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A reason for Apple hatred.

I was thinking this morning about why people upgraded to iOS 6 for their phones and then responded with such gigantic fury over the uselessness of Apple’s Maps and the lack of anything really shocking in the update. Why so angry? It’s not as if Apple said “You can have this update and also we will kill your pet.” 

I think I figured out that the problem is Apple’s own slogans. When Apple releases anything, the slogans are along the lines of THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. AGAIN. everything is the super-ultimate-top-of-the-heap thing, whether it’s iOS 6, or an iPhone 5, or what have you.

The problem is, this doesn’t allow any room for error, AND a bigger problem is that it allows no room for playing around. Everything has to appear as this superduper finished product that works amazingly without hitch. Every update has to have nearly science fictional features….or it’s all ruined ruined ruined.

I think this is one area where Google does better. Google’s attitude is generally “I dunno man, we’re kind of just fiddling about with some stuff.” Google Maps weren’t so great when they initially appeared on the scene…but they didn’t declare it to be the ultimate thing ever invented. Google’s attitude — from keeping everything in beta, to having features in a lab, etc — is always “we’re kind of just messing around with this thing. if it works, sweet! If not, sorry man, we’re still fiddling.” This attitude means that people might not USE a certainly google product, but they don’t necessarily come away in a gigantic ball of Hulk-sized fury.

That’s my theory. I don’t have any proposed solution — nor do I even know if anything is needed. I was just thinking about it.

(Weirdly, as I typed this, I began wondering if you could apply this to the undeserved hostility and snobbishness toward J.K. Rowling on the publication of her new book — the hostility and snobbishness having almost zilch to do with the goddamn book itself.) 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Fifty Favorite Books

So over on his blog, Joe Hill posted his Fifty Favorite Books. Thank god it was fifty favorite, because I doubt I could manage a fifty  best list, in that I don’t ever feel I’ve got the education for something like that. Anyway his list was wonderful, and it also took over my head for a bit. Rather than getting any work done, I sat down with a notepad, staring at my bookshelves, and scribbled titles.

In Joe Hill’s list, he left out comics, reasoning that it’s for a different list. I have trouble sifting them out like that, so I’ve kept them in. I’ve also included non-fiction, biography, anthropology. Basically, any of the books that are my favorite, no matter what they are.

So. Alphabetized below for your pleasure, my Top Fifty.

  1. DICKENS – Peter Ackroyd
  2. THE HANDMAID’S TALE – Margaret Atwood
  3. THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG – Muriel Barbery
  4.  BRADBURY STORIES – Ray Bradbury
  5. ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING – Ray Bradbury
  6. LIQUOR – Poppy Z Brite
  7. CHARLATAN – Pope Brock
  8. MAMA LOLA – Karen McCarthy Brown
  9. WAR FOR THE OAKS – Emma Bull
  10. DON QUIXOTE – Cervantes
  11. JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL – Susanna Clarke
  12. THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON – Harlan Ellison
  13. FRAUDS, MYTHS, AND MYSTERIES – Kenneth Feder
  14. THE KINDLY ONES – Neil Gaiman
  15. AMERICAN GODS – Neil Gaiman
  16. ANANSI BOYS (specifically, the audiobook) – Neil Gaiman
  17. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA – Ernest Hemingway
  18. 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS – Joe Hill
  19. HEART-SHAPED BOX – Joe Hill
  20. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME – Victor Hugo
  21. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP – John Irving
  22. WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE – Shirley Jackson
  23. ON WRITING – Stephen King
  24. HEARTS IN ATLANTIS – Stephen King
  25. MISERY – Stephen King
  26. DUMA KEY – Stephen King
  27. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  28. I AM LEGEND – Richard Matheson
  29. LIFE OF PI – Yann Martel
  30. THE ROAD – Cormac McCarthy
  31. CAGES – Dave McKean
  32. A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  33. ALAN MOORE: STORYTELLER – Gary Spencer Millidge
  34. THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET – David Mitchell
  35. BLACK SWAN GREEN – David Mitchell
  36. STARTING POINT: 1979 – 1996 – Hayao Miyazaki
  37. PROMETHEA – Alan Moore (a cheat. It’s 5 books. I can’t help it. There’s no picking.)
  38. WATCHMEN – Alan Moore
  39. COMPLETE WORKS – Edgar Allan Poe (Joe Hill cheated, list complete Shakespeare. I did Poe.)
  40. GOING POSTAL – Terry Pratchett
  41. NIGHT WATCH – Terry Pratchett
  42. MONSTROUS REGIMENT – Terry Pratchett
  43. FRANKENSTEIN – Mary Shelley
  44. DROOD – Dan Simmons
  45. MAUS – art spiegelman
  46. OF MICE AND MEN – John Steinbeck
  47. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – Jules Verne
  48. THE AUTHORITATIVE CALVIN & HOBBES – Bill Watterson
  49. COMPLETE BOOK OF TERROR – Leonard Wolf
  50. THE LAST DEFENDER OF CAMELOT – Roger Zelazny

 

So that’s my list. There are others who could be on it, probably. The problem with these lists is that they kind of mutate as the days and books go by, but I’m pretty happy with this. These are all the sort of books where I can not only read and re-read them time and again, I can open them and dip in and out when I choose. 

I so badly wanted to write a paragraph about each book explaining why I loved it and what it did for me (so many either shocked a powerful emotion out of me, or else left me going “I didn’t know you could DO THAT!” at the end, joyful about it the way a person mashing buttons can be joyful). I didn’t, though, because I’d still be writing paragraphs about all these books well into tomorrow. 

I also left out a few books that basically turned me into who I am, but which I’ve grown out of. The list is current for me-right-now, not me-up-ahead, or me-in-the-past. 

So. There’s mine. Where’s yours?

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Bookshops

That last video is glorious. I adore bookstores. It’s not just about getting my hands on new books or anything like that, I love the bookstores themselves. A good bookstore is a glorious and magnificent place, a cathedral to books, and there’s a bit of magic to be had there because sometimes it’s a grand and glorious cathedral fitted into a tiny little store-space. 

There was a wonderful movie out last year called HUGO. It was basically Martin Scorsese 1) playing with colors and 2) writing a love letter to old cinema. It was an amazing movie and I really enjoyed it. But for me, it wasn’t a love letter at all to cinema (although I enjoyed that part well enough). For me, the most amazing part was the bookstore in which Christopher Lee worked.

It was glorious. Full of light, and books, and slowness and knowledge and also Christopher Goddamn Lee which improves any bookshop. I practically ached to step into the movie and go into that bookstore. If there’s a heaven, I hope it’s a golden-lit bookstore with Christopher Lee looming over it. 

Image

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
Video

The Joy of Books

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Alan Moore – Advice for Young Artists

There was a brief video on youtube, a piece of an interview with Alan Moore, offering his advice for young artists. It was the best piece of advice, and I adored it….and then the video vanished. So by dint of transcribing a great deal of it into a google search, I’ve found 90% of what he had to say…and now I am going to re-post it everywhere, in an effort to keep it from vanishing. So if you’re not 1) me 2) a young artist 3) interested in Alan Moore then you can 4) skip this post.

(it leaves out his discussion about having children and stuff, and I wish it didn’t. Must find a more complete copy….)

LJP: What would you say to other young people trying to become successful in their trade?

AM: OK, the first thing you’ve got to really focus upon is why you want to do this. If you want to be famous or you want to be rich, it ain’t going to work. For one thing, being famous – there are some good things to it but there’s not very many. It’s mainly a pain in the arse and it sends your head a bit weird… Even people who’ve got a tiny little bit of fame, it drives them completely mental, it can destroy your life… 

… The only thing that you can do if you want to be a success is focus upon the thing that you do purely for it’s own sake. 

If you love writing comics, drawing comics, making comics, making music or whatever, and you’re not doing it to get famous and you’re not doing it to make money you’re just doing it because you love it and you want to get better, and you want to get better, and you want to get better, then you’ll probably do alright. 

Don’t focus on the fame and the wealth stuff, that’s what everyone wants, you can become famous and moderately wealthy just by going on Big Brother. You know, what does that prove, what does it mean? Especially these days, fame means nothings and increasingly money doesn’t mean that much either. 

LJP: Generally it means you’ll shave off all your hair and be addicted to some sort of drug.

AM: Absolutely. You know the only thing is: focus purely upon what it is that you like to do. If you like to draw, to write… if you’ve got a tiny bit of talent, even if it’s not that much… that’s how we all start out… 

… I couldn’t write when I started out, you know I couldn’t draw but I liked writing. I liked writing compositions and essays at school, and I liked reading, and I liked thinking ‘you know how good am I as a writer, compared to these guys that I like reading?’ And you think ‘actually, I’m rubbish’, and so you try and make yourself a little bit better. And if you are honest with yourself, not over critical (there’s no point at looking at everything you do and saying that’s rubbish and tearing it up) but if you can at least be honest and say ‘yep, this has got some bits in it that are good, I could have done better with these bits, this is not as good as So-and-So, who I admire… Next time this is going to be better’. And you just try and make every thing you do a little bit smarter, a little bit more sophisticated than the thing you did before. 

Eventually people will notice. Eventually you will start to move beyond what every body else is doing. And without ever having a master-plan… you will find [success] without having to compromise anything, without having to sell-out your vision… 

And it’s important that you don’t do that, because that’s the only thing you’ve really got that separates you from anybody else. There’s probably loads of people who can sing, or do music, or write or draw the way that you can. The only thing that makes you unique is that you’re you. You had your experience, you had you’re life, you’ve got your knowledge. So put all of that into what you do. Make it individual, make it unique, and you know make it your selling point… you’ve had this experience. Put it to use and I don’t think you’ll go far wrong.

There’s a lot more to it than than of course. There’s a lot of boredom, there’s a lot of grind, and a lot of anxiety where you think  ‘am i as good as i think i am, am i ever going to really make it?’ But don’t worry about that. You know if you’re doing what you love, even if you’re not making any money out of it you are still better off than 99% of the people in this world who are not doing what they love. They’re doing something that gets them by. Maybe they’re entertaining dreams that one day they could be this or they could be that but all too often those dreams just kind of die in the cradle. 

You know it’s sort of ’stay true to yourself’… there isn’t a ceiling. [Think:] ‘There’s nothing I couldn’t be if I try hard enough…’ and I think that’s something a bit more useful than just security or a colour telly or stuff like that…

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
Video

Cherri Bomb

A group whose average age is 15. Wouldn’t normally appeal to me in the tiniest bit, but I dunno, I’m glad to see a bunch of young teenagers doing some rock. I’ll be curious, as they get older, what they turn into.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

PREVIOUSLY…

The reason I typically fall behind on blog posts is simply that a lot of interesting stuff happens, all of it bloggable, and I become too busy to blog any of it. Then, having fallen behind, I feel the need to recap before posting anything new. Unfortunately, then the pile of stuff to recap becomes so large, I never get to it.

So let’s see:

In the space of the last two weeks, I have emptied an apartment, loaded a U-Haul truck, made an astonishingly gorgeous drive with my family across the country from Minnesota, to Washington. I have fallen in love with a small town in Montana (St. Regis) and then fallen harder in love with the southern Seattle area I now find myself in. I take active and conscious pleasure of how much I love the weather, the temperature, the people, and above all the foliage. It is gorgeous out here.

I have, somewhere in all of this, pinched a nerve in my right shoulder. It hurts a great deal to sit up at a computer, or in a car. I don’t have any idea what to do with something like that. 

I have also stopped using Facebook and Twitter almost entirely.

This just happens sometimes. It’s a very odd thing I don’t understand about myself. I went offline for two weeks, and when the internet was restored, I found myself with an actual aversion to using Facebook or twitter, or even reading the web-comics I was previously reading. I get tense at the mere idea of it. I haven’t opened any of them. Twitter, I have posted to periodically, but haven’t been reading or interacting (and am thus using Twitter wrongly).

Maybe it’ll change. I don’t know why it happens. The last time something like this occurred, my second son was born and I became completely unwilling to visit forums or read web-comics which I had been visiting previously. I haven’t touched them since, not really.

My wife’s family, which lives in this area, is active and very social, something that takes getting used to. I have socialized more in this past week than I have in months. It’s nice, though, but exhausting. We have gone mushroom hunting (they are seasoned pros. I was not.) I found a morel and was over the moon pleased with myself. 

I have begun running again. All of my relation-in-laws (I made that phrase up just there) are runners out here, of a much higher level than I am. So I’m running and trying to build up my endurance and ability again. 

There is a magnificent park just down the street from me, huge glorious forests and paths, and also massive playgrounds. In thirty seconds’ time, I am taking the kids there.

I have also not touched or thought about writing in two or three weeks now. The result is that far from feeling crippled and dreading it all, unable to touch any of it, I am slowly re-approaching writing on my terms, at my own speed. It feels so good to think of writing happily once again, instead of feeling like it’s a series of heavy boxes chained to me (to go all Dickens on you).

There is a very yummy Orange Spice black tea sold out here. I have some. 

And that’s it. Now I’m going to put on a jacket and take the boys to the park to run and terrorize other people’s children.

 

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Ridiculous Writing Location Post

Sometimes when I read depressing bits of publishing news, or am just tired and overwhelmed by existing as a social creature…sometimes when I’m frazzled from the kids, the world, bills, and a having a hard time writing…what I like to think about is my Ridiculous Writing Locations.

I kind of think everyone has these: the ridiculous writing location is the probably unrealistic place you’d like to go to write a novel. Neil Gaiman once mentioned — somewhere or another — that he liked the idea of riding a tramp ship across the ocean and writing a book on it (at least, I think that was him). I like that idea too, although I dunno if I’d want it to be a tramp ship. Maybe just a nice sailing vessel.

That’s one of my two ridiculous locations, incidentally.

My main location, though, is the one I think about every time I watch Survivorman, something I’m re-watching right now. I love the idea of going out into the woods and either existing deep in the woods in a pre-built cabin, or else constructing my own (an idea that appeals to me no end). Maybe go out there alone for a year and do nothing but survive, exist…and write. Complete simplicity, and nothing but me, the world, and the work.

My other ridiculous location is on a ship, out at sea. A sailing vessel, perhaps. One where I could work and be useful. Where I visualize myself alone in the woods, here I like to imagine being with my family (although my wife is uncomfortable enough by deep water, I seriously doubt this’d happen). Go sailing for six months or a year. Where to? I don’t actually know. This varies depending on the day. Right now, I’d love to putter down the coast of Africa. By myself? Unsafe, you say? Well probably. But then, this is a ridiculous idea to begin with. I have no money, no really ability — or intention — to shoot off from my family for a year and do this stuff. But still. Everyone has their odd fantasy.

What about you? What’s your ideal it’ll-never-happen-but-I-think-about-it location to go and write? 

(Possibly, not everyone has ones similar to mine, because not everyone really wants to be completely alone like that. That’s normal enough. I like being around people and value what social contact I have, but do take a great deal of peace and calm from being entirely alone. Especially if I’m outdoors. Thanks to reading Quiet by Susan Cain, I’ve discovered this is quite a common trait of an introvert like me.)

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

In Which I Eat My Own Cynicism

I didn’t used to be a terribly cynical person. In fact, I was a cheesily optimistic person, growing up. Somewhere along the way, that shifted. I blame the internet, which is supported by cynicism, porn, and cat photos.

A while ago, I bought a blu-ray player box for out in the living room. We wanted to move the Playstation 3 into the bedroom (can’t play violent video games around the small ones, we found out; it’s been AGES since I played Skyrim, and they are still pretending to shoot fire out of their hands at imaginary dragons in the sky) (that’s not why I stopped, that’s harmless and cute. I stopped because my older son imitated Batman and punched someone. Sigh.) Anyway, we put a blu-ray box out there. I liked it because it’d not only play things on discs, but had Netflix built in, and Napster, which we were using.

Well, then Napster turned into Rhapsody, and an update appeared and the feature simply…went away. We weren’t subscribed anymore, but I was still grumpy. Essentially, the features — and value — of the box had gone down. It’d be like if someone came ’round and said “we don’t do these cars with rear windows anymore, this’ll have to come out.” You’d be put out, is what I’m saying.

The cynicism, though, said “See? This is the sort of stuff that happens. It shouldn’t, but it does. They reach in and remove stuff from your device.” I was very grumpy.

Then, today, a new update appeared. I downloaded it, went back to reading my book. The box restarted.

On the screen, suddenly there was a YouTube feature. And a Hulu Plus feature. And two other features I can’t remember. The YouTube app is smooth and fast and sharp, fills the whole TV screen. I can watch Alan Moore videos, I can watch documentaries, I can watch lectures, I can watch QI episodes, all beautifully on my TV. It’s fantastic.

They’ve added to the box. It does a great deal more than it did when I bought it. The boxes that had youtube features and other stuff cost more, and I opted not to get them…and got the features anyway.

So. I guess that teaches me to be so cynical about stuff.

I have definitely learned my lesson and will never be a grumpy bastard about anything ever again for real honest.

Sincerely,

Fingers Crossed Behind His Back For No Particular Reason.

UPDATE: My god, it’s even better than I thought! I clicked on another button they added called Launchpad accidentally (and was sad to discover it wasn’t Launchpad McQuack) and it is a video app which gives me access to Fora.TV, TED, NASA, PBS, Make Magazine, and a wealth of other videos besides. Using it, I just watched Susan Cain’s TED talk on introversion.

Fora.TV and TED were honestly the main reasons I briefly paid for huluplus. And I’ve got ’em for free. I am a happy, happy monkey.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Ghost Love Score

This is a wee little post to say that if you go over to Something Wicked magazine, they’ve put up my story Ghost Love Score for free. You can read it here.

And when you’re done — and I do advise you to read the story first — you can hop over HERE and read an interview with me about the story.

In that interview is a link to a music video, and I do hope you watch it. I’ve been carefully not mentioning that, one of my favorite videos and songs, for ages now, so that I could mention it first in that interview. Go watch it!

And at the bottom of the interview is a link to my web-site, which is…here. So if you followed that link, and wound up here, to read a post suggesting you head over there…I’m sorry, this has all gotten very circular, hasn’t it?

Looks like we’re stuck in a loop, like the Enterprise being destroyed over and over again by the Bozeman in that one episode of The Next Generation. How is it I can remember the second starship’s name, but I can’t recall the episode’s title? It’s that sort of brain, I guess. I’d upgrade for a better one, but it’s been too long since the initial activation.

Well I’ve wandered off blithering down a verbal corridor here, haven’t I? Best just to stop right–

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized