Coffee shops

I fancy myself a writer, but there are a lot of the standard writer activities that I have never really engaged in. I’ve never been part of a real, honest to god writers’ group. The prospect of having to put up and deal with other writers doesn’t often appeal to me. Other things I haven’t done in a long time. It’s been a long time since I’ve read or written in a coffee shop that didn’t own its own record label and have a nationwide chain. It’s a different sort of feel and the people there aren’t of the same caliber.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with chain stores, but I like the environment of a quieter, more downplayed coffee shop and there really aren’t enough of those.

So I set out to find a homegrown coffee shop that had its own charm and feel. Of course I didn’t start trekking across the city aimlessly, I carried my ass to Google like any intelligent person would and searched.

That’s how I found Agora, nestled in the heart of the Rice Village, but somehow managing to escape the Rice Village’s prices. It’s slightly trendy in its own right, but it has good beer, a quiet atmosphere and its open late every day. Something tells me I’ll be coming back to this place.

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Hollywood’s Choice

I read this article and I agreed with it in most of its points. Hollywood has the power to snuff out movie piracy (at least as much as you can), but they don’t want to do it. If they offered movies at a lower cost for download to let people experience them in their homes like Steam does for games, it would cut a lot of that out.

The reason they don’t want to do it is that Hollywood has become comfortable (like a lot of industries) with how things are. They enjoy the price of movie tickets and the cash it brings in each year and they don’t feel that the changes to technology has to effect them. I think we’re going to see that it does though, eventually it will come down to a point where like the e-reader killed Borders, Hollywood studios will be forced to change to stay afloat.

Overheard on New Girl

Just a couple of quotes that really made me laugh from the Fox Television series New Girl, if you haven’t seen it check it out.

Schmidt: Pine is the wood of wood of poor people and out houses

Jess: And Nick why do you have Cannons drawn all over you back?

Winston: Those are Canons Jess.

Jess: Long stem mushrooms?

Winston: Nope.

Jess: So that’s not a mossy cave?

 

Winston: You have the credit rating of a homeless ghost.

I love this show.

The Bully Predicament

I was out of the country and therefore out of the loop for some time and even before that I didn’t give much clout to entertainment news. But I have recently caught wind of a push to make a rated R movie, Bully, into a PG-13 movie. Not because people are saying it was rated wrongfully high. But because people think that children need to see it.

Despite whatever powerful message that the movie might have, if the makers had intended for children to see it, they could have easily walked that line and brought it down to a PG-13 themselves. The rating actually lets a movie get away with a fair bit these days.

But a rating system is supposed to be an unbiased measure of what someone a certain age should be permitted to see. If parents want their kids to go see this movie, then they’re not prohibited from taking them. And its not as if other movies haven’t landed higher ratings (Fast and the Furious landed and R before editing, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back landed and NC-17) and edited their way under the wire to come up with a more family friendly rating.

From what I’ve read, the movie sounds R-rated and just because we might think it will shock kids straight on bullying doesn’t mean we can goad the film ratings board into making parents feel less guilty about letting their kids see something that won’t be any less rated-R. If kids need to see it, if parents want their children to see it, they’ve got that choice.If the movie had wanted to be shown in schools or shown for children, then they had the choice to make a film that could be PG-13.

Bully is based on the book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge concerning the 1993 real-life murder of Bobby Kent. The book was written by Jim Schutze. Since books are a lot less policed than movies when it comes to ratings, maybe kids should just read the book?

Women in Literature

When asked why his works featured so many strong female characters, Joss Whedon once answered: “Because you keep asking me that question.” I’m not much of a fan of his work, truth be told, but I think that we share a common “problem”. That problem being that the things we write are female focused and often times female driven.

 

Why is that a problem? Well it’s not. Besides, there are plenty of movies and books with almost no female representation and no one ever seems to ask where the women are then. No one really should be bothered about one gender being there more than the other for the most part. Yet it always comes into play when there are too many girls running around.

 

I bring this up because of the storm of interest surrounding the release of Hunger Games this coming weekend. I loved the novel, thought it was fantastic and I can’t wait to see the film. But this idea that it’s the next Twilight is an asinine comparison to make. The book is hardly supernatural in nature, deals with none of the same issues, and there’s actually more to the plot than which boy the leading lady picks.

 

Hunger Games features a strong female lead, who for most of her time just tries to survive a situation she’s forced into. The character does what she does to protect someone she loves, not to get the guy and that’s one of the main issues I see in female driven stories. Every leading female character seems to be more defined by which guy she’s after or which one is after her than anything else going on in her life.

 

It’s refreshing to see a female character that’s special for more than how she looks and who actually has a talent. Now I know Hunger Games isn’t time this has happened, you have Ripely from Aliens or (for something more recent) Hermione Granger. Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs. Zoe from Firefly had the run of her relationship and was second in command on the ship and Samus Aran from the Metroid games is a female bounty hunter who has single handled destroyed a solar system’s worth of planets over the years.

 

Strong women in fiction aren’t rare. But all too often weak female characters are accepted, even when they’re badly written and generic and the only thing driving their plot is a man (or some men). In my latest work I’ve taken steps to avoid temptation. My main character from the e-book has no desire for romance or any attraction to anyone because of her condition.

 

I don’t write romance, nor do I ever see myself trying to since I see it is as the battered, over used prostitute of the fiction world. It is literally the most done thing out there and I don’t think straight romance can be interesting, there has to be more there. So from here on out and in anything I can go back and edit to make the changes, I will make a pledge not to weaken any positive female characterization by staking everything that defines them on men or their looks. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of myself really…

Remember, You’re Officially Off the Clock

Remember, you’re officially off the clock…

That’s the sign above the twelfth deck tanning area on the Norwegian Spirit cruise ship. It’s just as hard to take that stance as a writer just as it would be hard to tell it your mind stop thinking. I’ve grown used to the rocking of the boat, though at its size and our speed it can get slightly noticeable at times. But the one thing that I just can’t seem to get used to is the fact that I’m not stuck at a desk where it only makes sense to write down every thought that occurs to me in terms of novel work.

Then again, I seem to retain the ideas I have here better than usual. I actually remembered an idea that pertained to one piece of writing that I had forgotten weeks ago. I pulled the document up and slipped the idea where it belonged. The simple way that I can just drop into one of these straw deck chairs and write (even when there’s easily one hundred and fifty beautiful, scantily clad women around) tells me something very important: Though I want writing to be my work—though writing is hard work—it’s not the kind of work I go on vacation and want to put away and off my mind. It’s not the kind of occupation that I think allows you to do that. That’s not how it works.

Right now it’s 3:37 AM local time off the coast of Honduras and we’re entering our fifth day on out. Oddly enough I’m alone at the top of a ship with several thousand people on it. I haven’t done nearly as much reading as I expected to do. I did read a little fan fiction and I had time to watch the remainder of Being Human on the ride to New Orleans where we caught the boat. I’ve had internet access, thus far, exactly one time since we left the U.S. and that was in a Starbucks in Cozumel, Mexico. I don’t miss the internet as much as I miss the ease it gave writing. When I needed a fact I just looked it up. What I miss most are the people I talked to. My last stint online was spent gathering up a recent version of a story to look over, but that only took a second. I spent more time just messaging my friends. I only sent maybe five messages, two of them business related. But those people I really missed were the ones I had to send something to. Even if I had just talked to them two days earlier.

And we’re not truly without the ability to get online. For .75 cents a minute you can log onto the ship’s wifi and the ship has some strange, almost magical, ability to boost a cell phone signal out and make regular calls at a high premium. My phone hasn’t been charged since day one and it’s still carrying that charge because it’s been off. Honestly if it were slightly cheaper I would jump on it and update some things, but there’s something special about waiting to get home to read the replies. If I get another Starbucks in Roatan, I’m taking advantage.

For now there’s my real writing to get back to, that and the fan fiction I’ve been working on. I want to get some rest and reading in tomorrow. More than anything I want to gain some mileage on this e-book. I know some might think it’s work. But it keeps my mind off of the people I miss and it’s work I enjoy.

Cruise

I’m going away for a week on a cruise. But I can’t ever stop working, so I am hoping to at least do a little writing in the down time I have away from work. See everyone later. 

PayPal Censorship

The story out of Tech Dirt was passed along to me by an email from Smashwords. I’ve looked into using the service as a venue to host my own books and as a tool for formatting my book. The email contains this snippet.

PayPal, the online payment service we use to process credit card payments, has asked Smashwords to remove fiction that contains themes of bestiality, rape and incest.  They tell us they are compelled to do this to remain compliant with the rules of the banks and credit card companies.  Regardless on one’s opinions about these objectionable topics, we view this attempted censorship as a bad precedent.

Internet censorship has been a big issue this past year and it will continue to be a huge topic for years to come. There’s bee a huge machine out there working against independent works of all kinds. If you think this is just about the content, why is it okay to purchase a book like Lolita in a book store, but not okay when you buy the same kind of content online?

Truth be told if you think this is about bestiality it can be found in purchasable fiction too. Many reviews of Anne Rice’s newest work The Wolf Gift.

There’s a timeline over at TechDirt that explains the whole thing and its repercussions. In much the same way that I am telling you this now, Smashwords takes a stance against all of this in their email.

 

Our view at Smashwords:  We believe it’s wrong for credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions to censor legal fiction.  We believe this censorship is targeting a small subset of erotica fiction.  The same censored themes are prevalent in much mainstream fiction.  We believe it would be unfair to authors and readers alike for any organization to censor what writers are allowed to imagine and what readers are allowed to read.  If the PayPal restrictions were taken to the extreme, many mainstream classics including Nabokov’s Lolita or Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind could technically be banned.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with its depiction of rape could be banned.  Even the Bible could fall under the net since it contains scenes of rape and incest. Although such extreme censorship is unlikely, what about moderate censorship?  Therein lies the danger of censorship.  Where does it stop, and where do we draw the line?   It’s difficult for Smashwords or any other retailer, distributor or publisher to assume the role of moral arbiter when there’s so much grey area.  We’re engaged in ongoing discussions with our counterparts at PayPal to reach an equitable solution.

It’s hard to argue with the logic presented here because its not the right of credit card companies to tell you what it is and isn’t alright to buy with your own money. It’s not Paypal’s place to play morality police when there is a simple way for people not to be exposed to this type of literature. I don’t like erotica, I don’t read or buy it—and its that simple. It’s very hard to be exposed to literature that you don’t want to be. It’s not like television where its wafting through the airwaves or radio where anyone within earshot can hear it.

If big corporations are going to bully people into what they can and can’t read what do they get a say in next? Can I not go to Burger King with my Visa because Visa happens to partner with McDonalds? Of course it will more than likely never get that extreme. But it doesn’t mean it should be where it is even right now.

Being Human

I’m beginning to think that Being Human might be the first television show with a viable British and American version that are both watchable and enjoyable for the same person. I’m not sure what batch of horrible witchcraft that Syfy and BBC cooked up to make this wonderful thing happen. But I like it.

If Only…

The writing comes slow these days.

It’s not for lack trying. But this has nothing to do with writer’s block. I don’t really believe in writer’s block—I believe writers block themselves from working in an orderly fashion by wasting their valuable time fretting over whether or not their good enough.

What this does have to do with is coming home exhausted and unable to sit up at the computer. It has to do with working and just not being in the house. While some of it has to do with me having a somewhat more active social life, even that’s been overtaken with tiredness. The times when I do sleep it seems to never be enough. I get my rest in four or six hour bursts that are insufficient, but they are all I can muster.

Some of the ideas I have and the things I want to work on keep me awake. If only I had the time to write them down.