July 19, 2016

19:07:2016

The literarily gifted Warren Ellis has a new piece of work out for us all to feast on. It’s a novel of sorts that comes in four parts entitled Normal. The story follows a futurist who is doing a stint at Normal Head, a rehabilitation centre for futurists – those who look into the bleak almost probable end of the world and try to subvert the fate humans have put on ourselves by developing strategies that offset that end. Normal Head exists because these futurists often need a break, either by choice or by force, from this vocation, especially prone to what Ellis names ‘abyss gaze’,  a depression that comes from gazing into the abyss of the future. To add to this, at Normal Head all patients are completely disconnected, meaning they have no access to technology, often bringing on withdraw from their tech addiction.

This point in particular interests me about the series. The idea that people need to be forcibly cut off from their tech, surely this is something most of us can relate to. While I love the connectivity our crazy future world currently allows us it can no doubt be detrimental to how we function, and people are, without question, addicted. For myself I couldn’t tell you the last time I went through a waking hour without looking at some kind of device, let alone a day; not to mention the amount of times I’ve picked up my phone and checked it for messages despite the a fact I’ve had it with and know none should exist. I can at least claim a resistance to the urge while driving, something others are less capable of. All to often I see someone steering with one hand while they try to talk on their phone or type a message with the other, as though forgetting that they’re currently in control of a fifteen hundred kilo machine moving at up to one hundred kilometers an hour. That’s a pretty wicked addiction right there, one that’s sure to hurt themselves or those around them. Of course there are plenty more examples of how this commonplace addiction affects us; from people who shun their friends when out to look at their phones, to those who fail to even get out of their house for fear of disconnecting.

One bit of tech that’s popped up in the last few weeks that seems to use our collective addiction for good is Pokemon Go. I haven’t got the app myself but it seems designed to get people out of the house, forcing them to move and be social in order to progress through the game. I think that’s kind of awesome. The game rewards people by walking set distances and physical connecting with others which means it’s designed for a group of people, gamers, that makes them do the exact opposite of what they’re known for…and it’s working! No doubt the popularity of the game will breed others of its ilk, which is great. Not only will the games work to entertain people, and make them more healthy and social but if also paired with apps like Charity Miles – an app that raies money for charity whenever you exersice – then it will be doing an even greater good. Of course the argument could be made that people should exercise, be social, and give to charity without the need for for technology making it fun, but, as that argument doesn’t involve believing you may one day become a pokemon master, it’s pretty easy to argue against.

Back to Ellis and his intriguing new novel. It’s currently getting released in four parts over four weeks in whatever digital format you choose, which quite appropriately means you need some sort of device to read it. For myself that’s a kindle, and I’ve already pre-ordered all four parts which means they’ll magically show up on my kindle over the next month. If you however wish to take your own sabbatical from technology it will be out later in the year in a physical form.

In the meantime I’m taking my own steps to slightly disconnect from technology, which at the moment involves putting my plane on airplane mode at night. Admittedly it’s not much, and is mostly to ensure I get a good night’s sleep, but, hey, at least I’m doing something to combat my addiction. I’m basically a hero.

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While we’re on the subject of technology check out this cool device that turns any surface into a touch interface.

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Talk soon

Damian

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May 25, 2016

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After my last post, where I talked about how busy I’ve been at work and that I drank beer for a week, I’m now sick. Suprising? No. Annoying? Yes. Mostly because the back of my throat currently feels like someone took a cheese grater to it. Saying that, it’s just a cold and I’m sure it’ll pass soon. Meanwhile, sick days! There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a legitimate reason to skip work, and if that means being a snot monster for a few days then I say it’s worth it.

Today I did nothing, or as close to nothing as a person can get. Certainly nothing productive. I just watched TV in my pyjamas all day, with a quick visit to the doctors to get him to give me a note. The whole getting a doctor’s note seems a little ridiculous when all you have is a cold. He didn’t bother prescribing me anything other than to drink a lot of water and rest up, and, while drinking water at the moment feels like chugging a glass of ice cold acid, that’s pretty much what I was planning to do anyway. In fact the argument could be made that driving myself to the doctors and waiting for an hour for a five minute consultation to get a piece of paper that says ‘You’re sick’, actually gets in the way of me resting up. Oh well, you know what they say, if the system’s broke then complain about it on the internet and don’t actually do anything to fix it.

Tomorrow I’m planning to get some writing done as long as my mucus filled head is able to think clearly. I’m looking forward to it. I’m working on a short story that has the working title His name was Henry, as that’s the first line of the piece and I haven’t thought of a proper name yet. Pretty good first line though, right? If all goes to plan tomorrow I should get a nice chunk of it done. As that’s all the writing news I have let me harshly segway to…

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…internet bits, aka, cool things from the internet.

As some of you know I’m a big fan of Warren Ellis. One of the things he does so well with his writing is to imbue it with ideas and knowledge of things that seem likely to exist in the near future. In other words, he’s a futurist, so much so that he’s been asked to give talks and write essays on the topic. Another writer who does the same thing is Ramez Naam. He’s written an award winning series of books called The Nexus Trilogy which are must reading, not only for its in depth futurist themes (and they are very in depth, the guy was a CEO for a nanotechnology company and worked for Microsoft before writing fiction) but also for its interesting characters, and a story that will always keep you guessing.

I found his writing after seeing a post on the internet about an Icelandic tradition where you givie books to each other on Christmas eve and then spending the night reading them. The Lady Holly and I decided to partake in this tradition and so I had to find a book to give her. I went to the website www.whatshouldireadnext.com, which allows you to type in the names of books you’ve enjoyed and then produces a list of books it thinks you’ll like. Nexus kept popping up, I read a synopsis, purchased it, and gave it to Holly. I’m glad I did, as I mentioned it’s excellent reading, and it inspired me to look more into futurism (footnote: the Lady Holly and I both ended up finishing the book while in Iceland which added a nice circular ending to the whole thing).

This interest in futurism caused me to look for pages I could add to my facebook feed on the topic and unsurprisingly I found one called…Futurism (which also has a website here) and it has been entertaining and educating me ever since. It, as you may have guessed, is this post’s cool thing from the internet. Apart from checking out the site yourself I thought I’d share a few of the cool, quick, videos they make about all things futurist.

Like this one about braille tablet for the blind

Or this one that is a brilliant combination of technology and art in the form of 3D projection face mapping

Or finally this one about a smart touch mirror

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Mind blown? Good, because mine was. Although as it’s full of mucus I’m going to go blow my nose instead.

Talk soon.

Damian

May 13, 2016

13:05:2016

Today I want to blog about bloggers.

I’ve spoken before about how I started this blog after signing up to the newsletter of comic book writer/novelist/futurist/mad genius Warren Ellis; and being inspired by it (which you can sign up to here if you’d like). It’s a weekly treat that lands in my inbox that I often giddily enjoy over a cup of coffee. As a professional writer of words he often details in these newsletters the various projects he’s working on and occasionally his process of putting those wonderful stories of his together. Usually by the time I get to the end of the newsletter my mind is inflamed, in part because my now guzzled cup of coffee is rolling in with a kick arse caffeine buzz, but also because reading about him writing makes me want to write.

My revamped mission of be-a-better-writer-you-idiot has involved a lot of me organising all my various projects and working out a constantly evolving plan and timeline for each one so I have a clear idea of what each project needs to keep moving forward. The next phase of the mission is to continue to educate myself, and I figure if Mr Ellis’ newsletter works to educate and inspire me with all things writing then that’s probably something I should try to bolster. Of course as much as I’d like Ellis to write a blog everyday in order to kick start my creativity that might be asking too much of a man I’ve never met. Instead I decided that where there’s one there must be more. There must be other writers I look up to and draw inspiration from out there who are writing their own blogs or newsletters. I just needed to find them.

I became a hunter. The blogs and newsletter of talented writers were my prey, the internet was my hunting ground, and google was my weapon. Warren’s newsletter themselves were a good starting ground as he occasionally offered suggestions of similar newsletters. I signed up to a few, and waited with anticipation for their arrival. My favourite thus far is one called Municipal Archive by Kio Stark. It rolls into my inbox spasmodically and each newsletter details a well written, and often moving, interaction the writer has had with a stranger. Each one is basically a tiny story that never fails to engage, and I really can’t recommend this one enough.

All my new subscriptions however weren’t enough. I wanted more. I was catching the newsletters but the blogs were managing to get through my net. A quick search showed me that, yes, a number of my favourite writers did in fact maintain a blog on their websites, the problem now was the ease to which I accessed them. I had become used to my idol’s words coming to me and the idea of routinely making the rounds on a number of websites in the hope that they’d been updated didn’t entice. I figured I can’t have been the first person in this quandary and another google search proved this to be true, and provided an answer. Feedly.

Feedly is a website/app that provides (as wikipedia cleverly puts it) a news aggregation service. Basically it uses rss feeds from websites to notify you whenever an update to those website is made, or, in other words, it’ll tell me when there’s a new blog in town I might be interested in. There’s a few different websites like this but I found feedly easy to use and, even better, easy to read. Once you make an account, which I did simply by logging in to my google account, you can sign up to get feeds from whatever website you like. This is made easy to do by the app’s search functionality that easily finds the website you’re after and even suggest similar ones you might be interested in. Once it’s found the website you’ve searched for you simply click the ‘+feedly’ button and that’s it; you’ll now get those blogs sent to your feedly whenever they’re updated where you can read, share, or save them at your leisure. It’s now become a daily pleasure for me to make my way over to my feedly in the morning (accompanied by a cup of coffee) and read through whatever new blogs the writers have written.

In case you’re interested, my current subscriptions are Brandon Sanderson, Matt Fraction, Warren Ellis (he keeps a blog as well as the newsletter, bless him), Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Ramez Naam, John Scalzi, and V. E. Schwab. The problem now becomes that not all writers keep blogs, which I find a bit strange. To me it would seem that the nature of being a writer is to write, and that of all the people out there likely to have a blog writers should be at the top of that list. Maybe they’re just busy writing stories, which I also want to read, so I can’t complain too much.

Either way, with this daily dose of inspiration and information my education should increase and hopefully with it my writing improve. In the meantime I’ll just have to keep an eye out for new blogs to add to the list.

The hunt continues.

Talk soon.

Damian

February 25, 2016

25:02:2016

I’ll have a break from talking about myself for today and share with you some lovely gifts the internet have provided us with this week.

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First up is one that was shared with me by my good friend Nice-Guy-Sean (The nicknamed earned by the fact that his name is Sean and he’s a nice guy). It’s an article about a guy from reddit who takes peoples regular photos and then turns them into fairly epic fictional movie posters complete with titles, tagline, and actors names. For example…

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Great, right? I mean I would buy tickets to Night at the Aquarium right now if I could. You can see many more, as well as a link to the guys reddit page, here.

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Next up is this…short film, I guess? Or maybe a skit? Either way it’s a funny and surprisingly moving video by the comedic actor Beck Bennet, and is entitled How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. I know, it sounds like I’m trying to secretly tell you you need to lose weight but as most of the video focuses on the third tip “Get your heart broken” I think you can tell this isn’t your usual weight lose advice.

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For those of you who may have read this blog before you’ll know what a fan I am of the writer/futurist/genius Warren Ellis. For those of you who haven’t read this blog, you now know that I’m a fan I am of the writer/futurist/genius Warren Ellis. Anywho, here’s an interview he did for The Paris Review where he discusses writing, the future, and what it’s like to be in the head of a murderer. It’s quality stuff. Read it here.

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Finally, this article from the AV Club about The Prestige. For those of you unfamiliar with The Prestige it’s a 2006 film from Christopher Nolan that features a big reveal ending. A very successful one. The article analyses the film and gives some thought on just how Mr. Nolan pulled this off. It’s well thought out it, I found it quite illuminating, and it gave me some ideas about how I could implement the same features in my own writing. Read it here.

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Quick aside of something all this internet sharing has got me thinking about: Basically this, the internet is such a glut of wonderful and meaningless information that it’s hard to know what to do with it all. Sometimes I think I should simply let it entertain me, Lord knows there’s enough content out there to keep a man entertained for many lifetimes. But that feels like I’m wasting a pretty valuable asset. So what should I do with all this information? Do I let it inspire me? Educate me? Connect me? Do I want to add my voice and ideas to this infinite swarm of voices? Well, I suppose my answer is the same as that of the man with two penises when asked if it hangs to the left or the right. Yes. Yes to all of it. Let all that information educate, entertain, connect, and inspire. Then, using all that, add to it.

Look at that, I managed to talk about myself anyway. Whoops. (Also, for the record, I only have the one penis)

Talk soon

Damian

February 8, 2016

08:02:2016

After a busy and then not so busy weekend, following a balls out busy week, life is returning to some sort of normalcy – if there is such a thing. This basically means I should be seeing a return to routine, which I’m looking forward to (and then no doubt will eventually tired of after a few weeks). Sadly this comes at the loss of my brother Jonathan who has returned to English shores to continue his abnormal normalcy.

I’m expecting with this return of routine to also come the return of daily writing (as writing is included into the routine I think it’s a pretty strong hypothesis). In fact it’s already off to a good start. Apart from me currently writing the words you’re currently reading I also managed to get myself out of bed at six this morning to work on my script before work. Much like these diary entries my script writing had taken a hit during the week of work/social activity/sleep/repeat, and I’m glad to be once more making characters say and do things on a page.

I’m a big fan of trying to slip in a bit of writing before work. Not so much because I’m producing copious amounts of writing – I’m definitely not, half an hour to forty five minutes of writing might get me two pages at best – but that half an hour kicks starts my brain into thinking about the next elements of my story throughout the day. It’s the same logic behind eating breakfast, even if you don’t have a huge amount to eat in the morning it’s always a good idea because it kicks off digestion and gets the whole system started. If I’m lucky that half an hour will power up the subconscious part of my brain designed for story development; where it will masticate, break down, and spew thought provoking and discriminatory brain acids over the new bits and pieces I’ve given it and, after eliminating the waste (i.e. crap ideas), hopefully alert my conscious brain at some point with something I can use. The basic process of coming to an epiphany.

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Anyway I promised the other day to share some cool writing links and I mean to do just that.

Both of these have come from Warren Ellis’ newsletter which I’m unashamedly trying to emulate with these diary entries, so if you want to see a more well written version of this kind of thing you should check it out.

+ The little chart you see below comes from the troubled and genius mind of Dan Harmon, who you might know as the creator of TV shows Community and Rick and Morty. It’s a simple but incredibly useful piece of story structure that boils down a character’s arc throughout an episode. It’s similar to the famous Hero’s Journey but perhaps more useful in terms of the characters wants and therefore motivations.
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+ We’ll stick with story structure for our second link which talks about The Levitz Paradigm, which is a plot structure device that’s been used for ongoing comic series for years. You can read a good run down of it here.

But I’ll add a quick quote so you can get the basic idea:

Basically, the procedure is this: The writer has two, three, or even four plots going at once. The main plot—call it Plot A—occupies most of the pages and the characters’ energies. The secondary plot—Plot B—functions as a subplot. Plot C and Plot D, if any, are given minimum space and attention—a few panels. As Plot A concludes, Plot B is “promoted”; it becomes Plot A, and Plot C becomes Plot B, and so forth. Thus, there is a constant upward plot progression; each plot develops in interest and complexity as the year’s issues appear.”

Pretty cool, right?

Isn’t learning great.

Talk soon

Damian