Categories
Craft

One More Time With the Writing Tracker

If you’ve met me, you probably know that I love tracking things.

  1. I’ve kept track of my reading habits on Goodreads (and other services) since 2006. That’s almost a decade at this point.
  2. I’ve owned three Fitbits over the years and am constantly trying to figure out ways to get more steps so that I can reach 10,000 steps a day.
  3. Whenever I decide that it’s time to lose weight, I use apps like Lose It or MyFitnessPal to track calories (until I get frustrated and eat all of the calories I can find).
  4. One of the main ways I’ve tried to get serious about my writing is by tracking my daily output. I’ve had some success with this in the past, but whenever I’ve failed, I’ve failed spectacularly and gone months without writing a word.

This year I’m making an effort to track all of those things again because I’m a masochist. They’re basically listed in order of how difficult I find them to achieve.

Categories
Web

Look, I Made a New Website!

After much tinkering, I’ve finally decided to replace my WordPress site with a brand-spanking new static version generated in Jekyll.

The Jekyll installation currently lives on an Amazon EC2 instance so that I can rebuild it from anywhere, but if EC2 starts costing too much money, I’ll probably configure it on one of my Macs instead.

I generally use a shell script to deploy the site; first, it does a Jekyll build, then it uses rsync to transfer the files from EC2 to Dreamhost via ssh/sftp. It took a little bit to figure out how to get ssh keys set up on both so that rsync wouldn’t prompt for a password, but in the end it all came down to file permissions. I’ve also configured Rake so that I can test my build with html_proofer and deploy the site using my Rakefile.

The coolest part? Thanks to Panic’s Coda for iOS, I can deploy the whole thing from my iPhone – start to finish!

The current template is called Skinny Bones. I’ve tweaked it a little bit here and there, but it’s mostly the same.

An archival version of my old site currently lives on at old.unsquare.com. I’ve only ported over a selection of my old posts, and I may eventually take the old site down completely.

Categories
Television

Girls, Nudity and Critical Foot-In-Mouth Disease

I’ve only barely watched Girls, but it’s clear from what I’ve seen of it that realistic, awkward sexuality is an important part of the show’s DNA.

Accordingly, when Tim Malloy from The Wrap discussed Lena Dunham’s nudity at a recent Television Critics Association panel for the show, he set off a miniature firestorm when he said he didn’t “get the purpose” of all that clothes-free acting.

Although I definitely don’t want to add to the dog-pile that inevitably occurs when someone makes a faux pas that goes viral, I would like to discuss some aspects of Malloy’s “question” that may help explain why this incident rubbed so many people the wrong way.

Categories
Craft

Watch Your Fucking Mouth

I’ve been reading a lot of unproduced screenplays recently, and a few things have been jumping out at me.

First off: a lot of writers fumble on structure. A lot of what I’ve read has shown clear signs of competence but wandered around plotless for upwards of fifty pages. Some writers can pull off plotless, but most of them are novelists.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of writers are really bad at swearing. I’ll read a script full of characters saying fuck every other sentence and it just rings untrue. I always feel a bit silly when I ding a script for “too much swearing”, so I’ve been trying to put my finger on what bothers me about it. I’m no prude, and some of my favorite scenes and movies are full of swearing, so what’s different about these scripts?

Categories
Comedy

See You Next Tuesday: How and Why The Onion Crossed the Line

The 2013 Academy Awards ceremony was last night, February 24th, and critics both amateur and professional are weighing in with various post-ceremony reactions. There weren’t any huge upsets – Argo won Best Picture, as the buzz had predicted – and most commentators agree that Seth McFarlane relied on too much crass humor and approached the ceremony as if it was a roast instead of a celebration.

However, the most lingering controversy originated from outside the event, when The Onion’s Twitter account tweeted (and later deleted) a joke that referred to nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis as a “c—“.

The Onion quickly posted an out-of-character apology from their CEO first thing this morning, but memories are long on the internet, and there are some people who will never forgive them for this incident.

The interesting thing is that The Onion has a long history of posting edgy satire, but as far as I know, this is the only time they’ve ever chosen to publicly apologize for one of their jokes missing the mark.

Categories
Craft

Write Every Day for a Month, Part One of Twelve

Last year I bought a giant wall calendar that I used to track my writing habits. I used a green check to indicate days when I wrote, and red checks on days that I didn’t. I bought the calendar a few months into the year, so one of the first things I did was put red checks through those months. This was not a good beginning.

I ended up writing only intermittently, usually one or two days here and there followed by weeks of nothing. Lots of red Xs, easy to see from across the room. It didn’t take long before I only updated the calendar occasionally, and usually only to add a bunch of red Xs. I did have success late in the year when I wrote a story and had it accepted for publication, but after that I struggled with all of my follow-up work, and pretty soon I stopped updating the calendar at all. It was clear that my system wasn’t working.

Categories
Games

It’s Official: I’m Hooked on PC Gaming

The Witcher 2

Last night I played The Witcher 2 for several hours by accident.

I’d just re-installed the game on my Mac Mini’s Bootcamp partition after realizing that I could free up space by reformatting a spare external drive. I sat down at the computer to make sure everything was up to date and running properly and ended up getting sucked into the game.

Freeing up disk space was actually kind of a huge deal because until recently I could either have The Witcher 2 installed (it takes up most of the partition with its 21gb install) or I could install a handful of games in Steam. When your hard drive is always about to run out of storage space it definitely puts a damper on things.

Categories
Music

OK Computer: An Autobiography

OK Computer B&W

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time, mostly because I just turned thirty and that is supposed to Mean Something.

One thing that struck me recently is that this year marks the fifteenth anniversary of Radiohead’s OK Computer, which is literally half a lifetime ago.

I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

OK Computer was a complete revelation when I first heard it back in 1997. You could draw a line and separate my experiences with music into the years before and the years after I heard it.

Categories
Games

The Nature of a Good Plot Twist

I finished playing Heavy Rain last night, and it got me thinking about plot twists and their function in storytelling. Heavy Rain is a game that places itself firmly in the “thriller movie” genre, for better or worse.

It’s great at building tension and getting you to care about the characters you meet and control, but it falls into the trap that undermines so many thrillers, namely that its endgame centers around a “shocking” reveal that doesn’t actually make any logical sense.

(Just a quick warning: this rest of this post will contain spoilers about movies that are old enough I will assume everyone has seen them. There will be no Heavy Rain spoilers, however.)

The problem with plot twists, see, is that by nature they should make you jump out of your seat or gasp in horror. You’d never expect that [CHARACTER NAME] was the killer in Heavy Rain, after all, and you are of course horrified that you empathized with the character while playing. That’s the root of the problem, though; in order to make the twist ending truly surprising, the game’s writers decided to fill the story with red herrings and give no real concrete clues about the real killer’s identity. They didn’t want you to figure it out ahead of time, after all.

Categories
Books

Books of The Future!

Just got caught up reading a very lengthy (and contentious) comment thread over at Making Light regarding Amazon vs. Macmillan and eBooks in general, and it got me thinking. One of the commenters puts forth the idea that eBooks are the ultimate future of reading, and that those silly old things made out of paper will disappear into history shortly enough once eReaders make it big.

I see a couple of problems with this. First off, the 250 unread books currently looming on my bookshelves beg to differ. They sure aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Same with the millions of books in new and used book stores and libraries. The commenter theorizes that non-electronic books are going to become collector’s items for folks (like me) who just can’t let go of physical books and want to live in the past.

The problem with this, though, is that the argument is completely backwards. eReaders are the luxury item. The people who are most interested in eReaders are people who read a LOT because they see the attraction of carrying around 100s of books in their pockets and also because they think they can justify the sticker price. I definitely know that if I took the plunge and dropped several hundred dollars on an eReader any time soon that I’d feel the need to buy all my new books on that platform to justify the cost.