Monday, August 22, 2016

A New Adventure

Today is a big day for me as a twenty-first century teenager. I started the long and tedious process of fulfilling the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, which is the first step in the even longer and more tedious process of earning a Master's Degree.

Today is something that I almost never do. I am actually going to write about my life, like a real blog.

I woke up this morning at my regular hour, and did everything much the same as I have normally done so for the past few months. Made coffee, took a shower, got dressed, put my brace on, drank coffee, ate some food, browsed the internet a tad, thought about the day, and so on. The only thing noticeably different about the beginning of today was what constituted the thoughts I was having about the rest of the day. Today was the first day of classes at my new school: North Hennepin Community College, and of course, that was something that was on my mind. Today I was going to be away from home for almost the entire day at a place of learning, for the first time ever. Last springt I took a math course here to get ready for this fall that took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that wasn't at all the same, because that was just one class, in one part of the college.

Today I got here at 8:45 AM, and got some books. Man, there were a lot of people in the book store this morning. Then I went and waited for close to an hour outside a classroom in a hallway. I went into a class for fifty minutes, then was released to go study. I read two chapters of a textbook and ate lunch, and now I'm writing a blog post, waiting for my MATH 1180, the much awaited, much anticipated MATH 1180 to start: College Algebra with Precalculus. Even though this is the one class I've been looking forward to most, it's also the one that I'm most uncertain about, which would seem to be a contradiction, since normally something you're unsure of gives you anxiety, but that is how it stands. It starts at two, and it's one forty-five, so I should pack up and get in line for the classroom.

Today has been a pretty low key day, and based on my schedule, most other days are likely to be similar to it. We'll just have to wait and see.

I will perhaps post more later, but for now I will try to pay attention to my MATH 1180 Instructor as best I can.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Constructed Languages

Right now I'm going through a bit of a linguistics phase, so bear with me.

Typically they're called conlangs, but I dislike the word conlang because it sounds like a word that only the geekiest people in the world would come up with to describe a niche, and due to that fact, I tend to think that the word "conlang" is really only used to describe fantasy languages. I tend to find fantasy languages interesting, but not worth the time people put into them. I don't like them because they are more of an art than a utility, but an art that doesn't entertain in the same way that paintings, musical works, and writing do.

There are several conlangs out there, probably the most notable being Tolkienian Elvish, which is by far the oldest, but perhaps not the best documented. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an interesting fellow. A deep thinker, and perhaps a man before his time, or maybe even, the man that began his time. Tolkien took the word fantasy to a whole new level, writing extensively about his one true masterpiece: The world called Middle Earth. Why is he ahead of his time? Well, before he wrote the Hobbit, and got the entire Middle Earth thing rolling, he began working on Quenya, the original Elvish dialect, when he was nineteen years old and still studying in college. Later, he wrote books that included Elvish in them, the first, of course being the hobbit, and later, he wrote the Lord of the Rings, and even an entire history of Middle Earth that was published posthumously.

Some say that he wrote about middle Earth to justify his hobby of constructing languages. That's probably true, since a language like that serves almost no purpose anywhere besides being an idle hobby like video games. I say that Elvish is a waste of time because it was designed to mimic natural evolved languages, like English, Welsh, and Finnish. Not vocabulary wise, but grammar wise. English is notorious for its poorly defined rules and exceptions, like the example of "know," and "knew." Based on that, we might think that stow would turn into stew, but we know that stew is something else. To make things more confusing, there is slay and slew, which has a different root and meaning entirely. No where else in the language do we have an exception like this. Normally in English we would end it with -ed, like knowed, or something. This is simply referred to as an exception, and nothing more. Linguists and philologists try to explain these, but there are a number of reasons why it could have happened. I'm not going to go into the details here.

I don't think he ever expected, or wanted Elvish to become a widely spoken language, because it had these exceptions and mimicry of natural languages. If you wanted to learn a language that had them, just learn German, or Italian. They all do, at weird little spots. They're called nuances, and while they do add zest and panache to a language, they also make learners of it grumble. I don't think anyone ever said, "English is so easy!" Not even native speakers. It makes sense to introduce these into a constructed language for only one reason: to mimic natural languages for the purpose of making your reader (or consumer) believe that this world could be real, and that is a valid reason. Then, it becomes a section of the art you painted in the story, and really, a very cool one as well.

But then we come to what I would dare to call real constructed languages. I am of course, talking about languages that were designed to be spoken by all people as either an auxiliary language (a language designed to be a lingua franca between many people groups that doesn't favor any particular language over another), or a hobby, but still possibly accepted as a viable option for being an auxiliary language.

By far the most popular of these constructed languages is Esperanto. I am learning Esperanto. This language was designed to be easy. Let me tell you, this language is easy. People say that Spanish is easy, but not really. Any time a language has a grammar that isn't really intuitive, but just because that's what it's like, and it differs from your native language, a language is not easy. Perhaps Spanish is easier than other languages, but it is still difficult because it is different. I've read that one person said that it was the most difficult language they ever learned, simply because it was the first. English is really a weird language compared to other European languages. One of the biggest differences when I tried to learn German was gender cases on nouns. These didn't really have any rules at all, and at times they were counterintuitive. Of course I can understand Der Mann, the masculine article Der used to state that there is a single man, and Die Frau, the feminine article used for a woman, and even Der Junge, for a boy, but then Das Mädchen, which uses gender neutral to talk about a girl. The gender articles for nouns has never made much sense to have. I'm glad English doesn't have them.

Why English doesn't have these is probably because England is far enough removed from the rest of Europe for it to develop independently, and (thankfully) get rid of gender specific articles. What English lost in that area it made up in the number of exceptions it employs, and the confusing number of prefixes, like in-, im-, dis-,  de-, un-, all to say, reverse what this adjective or verb would normally be. Nuances. Being a native speaker, I am really, really glad that I don't have to learn all of these coming from another language.

But back to Esperanto. Esperanto is popular because it is super easy to learn, and not just for English speakers. The grammar of Esperanto is pretty straightforward. You put what you're talking about first, and what they do second, then what they do it to third, and put any descriptive words before the thing or action that they're describing. This is of course over simplifying it a bit, but if I were strip it down to the basic grammar, that's what it would be, generally. English is like that a lot. It's the weird exceptions elsewhere that people complain about.

This is everything a constructed language is supposed to be. Easy and effective. For speakers of western languages, Esperanto makes so much sense, because all the vocabulary is based off of the vocabularies of other European languages, including English. But the biggest point is easy to understand grammar, and Esperanto does that very well.

We come finally to my own project. Esperanto is great, but I really wanted to come up with my own language. It, like conlangs, really is for my story, but it fulfills a definite purpose, to be something that people can use to define their individuality in the international stage. More on that later. I am basing the vocabulary as much as possible on English, to make it as easy as possible for English speakers to learn. This is for two reasons. A) I speak English natively, and I want my language to be as easy to learn for me and my friends as possible. B) In the story, it's designed as a replacement for English, not because English needed to be replaced, but because of what I said before.

Quick note about language and politics:

There is nothing that will divide a people more than two things: Language and Religion. Language will even divide people within the same religion. Even if our views are completely different, being able to understand each others views is more important than ignoring them because of a language barrier. This was actually the very reason why Esperanto was constructed: to unify all people in Europe under one language. By the time Esperanto was beginning to be a thing, English was already that. Too bad.

Quick note on the politics behind fâl-qérn:

Fâl-qérn is the constructed language that is spoken in the NAR, the country where most of my stories are set. The newly formed government had several things to worry about. One was the fact that many people still considered themselves "Americans" and that was a problem, because there was ambiguity about their allegiance. The solution was to adopt a constructed language designed for the people of this new country. It was designed to be super easy to learn, the hardest part being the writing system they were trying to push, but after the first year, they had created a language that was similar to English, but easier to pronounce, and resembled Esperanto in grammar. They required that it be taught in public schools exclusively the moment the existing teachers showed fluency. This lead to some side effects, and it worked a little too well. Fâl-qérn is simply an easier language to master, because of its similarity to Esperanto, and its syllable set. (720 syllables to learn to pronounce correctly against 15,831 in English, with still room for dialectal differences.)

Fâl-qérn is a project that has real world application, but isn't really designed to be anything but a pastime for myself and the language in one of my stories. This sounds a lot like Elvish, but I make a distinction here because it really is a language that could replace English, like Esperanto could be a language that replaces English as the lingua franca in Europe and the US and Canada, and any other places that speak western languages.

There are dozens of constructed languages out there, but it is important to note that none of them are exactly the same. Each one has its own set of rules. Some of them are super easy, like Interlingua, and Esperanto, and hopefully eventually fâl-qérn. If you want to learn one, it's easy to find a way. I'm using Duolingo to learn Esperanto. I'm not exactly certain how to write a conclusion for this post, maybe just an opinion paragraph.

I think constructed languages are the epitome of human thought, just like advanced language is the epitome of being human. There couldn't be anything more pragmatically human than trying to construct for yourself a mode of what makes us human. I am not suggesting that you go out and learn a constructed language, but I love the adventure, and the satisfaction I feel when I read something that I just translated. Hours of work paying off in the form of making something that could be useful to someone, and make your story seem way more realistic.

Anyway, thank you for reading, and give me your thoughts.

I might start posting tutorials for fâl-qérn, and even try writing some posts exclusively in it. Until then, I will continue working on my language.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Okay

A while back, I wrote a post about confusion about the name Darth. You can go back and read it, if you want. But there is something else that caught my attention.

There is a term, OK, or Okay, that is really misunderstood. There are, apparently, some who believe that the term for casual agreement didn't come until the 1930s sometime. Some of these people live under the same roof as I do.

No. They're wrong.

The word, OK might be an abbreviation for the state of Oklahoma, but the word, Okay, cannot be anything but the exclamation.

Take a look at these pictures:



You can see that the dedicated word was used in 1814, and that the initialized version was used before the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Clearly, someone is very wrong, and GoogleBooks says that the people who say it didn't come about until the 1930s are wrong. If you look in the Oxford American English Dictionary, you can see as well that they say the origin was long before what others claim:



So next time you see the word "Okay," or "OK," don't think you're smart in pointing out that it wasn't coined until the early-mid twentieth century.

Until next time, my friends.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Note to All Critics

We see a lot of critics out there who are trying to help people know what is and isn't worth their time. Critics can be extremely helpful when they know how to do their job, but sometimes they don't, and are thus unhelpful. There's a website that you probably use called rottentomatoes.com. They are what's called a review aggregator, and that's not as bad as it sounds. No, not a review aggravator, like we would sometimes think. If you are unfamiliar with the word and don't have a dictionary handy, an aggregator is a person or institution that compiles as many sources of one subject together to make them easier to find. Rottentomatoes.com is a review aggregator, and I really appreciate their help. They are a neutral party, a part of the environment, as Ted Carpenter would point out, that performs a service and has no outspoken opinion, but instead, they compile a list of movie reviews from around the internet, and hundreds of newspapers around the US and other English speaking countries to create something called the tomato meter, which states a proportion of reviews, the negative against the positive. All this in case you're not sure what Rotten Tomatoes do. It's easy to see what critics think of a film at a glance, and if I don't like the consensus, I'll scroll down and see what a few critics thought.

They are only a compiler, a neutral party, and sometimes I have to remind myself that. What is annoying is when I see critics who don't agree with me for the wrong reasons. How can I say that a critic would write a review for the wrong reasons? Well, oftentimes what I do to analyze a situation, or circumstance, or any phenomenon is I'll write a list.

Here's a list of things that critics do:

1) They write an opinion piece to help people not waste their money.
2) They analyze a film or story based on its plot and tell you if it's even a good story.
3) They try to help people look at a film through different eyes with a broader perspective.
4) They pick and choose any of the above things to make it harder or easier to write the kind of review that they want to give the film, based on their preconceptions.

I am serious about 4). If you look at several reviews written by the same critic you can quickly see what I mean, and this isn't fair. If they don't like the film, they'll outright say it, using number one. If they like the film, they might try to give real reasons that are based on facts, using number two. If they're neutral, they'll probably try to look at it from the perspective of someone who they know would like the genre.

This is not a universal trait in critics, but it is, all the same, annoying when I find it. The other thing that critics should take into account, but seldom do, is take into account what the filmmakers had to make the film with, and this is usually based on the budget. For instance, it's annoying when a low budget animated film gets a rotten review because the animation is bad, like in Hoodwinked. Hoodwinked is a full length animated feature that (Quite admirably) used  just over 5% of the budget that big budget animated films get, which they were judging it against. That is simply an unfair comparison. Duh! The animation isn't going to be as good, because they can't hire the regular 200+ animators that a big budget film (Usually a $130-200 million budget) normally have to do the animation. With $8 million, (Hoodwinked's budget) the majority of it is going to go to the cast, over animation.

Actually, in the end, Hoodwinked's poor animation quality gave it a charm that big budget films don't have because of their clean and polished nature (My opinion). Regardless of how well the filmmakers did with such a small budget, it was criticized by many because of its animation.

Another case of something similar happening, but with a different skin is a critic faking the demographic. This also happens a lot in children's films. Critics tend to think it's okay, and professional to write a review based on their perception of what they think a child likes (or should like) oftentimes very erroneously. It is as if they don't like children's films, and because of that, they have to use a disproportionate mixture of 1 and 3, which don't mix very well. Usually these reviews don't affect the overall consensus, but that doesn't change that it does happen and they usually are saying things like, some of the content would be too hard for children to appreciate, or some of the emotions are too complicated for children to understand. I hope you see the silliness of this.

Really, a reviewer should combine all three and write a review like this: 10% of 1), 85% of 2), and 5% of 3). Some critics write a review outside of their genre like this: 20% of 1), 10% of 2), and 70% of 3).

Sometimes there are review websites that are making reviews for a particular demographic, like pluggedin.com, where christians write reviews to help other christians know what is safe for their kids (and themselves) to watch. I really don't have a problem with this, even though it looks like they use a disproportionate amount of 1). Actually I have to do this.

Another thing that critics do:

5) Base their review off of a system that is generally accepted by his target audience.

In this case, what is written in the Bible. The Bible is like the lingua franca for evangelical and fundamentalist christians. If one person has judged a film against it, then anyone else who agrees with it can accept it as a non opinionated review on the part of the reviewer. I don't know if there is a website that uses other religious standards to review a film, like the Quran, Bhagavad Gita, etc. But I do know where the reviewer is coming from if his review is objectively reviewing the film not based on his opinion, but a pre-stated set of standards. No, the Bible is not a manual on how to review a film, but it does explain what is honorable and what is not, so it can be used effectively in this way.

To sum it all up, if you are a film reviewer, there are a few things you need to make sure you're not doing, which is easier than a lot of things you should be doing.

1) Do not state judgements of the film concerning possible clichés, and other story constructors as if they are universal truths that all agree with. Not everyone agrees on what is a cliché and what is not, and in any case, not all clichés are considered bad by everyone. The same is true for any other thing that you think could have done better. As a writer, I see things that could have been better, but I make sure people know that it's my opinion, and in many cases, they disagree with me.

2) Do not say anything, or give yourself a reason to say anything along these lines: "If I was a ____, I would not have been ____." You're admitting that this isn't your area of expertise, and you are using artificial authority by transferring your possible clout from where you do have expertise. Just say that you didn't like the film. You don't need to say that you wouldn't have liked the film if you were someone else. Even worse, don't say "I liked the film, but if I was a ____, I wouldn't have ____."

3) Don't judge a film based of the message unless you have a higher authority. This happens a lot when religious films are criticized for being religious. If you are a christian reviewing the film, don't pretend that an anti christian message negates the quality of the film. This is difficult, I know, to accept, but important to stick to. If you are not a Christian, don't pretend that the christian message of the film negates the quality of the film. Sometimes you might be afraid that if the film you are reviewing has a clearly defined, clearly stated message, and it goes against what you believe, you aren't allowed to say anything good about it, or the good you do mention isn't relevant because of a big conjunction. Remember that film quality might come second, but don't blur the lines between message and quality. If you disagree with what a film is saying, make sure your reader knows that, but don't write off a film because it is of bad quality absolutely because it goes against your views.

P.S. This is my opinion of what critics should and should not be doing. If you have your own opinion, leave it in the comments, or post a link to your blog if you have a lengthy rebuttal.

I'll write another post some other time about how I judge the quality of a film aside from my own worldview. This post is already too long.

And as always, thanks for reading.












Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why YouTube Activism Doesn't Work

This doesn't just go for YouTube. It also goes for Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and any other form of social media. There are those in the world that think that pasting a video on YouTube is a viable way to proselytize and win converts. This isn't true. Think about it: YouTube is the site where people go in with the full intention of never having their mind changed whether or not what is being put forth and they disagree with is true. This is a big problem. I see videos of people saying controversial things all the time. The biggest thing is probably the Evolutionism vs. Creationism debate that has been raging even without YouTube's aid for decades.

I have never seen or heard of any instance in which the mind of someone was changed through a youtube video. YouTube can be used by propagandists to bolster the views of those who have already been won, but the noncommittal nature of the site says that if someone is saying something that they disagree with, all they need to do is move the cursor to the search bar and type something that is the opposite of what they were watching to receive validation and reinforcement, especially if the reasons given in the video were a little too convincing for safety. As Jordan Taylor points out, you shouldn't never question your beliefs. They are right no matter what. Of course, knowing the nature of Blimey Cow, virtually everything they say is sarcastic, which might have gotten me in trouble on Facebook once,  but essentially, there is no reason to when on a site like youtube, because you can find anything you want hear.

This is not a problem. It is perfectly fine to look for reasons to believe what you believe. The problem arises when content creators think that they can change the mind of people that already have an opinion.

I think of people like Vi Hart, who used to post videos about math. They were always fascinating and never a disappointment, until several months ago when she decided that she no longer needed to post videos about math for her subscribers, and instead would post videos centering around slightly more controversial topics. I agreed with one of them, and really it was only because I didn't know enough about it before. I would hate to be compared with the person whose opinion is won by the first person to talk to me. This isn't true. I have changed my mind on a number of things after investigating the topic further. The machine I am typing this on is an obvious example. I used to hate Mac and Apple, but now, I still don't like Apple, but I can't help but admit that Apple knew what they were doing when they designed OS X and the current MacBook Pros. Yes, people can be swayed, but there is only so much swaying that can be done in a five to twelve minute video. It is far more likely that you will change their opinion through a book, if you can convince them to read it.

How do we change people's minds, then? You'd have to ask a social engineer. I have some thoughts, but not really anything serious.

I also hate to admit this, but the only way to use YouTube to actually influence someone is through something called the bait and switch. It is a marketing strategy that many are familiar with, where you show someone the big TV and make him think he's getting the big TV, but when he get's the item shipped to his house, it comes as the little TV, that he had seen, but not considered actually buying. In some circles it's considered fraud, but on YouTube, it's something else. It's a form of deception, but on YouTube, it's not quite that, because you see everything at face value. How do we use this without making them run away like in all of the other activist videos?

Once again, Blimey Cow is a prime example of this. What they say is said in an inventive and funny way, albeit, rather sarcastic, but their strong views about the world are always present, but disguised as humor.

This is deceptive, is it not? But it isn't because they are saying all of it. Soft disclosure might be a better term, but at the same time, that's not quite what it is.

I'll just call it the Blimey Cow Effect.

Anyway, if you are a content creator on YouTube, or even better, someone who wants to be a content creator on YouTube, remember that influence is earned. If you want to influence someone, you need to first get in the door, and only after that can you make the truth known to them.

Anyway, that's all for me right now. See you later.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rhapsody on Typing



Toady I realized that I am typing faster than I ever have before, and I am really surprised at how fast this occurred. I think that it has to do with a set of factors.


A) I type a lot.

B) I switched to a layout that is easier to learn than what I started out on all those years ago.

C) I learned touch typing, which I will say, makes little difference on the typical QWERTY layout, but the ASK is specifically designed for touch typing.
I am an avid organist and enjoy using my fingers for complicated maneuvers and other such work.


But about C, I have heard people say that it was designed so that commonly typed letters fell under strong fingers. This is complete and utter balderdash. The Sholes QWERTY layout was designed more than ten years before touch typing was actually recognized as the "correct" way to type. The man who developed it likely had no foresight as to how people would type without looking at the keys, and really, when you think about it, that really doesn't make much sense. Don't you want to be able to look and confirm what letters you are typing? At first this might seem time consuming, but your brain always looks for patterns (even when they're not there) and there is nothing it likes more than consistency, and there are few things more consistent than the static locations of fifty-three keys that correspond to the letters that make up the essence of humanity. With this in mind, your brain will learn to utilize the keyboard fully, with only glancing at the keys.

With that being said, if you are learning QWERTY, in the long run, for functional typing, you do not need to learn how to touch type, but if you want to win speed tests, you will need to learn it. On the other hand, after touch typing was invented and accepted as the correct way to type, many people designed layouts specifically designed to make it easier to type, and the stipulation of these alternate layouts is that it assumes that you are going to learn touch typing on it like you did for QWERTY (right?) If you don't, the advantages quickly start to disappear, and it becomes another layout in which the keys are placed in completely arbitrary locations.

Anyway, I am typing very quickly now. I might even be able to beat my mom in a speed test, which would be very cool, since it would mean that I have achieved the speed that I previously possessed using the QWERTY layout.

I will leave you with the encouragement of learning an alternate layout, especially Dvorak, since it is probably the most widely accepted alternate layout out there, and it really does make sense. I find that it really is easier to type on it than qwerty, partially from learning to touch type, but also simply because my fingers really are not required to move as much as they used to.

In any case, thank you for reading this effervescent piece on the wonders of typing, and I hope you will join me in the American Simplified Keyboard revolution!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Velocity vs. Speed

The word "velocity" is probably the most misused scientific sounding words out there. This is just a quick post explaining that velocity addresses the speed and direction of travel, whereas speed addresses only rate of travel.

If you say he has a velocity of 45 meters per second, and just that, you are leaving something out. You need to have the direction of travel when using the word velocity.

This is especially annoying when it is only used to make the speaker sound smarter than he really is. Maybe he is smart, but just missed that fact. I don't know. But if you do not know the direction they are going, please do not use tho word velocity, use the correct term: speed.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Sadness Control

This is a public service announcement.

If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation in which you are sad, there are several options that offer breakthrough relief.

Moderate relief: Say "beep bop" to yourself until you are no longer sad.

Stronger relief: say "sneep snop" while holding your nose closed. Repeat until no longer sad.

Strongest OTC relief: say "bubbles" to yourself as angrily as possible.

Hospital strength relief: say in a boyish or girlish nasally voice (without holding your nose) "Yum bubbles!"

For continual relief, whenever you see something delicious, repeat "Yum bubbles!" audibly, to make others around you laugh. This will in turn  give you joy for making others happy.

This PSA has been made possible by the Edmond Manchester Foundation.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Everything Wrong With Superheroes

So this post was going to happen eventually. Better get it all out before Civil War comes out.

1) They cause a surreal aura to permeate our culture.

Take this conversation between to superheroes, based on a role-play I did with Paul Gabel.

"Harry and Dig disagreed about whether or not we should stay in our world. Harry was convinced that the presence of superheroes was changing, for the worse, the way people viewed what science could and should do, while Digory argued that it was a necessary advancement towards super vigilantism that would help thousands of people. Harry won in the end and here we are."

Joshua took it in and thought for several seconds. "I suppose I wouldn't know what it's like to live in a world without superheroes. But it makes sense that if the only way for superheroes to be created is through "science," I suppose I would be concerned too."

2) They're unrealistic.

This one is like a "DUR! That's what makes them fun!"

But I'm not talking about their powers. These perfect pillars of justice come close to having no faults in the films and comic books they are immediately appearing in. They are only concerned with fighting evil. Now don’t try to argue about Black Widow’s past and all that stuff. It’s in the right now of the movie. In every human mind, not just the villains, is a selfish side that is concerned with its own interests. Why don't these appear in the movies? Showing that even the heroic are just as bad as the villains, the only difference being that they are concerned with also keeping the world the same, and not letting it be taken over by whatever villain the writers conjure up.

3) They are role models, but not very good ones.

This kind of ties in with 1). Superheroes have desirable qualities that many people would go to great pains, even do some very unheroic things to acquire. But the problem with all role models is that if what is good that they do is to be imitated, then the bad that they also do is allowable. People do this all the time, and they don't even realize it until it's too late.

4) The comic books they appear in have almost no plot.

I recently read five issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and enjoyed them to a very limited extent. The primary reason, I realized, was because they had very little plot. But what can you expect from a 24 page comic book issue? It takes a lot longer than 24 pages just to develop a decent plot. I thought that maybe there would be references to other issues in every issue, but instead it was a a simple, bad guy appears, and the good guy has to stop him routine, maybe spiced up with some personal dilemma of some kind, or a new development in the the protagonists character.

Which leads me to number

5) You can't find them in original works outside of comic books.

This is probably the most annoying thing about super heroes. No, I'm not interested in the ten pages of the hero and the villain battling it with witty taunts and comebacks. I'm interested in the difficulties that the hero faces in real life. The underlying thought process of him; what makes him tick. This is something that both comic books and movies are notoriously bad at doing, for some pretty obvious reasons. We can't have a narrator describing the inner feelings of the characters on the screen, and the yellow boxes in the comics just aren't really meant for the descriptions complex emotions. This is why I would much rather read a novel about a super hero than a comic book. The movies are okay to an extent, because they do sort of show the emotions better, but not like novel does. Oh well. 
I might get avid comic book reader saying, “well, the heroes think to themselves sometimes in thought clouds, what about that?” True, there were several scenes in the comic books where I saw that Peter beat himself up mentally for not being good enough, but the problem there is that it simply doesn’t capture the full emotions of the character. There just isn’t enough space to allow the reader to fully appreciate what the character is going through.

6) They're (almost) a waste of time.

They are practically the epitome of idle thought, while at the same time being the center of the  obsession of millions of teenagers (and adults) around the world. It is unfair, I admit, to say they're a waste of time. Perhaps it would better be put as a fruitless pastime. I guess that’s the same thing. They really don't teach any lessons that we don't already know. I'm working on a novel that teaches math and computer programming, but it will really take some creative juices to flow in order to insert a superhero into that. It would be like "And then Pineapples!"

And finally, saving the most important one for last. Perfect #7.

7) Superheroes are grooming us for the new age Transhumanism.

Transhumanism? Yes, transhumanism. The belief that humans can evolve themselves further through science and technology. Is that not the origin story of 90% of all superheroes and villains? I mean, take The Flash. He gains his powers through a bath of chemicals and a lightning bolt, but it also apparently had changed his genes enough so that he could have a superfamily. That’s mildly creepy to me. 

You know that if you change your DNA you’ve lost a part of your humanness, yet in almost every superhero, there are mentions of their DNA being changed, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and, well, the Flash, along with hundreds of others. Like I said above in #3, there isn’t a normal person alive that wouldn’t mind having some cool superpower of some kind to maybe help people or show off with, whether it’s shooting bees out of your wrists, or being invisible, or maybe having X-Ray vision. The list goes on.

Superheroes are a fun thing to speculate about, and if we like to draw, they’re fun to draw in action, and if we like writing, we like writing about them, but in that speculation is something that people are attracted to, a fascination with the idea of coping with superpowers. I don’t want to completely be a Johnny Raincloud on your parade, I do, however want you to be aware of what organizations are trying to make people think is socially acceptable. Like I said in #1, they are changing the dynamic of our society, making transhumanism seem just beyond our grasp, and something that is needed and desirable. 

I enjoy watching superhero films, and I also enjoy writing about them, but I do look out for symbolism, and the hidden messages. None of these are exactly hidden, but it’s good to know, if you’ve noticed them yourself, that you're not the only one who thinks this way.


My conclusion here is that you must always be careful about what is entertainment and what is just over the threshold. There are subliminal messages, and there are stupid things about them, and there are reasons why every superhero film ends up with well over a hundred sins on CinemaSins. 

The world needs more wares. So be aware.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you  remember it every time you see a superhero film, and be watchful, and careful to remember that it is for entertainment only, even though the creators might possibly think otherwise.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Writers Only: Cover Me


FRONT COVERS, or dust covers are something that make us want to read a book. They have to be good in order to catch the possible buyer at the book store, or in a strangely connected way, get someone to check it out at the library, which might make the library buy more titles, or maybe even make the person want to buy it at the book store, then request that their library buy it. Our world is funny like that. Everything depends everything.

Front covers are a strange thing, because you are told never to judge a book by it, but those who are distributing the book have already assumed you will.

Front Cover>Back Cover>$$$>Reading>Next in the series>$$$>etc.

As a writer, I should hate the necessity of book covers. They might possibly misrepresent my story. But I don’t, because I use them myself when deciding whether or not to read a book.

There are, however, some rules that should be followed. 

A book that has a character’s face on the cover is a no no. I think of the Leviathan Trilogy, and the edition I read. It did have characters on the covers. But the character also didn’t even look like how she was described in the book, and to make things worse, someone had illustrated the book, and his illustrations didn’t at all look like the person on the cover. Yes, this cover Goliath is in another language, but my sister has the exact same cover on her English edition.



Another example I have is the Wars of the Realm Trilogy, in which the three comprising books had characters on the cover. They really didn’t look like the way the characters were described in the books. I'm not the only one that thought this, by the way.


Moral? Don’t put characters on the front cover, especially real people. It is maybe okay to put a character on the cover if he or she is hand drawn by a real artist, or if he or she’s face is obscured somehow, especially if the book has illustrations, but other than that, it probably isn’t a good idea.

Another thing to watch out for is dark themes in the color grading. This maybe doesn’t seem like a problem, but trust me, this is simply a cliché that needs to end. I suppose the darkness is supposed to inspire mystery, making the book more intriguing in the hands of someone who hasn’t read it yet, but I think we shouldn’t appeal to people’s desire to be in the dark, but rather lead them to the light. Now when I say dark, I don’t necessarily mean overall dark covers. Sometimes colors are dark. What I mean is heavy incorporation of black and dark gray with muted colors in the mix. 


But I do not mean that all dark covers are bad. A bad dark cover is simply a lot of black and dark gray. If these are absent and replaced with muted color, that actually makes a cool looking front cover. Think every hardcover classic with the gold trim ever.

Here are some very tasteful front covers that I’ve come across.










What makes these covers great?

A) No characters close up.
B) No black or dark gray.
C) They use muted colors instead to give the same effect to the cover.
D) They use symbols or an interesting landscape instead of characters to sell the book.

It’s important to pay attention to these four points. The last one is the one that I think is most important. There has to be a subject in the book cover, unless it’s one of those old hardcover gold lettered books. The subject should be something that carries means something and is mentioned in the book, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge thing. This is what messes up the minds of people who make book covers. They think that the cover has to have a hugely important something on the cover, when that simply isn’t true. They believe this so much that they make that hugely important something a character from the story, and if that’s not enough they add in black inkblots to make things look messy, and dark gray and black.

Remember, cleanliness is good for the soul, and so is happiness. Unless you’re emo, darkness probably isn’t going to make you happy. Another thing, does the story have a happy ending? Most of them do. Make the cover reflect the ending. I would have to say that each of these covers do reflect the ending in a way.

I would like to conclude with the rule that you judge a book based on its story, not by the mistakes they made in the cover. I will say, however, that usually if a book has a cover that breaks the above guidelines, I won’t read it by my own prompting if I pull it off the shelf at the library. It’ll have to be recommended. Why? Not because I made up some guidelines, but because the book will make me feel weird every time I pick it up if it has a bad cover.

I hope you find this useful if you have gotten to the point where you want to self publish and need a good cover.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Man Who Was Thursday: a Nightmare

The Man Who Was Thursday is a fantastic book by G.K. Chesterton, describing some very disturbing things about the world. The fact that the subtitle states that it is a nightmare might instantly get people who liked Hangman's Curse interested, but it is a horror that goes far deeper than spiders and satanism. It is a lack of knowledge of what is really going on even though you are given all of the facts that the main character knows along the way.

I won't spoil it for you, since if you're reading a review you may be interested in reading it, but I will say that it has to do with the anarchist movement in Britain in the earlier part of the 20th century. Sometimes to humorous effect, surprises going along the way start helping you understand what's going on and you begin to wonder if it really is an allegory. It begins to be clear that it is not an allegory in the usual way an allegory is laid out. But that is the brilliance of the book; it is not an allegory, and barely a parallel, making merely a deep philosophical statement by the author, one that is found often in this genre of fiction: surreal, or to coin a phrase, pseudo dystopian. 

That philosophical statement I believe is something that I will leave for you to discover. If you are a writer, it is one that may inspire you to convey a deeper meaning to your work. If you are not a writer and only a passive reader, no matter how passive, you will continue to think about what it means and how true it rings in our world.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fun facts about Darth

I felt the need to share with you this little annoying thing that has decided to bug me: the word "darth" Is not original to Star Wars, and I must wonder if George Lucas is stealing credit.

The word has it's origins in Welsh. The welsh word darth is a verb that means to evaporate.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I wanted to know what the name really meant, since I knew it wasn't originally from Star Wars (my parents know a man in his fifties named Darth). But when I go to the various baby name websites, they say that Darth is the word coined by George Lucas for the Dark order of Sith. He may have thought he came up with it, but the word was in use long before Star Wars was even remotely conceived. You can find this out by using the Google Ngram Viewer. You can also search Google books and find that it was used as a last name as well.

So sorry Star Wars fans, Darth does not mean, Dark order of Sith, it means to evaporate.

so there is your fun fact for the day.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Beyond a Utopia in Question


Politics. Name calling. Mudslinging. Hating in the name of tolerance. All of it.

When are we going to get it together?

What has to change in our society in order for it to work?

First of all, everyone must become perfect in every way. Because any hoarding of assets might cause a disproportionate view of others, money and assets are taken away and a giant company takes over to manage everyone and house them, and feed them. In return the perfect people are happy to fulfill their duties as welders, food packers, engineers, computer programmers, researchers, and all the other necessary fields. Everyone is given the same to live on, including the CEO and president of the company. They still don't really have time for you because they work twice as many hours as you do and live under constant stress making sure the company is fair to everyone and nobody gets to enjoy life any more than anyone else. But everyone is still happy because they are perfect and the harder they work the easier life becomes for everyone else. Nobody lies, steals, cheats, or complains. Nobody is prideful because they have all accomplished the same in life, and nobody is given any reason to disrespect others because no one has ever disrespected them. Wouldn't life be perfect if this were the way things were?

Well, the liberals after reading that say "Maybe," and the conservatives after reading it say "Interesting," in a mildly horrified way.

It would be wonderful if that worked. But it doesn't. That kind of utopia will never work on this version of Earth because as a human you don't want to get paid the same as someone who doesn't work as hard as you, or hasn't worked as hard as you have to get where you are.

Let's face it. People are shallow. And selfish. And hateful. And intolerant. The above society would work in a sinless world, but we do not live in a sinless world. We live in a world full of hate, selfishness, pride, theft, lying, complaining, and every other sin that's even worse. We live in a world where lives are ruined because of moral failure and no one can fix it because no wants it to be fixed. Oh they say they want it to be fixed, but they don't mean it. They want the same freedom they have had all along to do the things they've done, but without the consequences. And if there are consequences they want someone else to pick up the slack where they let go.

Every liberal at heart is an idealist. They see living as a noun and not a verb. They see living and think it can be carved and shaped into perfection. But living is not a noun. Living is an action, and as an action it won't stay in one place where you can work on it. It moves around. When you have changed one thing to fix something in it, it has already figured out a way to cope and make up for your changes.

Every conservative at heart is a realist. Willing to accept their sinful human nature for what it is as well as everyone else's and use it to work hard to provide for themselves and in doing so providing for others.

If you claim that you want everyone to be like you in that you only care for others, it basically means that you want others to care for you. Think about it. Makes sense.

To those who think that it is unfair that executives of companies make the most money for seemingly working the least, you need to understand a key thing. If you work for them that means that they hired you. It means that you are receiving a paycheck because they are making sure that the company doesn't fail. If you don't work for any executive that makes more money than you it must be noted that if you use anything that the company they manage touched, you are benefiting, no, you are making an agreement that what they do is worth your money and you want them to keep doing what they are doing.

To those who are of my opinion and agree with these statements, you can just feel affirmed in your reasoning and use some of these points (if you haven’t already) in discussion with you liberal friends.

Now let's talk about some stuff that is mandatory. You need to pay taxes so that the government can do several things. It's as easy as ABC.

A) The most important one: Defense. If another country declares war the government must take action and defend you.

B) Build roads so that you can easily transport yourself and do business with others.

C) Maintain order in the society. The government must make laws that regulate what individuals and organizations are allowed to do to each other.

That's it. That is what the ideal government does.

What does our government do?

+++
It maintains a system that carries out the delivery of letters and packages from organizations and individuals to organizations and individual.
+++

– – –

     It pays for public education that is failing and costly and perhaps not worth as much money as is actually being spent on it.
     It pays for an independent organization that regulates taxes that could be a part of the federal government itself.
     It pays for an agency that attempts to protect the environment that really isn't necessary and doesn't do much anyway.
     It pays for the search of alien life when it already knows it exists. (I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I’m just being realistic. Take a look at some of the work of L.A. Marzulli.)
     It pays for another independent organization to print money and deal with all things money outside of the government itself.

– – –

So what?

Why can’t we have a system like the first one we talked about? Because like I said before nobody wants it. They will say they want it, but it would be harder than it would be worth. It isn’t humanly possible to make everyone perfect. People have tried. With public education one of the goals was to make individuals that were taught how to act in society and to be productive, but to many students in many schools this would be a lame joke. How many exactly? I do not know for sure, but judging by what’s going on in the news concerning public education, it would seem impossible not to come to that conclusion. 

So now what? What do we need to do? Well, if you are a liberal, then you need to become a conservative. 

If you are a conservative you need to vote. I won’t say who you need to vote for, but you do need to vote. Period.

If you are a Christian you need to do what the conservative does in addition to pray for revival and that the politicians will do what is best for a realistic recovery.


Anyway, thanks for reading and please subscribe to the blog if you liked what you read.