Holograms Killed the Artist

And has three gold records.

November 15, 2010

I am a nerd. Pure and simple. I make no apologies for being able to cite Star Wars, being able to spot physics mistakes in movies, and playing D&D on a weekly basis. I embrace technology. Whenever a new development makes it possible to do something once confined to science fiction films, I get a little tingle.

Except this time. I saw the following video and felt a creepy, cold, snake coil around my neck.

A singing hologram. Hundreds of audience members singing along. A hologram that makes it possible to have Roger Rabbit-like scenes in real life.

Did I mention that, despite the live band, this is a recording?

There’s a theory called the Technological Singularity. It states that the rate of technological progress has been steadily growing and, at one point, we will in fact create machines that can think and create faster than we can. At that point, humanity’s history will end. Progress will be out of our hands. In essence, we will cease to matter.

I saw that video and instantly thought of the Art Singularity.

Never heard of it? It’s a theory I have. The number of people who create art is increasing each year. This means more possibility for new types of art, new creations, and a greater opportunity for others to get their work out. However, it also means the art world is flooded with many people and works that are, quite frankly, copies of other works. I don’t have to tell you that most works that find mass appeal do so without actually having anything behind them. Twilight, boy bands, reality TV, most pop music, and others are nothing more than candy filler, carefully calculated to appeal to the lowest-common denominator.

christian bale
see more Lol Celebs

And maybe it’s me, but it seems like things are getting more and more artificial. Eventually, we will have “art” that is nothing but a machine creating beats and images designed to appeal to the masses.

It’s not that I don’t think popular music and movies and art were never calculated to some extent. As much as I want this to be a free expression of everything I want to say, I do edit these posts and make sure I say what I want to say as best as I can.

But I don’t do it to appease a demographic. I do it because I want it to sound good. I want to say and I create something that speaks to the reader and is appealing.

I saw that hologram singing, saw the crowd singing back and reacting… and it was a recording. She doesn’t exist. The talent belongs to a computer programmer who wrote the code, to an engineer who designed the holographic technology, and to a composer who wrote the music.

And we will likely never know their names.


Little Artist by *antontang on deviantART

I’m probably building a slippery slope here, but I think we don’t appreciate real artists, if we ever did within my lifetime. We focus on the end result, the bands and the flashy glitter on screen, and we don’t really appreciate the artists and designers who created the end product. Who can name a single writer in Hollywood? Who designed the graphics in the latest video game?

The Art Singularity is making art more and more artificial, more and more the result of mathematics than heart.

A few years ago, I met a writer who imagined a future where traditional art was eclipsed by “pop art” that required no talent and appealed to the attention-deficit audience of the day. Traditional artists protested by going to parks, street corners, and other public places and painting or drawing the most beautiful images they could create.

The artists then set these works of art on fire and used the ashes to make black paint they then used to recreate the original. Why? Because something made by a person has imperfections, bits of the artist’s personality, and is unique in that it will never be reproduced exactly. There will only be one. Ever.


an artist by ~atimarap on deviantART

Machines and pop art mass-produce these images and cheapen the process.

Look, I’m all for new technology and finding new and better ways of creating. I have nothing against using Photoshop or holograms or whatever else comes along. I’m just afraid that one day we’ll just have machines spit out whatever we want to see. Art isn’t just about showing us pretty things.

Art is about showing us the things we don’t want to see. It’s about seeing the artist and learning about ourselves in the process.

And now that we can expect the Robot Apocalypse to include the takeover of the art world, let’s get some links goign to soften the blow of our impending doom.

  • To anyone who thinks that models need to be a size double-zero, please take a look at these models. They probably represent more women than the waifs on fashion magazines… but they look damn good. Ladies, take note. Thin, large, black, white, blonde, whatever. You’re beautiful.
  • Ever wanted to eat some Koopa steaks? What about filet de Yoshi? Here’s a handy guide for your next 8-bit culinary adventure.
  • Speaking of pop stars, Justin Beiber has a documentary on his life coming out. The kid can’t even buy beer and he has a documentary? Thankfully, some intrepid souls went and made their own parody trailer. Personally, I’d rather see the parody.
  • Mila Kunis talks about her sex scene with Natalie Portman in the upcoming The Black Swan. You know, I like Kunis better since That 70’s Show ended. Her character got on my nerves.
  • Households with lesbian parents have a surprising amount of child abuse… Zero. Take THAT, right wing!
  • I’ve been using The Call of Cthulhu film in my ESL class because we can use the subtitles. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society is also working on a “talkie” adaptation of “The Whisperer in the Darkness.” Check out the trailer and see what you think.
  • And finally… I want this movie to be good. I really do. The music is creepy, the visuals look good, and it’s got Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez. I. Want. It. To. Be. Good.

The Confession of EntropyEcho

Editor’s Note: This will be the third time Time Warner drops my internet after I PAID them. I’ll insert links and images later when I don’t have to upload this at the university, but for now, enjoy a block of text.

November 12, 2010

It’s important to know who you’re dealing with, so it’s time we had a chat.

This fiasco with Olbermann got me thinking about some things. He got suspended because he made donations to political candidates, something you apparently have to ask to do first and then get permission at NBC. This comes only a few weeks after Fox made donations worth almost $2 million dollars to several Republican organizations while hosting Republican candidates and using airtime help Republicans raise funds.

So just in case anyone is wondering where I stand on the issues, and so there will be no misunderstanding later, this is my confession to you.

I believe that while religion can bring hope and comfort, it can also be easily turned into a cudgel to beat someone or a knife to discreetly destroy lives. Like George Carlin once said, religion is like a pair of shoes. If your shoes let you walk and get through the world, that’s fine, but don’t think your shoes will fit me.

I believe Disney is a business, pure and simple, and has no interest in the well-being of children. Also, the last good movie they made was The Lion King.

I believe cartoons were better before Nickelodeon’s major star became a talking sponge. Bring back the Chihuahua, the cat, the wallaby, and the babies.

I believe science and logic and reason are some of the greatest tools humanity ever developed. Although some refuse to acknowledge this information and still believe the Earth is a mere six thousand years old, the truth is there. No one had to fight against Zeus worshipers. People just realized that lightning was not the work of angry gods.

I believe cherry pie beats apple pie hands down.

I believe physical books are better than ebooks or any digital format.

I think vegetarians who don’t eat meat just because they want to make some sort of statement, not for health or religious reasons, are insulting to people who do not have the luxury of choosing what to eat, or if they CAN eat.

I believe chalkboards are better than dry erase boards. If you’re not willing to get your hands dirty when you teach, you’re not teaching. You’re babysitting.

I believe art is at the same time the most important and hardest to define endeavor anyone can undertake. Art in many forms helps us understand the world, ourselves, but how we go about it, or if it works or is even art, is sure to baffle us for the rest of human history.

I believe government has the duty to protect the people. This includes a well-funded military and departments to wisely spend the funds gathered from our taxes. I hate paying taxes, but I like having paved roads and knowing the fish I consume won’t kill me. I like knowing the medicine I buy has been thoroughly tested to make sure it complies with certain standards? Why?

Because I also believe that while capitalism is one of the best ways for each person to make use of his or her potential, its sole goal of making money means there is no incentive to be humane or rational about employees or customers. How do I know this? Because unregulated markets and businesses cost us our economy, the Gulf, and have made a mockery of our health care system.

I believe Kirk could kick Picard’s ass, but Patrick Stewart would wipe the floor with Shatner.

I really can believe it’s butter.

I believe that if a foreign movie is good, we should see the foreign movie, not remake it. Get over the fact that it will require subtitles and watch it.

I believe choosing between Republicans and Democrats is choosing between the heartless and the spineless, and both choices are brainless.

I believe politics is the art of making people give you a job for a few more years so you can convince them to give you a job for a few more years.

I believe education should make children capable of thinking for themselves, not just fill their heads with facts. Education is about making them productive members of society, and filling their heads with lies and cookie-cutter answers is evil.

Most importantly, I believe the moment you express an opinion without being prompted, the instant you throw your hat into the ring, you are a free target for criticism. You have put yourself, willingly, into the arena of free speech. You are game. If you can’t articulate your opinion, defend it, or don’t want others questioning what you believe, don’t speak.

So that’s where I stand. You?

The Beatles, the Devil, and O’Reilly

Also, they don't have Social Security numbers.

November 10, 2010

It’s amazing the things you learn when you listen to people you disagree with.

It seems I’ve been a murderous psychopath for most of my life. After years of watching horror movies and seeing kids get dismembered, I finally snapped and went on a killing spree that left hundreds dead. The gore and viscera clung to my machete as I inspected the grim scene before me. Exposure to this one obviously isolated part of my life had turned me into a mindless killer.

It all made sense!


The Slasher by ~MisterMorgendorffer on deviantART

And then I stopped watching Fox and remembered how stupid Bill O’Reilly can be. For the last few weeks, he’s been going on about this “Muslim problem” in the world. It goes something like this: most of the foreign danger right now comes from terrorists who are Muslim. Therefore, Islam is contributing to our problems and those of other nations. Moderate Muslims are not speaking out, he says, and so the religion itself is the problem.

If you believe that, then you also believe we have a science problem, a white guy problem, a black guy problem, and a myriad of other problems in this country.

And by the way, moderate Muslims HAVE spoken out against extremists.

Taking a small sample of a whole and using it judge or make a generalization about the entire group is called what, folks? Racism? Stupid? It doesn’t matter. This is the mentality that takes isolated incidents and applies the resulting conclusions to the entire group. Minorities, art, and religion have all, at one time or another, been targets of this kind of myopic thinking.


Intolerance by ~klakier666 on deviantART

Let’s look at O’Reilly first. Yes, a lot of the people who are threatening the country right now are Muslim and they claim their religion is one of the main causes for this hatred. However, how many Muslims are there in the world? I think at last count it was close to a billion. Maybe more. And how many of them are plotting to kill us? A small fraction. The religion’s been perverted and twisted into something that most Muslims would never embrace and yet Bill here thinks it HAS to be the religion that’s the problem.

I guess it wouldn’t have made sense to claim that it was the brown skin that made them do it. Or the heat.

It’s the same way violent video games and movies keep getting blamed every time some kid grabs a gun or does something equally stupid, even if said kid says it’s something he saw in a game, or a movie, or something else. How many people watch horror movies every year in this country alone? How many people are playing Call of Duty, Halo, and other games where you can put a nice armor-piercing round through some n00b’s head?


Noob Rule 1 by ~guitaristburke on deviantART

Violent video games don’t make psychos any more than horror movies make killers or Islam creates mass-murderers. They just help give an excuse for the behavior. I’ve watched horror movies and played violent games for years and I’ve never done anything like this, and I guarantee that 99.9999% of the people who also do this share the same track record.

This also brings up a question artists need to ask themselves. What impact will our work have on the audience? There is no shortage of lunatics who claim to have been inspired by books, music, and movies. I’m sure Lennon and McCartney shuddered when Charles Manson said he was inspired by Helter Skelter. As I’m writing Charcoal Streets, I wonder if anyone will take some unintended message from my work. I wonder if someone will read “Designer Drug” and find justification for drug abuse. In the right light, any of these stories might trigger a very undesirable reaction in the right kind of individual.

I’m publishing them anyway.


book by ~AlphaONE666 on deviantART

There are really, really dumb people in the world. I mean, they make you feel like you could win a Nobel or edit Wikipedia for spelling errors in one hour. Take O’Reilly, for example. In his mind, he sees Muslims threatening us, so the religion must be the problem. Funny how he doesn’t think the economic collapse was a white guy problem or how the overcrowding in our prisons is a black and Hispanic problem.

Maybe he does. I don’t know.

It’s just safer to blame the minority, isn’t it?

All these excuses (religion, movies, books, music) tell us more about the person making the accusation than the actual work itself. I know more about O’Reilly than I do about Islam based on his remarks. I know more about people who say music speaks to them and tells them to kill or hate than I do about the music.

That’s the wonderful thing about actually listening to other people talk about their beliefs. They tell you so much without knowing it sometimes.


ignorance by ~magdaa0770 on deviantART

And now for something new. Rapid-fire news!

  • Speaking of the think-tank that is Fox News… I know I posted this on the Facebook page yesterday, but I had to repost it. Glenn Beck, who does not even understand the mechanism for evolution (whether he believes it or not) thinks he can explain QUANTUM PHYSICS to us and how it is part of the progressive conspiracy. This is a man who has admitted he does not have anything amounting to a formal education. People who do, people who spend their entire lives studying advanced physics and the workings of the universe still have trouble grasping some of these concepts and Glenn “I Learned in a Library” Beck thinks HE can do better?!
  • A straight couple was denied a civil union in what can only be described as the greatest blow to heterosexual couples since gay couples were allowed to marry in some parts of the world… Or something like that. See, the couple wants the legal benefits but not the “marriage” part. The British government says it can’t do that. So… it’s okay for gay couples, but not good enough for straight couples. How telling…
  • I like Dakota Fanning. I think she’s a good actress and, if she stays out of the Lohan-Olsen trail, she should do just fine. She’s also apparently awesome enough to be crowned homecoming queen twice. And she’s a senior at 16.
  • Are those healthy carrots just too full of vitamins and minerals for you? Fry the fraker and make carrot bacon!
  • I really don’t like using Macs. I’ll admit part of it is unfamiliarity with the system, but the other is the way you really have no control over fixing something broken short of sending it off somewhere. I like doing my own repairs. Anyway, this blogger apparently went from Mac to PC and found the experience… nice.
  • How can Optimus Prime possibly be any cooler? Could he ride a T-Rex into battle? Run for president? How about a steampunk-inspired Optimus Prime? He’s not just a truck… he’s a freakin’ TRAIN!
  • I keep talking about the coming robot apocalypse and how we seem to be helping it along… and now we find out that robots think humans are bacon. No lie. A robot designed to taste wine and food scanned a human and read it as pork. Yup. Forget about plugging us into the Matrix for fuel. The machines are just going to eat us.
  • Olbermann got suspended for making political contributions, was brought back, and started his show yesterday like THIS. I have my disagreements with the man, but I’ll say this… He knows how to do his job. That was hilarious.
  • And finally… I know this is three years old, but do you know a snooty rich wench who thinks she’s better than you because she’s white and married wealthy? Well, now you can teach her a few… important Spanish phrases to help with the illegal immigrants she hired. Trust me. It’s a Spanish lesson you don’t want to miss.

The King in Yellow Journalism: Lovecraft and the Tea Party

Cthulhu is Santa Claus... except he eats you.

Editor’s note: Sorry for the lack of artwork and links. Internet’s down at home and I don’t have a lot of time to upload this. Will update later, as well as post the video for funds I couldn’t do because I was talking to tech support all afternoon.

November 5, 2010

Maybe it’s because I used “The Call of Cthulhu” to teach an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. Maybe it’s a general nervousness about the future. I don’t know. Something unnatural, cosmic, grabbed at me. Its tendrils inched their way into my mind like the creatures of some Guillermo del Toro movie and I was faced with the utter terror of a single, inevitable conclusion.

The Tea Party is made up of H. P. Lovecraft fans.

At first, this revelation proved too much for my frail psyche. How could these people, these angry masses fighting against invisible horrors, ancient plots, and world-wide conspiracies be fans of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century?

It was then that I recalled one of the most recognizable passages in the great Lovecraft’s library of writings:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far […] [S]ome day the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

There it was…

The Tea Party is not some group of bigoted, close-minded idiots who believe that willful ignorance is the key to our nation’s survival. They believe the Great Old Ones are coming. They believe that holding the line against the horrors of knowledge is a good thing because it will stop Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, and the other dark powers sleeping in forgotten tombs, ancient crypts, and underwater cities.

Books are evil things filled with dangerous quotes with strange words only evil, elite academics can understand. Beings from strange places are among us now and are slowly infiltrating our world, plotting its demise. The history of the world, the real history, has been hidden from us!

They are proud of this point of view. I mean, just look at Glenn “The Crawling Chaos” Beck proudly touting how little he knows about a subject he’s about to educate you on:

Knowledge is the enemy. It’s one Lovecraft’s most basic messages. We can’t know the truth because the truth will harm us. We won’t be able to accept reality so our minds will shatter. The Tea Party has come up with the best defense against this apocalypse: they’ve created their own reality to fight against the darkness.

It all makes sense now…

Of course, if you stop for a moment you realize that, as brilliant as Lovecraft was in some respects, he also got it wrong in many other areas. I am a complete and utter fan of his work, of the literary legacy he helped create, but he was a racist logophile who wouldn’t be able to pass a basic college writing course. The clutter alone would get him kicked out.

And the idea that knowledge, simply knowing something, will corrupt you is indeed terrifying to me and millions of other readers. Why? Because that means we cannot advance, we cannot make ourselves and the world better, and trying to learn about the world so we can NOT be afraid of it will cost us our lives.

That’s a frightening concept.

So there you have it. The Tea Party has taken a page from Lovecraft’s work and is a cult dedicated to what they perceive to be the forces of good. Too bad the forces of good have to be ignorant in Lovecraft’s world. The Tea Party simply added “stupidity” to the mix.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

And yes, I know Robert W. Chambers wrote “The King in Yellow,” not Lovecraft, but the mythology is so intertwined that I thought it still fit. Sue me.

The Future of Randomology and Your Place in a Dream

Be a part of something important...

November 3, 2010

Where am I going? What am I doing?

I’ve been wondering these questions for five years. I knew I wanted to be a writer, to do something with language, but it’s a career choice that carries significant risk. I can teach, tutor, do any number of things, but to land a job as a writer is a rare thing. Newspapers and magazines always need good writing, but landing a job you love is a rarity.

Personally, I’m tired of looking, waiting, and getting rejection letters. I’m taking the bull by the balls.

I have a submission pending for KickStarter, a non-profit company that helps artists find funding. I’ve applied for help in the amount of $6500.

This may seem like a lot, but let me explain.

Something’s come up job-wise that limits my options. I really can’t go into details, but suffice to say that I’m in a bit of a bind right now. I have most of the stories for Charcoal Streets done and ready to go, but I have about three or more I want to get done for this volume (yes, there will be further publications) and I need to do artwork, editing and rewriting, and get some freelancers to edit my work to make sure everything’s kosher.


Writer’s life by ~Mrs-ST on deviantART

If I can’t land a second job in the next two months, that money will keep me afloat for six months, or at least until something comes up. If I do land a teaching or subbing gig, the money will go straight into advertising, publication, and any other costs associated with getting the book and the word out.

If I can’t find something else by January, the money will keep me afloat for a while until things get better.

Either way, expect a link to a page where you, my beloved reader, can help this dream get off the ground. I’ve rarely asked for anything in my life. I hate asking for things. If I can do it myself, I’ll do it, but I have to admit that I need help. I’m asking you, my reader, to help me make this life-long goal a reality.

Share links on Facebook.

Tell someone about the site.

Follow the link to the donation page once it’s up.


Support by ~HubertJFarnsworth on deviantART

I don’t want to beg, but this is the most important project I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve worked in Congressional campaigns. I’ve written two theses as an undergrad. I’ve led students to find their inner writers and make it as college students. I’m proud of my accomplishments, but I want to make Charcoal Streets a new high in my career.

And I want you to be a part of it.

Depending on your donation, you will get a free autographed copy, a mini-poster of the cover artwork (pending), free t-shirt (artwork pending), and a book-signing/ Q&A within a reasonable distance. I’m throwing everything but my blood into this, although the stress will likely make me sweat red by mid-November.

That is where Randomology.org is going. I’ll continue with three-day-a-week posts with stories on Fridays or as fast as I can write them. I’m editing the older work and writing new stories while working on artwork. Come what may, this will get off the ground, get into print, and out to the masses.

The only question is your level of involvement.

Do you want to be a part of a new genre in literature?


Angel on standby by ~ramastom on deviantART

Well, time for some linkage…

  • The elections are done, but this may be the greatest political ad EVER. I mean it! Any ad that uses Star Wars theme music and lasers deserves to be put on some sort of hall of fame.
  • This series of photos are both touching and sad. They show how Alzheimer’s patients view themselves and the world. While it is moving to see how these men and women remember themselves, it’s tragic that, sadly, those images are simply memories. Still, it’s a series of photographs you can’t miss.
  • Warning! The following image may cause a black hole to appear on your screen from the sheer awesomeness contained within.
  • Ever wondered what would happen if you actually detonated a nuke on your property? Look no further than this handy-dandy simulator. It takes into account everything from nuclear yield to wind direction to predict fallout.
  • And finally, I know that elections are over, but some Tea Partiers actually won seats. If you don’t know why this should scare the crap out of you, check out the following video.

Marigolds, Sugar Skulls, and Beautiful Death

Death, be not proud...

November 1, 2010

Most of you celebrated Halloween yesterday. Or maybe this Saturday or Friday. You dressed up, went out, had fun, probably got drunk, and called it a night. Good. I did pretty much the same thing, but I have something else in mind for tomorrow.

Tomorrow (and today for some people) is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The smell of marigolds will attract the spirits of the dead, sugar skulls will serve as decoration snacks, and millions of people will pause to remember family and friends.

In Mexico, and for many living in the United States having emigrated from Mexico, these two days are a time to remember the dead, to celebrate their lives and pay homage to those who have come before. Many families will go to cemeteries and have picnics. Others will build altars with photographs, candies, food, and liquor to remember family and friends.


day of the dead mask by ~eesss on deviantART

And I know that, to many of you, this seems like a morbid, depressing ritual.

Oh, how you have much to learn.

In Mexico, death is not something ominous, something that comes for you at the end of your life. Death is a part of life. We don’t shy away from eating every part of an animal, or even from cooking with the animal’s blood. We accept the animal’s death as part of the feast. Likewise death is a regular part of the news cycle south of the border.

We are just accustomed to death. We name it. Some worship an aspect of it called la Santa Muerte. It is not a love of death so much as a respect for it. This is not something that is widespread, and in fact in many more modernized areas of the country, this is frowned upon as witchcraft or dark magic.

Me? I like to think of death as something that is just always there.

In a way, I don’t fear death. I just know it will be there. And this is not, I believe, a morbid point of view.


The rose and Death by ~Trixis on deviantART

In fact, it’s a beautiful way to look at the world. What makes things precious? We value that which is rare or unique. If there exists only a single copy of something, we will not even give it an amount. We just call it priceless.

What is more valuable than a life? Each person, animal, and plant will exist in one form for a single life in all of the history of the universe. I will only exist once. The Beatles existed only once. My family, my friends, and every person I’ve ever met will live but one life and then leave. With 6.7 billion people on the planet, some would say this is inconsequential. Surely we can have someone who is similar. Surely the death of one individual has no effect on the history of the world unless that individual is famous or contributes to society…

And yet that’s the exact opposite of what I believe.


Dia de los muertos III 2009 by ~SaveTheDonuts on deviantART

Seeing death, knowing it will come, knowing it may happen at any time, makes life beautiful. It makes you appreciate every moment. If makes aware of the value of every day. The average life expectancy is 75 years. That means I have 588 months left, on average.

I know that number is even less for others, but that doesn’t take into account accidents, disease, meteors, and zombies that could take us at any time.

And when we do leave this world…

That’s the beauty. To the dead we owe the truth. Oddly enough, it’s one of the contradictions of death that it tells us more about the living than anything else. Funerals are not about the dead. They are there to comfort and give closure to the living.

I often wonder about the people who have come before. All of us will meet death. Every. One. Of us. To remember this is to want to make a mark on the world. Maybe you’ll teach. Maybe you’ll focus on raising your children to be the best they can. Perhaps you’ll decide to be an artist.

Death is not something to fear. It is what drives us to be better and make sure that, when we go, people remember who we are. It is the limit we have to beat if we hope to achieve everything possible. Death is a constant companion, not an enemy.


Dia de Los Muertos by ~Teddy-is-dead on deviantART

Tomorrow, I’ll remember these things more than usual. I’ll remember family that’s gone, some recently, some in the last few years. I encourage you to do the same, but don’t mourn the fact that they are gone. Remember the things they left behind, the memories they gave you, and the things that made them unique. No one like them will ever exist.

Rejoice.

With that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems: Holy Sonnet X by John Donne. Enjoy, and jump down below the video for the links.

Death be not proud, though some have callèd thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.

Link time, boys and girls!

  • If you recommend a teacher for this group, you get a case of wine… But does the teacher get a case of wine!? We deserve it more!
  • Looks like the new Batman movie will be called The Dark Knight Rises. Word from Nolan is that there will be NO Riddler, which is good, I think. That would be a difficult villain to Nolanize. I once heard the argument that the third Batman film should not even have a main villain… just THE MOB. Make it completely character driven, in other words. Thoughts?
  • And finally, as much as people deck out their houses for Christmas, this Halloween-themed light-show is amazing. The footage is a bit old, but it’s still really cool. See you tomorrow!

Learning How to Spell 5: Pay the Writer

This is a job. Let's be professional about it.

October 27, 2010

Art is one of the deepest, most personal things in the world. To create art, to make something that moves people or makes them think, is an act with few equals in this world. It’s the act of creation on a personal level.

And it’s damn hard work.

I’m a writer. That’s my art. But I also have bills to pay, and I’ve invested time and money in my craft, so if someone wishes to hire me for these skills, I’m more than willing to lend myself out. For a price. I’m not talking about money, although money is part of it. I’m talking about time and effort.


Say it like you’ve learnt it. by ~ForgetCassettes on deviantART

Background

Three months ago, I met with someone who said he needed a scriptwriter for documentaries. He needed someone to edit two books and help write a novel. I would receive percentages from the sale of these items and, seeing as how he has a loyal fan base and would likely sell hundreds of thousands of copies of each, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

The first work we did was featured right here on Randomology.org a few months ago and I was very proud of it.

And then the proverbial fertilizer hit the fan.

For the last three months, I’ve taken calls, edited emails, written sales pitches, delivered DVDs, checked mail, made sales calls, and been on call all day, every day, for whatever small job or errand needed doing. In short, I’ve been doing everything but what I joined to do.

The final indignation came two weeks ago. I was tasked with Photoshopping images of deer to look like the work of Marco Grobe. Understand that I use Paint Shop Pro 7, an eight-year-old piece of software that is eight versions out of date, and use a computer that is four years old. My boss, a professional graphic designer, uses the latest Photoshop software and has a state-of-the-art Apple computer that makes mine look like a graphing calculator.

He couldn’t figure it out in one day. I figured it out in one hour. And he still had the balls to accuse me of forgetting what I was supposed to be doing when one of the more than fifty pictures I needed to alter didn’t come out quite like he wanted. He then wanted me to learn Aperture, a program I’ve never used and requires a Mac, a computer with an operating system I haven’t used since high school.

In short, I had to start from scratch, do his work, my work, and get berated when my work didn’t quite match the $3,000 worth of professional photo-manipulation he would have otherwise had to pay for. Combine that with a monthly salary that’s, frankly, a joke for everything I do and bring to the table, and I decided on only one course of action.

I quit. Sent a letter expressing my dissatisfaction. Told my boss where and when I would return the DVDs I had to mail out, the receipts, and as well as the company phone. It was as professional a letter as I could write seeing as how I was stressed, tired, and filled with what I can only describe as soul-crushing frustration and regret.

I thought that would be that, but I did receive an email from him. He was, and I’m using his own word, “insulted” by my email. Apparently, it’s insulting to point out facts.


I’m lying by ~AnkaaaaPORR on deviantART

The Honor Was Mine, Sir

He has a loyal fan base. Members of the US military oversees use his documentaries when they’re homesick. I know that. It’s why I had faith our products would sell and I would make a healthy profit. I should have been honored to work for him and be a part of this, he said.

Except that it’s not an honor to be someone’s lackey. Like I said, I am a writer. If I did errands, deliveries, and all this work, received no percentage and we sold a hundred thousand copies, I get nothing from it. My effort gives others praise and payment and I’m left with a month of sleepless nights and wasted time.

McDonald’s sells millions of dollars worth of product a month. Do you think the janitor that cleans corporate headquarters wakes up and thinks, “Geez, I’m so glad I’m a part of this multinational enterprise. I sure hope my mopping the floors helps the boss rake in a few extra million”?

Hell. No. I don’t care if he’s Steven fraking Spielberg. If other people do the heavy lifting and save your professional butt, you thank them and give them their rightfully earned rewards. If a painter designs a book cover, the author doesn’t get the credit. The artist does.


Annoyed artist by ~Eneko on deviantART

The Truth Hurts

I didn’t say anything in my original letter that attacked him. Whether he lied when he hired me or things simply changed, the fact remained: I wasn’t going to do what I set out to do. That was it.

If you hire a teacher and then tell them the school’s not built yet and he or she must build the building and work registrar until the students arrive, you’re going to lose the teacher.

I didn’t join his company to do office work and errands. I joined to do what I do best and make a mark. If that possibility is not there, there’s nothing for me to do. As for him being insulted, I can only imagine he thought I should have been grateful he gave me a job. It’s a tough economy and he paid what he could (even though there was apparently money in the budget for other things like an assistant we didn’t need since that was part of my new duties and new furniture for his apartment).

Really? I should have been thankful for the work he gave me because I had nowhere else to go?

Within 24 hours of quitting, I got two job offers, one of which I had to refuse, and am now teaching two classes at Texas A&M International University, will start tutoring again soon, and have the possibility of more writing classes next semester. I didn’t need his job. If his ego is so frail that the thought of him not being essential to my survival hurt him, that’s his problem. Not mine.


EGO by ~vimark on deviantART

Lesson Learned

A lot of people hear me say I’m a writer and they have one of two general reactions.

“Wow! That sounds cool!”

Or…

“Yeah, I’ve thought about writing a book. I just don’t have the time.”

What I realize now is that I was hired because my boss just didn’t have the time. It wasn’t a matter of talent. He asked me to write what he said and change it to make it sound better. That’s not writing. That’s secretarial work and editing. Writing is hard work, and those of us who do it well take it very seriously.

If you hire a photographer for your wedding, don’t expect said photographer to help clean up or drive the guests back to the hotel when they’re sloshed.

If you hire a painter to do a portrait, don’t ask said painter to cook dinner while they’re at it.

If you hire a writer to work on scripts, don’t expect the writer to stick around on the off-chance that opportunity comes back when there are other opportunities at the door. Respect your artists. We’re professionals just like in any other job. We love what we do. It’s the kind of job that often doesn’t pay well and often has years to go before we get any sort of recognition.

It’s not that we have egos that big. It’s that we crave the satisfaction of being able to do what we love.

Respect the work. Respect the writer.

And now, for some feel-good brain morphine in the shape of links.

  • This was kind of corny at first, but here are some pics of smiling animals. Keep scrolling down, though. Even I had to admit they were cute. And that’s saying something.
  • Japan’s weird. Let’s just get that out of the way. If you think kids in America dress oddly, check out some fashions from Japan. Hey, I’m glad these kids get to express themselves like this, and some of these outfits are really cool. I’m just wondering as to their day-to-day practicality.
  • And finally, from Eli Roth, we have a fun little treat: Clown. It’s not for a real movie, at least I don’t think it’s real, ut it’s fun either way. Why can’t we have more movies like this?

How Not to Kill the First Amendment

Hello, Mr. Censorship!

October 25, 2010

Where does censorship start and impeded free speech begin?

This is a question every artist needs to think about. At what point are you being censored and when is your First Amendment right is being denied to you? These are two very different things. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the noise machine at Fox started crying about Media Matters getting a donation and that their criticisms of Fox reporting (and I use the term very loosely) constitutes an attack on free speech.

Warning: Beck paranoia and self-importance on the way.

In case you’re wondering, he’s full of crap on his accusations.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

The First Amendment guarantees your right to free expression. I could say I want to have sex with dolphins or that I am the Aztec god of death. I can say whatever I wish as long as it does not pose an immediate threat. It’s the reason you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded room unless there actually is a fire. Someone could get hurt in the ensuing stampede. It’s also the reason people inciting violent action can be arrested or why some of us are accusing Beck of inciting attempted mass murder.

However, you are not free of criticism. The instant you throw your hat in the ring, you’re free game. And that’s what a lot of conservatives seem to be missing.


The Face of Conservatism by ~gl0wstick on deviantART

Look to the right of the page. See those skyscraper banners running ads for HostGator and some ads from Project Wonderful? If I start writing things my sponsors don’t like, they are free to yank the code and take their business elsewhere. They are paying to show their ads here because they either think they get good exposure or they want to support what I do. It’s a business arrangement. The moment I write something they don’t like, they can leave.

Much like advertisers have been leaving Glenn Beck, and now Fox, for the last year.

Now that there is an organized boycott against Beck, he’s shouting and whining that his First Amendment right, his freedom of speech, is being attacked. The sad truth is… Beck is whining about entitlement, something that (shock!) a self-described libertarian would never do.

See, Beck thinks that by people not supporting him, by groups calling on advertisers to pull their business, his right to speak and express himself is under attack. Want to know what it really is under attack? It’s business. No one’s trying to censor him. This is the same free capitalism Beck and conservatives are always touting as the greatest contribution to society since Reagan.


Reagan – Whatta Guy by ~RCrisp on deviantART

If you have a product to sell, you make a good product. If people don’t like it, they don’t buy it.

Words and ideas are our product. The ideas and fiction in this site are my product. If people like them, they read and visit every day. If they don’t, they don’t come and my advertisers don’t get the exposure they need and I don’t make money.

If you draw a painting and no one buys it, your freedom of speech is not under attack. You either drew a bad painting or no one’s interested.

If you write a book and no one wants to publish it, you either wrote a crappy story or there isn’t a market for it.

Get the picture?

Censorship occurs when someone is silenced because their views are considered inflammatory, harmful, or someone in power uses that power to silence them. If schools punish students for expressing their views, that’s censorship. If the government silences reporters for telling the truth, that’s censorship. If someone hacks this site because he or she doesn’t agree with what I say in order to silence me, that’s censorship. Everything from military censorship to religious censorship can infringe on free speech. These groups do not have the right to tell others what to say.

There’s one very fine distinction between this and what some keep calling “attacks on free speech.”


Free Speech isnt FREE by ~kikixD on deviantART

I am not entitled to this website. I am not entitled to sponsors. I am, however, entitled to my opinion. If someone doesn’t like it, they can debate me on it. They can call me out if I say something incorrect. They can criticize my art for not being good enough.

None of this, however, is an attack on free speech. It’s called criticism, and if you can’t handle it, don’t create art. Don’t write. Don’t paint. Don’t express your views. You will be attacked, criticized, and torn apart.

Either accept that others will disagree with you, or get off the internet. Here, we eat our own wounded and poke the survivors just to hear their screams. Wear a cup.


Oh Internet Poster by *PaulSizer on deviantART

And now, for some funny fun-fun.

  • A death metal band that sings in Klingon? I didn’t watch Trekkies 2, so I missed this one. If they kill cowards on stage with a bat’leth, I am all over this. Also, is it sad that i knew what their name meant before reading the article?
  • If you have a book-lover in your life, check out this online store of rare and old books. Some of them go into the thousands, but a few are affordable for most people, especially if you save, and Christmas is coming up!
  • Can someone please explain to me our society’s addiction with keeping up with people who peaked almost twenty years ago? Why, WHY, are we following Vanilla Ice’s house renovation career? I saw this comic, and, while funny, it’s all I could take. How could this be a show?!
  • And finally, this is a pretty good summary of every political ad in the last five years. Also, points to petercoffin for breaking it down grammatically. Link and share, and watch for Divine by Zero tomorrow!

The Right vs. the 20th Century

There can always be progress. Belief in perfection is belief in the absurd.

October 20, 2010

Glenn Beck needs either a dictionary or a history book. Probably both.

He, along with the Tea Party and everyone on the far right, seems to think that progressivism is evil because our Founders got it right the first time. The Declaration of Independence spells it out, says Beck. Behold, ladies and gentlemen, one of the most near-sighted historical analyzes you’ll ever read:

According to Beck, Progressivism is a lie because trying to improve on the work of a bunch of dead white guys who’ve been dead for two hundred years is impossible. Can’t be done. Anything added to the Constitution is socialism, control, and eventually slavery.

Okay… time for another history lesson, boys and girls. We’ll keep this to just two topics for today.


through the veins of history by =Larbesta on deviantART

The Ponzi Scheme that Isn’t

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are one of the Right’s biggest targets. They say that it’s bankrupt, that it’s unsustainable (neither is true), and that having to pay for other people’s medical bills is like stealing. They want to do away with it. Beck most famously keeps saying that the program is socialist, the whole taking care of the individual, so it should never have been created.

Okay, fine. We, as a society, decided to help the infirm, elderly, and those who cannot take care of themselves and that’s socialism so it’s evil. Okay then.

Give the money back.

No, seriously. I’ve been paying Social Security out of my paychecks for years. If we’re going to do away with it, give us all a refund. As you can see in the links, the programs are good for another 70 years, so if my grandparents can’t receive that money back in their later years, money they earned and was put away by the government, then just give us all a refund and we’ll figure it out.

Some are More Equal Than Others

“All men are created equal,” is not the same as “Everyone is created equal.”

Whenever I hear Michelle Bachmann say she wants to go back to an America of 200 years ago, she’s basically saying she’d like to not be able to vote. Blacks didn’t have a voice in the government. They had a whisper, and most were still property. Slavery was legal.

When our Founders wrote that all men created equal, it really meant “rich white men.” Let’s not tip-toe around the issue. In fact, they were really elitist, even by today’s standards.

The fact that we even needed a law that stated that people could not discriminate based on sex, race, or any other factor is proof that our country was in a very bad place. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t march because he needed to stretch his legs. He marched because our country needed to change.


MsGothje meet Founding Fathers by ~MsGothje on deviantART

Faith is Not Wisdom

I’ve said it a dozen other times on this site: faith is blind. Faith means having trust in something without proof. Faith can pull you through difficult times, but it can also blind you to the truth.

Here’s a hard fact: the Founders, whether wise old men or tough-as-nails revolutionaries, were men. They were human.

They could make mistakes like the rest of us. The only way we can move forward is by experience, objective analysis, and the acknowledgement that we are all human and make mistakes. Things can always get better. The Declaration of Independence has a beautiful sentiment, but it can be better.

Adhere to it, or any other dogma, as though it were infallible, and you will miss real progress, real change, and real ideas that could save the world. The Founders’ ideas are a good start.

I think we can do better.


The American Dream by ~bauderart on deviantART

Link time, boys and girls!

  • Did you know that Hitler, and not Jefferson in a letter that expressed his views of faith and government, came up with the term “separation of church and state”? I was shocked, too. Oh, the things you can learn from Republicans.
  • Is it possible to have government without the Founders? Maybe. it’s apparently very possible to have morals without God.
  • If you needed any reason that Mister Rogers was one of the most awesome people ever, take a look at this list. My personal favorite is the one about the thieves that returned his property with a letter of apology.
  • And finally, while I never played or liked Pokemon, I have to say I’d probably watch this for the sheer cheese factor. Enjoy!

3 Things I Learned from the Apocalypse

The world ended not with a bang, but with a whimper... And then the giant alien bugs started eating everything and the survivors huddled to the remnants of civilization like children to a blanket! Ha! That wasn't in the poem, was it, Eliot?!

October 18, 2010

It’s amazing the things you learn when the world ends.

Well, not the real world. Any writers out there can back me up on this: when you write something in a genre or topic you’re unfamiliar with, research can be one of the most rewarding parts of the process. History, science, sociology, or whatever else you jump into can open new avenues of knowledge.

This isn’t really a writing project, but I’m running a post-apocalyptic RPG for some friends and I wanted to do a little research into survivalist tactics, how to rebuild society, and what to expect when aliens reduce human civilization to pre-industrial levels.


Spiny Leaf Insect 001. by ~JessKa88 on deviantART

For any fellow gamers out there, it’s partially based on the Plague World setting in the d20 Apocalypse handbook.

Nerds unite!

Anyway, I did some research to bring details into the narrative, give some color and originality to the world of 2172 CE, and otherwise make things more than just numbers on a sheet. Overall, I found out many interesting things I’d like to share.


Invasion by *Radojavor on deviantART

Are You Going to Eat That?

The first problem our heroes encountered was the lack of food in their bunker. After being frozen for 140 years, their rations, well, didn’t fare so well. One of the first things they found was a farming community in what was once South Bend, Indiana. What would these people, these survivors, grow?

It’s easy enough to find out that Indiana grows potatoes and corn, but I needed more crops that this new civilization would grow, so I looked up what kinds of food would give the most sustenance and give the most benefit in this forsaken landscape.

It turns out the French beat me to it.

A pair of French companies have put together a list for the European Space Agency on what astronauts should grow for a colony on Mars. Seeing as how this future Earth is almost barren, this made the best sense to use. So what do our humans eat and grow?

Rice, onions, tomatoes, soy, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, wheat, and spirulina. Meat would be scarce since it takes more energy and resources, and hunting’s not really an option since the wilderness is dominated by mutants. I figured with trade with other surviving cities throughout the region and the country, they could easily have a diet composed of these items.

And just what is spirulina, you may ask?

Why, it’s miracle food!

Actually, it’s an algae that contains massive amounts of protein and vitamins. It’s pretty versatile, although reports vary as to how good it tastes. I figured some alien algae brought by the invaders would make for a good substitute, and the image of getting paid in blue bread made from ground algae made for an interesting roleplaying moment. In the real world, dietary plans like this are actually starting to make more sense. With meat perhaps becoming a luxury in a few years, soy and algae-based substitutes may be a necessity.


Green Pie by *Qzxyntop on deviantART

We’ve got Shakespeare, Beethoven, and George Romero

Okay, so you’ve decided to put some records, personnel, and equipment on deep freeze in case the aliens win. You’re going to want them to rebuild society should the worst happen, so you want them to have records to do so. Maybe you want to go all out and, if you have the resources of an entire government, back-up all the data on Earth to just start over.

How many pen drives would that take?

Turns out, a lot more than I thought.

This article lays it out, but here’re the basic conclusions.

If you want to back up the Library of Congress, movies, audio, images, and all, get ready to use at least 3,000 terabytes.

That’s right. Terabytes. As in one thousand gigabytes.

As in 1.5 million USB drives like the one I use.

That’s 4 million CDs.

Of course, the story starts in 2030, and we’re not going to be using modern computer technology. By then, we could very well be using holographic memory storage, which is what I used to describe the computers in the bunker our heroes use as their base.

Holographic storage is pretty cool. Imagine writing a book and, instead of writing lines of text on the page, you could actually write over the original text over and over again and read different pages just by altering the angle at which you hold the paper. Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but you get the idea. Holographic memory allows for high-density storage, up to tens of terabytes per square centimeter of memory area, and would be ideal for an end-of-the-world bunker.

It’s also good to store lots of other information like manuals, music, and film to preserve after the end of civilization. Hey, if we save Mozart, we’re saving Buffy the Vampire Slayer too.


I Think We Have a Problem by *Sylanya on deviantART

Remember: Short, Controlled Bursts

This one isn’t a science lesson so much as an observation. This is a role-playing game, after all, and my players are very immersed in the story. It’s also hitting them that civilization’s been destroyed. The alien invaders didn’t quite win since they’ve been reduced to scavenging on Earth as well.

Our heroes have dozens of guns and thousand of rounds of ammunition, but something else is hitting them.

They’re alone. Very alone.

America is gone. Everyone they left behind has been dead for more than a hundred years. There is nothing in the world, they believe, that resembles a society beyond the few cities and towns scattered over a blighted continent. This is very much unlike every other RPG they’ve played or any other situation they’ve ever had to roleplay.

There is no support. No back-up. The weapons they have and the training they’ve accumulated are all they have.

They are alone.

For a few minutes this week, they really just stopped and asked, “What’s the point? What are we doing? What are our goals?!”

It was too big for them. Mind you, they’ve roleplayed fantasy heroes trying to save the multiverse from dark elves, demons, and whatnot, but this hit them hard. I like to think I’m pretty good at running RPGs, but the level of detail I gave them helped put their characters in the right state of mind. It’s bordering on horror in some areas.

And that’s why you research for everything from an RPG to a short story. The details, everything from blue bread to the kinds of guns these pre-Industrial humans are now using, make it real and make it that much more interesting. Nothing beats an internet connection or a trip to the library to bring your work to life.


Post Apocalyptic City by ~Amartia on deviantART

And now for some slightly less apocalyptic things. Sort of.

  • When the world ends, which city will help repopulate the world? If this study is any indication, the high sexual satisfaction in Indianapolis, Indiana may make it the future center of a rebuilt empire. Well, not really. The study just tried to find the most sexually satisfied city. Go, Indiana!
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd is a bit of an internet sensation, but here, sans Angry Nerd character, he explores the Night of the Living Dead cemetery and finds some very interesting things. It’s a must for any Romero fan!
  • Ever wanted to make money just sitting around? You can! No, really. I’m not selling pyramid schemes. If you’re willing to let drug companies test their products on you, you can actually make a killing. Of course, the downside is that you’re letting drug companies test their drugs on you… but hey, you get to sit around! Who wants to be a human lab rat? Think they give you one of those running wheels?
  • And finally, I got this from reader Jeremy Jones and had to share it. If you are against gay marriage, you’re really against gay love. Check it out. Warning: NSFW.