The Big Round-About.
Current mood: weird.
A Geek's Eye
21st April, 2016. 9:29 pm. The Big Round-About: A Proposal
The Big Round-About.
Current mood: weird.
6th April, 2016. 9:38 pm. A History of Pizza in 8 Slices (+ My Thoughts On Pizza)
YES! I finally have a use for my ancient history degree! (I specialized in ancient civilizations with heavy emphasis on Rome.) Apicius, the Roman chef/writer, documented what would probably be the first "pizza"-like thing, commonly eaten on the Italian peninsula. Essentially just "stuff on flatbread", it was a fermented (and heavily spiced) fish dish called (if I remember, correctly) "Garum". This would be spread on the bread, salted, drizzled with oil, baked, allowed to cool, and then folded up and stuck into packs for soldiers on-the-march. It would last several days this way. It also got eaten in the everyman's home (at least close to the coastline).
Second: as for which Deep Dish pizza in Chicago is the best, well, for the past 5 years I've held a room party at the furry convention: Midwest FurFest. (You may remember FurFest from the incident where someone released toxic, chlorine gas during the 2014 event ... it made the news.) Each year, we would order from Deep Dish pizzaria's near to the Hyatt O'Hare. Now, this restricted delivery area is, still, nonetheless pretty decent considering how many such restaurants purposely place themselves near to O'Hare and its many, MANY hotels. Year after year, Gino's East kept coming up as the favorite ... however, that's usually by a hair's breadth when compared to Giordano's. So, by the numbers, you have Gino's East ... but Giordano's can easily be said to be just as good.
Third: don't forget about the cooking methods. While brick-lined, wood-burning ovens are definitely the best known, there was a north-midwestern method that used coal. This would be found between Pennsylvania and Minnesota. Few remain. The difference is that the coal burns hotter than wood, reduces the cooking time, and produces more of those distinctive black bubbles of crust around the edges. Slight difference of flavor, yes, but if you're ever in Minneapolis/Saint-Paul, look up "Black Sheep" coal-fired pizza. You will not regret it!
Fourth: there is also the matter of how the pizza is cut. You touched on this with the Sicilian, and its rectangular shape, but there's also the matter of square-cut. In fact, with no small amount of local pride, I can say that some have started calling "thin-crust, round pizza, cut in squares" as "Minnesota-style". (Personally, I think Minnesota's only real claim to culinary fame is the Juicy Lucy, but I'll go with this because I'm fond of it.)
Finally, and fifthly, on the topic of what makes pizza so great, I have to turn to sage and humorist, Douglas Adams who, in "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul" wrote: "She enjoyed the notion that New York was home, and that she missed it, but in fact the only thing she really missed was pizza. And not just any old pizza, but the sort of pizza they brought to your door if you phoned them up and asked them. That was the only real pizza. Pizza that you had to go out and sit at a table staring at red paper napkins for wasn’t real pizza however much extra pepperoni and anchovy they put on it. London was the place she liked living in most, apart, of course, from the pizza problem, which drove her crazy. Why would no one deliver pizza? Why did no one understand that it was fundamental to the whole nature of pizza that it arrived at your front door in a hot cardboard box? That you slithered it out of grease-proof paper and ate it in folded slices in front of the TV?".
So, even though I just had dinner, I'm already thinking about tomorrow's meal.
You can be rest assured that it will be ... pizza.
Current mood: happy.
1st April, 2016. 12:48 pm. Art Is A Job: Fuck Anyone Saying Otherwise [updated]
When should someone get "Free" art?
Over on g+, today, in one of the furry communities, an artist shared a screenshot that showed some asshole decrying how artists ask for payment. this was, apparently, a faux response by someone being sarcastic (although that was not made clear in the original post ... it looked like a legitimate complainer). The screenshot showed the "Anonymous" poster saying:
Art is not a fucking job. It's something you do on the side for a little extra spending money.
If someone said this to me, I'd block them so fast it would make their self-righteous, entitled head spin. And that's part of the problem: real or not, this sentiment is used all the time. I took the initial post at face-value and wrote this screed. I now know that it's not a real example and feel ashamed that I took it at face value.
That said, I'm leaving this article live with some modifications because people like this do exist.
Forgive my profanity but "Fuck 'em".
I'd love to see what would happen if the hypothetical Mr. Anonymous told Harlan Ellison that "writing is not a fucking job". (Trust me, no matter how old or frail Ellison might be, such an Anonymous asshat would be signing their own death warrant.)
The only times an artist should do something for free are:
Beyond these four, if you are demanding something for free or criticizing artists who won't give you something for free, you are an asshole who deserves to be stripped naked and tied to a fire-ant mound. And, as you get more money and collect more "free" art, ethically I think you should start donating to a few artists just to keep the system working. That last one I cannot require but I think you should definitely give it some thought.
Current mood: annoyed.
27th March, 2016. 8:03 pm. Batman v. Superman: The Problem With Critique (Spoilers)
There are spoilers ahead.
This morning, I went to see "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice". I did this not in spite of but because of all the crappy reviews I saw on "Rotten Tomatoes". While I did not read all of them, I skimmed their capsules to get a feeling where everyone was coming from. I saw ... I saw a lot.
I saw a lot of angry, snarky comments bemoaning this film which was allegedly the worst thing they had ever seen.
And this made me want to see it.
Did I think it would be a good movie? No. My expectations were suitably low.
But when I see a host of reviews in which the critics are more enamored of their snappy put-downs and clever, snarky turns-of-phrase than actually writing meaningful and insightful assessment of a film, I get suspicious. The Internet's currency isn't Bitcoin; the coin of the realm is snark. It's what everyone does. And, as Sturgeon's Law tells us: "90% of everything is crap". When everyone does something, and so many think it's easy, I suggest that this 90% rises more closely to 99%. The critics on Rotten Tomatoes may or may not have talent and skill. But the benefit that Rotten Tomatoes has in calculating an aggregate value of a film's worth (boiled down to a "yay" or "nay" system) also boils down any succinct or nuanced reviews into mindless braying.
It's as if the over-the-top "critic character" of Anton Ego in 2007's "Ratatouille" became manifest in the real world and, then, took over. This is what criticism appears to have become: clever quips and ego masturbation, lording one's alleged intellect and taste over everyone else in such a way as to make them feel stupid when swamped with excessive japes at the expense of the criticized.
Was "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" a good movie?
I thought so, yes.
That's a summary, sans any clever assessment.
It also lacks any depth or useful information.
Did it have flaws?
Very much so.
Again: not really useful.
So, you might think that I'm coming to the point of understanding where the snarkiness and flavor has value. You would be wrong. Clever wordplay, in my opinion, should assist a review. It should entertain and underscore the points being made and, in so doing, educate the consumer of the review. This includes all manner of words and phrases, including snarkiness. But when all you see is something boiled down to a "one" or a "zero", a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down", nuance gets lost.
The thing about the most famous film critics in recent memory, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, is that while they trademarked the summarized "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" ratings, they also gave a wealth of information leading up to that analysis. They discussed and debated. They entertained each other's views and sometimes savaged each other's opinions. But they always had a reason for what they believed. Those two put their reasons on display so it wasn't just about "who won".
Sure, in the end films got up to two "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". Newspapers and ads would always be sure to quote "two thumbs up" if they got such a chance and, if they didn't, would be sure to cite either of the two who gave it a "thumbs up". But that's boiling things down. All of Siskel and Ebert's nuance gets lost. And that's what Rotten Tomatoes has become.
Also, in today's rush to be part of the "first wave" of people who get likes for their reviews (in print or on YouTube), you get the impression that the contemporary critic has not done due diligence. There are mistakes, all the time. Many reviews seem to miss fundamental points of the plot or, simply, get them wrong.
I remember the first time I saw this. Back in 2000, the gay romantic comedy: "The Broken Hearts Club" suffered one review in which the critic bemoaned how predictable it was and accused it of playing "the AIDS scare" plotline.
The thing is, the critic hadn't watched it.
Either that, or he missed something big.
The whole point of the film, pointed out in the very first scene was that gay life wasn't stereotypical. They even pointed out how the only roles gays seemed to fill in movies were "noble, suffering AIDS victims, the friends of noble suffering AIDS victims, sex addicts, common street hustlers, and [...] stylish confidantes to lovelorn women". There is no AIDS scare in the film. Not once in the entire 94-minute runtime does anyone think they have AIDS, have been exposed to AIDS, or raises that specter to anyone.
The critic either had been taking so many notes that, somehow, they missed a scene (or seven) or they never saw it and based their review solely upon the trailer. (The trailer, by the way, also didn't have AIDS in it.)
So with "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" I found one good, solid review. This review, on The Mary Sue blog, was nuanced. It avoided one-liners (save where they served to get a point across) and did its best to inform the public. You can read the review, here: "Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Is an Unpleasant Endurance Test" by Leslie Coffin. It is a dissatisfied review but it makes its point solidly and with good points. They are points that can be debated, solidly, and not dependent upon one-liners.
What do I think of it? Do my nuances matter?
Probably not. Too much damage has been done.
But I'll give you this:
( Spoilers FollowCollapse )
And, yes: there are several plot-holes. There are events that make no sense as the story unfolds. But, really, those are relatively minor. They are a problem in the aggregate and I think a more skilled director would have spotted them and smoothed them over. Just a few extra lines of dialogue could have solved most of these by explaining what was going on.
So, in a sum total, I enjoyed "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice". But it is a flawed movie. The back-half is riddled with problems that distract you from the adult story that's trying to be told. And no amount of good acting is going to cover that up.
What does this all mean to you?
As I said before, probably nothing.
If you want characters more similar to those in the comic books, you will probably not like this film. If you like to see more realized, human versions of the characters, you'll probably like the first half. If you find enjoyment in a gradual mystery, putting pieces together, that's pretty well-done, throughout the movie.
There are many reasons to love or hate this movie. Most movie-goers will probably find several of them. And that's fine.
Find the things you like. Find the things you hate. Talk about them both. Keep yourself open to discussion about them. Realize that you may actually change your opinions, going forward. Realize that you may not.
Understand that this is all acceptable.
But when people rely upon snark and cutting remarks to sell the entertainment part of their review, keep in mind that it's lazy. It's cheap writing attempting to get you to click "like", "share", "favorite", or whatever other metric they use to measure success.
A good critic will blend elements together into something informative, entertaining, occasionally cutting, and helpful as you try to figure out for yourself, "Should I spend my hard-earned money on this experience"?
But, right now, I don't think many sources of media criticism are up to that challenge.
Current mood: tired.
20th March, 2016. 11:10 pm. Day Whatever: Neither Good Nor Bad
Today was difficult to understand. I had a lot to do and not very much energy to do it. I got breakfast at Hazel's again (beignet's and eggs benedict) then went home to prep for my Furry Migration con-comm meeting. Then it's all a bit of a blur.
I was well-prepared but annoyed by things that shouldn't annoy me.
For example, the church that rents space in the same building as the Geek Partnership Society had taken up all the parking spots in about a block radius. I'm not handicapped but I still find it hard to walk large distances. In the end, I did get lucky: I found a spot just as someone pulled out.
But inside the building, pounding Christian rock bled through the walls and ricocheted down the halls making normal conversation, even with someone five feet from me, impossible. I did a lot of smiling and nodding.
And, yes: I get it. Religious folk deserve to let their exuberance out. That's great! It's just ... they don't own the building. And I feel guilty for being mad at them.
Our meeting started about 20 minutes late (due to noise). I was able to get things done by going through the bullet points I'd laid out, in advance. (I told everyone I had to leave early for the birthday observance of my brother and nephew.) I felt really, really awkward being made the center of attention in the meeting, though. Yes: I had everything laid out and prepared, but most of the questions I asked were answered with, "We'll have answers by the April meeting". That's acceptable and understandable but I felt like all eyes were on me. I felt I was doing something really, REALLY wrong by bringing these issues up.
I left the meeting earlier than I'd intended but also really exhausted.
I drove home and checked social media while putting the finishing touches on the gifts I was bringing to the birthday.
Then, I went up to New Brighton to my brother's place.
I honestly hadn't known there would be so many people there. I felt terrible. It was impossible to focus. I tried to help cook but I kept making mistakes. People kept charging through the kitchen. So many people were talking and I just wanted to be anywhere else.
Honestly, a lot of it is a blur. I remember sitting down for BBQ chicken next to my brother (he's always a really solid person; I can feel safe near him, much like I can near my sister). But I remember very little else.
Present un-wrapping was a bit hectic and I started to phase-out, again.
At least afterwards, once non-immediate-family started to leave, I was able to start unwinding again. We sat in the downstairs living room, watched a video and some old episodes of "Pee Wee's Playhouse" and talked about plans to go see "Zootopia" in a couple weeks.
I didn't tell anyone that the weekend we ended up with I'd already been making plans to get out of town to try and wind down further. But it was the only time that worked for the rest of the family. That's fine, though. I cancelled my out-of-town plans and smiled my way through it.
I got home, listening more to the great podcast that my friend Anna turned me on to: "Lore".
I was finally able to unwind, properly. I watched "The Walking Dead", "The Talking Dead", and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver".
I'm not sure if those shows really "unwound" me but I was able to focus and not feel all shaky and jittery.
Now, I know this isn't going to go well for me tomorrow. I have to get up in about 6 hours for work. I won't have slept well. But I needed to stop my brain from spinning. TV is good for that. Also having my roommate, Mike, around helps, too. He's a pretty calming influence.
I've now stopped watching TV, ate a late-night snack of a whole wheat English Muffin, and caught up on social media (which I think I need to avoid, again ... it's draining all on its own, regardless of my feeling that if I don't keep up with it, I'm out-of-touch.).
So how do I feel?
There was a lot of stress but I didn't feel like I couldn't handle it. I just had to mumble my way through the day a bit and fake it. A week ago I don't think I would have been able to fake anything. Tomorrow, I don't think I have anything huge going on at work so I'll try to just calm myself and work steadily through the day while listening to music. That might help, considerably.
Anyway, it's time for bed. I'm not sure how long I've been off my meds but I don't care. It's day "X". Counting them doesn't matter.
Current mood: tired.
20th March, 2016. 9:49 am. Gaming Room: I Need One
I've been thinking, for some time, about how I game. The environment is important. Comfort is important. The people involved are important. The game, itself...
Well, that's important but not quite as much as the other three things.
The problems I'm facing, as I get older, are screaming to be resolved. Sitting on a couch, something low to the ground without a good surface in front of me on which I can set my gaming materials, has become uncomfortable. It's not like the cushions aren't nice (they are) but getting up and down, reaching the gaming surface, and having a place to store my dice are all issues that I struggle with. And, yes, I have plenty of work-arounds.
My friend, Dan, gave me a great dice-rolling tray this past Yule.
My roommates are often willing to move miniatures around for me or use cameras to show from-the-top views of the gaming board.
And, as I lose weight again, I'll find it easier to get up and down as much as most modern, miniature- or board-based games require.
But even weight-loss won't entirely fix things.
So, I'm pondering what to do, next. What I am thinking of is designing a gaming room that everyone can use but will also meet the requirements I have.
For example, having cushy chairs (like sofas or recliners) of a height equal to normal chairs (thus making them easy to get in- and out-of), would be ideal. A large table surface large enough for big game maps to roll out upon, while still providing a "gutter" around the edges for paper, books, and dice, would be grand. Plug-ins (power and data) for players' laptops or tablets (upon which the referee could share images and other such game-aides) would be great. Having this look like a secret, archaic lair: perfect! It also needs to be well-lit but with the ability to lower lights (now and then) for atmosphere. I'd need venting (in case candles are lit, in wall-sconces) and speakers (plus mounting space for a large, easily-viewable monitor) for more atmosphere and shared game supplements/hand-outs.
So, with that in mind, I think I'm going to start trying to design things. I don't know where I'll be in four months' time but I'll still plan to the best of my abilities.
NOTE: I am aware of this DnD gaming room as well as the wealth of gaming room images on Google. One day, hopefully, my own will be there, too.
ADDENDUM: Following are the needs I've put together, so far:
Current mood: hopeful.
18th March, 2016. 1:02 pm. My Thoughts On Writing in the Furry Community
A person I follow online, a fellow hobbyist writer, got an email requesting a commission. Not only did the person requesting it spell out exactly what was to happen, the would-be commissioner put in all manner of caveats (including "no referencing the male character having an erection", ie: "gay stuff"). The "request" was more stated like a demand, saying that the work would have to be at least "1,000 words" and have a first draft available for review, that night. For all this? The seemingly entitled (and/or "clueless") commissioner said he would pay five dollars ("including tip").
Here are the generally-accepted definitions for writing lengths:
Drabble (100 words)To summarize what the paying world offers writers, a low-paid, starting value (in a fair-to-middling publication) is half a cent (USD) per word. In other words, if the person requesting the work thinks you're good enough for them, they'll pay you five dollars for a bit of Flash Fiction. Keep in mind, this is for someone who is getting their work paid-for, for the first time. People who have earned respect for their writing can usually demand more around three-to-five cents per word. Professionals get paid even more.
Nowhere in these payment schemes is an expectation of the resulting story fulfill an exact menu of demands. Commissions usually cost extra because the writer is having to get into someone else's head-space for an audience of one. This is not the same as a commission with a general theme (such as "write a story featuring anthropomorphics for a Hallowe'en-themed thing featuring a ghostly relationship gone wrong"). Such a "ghost story commission" would usually be paid out as per the normal guidelines already mentioned. So, if you think a commission allows you to dictate exactly what happens in more than general terms, you will be paying considerably more.
Luckily, each and every one of the people I have done commissions for have been intelligent, respectful, understanding, and endlessly forgiving of my slow ability to put words to paper. Honestly, I'm amazed some of them still talk to me.
But when it comes to payment for artistic, original work, keep this in mind when talking about writers:
So, maybe you didn't know. Maybe you are ashamed for what you did if you put out a request that bad and clueless.
I, for one, would forgive you. There is no guarantee that anyone else would be so forgiving, but I believe that some people just don't know what they did wrong and need to be calmly instructed as to the finer points of respectful commissioning.
It's understandable if you are poor. That's a really good explanation for some behavior that people would call "entitled" on the surface. Lacking funds for basic living in a community where it seems that everyone is a Rockafeller, throwing around money to illustrators, painters, animators, and authors, is rough. This is one of the reasons so many artists put a good chunk of their work online for free. It can also be rough if you see the community to which you belong and feel like an outsider because you don't know a creator well enough to be offered a free, short bit of fiction. That sort of thing happens all the time.
This still doesn't exempt you from being polite. No financial circumstance prevents you from asking for rates and finding out what they are. Being poor is never an excuse to behave poorly.
My own rates are rather low considering I've been professionally paid for years at a medium, non-professional-level. I lower them, through some sites, because I want to reach out to poorer members of that community and because I know that I am fucking slow. My pace is horrendous and I'm ashamed of that. Therefore, my rates tend to get adjusted downwards, accordingly.
But each artist is allowed to have their own rates and their own assessment of what they are worth.
A person trying to make a living on their writing, someone who has to pay for an apartment or home, buy their own insurance, put fuel in the car or afford a bus pass, save for retirement, put money aside for conferences where they will work all weekend to make ends meet, buy food (for themselves and/or family members), etc..., may need to make at least $50,000/year. They aren't being greedy if they divide this amount into what it takes, on average, for them to produce work and charge that amount.
You might think that amount is too high and, honestly, it may be.
But it's their right to put that amount out there to see who will meet it.
You don't have to.
But if you think their work is worth paying for in the first place, you at least owe them the respect to ask what they think they need in order to actually make a living.
Just as an FYI, for myself, I find my rates to be good for me (with all my warts and problems, combined with my skills and experience in this community). Consider that I spell out why I charge what I do and what increases my rates. These are my right to set. If it is too expensive for you, that's fine! You don't need to buy anything. I'm good with that. But it would be insulting if you demanded something, trying to set a price without showing respect for my needs as an artist, and offered an amount of money that wouldn't get someone very much at Starbucks (let alone a real grocery store).
My Own Rates Example: http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/38342
So, in summary: keep this in mind...
TL/DR: Writers are artists. Artists need to eat and live like anyone else. They do not exist to make you happy out of the goodness of their hearts. They will do their best to make you happy in return for something that helps them live and get by, day-to-day. They get to determine what this is. If you would like to negotiate, feel free: but don't expect them to change their rates. It can, sometimes, happen: but it is rare.Show respect. Don't come across as "entitled". Don't be a dick.
Then we'll all enjoy the artwork: all of us.
Current mood: solid.
17th March, 2016. 6:52 pm. Zootopia Wallpaper
I put together this really nice Zootopia wallpaper for my computer, at home.
Click for large-size, original, Zootopia wallpaper.
Current mood: happy.
17th March, 2016. 7:44 am. Zen and the Art of Community Maintenance
I've been thinking about fandom (the community; not, specifically, the series of interests) and wondering if it matters whether or not its members have gone through a majority of similar experiences.
When I was a young geek, growing up in the 70s and 80s, speculative fiction (books and film) were a refuge. Tabletop RPGs, once I found people who felt similarly shunned by or pushed away from mainstream community, soon became my only real social outlet. Upon discovering fandom, I found a host of people like myself. In fact, it may be said that people like myself (in the generations previous), created fandom.
There were in-jokes and common experiences around (negative and positive) around which we organized, commiserated, and related to one another. How this manifested were with the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and real-science books, shows, and games we enjoyed.
With the mainstreaming of so-called "fannish interests" and the expansion of the community's large tent, what does this mean for the sense of community? I've heard some people talk about how they feel disconnected from fandom as it has evolved and grown. Part of this, certainly, is that the language of fandom (ie: its interests) changes as each person joins, bringing with their own obsessions. As the shared experiences change, people in it for a while may feel disconnected. Then there is the degree of "shared misery" that some folk rely upon. Again, this is part of the "language" of the community. As more people are brought in because of interests (as opposed to rallying around interests in the lack of a mainstream community of a welcoming nature), the shared reasons for joining become different.
Communities change, including those created by people seeking camaraderie when feeling shunned by mainstream communities. That's normal. But it being normal doesn't make it any easier to bear for some.
I'm curious: what can we do to both continue bringing people into this ever-changing community while, simultaneously, helping to meet the social needs of our elders and those who were here for a longer time and different reasons?
Current mood: contemplative.
16th March, 2016. 10:20 pm. End of Day Nineteen
Not sure why, but started burning out on the way home, tonight. Got dinner with two friends. Some comments on the way home from that made it worse. I need to find a way to fix myself without outside influence.
Current mood: tired.