Conflicting Writer Advice

I’m curious about why successful writers sometimes condemn the practices of other equally successful writers when giving advice to starving writers. It’s not like they’re saying, “This is what worked for me….” Often a successful writer will say something along the lines of “Do A, but don’t do B.” Meanwhile, another writer, who is every bit as successful as the first writer, will say “Do B, but don’t do A.”

What I wonder is, are these writers aware that they are giving conflicting advice? Are they aware that other writers have reached success by doing the exact opposite? I don’t think these writers are in some kind of argument with each other, I think they just don’t know what they’re saying. It would make more sense if they gave their advice in a “this is how I did it” manner, instead of “You must do this and you must not do that.”

My All-American (2015)

A1H6YuL6kRL__SY445_Ouch. This movie hit hard at the end. Last night my brother recommended My All-American. Tonight, I needed a break from playing Grand Theft Auto and decided to watch the movie. After watching this, I feel differently toward the Texas Longhorns. I’m not necessarily a Sooner fan, but I feel more in key with the Sooners, and,  well, the Longhorns are the Sooners’ top rival.

During the first half of the movie, it feels kind of like Rudy. Freddie Steinmark is shorter and lighter than your usual college football player,  but his dream comes true when Coach Royal of the Texas Longhorns recognizes his talent and offers him a full scholarship to attend the University of Texas.

Freddie soon becomes a starter and plays the safety on defense. His role on the team is a big part of the Longhorns’ successful season. After the last regular game–before the Cotton Bowl, Freddie learns that a limp he had during the last few regular games is not a football injury, but is instead a tumor.

It’s a bone cancer and the doctors have to remove his leg. Freddie does make it to the Cotton Bowl, to be with his team while they play, but he dies a year and a half later, on June 6, 1971. He was twenty-two years old.

To this day, the Longhorns continue to honor Freddie Steinmark. His memorial is in the stadium and the players touch his picture on their way out to the field.

Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers, Edited by Patricia Flaherty Pagan

51CV7P7FZzL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Edited by Patricia Flaherty Pagan, Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers is, as the subtitle suggests, an anthology of short stories by women.

I thought all of these stories were very good, outstanding even. Not a single one of them was disappointing in any way. The stories were about a variety of different things and several of them really got to me emotionally.

So, yeah, this is an anthology I’d recommend.

Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer

51dp9x2F0SL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“Holy shit, it’s Professor Marchuk! Run!”

Robert J. Sawyer‘s latest novel Quantum Night explores psychology and has me wondering if I’m a Q1, a Q2 or a Q3. Or maybe I’m sometimes one or another, depending on the time of the day and whether I’m wide awake or not. Right now I’m awfully tired and feel like I’m just going through the motions, much like a classical Q1 p-zed.

Jim Marchuk is a professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg who developed a procedure that determines whether someone is a psychopath or not. Because of this, he is asked to be an expert witness at a murderer’s trial in Georgia.

Jim travels to Georgia for the trial. Though he’s only there to explain his procedure, the prosecutor grills him about his past and he does not remember things that he should remember. When he returns to Canada, he discovers that he’s missing six months of his life.

Jim’s missing six months are the result of an experiment he took part in twenty years earlier. The experiment changed him from a fully conscious, thinking human being (Q3) to a mindless animation (Q1). Jim is determined to understand what had happened to him during those six months, and what had he done?

A good read and quite fun.

Counting Crows in Blues Traveler’s Run Around Video

Although it’s 3 in the morning and my eyes are pretty heavy, I still got a few beers left and I intend to make use of them before I crash for the night.

What’s the title of this thing all about, yo?

Well, you know, I love Blues Traveler. Remember Woodstock ’94? Yeah, me neither. I wasn’t there, of course. I think it aired live on HBO, but… I didn’t have HBO either. I remember that I really wanted to be at Woodstock ’94. Some of my favorite bands performed, but just like most other people, I didn’t have a ticket and I didn’t really have a way to get there either. It was just a pipe dream.

About a month or two after Woodstock ’94, my brother and I found a VHS tape at, I think, the Walmart in Lapeer. We bought it. It wasn’t the entire festival , but it showed one song from several bands. The third song on that VHS tape was Blues Traveler’s But Anyway.

That was the first time I ever heard Blues Traveler and I was blown away. I loved Bobby Sheehan’s deep basslines and I loved John Popper’s singing and harmonica playing. Since then I couldn’t get enough of Blues Traveler. They quickly became one of my favorite bands.

I saw the Run Around video for the first time on some late night TV show about music videos, when I was still a teenager. Aside from the song being great, one of the things about the video that fascinated me was the guy dancing on the stage.

The way that guy moved, danced, grabbed the microphone and sang, and played the harmonica, I thought that was really neat. If I was twenty years younger and performing Run Around in front of an audience, that’s how I’d want to do it.

So, why am I blogging about this video? That was twenty years ago, man. Who gives a shit, right? Well, my friend Kathy and I were just talking about it a few hours ago. It started with me pointing out that I think the guy dancing on the stage is the singer from Counting Crows.

It’s something that didn’t occur to me until about a year ago. See, I never really got into Counting Crows, although I had heard some of their songs and I “think” I saw them at the DTE Music Theater way back before I could purchase beer legally. I still have the same wallet I had when I was a teenager. Actually, I had this wallet since I was about nine years old. I might have a Counting Crows ticket stub in my wallet somewhere, but I don’t feel like digging through it right now.

I saw this video about a year ago.

I couldn’t help noticing that the singer in the Mr. Jones video was moving exactly like the guy in the Run Around video. And I just thought that was interesting.

When I told Kathy about that and showed her both videos, she decided to do some digging around. She found this article, which was published in the Los Angeles Times back in 1995.

The article says, “The main theme of this video is to make fun of the Counting Crows, something which I applaud. Without actually flashing the name Counting Crows, it pokes fun at this one-hit wonder of a band right down to the bad Van Morrison impression, rhythmless dancing and bar haircut of the lead singer, Adam Duritz.”

I was like, “Huh?” I mean, neat, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the guy in the Run Around video moved like Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz in the Mr. Jones video. But, “make fun of the Counting Crows” and “it pokes fun at this one-hit wonder of a band right down to the bad Van Morrison impression, rhythmless dancing and bar haircut of the lead singer, Adam Duritz”.

Um, really?

I sure as hell didn’t see the Run Around video as making fun of Counting Crows. As far as I’m concerned, the Blues Traveler video is respectful to Counting Crows. It makes Counting Crows look pretty awesome.

Really, you shouldn’t take people who write shit like that seriously. I’ve found time after time that I simply can’t trust people who write negative reviews. I review books and movies all the time, but I don’t write negative reviews. If I really don’t like something I read or watched, I won’t review it. This is because I don’t want to trash someone else’s work. Even if I don’t like the work, someone else might.

I was skeptical about that article from the Los Angeles Times and I decided to do some digging myself. And yep, it turned out that whoever wrote the LA Times article was blowing shit out of his ass, because I found this article on BluesTraveler.net, which contains quotes from an interview with John Popper:

Likewise, the band’s big 1995 hit, “Run-Around”, was sung with Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz’s style on the hit “Mr. Jones” in mind.

“I felt like I was ripping him off on that one, but I don’t think people really make that connection,” he says. “At the same time, though, I’ll hear Sister Hazel and say, ‘God, that guy was thinking of me when he did that.’ ”

“Everybody’s songs can be melded into everyone else’s. I love that tradition of not trying to rip each other off but still musically hear each other. I’ll rip off a Flintstones Chewable Vitamins ad if it’s got a good melody.”

Doesn’t sound like Blues Traveler was making fun of Counting Crows at all. John Popper felt like he was ripping off Counting Crows. I imagine both bands were cool about the whole thing and having fun with it. It’s like how people thought Ronnie Van Zant and Neil Young did not like each other, when in reality they were friends and loved each others’ music.

Okay, it’s 6:15 AM and I just finished my last beer. Good night.

Jack the Bear (1993)

71CFG3vpnHL__SY445_I was delighted to see one of my old favorites is on Netflix. Jack the Bear. Before tonight, I probably haven’t seen it since the end of the 90’s, but it’s a movie that I’ve thought about from time to time.

It’s 1972. Danny DeVito plays John Leary, a widower raising two sons, Jack and Dylan. Jack is the lead character, he’s around twelve, and Dylan is three.

John works as an actor.. He hosts a TV show and does commercials. He also has a drinking problem.. John’s drinking affects his parenting and Jack assumes responsibility for Dylan.

When a neighbor kidnaps Dylan, Jack has to handle the situation himself until John gets home. They’re desperate, angry, scared and they do what they can to find Dylan.

Great acting and a powerful story. I’ll probably watch it again within the next few days.

She Wrote on Clay, by Shirley Graetz

51qgQPZtmhL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_She Wrote on Clay, by Shirley Graetz, is a historical novel. The story is set in Sippar, which was a city twenty miles southwest of where Baghdad is today, and takes places centuries Before Christ.

At the beginning, Iltani is a young girl who wants to be a scribe. Her father is a respected scribe and she is anxious to follow in his footsteps. In order to become a scribe, she needs to go to the gagû where she will learn the art and become a naditu.

So, Iltani gets to the gagû and settles in with her aunt who is a wealthy naditu. Iltani begins her education, but soon runs into trouble.

The story spans over several years. Iltani meets many challenges and secrets are revealed.

I thought it was good read. I looked up some things mentioned in the book because I wanted to know more about them. When I was younger, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Though that didn’t pan out, I still have an interest in ancient civilizations and I feel that this book put me in one.

Jennifer 8 (1992)

81FRnCGQZNL__SY445_Andy Garcia has the lead role in this hard boiled police drama-mystery. Jennifer 8 was filmed in the time before everyone had a cell phone, the internet boom and all that. The scenery really takes me back.

Garcia’s character is John Berlin, a detective who just transferred from the big city to a small town.  While investigating a separate case, the police stumble on a human hand. John Berlin takes the case. After digging around, he learns that the victim was blind and he suspects there were other victims who were also blind. He also meets the woman who he believes will be the next victim.

I watched this movie last night and I was up until 4:30 AM because I couldn’t bring myself to turn it off and go to bed. It was that good. It’s one of those movies that keeps you on your toes and makes you eager to see what happens next.

Soul’s Blood, by Stephen Graham King

41j55fpceFL__SX322_BO1,204,203,200_There’s lots of action in this new science fiction novel by Stephen Graham King. Soul’s Blood doesn’t begin with an explosion, but with a comfortable flow that leads to excitement. With rolling prose, Stephen settles you into the environment with ease and brings his characters alive.

Keene and Lexa-Blue are in the space shipping business. They haul merchandise through space from one port to another, but they also have a reputation for being very skilled fighters. Their ship is the Maverick Heart, but it’s more than just a ship. The Maverick Heart is also the body and mind of Vrick.

Think of Kitt from Knight Rider. Vrick is the ship. Ey thinks, ey talks, and ey helps Keene, Lexa-Blue and their friends. If Vrick was human, I imagine ey would wear a leather jacket and shades. Just like Kitt, Vrick is cool.

Keene’s former boyfriend, Daevin, is like the King of Brighter Light, a city state on another planet. Daevin wants Keene’s help in dealing with conflicts between two different cultures that don’t understand each other.

At first Keene is not so keen about helping Daevin, but eventually he agrees to, with Lexa-Blue and Vrick coming along. There is much conflict, a romance rekindles, friendships are made and mass destruction is witnessed.

Soul’s Blood was a fun read. I was impressed with the world building and I could relate to what some of the characters felt.

The Internet Lied To Me About Switzerland

Yeah, I really bought into some articles I saw a  few years ago. The articles described Switzerland as a country with a very strong gun culture and a very low crime rate. They had me convinced that just about every home in Switzerland had at least one fully automatic SG 550, that most children learn to use guns at an early age and people are often seen open carrying.

There is much I admire about Switzerland. It seems to be a country governed by commonsense and open-mindedness. One example is the stance the Swiss took during World War II. They held their borders against the Axis and the Allies, refusing to take either side in the war, and yet they welcomed in refugees fleeing the Third Reich.

Being the gun nut that I am, I was kind of excited about Switzerland’s awesome  gun culture. I mentioned it in arguments about America’s gun culture, upholding Switzerland as an example of how more guns in the hands of good, responsible people could mean a lower crime rate.

Well, I recently had the privilege to talk to someone who lives in Switzerland and I found out that what I heard about Switzerland’s gun culture is not entirely true. I’m now under the impression that the articles I read a few years ago were written by right wingers bent on spreading propaganda.

Switzerland does have a gun culture, but it’s not as popular as I had thought. Guns are tightly regulated in Switzerland and permits to own guns are expensive. Some homes might have full- automatic rifles in them, but those are likely the homes of people serving in the Swiss Army, as soldiers are allowed to bring their issued weapons home with them. Switzerland’s lower crime rate probably has more to do with the population not being as large as it is in the United States.

None of this changes how I feel about guns or my belief that guns can and do deter crime. But Switzerland might not be the best example of that theory functioning. While I’m mildly disappointed about that, I enjoy learning about different countries and I still think there’s much to admire about Switzerland.