Gleeful Disdain Dept.

Me and my big mouth, revisited.


No, I wasn't chastised by anyone about the post that went up earlier today, which I have since looked back on and shaken my head over. I added that note about my tone being out of line entirely on my own, because at one point today I peeked at it, and asked myself, "Who is that raging monster behind the keyboard?" That raging monster was the guy in the mirror. Surprise, surprise.

There are days when I succumb to the temptation to say something really juicy and angry about a subject I feel passionately about. That was one of them, and now I regret it. The exact issue in question in such a case scarcely matters; what's important is uncorking that feeling of gleeful disdain, of being able to zing the (alleged) suckers the way they (allegedly) deserve to be zinged.

Jeet Heer is not the enemy, just a guy whose opinion I happen to disagree with. But yes, I could have been a good deal less snide about the way I went about expressing that disagreement. It would have done my argument no disservice — in fact, if anything, it would have helped it. Petty retaliation is not the tone you want to bring to the talk at any table. So ... all apologies to Mr. Heer for the anger.


Tags: blogging self-criticism


Put Away Childish Things And All That Dept.

Comics are just for kids. Right?


[Addendum 06:17PM: I wrote this post with my fists, and it shows. Looking back on it, I realize the tone is terribly over-the-top, and I'm not proud of that — although I stand by the points of view expressed within.]

Stop Making Superhero Movies Just for Grown-Ups | The New Republic

The very idea of constructing a story where Batman fights Superman only works on the level of child’s logic: Batman is supposed to be no more than a physically fit human, while Superman is an alien with God-like powers. The only reason to join them together is to please the same child’s sensibility that you see in playgrounds, where dinosaurs do battle with GI Joe or where Mr. Potato Head has tea with Cinderella. So it seems absurd to imbue a story about Batman duking it out with Superman with psychological verisimilitude, as the trailer does.

Where do I even begin with such audience-baiting, pseudo-intellectual folderol a statement?

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Tags: comics culture entertainment fantasy movies


iScribble Dept.

Close one book, open another. Me at work on my next project.


Time for a writing progress report — or rather, an editing progress report.

Final (4th draft) edits on Welcome to the Fold are around 30-40% complete. I had been hoping to get the whole thing done by the end of the month, but some real life complications slowed me down, so I'm looking at mid-September. Then comes both starting the next book, The Palace of the Red Desert, and getting Fold out the door to be looked at by prospective publishers.

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Tags: creativity creators writers writing


Another Piece Of MeTal Dept.

A report on the fruits of my labors in the code mines. (Programming-centric.)


Time for an update on MeTal, my blogging system — a replacement for Movable Type and an alternative to WordPress. The project started early this year to give me someplace to go with this site and the others I run, now that MT is no longer open source (and because I'm really not much of a Perl, WordPress, or PHP fan).

What we have so far: The core create/edit/publish cycle works. You can see a small test site I created — nothing too impressive yet, but that has less to do with the program itself than the templates I'm using to generate the site with it. Those templates are being kept deliberately lean for the time being so I don't give myself more work to do than I really need, but we can get a basic blog running and keep it updated. That by itself is a heck of an achievement.

Also working are a host of auxiliary features: image/media management, tagging, and a hierarchical key/value store for the sake of allowing objects to be assigned metadata. We also have plugins, something I was determined to build into the system right from the git-go.

What still remains: A bunch of things, at least before I can lay claim to making the results useful to others. Useful templates, obviously, but also the installer (it still bombs under certain conditions), and many of the internal management functions are far from complete. I also have no test suite, a major failing on my part — it's always harder to write those things after the fact than before — and there is no documentation, either. (That will also be fixed in time. Honest.)

What I'd like to add eventually: Support for things like databaseless use — e.g., you point it at a directory full of Markdown files and it'll just process that without any additional foofaraw. (This is apparently a handy thing to have for people who don't want to bother with the more top-heavy aspects of blogging.)

My timeframe is to have enough working to make it suitable for extremely rudimentary production work by the end of the year. From that point to 1.0, there will be no new features per se, but all the existing bugs and quirks will be closed, and the project will make progress towards being a consumable product instead of just a project. If me and a couple of other people get good use out of it, great, but I do want to make it something that I myself can consume without feeling like I'm fighting with the whole time.

Software development is humbling work, but I suspect it was not meant to be anything else — at least when you're talking about making something non-trivial. If you aren't frowning and wondering and tearing your hair out, you're probably not pushing any envelopes for yourself.

Finally, some screenshots! Note that all of this is still in flux — e.g., the placement of elements, or the variables available in templates, are all likely to get cleaned up a great deal as I use the program more for my own work.


Editor

User dashboard

List of pages in a blog

List of templates for a blog

Template editor

Activity log

Tags: MeTal programming Python


Open And Shut Case Dept.

As of late I've been reading Sir Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, and with only slightly less enthusiasm than a man fresh from three weeks in the desert reserves for the first water spigot he finds. Like...


As of late I've been reading Sir Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, and with only slightly less enthusiasm than a man fresh from three weeks in the desert reserves for the first water spigot he finds. Like Barrows Dunham's Man Against Myth — another book I cherish, and which I feel perpetually ashamed of never taking the time to talk about properly — it was written as a defense of democratic and rational society, on the grounds that it's just about impossible to will anything else into existence that doesn't ultimately betray its own ends. Sometimes the least worst option is the best option; doubly so with politics.

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Busyness Dept.

Not much time for blogging -- bunch of real-life things got in the way, and I ended up not doing book edits for a couple of days in a row. For me this constitutes a major failing of mettle, so...


Not much time for blogging — bunch of real-life things got in the way, and I ended up not doing book edits for a couple of days in a row. For me this constitutes a major failing of mettle, so I'm trying to get back in the saddle. But I did want to note something.

An easy downside to not having as much time as you'd like is that you don't get to do all the things you most want to do. Books go unread, closets uncleaned, roofs unswept of fallen pine needles (well, maybe not where I'm living, but you get the idea).

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Tags: blogging real life


Nothing Special Dept.

"When any image is possible, no image is all that impressive anymore."


A Warning For Our Next Great Screenwriters — ART & SCIENCE — Medium

When any image is possible, no image is all that impressive anymore.

Once upon a time, I wrote down a possible blurb for a story: "What if everything were possible and nothing mattered?" I didn't realize at the time I was talking about a phenomenon unfolding around me right then, one which continues to be true today.

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Tags: art creativity creators fiction movies storytelling


The Un-Educator Dept.

Why "teaching" creativity may be a misnomer at best and a waste at worst.


Deeper Levels of Realization Are For Suckers | Hardcore Zen

Zen teachers, if they’re decent ones, don’t really teach anything. They work on themselves and kindly allow others to hang around and watch. It’s not like they’ve got a technique they’ve mastered and can now show you how to master it too. Instead, they fail at it over and over and invite you to watch them fail. The only real lesson you learn is how they manage not to throw their hands up in frustration, go “aw fuck it!” and give up. Actually, if you hang around me long enough you’ll almost certainly see me throw my hands up and go “aw fuck it!” a few times. But you’ll also see how I always seem to go back and start failing at it again.

The rest of the post is great (Brad is never less than amusing, and more often than not spot-on), but this part in particular made me think about teaching writing in the same vein.

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Tags: Brad Warner Buddhism creativity creators Zen


Big Market, Soft Corners Dept.

How best-sellerdom made fantasy "as bland as everything else in entertainment"


Michael Moorcock: “I think Tolkien was a crypto-fascist”

“Fantasy became as bland as everything else in entertainment. To be a bestseller, you’ve got to rub the corners off. The more you can predict the emotional arc of a book, the more successful it will become.

“I do understand that Game of Thrones is different. It has its political dimensions; I’m very fond of the dwarf and I’m very pleased that George [R R Martin], who’s a good friend, has had such a huge success. But ultimately it’s a soap opera. In order to have success on that scale, you have to obey certain rules. I’ve had conversations with fantasy writers who are ambitious for bestseller status and I’ve had to ask them, ‘Yes, but do you want to have to write those sorts of books in order to get there?’”

Emphasis mine. I've long felt this way about SF and fantasy, and writing generally. The cost of becoming famous, or a bestseller, is that you have to write the kinds of books that most everyone would want to read — in short, mass-market material. There's no end of people lining up outside the door to create such things. As for me, I decided a while ago I'd rather try and create something that couldn't have anyone else's name on it but mine.

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Tags: Michael Moorcock science fiction writers writing


Movie Reviews: Predestination

How did this astonishing little miracle of a movie -- easily the best adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's work to film yet -- pass without leaving so much as a ripple?



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Stop reading this. Go to Netflix, your local video kiosk, wherever you can get your hands on a copy of Predestination. Watch it first, because I can guarantee it will be one of the best things you've seen all year, and odds are you might never have run into it if someone else hadn't told you about it. I want to put all this up front, because this movie deserves discussion and thought, and yet it is absolutely impossible to talk about this film without treading into complete spoiler territory. Those are just the facts. Go no further unless you are prepared.

Predestination is nominally science fiction, adapted from the Robert A. Heinlein short story "'All You Zombies — '", but like all the best SF, it doesn't stay stuck inside that container; it batters its way out and leaps towards bigger things. It deals with a man (Ethan Hawke) who appears to be some kind of spy in the employ of a nebulous organization, working behind the scenes to stop a terrorist named "The Fizzle Bomber" from destroying several square blocks of New York City. There's only one curious little detail, one that scoots by quickly enough that you might not catch it: the bombing hasn't happened yet. It's to happen at some point in the future. The spies are time travelers, fixing history when it breaks.

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Tags: Ethan Hawke movies review Robert A. Heinlein science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop Spierig Brothers


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