Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Evening's Life Altering Question

Why do invading aliens who seem to have spent years and years developing the most amazing technology, not find the time to quickly Google the word 'Earth' to find out if there is the possibility that the environment may have some startlingly harmful effects on them, or at least make sure that their super weapon/ship doesn't have a really easily exploitable weakness? Come on guys, if you're going to put all this work into spaceships and laser beams, you'd think you could spend 15 minutes on making sure you have a decent idea of the place you're trying to invade. Not that I'm complaining that I'm not a slave to an alien race. And yeah, I also realize all the invasions have actually been movies or novels, but I'm assuming it would play out the same in real life (just like how all wars or police encounters in movies are exactly like real life).

Work Status Update

I've not been pelted with rotten tomatoes and no patients tried to see my insides via a rustic spork (which would be fascinating to see, since I think they only come in plastic). Plus my soul is currenly sealed inside me and my office job does not seem to be making the proper measures to suck it out. I am okay with this by the way. I like my soul. I hear it is a good thing to have for a long and happy life. Plus I hear clients aren't really looking for soulless writers unless they're vampires.

I thought I needed to let you know that I haven't been pulled into the black hole of misery, and I am having a just fine and dandy day at the office. Or as fine as a day at the office is capable of being (ie: still probably will want a beer tonight) It isn't quite like my wriitng business, but I do get to write things. Though not sure how big the patient referral market is out there for clients.

Hoping your day has just been spanking fresh good.

Hi Ho Hi Ho

Off to work I go. I may or may not celebrate this day of office soul sucking with a movie, but if I don't (or even do) I'm sure I'll be back here to enrich everyone's lives (aka inane ramblings that will likely cause you to scratch a bald spot into your gorgeous head of hair). What are your day plans?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Real World Example Of How Not To Respond To Literary Criticism

Or "Why it isn't in your best interest to go completely insane on the internet."

Here is a link to a review of a particular novel, and in the comments, you will witness the author of the novel completely self destruct over a reviewer that didn't say her book was all dancing pandas and unicorn rainbow farts.

So, what is today's lesson, kids?

You're going to get criticism in life. You're especially going to get criticism if you happen to put work out for public consumption. The reality is, not every single person is going to think your hard work is Mayan gold and magical Skittles. Every single author or director or musician or bearded woman has received negative reviews. Many of them have got the negative reviews early in their career (and later as well), but that didn't cause them to quit or self implode. Instead, they took those reviews and still continued to churn out work, and they still went on to be really successful despite someone not liking their stuff. One bad review does not mean the end of your career, or even the end of sales for that particular book.

The problem isn't getting the negative reviews, but rather how you handle those negative reviews. The way you handle it, is with a smile and you then take from it what you think may help you improve and then you go back to work. Yes, sometimes you may disagree or think the negative review is wrong, but your best strategy is then realize that was one person's opinion and you hopefully have thousand upon thousands that disagree with it (so, you'll still have your beloved sales).

What you don't do, is have a complete meltdown and make yourself appear to be a completely unprofessional asshat. If you want to cry and scream in private then go ahead, but please try to remain a civil human being in public.

The big problem in this case, is that the review actually wasn't that harsh, Yes, he criticized her for grammar and sentence structure, but he did say the story was very engaging. He just felt the prose wasn't as polished as it should be for publication. The fact is, that is the sort of risk you take when you go into self publishing and don't have an editor to help you with your debut effort. The critic definitely did not personally attack the author or declare no one should purchase the book. As negative reviews go, this was probably a pretty favourable one, and definitely not one that should have caused the great human meltdown of March 2011.

Check out the link and take it as a clear example of what not to do when you read a critical review of your hard earned work.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remember When I Posted On Here Daily?

Yeah, I am going to try to do that again. I've unfortunately just not been in a 'blog until the cows come home' kind of place. I've got my non blogging reasons, and you'd be happy to know that they aren't just, "Hey, Sam & Max works on my new computer and so I'm just going to play it and eat pop tarts until my ass gets big enough to be declared a new province.' I'm not saying that I haven't taken advantage of my new computer's ability to play games, but I am saying that it is far from the reason for my blog's current vacant of words state.

My reasons have been more of the 'life has just gotten crazier than a dingo trying to ride a moped in a museum of natural history while being pelted by rabid chipmunks.' Believe me, that is pretty crazy. I ended up getting a lot of writing work since I last blogged, and actually, enough where it made up for that whole two weeks where I was moaning about no clients loving me. They now have started showing way too much love, and so it was getting to be a rather challenging balancing act between my freelance writing business and my ol' soul sucking office job. Plus there was the whole spending quality time with quality people thing, and I ended up doing a lot of that lately while also still trying to bring home the proverbial bacon. Unfortunately, life decided that wasn't enough for me, and so they threw in a heaping dose of family emergency. This very unfortunate event has been occupying my time and thoughts. It has also been a time to really show how valuable family and friends can be. You throw all these things in and it has left little time for blogging. I really do intend to get this thing back to almost daily output(and on really good days, a double or triple dose of blog action).

So, that is my non blogging excuses and I'd say they are rather fine. To really make it up for you, I may have some really cool announcements to make in the coming months, but for now, they are just super top secret tantalizers to force you to continually check on in here.

That is my vague recap of the weeks that have past. How is life with you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hey There. . .

So, how are things with you? Well, I'm just fine. I'm not quite 'panda and chimpanzees dancing together and collecting raining skittles' good but I wouldn't be put under quarantine anymore either. But if I am so fine and dandy, why haven't I blogged for a bit? Well, that is an excellent question. The answer is that I've been frantically trying to find more writing work that pays in real money and doesn't require me to fly off to Texas (on my dollar). Because the more I find of those, the less reason I have for a morning like today. And what is a morning like today? Well, I'm off to spend some quality time in the purgatory that many like to call my office job. But I'll survive. For now. Maybe.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thinking About Japan

Because even if I'm unwell, there is far bigger issues in the world right now. Specifically, I am thinking about Japan and its people. They consume my deep thoughts and I wish them all safety, hope and health. No matter our beliefs, I know this is a time when the entire world can unite in one thing and that is praying for the quick recovery of Japan. It is horrible what they've had to go through this past week with the earthquake and the tsunami, and now the nuclear plants that have been compromised from the natural disaster's onslaught. It's one of those time when even if you're not religious, you're moved to prayer or at least some really deep thought and meditation. I don't have much to say about it right now, other than that. I just want to send my best wishes to a powerful and wonderful nation that is currently experiencing unimaginable devastation.

Health Status

I'm not feeling like 'pandas dancing while roses rain from the heavens and koalas play golden harps' but I also don't feel like 'flaming beetles plunging into tortoises' bellies while alligators crush fairies with the skulls of bunnies" anymore. Thanks for asking. I'm going to keep on strutting towards amazing health. Hope your Saturday is less trying to get better and more raging on being awesome. Is it?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Didn't Land A Job, But Did Snag An Illness

Because two weeks of no solid leads just isn't frustrating enough. Since I've already devoted today's blogging to whining, why stop it now? My body seems to have realized I was a little down, and has decided to give me a gift. Except it isn't really my style, and I'd have preferred a muffin or a Bear's jacket (both look great on me). Instead, my head has been filled up with rocks, my throat decided to coat itself with slime, and my stomach is cooking up some rather bad stew. Basically, I'm just one giant parade of gross. I'm off to try to sleep this thing off and hopefully, get back in shape for more of that wonderful query letter writing that has been working out just dandy for me.

Okay, I'm done whining now.

My Short Foray Into Fretting My Dream Is Being Stomped On By Invisible Ogres

I like to pretend I am a writer at dinner parties and grocery check out lines, which naturally leads to people starting to believe I am an actual writer. In the last few weeks, I've been contacted by a few people for writing advice, which likely is due to the fact my blog bio claims a writer owns this site. Plus there is that whole thing that I am one of those rather lucky folks that has been able to make some money from actual writing. Though all of it has either been ghostwritten or for businesses, which means I am still missing out on that glorious byline, but being paid to write is still being paid to write. The fact I've actually sold some work, may actually give you the misguided idea that I've got it together or possibly even (snicker) successful. I'm still basically wallowing down at the ground floor of the writing business, but that doesn't mean I can't try to offer some help to people in my spot. The best way to offer that help is to actually share snippets of my journey, especially the parts that are a little bumpy.

Any regular reader knows, I am currently stuck in the vortex of soul sucking that is known as my office job. The last little bit has been extra frustrating and cranky-inducing, mostly due to that fact that I realize I am not wired for a career in this job and I am desperately yearning to break into a business that I believe I am meant to be in (psst. . . writing). Over the last few weeks, I started realizing that while holding down a full time job, I've been fairly successful on landing a few small writing jobs. For the most part, most of the places I approached lead to some type of paid work. This lead me to think that if I started doing a much stronger push for jobs and send out a squadron of query letters that it would automatically land me a bountiful basket of paid writing gigs. Then my overactive imagination started leading me to visions of prancing away from my office job by May and becoming a real, live full time paid writer. I knew that was fantasy, but I also knew that the quicker I escaped, the more soul I'd have intact.

These past two weeks, I have written and sent off more query letters than I have the entire past year (I am a writer -- this is a slight exaggeration). I stopped being picky about the clients I tried to get, and began sending out letters to the type of jobs I'd always been a little afraid to try to get. I also started sending out a lot of letters to jobs that were nothing but possible pay cheques (believing I'd rather have an uninteresting short term writing job than a long term soul sucking office job). I knew I wouldn't land all these jobs, but also believed that since I had always got a job or two from sending out far less letters in the past, that I was destined to get a small little army of clients (maybe we couldn't conquer China with this army, but we'd at least rule my street -- or a portion of my sidewalk).

Well, I currently have absolutely zero writing jobs lined up. I've only got three responses back. Two of which are about possible future work (though nothing immediate) and the third turned out to be the type of job where they only like to hire people with 'Sucker' plastered on the forehead. It hasn't been the windfall of success that I hoped. I don't see me doing any office quitting dance in the next month or two or three. The lack of replies has been a bit of a rhino trample (or as the title states, ogre stomp) all over my ego. Though, in this case I probably needed a bit of a reality check but it has given me the proverbial 'question if I am really meant for this type of work' reflective moment.

I've talked to a few freelance writers and read countless blogs and articles on freelance writing, and they've mentioned how everyone will get rejected from jobs and you must always be prepared for dry spells. The reason freelance work is such a scary job is there isn't a guaranteed pay cheque and there is always the chance you'll have a few weeks with no work. It is the reason many writers talk about creating several different revenue streams and never stop marketing your work and try to always make more connections with those in the industry. Of course, there is a reason a good freelancer doesn't splurge all their earnings on Pop Tart castles and gum drop tiaras, because there is always a chance for the 'rainy day' where money isn't coming in. Now for some of the established writers, they rarely have absolutely no work, because they learned to do several different types of writing and that diversity in writing lets them survive the times some revenues streams dry up. For the beginning writer, those tough days are far more frequents and the reason many writers reflect upon the days they lived off Raman noodles and Value Village. All this information, is the reason that I've never seriously thought of quitting my office job, because I know how valuable that consistent pay cheque is.

I know all this, but it still was an imaginary cannonball to the gut this week. My instinct was to whine and cry about my current state, until i realized I married the type of wife who would point and laugh about me imitating a tantrum ridded 3 year old rather than pat me on the head and offer me a cookie. I had my few seconds of self doubt (and sure will have it again) and then realized it was time to just start sending out more query letters. Plus there is the positive that this down time will allow me to work on some more entertaining ventures such as magazine articles or short stories or even the long thought about novel (which all can eventually be stuff I try to sell). I know I am prone to doubt and worries, but I also know that such things have never paid off a mortgage in the history of mankind (or at least, not on their own). Instead, I need to just keep on working really hard and jumping at every opportunity there is to land a client.

I partly wrote this piece to vent a little, because writing is how I do such things. I posted this article because I think it does have some value for the budding paid writer. It takes a lot of work to keep getting consistent work. There is going to be those days or weeks when you feel like nobody wants what your peddling. It's frustrating and it is heartbreaking, but it is far from the end. You get out of this mess, the same way you got in, you write. You keep on writing (and reading). You'll never have anything to sell or anything to show prospective clients unless you write. If you're in a similar situation like me, then you have made money off your writing already, and so you know you're good enough. So, just keep writing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Review of Stephen King's "Full Dark, No Stars": When Dark Tales Shed Light On The Human Condition

Any "Constant Readers" of my blog will know that I am a big Stephen King fan. It would not be any surprise to those readers that I purchased his new novella collection, Full Dark, No Stars, shortly after it came out at the end of 2010, and then gobbled up the stories within days after (though the review took much longer, as you can see). There is many who associate Stephen King with monsters and the macabre; they would quickly peg him as a horror writer. I won't argue that a large portion of his tales deal with intensely dark subject matter and often do have supernatural elements (which often contain some type of horrid monster -- creature or human); I do not believe the stories are ever actually about the monsters or supernatural or horror. Almost every story I've ever read by Stephen King, and the reason I love his tales, have really been about ordinary people and how they respond to extraordinary conditions. It is about the emotions, feelings and responses of the common person. I really believe that Stephen King does such a great job on creating realistic humans and the human condition. The best way to really explore the human condition is to put people in a scenario that is unimaginable and extraordinary (and sometimes -- or even most times -- horrifying).

Full Dark, No Stars
is four novellas that have four common and relatable protagonist. They are thrown into dark and evil situations. The major connecting theme in all four stories is the unknown personality (or even person) that is hidden in all of us. The traits and thoughts that we keep deeply buried within ourselves, and if we are lucky, we are able to hide for our entire lives. What if there is such a horrid situation or a dark motivation or an unbearable desperation that forces this dark side to take over and reveal him or her self. These four novellas do a stunning job of showing what could possibly happen in such a scenario, and demonstrate decent and wholesome being plunged into situations that they do dark things against their typical nature. These are dark and grotesque tales but they do a magnificent job of shedding light on the realities of the human condition.

1922
Okay, guess what time period this novella is set in? That is about the only predictable part of this rather macabre tale. The story is about a man who is desperately trying to cling to his farmland, after his wife is actively trying to sell her family's portion to a large hog butchery and use those funds to move into the city. The protagonist is a farmer and it is the only life he knows, and he despises the idea of his family moving to the city and having to adopt new ways. He tries to persuade his wife to remain in the country and try to grow the farm, but his arguments are complete failures at convincing his wife. This is when he listens to his other self, his very dark self. He eventually is able to convince his son to help him commit the most horrid of acts, in order to keep the farm. The repercussions of this evil action lead to even more unbelievable horror and torment.

Wilfrid Leland James, the protagonist, is a decent and likable human being, who succumbs to a dark and evil stranger inside himself after being faced with the potential of losing almost all things important in his life. This why the tale is so compelling, because you really do believe he is a good person but he just ended up doing a truly horrifying act. The story explores the idea that the potential for evil may really hide inside all of us and it just takes a certain situation to unveil itself. This story demonstrates why it is best to always keep that dark self buried, because it opens up horrors and consequences that no truly good person could ever handle or imagine.

Stephen King has written several stories that make you question the possible supernatural elements within. As I mentioned in my review of the Skeleton Crew, there are times when the reader wonders if the supernatural acts are legitimate or if it is really the delusions of the characters. I feel this works best when the story never really provides that answer for you (or at least, holds off until the very end of the story). In 1922, you are left wondering if James is really being haunted by the dark supernatural for his evil acts, or if he is just being plagued by his own deep regret for what he has done. Is it all delusions that are tormenting him for allowing the dark stranger inside him to come out or is his farm really haunted thus acting out in revenge? Either way, it is a compelling insight into human behaviour and the dark side in us all.

Big Driver

Tess is the author of safe and comfortable mysteries that appeal to grandmas everywhere. She is the stereotypical wholesome and pure middle aged woman. She is the type that is more likely to say 'Oh sugar!" rather than 'Oh shit!" after stubbing her toe. You're more likely to see her spending a Saturday night preparing her Sunday School room rather than drinking away at a bar. There doesn't seem to be a bad bone in her body, and she would be the least likely character for a revenge tale. Or at least, that is what you're lead to believe at the beginning of the story, and probably why she is the most appealing character ever for such a revenge tale. Tess ends up going on one of the darkest journeys and most drastic self discoveries, after she experiences one of the most depraved and vile acts of violation from the mammoth trucker, Big Driver.

In most revenge tales, the protagonist is a tough as nails male who talks shit and backs it up. He is someone you don't want mess with because he can kick your ass and knows how to use a gun. This is not who Tess is, and she is probably the worse candidate ever for an action movie. This is why Tess is such a wonderful character for this dark tale. You witness how a despicable act against her, forces an unknown stranger inside her to slowly take control. You wonder if this person was always there or if the vile act gave birth to this person. The interesting thing is that this person doesn't immediately arrive after the act, but this side of Tess slowly develops over time until becoming Tess.

A great strength to the story is how the incident is horrifying and uncomfortable. You feel disgusted and violated after reading it, and given a sense that justice must take place. The magic of King's writing skills are demonstrated here, because he isn't overly descriptive in the scene but you still end up putting the book down thinking you read something disgusting. He captures the emotion and feelings of the incident. It is conveyed in such a way that you can't help but feel a bit of the pain that Tess must go through. It is more proof that sometimes less is far more when it comes to writing.

The story has a mystery that slowly reveals itself, and in some ways, it is a far fetched and a little too convenient. The thing is, the story itself and the development of Tess is so compelling that you are able to quickly ignore the unrealistic mystery and rather big deus ex machina. Even though such a thing would normally pull you out of the story, it actually helps push you deeper in and leads you to the much more important part, the dark change in Tess. I'm sure King could have gone in a different direction or gone a different way to still lead to the same end goal, but he didn't and it still allowed for a gripping story that really makes you question if you're capable of acting out the same kind of revenge. The world isn't black and white and good people aren't always going to do pure things, but when they do act out in a dangerous way does that really make them bad people? The story brings up this question but the reader may not have an easy answer at the end.

Fair Extension


Everyone has that person that they hate. Sometimes you don't even realize that you hold hate and ill will for this person. Shockingly, sometimes this person is actually one of your best friends. This friend is seemingly always more successful than you; this person has way more money, and has a beautiful and happy marriage, and has successful children, and has a rich and fulfilling life. This person ends up showing on a daily basis how his life is better than yours by either lending you money or offering you a job in his company or having you over for dinner at his mansion. He is your friend and so you spend time with him, but deep down there is a hatred and jealousy that grows. Because you know you deserve all the things he has and fate has been unjust.

But what if you could change fate and switch the roles between the two of you. What if you get all his success and he gets all your pain.

This is exactly what is explored in the story, Fair Extension. The protagonist has the opportunity to get rid of his cancer and pass it off, instead now enjoy all the success once belonging to his best friend (the person he hates).

It is an interesting concept, because I think often the biggest resentment is held towards those close to you. Those people you know so well, and got to see them before they were successful and wealthy. You wonder why they got so blessed while you suffer with a terminal disease or an unhappy marriage or doped up kids or a miserable job. You know deep down that you deserve what they have, and even deeper, you may wish ill will upon them. Of course, this is a dark side of us that we would rarely ever admit to or even want to think about. I swear right now that I would never think or wish ill will upon a friend, but I also have never been offered a deal where I could switch my fates with someone.

Fair Extension is a gruesome story that explores something that may hit much closer to home then anyone wants to admit. It explores a protagonist that has terminal cancer, but is given the chance to extend his life. The extensions will happen only if he is willing to transfer his suffering to someone else, the person he hates (his ultra successful best friend). The story is revealing and intriguing because I really do believe that true hatred is usually reserved towards 'loved ones.' The harder your life is, the more it seems unfair that someone close to you is enjoying their life so much. The ultimate question is, would we switch lives if we had the chance, even if it meant very bad things for this person you call a friend. It is a story that is very revealing, but it is definitely not a morality tale. It is just a tale. It is up to the reader to decide what is right and what is wrong and what will they learn from what is presented in this devilish story.

A Good Marriage

Everyone has secrets. Even in a good marriage, the partners will keep some information to themselves. This doesn't have to be major information, but just the type that doesn't need to be discussed with your spouse. It's just a little secret that is better off hidden away. Darcy Anderson knew that there were secrets in her marriage, and believed that some were better kept that way. She knew her husband splurged large amounts of money on hair growth concoctions and felt it was better to just let him believe it was still a secret. She had her own secrets, such as scarfing down several 'Baby Ruth' chocolate bars at night when no one was around. In the big picture, these type of secrets don't matter and cause very little harm. Letting them remain secrets will help a marriage remain good (because why discuss such trivial things). Unfortunately for Darcy, her husband had some other secrets; secrets that were much more dark and far less trivial. What do you do when you discover that your spouse has been guarding an evil secret? A secret that actually makes you wonder if you knew anything about your spouse.

The story is classic King, the reader watches Darcy try to deal with the revelation of her husband's dastardly actions. The story has grotesque moments and is as scary as any horror movie, but like most King tales, that isn't the important part. The important part is watching Darcy evolves as she tries to cope and deal with her now shattered world. Darcy questions if she ever knew her husband, and also starts wondering if she even knows herself. Often when a relationship is crushed, you must start trying to figure yourself out, because often you invest so much time in a person that you start blending with them and becoming a piece of them. This story explores what a wife must do when she no longer knows her husband or even the world she is in.

You can never know someone fully. This includes ourselves, because there is always that time we do something that surprises ourselves. In a marriage, you like to believe you know everything about your spouse and you have complete trust in him or her. So many times, marriages fall apart because the trust proves to be fantasy or you learn something that horrifies. This story ask the question, how much do you really know about the people you love or even more importantly, how much do you actually want to know?

Conclusion

Full Dark, No Stars is a riveting collection of novellas. It makes you question how much you really know about yourself, and what is a person really capable of during certain circumstances. More importantly, these are really good and entertaining stories. These tales may be morbid and dark and horrifying, but they are also extremely compelling and enjoyable. You will be disturbed and scared and unsettled, but that all helps with the cathartic experience you want in a good page turner. You will think, and you will get insight into the human condition. You'll also wish the experience will never end, because these are four of the best written stories in a long time.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Beginning Of The Week's Deep And Profound Thought

If two dogs are eating a nice dinner away from their residence but are unable to finish the meal, do they take the leftovers home in a 'humany bag'?

Yeah, its Monday and I've got lots of writing work to beg and fight for my right to obtain. So, you'll have to chew on that for now, and hopefully, I'll be back later.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island Episode 3 Recap: Rooster Rules The Roost

There will be spoilers here, so if you haven't seen it then consider yourself warned. Of course, if you have seen it or just like to have 4 day old shows ruined for you, read on.

This has been a fantastic season so far, but of course, I'm comparing it to the whole two seasons that I've watched. This season has the over the top personalities and conniving game play that was missing out the past season (but made the Heroes vs. Villains season such a hit). We're only three episodes in, and we've been treated to three shocking tribal councils, which involved some fantastic blindsides.

The initial appeal of this season had been the promised rivalry between Russel and Rob. Both guys are not only colourful personalities, but manipulative players that always shake things up. Their involvement has been a huge reason for why the shows have been so compelling so far (basically, all the interesting storylines and moves have have involved either Rob or Russel). Luckily, there is some other really crazy or intriguing players like Ralph or Phillip or Stephanie that are being developed and hopefully continue to carry the show in case Russel and Rob exit early. My initial fear was the show would falter if both guys take an early exit (and with both guys being so well known manipulators, I assumed neither would last to the merge), but now, I do have faith the other cast members can provide the necessary entertainment and big moves.

This episode had more big moves, which is impressive considering the huge events that have already taken place in the two previous episodes. I thought, it would be hard to live up the the classic Phillip ravings at the first tribal council and the shocking blindside of Matt at the second, but this episode may have gone down as the best so far (which at only three episodes would normally not be saying much, but this has been a season that has rivaled Heroes vs. Villains for shock, twists and entertainment).

The obvious stand out moment of this episode (here is the the major spoiler), is that, after two previous times playing this game, Russel was finally outplayed. As has been the case both time before, Russel was in the minority alliance and the target for elimination (after his tribe purposefully threw the challenge in order to get the chance to vote out Russel -- which alone is rarity and a bold move), but the fast thinking and manipulative Russel planned out the ultimate blindside to keep himself in the game. Russel sent out his ladies to woo a member from the opposing and larger alliance, a female firefighter named Julie (or what I like to call her, She-Hulk). It appeared that they had convinced her to side with them for the vote, and send Ralph the Rooster packing (who unbeknownst to anyone else, actually has an immunity idol). It looked like one of classic blindsides were about to take place, but instead, we witnessed an even more classic blindside of the blindside. It was unforgettable, being able to see the expression on both Stephanie and Russel's face when it became clear Julie didn't vote on their side, and it led to Russel, for the first time ever, being voted out at a Tribal Council (he has always made it to the end of the game). The even more classic look was the smirk on Julie's face, as she knew she pulled off the perfect double cross (because if she had told them she wasn't going to betray her alliance of six, then Russel would have obviously scrambled with someone else and possibly been able to persuade him or her). It's a major Survivor moment, because it is really the first time ever that Russel has been outplayed, and it was done in an unpredictable and memorable way. It allowed the female firefighter to step out as a major character and has opened up some interesting future storylines. Will this betrayal lead to a motivated Russel plowing through the Redemption Island competition to get back in the game? What type of revenge will Stephanie have in store for the alliance of six? This will really be a big opportunity for Stephanie to step up and be a major player for this season.

Ralph continues to be an interesting character. He appears to be the dumbest person ever on Survivor, but he holds an immunity idol and ended up getting rid of his biggest threat. I really think the redneck has potential for shocking a lot of people, or at least causing some of that delicious tension and friction that makes the show so riveting. I just love the fact that one of the smartest players in Survivor history was outlasted by who he deemed as the stupidest.

Speaking of tension, there is potential for some really great stuff over at Rob's tribe (I don't bother remembering the tribe's names because they end up changing when they merge anyway). Rob pulled off the bold and shocking move of double crossing a fellow alliance member in Matt the previous episode, and this lead to Rob needing to play damage control with Matt's significant other, Andrea (or as she calls it, close friend). While Andrea seemed to patch things up with Rob, she later revealed she is still out for revenge and hoping for Matt's return. Rob also doesn't seem to completely trust Andrea, and so there is a lot of potential for a big power struggle (since Rob already betrayed a fellow member, how can he keep the trust of the rest?). On the outskirts, you have the always entertaining Phillip (who currently seems loyal to Rob, after trying to oust him at the beginning of the season) and Kristina who faded to the background after being tricked into playing her idol; both who have potential to further create conflict amongst the tribe (and may join forces with the jilted Andrea). The in-fighting in both tribes are the most fierce I've ever seen, and I'm hoping will continue on to the merge, in order to create some more emotional explosions (and essentially, totally negating the idea of one tribe going in with a solid alliance or advantage).

The Redemption Island concept was played out for the first time this episode, and I'd say was a success. I love the fact that Matt was driven by revenge and intent on getting back in the game. I was saddened to see Francesca go out first, since she had the potential for being one of the most interesting characters this season. I really look forward to seeing Matt and Russel go at it next week, because both men are driven by anger from the perceived deception of their tribes. Though it will be sad to see one of these appealing characters go (though, I'd prefer to see Russel stick around a bit longer, since he is such a compelling character), it should create for an exciting atmosphere for the challenge.

It has been a great start to the season, and see a lot of possible exciting directions. I look forward to seeing how Stephanie and Krista try to stick around after losing their leader, Russel. I want to see if the seemingly dimwitted Ralph continues to shock and reveals he is a legit player. Speaking of emerging players, I look forward to the follow up of Julie's actions and she if this will lead to her being in the spotlight. It should be entertaining to see Rob try to keep control of his alliance, while Andrea seeks some form of revenge in the background. I hope that Phillip continues to be one of the most insane characters ever in the history of Survivor. A lot of great potential for this season to be one of the most entertaining ever.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sluuurp! There Goes My Soul!

There is actually things that I like about my office job. I like the regular pay cheque it provides, and I love that the pay cheque puts a dent in my mortgage. I like all my co-workers, who are incredibly delightful human beings that make me laugh and smile. I like that my boss is laid back and keeps his taskmaster whip deeply buried in the closet. I like getting to know some of the patients and building a (superficial) relationship with the regulars. You could say that for the most part, I like my job.

Except. . .

There is the whole problem of the job gradually sucking away my soul. It doesn't ask or even warn me, it just sticks that straw into my body and start slurping away. The longer I stay here, the less of a soul I'll have left. This job drains me, and not just because of the angry patients or the hours of dull scanning, but rather due to it not being what I am meant for. It isn't what fullfills me or inspires me or challenges me (in an uplifting way).

I came home last night completely drained and exhuasted. After cooking dinner (okay fine -- after boiling up frozen perogies, then frying them with onions and garlic -- admittedly not Master Chef material), I felt sapped of any form of energy or desire to do much. This isn't a good thing, because it meant not only a lack of blogging but I didn't do any work towards furthering my writing business (which I do by writing things). I ended up crawling into bed shortly after 10 (very early for me) and drifting off to the land of sweet sleep. Which is fine and danndy because sleep is nice, but I really don't like going a whole day without any form of writing.

If I don't write for a few days, I start becoming a very irritable and frustrating person to be around. Just ask my lovely wife, who has had to suffer through a few of my cranky fits. Writing is my emotional release and the way I often find my energy. You could almost say, it is the way I start gaining back a piece of my soul. And you know what, I will say that. I wil admit that not all writing is soul rejuvenating. On Tuesday, I spent the entire day writing and sending off query letters for possible business, and that is far from thrilling work. There is work I've done that is nothing more than a pay cheque, and has almost no other intrinsic value. But it's still writing and that is the thing I believe I am meant to do.

Of course, many of the greatest writers of all time had to work a full time job on top of their writing. I realize, if I am ever in a place where writing is a full time career, I will be in a very blessed and envious position. It would be better than winning the lottery, if I was writing fiction as a living. It is a rare place to be in, and most of the 'household' names in writing never were able to reach such a place. This doesn't mean I am not continuing to aim for this goal (or at least to grow my full time writing busines that will include all sorts of writing) and do all the work to get me to that place. It is a reminder that many of the classic works came from artists that had to endure the soul sucking jobs. They did endure it, and they still produced wonderful works.

The hard truth is, writers write. That is it. It isn't writers write when they feel like it. Or writers write when they have time. Or writers write when inspiration jumps in their lap. Or writers write when they can afford to have writing as a full time job, Nope. They just write. The only way to ever get even a shot at being published or to be able to turn writing into a career or to just have a story to be read, is to write. Even when work slowly sucks your soul from your battered body.

So, that's my week, how was yours?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Today's Revelation. . .

I live in a world where there is a pub without pub food. I know, absolutely mind boggling. That is like men's pants without pockets or dogs without slobber or Japanese game shows without insanity. It just doesn't seem right.

But what is right, is quality time with friends and beer. There isn't much that beats that. It is a fantastic way to cap off a hard work day. Plus I didn't even have to pay for one of my beers, and you really can't argue against that deal.

It wasn't much for a writing day (worked in the office today), but it was still a mighty fine day, indeed (some beer and friends will do that for you).

How was your day?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

And Now Time For A Video Distraction. . .

Tom Hanks is awesome, and here is a video to prove it.



And yes, I am getting work done. Why do you ask?

A Good Article About My All Time Favourite Basketball Star, Michael Jordan

I just came across a solid article, written by freelance writer Max Ornstein on the Good Men Project website, about basketball icon, Michael Jordan. It reflects upon how much of a hard worker Michael Jordan was, and how his excellence wasn't just something that came to him without immense effort. It shows how his work effort rubbed off on his team mates, or even more importantly, was demanded upon by Jordan in order to become the basketball powerhouse the Bulls were in the 90s. Obviously, Jordan did have amazing natural talent, and I could train as hard as him and still miss the majority of my free throws. It does act as a reminder of how important it is to adopt a really strong work ethic, and how even if you have talent (or actually, especially if you have talent) you must constantly work on your craft on a daily basis. It is a good reminder, and a great little tribute to the all time great in basketball.

Okay, I'm done pimping. Back to perfecting my craft, via doing writing work for the day.

The Hot And Spicer TV Round Up

I haven't done one of these in awhile (nor have I done a book review in ages despite reading four, and on the fifth, books since my last -- but they'll be coming, so don't allow your horses to escape the barn yet), so I thought, 'Why not do one right now." And so, I will.

Amazing Race: This season they have brought back previous competitors that didn't win from the past. I am sure the strategy is to adopt a Survivor All Stars type show, which has often worked really well in the ratings for them. They've definitely stacked the show with some interesting personalities, which include people you can't help rooting for (nice guy and his friend with aspergers, mother and her deaf son, Harlem Globetrotters) along with some people you want to jeer (not a fan of the redheaded cheerleaders). The initial appeal of returning stars doesn't mean as much to me, since I've only seen one whole season prior to this (and parts of two others) so I didn't know a lot of the returning players. But you get over that pretty quick when you see colourful personalities like the goth couple or non bathing cowboys. Plus the first two episodes where filmed in scenic Australia, which made for a visually impressive show. The challenges are pretty interesting for the most part, so I'm sure I'll be sticking with this show to the end.

The Killing: Actually, this show doesn't premier until April 3. I am already pretty stoked to see it, because it is yet another original AMC series. This network has a spotless track record when it comes to producing original series. Just in case you missed all the posts about it, this is the network that aired Walking Dead, which was the clear break out show of this past fall. I'll definitely be checking this one out even if I don't totally know the premise -- it appears to be an investigation into a young girl's murder but uncovers many more dark secrets.

All Star Games: The last month has produced numerous All Star games from several sports leagues. I ended up watching portions of the NFL Pro Bowl, NHL All Star and NBA All Star games. I have to say that NFL and NHL versions are consistently some of the dullest games out there, because everyone is taking it easy since they don't want to be injured in a relatively meaningless game. The problem is, they aren't really playing for anything other than the right to say you won a game. This is the reason the MLB edition is usually good, because they are playing to win home advantage in the World Series for their league's representative. The baseball players actually put in a little more effort in, which produces some good ball rather than the previously mentioned snoozers disguised as All Star games. The only real appeal is actually being able to see two dream teams go at it. Though I do want to mention that the NBA game is far more exciting, and sometimes puts on some excellent performances. Along the same lines of the All Star games, the NBA Slam Dunk competition was exciting this year, because it had some original and difficult dunks. That is really impressive considering the dunk competition has been going on for about 25 years or so now.

Rangers & Bulls Games: Football season is over, so I've now shifted focus over to my other two teams. Unfortunately, I've also had to watch both teams lose on television to inferior teams (Raptors, I am looking at you). But it is always fun to see your teams play, especially when they're out of market teams thus shown on television a lot less than the home team.

How I Met Your Mother: The start of the year, this show actually started getting a little heavy emotionally with the Marshall's dad passing away storyline. Then the series was able to find its groove again, and able to perform a rather fair balance between serious and hilarious material. It has actually lead to a much stronger show now, as the actors have had to show their range with some more dramatic scenes but then still pull off lots of the funny. It is a pretty unpredictable show right now, and it has some decent storylines lined up for all the four characters, rather than just being about Ted finding his soul mate (actually, I'd almost argue that pay off is more of a afterthought among fans now since there is more interesting stuff happening). The next few weeks should provide some good stuff, especially among Barney who is really one of the best characters on television (and has actually gained some good character development this season rather than just being a caricature).

WWE Monday Night Raw:
Last night was the first time I've watched this show since I wrote up a full review a few weeks back. I ended up missing the episode where the Rock returned, who is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars ever in wrestling. Actually, WWE has failed at properly replacing big stars like him and Stone Cold Steve Austin (both who left in the earlier part of the mid 2000s). The biggest proof of this, was the earth shaking crowd response Rock got when he returned for the interview, and then his promo proved he is about 100 times more charismatic and engaging than anyone currently on the roster. I am sure his return will pop the WrestleMania buyrate, but then WWE is still left in the same spot now when Rock returns to the movies in April. As for last night's show, the best part is that I got to watch it with a really good friend and ended up just chatting it up with him for most of the show. The show actually seemed to have a lot less wrestling on it than usual, though I understand part of that is to set up matches for WrestleMania. The other problem, the matches that did happen were not very compelling but rather one sided. It also was a show that ended up sacrificing a lot of the rising stars in order to put over more established guys (both Sheamus and Michael McGillicutty ended up looking very weak). It is Wrestlemania season, so I am sure to give it at least one more shot in the next month but definitely not a great episode (besides the amazing company).

Dragon's Den: Decent last few episodes, with a few innovative products presented to the investors. I think, some people watch this show to see Kevin tear into some poor unprepared entrepreneur, but I really enjoy seeing the innovation and creativity presented by the few good inventors and business people. Of course, it is fun watching some of the really poor and ridiculous ideas get torn apart too. On the side of the good presentation, the most impressive had to be the one presented by three men who were all under 23 years old (and likely even younger) whose business was remodeling industrial crates into on site construction/mining/etc offices. The guys were incredibly articulated and knew their product, and the product really was a great idea, which they ended up getting two investors for.

Modern Family:
Ever since the Valentine's episode, this show has been on fire. It continues to do a great job of balancing sweet and funny. Somehow, they are able to create these over the top character but you can still relate with them. So, many of the situations are something you can see happening or end up being similar to what you've experienced (despite still also being ridiculous). Some of my favourite moments include Phil and Claire once again gloriously failing to play out their Valentine's fantasy game, Gloria not understanding Valentine's Day isn't a competition, the train wreck that was Claire's mother's (Shelley Long) visit, great performance by Matt Dillon as the sleazy ex boyfriend, and the entire episode of Phil not knowing what he did wrong was glorious (including the disaster that was the fundraiser thanks to Mitchell). Modern Family is the undisputed king of sitcoms right now.

Survivor Redemption Island: It has been a great first two episodes. The return of Russell and Rob have been just as entertaining and awesome as I hoped. Phillip has to be one of my all time favourite characters, especially after his amazing freak out at the first tribal council. Both tribal councils provided some really entertaining drama and blindsides. It has set up what should be interesting conflicts over the next several episodes. Hopefully, they don't end up voting off all the really entertaining characters at the start, because this really has potential to be one of the best seasons (says the guys who has watched 2).

The Office: Last few episodes have been pretty entertaining, but I find I am having a hard time actually remembering what happened just a few hours after watching them. This show has lost some of its steam and I really hope they start building towards a series finale soon. The problem is all the major storyline arcs have been resolved, and so the show just seems to be desperately grasping as new conflicts and scenarios to keep the show going. It is still a high quality show most weeks, but no longer the hands down best on TV.

Parks and Rec: Quickly replacing The Office as the quirky work place comedy. Rob Lowe is fantastic in his role. I have just started watching the show, so I am still trying to get acquainted with all the characters. They may have a few too many of them to follow, but the show is great for all out comedy.

30 Rock: Just started watching this after a friend's recommendation. I get the feeling this is a show that had funnier and better days, but it still a pretty good comedy. Tracy Morgan has created a fantastic character, along with some other pretty interesting personalities. I jumped on the ship a little late, but I've enjoyed a few funny storylines like the writer who had to pretend he had a car in order to keep friends, or Tracey and Liz having to act like friends in order to avoid creating drama during a documentary to chagrin of the director, and Liz pretending she is pregnant had some solid laughs. Another show that does a good job of shunning typical sitcom formulas and producing some original laughs.

Outsourced: It was on after 30 Rock, so I decided to give a look. After about 5 minutes, I realized I had much better things to do. It's great if stereotypical racial humour is your thing, but otherwise, it is pretty awful.

Hmmm. . . I seem to be lacking in the drama department of TV. Nothing has really jumped out at me as can't miss in that area, though I'm interested in giving Fringe a shot at some point. Anyone watch that? I also recently saw The Kingdom with a friend, which is a movie on DVD rather than a television show but was an absolute treat. It has a deep and compelling story with a solid message along with some amazing action scenes. I will hopefully put up a proper review of that in the near future.

If there is anything else you want to recommend then pass it my way, and I'll be more than happy to glorify it or burn it on my blog when I have the chance. Actually, if there is anything non TV related you'd like me to rant and rave about then feel free to drop me a line about that too. I never have a problem taking requests. I do want to talk about the historic events that are taking place over in the Middle East and North Africa at some point, but I also want to find the time to actually properly read about it all first (in order to minimize the amount of exposing of my stupidity, as much as possible).

You go and enjoy your Tuesday now, I may or may not be back here later today.