Previous Posts: Uncategorized / General: June 2013

DIY Or Die Dept.

"Write the book you want to read." What if you don't know how?

A common bit of aspirational advice given to authors is "Write the book you want to read." It's one I've followed myself ever since I started doing this halfway seriously. Sometimes I'd encounter an idea I thought hadn't been explored properly, or wondered why a book about X didn't exist. The next step from there was obvious.

What I always wonder about is how this advice is taken by people who have all the aspiration, but none of the chops. What if you want, desperately, to write the book you want to read, but just plain don't know how?

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Tags: creativity imagination writing

Burning Chrome Dept.

Or maybe burning Java, who knows. More adventures in the jungle of bad software.

Every day I get that much more evidence thrown in my face as to why the mad rush to make every program into a web page (or every web page into a program, you choose) is a terrible, terrible idea.

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Tags: software

Man of Steel, Fans of Clay Dept.

Why the longing for "escapism" is problematic.

I saw Man of Steel a second time (this time in 3D) on Sunday night, a brief respite from what's become a busy work schedule. I like it even more a second time, and despite the 3D being a postconversion job it's remarkably well-done.

And in the couple of weeks since the film's release, the divisiveness over the movie — mostly in fandom circles — has only become all the more pronounced. It's not just negative reviews or even thoughtful criticism of the film's flaws, it's articles like "Put the hero back in superhero movies" that attack the very premise behind the movie: that a hero is most interesting when he's flawed and in conflict.

No, say the fans. Please let us have some genuine escapism. Please let us have some heroic pop mythology we can call our own. Enough with making everything into grimdarkery!

And believe me, I agree. I wouldn't pound on Game of Thrones so much if I didn't agree.

But I only agree only up to a point.

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Tags: comics criticism dharma escapism Man of Steel movies sociology superheroes Superman Zack Snyder

Oh, Grow Up Already Dept.

Living forever without actually growing up first seems like a non-starter.

A Blunt Look at Simplistic Immortalism | Steven Savage

The quest for Simplistic Immortality, that of “I stay I and no one can affect it” makes every person, every phenomena, and the entire universe either the Immortalist’s enemy or slave.

... Transhumanism that focuses on Simplistic Immortality isn’t really transhuman at all – that’s the joke, really.  It’s the screaming of a child that want’s his way.

Our back-and-forth on this subject has touched on a whole slew of different issues, but it's this last line that got me thinking: What do we really mean by "growth", "maturity", "evolution", etc.? If transhumanism is about transcending, what does it mean to "transcend ourselves", other than to brag about having a spiritual trophy to polish?

I might have just answered my question right there. The whole point of growth is not to have to rely on obvious external rewards as a sign that you're doing the right thing.

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Tags: Buddhism dharma Steven Savage Dialogues transhumanism

Diversify, Diversify Dept.

There's always going to be something you can't do. The hard part is knowing what.

Stumbling and Mumbling: On ideology

A better person than me (and everybody else) once said that "culture is what you don’t notice.” The same is true for what is much the same thing, ideology. I was reminded of this by Hopi's proposal that the Independent open a chain of coffee shops on the grounds that Indy readers love their coffee shops.

... consider what's wrong with the idea. Quite simply, it's that newspapers don't know how to run coffee shops. The Indy won't run coffee shops for ther same reason that Starbucks won't start producing tablets and smartphones even though their customers love them - they don't know how to do so.

But why can't they simply buy in such expertise? They could, but they have no more ability to identify and monitor such expertise than anyone else. For this reason, it is very rare for companies to diversify successfully out of declining industries. They are trapped by their vintage of organizational capital, by their culture.

Emphasis mine. This whole business of being trapped by unquestioned assumptions about what you can and can't do is humbling when you finally do stare it in the face. Creative folks are just as much victims of these limitations as anyone else.

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Tags: creativity culture education learning sociology

None More Dark Dept.

Ugliness is not a total synonym for "truth".

From the comments to Why The Destruction In MAN OF STEEL Matters | Badass Digest

Superhero stories have become an insufferable drag, because far too many people involved in their creation have the mistaken idea that adult art is relentlessly violent and dark.

I know I've been burned out on such things. This isn't to say that I won't watch challenging stuff like Salòjust that I've become less and less enamored of the work involved in doing so, and less interested in the diminishing returns that come from it.

But the general idea that "adult" = "VIOLENTY G-for-GRIMDARK McDEVASTATORSON" has infected everything from young adult novels to television (cough, Game of Thrones, cough). As someone else once put it, this isn't adulthood; this is surly adolescence, showing up at the dinnertable with a mohawk and two tons of eye makeup.

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Tags: comics Man of Steel movies storytelling superheroes Superman

The Players, Played Dept.

How the death of DVD killed Hollywood.

What killed Hollywood? Reliance on DVDs as the revenue stream, says Lynda Obst. Once that dried up, half of the profit for the studios dried up with it.

Lynda Obst: Hollywood’s completely broken -

... [Without the profit margin from DVDs] [t]here was none of the extra cash that fueled competitive commerce, gut calls, or real movies, the extra spec script purchase, the pitch culture, the grease that fueled the Old Abnormal: the way things had always been done. We were running on empty, searching for sources of new revenue. The only reliable entry on the P&L was international [sales]. That’s where the moolah was coming from, so that’s what decisions would be based on.

... "The big implication is that those studios are — not necessarily inappropriately — terrified to do anything because they don’t know what the numbers look like."

Hence, tentpoles based on guaranteed properties like comic books. Hence, internationalized titles that favor action over plot over character development. Hence, the way everything feels like a copy of a copy of a copy.

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Tags: Hollywood movies

A Man of Steel With Feet Of Clay Dept.

Why "Man of Steel"'s Superman is a little more interesting, and problematic, than you might expect. (Warning: spoilers.)

I saw Man of Steel Friday night in the company of a whole slew of friends, and afterwards we repaired to a diner near the movie theater and hashed over what we'd just watched. We did a lot of hashing.

Let's get the obvious question out of the way: Did I like the movie? Yes — while at the same time seeing things in it that I could see people taking exception to. I know it's not perfect, and I forgive most of its imperfections because they're part of a package I enjoyed.

But there's little question the movie has been divisive, both with mainstream audiences (and critics), and self-identified comics fans. Some people adored it, some only just liked it (and wondered why they only felt that way about it and no more), and some loathed the film to such a degree that you'd think Zack Snyder, David Goyer, and Christopher Nolan had driven over to their houses in the middle of the night, soaped their car windows, and slathered their dogs with Nair.

Whenever I come across something divisive, I collect arguments on both sides of the issue — as many as I can pro and con — and lay them side by side. Before I'd walked into the theater, I'd already compiled four major camps of negative criticism. After I walked back out and sat down in the diner with coffee and rice pudding, all of them had been put into perspective. Two of them were silly or just plain stupid; the third, less so; the fourth was truly problematic.

WARNING: MAJOR AND TOTAL SPOILERS follow. If you haven't seen the film, come back later.

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Tags: comics criticism dharma Man of Steel morality movies superheroes Superman Zack Snyder

Burn Hollywood Burn Dept.

The movies are their own worst (financial) enemy.

Steven Spielberg, Struggling Filmmaker - Yahoo! News

Spielberg's advice for the aspiring USC filmmakers was, well, straight out of a disaster film script: 

"Eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm."

TechCrunch picked up the story as well, with one of their suggested remedies being not making "s**tty films". The problem with that, of course, is that no movie studio ever owns up about any of its films being junk, unless their name is Troma and they had no shame to begin with (and even then it hasn't helped). And so we have strategies like $50 mega-ticket showings being explored as a way for the studios to recoup.

No, not sustainable.

Tags: business movies

That Superior Feeling Dept.

Godhood without humanity: the gains hardly seem worth the degeneracy.

Transhumanism And The Hell Of Heaven | Steven Savage

The transhuman desire for transcendence as a way to get away really misses what humanity is about. It’s a desire to cut ourselves off, to wrap ourselves in pleasure, to get distance, to “win.” It just makes us less human. It’s not transhumanism – it’s inhumanism.

Among the books that I have been meaning to write about for ages, and never managed to do so because I was intimidated by the prospect of having to say something coherent about it, is Barrows Dunham's Man Against Myth. I've mentioned it in passing before — it's the work of a man who had just seen the United States and its allies emerge from WWII with both blood and dust on their hands, and was worried that a number of social myths that had been prevalent before and during the war would continue to lead men astray long after it. Among those myths: "That There Are Superior And Inferior Races", "That the Rich Are Fit And The Poor Unfit", "That You Can't Change Human Nature", "That You Have To Look Out For Yourself" — does any of this sound familiar? (The last is particularly haunting and relevant right now: "That You Cannot Be [both] Free And Safe".)

Whenever I hear some new creed that purports to be new and courageous simply repeating the fallacies of the past, I suspect the one who devised it hasn't done his homework.

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Tags: dharma philosophy science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop Steven Savage Dialogues transhumanism

Look At All Those Type O's Dept.

On reissued e-books and copyediting. Or the lack thereof.

If there's one thing that has irked me non-stop about e-books, it's not the form factor, the file formats, the costs, the bottom-feeding, or any of the common rallying cries of intellectual property or freedom of information movement so beloved by digistas. It's the copyediting. More like, the lack thereof.

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Tags: editing publishing self-publishing writing

Godhood And Godhead Dept.

Why do we make gods out of men?

Gods and Goddesses of Today? | Where Worlds Collide

If Karl Marx and Ayn Rand are the Gods of Economics (to whom we sacrifice George Osborne at dawn tomorrow), who else is in the pantheon? I get the feeling Marilyn Monroe and Elvis ought to be in there somewhere. Who should be in the 19th/20th century pantheon of gods and goddesses, and what portfolios should each of them have?

I sometimes wonder if a term like "god[dess]" even fits today's allegedly skeptical, rational, empirical mindset. Then I remember most of the people inhabiting this world are anything but skeptical, rational, empirical, etc. and questions like this don't seem absurd anymore.

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Tags: psychology sociology

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This page is an archive of entries in the Uncategorized / General category from June 2013.

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