Financial District. But by night . . .oh, well that's where the fun begins!

You see, I'm trying to break into the fiction writing biz. Specifically, sci-fi. I got back into writing in the summer of 2006, focusing mainly on the short form. I've written nineteen short stories since then, ranging from 5k to 12k in length. I still have a lot to learn as none of my attempts are fit to be published. Well, that's not true; one of my stories will be published online in the Feb. 2009 issue of Afterburn SF. So hopefully I can keep the ball rolling!

This blog will just be me going off at the mouth on various subjects that fit my fancy, not necessarily sci-fi related. I have a wide range of interests: from comics to computers, to antelope herding and video games. Okay, I made up one of those (guess which one).

I can get very heated on certain subjects, but for the most part I'll keep this blog on an even keel. My main mission is to just have fun.

Hope you do, too!

Feel free to drop in on the comments section and leave an introduction of your own.


--David J. Batista

Friday, January 25, 2013

5 Most Influential Books

To anyone who knows me, it's no secret that I love to read. It was my first true love, actually, and one which I still share to this day. In fact, for a list of (mostly) every book I've ever read--starting since childhood and moving on up through the years--check out my book list in the sidebar to the right of this page under "The Books I've Read." Be warned, though: the link leads you to a word document I have up on the public domain of my cloud service. You will be asked whether you want to open or save the file first.

Books have shaped the man I am today. I've learned so much, visited so many wonderful places (both real and imagined), and met a lot of strange and interesting characters along the way. I don't think there's one aspect of my writing today that is not somehow influenced by a great many of the titles from my childhood. Some days I feel as if I'm channeling them all! But there are a few that stick out. I've narrowed them down to 5 books that I will share with you below. These books, more than any other, have had the most profound impact on my development both as a person and a writer. And all for differing reasons.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

My uncle used to subscribe to Reader's Digest, and every month or so a new hardcover novel would arrive at our home in the mail. Beautifully bound and lettered, most of these books were great classics which carried an air of importance about them. Though, at the age of 11, most such titles like Moby Dick or The Virginian were too intimidating for me to try. But the Sherlock Holmes stories were different. Although it was difficult at first to get into the narrative style and syntax of the Victorian-age writing, the larger than life figure of the world's greatest detective took hold of my imagination like no other book could. To this day I still try to emulate Sherlock in my everyday life--observant and keenly interested in everything!

For Love of Mother-Not - by Alan Dean Foster.

My best friend introduced me to the author's works at the beginning of my freshman year in high school. I was 14 at the time and this was my first foray into the sci-fi genre for books. I was initially skeptical of the genre, but Foster's young protagonist quickly drew me in. Not to mention the fantastical descriptions of the sights and sounds that inhabited the sleepy backwater world of Moth, on which an orphaned red-headed boy was taken in by a curmudgeonly old merchant woman named Mother Mastiff and raised as her own. Being an orphan myself, I practically devoured this novel and asked for more. Luckily it belonged to Foster's "Commonwealth" series, and I quickly set out down the path of science fiction fandom that has so steered the course of my adult life. If not for this one book alone, I might never have discovered that sci-fi isn't about flying saucers and alien monsters incubating inside smelly human space miners. A whole new world of sophisticated and possible stories to tell was opened to me!

The Shades - by Betty Brock.

This was my first "big book" for children back in the third grade when I was 8. It was also my first foray into the "fantasy" genre, if you want to classify it as such. The story was about a boy who comes to stay with his eccentric aunt one summer, only to discover a secret world of shadow people living in the gardens behind her house, unseen to the rest of the world. It was this fantastical element that so surprised me back then, as I was initially led to believe that this was going to be a mundane story about a boy learning to be self-reliant and dependable in the face of indifferent parents who had better things to do. To be true, it was some of that. But the Shades and their shadowy intrigues proved far more compelling of a plot device for my young, bored mind. I doubt I've had more fun reading a book even to this day. It opened my eyes to reading as enjoyment, and not just as part of some school assignment. From this moment on, I would seek out and acquire books on my own. A book worm was born!

Dragon's Blood - by Jane Yolen.

Read this book in high school ostensibly for its cover. But what was inside turned out to be even better. Jane Yolen was mainly known for her YA fantasies at the time, but this book had some curious sci-fi sensibilities going for it as well. Which, since I had only just discovered the genre, was right down my alley. It's what originally caught my attention. Although the novel definitely has its fantasy trappings--it's about an orphan boy who seeks fortune through obtaining and training his own pet dragon, after all (and decades before that other series of books and movie)--it took place on a ruthless "outback" colony planet peopled by former prisoners. The world had mechanized transport and space ports. And it also had dragons. Weird! But as I was always a sucker for rags to riches tales--and there was that orphan boy angle again, to boot!--I read this book three times over in back to back sittings. Yeah, I did that. I loved it that much, see? I vowed to someday write a novel with a young teen protagonist that would be just as cool as this book. A promise I'm still keeping today.

Altered Carbon - by Richard K. Morgan.

I've talked about this book often on this blog, I'm sure. And with good reason. Morgan has gone on to write many other books since, of course, but this 2002 debut novel of his is why I'm writing sci-fi today. By the new millennium, I had pretty much given up hope of ever writing in the sci-fi genre. I used to read so many golden age science fiction stories that my style and ideas were as dusty and obsolete as those tales. I felt detached from the genre, with no idea what new stuff was selling these days. And then I saw all the praise this novel was getting in the trade rags. On a hunch, I picked up a copy and settled down for an adventure that would turn my life around forever. All the hard-boiled grittiness, the violence, the dark intrigues and socio-political underpinnings of a future Earth faced with a crisis of the soul . . . all these things and more endeared me to a new class of contemporary sci-fi novels coming out at the time. In Morgan's world, humans were no longer bogged down by the specter of age, disease, and death. Implanted with a "cortical stack" at birth which records all memories and saves them to backup, people were virtually immortal in this time. They could swap bodies at will, effectively extending their consciousness and, therefore, their lives indefinitely. But all things come with a price, as usual. Reading into all this, I was taken over by Morgan's slick use of inferred future technology. But even more so by his fast and loose use of prose which kept a steady, upbeat tempo ticking away as you read along. This stuff was exciting, modern, and so in tune with what I thought I should be writing! Suddenly, I had stories to tell. Suddenly I saw that there was a world out there for the stories I wanted to tell. Suddenly, I wanted to WRITE!

And there you have it. The 5 most important books in my life thus far. Writing this up makes me want to read them all again. Especially the Dragon's Blood trilogy, which I just discovered had a fourth book come out only a few years back. Hmm, I must have missed mention of this somehow. Ack! I must read the first three all over again before purchasing the fourth. So exciting!

How about you? What book has influenced your life in a great and positive way? Tell me in the comments section below. Or, better yet, write your own blog entry on the subject!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Return

Guess who's back? Back again . . .

I've been M.I.A. over the past several days--since last Thursday, in fact. I needed some time off from everyday life here in the city. And so I headed up to Vermont with my very good friends, Cin and Aleks, and one of their friends for the MLK weekend. We all stayed in a great little B&B just outside of Ludlow in Okemo valley, which is not far from the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.

But, boy, getting there was an adventure and a half! I dragged my luggage over to my friends' house Thursday morning. They had the car, see, but I would be the one driving us the 250 miles there and back. We picked up their friend, Marci, and then hit the road at around 4:30 pm. Unfortunately, this is the height of rush hour. And even more unfortunate, this is New York City. You get the picture. Needless to say it took an inordinate amount of time just to reach New Haven in Connecticut. About an hour longer than normal, if not more. Considering that we still had another 3 hours to go, I was worried we would arrive at our destination too tired to do anything but drop our bags and pass out. And what a waste of a day that would be, huh?

Still, on top of the horrendous traffic, we also had to contend with mother nature and hungry stomachs of course. What an annoyance! So we stopped at a service station along the road and made it into a McDonald's. Now, I haven't eaten in a Mickey Dee's in quite some time. And whenever I do, I'm never there for a whole meal. This time was different, tho. This was actually going to be my dinner for the night. So I ordered something simple but filling: two cheeseburgers and a small fries. However, when it came to the choice of drink I was drawing a blank. I was craving orange soda for some reason, and I could not remember if McD's served orange soda. The cashier looked at me like I was crazy. No orange soda, only an orange-like fruit drink. I had to reveal that, hell, I haven't asked for a soda in a fast food joint in 7 years. Give me a break, dude!

So I went with a diet coke instead.

But my poor, dear friend Cin had a worse experience. Not known for her adventurous spirit when it comes to food, I don't know why she chose this day to stir things up a bit. Having heard of the cult-like status surrounding McD's limited time sandwich--the McRib--she decided that this treasured delicacy would finally, on this very night, be hers! Oh, if only I had known. See, knowing Cin as I do, I did think this item an odd choice for her to be ordering. Despite the mania in this country for the McRib sandwich, it really isn't as good as it used to be back in the 80s when it was first introduced. I used to love it as a kid, but must say it's gone downhill ever since McDonald's decided it was a good idea to get rid of all the unhealthy saturated fats and other gunk that used to make their food delicious. Who needs a heart anyway, right?

But see, I didn't know that my friend did not know the McRib sucks. I thought she'd had one before and, like other crazy people in this country, had grown to become obsessed with the little faux-ribbed delight. Nope. Turns out she just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Bad, Cin. Bad! Only after she finished the sandwich did she complain about how awful it was. And that's when I found out the truth. Oy vey! I could have saved you the trouble, my friend.

The stuff of Cin's nightmares!

Yes, I'm still shaking my head to this day. Luckily for all of us in the car, Cin's error in judgement did not manifest itself in . . . er, let's say . . . any gastro-intestinal mishaps as we continued on our way. Phew! When we finally arrived at our destination, it was 10:00. Late, but not too late. The innkeepers Julie and Mike met us at the door and showed us to our rooms. Everyone got settled in, retired downstairs to the parlor to hang out a little, and then called it a night.

Home away from home at the Golden Stage Inn.

This tidy inn was very comfy to hang out at during our stay, and is very close to Okemo ski resort. We didn't do any skiing, however. Cin and Marci wiled away their waking hours crafting warmy socks and cool cowls and what have you, while Aleks had to contend with work-related phone calls and a business meeting or two in a big town one hour's drive away. Meanwhile I wrote a little and read a whole lot -- and stole cookies from the inn's infamous "never ending cookie jar" when I thought no one was looking (for the record: they totally were!).

Honestly, though, we were there just to relax and unwind, which was definitely welcomed on my part. And the innkeepers were just too awesome for words, too! We felt like we had free run of the house, hanging out in the parlor by the fireplace and sipping vodka-and-peppermint spiked hot cocoa as if it was our home. Not a bad way to spend a long, cold winter weekend, eh?

At some point Cin, Aleks and I left Marci behind and drove 90 minutes northeast to visit our alma mater, Middlebury College. We arrived on a late Sunday morning/early afternoon--and during January term to boot! Which meant the campus was even emptier and more quiet than normal for a Sunday.

It was weird returning to my old stomping grounds. Since graduating in 1998, I've only been back twice. Once in 2001 for a Chinese dept. reunion, and then again in 2004 to attend a wedding in a nearby town. Since then so much has changed. For one, there is a lot more development in the little village of Middlebury. More empty plots of land are now occupied by housing, or stores, and even a huge restructuring of the town center to include a traffic circle and this massive new bridge connecting the college with route 7 on the other side of town. Crazy! What used to take me 30 mins to walk to back in the 90s now takes only 12! Oh how I could have used this convenience then. *shakes fist*

In my day, we had to walk uphill in the snow . . .

And yet, for all that has changed, the campus itself has remained remarkably the same. It was very weird seeing the same official buildings, the same mail room, the same dorms we lived in looking very much like we last saw them. I had this weird feeling as we walked around campus reliving old memories; a feeling as if I had never left. This used to surprise me back when I attended college there, too, after returning from summer recess or winter break. This sense of sameness that used to drive me crazy, but now I find I miss terribly. If only I knew then what I know now. Maybe I would have savored the experience a bit more, knowing what awaited me out there in the real world.

Checking the ye olde mailbox just for kicks. Oh, how
my knees remember!

My dorm from Feb. 1995 until May 1996. 

Mead Chapel on the western end of campus.

What was even more disconcerting, however, were the few students we did run across on occasion during our trek to all our familiar haunts. Geez, were we ever so young and baby-faced? I mean, Cin could still pass for 19 years old no problem. But myself? Probably not so much. Still, I swear some of these kids looked like freshmen in high school, not college! Or maybe I am just getting older? Could be . . .

Anyway, the trip was a blast and much needed. Too bad it had to come to an end. Sorry for the long silence, but I'm back now and ready to return to this difficult task of getting my life in order. It's going to be a long year ahead, but I must remember to take little breaks like this here and there and have some fun. Or else I shall go mad. And there's nothing worse than a nutso blogger, is there?

Didn't think so.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Own Path

So 2013 is here and it's time for me to turn over a new leaf. Simply put, I need to get back to writing seriously. Due to those issues with my personal life I keep hinting at, I've slacked off something serious over the past two years. I think I may have written maybe three brand new stories in that time, revised one or two others, and completely re-drafted my novel in progress, which is still only one-third of the way done. That might seem pretty good progress, but it actually isn't for me. Not for two years' time.

But I think I feel my spirits starting to rise a little, despite my ongoing situation. Well, perhaps in spite of it is more accurate. I just feel like ENOUGH IS ENOUGH already! I need to refocus and remember my goals. I  refuse to be beaten down.

And yes, hopefully this means I will write more here on the blog. Can't promise anything, but I will try.

For the foreseeable future, my plan is simply to write. That's it. Write. Oh and read, of course. Can't forget to do that. But actually, this has always been my philosophy. I have a very simple one, dedicated primarily to the bettering of my craft. I don't go in for conferences, or genre cons, or constantly discussing agents, synopses, and other assorted mundania of the business side of writing. I will get to that some day for sure, but right now all I care about is becoming a better writer. Finding my voice and perfecting my story-telling techniques. For the short term I'm in it all for the love of the pure art of writing. Since a child I wanted to write so that my dreams could be realized on paper. This is all I should be focusing on right now, to bring this realization to fruition. To that end, there is no better formula than planting butt in chair and to write, write, WRITE!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Disappearing Act

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Hi folks. Happy new year. Let's hope 2013 is a lot better to me than 2012 has been. Jesus Christ!

No, I haven't run away, although I haven't been on the blogs for some time. That means not only have I not been updating this site on a regular basis, but that I missed out on all of your own blogs for almost a month now. Sorry 'bout that. I've been pretty down and out of things for a little while due to a crippling personal circumstance that has arisen. It's not about my health, nor has anyone died in my family. Thankfully everything's fine on both accounts. But I don't really want to go into details right now. Maybe later. Suffice to say that I've been very sad and hurt in all this time, and haven't had much enthusiasm to start up the PC and blog about stuff.

It happens.

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 ...