Monday, November 12, 2012

The First Actual Plot Summary

This week of NaNoWriMo has brought something new into my life: a complete plot synopsis. On Saturday, rather than turn out a hundred timorous words, I pounded out an 855-word plot summary that runs from the first event in the novel to the end.

The real end.

How did this mysterious thing happen? One word: Shower. The moment of apotheosis became as clear as day in that brief span of time without distractions (or grime).

This deserves a new YouTube video in celebration. Just broke 19,000 words this morning; here's to 50,000:

Melanie: No Matter what price is paid,
What stars may fade
I'll follow my secret heart
Till I find love.

When my I love somebody, please?
Paul: Not until you are safely married, and then only with the greatest discretion.
M: I see
P: What's the matter?
M: It doesn't feel like my birthday any more.

A cloud has passed across the sun,
The morning seems to longer gay.
With so much business to be done,
Even the sea looks grey.
C'est vrai. C'est vrai.
It seems that all the joy has faded from the day
As though the foolish world no longer wants to play.

You ask me to have a discreet heart
Until marriage is out of the way,
But what if I meet with a sweetheart so sweet
That my wayward heart cannot obey
A single word that you may say?

P: Then we shall have to go away.
M: No.
For there is nowhere we could go
Where we could hide from what we know
Is true.

Don't be afraid I'll betray you
And destroy all the plans you have made,
But even your schemes
Must leave room for my dreams.
So when all I owe to you is paid
I'll still have something of my own,
A little prize that's mine alone.
I'll follow my secret heart
My whole life through.
I'll keep all my dreams apart
Till one comes true.
No matter what price is paid,
What stars may fade
I'll follow my secret heart
Till I find love.

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo Again

My excitement to watch Scriver's word counter as I pound away on my ergonomic keyboard is matched only by my anticipation of reaching gold membership at Starbucks. It will be magical.

My story is also about magic. I'm even going so far as to call it The Magician, as original a title as any, my friends. Take a peek at my NaNoWriMo profile for updates about the book itself. Every day of November has a number next to it indicating how many words I need to write that day. Yesterday was 2,000. Today is 4,000. We'll see if that happens.

Meanwhile, I'm strapping on the Sennheiser headphones and closing Google Chrome. See you in a few thousand words.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Is Braveheart the Best Film in the History of Film?

You know you've asked yourself this piercing question: Is Braveheart the best movie ever?

Fewer pastimes are so truly American as wallowing in Mel Gibson's ego. Last Friday, I had a chance to do just that with his classic film, Braveheart. It concerns Sir William Wallace and his fight against the English. As perfect as that sounds, Gibson allowed some shortcomings he could have avoided if he had let me screen his movie back in 1995. I was 5 years old at the time and would have been perfect to understand the full impact of Gibson's narrative.

It doesn't get more 90s than this

Firstly, Braveheart would have been a more successful film if it had captions telling you what emotions to feel. You know it's true: 
“Wallace’s wife is being senselessly slaughtered. Feel sad for Wallace.”
“War is brutal. You should feel a combination of thrill and horror. Observe the blood spurt from that man’s severed leg.”
“These peasants are mad at the government. They would rather die than live in bondage.”
“Look how grimy the heroes’ countenances appear. Warriors do not have time to bathe.”
“We totally could have managed a husband/wife relationship throughout a three hour film if we had wanted to.”

These types of subtitles would have enhanced (almost subliminally) the viewer's experience, leaving no one in doubt of the quality of this noble 90s epic.

As pumped as I was to hear how many “Squish” sound effects existed in the 1990s, it was hard to concentrate on the battle sounds when there were so many girly Englishmen traipsing around. Though every student of history knows that all Scotsmen have virile, deep voices, and all Englishmen are effeminate with high voices, it was not Gibson's best choice to cast the film so accurately. It detracts from the battle scenes.

And speaking of battle scenes: WHY CANT FIGHT SCENES B LONGER THEY R 2 SHORT. I felt so gypped. I mean, I'm sure that almost half the movie was something other than fighting. Mostly talking about fighting while staring at the English army. Really, Wallace? Really? Get your butt into battle. We don't want to hear you talk about Freedom and Kilts and Stuff. (I have to admit the kilts were cool, since we all know that Scotsmen wore kilts in the 13th century.)

Anyone with a name like Lord Mungo Murray would have to wear a kilt

Wallace, despite this flaw of not fighting enough, is truly awesome. The inclusion of a lead with no discernible character was a truly brilliant move on Gibson's part. It shows how even the most boring people can become heroes if all their peers blindly follow them for no apparent reason.

There are so many morals with modern impact in this film. Aside from the one enumerated, it wasn't until I watched Braveheart that I discovered that the current set of swear words was the norm during the late medieval era. I also didn't know that battle during this era looked like a confused Civil War reenactment from 1995.

One last gripe: Gibson got so close to eliminating all his female characters...but he didn't. Why? He got Wallace's wife killed off within half an hour, then he had to go and have a fling with the future Queen of England. What in the world? 

Wallace should have forsworn womanhood so we didn't have to watch him interact with a person who he saw as an equal. Unbecoming.

As for the queen, Wallace should have shipped her to Norway or she should have just knitted in the background of every scene in the English court. She could have gotten so much more knitting done if she hadn't messed with Wallace, which is truly a loss.

The bottom line with the ladies of the film is that it was damaging to have people with some sort of personality in the movie.

I'm afraid I left before the end, as my bedtime prohibited a contiguous viewing. That doesn't mean that I cannot affirm that Braveheart is the best film in the history of films that have men in kilts mooning the camera.

It's a winner.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Link: Punctuating Dialogue

The messier details of dialogue punctuation and capitalization annoy me.  An article clears up some of the fog with these six rules:
  1. Use a comma between the dialogue and the tag line 
  2. Periods and commas go inside the quotation marks in American writing
  3. When a tag line interrupts a sentence, it should be set off by commas. 
  4. To signal a quotation within a quotation, use single quotes
  5. For interior dialogue, italics are appropriate, just be consistent.
  6. If a quotation spills out over more than one paragraph, don't use end quotes at the close of the first paragraph. Use them only when a character is done speaking.
Most of them are obvious, but these rules and the accompanying rules of capitalization make writing dialogue less of a headache.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

LlamaCare: The Fight for Equality

According to the AP (All-Powerful ones), SCOTUS (the Supreme Counts of The United States) have decided to overturn the President's landmark legislature LlamaCare, despite cautioning voices from dissenting Counts and famous actors.
Justice Wholly Toledo has viciously decried LlamaCare, citing statistics. This strikes me as a basic misunderstanding of the role of a Supreme Count. They are supposed to figure out what all the big words in the Constitution mean, not cite statistics. That's what pundits and sports announcers do.

Worse however is the discrimination against Llamas inherent in this controversial decision. Some say that LlamaCare makes people pay for healthcare they don't use, but how is that even an issue? Why is money such a big deal when the government can just print more of it and give it to us?
How could you deny a face like that?

As always, it's the silly ReTublicans causing the stir in this debate. They want llamas to pay for their own health care, arguing that healthcare is a privilege not a right. (What about my right to privileges, huh?) Thankfully, DemoBrats bravely assert that llamas are incapable of getting off their proverbial llama couches and getting a job good enough to provide health insurance. Only DemoBrats are willing to pay the money necessary to keep llamas from feeling like they've been discriminated against.

And that's what's at stake, isn't it? No one cares about letting people get good doctors, it only matters that politicians can say with a clear conscience that he has done his bit to get every llama has been insured. And nothing is worth so much as giving a politician a legitimate talking point.

Show your support of LlamaCare by using the hashtag #savethellamas on Twitter and Pinterest. We will not be silenced until more people get free stuff.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Puritani Synopsis

It's that time again, folks. Your occasional opera synopsis. Today, I puritani by Count Carlo Pepoli and the great Italian composer, Vincenzo Bellini. That this was Bellini's last opera had to do less with the opera and more with his dying, in case you were wondering.

The Puritans
Some soldiers listen to the principles sing a prayer. Riccardo is moping because his intended, Elvira, doesn't seem to be digging the relationship. Once he pops off, Elvira herself enters with her uncle, who she insists must call her his daughter. He tells her how he persuaded her father to let her marry for love, which makes her chipper, for now she can marry Arturo, the dashing royalist. Arturo gets word of this and serenades her. Soon, however, he discovers that the fugitive ex-queen of England is tooling about the castle. He insists on escorting her to France once they can escape unnoticed. Elvira reenters and declares she is pumped for her wedding. She also deposits her veil on the ex-queen's head to see how it looks, but forgets to remove it. Everyone admires her innocence. 
It's not every day you get the Queen of England to model for you
Arturo is stopped by Riccardo, who is still peeved he's taken his girl. Stopping him from trafficking political fugitives is a great excuse to get revenge, he reasons, but Arturo works his charm on him. He is allowed to leave with the queen, provided it happens now, sans wedding.
Arturo inexplicably charms everyone
Elvira frolics onto the stage. Arturo's absence makes her go nuts. A whole new act is devoted to Elvira still going nuts. In the third act, however, something happens. Arturo is done chaperoning royalty, and declares he is giddy at being safe in England once again. Elvira stumbles onto the stage, and after twenty minutes of ecstatic reunion, the two of them kiss and make up. But Arturo is not as innocent of the law as he suspected, and he is sentenced to death for his royalist tendencies. But, lest there be need for a third (fourth?) mad scene, a universal pardon arrives. This is in time to save Elvira’s sanity, but not Arturo’s, as he has already by this time sung multiple notes above C5. Elvira, once again pumped for her wedding, out-sings everybody like any sane woman might.

Check out my other synopses by clicking on the opera label.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What if You Were to Die in a Year?

Last night, I wrote this in my journal:
Alas, conservative champion Andrew Breitbart died late last night. He was only 43. The question typically raised by this sort of distress is not helpful in everyday life. "What if you were to die today?" It's an interesting and sobering proposition, but hardly practical in effect. Writing to everyone how much they mean to you, spending the day with your closest companions, a vigil of prayer, a day of dissipation—all may embody a man's ideal for his last day, but none form a pattern to be adopted over the course of his life.
In that entry I argued there is a better question to ask in the wake of such a death.

"What if you were to die in a year?"

Now that is terrifying. If you had a year, or five, or ten, what would you do? How would you scatter the sands of your waning days on Earth? This question is a chaff-burner, if there ever was one. The things in a man's life that are enjoyable but peripheral fade away, leaving only what he values most. That could be most comforting and energizing.

Or most terrible.

The idols of the mind and the heart are nearly imperceptible to the casual observer of life. Yet someone forced to conclude what he will do before the expiration of another year sees all. There is nothing left to hide who you are and what you want.

The death of the energetic Breitbart has compelled me to reevaluate what I'm doing and where I'm going. I don't want to die at 30 and regret it. Indeed, I don't want to regret my death were it to occur at any age.

Living up to that maxim is another matter. Time to go edit my novel.

A bit of pictorial levity:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fallacy of Experience

Yesterday, Yahoo News senior foreign policy reporter Laura Rozen tweeted this gem:

One of the gentlemen I follow, @ExJon, replied thus:

This proposition is the logical extension of the chickenhawk criticism, which might be leveled at anyone who dare say anything about war without having experienced it as a soldier.  It is the same reason men cannot criticize (only support) abortion.  It is the same reason I can't criticize your music unless I love it as much as you do.

Experience is ultimate trump card.

What I'm calling the Fallacy of Experience is the assumption that experience + reason trumps reason alone.  The matter is confusing because experience can provide qualification.  It does not, however, bar others from forming opinions on the matter.

Experience as the primary qualifier leads to a few problems.  What if someone with the same experience as you comes to the opposite conclusion you do?  Did he do something wrong?  If you admit people can have legitimate disagreements with the same experience, could not the opinion of the inexperienced be legitimate?

What gives your argument its credence?  If all that qualifies argument for consideration is experience, creating a well-rounded worldview becomes difficult.  In other words, having to experience something to have a legitimate opinion leads to bad decisions.  I don't need to violate my purity to know it's a bad idea.

The same divide comes between Atheism and Christianity.

With Atheism, one must try everything in search of happiness or self-actualization (or whatever).  Anything is game, provided you feel your experience is good.  I mean, who can argue with your experience with pot unless he's done drugs himself?  Try: A doctor.  Or: Anyone who's taken a basic psychology course.

With Christianity, one has a clear structure in which to reason.  This moral rubric leads not just to happiness, but to the happiness of others.  What carnal pleasure seems to work for one man may not work for another.  Personalities differ.  But Christianity offers a solution made by the one who allowed us to have different personalities.  But it's not one size fits all.  It's all sizes fit one.  He can mold anyone, regardless of his former estate, into a more Christlike follower of him.  That's the power of the Gospel.

Okay, not trying to get preachy, but my point stands: If experience is the ultimate guide to value, can we not justify anything, provided we have the right past to back us up?  Some folks justify massive amounts of abortion because some woman are raped.  Even if rape was a legitimate justification (a discussion for another day), that experience has no claim over the vast majorities of abortions, performed out of convenience.

Who you are and where you've been are both important, but they do not govern reality.  What guides us is not the emotion produced by past experience but reason guided by evidence.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lessons from My Twitter Archive

I've tried the one-step solutions to backing up one's Twitter feed. They didn't work. Eventually, I relented and copy-pasted the 2,000-odd Tweets in my feed using the reliable TwimeMachine.  

The good? I don't have to rely on Twitter's sketchy search engine to relive past Twitter glories.

The bad? I can see where I messed up.  

I retweet too much, follow too many people, and tweet about too many different things. How does one control himself on Twitter?

Photo Source

Too much Retweeting

If you've been on Twitter for any length of time, you have probably seen those twitter accounts with 15 retweets for everything one original tweet. Do not be that account.

My current approach is to consider replying or adding as a favorite instead. Thinking twice before retweeting is key.

Too much to Read

I know, I know, "Following 88" doesn't seem awful, but it's amazing how quickly tweets can pile up (particularly during GOP debates, despite how frequently folks forswear them).

The answer? Lists. I use Tweetbot, which gives the option of using a list as the main timeline. A Twitter Lite list containing my favorite accounts is now my default timeline on my iPod, unless I'm particularly stir-crazy.

Too much Diversity

I like writing. I like politics. I like some technology. It all comes out on Twitter. This is good in that it is an accurate reflection of myself, but I feel it would be advantageous to focus on my favorite one and let the others fade into the background.

Things I did Right

In which I provide the requisite bullet list:

  • Buffer: scheduled tweets available on any platform (even iOS)
  • bitly: my favorite link shortener, which can be connected to Buffer
  • Consistency: I haven't stopped tweeting, which is good. Or, so I'm told
  • Automatic backup of my tweets using ifttt and Evernote
I'm no Twitter genius, but I think I'm learning the ropes, even if it is by trial and error.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Are eBooks Bringing Back the 1800s?

Have you ever read fluff fiction from the late 1800s?  My advice: Don't.  It's as though today's teenagers acquired good spelling and went back in time with the purpose of creating the most cliché-ridden fiction imaginable.  Are ebooks opening the floodgates of demand for literary fluff?

My contention is that ebooks are bringing us into an era in which we have to again decide what constitutes a classic.  Think about it.  In the mid-1800s, what are now Classics were pop fiction (with some exceptions, naturally).  Charles Dickens published books in magazines for crying out loud.  Imagine today's intelligentsia hailing a work of serialized fiction as a classic of the 21st century.

Are you done laughing?  If not, go back and read it again.  Get it out of your system.

Okay.  Let's keep going.

The reason ebooks could be to blame is the new ease of publication.  You wrote an original rich-boy-meets-poor-girl-in-a-retro-Victorian-England novel?  There's a platform for that.  You wrote an original vampires-get-erotic-somehow novel?  There's a platform for that?  You wrote some Firefly fanfic?  Yeah, I'm sure there's even a platform for that.

That platform is the ebook.  After all, why bother asking someone to kill trees for your novel, when you could ask them to flood other people's iPads?  It's win-win.

If you've stopped reading, and instead are trying not to tuck yourself in a corner and murmur about the fall of Western Civilization, despair not!  There is an advantage to this mass proliferation of literary Miracle Whip: We will be forced to think for ourselves.  Instead of communist professors deciding which Maya Angelou poem gets the nod of excellence, we can decide.  That can be a bit scary, yes, but I believe it's the only way literature can survive.

Come to think of it, C. S. Lewis wrote an entire book about my conclusion.  If you haven't read his Experiment in Criticism, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, if we won't recognize we can choose the best literature of today, if we refuse to find which books inspire the greatest literary experiences, then we're stuck.  Stuck with the intellectual elite telling us what is meaningful.  Whatever that means.

Go read something.  It might be might be as bad as an 1890s fluff piece.  It might be a Classic.

(Inspiration for Article)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lucia di Lammermoor Summary

It's that time again, in which the writer publishes a brilliant distillation of one of your favorite operas. Today's victim, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.

Act 1
Enrico: Edgardo is a jerk. I hate him. A lot.
Normanno: Yeah, your sister's dating him.
Enrico: Neewww.

Lucia: I saw a freaky apparition, but Edgardo is awesome.
Edgardo: I am awesome. But I have run some errands for the king of France, so...
Lucia: You'll sigh your love to the wind?
Alisa: (I'm out of here.)
Edgardo: You can bet your marbles on it.

Lucia sees a freaky apparition

Enrico: Marry Arturo.
Lucia: But he's all short and second-tenorish.
Enrico: But he's rich—I mean he's *sich* a great guy. And look at this letter showing Edgardo's gone off with some other chick.
Lucia: Guisto ceil!
Enrico: Anywho, marry Arturo or else.
Raimondo: It's probably a good plan. Probably.
Lucia: Fine.

Chorus: We're a happy chorus.
Arturo: I'm pretty happy too.
Chorus: But our collective happiness is better.

Lucia: I'm signing this contract, even though I'd rather die. Just saying.
Edgardo: I'm back from France!—oh stink.
Lucia/Alisa/Edgardo/Arturo/Enrico/Raimondo: (Emotions.)
Edgardo: Traitor.
Lucia: It's not my fault! (Faints.)

Scotsmen are much more emotional when they sing in Italian

Act 2
Edgardo: Duel me.
Enrico: Okay.

Chorus: We're still collectively pleased with the proceedings of this opera, you'll note.
Raimondo: Cease your merriment. Lucia went mad!
Chorus: Dear me.
Raimondo: She also stabbed her husband and—but look, here she comes.
Chorus: O giusto ceilo!
Lucia: Edgardo is awesome, and we're getting married. Woah, phantom. You know how awesome Edgardo is? This awesome. Snap, I'm going to die. Please leave me flowers.

Lucia goes mad for a while

Edgardo: Where's Lucia?
Raimondo: Heaven, alas. If only she hadn't listened to me.
Edgardo: Neewww! I will join her. (Stabs himself.) See you in heaven, Lucia!
Men's Chorus: What an idiot!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Thousandth Man by R. Kipling

This poem caught my attention while I was catching up on my emails from The Art of Manliness.  It expresses noble sentiments that get swept under the rug by feminists these days.  (Wait, was it sexist to imply feminists use brooms?)

The Thousandth Man
By Rudyard Kipling

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it’s worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

‘Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for ‘ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em go
By your looks or your acts or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don’t matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he’s worth ‘em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong’s your wrong, and his right’s your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men’s sight—
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can’t bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot—and after!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Norma Synopsis

It's Opera Synopsis Sunday, wherein the clever writer distills a great opera down into its core essence:

Music by Vincenzo Bellini
Libretto by Felice Romani

The Chorus of Druids complains about the government.  Pollione, the head Roman, later enters and complains about his love life.  The priestess Norma enters after he leaves; she says a prayer and complains about her love life.  The Chorus is still not happy about the government.  Once they're gone, Adalgisa enters, says a prayer, and complains about her love life.  Pollione enters and convinces her to run away with him.

Norma says a prayer to get the chorus to shut up about politics

Norma freaks out.  Adalgisa enters wondering if she can break her promise of chastity.  Norma knows it's possible to do without permission, so she figures she may as well grant Adalgisa freedom.  Pollione enters.  Norma freaks out.  Adalgisa, once she figures out they're both in love with the same guy, also freaks out.  They all get overwrought.  When the chorus is heard offstage complaining about the government, Pollione runs away.

Norma freaks out, almost killing her kids.  Adalgisa enters and tries to be nice.  It works.  

Norma and Adalgisa, BFFs

The Chorus is still griping about the government.  Norma finds out that Pollione is trying to abduct Adalgisa.  She freaks out and calls for war.  The Chorus merrily obliges.  Pollione is captured, and Norma confesses her guilt so they can die together.  Pollione decides Norma was actually pretty cool after all.