Just checking in.

It’s been a long winter break. The year changed so yay Earth! We still haven’t killed you yet. I’ve been trying to take it easy this last month. I got wicked sick so I really haven’t felt much like writing.

I also got an iPad for Christmas, and let me tell you that it is a device made entirely out of time knives. So sickness aside, that thing has sucked up a lot of my free time.

But as I said before it is the New Year and while I try not to get into people’s faces about New Years resolutions, I do see the new year as time for taking stock and fresh starts. I did a lot in 2013: I started a podcast and really kicked this blog into gear. (In fact, I think I’m going to set this up as it’s own self-hosted WordPress install, but more on that later.) There, were things I didn’t get to, however. I didn’t write a lot of fiction this last year. I have a lot of notes, but not a lot of finished product.

The month of blogging really helped. It let me rediscover my writing workflow and figure out who I am as a writer now that I’ve been out of college for years. (College being my most prolific time by far.)

I want to keep up the Internet projects that I’ve been working on, but I also need to add some more fiction writing. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down with a major project and hacked away at every day until it was done. It’s also been a while since I’ve revised anything and that’s where writing really takes shape.

Anyone who tell you any different is selling something. Usually a book on writing.

This is just a quick post. I’ve been quite for a while and I wanted to check in. I think is going to be a good year for me in terms of creative projects. In fact, this post was supposed to be short, but it turns out I had a lot to say.

The new year may be almost a month old but new starts begin whenever you start them. Happy New Year.

Mythology, Cthulhu, and You

One of my favorite things in the world that I don’t talk about enough is mythology.  When most people hear that word they think of the Greek myths.  Of Zeus.  Of Hera.  Of Kevin Sorbo.

Not me.  Especially that last bit.  While I love Greek metrology, I am more enamored by the human mind’s ability to take the world around it and create myth.  That’s not just the wind, a god is blowing because if they don’t the world will end.

When I first heard the concept as a child, I was blown away by it.  It, of course, was in conjunction with the Greek and Roman myth.  Here were two groups of people who fought, and died, and created empires over something that we now know isn’t true.  There is no god of thunder.  The wind does not blow because a god wants it.  But that didn’t matter to the Greeks and it didn’t matter the Romans.  It was true to them.

I don’t want you to get me wrong, I don’t think they were stupid.  This fiction helped to explain the world around them.  That’s a great thing, there has got to be things that I believe that future generations will know are wrong, so if the Greeks wanted to believe in something awesome like a woman can be born full formed out of a dude’s head then who am I to judge.  I live the in same hard world they did.  As long as it doesn’t hurt other people, do what you want to get through the day.

Once I new about the Greeks and the Romans, I wanted more.  But it had to be something contemporary.  I was into conspiracy theories for a while.  I loved hearing what some people what the “truth” behind Roswell and JFK.  It’s American folklore at its best.  It also didn’t hurt that while I was getting into conspiracy theories that the X-files was the biggest show in the country.  Nowadays, they don’t seem as fun as they used to.

Another really good mythology is the Cthulhu Mythos from H.P. Lovecraft. To be honest, his writing isn’t the greatest and I’m not the biggest fan of horror fiction, but he plays with the best ideas.

And at the end of the day, that’s all mythology is: the exchange of ideas.

In fact, Lovecraft knew he was onto something by creating his own mythology so he got other writers to add to it.  He open sourced his pantheon.  And he did it back in the 30’s.

A lot of others have followed in his foot steps.  We have mythology all around us now.  That’s about all science fiction and fantasy are.  We have Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings.  Super Heroes rule the box office now.

Basically what I’m saying is: if you are into mythology, it’s a good time to be alive.

Why Your Collection of Action Figures Is Bigger Than My Collection

Remember a few posts back where I outlined all the things that I’d do on my Staycation?  Did I do any of those things?  Not really, but I did watch all of the IT Crowd.

If you don’t know, the IT Crowd was a british sitcom about an IT department at a large, faceless corporation.  Most of the humor doesn’t actually come from geeky, computer in-jokes, but from the interpersonal relationships with the characters.  It’s really funny and it has some of the funniest comic acting I have ever seen.

Future Josh is going to put out a point detailing the network environment of the IT Crowd, so look forward to that, but in this post I wanted to talk about the set used on the show.  I’m sure a lot has been said about it, but I wanted to have my say because it is pretty fantastic.

While the dialogue on the show is not littered with geek in-jokes and references, the main set is.  It’s full of old computers, EFF stickers, action figures, table top board games, and posters.  Hell, there’s even a poster from the web comic XKCD.

The set is really cool and some place that I would love to live, and that got me thinking about the place I actually live.  It looks nothing like that.  That’s not to say my place doesn’t look nice, it does but it’s not a patchwork quillt of nerd culture.  Let me say this better, I do have quite the collection of comics and sci-fi novels, as well as comic art, but’s not shown off very well.  The bookcases are very muted and don’t show off the few art books that I have.  In fact, my personal collection doesn’t really have much in the way of art.  If it doesn’t have a narrative, that is to say if it’s not a comic, book, or movie, I don’t have a lot of it.  I don’t have a lot of action figures, or art books, or movie props, or art pieces.

I don’t have a lot of what I would call “static art.”  Things that are just made to be looked at in and of themselves.  This isn’t really a personal choice.  I’d like to have a lot of that stuff around me for visual stimulation, I just don’t seem to have a lot of it.  I guess that’s because most of it costs so damn much and you really have to know how to show it off or it’s just clutter.

I’m playing with bringing more of this sort of thing into my life.  I’ve been playing with paper craft and I have a few statues that are pretty cheap.  (I just can’t bring myself to drop $400 on a bust of Batman.)

I’ve always wanted a collection of interesting objects to show off.  Something to let people know who I am and what I’ve done.  I always figured I have something like that by now, but my life has only recently moved into a shape that could accommodate something like that.

Time will tell what my living room looks like in a years time.  Who knows, it might end up looking like the show playing in it.

All My Favoriate Writers Write While Smashed and Why I Can’t

So Hunter S. Thompson, and an entire generation of writers before him, used to write completely smashed.  And not just on alcohol.  My book shelf is littered with books written while high.  I have written pretty concistanly since I was 14 years old and I have to say that I have no idea how the hell they did it.

I’ve written about once a little tipsy and it was a trail of biblical proportions.  All writing, even fiction, is stringing together an argument.  Be it, “you should believe this,” or “you should feel this way about this character,” it’s all an argument. I have no idea how all the writers I admire where able to produce the works that they did while bombed out of their minds.

Bill Mare has a quote, “I don’t mind drugs, they’ve never hurt my record collection.”  The implication being that all the musicians that he likes where able to produce the works they did because they were high or drunk.  He put this quote to Steven King on one of his shows.  Now anyone who has ever read “On Writing” will tell you and Steven King was a functioning alcoholic and a coke addict.  Steven’s reaction was that drugs had a negative effect on his record collection because they kill most of the musicians that he liked.

I have to say that I agree with King on this.  I was one of the biggest Sublime fans you have ever seen and I feel like they could have had a lot more albums if the lead singer hadn’t over dosed on heroin.

I have no idea how my favorite writers where able to write while drunk or stoned on mushrooms, and to be honest with you, I don’t want to know.  I’m really not sure how they were able to produce great works while under the influence. But I really like writing, I would want to retain the memory.

Old Man Evans Bitches About Facebook

Have you noticed that a lot of people have been changing their Facebook photos to pictures of themselves when they were little kids?  I don’t know what the hell is up with that.  It probably has to do with some sort of half ass organized thing that a lot of Facebook users are doing.  Probably something getting nostalgic for the past because of the holidays.

These are generally people in their twenties doing this.  Childhood is not some long forgotten time for a lot of these people.  It was like ten years ago.

I guess bitching about stuff like this on Facebook is pretty pointless because it’s all going to change in a few months anyway.  I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go on that site, and I have to say I really don’t like Facebook.

I don’t think anyone does.  I’ve never met anyone in the last few years that’s admitted to liking Facebook.  It’s just a place that you have to maintain your contact information and check in on the relatives.  I remember when social media used to be about blowing off steam and having a laugh with your friends.  Now, I have to be so damn careful about what I post because some long lost aunt might come out of woodwork and tell me about how I’ve offended her and the human race.

Before you call what I’ve just written a straw man argument, I want to let you know that that’s actually happened to me.  So yes, I do watch what I say very carefully.

Which kind of defeats the point of sites like Facebook.  If I’m not acutely representing myself then what is the point of having a digital avatar of me.  There isn’t really because Facebook Josh is not like real Josh.  It’s a Josh fit for public consumption, which is something no one has ever been able to say about me before.

Or any human if you really think about it.  Everyone has a part of themselves that other would find offensive.  And I think that’s a good thing.  We all could stand to be a little more offended.  It’s good for you.  Puts piss in your vains.

You may be asking, “If you don’t like it,” why don’t you stop using it?  Because Facebook has replaced email for a lot of social interactions.  If I plan a party, I have to send out invites on Facebook or no one shows up.

So does that mean Facebook is here to say?  Yes, it’s probably got about ten more years left.  But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be as popular as it is now.  People are waiting for the next big thing.  Facebook, for all it does, is still just a website and people are always looking for the next cool website.  Hell, they even know this that’s why Facebook has been snapping up other social sites as they get popular.  They paid a billion dollars for Instagram, and tried to pay three billion for Snapchat.  These are not complex web apps.  Facebook isn’t trying to get these things because it wants the technology.  It’s the users, and they are already moving on to other sites for their social interaction.  Because that’s what social interaction is, an ever changing conversation.

Someone once said that, “the media is the message.”  The web has made this true.  That means Facebook is the topic of conversation as much as it is the facilitator of the conversation.  This means that at some point soon, the topic is going to change.

It’s a healthy thing.

Fashions change.  We’ll soon be looking at our Facebook profiles much like the old photos we put on them.  “What the hell was I wearing?”

The Bat and Me: My Thoughts on Batman

It’s Thanksgiving and it is a time to say what it is that you’re thankful for, and do you know what I’m thankful for? Batman.  I’m not kidding.

Batman is one of those concepts that as I get older, still seems to grow with me.  While the story of a man who become vengeance is an adolescent power fantasy, the story of a man who could have the conviction to do so is something transcendent. That’s something for the ages that will stay with me forever.

That’s a pretty concise review of Batman, let me tell you how I got into him.

When I was about six, PBS in my area had the rights to show the old Adam West Batman over and over again.  The great part was that while ever Batman episode was a two parter, PBS would show them back to back.  That was great if you were like me and just learning how the passage of time worked.  I.e. you didn’t have to wait around for the next episode because it was always important to me how Batman and Robin would get out of that pit of sharks.  And it was always sharks.

That is the farthest back I can go for memories of Batman.  After that was the 1989 Batman.  I didn’t see it until home video, so that would have to be 1990, which would make me about eight at the time.  I remember loving it but being so scared of Jack Nicolson’s Joker that I hid behind the couch every time he would come on screen.  In fact, I still kind of have that impulse even now.
Not that I’ve ever done that as an adult.  Much.

And my other early exposure to the bat would be 1992’s Batman The Animated Series, which is probably one of the greatest cartoon shows the world has ever seen.

This is complicated way of saying that me and the bat go a long way.  It’s a strange thing to be thankful for, but I like to think if I was ever mugged, Batman would show up and save the day.  It isn’t that much crazier than those fuckers who still think Santa Claus is real.

Staycations Keep You Sane

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and I’m not going to be traveling this year.  I’ll be spending it with some friends.  However, I’m still taking today, Friday, and Monday off.  While I’m not going anywhere, I am partaking in that newest of traditions: the staycation.  It’s pretty much what it sounds like.  You take time off like you would with a vacation but you don’t go anywhere.

I think this concept started around the time when the economy really tanked.  No one could afford to go anywhere but everyone still had all this time off, so the staycation was bourn.  It’s kind of sad when you think about it, but I have to say that I love them.  Planing and then going on tradition vacations can be really stressful.  I don’t like being force into travel just because I have time off.

This will be my second one of these and I find the trick to them is to wake up at normal time (about an a hour after you would for work), and have at least one project.  Something fun that you wouldn’t normally have time for. Me, I’m finally going to build that media server that I’ve always been saying I would.

I got a computer that I can use from work. (I didn’t steal it.  They were throwing them out.) It’s an old laptop with an 80Gig harddrive but I have a terabyte drive I can connect to it.

So my list of things to do to it are as follows:

  • Format the laptop and install Ubuntu.  (Just the desktop version.  The Server version is going to go over my head.)
  • Install Plex media server.  This is a grate program that works with my Ruku box and the PS3.
  • Install Samba for file sharing.  I don’t really know much about this so that’s going to be a research project.
  • Finally fix the tags for my MP3’s.  My god some of these have been messed up for years.
  • Start ripping movies to the server.  I don’t think I’ll have this done by the end of the staycation or even the year, but it’s something that’s worth the shot.

So those are the main things.  I also set up some other services on the server, but this is going to be the first generation of my media server.  Of course, I’ll also be doing some posting on here and some other writing projects.

But not today.  That’s the other pro-tip to staycations, the first day is your detox day where you don’t do anything.  Sleep in and keep putting things off.  It’s a break.  You’ve earned it.

The Power of Lying

I remember the first time I realized that I had to move out of my home town.  While my home town of Fort Pierce is a back water town in Florida that no one has ever heard of, that wasn’t the reason.

One day when I was in high school, during one of the may busy work hours where we were given some pointless work sheet to do, I started to sketch out what I would do if I own a comic book store.  I drew up the floor plan, and laid out where each aisle would go and what would be there.  You wouldn’t want the RPG books and tables to be near the comics because RPG players would bother the comic readers.  And you would want to put the Pokemon cards way in the back because fuck those guys.

I put a lot of work into this.

I even started to write down what our customer loyalty program would be: ten dollars of store credit for every hundred you spend. After class, I took my plans to show some of my friends that were hanging around in the hall.  Upon seeing what I’d done one of my friends immediately said, “you’ll never have that.”

That’s the moment I knew that I had to get the fuck out of Fort Piece.  We both knew that I wasn’t going to go out and apply for a business loan, scout a location, and dedicate ten years of my life to getting this store off the ground, but it important to him that I know it wasn’t going to happen.  There were lots of people like that in my home town.  People who lived by the ethos “life is shitty and everyone better be having just as bad a time as I am.”

Now I fully understand that those kinds of people are everywhere, but I knew these people.  I had been to their houses.  I had talked with them at length about all sorts of things.  And I knew that if I didn’t get the hell out of dodge as soon I could that they were going to create an environment to ensure that I never could. Because that’s where the power is.  Reality is the lie we tell each other, and I knew that if I bought into their lie of “you can’t,” instead of my lie of “I can” then they would be making my choices for me.  That’s power.

So I don’t own my own comic shop.  I also don’t work at Walmart, staring down the barrel of shift on Thanksgiving.  It’s a trade off.

Drunken phone typing

So I’m currently at a party, but I still have to post so here we are. I’m sitting on a porch currently while my friends explain what palindromes are to each other. Apparently, one of my friends wrote a program to figure out palindrome numbers to three million digits.

If you’re wondering how I’m getting this to you it’s actually from the WordPress app on my phone. I’m typing this out one character at a time with my thumb. While drunk, no less.

There are Japanese girls that write entire novels this way while riding the train. I have no idea how the fuck they do it. I always wanted to do a long form piece this way, but I never found the project for this format. Let me tell you, this is an entirely different way of writing.

Now we are in the living room watching The Day of the Doctor, which is the mini episode before the 50th anniversary anniversary of Doctor Who. If you haven’t seen it’ I highly recommend it.

And since we are watching YouTube, everyone is yelling out videos to watch. It gets bad fast.

So I think I’ve hit my quota for today. No one can argue I’m not trying hard to hit this challenge.

Making Things With Paper Craft

In the last few years a lot of light has been shed on all sorts of sub cultures and hobbies.  With the advent of social media it would seem that just about every strange group is getting its time in the sun.  One that has come to my attention a while back that still interests me is paper craft.

The concept is pretty simple, which is probably why it has as much traction as it does.  You cut out the pattern of any object and then glue it into shape.  This isn’t entirely new.  When I was a kid you could buy books with pop out cardboard shapes that you could make models of cars or buildings out of.  But, of course, the Internet turns everything up to eleven.

Paper craft as a scene started with patterns of cube like dolls that you could print out and make.  These were usually of movie and TV show characters like Batman.  The open source nature of the Internet allowed people to share new and increasingly more complex patterns with each other.

Now you can find models of any object or character online.  I have seen someone make full scale Iron Man armor, or a statue of any space ship from sci-fi.  All of this comes from the same tools and materials: a printer, a knife, paper, and some glue.

The thing I like most about paper craft is that it lowers the barrier of entry of making things.  Paper craft is a sub genera of the Maker movement, which is a group of people who build all sorts of things using rapid prototyping techniques.  This usually involves 3D printers, CNC machines, microcontrollers, and hard edge materials like metal.  These things can be very complicated and not the friendliest to new comers.  Especially if you are teaching yourself.

Paper craft eliminates that in two ways: the materials are super cheap.  It’s paper.  If you screw up, you just print the pattern again.  And the patterns themselves are either self-explanatory or have the directions printed on them, which make starting very easy.  Plus, most of us have done something like this when we were kids, so its something that most of us should be comfortable with.

I don’t think paper craft has hit critical mass and punched through into the main stream yet, but I think it will.  There is so much untapped creativity out in the world now and this is an easy way to access it.  I have some projects with this that I might try, I’ll let you know if anything cool comes of it.  Or if I fuck up in a major way, which, let’s face it, would be a better post.

And hey, it’ll give me something to do with my printer.

photo credit: a440 via photopin cc