2.271. Cruise Director Days

My partner likes to compare me to a cruise director. She should know, because she’s been there herself. In essence I am responsible for finding activities to keep my kids busy and happy on the days they don’t have school. I shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t really even be this way, but there is the way things should be and then there is the way things are.

I’m wholly responsible for how we got here. I spent years putting kids in every sport and club known to man to the point where it is still weird–even in Jr. High–when a kid is only playing one sport. Having their lives so completely scripted with activities has had the effect of leaving them seemingly unable to function for long stretches of time without being offered some activity. My three might be an extreme case, but I’m of the opinion that many suburban kids are struggling in this way. I’m definitely bothered by it.


2.270. On Character

Character drives story. I cannot read a story about a character that is inherently uninteresting; by that I mean unrelatable.  In order for a character to be interesting I believe the reader must be able to relate to them in some fashion. Relating to someone doesn’t mean that we share things in common–not in the traditional sense. If I read a book about a school shooter or a serial killer I would not do so because I have the same desires within me. I would do so because I have been exposed to the same conditions in some way that they have. I have been in a position where I went to high school and grew angry at people or I lived in the same locale as the killer and dealt with that world. it could also be that I recognize those conditions and have some basic curiosity about the effects of such things on a psyche. I.e. the question: How do you survive and what would I do? A good example of this is Derf Beckderf’s My Friend Dahmer, which chronicles his uprbringing alongside Jeffery Dahmer. The story made Dahmer relatable, because Dahmer wasn’t raised to be a serial killer and Beckderf never knew he would become one, though through the reading you can see that the signs were there. I identified with Beckderf, because he was in a situation where he was exposed to all kinds of weirdness. Likewise, I identified with a lot of what Dahmer was exposed to as a kid.

What it comes down to for me as a reader is different responses to similar stimuli. How your character reacts to things is what makes them unique. It also can make them relatable if you write the story in a way that shows how their makeup creates the reactions. That therefore triggers us to wonder how our own makeup would determine our reactions.

2.269. Character at this Hour

And then, about 17 waking hours into my day, I realized I had not blogged. I didn’t know how much I could offer in the present mental state, but I knew I had to try. So, I decided the best talk would be to talk about what I know: Character and Trope.

I started thinking about the idea more substantially as I began to plan the last (and latest) member of the reformed group of characters for a story I expect to write. This last character was going to be a little about word play and a clear nod to the tropes that exist about women in sci fi and in fantasy. She was being built as a character first, but every time I saw a trope I expected to dive out of it’s way, thus taking a path with this character that was totally unexpected. I find this to be great advice for everyone–and easily forgotten. Even the so-called greats forget. For example, the reason one of the Ready, Player One characters lives in the Oasis is because he’s overweight and shy. Another has a skin disorder. Both of these physical markers are removed for the purpose of the film. That is a directorial choice meant to streamline the story themes. The streamlining makes it easier for the viewers to identify the tropes, using them as a sort of shorthand for understanding. It is these styles of shortcuts that make it easier and faster for a filmmaker to get to the meat of the argument they are trying to make.

Some Thoughts:

  1. That felt like a bit of a mess. Writing while rambling can be bad… this turned out… Okay?

2.268. On the Reasons Why

A great poet (and greater friend) asked aloud today, ‘Why are you writing this novel?’ I decided to share the answer here. I am writing a novel about a person, a place, and an idea. It centers on the Arizona sprawl and joins the characters I built as a teen with the kind of characters I shape as a man. Why am I doing it? I’m writing this novel because I have questions about the place where I live–where it is going, what is influencing those changes, and the cultures that fuel and wither us while we are here.

I haven’t answered these questions yet, but before I do I think that I need to recognize that this novel is largely about that collision of who I have become and who I thought I was and would be at a certain point in my past. This is best embodied through the character from my past teaching the character of the present who has been knocked off his life path. Any novel is inherently about the person writing it and something that person is or has gone through in their life. The manifestation of that abstraction or feeling can take many forms. It is influenced by the culture we absorb (popular or otherwise).

The moment I moved to the suburban town I live in I knew there needed to be a story about it. I wold drive to the city and see the walls of the small communities that seemed to ring the city like Wall Maria from Attack on Titan. There are so many questions I have about this tiny oasis in the desert and the desert itself, which leads me towards writing about that.


2.267. Kaiju Take Two

I’m calling a mulligan on that last review. You fall asleep three times in ten minutes, you know what you put out there is junk. So, mulligan. Let’s take it from the top:

PacRim is a fairly well rendered action flick that gives us a taste of what we wanted but fails to deliver both in terms of exciting new action and engaging storyline. It was a good effort that fell short time and again.

I want to go back to the commercial; not the one from the film itself but the Microsoft commercial that slyly announced the film in terms of location. That was my introduction to the new film. I didn’t hear anything else tangible about it for the better part of six months. Then we heard whispers, eventually got a trailer, and no sense of what this film was trying to achieve. I don’t know that they knew. I still don’t. The film introduces us to the post-kaiju world very quickly and then thrusts us into a good deal of fighting and training and the arrival of the bad guys and… well, thats the end of the film. There is a climax, of course. There is not much of a story. We never fully fall into the protagonist’s story and the deuteragonist is at once the most compelling storyline and also the one most likely to be voted ‘campy’.

Essentially, PacRim Uprising didn’t know what it wanted to be. It felt like a handful of solid action sequences belt fed into a storyline that was largely incomplete and underwhelming. It felt like a story laying the groundwork for another story that could be more compelling if the telling is done right. That telling wasn’t done right here, so Part III has a lot to make up for before even getting started. If I were involved, I’d use social media platforms to create bridge story and build the world and recognition of the Jaegers before I released the film. I’d get my audience ready in a way that wasn’t done here and could have been. I’d go with game tie-in’s, VR based experiences, comics, books, and a heck of a lot more appearances along the con circuit. It would cost money, but maybe that would be money well spent. It takes a little to make a lot.

2.266. Pac Rim Out

Kaiju Return!

Sort of.

I had a chance to enjoy an utterly predictable and plot hole ridden PacRim Uprising and left the theater expecting a third film. The film was not good–in a Fast and the Furious not good kind of way. Still there is little opportunity to see giant monsters and robots fight, so I’ll probably go.

The plot of the film is loose and driven by tropes that are quickly run into the ground behind quick cuts and Monster/Mech mayhem.


Some Thoughts:

  1. I kept on falling asleep as I wrote, and that is the final straw for writing these things late. I am very done.


CNN carried today’s marches on the front page. Foxnews didn’t carry them at all. Why would they? Fox is compromised by the NRA and the Republican gameplan. CNN is compromised by capitalism. They are airing what they think sells. Neither ‘side’ is right. Neither side is giving us the entire story, and I am not sure too many people care or even want the full story.

I do.

The reason I surf a multitude of news websites is to get a fuller picture of what is actually going on out there. The struggle is real and the struggle continues. I just want to know what is actually going on out there and how it is going to affect me.

Some Thoughts:

  1. This year’s NCAA tourneys have 11 seeds doing work in the Men’s and Women’s conferences. Nice. Still it makes think there is something more to this–even if in terms of cycles and the mathematical probabilities of where people choose to go and what the algorithms that determine strength of schedule actually reflect.
  2. On average there are three minutes of commercials in every break on NBC. This changes slightly for other channels–largely based on what show is on. I’m gradually getting more and more interested in obscure data points like this. I think there is a story there… At least a character.

2.264. On Speculation

Turns out that things in this world don’t happen quite fast enough for a 24 hr news cycle. As a result we spend a great deal of time listening to talking heads speculate on what might happen based on evidence that is far from substantial. I absolutely believe that speculation is what creates the environment for information to be so blatantly aligned to one belief system or another. In the absence of actual news and information we speculate on everything. We speculate on what the President is thinking. We speculate on what the stock market might do. We speculate on what athletes will be drafted in which order and who will be good and who will not.

All of this speculation is built upon so-called expert testimony from people whose proximity and experience are supposed to make them better guessers than we are. In truth they are reflecting on what they would do and have no natural idea of what the people themselves would do. We aren’t dealing with criminal profilers here. We are often dealing with people who had a the same or similar job or once found themselves in a similar situation. The fact that we call them experts doesn’t mean they are doing more than speculating on what might be.

Nowadays we expect the answers and expect resolution so quickly that we are no longer willing to wait for things to unfold in time. Instead we rely on the speculation about what could be to drive our understanding and create our truth.


Taking this blog time in a McDonald’s by the stretch of block where all of my kids go to school (though not the same school). My youngest is munching on fries and a burger while the others prepare to run in their weekly track meet. Meanwhile I am feeling the effects of coming back to work after some time off. It didn’t go well. I got sick, I felt far far behind, and I’m pretty sure I fattened up with a bunch of stress eating.

It isn’t the job itself that stresses me out. The lack of preparedness is where I start to fray. I’m not just talking about readiness to teach but the preparedness to fall back into a routine that involves feeding and clothing kids, keeping a house clean, taking kids to and from practice, and trying to have a life of my own in the meanwhile. This doesn’t seem like a major set of hurdles on the surface, but after a few days on the beach living the simple life, I found that the routine I’ve become accustomed to is in fact utter shite. Utter. I’m not a fan of how my life has cycled into this fairly banal routine and threatens to straight up be like that for the foreseeable future.

It is high time to shake things up, but I don’t have the first clue how.

Some Thoughts:

  1. The Giants trade of JPP highlights a draft strategy that points towards a team that recognizes the need to pick up draft picks and restock the roster at a number of positions. They don’t appear to have any picks in the 2018 draft beyond the 5th round and have concentrated their picks in the first three rounds. This points to a team looking to reap the rewards of a deep draft class. I strongly suspect they may try to trade away the #2 pick in order to stock additional picks. That is to say that I no longer believe they feel the top guys are a lock to be worth a #2. That includes Barkley.
  2. Speaking of top picks, I haven’t seen a QB come out of USC and be successful in some time. Like Carson Palmer long ago. Barkley, Leinart, the list grows… USC is not producing NFL ready talent.

2.262. On Facts

There is this commercial on CNN about fruit. Well, it is really about truth and distortion. In the commercial there is an Apple. The voice over reminds you that it is an apple and argues that people will try to convince you that it is a banana. The story is a clear analogy for the rise of alternative facts and narratives driven by personal feelings vs. truth. The other day I saw another version of distortion that is as if not more common and less discussed: The lack of information creating a narrative.

Recently a pedestrian was killed in Tempe, AZ by a self-driving Uber taxi. All of the information and attitudes I heard about the event following were very negative in regards to the car and to the human that was sitting behind the wheel as a safety mechanism that supposedly failed. Then I saw the video.

You can too…

According to one poster, the woman “emerges from the dark like batman.” I agree here. Other posters on the youtube feed blame the driver, but this is not the discussion we are having in this ten minute window. What appears clear is that this is not the case of a car senselessly ramming a woman like KITT’s evil brother KARR. Instead what we see is an accident in which the jaywalking biker couldn’t be seen and that resulted in injury. I hope that story comes out, but our first media impression was way different. That is a problem–perhaps the problem with media. Unfortunately the news wants to create a narrative that all too often falls along the classic lines of good and bad. If you do that without all the facts, you end up casting someone in the wrong role.