Dad the Writer 2

Father, husband, writer...
Father, husband, writer…

July 22, 2015

In continuing last week’s “Dad the Writer,” I need to point out that keeping mentally active is not the only thing needed in order to be an artist and a parent. Yes, you need to keep sharp, but your body can suffer if you neglect it.

While many of us would be happy living on a diet of tea or coffee and whatever we can throw in the microwave, very few of us have the Kryptonian physiology to not die after a few years of this. Luckily, my wife and I have some experience making do with small budgets and trying to eat healthy, so these habits very much informed our current situation.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I dropped the ball when it came to taking care of myself. After the baby was born, and even about a year before, I focused so much on work and taking care of my then-pregnant wife that I did gain weight and neglect my exercise. Now, with the Little One more or less in a stable schedule, my wife and I are getting back to a routine to better ourselves.

I’m by no means a nutritionist, but I have found a few things that work for me to eat healthier and not go on some fad diet, and I’m not a personal trainer, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it can work for you.


Writer by claire-eyhe on DeviantArt

Learn to Cook

Most of us are more than satisfied with just opening a bag and mixing in water or simply putting a plate into the microwave. That might do in a pinch, but I discovered many years ago, long before I’d even met my wife, that learning to cook means having control over what you consume. Diet sodas and even “healthy” meal options often pack in the sugar to mask the fact that they’re basically cardboard.

It takes a little time, but you can choose exactly what you put in your body, and cooking is a good way to de-stress or at least step away from work long enough to refresh your mind.

Our diet right now is almost vegetarian and focused on greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and other goodies. We add plenty of garlic, lentils, brown rice, and couscous into the mix and some turkey when we want meat. Once in a while, we’ll go for actual red meat, but this is a treat, both for nutrition’s sake and for health’s sake. Sodas and anything processed is also right out.

Alcohol? Well, in reality, we should cut that out to a drink a week, but a little bourbon once the Little One goes down once in a while is a good way to help the day just melt away. Suffice to say, though, that any sort of mixed drink goes right out the window due to the sugar.


Cooking by pianorei on DeviantArt

Works Out for the Meek

You want to know how I lost twenty pounds in a few weeks once? I walked. A lot. At least an hour a day, five days a week. Yes, I did also cut back on sugars and soda, but the main thing is to keep moving. That sounds easy enough when you’re taking care of a tiny human learning to walk, but you need to combine it with something else.

Given that time is more precious than gold right now, I had to find some way to keep in shape that didn’t eat up the clock. I’m not talking about getting on the cover of Men’s Fitness. I mean doing something to keep flexible and strong and even have some energy and keep my metabolism up. I chose to do tabata workouts because they’re easy, require no equipment (mostly), and they can be done in less than fifteen minutes.

The short version is that you pick a small number of exercises (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc) and do them, one at a time for twenty seconds with a ten second break in between. You do as many reps as possible in those twenty seconds. After you do four exercises, you repeat the cycle once and then rest for thirty seconds or a minute before you start again. Doing two sets takes no more than ten minutes and kicks your butt if you’re not ready for it.


Yoga I by Studio4496 on DeviantArt

Sleep When You’re Dead

I used to joke that sleep was for the week. Well, I’m weak. And tired. And Mattie woke up at 3 AM today and figured it was time to play. A lot.

Sleep is SO important. I didn’t realize until becoming a father just how much I didn’t appreciate it. I’ve been tired before, either studying for tests or staying up grading tests. The difference, I finally realized, was that I could step away from my work. I could just tell myself to go take a nap and come back to it in a few hours.

You can’t do that with a baby.

This is where the focus from the last article comes in. Yes, do the work you need and push yourself to sit and actually write or create something in the precious few minutes you can spare, but if you need to rest and have the chance, TAKE IT. You don’t know when that opportunity will come again. And really sleep. Don’t just lay there.

Seriously. I need a week-long vacation after every tooth comes out.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more goodies and, in the meantime, enjoy this trailer for Clown, a movie that was surprisingly creepy, if not silly.

Women Hate Women

Ladies, you’re as much to blame as the men. I’m serious.

July 16, 2012

Women, we need to talk.

To say that women have had body issues is like saying the Titanic suffered from a leaky bulkhead. The triggers are everywhere: movies, magazines, sexism, and the prevalent belief that women can’t be powerful, confident, AND beautiful. It’s enough to make you sick. Recent incidents have made me think it’s not just the men, though.

Ladies, you need to pick up the slack.

I’m convinced that women put themselves down more than men put them down. That’s not to say men don’t do their fair of damage. I’m saying that women need to at least put themselves up on a pedestal. It’s not a matter of being conceited or full of yourselves. It’s about knowing what you’re good at, knowing that you’re a beautiful person, knowing that no one can put you down but yourself at the end of the day.


beauty by ~paraplexus007 on deviantART

Look at these actresses that play “ugly” people on TV. Seriously… skew the makeup a little, put on some frumpy clothes… and that’s enough to qualify otherwise beautiful women as unattractive? I watch science fiction and even I find that one a stretch. Warp drive’s more believable.

The thing that really set me off, though, was the protest at Teen Vogue earlier this month. Young women protested the magazine’s use of photo-manipulation to make the models look “prettier.” They felt it sent the wrong message. It does. And how did this all end? Vogue invited some of the protestors up to talk… and gave them a five minute lecture on how they should try harder to be prettier.

Just imagine the alpha bitch at any high school and you get the idea of what these protestors sat through.

Then you have actual websites that track how skinniness… and one particular website has targeted Kate Upton as too fat.

Kate Upton? Really?


Anorexia by ~xCutxUpxAngelxVx on deviantART

Beauty is a matter of attitude. How well do you handle yourself? It’s not entirely about how thin, fat, toned, blond, brown, or short you are, and it has zero to do with the size of your breasts. Your beauty is something you dictate. A confident woman is ten times more attractive than someone who is insecure. A woman who is kind and laughs is more beautiful than a woman who is cold and distant.

Ladies, you have to be nicer to yourselves just as men have to learn to not be superficial. Feeling good about yourself is not narcissism. Saying you are beautiful is not being conceited.

We all need work. Let’s start by calling the women in our lives “beautiful.” Not because we need to build them up. Not because we need to balance anything out. We should do it because they truly are beautiful.

And now, let’s enjoy some much-needed humor this Monday morning. Enjoy!

Divine by Zero: Vampire Helen Mirren vs Rick Perry

September 1, 2011

It’s not that I’m ungrateful for getting a teaching job this semester. I just wish I got more than 20 hours with which to prepare. Still, I’ve done a class like this before, so it should be pretty easy. And now, to catch up with the week’s stories and everything else I can’t cover in regular posts, here are the links.

You’re welcome, internet.

  • George Lucas can’t help himself and is making MORE changes to the original trilogy. This time, he’s given Vader an extra “NOOOOO!” at the climbatic fight in Return of the Jedi and he’s altered Kenobi’s krayt dragon call. What else? For my money, if I’m going to shell out money for remastered movies, how about getting all the dialogue redone for the prequels? I mean the words themselves AND the delivery.
  • Forget Cliffnotes. THIS is how you condense a literary classic.
  • I want this library. Now. I know I had a birthday a week ago, but I still want this. Seriously, if you all get together, you might afford it if a third of you donated a kidney. You can decide who.
  • Rick Santorum, the man who really wishes he wasn’t on Google, now thinks the gay community is on a jihad against him. Make up your mind, man! Are they Muslims or gays? Or gay Muslims? Or gays who turn Muslims? Why not just say their communist Muslim gays?
  • Rick Perry has to do a lot of damage control… especially about his own book. Here’s a tip for anyone planning to run for public office: if you’re going to regret it, don’t say it or do it. Me?  I could never run for president, but I think I’ve guaranteed with this website I’ll never hold public office.
  • And finally, if you can text, text “PRETTY” to 69491 every day this month, I would love all of you. I’d have your baby. One collective baby. Anyway, check out Pretty Visitors on Facebook, Youtube, or if you’re in Texas, try to catch one of their gigs. Tony, the front man, is one of my oldest friends, and he and the band deserve the exposure. I will work to help expose them to the world. See you tomorrow so we can discuss the wackos from this article a little more. Apparently, we didn’t get their argument.

Learning How to Spell: Part 3

Let's work those brain lobes!

August 27, 2010

You’ve got your notebook. You have an idea. In fact, you’ve rearranged your schedule so you have an hour, maybe less, each day when you can write. You already have a great story for a novel you think may be the next American classic.

And ten minutes into writing, you get tired and feel like stopping.

Welcome to the life of a writer, buddy. It’s lonely and smells like chair.

Look, I’ve sat through movie marathons. I watched the extended cut of Lord of the Rings. Hell, I stood outside a movie theater for eight hours once waiting to see a movie. Might have been one of the Star Wars prequels.

Anyway, patience is a virtue in this game just like any other job. Yes, you’re sitting down, but think of all the things you’re doing. You’re thinking critically. You’re hitting keys at five or six strokes a second if you’re a fast typist. You sit in a chair for a long time, an hour, maybe two at a time. You’re going to get tired.

Writing is a very tiring job.

So what do you do? How do you get over that hump?


Writer’s Block by ~Ponti55 on deviantART

Exercise

If you’re going to be plopped down on a chair for hours at a time, take some time to walk. Seriously. If you work in an office, take a five minute break and walk downstairs, up the stairs, around the building, to the bathroom, to your car, back, whatever, but just get moving. Your legs are going to cramp up.

In the long-term, try and get into an exercise routine. You don’t have to be Tony Horton or anything, but do stretch and try and do some cardio and some strength-building exercises. Push-ups (on your knees or feet) work pretty well. Jumping jacks are nice and simple. A few minutes of each, alternating, work wonders to wake you up and give you a little boost of energy. You don’t even have to get weights or anything like that. Just move and keep your heart-rate up.

Stretch.

If you’re going to be sitting down, you need to keep your limbs moving or you’re going to cramp.

I’ve been doing regular exercise for a while now and got on P90x about a year ago. I found that keeping the body healthy is SO crucial to writing well. If the body’s not happy, the mind gets dull.

And speaking of moving around…


Gymnastic excellence D by ~CraigMaxWebster on deviantART

Attention Span

Here’s a little trick teachers use. Or at least my mom and I use this trick. When planning a lesson, we take the average age of the group and add five to it. That’s the maximum amount of minutes that person can keep his or her attention span on a single task. After that, the brain starts to wander.

What does this mean for you, the writer? It means that, if you’re twenty, every half hour or so, you need to step away from the computer for a minute and do something else. Forget the story. Forget the deadline. Forget that you forgot to walk the dog.

In fact, walk the dog.

Do anything else for five minutes.

Listen to a song at high volume. Put on some classical music and zone out. If it’s late at night, grab a beer or some bourbon or something. Just clear your head.

There is such a thing as burnout, and if you’re typing at maximum speed, this maximum attention might be a lot lower. Next time you think you’re getting a little burned out, check the clock. Your age might be betraying you.

And the number one tip for avoiding fatigue at the desk…


A D D by *tasteofomi on deviantART

Have Fun

Seriously. Look, whether you’re inputting rows of data (been there), trying to meet a deadline (also been there) or just trying to create something that will touch people and not be ridiculed because it sucks (I live there), you need to have fun with it.

Play a game. Bet yourself you can make a certain word count. Listen to fun music while you’re working if you can. Write something funny just to see how it sounds, then delete it if you have to. Just… laugh.

If you’re not having fun, it’s going to show in your work. It will come out as artificial and forced. This is a job, yes. It’s a business. it’s a career for some of us, a hobby for others. But you can’t do a good job if you’re straining to punch out every key.

And that’s it. It really does boil down to keeping everything in good working order. You don’t have to set alarms to keep track of your attention span, and I’m not asking you to go on an all-protein diet and lift three times your body weight. I’m just saying there are little things you can do to make writing, or just sitting at a desk, better for you.

Thanks to everyone for sticking around during the long hiatus. I’ll see you Monday, hopefully with a new Charcoal Streets story, but I can’t really promise that because… well…

I’m going to be in San Antonio at the Texas Deer Association Conference.

Yeah. Weird, but VP Productions is doing a lot of work with ranchers and a lot of them will be there this weekend.

Either way, stay keep reading for the links!


Creatures of literature by ~Trixis on deviantART

  • Billy the Blue Power Ranger is gay! My childhood is shattered! Either that or I’m happy for him for coming out and wish him good luck and a good response from the fans. And if you have a problem with this, just remember that you’re mad because a guy who you used to watch running around and doing acrobatics in blue spandex turned out gay. Yeah, that’s what i thought.
  • This is by no means a blanket statement on the armed forces (I have way too many friends who served or are serving our country), but it’s really disturbing that some soldiers are apparently water-boarding their own children.
  • For a trip to the land of “What If,” check out these movie posters of films that never were. They’re all real films, but thee posters ask what would have happened if earlier directors had tried making them. My fave is the Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing version of Ghostbusters. The Sam Peckinpah version of Wolverine staring Clint Eastwood is a close second.
  • And finally, here’s the trailer for a new show called The Walking Dead. I can’t recall another series that dealt with zombies, but since we’ve already got vampires pretty well covered, it seems like the next logical step. It almost looks like an Americanized 28 Days Later, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Apples and Another Euphemism

We're all naked under our clothes. Think about it.

WARNING: The following post is Not Safe for Work. View at your discretion.

March 1, 2010

Our brains control the most basic responses and needs in our nature: feeding, fighting, fleeing, and mating. The last one, other than the “fighting” response, makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Be fruitful and multiply! Wave your freak flag high! Drop it like it’s hot! Sex is supposedly like mp3’s. For every idiot paying for it, hundreds are getting it for free. It’s everywhere from advertisements to movies and music.

Recently, Apple deleted almost 5,000 apps from the iPhone store. These included programs that had everything from semi-dressed women cleaning your iPhone screen to women you could undress. There was no real pattern to the deletions since, for example, Sports Illustrated and Playboy kept their programs. The haphazard way in which Apple cut through the apps made me wonder about how many people think about sex and pornography, since this was the original justification in many people’s minds. According to Apple, they were responding to customer complaints about the sexual nature of many apps and how children could see them if they had an iPhone.

Oh, the children. Is there anything they can’t ruin for everyone?

As a society, we’ve long debated the merits of sex and erotica in art and popular culture in things like Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and the various pseudo-sexualized Disney acts from the Jonas Brothers to Miley Cyrus. Lindsey Vonn’s recent Sports Illustrated cover had many calling out foul since they believed it sexualized her, but sex sells. That’s the bottom line.

Art has always had a deep connection with human emotions, and sex is one of the most basic. We know this because the same part of the brain that controls the fight or flight response also controls sexual desire. People have no trouble with images of war, but why is a hint of sex or nudity a bad thing for many? Many of these apps are designed to do one thing and one thing only. Killing Nazis.

No, wait, scratch that. These apps are designed to titillate and arouse. That’s it. I can’t speak for all 5,000 apps, but the line between legitimate art, application, and the smut some feel is present in the iPhone is a very thin one. The distinction art has long had to grapple with is the difference between pornography and erotica.

Porn is usually classified as the depiction of explicit or sexual acts for the purpose of sexual excitement. Erotica is the depiction of sexually-stimulating or arousing images and content.

Wow. I’ll take “Troublesome Overlap” for 300, Alex.

funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs

By this definition, cheerleaders at high school football games shaking their assets would count as porn. A woman wouldn’t shake her body like that for someone unless she wanted people to observe and desire her body. The only difference is that the cheerleaders aren’t looking for sex.

At least not in any official capacity as representatives of their schools. What they do in their spare time is another matter.

Likewise, porn doesn’t have to be based on human physically. If someone had a balloon fetish, THIS could be considered erotica or porn:

In other words, anything that stimulates sexual thoughts can be easily classified as porn, and using sexuality to promote art in any way, shape, or form is bad, right? We can’t use sex, because sex is a dirty, filthy act you should only perform with one person you truly care about. I’m sure Apple did this with the best intentions, but you know what they say about the road to hell. As a writer and artist, I’d say that the difference between pornography and erotica is artistic merit, but then you get into a debate on the definition of art. It’s one of those things that’s easier to show than actually explain.

Let’s look at a recent example from pop culture. At the 2010 Grammy Awards, Pink put on the following performance. Watch it and ask yourself if this is a case of selling sex and titillation or if it’s art.

A nearly naked woman showing off her toned body with acrobatics while dripping wet and performing a love song… Porn? It’s certainly personal and in your face. If we analyzed it like we would a piece of art, though, I’d say the stripping of the gown at the beginning is symbolic of opening yourself to someone else, that by essentially appearing naked, Pink not only exposed her performance, but her body, to scrutiny. She stripped off the gown at the line, “Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?” The water was a visual element for the song’s title, and the way the light caught the drops while they fell onto the audience created that effect of glitter in the air.

There weren’t any actions that could be taken as representative of any sexual act, and artists can appreciate the human body without instantly thinking of sex. The first time I drew a nude model for a class in college, it was late in the year and we’d become professionals in our own right. A body, like a word, is a tool for creating strong emotion.

How about *this* image?


come undone again by =mastertouch on deviantART

Certainly physical. Pornographic? That depends. Are we looking at its intent? Is it art because it’s nicely shot and isn’t about sex itself, but uses sexual imagery to convey a point?

What about this?


Weight of the World by ~ThePrincessPixie on deviantART

Naked bodies, emotion, but what makes these art and differentiates them from the kind of thing you usually have to provide a credit card number for on the internet? What makes these photographs art and the iBoobs… not.

Is it the juvenile “Bewbs!” response that separates smut from art? Again, that’s based on a personal response and not anything concrete. The iBoobs was one of the apps deleted from the store, and yet the above DeviantArt images are not only more graphic, they are of real people, real models, who use their bodies to make a living. The other is a digital effect of how a programmer imagines breasts move.

And right there we hit the first major speed bump.

One person’s smut is another person’s tease. Trying to regulate sexuality is a bit like nailing herded cats to a smoking wall. Or something. I think I just mixed three metaphors, but it doesn’t matter. Any time someone tries to object to content because it’s sexual, it’s not only easy, but expected you’ll find a gray area. While there are a few things most people, not all, could classify as art and classify as pornography, these extremes are difficult to pin down, too. Even if you do find the extremes at either end and decide on what is acceptable, it’s all still a matter of opinion.

I understand that people may feel objectification is harmful to women. Whether or not they’re right isn’t important for this discussion.

It is.

The point of this whole iPhone article is that most people will always have a concept of pornography, erotica, and sex that is either puritanical or non-existent. It’s one or the other. Were some of the apps in poor, even childish, taste? Sure. Should they be deleted because they are offensive? First, you’d have to define offensive and somehow justify Michelangelo’s “David” so we don’t have to tear it down. Then, make sure everyone believes sex and the human form are both inherently dirty and everyone has the same threshold for stimulation.

When you do that, for your next trick, I want you to teach Jar Jar proper English and fly under your own power.

By the way, if you want to view art, real art featuring the human form, check out the artist below.


LETS GO VIRAL by =mastertouch on deviantART