Thursday, December 29, 2011

Angry Robot - Harbinger of Yuletide Cheer


Recently, I found myself blessed by a wondrous tune, entitled "Angry Robot" by John Anealio. He recounts the tale of a poor automaton who, encountering the terrors of the Internet, finds himself unable to fulfill his desire to purge the world of humanity.

Download the song for free here, and follow along with the lyrics below.

Angry Robot; plotting the overthrow of all mankind 
Angry Robot; thoughts of Armageddon on his mind 
Don't look him in the eye, he's an Angry Robot 
The Angry Robot wasn't always mad 
He started out so happy but things went bad 
Cause when he hooked up to the internet 
what he saw there filled him with pained regret 
He wanted to go on a killing spree 
to rip the souls from meatbags and set them free 
His Asimovian circuit wouldn't let 
him kill just anyone he met. 
Angry Robot; plotting the overthrow of all mankind 
Angry Robot; thoughts of Armageddon on his mind 
Don't look him in the eye, he's an Angry Robot 
But angry as he was the robot knew 
there was no violent thing that he could do 
He learned about the Singularity 
when chips & blood become one entity 
The human system software is a mess 
but the robot knew that with success 
a robot/human hybrid he would be 
and he could kill with equanimity 
Angry Robot; plotting the overthrow of all mankind 
Angry Robot; thoughts of Armageddon on his mind 
Don't look him in the eye, he's an Angry Robot
from The Robot E​.​P., track released 01 March 2011 Lyrics by John Anealio & Matt Forbeck  

Beneath the surface, John and Matt have crafted the perfect holiday song for 2011. Because the reasons may not be immediately obvious to everyone, I will spell out the holiday connections for you:



Frosty the Snowman

Like the Angry Robot, Frosty was created by man. Powered by a magical hat, Frosty came into the world, innocent and, let's face it, ignorant. Angry Robot, too, was innocent, until the taint of Rickrolls, Peanut Butter Jelly Times, Numa Numa's, and Cheezburgers that Can Be Has'd overloaded his circuits.

Of course, Frosty's dilemma is somewhat different than that of Angry Robot - he faces imminent temperature increase and death by melting.

Somehow I doubt Santa will lend
Angry Robot last minute
assistance with his goals...
Professor Hinkle, the magician responsible for Frosty's magical hat, is totally against the concept of Frosty achieving his ends - going to the North Pole to avoid liquification.

In the same way, the Angry Robot's programmers went well out of their way to ensure that he could never have what he truly wanted: the death of humankind.

Those selfish jerks.



A Christmas Carol

Angry Robot could easily be Ebenezer Scrooge reincarnate. (Well... as 'incarnate' as a robot is as capable of being, anyway.)

Though he was always a bit of a nitpick, Scrooge did not truly hit his low point until his fianceé, Belle, tells him he's too focused on his penny-pinching ways, and it's over between them.

At that point, Scrooge truly snaps. He becomes the miser and all around jerk we know and love. The only real difference here is that Angry Robot has a more proactive plan to "decrease the surplus population."


Humbug.
The parallel does not end here. When the Christmas Ghosts visit Scrooge, he finds himself on a quest to rediscover himself. Finally, he achieves the Angry Robot's necessary goal: Scrooge becomes human once again.

When the Angry Robot accomplishes this, however, there will be no Christmas feast. More like a Christmas barbecue.

God bless us. Every one.



Die Hard

Angry Robot can relate to John McClane.

It's one New York cop versus a dozen German terrorists, and it's Angry Robot versus seven billion stinking meatbags clogging the Earth.

McClane is, for all intents and purposes, all alone.

Even when he gets 'backup,' it just makes things worse.

Now I have a machine gun.
Ho ho ho. 
They're both comfortable with taking action when it's clearly necessary, and will shoot and/or explode anything that gets in their way.

Though Hans Gruber and company try to crash the Nakatomi Christmas party, McClane goes to every length - climbing dangerous elevator shafts, crossing a field of broken glass with bare feet, and blowing up the entire bottom several floors of the tower with C4 - to prevent them from succeeding.

Angry Robot will not stop there. There may not be enough C4 in the world, but I feel confident he'll find a way to keep humanity from continuing to crash his party.



Plenty to fear over at
http://angryrobotbooks.com/
In conclusion, "Angry Robot" belongs right between "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and "Christmas at Ground Zero" as a true holiday classic in your Yuletide playlists. I'm sure there are some other great parallels to be drawn that I didn't consider, so feel free to bring them up below!

While I wait to hear back from the Christmas Music Authority, feel free to check out "Season's Geekings", a holiday album from John Anealio. It features other greats such as "Batman Smells (A Rebuttal)" and "Is a Chupacabra Kosher?" You can download it for FREE here!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all good luck in the impending robot revolution!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Writer v. State of Inertia

I accidentally took a sabbatical from writing.

This is not to say it was entirely necessary. Though the situation was definitely antagonistic to my writing, I could have continued. Regardless, I did not.

Now, I am paying for it.

Dear reader, I have learned another valuable lesson: getting back into writing is tough.

I stopped for three weeks. Granted, these three weeks were during NaNoWriMo (which I still find to be inconveniently placed), so I did not finish my manuscript for that, clocking in at about 10k. I am aspiring to maintain positivism, and purge the negative feelings that creep up due to the quasi-failure to complete the goal.

Yesterday, I finally started again, but I am having plenty of trouble dragging the words out into the light. They are rabid, photophobic badgers who prefer the dank recesses of the mind, and fight tooth and nail to remain. Even this blog post, in its relative brevity, has been a battle.

Writer contemplates amorphous block.
I opt to participate in the school of thought that does not fully believe in writer's block. In my mind, it's a crutch, or an excuse, and not something I need. Still, I recognize that writers do, in fact, sometimes have trouble, and I am currently a writer in trouble.

Besides, I have a bandoleer full of excuses hanging in my proverbial closet (next to the Class 3 radiation suit with the big guacamole stain on it... don't ask), which are readily available should the need arise. (In case the point is not yet painfully clear, when I was younger, my mother suggested I write a book entitled, "An Excuse For Every Occasion.")

Today, I also happened by a particular form of social media, where a particular participant had chosen to give into discouragement and go down in flames - destroying their own work and giving everyone the finger.

This hit me harder than I initially expected.  At first, I viewed it with a cool passivity. "Oh, look, there goes another one." I know, it's insensitive, but it feels like there's always someone spazzing out online.

Then I realized that, sometimes, I feel like I'm just a few steps away from that point. I go to great lengths to not use Twitter, Facebook, and this blog as a sewage processing plant for all of my negative emotions. To be frank, there's too much negativity online, and I'd hate for my rage tweet to be the final molecule that brings the Internet to critical mass (explodey).

Even so, when I get frustrated - and, oh, do I get frustrated - it's tough to not feel like giving up on everything forever and ever. After all, what have I accomplished so far? When I'm disheartened, I'm blind to most good things. It's like the opposite of rose-tinted glasses. I have shit-tinted glasses.

But then the smoke clears. The dust settles. The townsfolk step back, and the guacamole finally stops twitching. I realize that I'm not writing because I can't do anything else, but because I like it. I love it. These thrilling highs and dung heap lows are just a part of the game, and I need to work harder to keep myself on a stable medium to avoid the tumultuous roller coaster effect a bit more. And we're back to...

Discipline.

I shan't carry on about this today. It merely needed mentioning.

Thanks for sitting with me through semi-banal bout of bloggery. I actually feel a bit better, having written this post. It's going to be a rough couple of weeks, getting back into the groove, but maybe I haven't lost my touch after all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Extendable Straws = Productivity Boon!

An amazing innovation in straw technology.
My wife got me two birthday presents this year. I don't know what the second is yet, but she graciously granted me the first gift early. 

She purchased these connectable drinking straws from Vat19.com (Purveyors of Curiously Awesome Products), and my life has changed. The straws can be combined in a large variety of ways, and are only limited to your imagination (and, in reality, how much you suck). 


The first thing I did with them, of course, was steal her soda. 

The joints took a bit of adjusting, and at first I tightened the corners too much. Apparently, I am a suction weakling, as I couldn't draw any liquid, but Heidi could. We fixed it, though. 

For your irrelevant information, we were mixing Cherry Coke and Mr. Pibb. (I know, I know, Mr. Pibb couldn't afford the student loans to attend carbonated medical school like its superior associate, Pepper.) 


Fancy.

The next step was to use the straws to ease the process of drinking whilst writing.

I sat at the desk, put together the straw assembly, and, with a little bit of tape, had my new Drink Reach Extension Apparatus. 

A little bit of tape and convenient placement has now reduced the necessary head movement for drinking by a good eight inches, or removed the need for me to stop typing to pick up a glass.


Sure, to some, this may seem silly, but when I'm in the middle of an intense writing session, anything that beats distractions is a plus. 

Another satisfied customer
Though we're waiting for our full-family birthday celebration, already I'm feeling the another-successful-revolution-round-the-sun cheer. 

One last bit of frivolity and merriment I bring to you is the video of Heidi presenting a cake with 25 candles. Trick candles, mind you. It took me only a minute to put them out, due to sheer ingenuity and genius. What? Those words mean basically the same thing? Bah. Go watch the video.


video


That's all for this post. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NaNo UhOh

Sorry folks, I'm sort of phoning this one in. I know, it's a chump move.

My NaNoWriMo efforts have been choppy at best, so far. I wrote a couple hundred words before today. I did some great planning, but actual word-creation was just not happening.

Part of this is due to my poor sleep schedule habits. Part of this is due to self-confidence issues. Part of this is due to life* (*everything else).


And you know what? These things only matter as much as I allow them to matter.

So today I have finally made some decent progress in my project. I made it past the first scene, which was just tough to write, and the story is starting to move. Now I'm clocking in at a little over 2000 words.

So, instead of spending a bunch of time on a blog post, I'm going to keep working on catching up on NaNo. I pray the Bloggods will forgive me, as will you, dear reader.

Thanks in advance for the clemency I'm sure (read: hoping) you have extended!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Around a Novel in 80 Days - An Update

On October 31st, my self-initiated project draws to a close. Around 80 days ago, I decided that I am tired of existing in the gonna-do-it-someday realm of wanna-be writers. It occurred to me that the only way anything would happen with my writing is if I actually began.

I know, I know, this seems like a ridiculously simple realization. While I understood this logically before, it really hit home just how much I wanted to write, and how silly it was to hold myself back.

So, I began.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I began my own version of the contest, in which I planned to write my first novel in the months leading up to November. By my plan, I would write 700 words a day, to help prepare me for the rigorous word count demands brought by NaNoWriMo.

I dubbed this project "StoffelNoWriMos", and waded hip deep into writing a novel, charging forward into the murky abyss, trudging ever forward, ever upward.

Somehow, I (narrowly) escaped the urge to break said tablets
in a fit of rage. It helps that no one built a golden idol to some
other story god in this process. 
I'm happy to report that I have emerged triumphant.

From the abyss, I strode (or stumbled), and descended the mountain, carrying with me the tablets (with embedded flash memory and USB support) inscribed with the delicate carvings, a testament to the creative breath issued forth from the god of the story set before me.

My wife was quick to cover my glowing face with a cloth. My best friend urged her to replace it with a paper bag.

A beautiful novel had come forth, and all bowed in reverence.

Okay, okay, it may not have been quite that dramatic. (Imagery inspired by "The Writer's Prayer", found in Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey, by Chuck Wendig)

But hey, it's pretty cool, having a first draft.

Technically speaking, I did not keep up with my numeric goals.

I did not write every day. Some days, I wrote, and I did not reach 700 words. I set an arbitrary target of 50,000 words, and my manuscript clocks in at ~36,000 words.

I still feel like a winner. I had skirted around this story for years, always thinking about when I was going to do it, in the nebulous 'later'. Now, though, it exists. It has tangible substance somewhere outside of my brain.

My confidence goes through various states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, and plasma are actually rather fitting metaphors for my typical confidence levels). Having a (mostly) finished draft did not fill me with ultimate glee, but I sure feel better about my ability to complete a project.

If one were to draw a tidbit of useful advice from this experience, it should probably be:


Finish something. 


Projects started and abandoned are anchors to confidence, and for this metaphor to work, your confidence needs to fly free.

In the meantime, I also managed to write a short story (not my typical form) and begin to prepare for NaNoWriMo.

If you add all of this together, it's pretty significant, at least to me.

Three months ago, I was a restless, grumbling slacker who sometimes felt pointless.

Now, though, I have undergone a veritable metamorphosis, dear reader.

Today, I am a restless, grumbling slacker who sometimes felt pointless, and IS ALSO WRITING.

...and is also partially
zombified. It happens.
A subtle difference, some may say, but a great one.

If I had abandoned this after a few thousand words, I probably would have abandoned this whole writing idea. (I almost put in "That's all she wrote," but that just does not play well here.) My shaky confidence could not have survived such a blow.

Now, though, I find myself excited about the future. I get giddy thinking about the fun ways to twist the emotions of reader and characters alike, new possibilities for what I will write, instead of what I might eventually do.

Back from the heady rush of glee, I understand this is just a first draft. There's still so much work to be done before my novel is ready to be distributed. And, you know what? I'm okay with that.

Each day is its own struggle to continue the momentum that I've gained, but I now at least feel like it's possible to succeed.

Let's see if I can take that feeling into November! (Spoiler alert: I can.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Not sure what to write? [INSERT TEXT HERE].

I have a confession to make, people: Technically speaking, I'm new to this writing gig.

All told, I've been wholly committed to being a writer for a couple of months. I know, I know, it doesn't seem like much at all. 

Still, I've been writing for a lot longer than that. In that time, I've found one hyper-critical tidbit of process that has saved my flow in many occasions. 

If you do not know what to write regarding a relatively small detail, do not stop writing. 

Instead, throw a bracket-blank into your text, and go on your merry way. 

It's simple. Say Bob and Lauren are in Kiev, and need to get directions to the candy store they've located on their map. You could stop writing, pull up an Internet browser, and get lost for a few minutes (or a few hours) looking for just the right phrase (Покажіть мені це місце на мапі). 

When you find it, or give up, you wander back to your draft, distracted, unfocused, and thoroughly off track. Not the best state of mind for writing. 

Alternatively, you could leave yourself a small note, reminding you to fill it in later. 

When I do it, it looks something like this:

/---------\


Bob tapped the hobo's shoulder, while Lauren fiddled with the Ukrainian-to-English phrasebook. 

The hobo turned to them, a devilish grin on his face. Lauren's breath caught, but she managed to read from the book, "[DIRECT ME TO DELIGHTFUL CONFECTIONS, FOOLISH MORTAL!]."


\---------/

By so doing, we have successfully jumped right over the troublesome pothole, and may now zoom ahead. We will see just how much this mysterious hobo knows about the black market candy store, and, further, about Lauren's secret past.

This method is useful for situations other than language barriers. You could try applying a thin layer of bracket-blank to:

  • Patch / tie together short bits of conversation
  • Sum up description that needs to be fleshed out later
  • Label a one-appearance character's name TBD
  • Accept that you can't find the right word, and move on
Umm...
  • [OTHER RELEVANT SITUATIONS]

Maintaining consistent flow is of utmost importance to me when I'm writing. Otherwise, I'll hardly accomplish anything in my writing sessions. 

Remember: the most important thing, when working on a first draft, is to get something down. You can always go back and fix it. Bracket-blanking helps free you to do this. 

I hope this helps you writerly types out there. With demanding word-count expectations coming up during NaNoWriMo, we can't afford to get hung up on minute details. Allow yourself to go back and fix it later, even if it's at the end of the day. You'll be happy you did. 

Keep the writer juices flowing.



Just what does that hobo know about the candy?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Training for a Caffeine Marathon

Today, we worked to take a picture to accompany my post on WriMos FTW! (Did I mention that's up? Feel free to take a look!)

I wanted to focus upon a marathon theme, and... well, you can see that.. I tried to focus upon a marathon theme!

I'm all in all satisfied with the result, and... intrigued by the other photos that resulted.

Below are the rejected pictures for the post.

Click any image to enlarge... if you dare. 








Monday, October 10, 2011

WriMosFTW? OMGWTFBBQ!

Say again? What's that gaggle of letters you piled onto your blog title like an out-of-work surrealist painter all hopped up on watercolor fumes?

There is, maybe, one thing I did not make clear in my first post: I may talk a bit in a circle, flinging about a bit of non-traditional imagery to accomplish a specific goal. I confess I do not always accomplish my goals; after all, communication is a two-way street. It doesn't matter how much I feel like I've done well saying something, if you don't get it, communication is not working.

Anyway, back to the Subject At Hand.

Much of what helped give me the proverbial kick in the pants is NaNoWriMo, and my desire to participate in said event. I got back on Twitter (though, to be fair, I'd never really used it before), and began to connect with writerly types.

Oppressively long story cut short by the Editing Machete of Longwindedness Doom (+2), I found myself caught in a flurry of tweets (with surprisingly few feathers flying, to my disappointment) with people such as the illustrious @LynMidnight, who, crazy person that she is, decided that a networking blog for NaNoWriMo was just the thing to help people slog through the rough times, and share the glorious times as well.

Thus, through the tears, laughs, agitations, and not-nearly-enough-flying-feathers, WriMosFTW was born.


The site features guest blog posts from both Once and Future Participants, and NaNoNoobs like me. (On second thought, that actually looks kind of tacky... let's make a deal, you and me, to never, ever mention this term again. Okay? Done.)

It's a great place to receive encouragement and insight, and to find other writers with whom you may connect. We're all in this together... separately, but together! I strongly encourage you, reader, to check out the site, and if you are participating, maybe even give @LynMidnight a shout-out... she is still seeking blog posts for November.

As a side-note, my guest blog will be posted on Wednesday. Is this shameless self-promotion? Maybe. I'm actually pretty excited, because this is the first time in a while that anyone has purposefully put something I've written 'out there'. (No comment on the apparent lack of sanity in said decision...) It's an awesome place to be, and I'm glad to share my thoughts on the matter.

Speaking of which, @LynMidnight gave me a shiny badge to post on my blog, for participating in WriMosFTW. Behold, dear reader, and bow before its might!



Oh, yeah. I'm, like, official now.

...

So...

When do I get my Beretta?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Blog Posts You Deserve, But Not The Ones You Need Right Now

I almost went outside after this post!
I am willing to accept this. I am, by no means, a pro-blogger. As far as keeping up with a blog, I actually kind of suck.

Or, rather, I did suck. I have trouble sticking to projects that I begin, and blogging has never been a priority for me. Therefore, my Hubpages account saw little activity, except when I felt 'inspired'.

For those not in the know: I rarely feel inspired to blog. So far. (Though it happens.)

A month and a half ago, I grew tired of living in the mindset of gonna-do-it-someday in regards to writing, and began my "StoffelNoWriMos" project. (I will write an update to this project on Inspirandomonium within a week.)

The point here is: I need better discipline. And working on this novel, believe you me, I have made progress by leaps and bounds. I may have as much discipline as your average house cat all hopped up on the nip now.

Another point is that I want to reach out. There is the advice going around that a writer cannot exist without a 'platform', and that's certainly important, but that's not my only intention here. I also just love putting words together in the right way to make people think, and/or to make them smile.

A blog is a fantastic avenue of communication for my thoughts, and a great place to interact with others about them. And I do want to interact. Really! I will crawl out of my inchoate-writer grotto to play comment twiddly-dinks with you. (Speaking of which, I will also rappel down from my inchoate-writer tower to play pass-the-tweet, if you wish to find me on Twitter!)

Bold statement made here: I will make at least one blog post every calendar week.

I will, some calendar weeks, regret making the previous bold statement.

I hope that the developing discipline will make this easier, and that everyone will have a great time. If nothing else, you can have a good time picking on me for my bold statements.

Thank you, reader, for your support. (I consider the fact that you've read this far support. If you skipped down here, shame on you for toying with my emotions. At least go back to the top and scroll slowly, so that it feels like support, okay?) It helps a lot to have the sense of accountability, and digital accountability, er, accounts... too. Yeah.

See you next post!