WARNING: May contain naughty language.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Insidious (and Expensive) Delight of Reading a Great Anthology

I'm currently engrossed in a great collection of urban fantasy short stories called "Urban Allies". Relatively new book, it contains a number of authors whose work I've read before but more writers who are new to me. The concept is simple but VERY KEWL.

When I was much younger and most comic titles sold for 35 to 45 CENTS each, one of my favorite monthly titles was the Marvel Team Ups. Two traditionally "solo" heroes would find themselves having to work together to combat the latest menace. Thus, the Punisher would fight side by side Ghost Rider. Or Spider-Man and Man Thing (which never failed to BLOW MY MIND).

"Urban Allies" does the same thing to equal effect. Take two protagonists from an established series, mix 'em together and see what happens.

I'm enjoying it immensely. But there is a problem...

I'm a methodical planner when it comes to my reading. I aggressively use Goodreads Want To Read tag on a great many books. At this time, I'm 75% finished with "Urban Allies" and noticed that my Want to Read List is growing. Fast. Every time I read a short work with an author I don't recognize, I add them to the list.

Which I'm sure is one of the goals of the anthology.

Glad I fell into their target audience so easily. Time to borrow from my 401(k) in order to fund my next round of binge-reading, I guess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Essentialism: A New Way of Looking at Everything

I first heard about this book from a co-worker who read it and gained a lot of insight. I thought it sounded intriguing, so I picked up a copy that day.

While it is a fast read (not a lot of pages - falls into the category of LBB (Little Business Book) - it is chockfull of goodness.

The primary point of the book is that all people are stretched too thin - whether at work, at home, at play or all places in-between. It is too easy to go from a challenged and happy "winner" to a disgruntled, disillusioned burn out without proper guidance.

While reading the book, I had several "aha" moments and knew PRECISELY what the author was getting at.

Just to be clear, like most books of this nature, I don't agree with 100% of his statements. But I can appreciate and (even better) adopt 90%+ of his recommendations. I was delighted to find that I was already doing more than a few of his process steps on my own. Reading this book allowed me to further refine, define and adopt better approach to work and life.

I took copious notes (in pencil, in the margins) and suspect I'll be referring to it many times in the future.

"Essentialism" is a quick book, but well worth your time.

I've already started to apply some of the lessons to my writing. For example, under the category of the fallacy of sunk-cost basis. For close to two decades the Concorde flew transatlantic flights between North America and Europe. While it trimmed the time of the crossing to 2.5 hours, it literally lost millions of dollars on every flight! Yet, the owners of the company were CERTAIN that if the just waited it out, things would turn around.

20 years and 20 BILLION dollars later, they stopped operations. Why did they continue? Sunk-cost basis, that's why. The irrational feeling of "well, we've come this far. We can't stop now."

WRONG! You can and should continually inspect your results, make corrections, change strategy and if nothing else works - STOP IMMEDIATELY.

I have a short story I wrote six years ago; one of my first ever. Took it to Viable Paradise where it was promptly shredded by instructors and peers alike.

Ouch. But I continually tinker with it, knowing that there is a great story in it. I just have to chip away all the crap surrounding it. BUT in the time I've spent re-jiggering the work, I could have written at least 3 or 4 new things. Reading this book explained my irrational desire to continue working on a dead horse. I might end up recycling scenes or even the basic premise, but that story is DOA.

"Essentialism" is filled with such wisdom and each day I find a new method to apply to my work and home life.

Give it a read. You won't be sorry.

Monday, August 1, 2016

10 Things I Learned Watching "Sharknado: The 4th Awakens"

For the past several years I've cleared my calendar in late July / early August to await the annual extravaganza which is Syfy's Sharknado. 

Combine the most talented actors of this century with cutting-edge special effects, a top-shelf script, touching dialogue, complex and subtle character interactions and add a swirling vortex of sharks and you may start to appreciate the spectacle which is SHARKNADO.

After watching the premiere last night, I found myself unable to sleep. I was too amped up from the 120 minutes of pure, unrefined awesome I'd just experienced. So I reflected upon the lessons learned from watching the movie.


#1: Sharknadoes DO occur, so best be prepared. Always have an industrial-strength chainsaw fueled and ready for action. A chainsaw is the ONLY thing which can save you in the event of such a disaster. 

#2: If a sharknado passes over a nuclear power plant, it gets upgraded to a NUKENADO and the sharks within will glow with radioactivity. Instead of just devouring you on the fly, they can explode like finned gamma ray bursts! Very dangerous!!!

#3: A sharknado passing over high-tension electrical wires will absorb the energy and transform into a LIGHTNINGNADO! (Google it - there is such a thing) Almost as dangerous as a NUKENADO (see #2 above), the maelstrom of large carnivorous fish will also discharge gigavolts of electrical energy below, electrocuting everything in its path. I know, right?!

#4: Despite being a Chicagoan for the past 16 years and never seeing them before, there are apparently a lot of palm trees along Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park. Not sure how I missed those...

#5: A blue whale will have no problems devouring a giant Great White Shark. The unfathomable strength of a sharknado is more than enough to keep the 120 foot long, 40 ton mammal in the air. In fact, during such an event, it is common for the sharks to eat each other in rapid succession like Russian nesting dolls.

#6: Cutting edge scientists of tomorrow will all wear Google Smart Glasses, use rubber bands and velcro to attach iPads to their forearms and have not one, but TWO Bluetooth earbuds. They will science the shit out of any problems we might face.

#7: Comcast is very subtle about their clever product placement ads. This includes Xfinity, NBC, Universal studios and myriad other holdings they own. As a corollary to this, when Comcast essentially owns the rights to every movie or TV show produced over the past decade, there is no shame (or legal problems) with plagiarizing (...that word just LOOKS wrong, doesn't it?) your own intellectual property.

#8: Ignore #1. The very best weapon one can use in the event of a sharknado is actually a mechanoid suit of powered battle armor, armed with not one, but TWO chainsaws affixed to where one's hands should be. Opposable digits are unnecessary in the event of a sharknado. But such suits are hard to find in an emergency...

#9: Fireworks are an effective method of nullifying a sharknado. Simply stuff the pyrotechnics in the barrel of a cannon (such as the kind frequently found on pirate ships), toss in a match, take aim and BOOOM! No more sharknado.

#10: Carrot Top is now an Uber driver in Vegas. Always wondered what happened to him...

Now I have another year of waiting to get my next fix. Oh, well. At least I recorded it on the DVR.