One Lovely Blog Award: Chain Letter, Part 2

One Lovely Blog Award Tree and Heart Logos

Friends, Romans, country folk—I have received my second blogging award from Lydia and Anastasia who share the Cupcakes and Popcorn blog (thanks, ladies). Though I still think the chain letter-like setup is a bit odd, I figure I could use the extra traffic and followers that might result from playing along (follow me!).

The rules of the One Lovely Blog Award: 

  • You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog (this totally ruins my plan of not linking to their blog and, instead, just saying bad things about them behind their backs).
  • You must list the rules and display the award (there are two apparent logos/images for the award, which I found unnecessarily confusing, so I put them together as one .jpeg file).
  • You must add 7 facts about yourself (I will consider being truthful).
  • You must nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they’ve been nominated (yes, more victims—15 seems like a bit much, though).
  • You must display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you (how long do I have to follow them for?).

Seven supposed facts about A.D. Martin:

1. I am awesome.
2. If you take away my veil of awesomeness, you will only find more awesomeness underneath.
3. The bit above was inspired by Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother, but also inspired by my innate awesomeness.
4. I am about to start watching Once Upon a Time because another blogger (Ursula) suggested that I give it a try.
5. I think the Guardians of the Galaxy film is great and that it does very well bouncing back and forth between pathos and humor.
Six. I just spelled the number six phonetically to be annoying and to have an excuse not to provide any real information about myself.
7. I may or may not continue to participate in these types of awards in the future. Eh, I probably will. Continue reading

Major Influences #6: Post-Atari and Pre-Wii Video Games

I’ve covered a good amount of influential TV shows in my prior “major influences” posts, and it’s about time I move on to another medium: video games.

The Gateway Consoles

Growing up, my siblings and I had the privilege of owning a few video game consoles. Our first console was the Sega Master System, which I can only assume we got many years after its launch; I wasn’t born yet at its release, but definitely could talk and walk by the time it showed up in our home.

As far as I recall, my favorite titles on the Master System was Alex Kidd in Miracle World (which featured rock-paper-scissors as a primary game mechanic) and My Hero (in which the player character is KO’ed by some jerk in a mohawk two seconds after you press start, and you spend the entire game punching and kicking people to get the player character’s girlfriend back).

Ice Hockey and Bad News Baseball NES

Ice Hockey and Bad News Baseball. Guess which is which.

Later, my family also got the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Yes, I played Mario games, but my favorite games were a bit more obscure: Bad News BaseballIce Hockey; and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Three Kingdoms is a “historical simulation” by KOEI based on a Chinese historical fiction novel. Along with true sequels, KOEI also later released related titles based on the same source material, the most famous of which would be the Dynasty Wariors hack’n’slash games. Over the years, I continued to play many iterations of the Three Kingdoms series, with my favorites being VIII and X.

A less obscure NES favorite of mine is the original Final Fantasy.

All in all, I wasn’t really all that into video games during the NES era.

Golden Age of the JRPG

It wasn’t until the Super Nintendo (SNES) that my video game addiction truly began.Through the SNES, I started getting into fighting games via Capcom’s Street Fighter II (and its many reincarnations), but what I really became hooked on were Japanese role-playing games (JPRGs). I was drawn to RPGs because they had stronger narratives, stories, and dialogue than any other video game genre at the time.

In particular, I liked Final Fantasy III (with many characters developed beyond any level I’d seen previously in a game), Chrono Trigger (so much time-jumping awesomeness), Lufia II (the ending’s rather dramatic), Breath of Fire II (you play a dude who transforms into a dragon and blows people away, ’nuff said), Earthbound (hilarious and quirky), Robotrek (you’re an inventor-kid who battles monsters and other things using robots; somewhat humorous, but not quite as much as Earthbound), and Harvest Moon (you farm and milk cows—oh, and get married and have babies).

Eartbound SNES

Earthbound‘s four young heroes: three psychics and, uh, an engineer.

Earthbound might be my favorite game on the SNES due to its off-beat humor. You play as Ness, a kid who witnesses the death of an alien that looks like a fly. Before dying, the fly sends you on a quest in which you use your baseball bat and psychic powers to save the world from a bleak future. Some of the enemies you face include the New Age Retro Hippie, Annoying Old Party Man, and Insane Cultist. To compare its sense of humor to something contemporary, I’d point to Adventure Time. It’s mathematical.

The Rise of Cinematic Video Games

The Golden Age of JRPGs continued well past the time of the SNES and into an era during which Sony absolutely dominated the market with the Playstation and Playstation 2.

Still avid fans of JRPGs at the time, the sole reason my siblings and I got the Playstation instead of a competing console was because we were chasing Squaresoft and its Final Fantasy franchise. To hold us over while we waited for the next iteration of Final Fantasy, we started our Playstation experience with Battle Arena Toshinden, a clunky but lovable fighting game, and Wild Arms, another JRPG. While fairly awesome in its own right, the wild west-themed Wild Arms simply cannot hold a candle to the masterpiece that is Final Fantasy VII, though Wild Arms does have a ridonkulously impressive opening theme (particularly if you’re an anime nerd):

Final Fantasy VII has one of the most compelling RPG narratives of all time topped off with beautiful musical compositions by Nobuo Uematsu. Due to its popularity and general awesomeness, the game spawned several spin-offs (including my favorite PSP game, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, and an impressive feature length motion picture). Subsequent Final Fantasy games were rather hit or miss, but I’ll say I loved Final Fantasy Tactics, and liked VIII and X more than the others (likely because I didn’t have a pre-pubescent aversion to love stories).

Final Fantasy Advent Children Zack Fair Aeris Gainsborough Cloud Strife Tifa Lockheart

Continue reading

Moon – Movie Review

Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell in Moon (2009)Directed by Duncan Jones and featuring the talents of Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, Moon is an indie science fiction drama that shouldn’t be missed.

Nearing the end of his three-year contract mining helium-3 all by his lonesome on the far side of the moon, Sam Bell (Rockwell) is just about ready to go back to Earth. After spending so much time with only a computer AI named GERTY (Spacey) to talk to, Sam starts getting a bit loopy and crashes his Moon-car (not what it’s really called, but you get the idea). Then, stuff happens. Interesting stuff.

What’s so awesome about Moon?

To avoid further spoilers, I won’t say all that much, except that Sam Rockwell by himself on the Moon is much more entertaining than Sandra Bullock by herself in space (Gravity is overrated, people—sorry, I had to say it).

Moon is often tense and, even in its moments of silence, it should keep you thinking. There are very sympathetic, touching scenes, as well as a bit of comedy here and there (if you don’t mind a substantial spoiler or have already seen the film, I’m embedding a YouTube video of a moment I thought was kind of hilarious after the break).

Sam Rockwell’s performance is great in this movie, showing a few layers of depth. Kevin Spacey’s voice work as the robot/AI-companion is predictably good as well.

What’s not that awesome?

As a 2009 indie flick with a moderate budget, Moon‘s CG doesn’t hold up to modern blockbusters (I only saw Gravity a few weeks ago, so it was hard not to notice some special effects flaws as I re-watched Moon).

It’s also slightly slow in the beginning, but if you’re like me, your interest level will grow pretty quickly after ten minutes or so.

Overall—

I think this film is more than worth a watch. I watched it once in 2009, once again last week, and then again two days after that. So, I guess it’s worth three watches.

Continue reading

Rape as a Plot Point

While critiquing a manuscript, I told the writer that I felt uneasy about the multiple rapes that occur in his story (though they all occur “off camera”). I told him that if he’s going to include rape in his novel, he should probably elaborate a bit on the social and psychological ramifications rather than just use rape to drive the plot forward. Not long after that discussion, that same writer told me I probably wouldn’t like a certain movie simply because there’s a rape scene (he totally ignored the fact that my advice indicated that there may be exceptions to having rape in a narrative). Naturally, I then started Googling the issue and decided to write this post to tell that writer (and others) to be careful when writing about rape in fiction (it’s been said so many times by so many people, you’d think it’d be a given, but evidently it’s not).

Coincidentally, there’s an ongoing pseudo-movement of journalists, writers and other folks responding to the trend of using rape as plot in television, primarily in reaction to Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Scandal, and House of Cards (disclaimer: of these series, I’ve seen only season one of House of Cards). These opinions overlap greatly and I think they reflect and reinforce my prior viewpoint on rape as a plot point.

Lazy Plot Device

Rape is too often a lazy plot device and it’s getting to be a cliche.

In her article, “Hey TV: Stop Raping Women,” Karen Valby notes that “it seems whenever a female character needs a juicy arc or humanizing touch, writers fall back on the easy, awful crime of rape,” despite the fact that “there are countless plot-generating life obstacles that don’t involve sexual assault.” Also see “Can We Stop Using Rape as a Plot Device” by Clementine Ford (noting “[s]exual violence has become the go-to plot device for writers looking to give their female characters substance despite having no apparent understanding or interest in the rounder complexities of women as equal participants”); and “‘Downton Abbey’ And the Problem of Rape as a Plot Point” by Lauren Duca (finding that “the [rape] scene [in Downton Abbey] functioned as an unsympathetically lazy plot point”). Continue reading

Barnes & Noble Cafe Seats Rant

There are way too many people taking up cafe tables at my local Barnes & Noble without purchasing a single drink. I’m generally fine with it when the place is half empty, but it’s bad etiquette to sit there at your drink-less table when paying customers are waiting for a spot (and it’s also against store policy). It’s extra annoying when these groups of two or three people can’t pool the money to purchase a $2 drink when they seem like they can easily afford it (well, they look pretty well off with their ipads and macbooks).

I miss the overzealous cafe supervisor who walked around and reminded people of the store policy every thirty minutes. That guy was awesome. Come back, hipster-glasses dude!

And in the time I took to write this stupid rant, two tables beside me opened upoh, well, one’s taken now. Now it’s empty again ’cause I can’t find a suitable image for this post. Oh, wait, someone else showed up.

Photo by Luigi Novi, distributed under CC BY 3.0.

Photo by Luigi Novi, distributed under CC BY 3.0.

 

Traditional Publishing VS Self-Publishing: Considerations for a First Novel

Publishing and Distribution

After getting blog comments from writers who believe traditional publishing is dead or dying, I thought it was a good time to reassess the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing. With my buddy Google, I examined at the opinions of a handful of folks (who have good SEO) and basically reaffirmed my desire to try for traditional publishing first.

Basic Differences

Traditional publishing is where a publishing company invests in your manuscript: they pay for printing, distribution, marketing, and give you an advance on royalties. In exchange, the publisher takes a hefty cut of the royalties on sales. The most common route to secure a publisher is through an agent who act as so-called gatekeepers of traditional publishing (generally requiring a highly polished manuscript and a good pitch in the form of a query letter).

Self-publishing is essentially where the writer funds everything herself.

Pros, Cons, and Other Considerations

1. Advances VS Out-of-pocket Costs

Oftentimes, when an author publishes traditionally, the publisher will pay him an advance on royalties. For self-publishing, the author has to pay upfront for a great many things (e.g., editing, cover design, printing, marketing). I’m pretty sure traditional publishing is superior in this respect.

2. Quality VS Speed

An oft-cited drawback for traditional publishing is that it takes so stinkin’ long to go from a finished manuscript to having the book available for sale. Traditional publishers take while to make it happen, whereas self-publishing allows nearly instantaneous satisfaction.

An important factor to consider, however, is the quality of your work. A traditional publisher generally supplies you with a team to edit the content, design the cover, and what-not. This helps ensure the book is as awesome as possible once it’s released. With self-publishing, in the rush to get the book out there, many authors forgo substantial editing and quality checks and end up releasing a product that could have been much better had they put a little more time (and money) into it.

Then there’s also an apparent issue as to whether freelance editors are as effective as editors working for for major publishers. According to Keith Martin-Smith, the editors available to self-publishing authors do not have “the breadth of experience traditional publishers’ editors have,” which results in self-published works being sub par. Martin-Smith goes on to say that freelance editors lack the motivation to say “this book stinks and won’t make a dime, and here’s why,” and are more likely to leave a lot of self-published books to go to press “poorly written.”

In contrast, James Altucher believes the best editors (and cover/book designers, and marketers) are “no longer [just] working at the big publishing houses,” but are available to self-publishing authors. Thus, according to Altucher, self- Continue reading

Major Influences #5: Shows with Characters Ages 25+

Major Influences Friends HIMYM The Office Mad Men Breaking Bad Sons of Anarchy Lost

As no one has probably noticed, most of the shows in my prior “Major Influences” posts are family and teen shows. This post will be on shows that aren’t quite as family friendly, which focus on characters over the age of twenty-five and allows for much heavier drama.

For the most part, comedies influence me in a fairly obvious way: it alters the kind of jokes I make with my friends and family, and in my writing. The effects of dramas, on the other hand, aren’t so easy to notice (aside from trying not to use plots I’ve seen elsewherejust as I try to avoid stealing comedy bits).

The best effect of any narrative, however, is the immersion into so many other lives and perspectives. You get to experience things which you might never get to experience yourself. Of course, I’m a proponent of travel and experiencing things firsthand (within reason), but you only have so much energy and fundsbooks, film, and television can get you places at a fraction of the time and cost and exposes you to scenarios you’d probably rather avoid in real life.

Anyway, on to the shows about characters considerably beyond their teenage years. Continue reading