Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Only…have…seconds… Must…be…precise…
10 March, 2009

This morning I was listening to Aisha Tyler on the Adam Carolla Podcast. Twice she said “aphorism” with a long ‘a’. I had always pronounced it with the short ‘a’ and became concerned that I had been mispronouncing it for years.

I couldn’t stand it.

So I interrupted my workout to dash into the house and check with Dictionary. I was right on this one. (She got me on “halcyon”, though.)

I’m such a word nerd.


I Can Stop at Any Time
23 September, 2008

I avoided reading Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series because those I knew that had read even a little bit became irrevocably addicted.

Apparently we all have our Achilles’ heel and mine is Steven Erikson‘s Malazan Book of the Fallen: two nights ago I spent most of my dreamtime worrying that Quick Ben, Kalam, and Fiddler would be okay.

Ditch the Satanists
11 September, 2008

Rachel Manija Brown says, “no book containing Satanists has ever been good”. I certainly have not done an exhaustive catalog of all Satanist-featuring fiction, but my instinct is that her observation is accurate.

But why?

Perhaps it is because Satanists are a cop-out. Rather than showing the baddies to be evil, the author asserts their evilness via their Satanism and relies on the reader to stipulate it. In that regard it could be a failure of the show-don’t-tell mantra.

But Nazis work just fine as baddies, at least for certain generations. The first Indiana Jones film had Nazis; the second had Thuggees. Maybe the Nazis make better villains because their litany of crimes is well-known. (Again, at least for certain generations.)

Storytellers, ditch the Satanists.

Sometimes a Cigar Is just a Book
13 August, 2008

Some weeks ago, after having a nightmare, my oldest asked me if I had nightmares. In that conversation I mentioned that I could only remember one specific nightmare. I have recurring themes like the baddie that will not die no matter how many rounds I put in him but only one actual plot has returned. Even though I only had that dream twice, each time was traumatic enough for me to remember it.

I have a dream that recurs at least of couple of times per year. (It engenders not so much fright as anxiety, so perhaps it is better categorized as a nightpony.) There are two flavors of the dream. In the first I am searching some room at home and discover a stash of books I forgot I had. In the second I am browsing in a book store and notice interesting books (perhaps by some of my favorite authors) of which I’ve never heard.

In both cases the anxiety comes from my concern that the books somehow evaded my notice and may do so again. I wonder what it says about me that the most recurrent arc in my dreams is that I may have missed a good book.

Writer, Edit Thyself
17 June, 2008

Yesterday I read two separate blog entries by two separate working writers that were both filled with spelling and grammar errors. I’ll admit that I am as susceptible to error as any. (My long-time reader can produce copious examples of that.)

But it really annoys me to try to read through those kind of errors, especially for errors other than typographical misspellings. For example, one writer repeatedly used “and” instead of “an”. The other would say things like “I stresses prep work”. It seems that a simple proofreading would have caught these errors.

Are there really any writers in Hollywood who care this little about the quality of their writing? Or is it that writing for the web seems somehow less important than writing for print? Are the Sprachlehrepolizei correct about the precipitous erosion of writing skills induced by the interwebs?

One Billion Chinese Don’t Care
7 November, 2007

The WGA Strike has prompted a lot of commentary from guild members. Obviously for them it’s a momentous event; was I a guild member it would be important to me. Every industry is susceptible to over-estimating its importance and I think the insular nature of Hollywood exacerbates this. But the strike just isn’t that big of a deal to the overwhelming majority of people on the planet.

Unlike some have implied, the strike is not the conflict of good and evil. Rather, it is a price negotiation between producers and consumers. One of the writers asserted that they deserved pay similar to that of actors because without the writers there would be no words for the actors to speak. That’s true as far as it goes. But without actors there would be no one to speak the writers’ words. Both writers and actors are necessary but not sufficient to the industry, as are producers, gaffers, foley artists, etc.

My grandfather, mother, aunt, uncle, and sister all had to join unions for their jobs. I support workers’ right to choose to bargain collectively and certainly it brought some necessary changes in generations past. But I choose to bargain individually. In my profession, collective bargaining would only be advantageous for the lower half of the performers and, like most in my profession, I consider myself firmly in the upper half. My family’s experience with unions has been that they are like government: the actual cost far exceeds the theoretical benefit.

The idea behind a strike is to deprive the employer of revenue as a means to apply pressure in negotiations. Since this devolves to a game of financial chicken, unions maintain war chests to allow them to pay their members during a protracted strike. If the employers have a lot of liquid capital, it can take months to wear them down. During this time, not just the employers and employees are affected: the strike denies consumers access to the goods. Where the consumers identify with the initiator (employer in the case of a lock out or employee in the case of a strike) or where the goods are staples, an extended strike has little effect on the market.

But where the consumers do not identify with the initiator or where the goods are a luxury or even both, an extended strike can have long-term effects on the market. I was a big hockey fan, attending a dozen or so NHL games a year, until the 1992 NHL strike. Part of it was that I was irritated at having to change plans on short notice due to canceled games. Part of it was that I didn’t feel much solidarity with people who were already making quite a bit more than me. But part of it was that I just became accustomed to not following hockey. I found other interests and, by the time the NHL resumed games, I was no longer a consumer.

While I have no doubt that the producers (who assume the financial risk) are attempting to keep as much money for themselves as they can, so are the writers. I don’t know whether each side is being fairly compensated. But I do know that movies and television qualify as luxuries for most people compared to food, shelter, health care, and things like that. And I do know that the majority of people, even of Americans, have the perception that they have a lower standard of living than either the producers or the writers.

Whenever she discounts someone’s concern over some issue, my mother will say, “One billion Chinese don’t care”. Perhaps the WGA and AMPTP ought to consider the impact of a protracted work stoppage. I don’t know about the Chinese, but one billion Indians have a vibrant film industry that could easily take Hollywood’s customers.

400% Confused
4 November, 2007

While at dinner last night, I saw a father wearing a T-shirt with the following inscription silk-screened on the back:

100% .......... Teamwork
100% .......... Attitude
100% .......... Committed
100% .......... Sherwood Soccer

From my playing days I am familiar with the kinds of inspirational slogans of which coaches are quite fond. When exhorting us to give “110%” effort yielded insufficient results, my high school football coach promptly switched to “120%”.

So, even though it seems that fourth comprises the first three and hence the first three ought to sum to 100%, not 300%, I will let that slide. What really bothers me is the heterogeneity of the parts of speech: teamwork, noun; attitude, noun; committed, adjective; Sherwood Soccer, noun. Commitment is the noun form and certainly not unknown to either the general populace or coaches. No T-shirt I copy-edited would have that flaw.

I guess that’s why I don’t coach soccer.