New Writing Exercise: TV Episode Breakdown

This is a fairly common exercise, but if you haven’t run into it before, here you go:

1) Pick a TV Show you like, or at least that you are interested in learning about
2) Play an episode in a medium where you can pause it
3) take notes on the high level what-happens and the emotions that occur; if there are commercial breaks, mark these, as they are often act breaks.
4) When the show is done, go back through your notes and see if you can identify patterns, structure, and what was good about the episode

Be warned, this can be very enlightening. Too much so.

I did this to an episode of Bleach once, and now all the combat-escalation based Anime are easy to predict.

Robert Johnson, the Rock and Roll Faust

If you haven’t heard about the blues legend Robert Johnson — who supposedly sold his soul to the devil to master music, and who sang about walking with the devil, being chased by hell hounds, and making a deal with the devil at the crossroads, and who supposedly died at age 26 howling and barking like a mad dog at the moon — then you have now. To say his impact on rock and roll was astronomical would be to put it too weakly.

robertjohnson

Robert Johnson has often been held up as one of the most amazing musicians ever by many rock and roll legends, however a lot of his songs sound very high-pitched, eerie, and can be offputting to new listeners. This is because they were recorded slightly too fast on the record machine, probably to cram more songs on the record and save money.

Well, now someone has at last gone in and slowed them back down again, and man, I like them better this way. I could listen to them all day. As an added bonus, you can now hear the influence of Son House on his singing, hear the emotion and humor in his voice, and his songs also feel like a natural extension of the Mississippi Delta Blues.

Listen to them here:

 

This Learning Life: Daily Life in a War Zone (Syria)

So there is this interesting thing…

NPR Audio Article About Pirate Radio in Syria

Syrian Free Radio, basically — where a group of people have teamed up to curate pirate radio broadcasts inside Syria, taking out all the propaganda and calls to war they can find. (“Try” is what they say, alongside a comment that it’s hard to know what is propaganda and what is not.)

This reduces it to which border crossings are open, gas prices, exchange rates, where the bombs are, and on the ground reporting for major incidents. The day to day survival stuff you need in a place like hell.

When America has become so internally polarized and paralyzed, it’s good to see at least a few humans in the world working together to make each other’s lives livable.

There is hope for us! :)

Back in the House; back to writing

The House

We are back in our house at last, recovering from the house fire. Everything is new and shiny and uncluttered and just about perfect. For the first time in my life I am not surrounded by books in every room, and it’s surreal and unsettling like I’m surrounded by a vacuum and might be pulled in at any moment.

But the lack of visual clutter and massive to-read piles that I will never actually read: that is relaxing too. Honestly, it’s a relief to be free of all the mess, and of most of the books too. Many I miss, don’t get me wrong; they are treasures beyond compare. But the vast majority were simply self-imposed duties I could not fulfill, weighting down my artistic conscience.

Really, I like the new place. It’s much better than the old place. Minimalistic, with only what we need.

We even have a new fake Christmas tree, and the needles aren’t even melted ;)

Writing

After two years of successive tragedies (the death of my mother, my grandfather, and my wife’s grandfather one year; the burning down and rebuilding of my house the next), I am finally crawling back into writing.

All the time I spent exploring plotting seems to have paid off. I am developing a pretty good plot that I love (shock! awe! when did such a thing ever happen before with pre-plotting? Never!). Also, I’m doing some pretty fun world building.

My actual writing skills are quite rusty, and I don’t like the words I am making, but I wonder if I should really worry about that. Once I have the plot, characters, and scenes nailed down, and I iterate through the book, the rust should be mostly gone. Then I can turn around on the rewrite and really polish the style up.

It’s nice to be optimistic again about the writing. I guess it takes a while to get your feet back under you after being bulldozed down so many times.

As the great philosopher Chumbawumba once said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.”

 

 

The House is Nearly Done… Or So we Hope!

9 and a half months after the house fire, our house is finally getting close to done. We should be moving back in this Friday, if all goes well.

Of course, all may not go well. Our contractor, picked after much discussion and research, turned out not to be as good or as organized as we’d hoped.

Decorative columns are falling off the front of the house because they were only attached to house with paint. We have concerns that maybe the builder didn’t tell the roofing truss company they had taken out a load bearing wall. We go on a trip with the builder to pick out appliances and finishes, and he calls us for the next week asking /us/ for the SKU’s because he’s lost them. Ditto for finishes. We show up at the house and the plumber is sitting there doing nothing because the builder has forgotten to bring in the toilets and dishwaser. There is something odd with the actual roof itself too; we can see the ribs of the roof through the tile, and we shouldn’t.

We are fed up, and as final inspections by the city and the move-in date approach, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope.

Well, that, and call the roofing truss company and bring in a third-party home inspection company. Because, really, I don’t trust my builder anymore. Honestly, I barely believe he can put his pants on the right way around in the mornings.

A Reference Guide for the Rest of Us

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