Category: Books

The penultimate week

The penultimate week

My apologies for the absence this last weekend, oh loyal viewers — wherever the five of you may be.

I took a little time for myself following the Honors Conference (both my panel and a few friend’s panels I attended on Saturday) to focus on the last few assignments I have to complete before the semester is over. Next week.

I’ve also spent a good chunk of the weekend letting the existential dread of realizing that “this week is my last full week of college” drape over me like a heavy blanket.

Seriously, what? That’s not real. Who allowed this?

To be fair, I may go back to school one day and get a Masters or teaching credential so I can be a teacher in my later years. Seems like that would be a cool way to give back after I make a name for myself.

But that’s not really a matter for here and now. I’m mostly just nervous about the incoming inevitability of having no excuses to not go after that name.

Because that is terrifying.

So I’ve been relishing my last few college-oriented assignments. Turning in my Internship hours, pulling my novel’s prep work together for the physical Honors project and watching old Stephen Colbert videos for Comm Law.

For my Gaming in American Culture class, my last assignment (other than the final paper) is to read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One for our discussion on virtual reality this Thursday.

Or… In my case, to re-read Ready Player One. Much like Ender’s Game, I read this book a few years ago. Well before the Spielberg adaptation was even announced.

Thus, similar to Ender’s Game, I’ve decided to take my re-consumption of the story in a different form: Listening to the audio book.

Cue YouTube-style Audible shill.

But not really, because Amazon isn’t paying me. If anything, I’m paying them — or at least my family is.

I will say the re-listen has been pretty worth it. Not only does the audio book make it easier to reacquaint myself with differences between the written and cinematic versions while doing other work, the act of listening is that much more fun because Wil Wheaton is reading it.

Wheaton’s reading leads to some beautifully meta moments, because he is personally mentioned in the story.

For instance, Wade Watts (the story’s protagonist) talks about Wheaton as a great representative of user interests on an elected council in the virtual reality world of the OASIS.

He says those lines without a shred of irony or winking to the audience, and it’s great.

But yeah… That has basically been my life. Everything y’all missed over the last couple days, other than helping a few friends through their own stressful life situations and watching Kill Bill with my family. Alyson had never seen it, and we needed to rectify that.

I know it’s a hot take for me to say it, but that movie is genuinely still incredible. A visual splendor.

If you need a little stress relief, like I have with all this impending graduation fatigue, go watch yourself some Tarantino. Or play a little Don’t Starve.

That’s my advice.

A pre-preparation of rites

A pre-preparation of rites

Like I mentioned in my post showing off the character sketches from my novel-in-progress, this Friday I will be presenting my Senior Honors Project at the Honors Project Interdisciplinary Conference.

We got the official email with the final schedule brochure and everything. It’s happening.

Not only is it happening, it’s coming up at full speed.

So most of my day has been spent preparing the Powerpoint I’ll be using. A few weeks back the Honors Program Director Sandra Perez asked me to help another student who wanted to do a creative writing project, as she said the pre-preparation I’d done was impressive.

That experience wound up being my lightbulb of inspiration. I realized that my project was better grounded in a Pre-Preparation of Rites than “I wrote part of a book.”

By the end, I’ve come to find that a whole lot of preparation was involved in my novel.

Most of it is stuff I’ve discussed on the blog before. The character sketches, map-making, research into Dungeons and Dragons and plotting out the story among them.

But then there are more exotic elements to the process as an overarching narrative — Such as my inspirational material, John Scalzi’s Redshirts and the prep work on earlier creative writing pieces.

And let’s not forget the elements I have yet to talk about.

Notably backend research into creating believable cultures for my fantasy world. I asked my old professor Paulo Simoes for some advice because a lot of his background involves researching ancient societies, figuring out how they tick.

He recommended trying to model my fictional cultures and the events that characterize my world off of real-world societies.

After all, he says it’s a successful strategy for shows like Game of Thrones, which modeled its famous Red Wedding scene after massacres in Scotland.

1936845497d4b9ce4fff1c5a71d0e786
Image courtesy of Game of Thrones Memes and Quotes Blogspot

Game of Thrones is in vogue to reference right now, yeah?

I’d hope so. Because I’m more than happy to capitalize on that, even though I haven’t personally watched the show.

For my project, however, I am not utilizing Game of Thrones in any capacity. Rather, I’m using “The Story of Civilization” collection of historical novels to base parts of my book on periods of history. As suggested by Dr. Simoes.

Along the way, I’ve been trying to craft the oral part of the presentation:

IMG_2635

I have 15 minutes to present, and then I’ll have to be ready for five minutes of audience questions. I’m hoping I’ll be all put together and confident by then.

While getting prepared, I took some time off with my Mom to go out and put something sweet together with the drawings from Elizabeth:

IMG_2634

Just a little something to help remember the project by. Doesn’t it look nice?

I think it looks really nice, personally.

My children come to life

My children come to life

Next week I will be presenting my Senior Project at the Honors Project Interdisciplinary Conference.

Literally, next week. Friday, May 3 at 11:10 a.m. in room 1307 of the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.  Just in case any of you are interested in going!

It’s a whole panel on creative writing that includes my novel, a children’s book about a character with Down Syndrome and a collection of essays about learning English.

I’ll talk about that more, but it’s worth a plug now.

Mostly because it gives me an excuse to talk about one of my most exciting pieces of presentation preparation:

The character sketches.

For the last couple months I’ve been working with the wonderful Elizabeth Person to draw my four main characters. Having tangible ways to see them was a perfect way to spice up the PowerPoint.

It just so happened that my Mom knew Elizabeth from her work with Edward Branley (whom she does book edits for), and her art style meshed well with the fantasy aesthetic.

As you can see in my Featured Image, the drawings came out really well!

But of course… You didn’t think I would show off my babies and not talk about them, did you?

Nah. We talking all about these good folks!

I need to practice for my presentation, after all.


Warrior

Eliott Aviknard

Eli is a human knight who leads the adventuring party into raids, looking for treasure and glory so they can leave their small trading town in the Western Badlands and see the Bresegon Empire’s capital.

He proudly uses his father’s white armor and blade, both staples of the paladins who serve as royal guards. For the most part he is stoic and cool-headed in combat.

However, that cool facade often gives way to a defeatist, lamenting rant into a mug of ale as he blames himself for the party’s frequent inability to secure the treasure they need. Which, as a result imposes upon Romeri for funding, keeps Julianna from going abroad and impedes Sovann’s desire to prove himself as a thief.

He is also deathly afraid of horses, which comes up often as he tries to overcome that roadblock preventing him from truly becoming the paladin he claims to be (to the jest of his friends).


Mage3

Julianna Rhuiviel

Julianna is a quiet, well-studied elven mage, an up-and-coming expert in both tome- and scroll-based magics. She carries around enough encyclopedias to be a jack-of-all-trades in lore around the continent.

In the world of Isenvid and the Four Orbs (my novel’s current title), the elvish people have a tragic backstory. Their village in the Gnarled Forest was invaded by Bresegon soldiers and razed, with most of the children being taken away to reeducation schools.

Julianna was one such child, and to this day retains both a desire to find acceptance (only used to racist rejection), a drive to learn her people’s history and a fear of fire.

An element that tends to being important for a mage.

Her personal feelings of being unaccepted leave the girl self-conscious about her 7′ height, glowing porcelain skin and somewhat gangly figure. She covers herself up (under the guise of avoiding sunburns) and prefers to go by “Julie.”

Though Sovann and Romeri will frequently get on her nerves with the affectionate “Ju-Ju.”


Archer

Romeri Russev

Romeri is a human archer and the oldest member of the party. She is business-savvy and worldly, having traveled before settling down to run a tavern, and she’s matriarchal; offering all of her friends an ear.

She tends to be the most fashion-forward when not in battle-ready armor — but even then tends to go for style over substance. Her desire to look good is matched only by her desire for wealth and fiscal security.

In combat Romeri is indispensable, though she has a tendency to arrive late to the party. Her long-ranged attacks almost never miss, as she has a long history of training with some of the best soldiers on the continent.

In fact, her ex was a royal soldier who now runs her own traveling mercenary troupe. A connection that may or may not become relevant in the story. Wink wink, plug plug.

She terrifies the elf who tends bar while she is away, and her hair is dyed by flowers.


Cleric

Sovann Krei

Sovann is a human thief with a skin condition called vitiligo.

From an early age he was trained to be a cleric in the Furbism tradition, a religion that was nearly wiped out as its capital was sacked to leave the Bresegon Empire in control.

He’s an effective healer, but got bored of that mundane life and decided to become a thief. There he could find action and fight with his preferred weapon: Daggers. That transformation is symbolized by his old priest’s vestment, which has been modified to serve as a cloak.

However… He’s a klutz, and more often than not people will defeat enemies before he has the chance, which leaves Sovann relegated to healing duty.

He bemoans the job but eagerly helps his friends, and carries his old staff tied to his back with the unused sleeves of his cloak.

Sovann is also known to be a tease (especially fond of poking fun at the budding romance between Eli and Julianna that only they do not realize is happening), and will hit on just about anything that moves.


They’re wonderful, aren’t they?

I’m planning on finishing my novel over the summer once I have the stress of finals and graduation out of the way, which means hopefully you’ll all be able to read their story sometime soon!

In the meantime, I definitely recommend checking out Elizabeth’s work. It was hard to give away my babies and let someone else try to visualize how I’ve imagined them, but she did a wonderful job and was really communicative throughout the process.

Even traded rough sketches here and there for my feedback:

It’s been awesome, something I’m absolutely considering doing again.

I can’t wait to show these guys off alongside the preplanning of my plot and map next week!

My little yellow book

This Zombie Jesus Day, I spent most of my time down in the cave.

… Is that an insensitive comparison to make?

I suppose it might be. But I think it’s funny, and really all I mean to say is that I spent the day cleaning my room and the downstairs bathroom. Not only has dust built up since the last time, but we have family coming out to California for my graduation in May.

Puts the brunt of making things look nice on my shoulders, since I’m the reason why people will inevitably be here stressing my Mom out.

All that toilet scrubbing and floor sweeping and Amiibo dusting has me worn out, so I don’t want to linger on writing too long. But I want to get something out considering I skipped yesterday in favor of playing Pokémon with Aly and watching The Lego Movie 2.

Not that I regret either of those choices.

Between my bouts of cleaning, I spent some time starting to pull together a PowerPoint for my Senior Honors Project presentation.

Doing so has been a trip down memory lane, as I’m essentially summing up everything I’ve done for the last year.

Except it goes much further than that.

Part of my project involves the context of my experiences with creative writing prior to this novel. I have many single-chapter story drafts lingering around different folders on my computer that came about from dreams or fantasies and unfortunately never went anywhere because all I had were those singular ideas.

But then I have the one project that made it further than any other prior. All because, I’d argue, I pre-planned everything in this sweet yellow notebook:

IMG_2566

The summer before I started at Cal State Fullerton, this book and I were inseparable.

I distinctly remember sitting out by the pool at my Dad’s friend Sylvan’s house writing things out. Everything from character descriptions—

IMG_2568

To bits of lore about the world and magic system—

IMG_2567

To a lengthy run-down of the plot—

IMG_2569

Beat-by-beat.

Because of the amount of effort I put into this thing, it’s one of my favorite stories conceptually. Even though I moved away from it because of school, it’s a piece I feel like I can return to one day.

Especially since I took such meticulous notes on where I wanted the story to go and when.

That’s the main takeaway for my current Senior Honors Project. Pre-planning is very important to coming up with a solid idea one can move forward with.

Though if I did go back to this yellow book story, I’d have to rework a number of the really cliché bits. Like more tastefully handling my “amnesiac protagonist,” if I keep that at all.

I’d also have to completely rework the ending. At the time I came up with a vague encounter against a large mechanical wolf because something, something, bad guys invented technology using magic.

Basically the arc of Avatar: The Last Airbender, in hindsight.

So yeah. Work would be needed.

But I still have a soft spot for Anya, Maribel and their band of misfits and fantasy tropes.

In fact, the yellow notebook has been in the front pocket of my backpack for all these years. Just in case I ever do go back to it.

Who knows, maybe after I finish with Isenvid and the Four Orbs, I will go back and put it together.

Fantasy-adventure novels seem to be my thing, apparently.

Might even be fun to take the genre in a less deconstructive direction.

Gamers just want to have fun

Gamers just want to have fun

With this showing up in the mail earlier today, I suppose it’s as good a time to talk about it as any.

I’ve spared no shortage of copy writing about my Gaming in American Culture class. From not knowing what to write for my semester-long project to what I wrote about for my semester-long project, from my re-absorption of Ender’s Game for our discussion on militarization of video games to my new absorption of a Barbie game from the early 1900s.

Given my general adoration for all things video games, it makes sense that I’ve been enamored with so many things which have been assigned in this class.

It was a good decision to follow my friend Mimi into a random American Studies class as my ‘fun’ activity for my last semester of undergraduate college education.

One of the most interesting aspects of the class has been the gradual shift of my understanding of U.S. history based on different elements of popular culture that, for the most part, I already knew about.

For instance, that aforementioned analytical reading of Ender’s Game. Or our in-class discussion today about the 1983 Matthew Broderick classic WarGames.

Part of our discussion hinged on the shift from a World War II mentality of game theory in that the best way to win is to make sure your opponents can never fight again to a Cold War mentality of anxious peace through the zero sum game of the nuclear arms race (“The only way to win is not to play”).

But then we also tied the movie into discussions of early hacker culture with the development of Spacewar! in 1962, really the first game that taught people computers could be used for something other than work.

As well as the game that got banned at Stanford for being too addicting and inhibiting work (which you can now play in all its antiquated glory here!).

However, another branch of our discussion was the change in concepts of masculinity that came from gaming culture and nerd-driven movies in the 80s.

A shift from the grizzled frontier-pushing heroes of John Wayne to the intellectual digital frontier exploring cowboys of Matthew Broderick’s David teaching a computer to play tic-tac-toe.

That’s where Carly Kocurek’s book, Coin-Operated Americans, is going to pick up the slack for next week.

According to the blurb on the back, it “explores the development and implications of the ‘video gamer’ as a cultural identity,” most notably in relation to the perception of games as a “boy’s world.” But also looking at the moral panic stemming from 1976’s Death Race and other culture examining video games like Tron and WarGames.

Hence us watching the latter movie before reading the book.

That’s essentially my big task for the next week, getting through this little tome while dealing with Comm Law homework and such.

Luckily, now that my big networking event and midterms are out-of-the-way, I have a little extra time to settle down and read.

So if I wind up coming back in the near future with an obscure book review, now you know why.

Media re-consumption

Media re-consumption

Everyone always talks about the book being better than the movie.

But where do most people stand on the audio book compared to the book?

That’s pretty much what I’m going to be sussing out for myself in the next couple days as I listen to the Orson Scott Card classic Ender’s Game on Audible.

Not an ad for Audible, but could be an ad for Audible?

Hit me up, Audible. I could stand to listen to more books and it might help if I had extra motivation.

Anyway though. I will be listening to Ender’s Game over the next few days.

I’ve actually read the book before, years ago — sometime just before or after I blew through my Dad’s big physical collection of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series (condensed into one publication).

I was having a hell of a space phase back in Middle School/early High School, apparently.

However, as a part of the curriculum for Gaming in American Culture, I must read the book again. Apparently it fits in well with the themes of video game use by the military, our discussion for this upcoming class.

As much as I enjoyed the book years ago, and certain scenes continue to stick in my head (mostly the bursts of graphic violence and groin kicking oddly enough), I don’t exactly have a lot of time to sit down and read ~350 pages in the span of three days.

Midterms have stolen that from me.

So I’m going to be listening to the story instead. Work it in during my drives in place of podcasts for a while.

I don’t listen to audio books too often, so it should be interesting to see how the experience lives up to my time with the original book. Will I retain more? Will I notice things that I never have before? Will I use that momentum to finally go ahead and listen to/read the sequel novels past the quarter of Ender’s Shadow I read back in the day?

And the most important question of them all:

Will the audio book be better than the movie?

Yes, yes it will.

Because most things are better than suffering through Harrison Ford phoning things in.

Even if the rest of the movie was pretty good around that, from what I remember.

Now, I know what you must all be thinking. “Jason, is this really the peak highlight from your day? The most worthwhile thing you can talk about?”

To that I say… Yes. Kind of.

If I were to be completely honest, the most interesting part of my day was watching huge groups of butterflies migrate across Redondo Beach, as well as the rest of Southern California apparently.

When I was picking up my sister from school, there were so many butterflies going around that I thought they were leaves at first.

It was nuts.

But I also don’t have a lot to say on it considering I didn’t take photos or videos of the phenomenon. So that LA Taco article will have to do.

Beyond that, all my time today has been devoted to the gym and homework. So… Yeah, disregarding butterflies, listening to the audio book for a book I have already read is the most interesting part of my day.

Purely due to the more philosophical questions I’ll be considering about the difference in media consumption over the next few days.

So hey, maybe I’ll come back to this topic at the end of the week.

Or even if I don’t, maybe I’ll have some more interesting blog topics from here on out!

We’ll just have to see.

The magic of maps

The magic of maps

A good, old-fashioned map can add a whole lot of character to a place.

Sure, the colorful country-accurate map of the Earth on a globe is an impressive sight especially fully animated online:

But that view of the planet is a bit too modernist and clinical for my tastes.

I’m more of a fan of classic, stylized pieces such as the 1643 depiction of Europe by Dutch mapmaker Cornelis Danckaerts that I used for my Featured Image. It’s just the sort of rugged, swarthy style you’d expect to see in some kind of fantasy novel.

Replace that boat off the port of Spain with some kind of serpentine sea creature and it may as well be the map of a fantasy world. Like something you’d expect to see from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Speaking of, did you know that there’s an interactive Middle-Earth map available online? It is full of complex names and points of time for different important events.

That’s the kind of stuff I love.

As I’ve made more progress in my Senior Honors Project novel, I’ve found it necessary to start keeping track of all the locations I’m name dropping to give the world a little more history and life.

To remember places I might want to bring up later and also lay everything out on a more cohesive latitude and longitude for when I explain travel across the content — as my book will include plenty of travel.

During class yesterday, I started to draw out a rudimentary sketch of my world map on a sheet of paper:

IMG_2123
Results not final.

I used to draw things like this all the time, inspired by the maps I’ve seen in the front of books like Lord of the Rings and Eragon.

But never before have I put one together that might actually be useful.

So it was serendipity that, while sitting in my Honors 400B class last night, my friend Mimi noticed my drawing and offered to point out some free campaign map making software she knew about for Dungeons and Dragons.

How was I supposed to say no to that?

Of the software I got pointed to, my favorite was a website called HexTML, which as the name implies lets you create a world of your own using hexagonal signifiers like the board game Settlers of Catan.

Many hours were spent last night screwing around to translate that hand-drawn map into something that could reasonably be shown off to the world.

It’s still open to adjustments down the line and I’d like to put names on all of the areas and towns through the site, but for now I’m really proud of where I’d gotten:

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 9.36.45 PM
The left side.

While the continent proper does not yet have a name, but a lot of the structures within it do.

The town on the lower left is Fehrn, where my main characters live.

The singular structures around Fehrn are ruins of the old western empire that have been used as treasure hunting locales. To the north, that black cavern, is an underground chamber where my story begins — just below the Redbark Woods.

To the lower right is the Gnarled Forest, a large mesh of roots, branches and bark that was nigh impenetrable for eons. The old elven tribe was able to thrive there before being attacked.

Just above that in the mountain range hides a small structure signifying the capital of the Sparrine Empire. The Sparrine being the bird people who are basically France, taking over the region under bird Napoleon. Talked about that recently.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 9.36.19 PM
The right side.

Moving onto the other side of the map, a few new main areas stand out.

Hidden in another mountain to the right of the Sparrine empire is the Prophet’s Sanctuary, where my main characters must travel.

Below it is a yet unnamed lake with an equally unnamed port town to its right side where the player character of my story’s game world will have to take on bird Napoleon in a thinly veiled allegory to the Battle of Waterloo.

Spoilers, I guess. If you know historical stuff.

The walled city to the right of that lake is the capital of the Bresegon Empire, where the lordly prince character hails from. Just above it is the ruins of an older nation’s capital.

Essentially the ruins of Rome beside the now prospering Byzantine Empire.

All of those ruins to the leftmost side of the region being the desolate remains of the Holy Roman Empire’s holdings.

Those are some of my world’s major locations, as far as I’ve planned things out up to this point. With all of the plot beats generally worked out for my story, I’m especially excited to start using a bunch of them now that I have a spatial awareness of how everything fits together.

Hope you’re interested in seeing some more cool little behind-the-scenes details on my writing like this from here on out.

Now that I’m getting into the book, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to share.


Featured Image courtesy of Cornelis Danckerts via Wikimedia Commons

Fantastical Creatures

/me hopes that title is different enough to avoid any sort of legal action from Warner Bros. or J.K. Rowling

With Dad at work and Mom + Aly off in Disneyland where the youngin’ was marching in a parade (which would be a much more exciting story if it was mine to tell), I had the house to myself today.

So obviously I partied hard with some friends, got messed up on drugs, died and am now writing this from the grave.

Boo.

In all seriousness, I didn’t party too hard and become a spooky, scripting spirit. As cool as that would be.

I actually had a chill afternoon all on my lonesome. I didn’t even leave the house outside of going to the gym.

After two weekends of running around doing things with relatives, it was nice to take it slow and focus on my own stuff. Mostly because all of the running around made me fall behind on my novel-writing schedule.

20 pages a week doesn’t seem like too much until you get hit with the roadblock of a death in the family.

But luckily, I was able to rectify that setback with a nice, quiet day on the couch.

At this point I’ve made it to ~35 pages, with my goal being at least 40 before tomorrow.

So far everything is shaping up far nicer than in my original 12-page attempt at a draft. I’ve actually made it past the first major set piece of the story: An underground cavern with a single room at the end of it.

… Exciting, I know. I promise it sounds better with in-depth descriptions!

One of the more interesting bits of research I’ve done recently to push my writing forward was, as the title suggests, finding the right mythical Tolkien-esque creature to fit the slot of an antagonistic race for my main characters.

Luckily my friend Sam is a bit of a Dungeons and Dragons savant and came up with a whole bunch of possibilities when I asked if there were any good avian-themed monsters I could use.

Why avian specifically? It was a jokey idea when I was writing that early draft that started when I described a helmet as beak-like, and stuck so I could make one of my characters call them “birdbrains.”

So… Bird people. Seemed legit.

I didn’t quite expect there to be so many different kinds of bird people, however. There really is a ton to unpack when you delve into the inner-machinations of an experience like D&D.

Probably the most obvious and well-known example is the Harpy.

636252781955908234
Courtesy of DnD Beyond

Pretty famous representative from Greek mythology. Not a bad choice, but a little too much of a monster-monster for my tastes.

The kind of creature you can see mindlessly attacking, but not necessarily forming an advanced society.

So next came the Kenku.

3f36740642afc9d168847c5271ff2ecc
Courtesy of Giger’s 5E D&D

Definitely a closer match, given their clear propensity for humanoid dress and a variety of roles in warfare.

However, the crow look is a bit too inherently evil-looking, and they are quite a sinister race apparently. Was looking for more of a neutral appearance.

Plus they cannot fly in the lore, which is something I wanted to include.

So Kenku were a no.

Luckily the third choice, Aarakorca, was perfect.

636286750209394240
Courtesy of DnD Beyond

Check out these majestic bastards.

Not only are they a perfect blend of humanoid and avian features to make for a fairly human-like sensibility in my story, but the extra lore features from D&D — their obsession with self-grooming, bilingualism, status as traveling explorers and the fact that they look like giant birds while flying — make great tie-ins to my story’s purpose for them.

Namely… To be a surrogate for Napoleonic-era French society.

Yeah, that’s right.

It’ll be even weirder when I write about their leader riding around on a horse despite being a literal birdman. And I love it.

Being able to gather all sorts of new knowledge on interesting fantasy creatures has been a great pleasure of mine over the course of this project. It’s essentially an amalgamate of some of my favorite video games, movies and books in the fantasy genre, so the more I can include the better.

Wargroove is the big contributor of new ideas to my concoction at the moment, but that game deserves its own story another day.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to writing so I can finish this section I’m in the middle of. Who knows, perhaps I’ll start to trickle out passages and chapters for advice in the near future.

All I know now is that this line kind of defines my brain.

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.02.16 PM

50 shades of analysis

50 shades of analysis

So I just flew in from Fullerton, and boy are my arms tired!

Does that joke work over text?

I guess the more important question is whether that joke works considering I drove to-and-from Fullerton instead of flying, but nobody knows that.

And if I have my way, they never will.

Anyway, today was the first day of the spring 2019 semester for me. If it’s not already obvious, the whole affair has me a bit exhausted and delirious.

That being said I can’t complain about the contents of my day as much as the fact that it was required in the first place. I enjoyed my first two classes and found out that my class tomorrow was canceled, meaning I get an extra day off.

But I want to save a week-in-review post for the end — Thursday or Friday.

Thus today I’m going to go in a completely different direction and talk about something I discovered which helped keep me sane during the return to form.

While listening to the recent Split episode of Nando V. Movies‘ podcast, “Mostly Nitpicking” (which sounds like a paid plug but comes solely out of a fan’s love), I was recommended a different YouTube channel’s video series.

That series was the “A Lukewarm Defense of 50 Shades” trilogy by an analytical writing-focused channel called Folding Ideas.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “50 Shades of Grey? That series of mommy porn books from the early 2010s? That stuff was trash, why should I care?”

Trust me. I was the same way.

I’ve actually seen this video series floating around in my recommended feed considering I spend a lot of time watching similar analysis channels [Examples one and two] to both help my own writing and laugh at bad writing.

I just never cared because 50 Shades wasn’t a series I got into.

But I happen to trust Nando’s opinions because I enjoy his content, and because I am succepible to media influencers apparently.

Now I’m here to pass on that recommendation to all of you because this Lukewarm Defense trilogy is wonderful.

For the most part, especially in videos two and three, the guy is more than eager to lampoon the terrible, awful writing of the books and how they translate into terrible, awful writing in the movies.

Except it goes so much deeper than that.

The video on the first book goes in-depth on the history of translations from the fan fiction to book to movie, and offers a wealth of positives about the first book’s movie adaptation to contend with all the obvious negatives.

It succeeded in making me appreciate the filmmaker’s zeal adapting what must have been a garbage fire into something more palatable and well-crafted.

A lot of his points about things like the removal of the main heroine’s inner-dialogue making her a more self-driven and competent player in the plot are really successfully delivered thanks to an editing style that presents evidence from both mediums simultaneously.

Of course most of the positives are confined to the first book’s adaptation, considering he also goes into why the other books are worse and had worse movie making conditions.

But I never thought I would appreciate 50 Shades of Grey — the movie — near as much as I did while watching this.

That’s not even to mention how funny the guy’s content is in its own right, and how successfully he tangles brief jokes or asides into relevant points multiple videos down the line.

It’s just excellent content. Enough so that I’ll go back and watch more.

To be fair, I am somewhat more open to narrative analysis content at the moment considering I’m swinging back into more focused work on my own novel.

However Folding Ideas presents some serious, evergreen writing advice. If nothing else I’m going to think way harder about paying off plot points in my own writing because I watched this guy destroy 50 Shades for dropping the ball so often due to the original nature of its production as a serialized fanfiction.

If you have about three hours to kill, check out this mini-series. I promise it’s worth your time whether you’re into script doctoring or just laughing at terrible content.

It certainly kept me sane on day one of the semester, and for that I owe Folding Ideas a lot.


Featured Image courtesy of Teesta31 via Wikimedia Commons

A post-Stan Lee world

A post-Stan Lee world

I don’t know that I had anything planned to talk about today amid a storm of homework I’ve been putting off. But once I saw this news come through, I knew there was really only one thing I could do: Pay tribute.

Within the last hour or so, rumors began to trickle around Twitter that the great Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee had died today at 95 years old.

Having seen a few celebrity death hoaxes in the past, I didn’t want to succumb to the emotions that came with that statement at first.

But once I saw the Associated Press confirm it, I has to accept the truth.

Since then I’ve honestly been walking around seemingly like a shell of my former self. Hell, I haven’t felt inspired to write a tribute in death for a celebrity since Carrie Fisher passed away, so you know this one must have hit hard.

How do you quantify the life of a man that has affected culture so much? How do you live in a world that, in its innate cold-nature’s cruelty to our mortality, will just keep moving forward in time without him?

Obviously this isn’t a “surprise” beyond the fact that it’s happening somewhat unexpectedly right now. The internet has been talking about Stan Lee’s inevitable passing for years, lamenting the possibility of the older man disappearing now that he has become a ubiquitous part of our movie-going culture if nothing else.

In fact, take a look at any of the stories that have already come out about Lee’s passing and you can tell they’ve been written and on the back burner for a long time, ready to update once the day came.

Personally I really like the piece Variety put out. It captures a lot of the good and the bad of Stan Lee’s life in a degree far better than I could as an arguably fledgling comic book fan.

To be honest, that’s kind of the craziest thing about my feelings toward Stan Lee’s death right now. I’m not even a huge comic book fan — so I can’t imagine how terrible other people must feel.

While a much younger Jason had a vague appreciation for certain comic book animated shows like Teen Titans or Batman the Animated Series (both DC properties I know, but that’s beside the point), it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe boom began with 2008’s Iron Man that I started to steep myself in the world of comics.

Also, I guess you could count “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” from the mid-2000s as part of my early exposure to Stan Lee. But I feel like that old show is a topic for another day.

I’ve seen almost every movie put out by the studio since their cinematic universe project began (outside of, say, Iron Man and Thor 2). Having grown into my own as an aspiring writer alongside its release schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate the way they create such an extensively connected story, one that makes me more and more excited for each entry to see where it can go next.

Sure, I know the films are somewhat formulaic and arguably predictable for anyone who knows the comics… But like I said, I don’t really. Only since the movies have grown in popularity have I personally started to research different famous comic book arcs and find YouTube channels dedicated to comic book stuff so I can educate myself on the matter, like NerdSync or Nando v. Movies.

Both of whom have also become regular parts of my life through binging their podcasts on my long commutes to-and-from CSUF.

So the Marvel movies have really been my gateway into comics. And all of them have one unifying thread.

A creative giant who has a cameo in all of them.

From what I’ve read there are a few more Stan Lee cameos pre-recorded for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 at least, but they’ll certainly be more bittersweet than ever before.

Though not any more bittersweet than never seeing him cameo again after, even if Avengers 4 seems like as poetic an end point as they come.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. A man who will truly live in forever in his creations.

Excelsior.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.