Archive for April, 2010

Cage wins… fatality!

So, I was reading the newspaper for the first time in about a decade yesterday, and I noticed the article – “High court takes on video game case.” Of course, my interest was piqued.

So, gov. Schwarzenegger wants to restrict “disturbingly violent” video games from reaching minors, under the 1st amendment. (the same part of the amendment that allowed for the restriction of the sale/marketing of porn to minors)

At first, I got my back all up… for all my usual reasons:

– kids don’t shoot people because of Grand Theft Auto, they shoot people because they are messed up
– treating the symptom of a disease will never cure the disease (in this case – bad parenting)
– I played violent video games and I turned out just fine… I mean – I turned out okay… well, I’m not out there shooting people… yet.

I slept on the article and now I’m blogging about it. I’m actually more torn than I thought I would be. I see the argument from both sides, and I have to say – I’m leaning towards Arnold’s side more and more.

Prohibiting the sale of tobacco and booze to minors makes sense – the effect on their developing bodies is actually quantifiably harmful. No argument there.

Prohibiting the sale of porn? Yeah, having 2 kids of my own, I am in full support of that. Let kids be kids. They don’t need to know about everything right out of the gate. Let them build their maturity to a level where they can handle that imagery.

So, why not violent video games? I won’t show my kids a porn flick for many of the same reasons I won’t show them Kill Bill – they’re just not ready for it. Should the government decide when they’re ready for porn/violence? That’s where I’m still waffling. I believe some people just shouldn’t be parents, and for those “families” – maybe a law is a good idea. However, for those of us who put our children above everything else, are involved in their lives and take an active part shaping those lives – I’m not so certain.

So, it’s not as black/white as it used to be for me. Damn, I don’t want to grow up!


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Life in Iowa

Yes… there are people here.

I’m just as surprised as you!

I really didn’t know what to expect… Iowa is cornfields and nothing else, right? Wasn’t Captain Kirk born here? Well, whatever my preconceptions, Iowa is quite similar to Connecticut. Actually, Des Moines “feels” like Hartford – smallish city, not too many cars, not much going on. Flatten out CT a bit more, and there you have Iowa in the small strip I’ve seen – the airport to downtown.

Like Minneapolis, they have skywalks here (but no light-speed train). However, the skywalks are not as fancy or as integrated as in Minneapolis. I’m not sure which city had them first (and I’m too lazy/tired to look it up on wikipedia), but either Des Moines came up with it first and everyone else has done it better, or everyone else did it first and Des Moines failed to capture what Minneapolis has.

Bah, whatever… I’m talking about corn fields, capt. Kirk and skywalks when I really want to talk about… I can’t. I have some writing projects out there, and I don’t want to jinx ’em. I also have… something else brewing. Could be big, could be just another “Matt dream.” (no, not the kind where I wake up with one eye open, drool at the corner of my mouth, and I say “why I have no toaster?”)

More on that VERY soon.

So, I tried my trick with Delta this morning at 4:50am. All the airlines must be wise to my shenanigans now – they wouldn’t let me check my bag all the way thru without $25 bucks either. So, while I won’t rescind my ascii middle finger to Continental, I will include all other airlines as targets of my rage (except Southwest). They are all wankers, and they can burn in HECK! (obscure reference link)

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Crazy week… I got the call monday night to fly out to Houston for some Symantec training on the new version of my product (all the codenames are from Star Trek… Uhura, Sulu… what’s “Oban”?)

So, I’m here in Houston and guess what they got – freakin space shuttle lighting! (check out the pic) It looks like a giant space shuttle is above the hotel, ready to blast-off and incinerate everyone in the conference center. Good stuff. The gift stores all have shuttles and crap in them too.

So far, I don’t like it as much as Minneapolis (where’s my lightrail?). Sure, my hotel is in a mall, but you have to drive everywhere… it’s all so spread out. Sam Houston must have spit into the air and said: “build it wide… we gots the space.”

So, really, I don’t have a real good point to this blog… except, maybe – Continental Airlines bites my ass. Continental owns Texas, and it was the only way I could get a flight in fast enough. So, all the airlines (except Southwest) charge for checked bags. All this does is makes everyone bring carryons and delay flights. Well, what I usually do is pack a bag small enough for a carryon, but then I just check it thru at the gate (the airlines don’t charge you at the gate). I hate lugging crap around. Anyway, I went to do this yesterday and the snotty bitch at the counter glared at me and said “There’ll be a service charge for that.” What the hell? I was too tired to argue.

I keep trying to fly Southwset, because I want to give every other airline a big middle finger for their douche-bagginess, but Southwest doesn’t fly to the cities I’ve been flying to during the times I’ve needed.

So, I hate to use a blog to bitch and moan – but Continental Airlines gets an ascii middle finger for their douche-bagginess. Congratulations!

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How I Write

Since I’m getting back into the swing of things (writing-wise), I thought I’d share a little of the process with my fan and friend (shhh… I know they are the same person).

So, the publishing industry is mostly non-fiction (over 95%). Very little fiction makes it onto the shelves. Eight years ago, my mentor attempted to steer me towards non-fiction because “my chance of getting published was far higher.”

Fuck that.

Real life is boring. There are enough blowhards covering ‘real life’ in newspapers, magazines, countless books and blogs… ahem. I even have a great ‘life story’ to tell – my brutal battle against cancer. However, each time I put pen to paper I only want to write fiction. I want to be taken away to another world. Even now, I’d much rather be writing my piece on our holographic universe or something equally strange. Instead, I’m blogging… okay, I admit – blogging is kinda fun and it’s quick (and I don’t need to revise it 15 times before sending it off to get criticized and rejected by strangers).

So, if the process is so difficult and unrewarding – why the hell do I do it?

Simple answer – I am “home” when I am writing.

I’ve been a whole lotta things in my professional career: dept. store clerk, movie rental clerk, arcade clerk, waiter, janitor, newspaper boy, law clerk, computer tech, technology trainer, IS consultant for enterprise companies. While those are all noble professions, I don’t get the same feeling with them as I do when I write.

I know what you’re thinking – “well, Matt, writing is a hobby… that’s probably why you feel that way.”

To that, I can honestly say writing a book is just as challenging as advising one of the largest banks in the country about their security practices. I’ve done them both, but only one of them will feed my family… and that’s a tragedy (for me).

Okay, enough bitching. Here’s my fiction process:

I start with an idea. It’s usually a simple idea, but it’s a special idea. Something about it sticks in my mind and I dedicate a portion of my waking mind to that idea for weeks on end. Even when I’m with my friends, on the computer, talking with my wife, or playing with my kids – the idea is always consuming brain cycles. If the idea survives for a month or two, I jot some basic notes – characters, story basics, etc. These notes are basic – 1 page, no more. There, the idea sits… unless I cannot let it sit any longer.

So far, in my life, I’ve had three ideas make it to the point of me typing “Chapter 1” into my word processor. If I get that far, I usually do some research too – those notes are more detailed. However, the research is just copy-n-pasted paragraphs and/or links to material – still very basic.

Once all of that is together, I just start writing. No outline. No tape recorder with hours of my lame voice (I do loathe the sound of my voice on a tape recorder/home video). No ‘theme document’ with all the fluffy ideas I want to pass on to future generations.

I just write.

Chapter 1 to Chapter X. Start to finish. One page after the other. Until it’s freakin’ done.

To me, this is the only way I can write fiction. I don’t want my story or characters boxed-in by an outline or predefined rules. Sure, I may have some major scenes in my head, but even those may shift or evolve when I get to them. The best moments are when my characters surprise me. Damn, I love that shit.

By writing ‘off the cuff’ like this, the story flows more naturally. Now, I’m no expert – I have yet to publish a book. However, this method works for me and I can’t see myself changing anytime soon.

I’m also not out to set the world ablaze with the next great American novel. I don’t have some great message to convey or anything. For me, writing is as simple as this parting quote:

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”

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So, last night, I took my first pure shot of caffeine…

It was marvelous!

Driving with the kids 14+ hours from NC to CT is always quite the trek. Towards the end, we start to fade and sometimes I lose track of long stretches of road. My wife suggested those 5-hour energy drinks you see at gas stations and rest stops. Why not?

Though it tasted like old lemonade (with a touch of medicine and feet), the stuff did work! We weren’t hyper, but the exhaustion was pushed to the background and we were able to drive alert and functional. Awesome stuff!

Since my 13-round bout with cancer, I have certainly loosened my previous Puritan outlook on drugs.

Morphine was my first experience with “the hard stuff”. When all the kings men put me back together again, I needed something to completely warp reality. God Bless Morphine! I remember focusing on two specific things – my drool, and the guy across the room from me in one of the communal recovery rooms. In my mind, my drool had become a river that weaved its way throughout the hospital, and I had to build my rides and walkways around it (right before going under the knife I played Rollercoaster Tycoon for about 15 hours straight). The alien planet that sprung up around my drool was much like the 3D Pandora from Avatar. I really thought I was changing the world around me, and that perhaps I was a government experiment.

Then, the guy across from me in one of my recovery rooms had fallen or some shit. I think he had a bandage across his face, because that’s what I focused on. My Morphine told me that the man had smashed his face so badly that now he was a cyclops. The doctors had to refashion his face to accommodate his one eye. I just wanted to get a good look at it.

After Morphine was Oxycontin. Oh wait – Oxycontin on top of a “pain patch”. What’s a “pain patch”? Well, it’s just like a nicotine patch, but it’s got painkillers that slowly seep into your shoulder and give you a nice, warm feeling for months on end.

Now, all of that is over and I’m healthy… no need for the good stuff anymore. I guess it’s good, as I do have a career and family relying on me. I can’t exactly go back to drool-world or layered meds world these days. But, I do sometimes wonder why I was such a prude when I was a kid. I sure missed out on some great fun!

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My son likes boobies…

… yeah… um… who can blame him?

Recently, he discovered these weird things on his mommy called “boobies”, and yeah, that’s the name we used to describe them to his impressionable 3-year old mind. Since that fateful day, he has enjoyed staring at boobies and using the word in everyday speech.

“… BOOBIES! hahaaha”

At first, my wife and I scolded him – describing “booby” as a “bad word”. Eventually, the endless “booby” tirades stopped and he only sung the word from time to time. Not so bad, but we were still scolding him.

All throughout the scoldings, something didn’t feel quite right. As I struggle to eventually carve a writing career, I have come to view words as tools – neither good nor evil. Words categorized as “vulgar” are no worse, in my opinion, than any other word. Consider the following examples of some dialog between a father and son:

Sample #1. Father: “You are a disappointment and I’m ashamed to have you as part of the family. I wish you were never born.”

Sample #2. Father: “You are a fuckface shithead.”

The first sample can be said on TV, in the supermarket or wherever. Sure, it’s rude… but, it’s not vulgar. I wouldn’t scold my kids for any of those words individually. However, we as a society scold a single word just because of the form of that word.

That’s just stupid.

After a talk with my wife, we decided to not scold our son any longer for his booby obsession. Instead, we will make it clear that all words are safe at home, but other people may take offense to certain words. Also, being rude or disrespectful is never allowed (in the house or in the world), regardless of vulgar/non-vulgar words.

If I even had a doubt about the validity of my conviction here, I would have continued to scold. However, after talking things through, I’m convinced that our culture has it wrong and I have it right. 🙂

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So, I’m getting back into the swing of writing (and hopefully publishing) some fiction and flash fiction. While I was switching careers (and lifestyles), I hastily finished a short story for an Urban Fantasy retelling of a Greek Myth anthology (sorry for the adverb). While I wait to hear on that (should be any day now), I also re-sent one of my heavily-rejected pieces of flash fiction out to Everyday Weirdness, where I published ‘Extra.’

What is ‘Extra?’

Shame on you for not following my microscopic writing career like I was a rock star!

Check out the links I posted to the right. They link to webzines where my work has been published (I even got paid for some of them). ‘Extra’ is probably my favorite so far.

If you are one of my fan (yes, I left off the ‘s’ on purpose), then you might be asking yourself – “Self, where’s ‘The Price of Heroism’?”

Indeed, flashscribe.net (the home for my first published fiction) perished like the mighty dinosaur. However, Claire and her angst appear in the piece I submitted for the Greek anthology, so keep yer fingers crossed. She may yet live again!

So, what’s all this shit about holograms?

I thought you’d never ask!

I stumbled across a free fiction contest where I must incorporate a scientific discovery from 2009 into my piece. While Googling on this topic, I stumbled across this. Whoa-nelly, my creative juices are already flowing!

Though my research on the topic has just begun, I understand this theory as such:

– the universe is a holographic projection from a 2D surface at the edge of the galaxy

– 3D is only our perception of the image

– this is the only theory that can account for some of the crazy black-hole-math (different from “matt-math”)

– the “out of focus” noise/fuzz from this hologram can be measured by instruments anywhere in the galaxy

Yeah, pretty wack, right? I can’t wait to get started…

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