Items of Interest: Ep. 17

Humans like patterns. We like to think that things repeat, and we love to feel clever. There are quite a few wonderful things that have come out of this idea. Writing. Science. Mathematics.

These things are supposed to help us identify the patterns of the universe and make us feel special and clever.

Then, things take a turn for the strange and bizarre.

Items of Interest: Ep. 17

Conspiracy Theorists

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. I love a good conspiracy. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe all…many (most) of them. Like:

1. The government is covering up evidence of a UFO landing.

The event that kick-started more than a half century of conspiracy theories surrounding unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Something did crash at Roswell, New Mexico, sometime before July 7, 1947 and – at first – the US authorities stated explicitly that this was a flying saucer or disk – as shown by the splash story on that day’s Roswell Daily Record, pictured. Numerous witnesses reported seeing metallic debris scattered over a wide area and at least one reported seeing a blazing craft crossing the sky shortly before it crashed. In recent years, witnesses have added significant new details, including claims of a large military operation dedicated to recovering alien craft and aliens themselves, at as many as 11 crash sites, and alleged witness intimidation. In 1989, former mortician Glenn Dennis claimed that he was involved in alien autopsies which were carried out at the Roswell air force base.

2. The Apollo moon landing was a hoax.

Nasa and possibly others intentionally deceived the public into believing the landings did occur by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence, including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, and rock samples; and that Nasa and possibly others continue to actively participate in the conspiracy to this day. Those who think that Nasa faked some or all of the landings base their theories on photographs from the lunar surface which they claim show camera crosshairs partially behind rocks, a flag planted by Buzz Aldrin moving in a strange way, the lack of stars over the lunar landscape and shadows falling in different direction. Many commentators have published detailed rebuttals to the hoax claims, and these theories have been generally discounted but belief in them – particularly on the web – persists.

3. The Philadelphia experiment.

During an experiment at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in October 1943, the US Navy destroyer Eldridge was rendered invisible. According to some accounts, the scientists on the experiment found a way to bend light around an object but that the experiment went wrong and Eldridge was transported through space and time, reappearing at sea. Several sailors, it is said, were badly hurt when the experiment went wrong and some were melded into the ship’s superstructure. The US Navy has denied that the experiment ever took place.

I approach these with a healthy dose of what-if. It’s fun to play with these ideas, morph their conclusions, twist around their concepts to the rationality breaking-point. Aliens? Moon landing? Teleportation? Well, if it isn’t the basis for a new novel.

But, by far, my favorite conspiracy theory is the “Paul is Dead” theory, not only in the scope of crazy, but in the realm of “does it matter?”.

You’ve probably heard what I initially did. The whole Abbey Road cover, Paul is the only one crossing the street without shoes, which means that he’s dead. I thought that was sort of it.

Alas, no, my friend.

I stumbled across this website.

It’s well researched. But, I can’t help but think maybe someone put too much thought into it. Maybe it’s true. Maybe there’s only one Beatle left in the world.

Not that it matters. Our lives are being manipulated by men in a room in suits while they drink from snifters and smoke cigars, and, at any moment, we will be thrown into martial law. *cue Twilight Zone music*

Bad blogger! No cookie!

I haven’t blogged this week. I know. Bad writer. Back to your cave.

So, here’s the rundown. There comes a point in every person’s life when they make sweeping assumptions about the human race based on their personal experiences. And, this is one of those times.

I tend to look at my life as a game with specific objectives I’m attempting to achieve. I think this was a week of secondary objectives, which is sort of a terrible thing to say (you’ll see why in a moment). 

I cultivated a social life this week.

My main objectives are…not going so well. This may have to do with the fact that I feel like I’ve been treading water. It’s terrible to consider a social life secondary, but hey, I never said I was perfect. I just insinuated…

This last weekend, I wrote a spec script for a television show. After sending it on its merry way (for your eyes only), I decided I wasn’t going to write anything until next Tuesday. Not one word. Except, quotes. And, this blog post, which is hardly coherent.

The demonic writer within me flipped me the bird and hunkered down in the back of my head. It’s been poking me more insistently as the time passes. Last night, it said, “Hey, you know that one scene? What if you do this? You better go jot it on a notecard or something because you’ll forget it by morning.”

Not gonna do it.

Characters are sort of bunching up in my head seeking escape. And that’s just fine.

What to do with all that time? 

Reading. That’s a big one. Watching movies. I actually played a little bit of a video game. Played Solitaire for a long time on my iPad. You don’t really notice how long you’ve been playing Solitaire until it’s ten games later and you realize you haven’t blinked in an hour and a half. 

But, here’s something cool. I saw friends. Like, real life actual people outside of the Internet box. We talked about stuff. Stuff that mattered. Stuff that didn’t. Stuff that might or might not ever be.

I complained a lot. I’m not making any headway on that main objective of moving out of parents’ house, you know, so I make a stink about it.

It was cool. Sort of nice to see what it’s like to not work all the time. Achievement unlocked.

I’ll be a bit more bloggy next week. Until then, I’m going to sit in the sun and finish reading The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez.

Summer’s here. You should take some time to…you know. Whatever. 

Items of Interest: Ep. 16

Phew. That was a close one. I almost didn’t find anything that I was interested in this week.

It’s been rough.

But, enough about my mental instability.

Items of Interest: Ep. 16

The Power of Three. Or, Rule of Four.

Find a need, fill a need.

You’re all familiar with the four humors, right?

Okay, crash course. Look at this.

All right, now look at the group of friends you hang out with.

Chances are, there are four of you. And, each one of you fall into one of those categories very specifically. Before you get all huffy and jump to another feed, hear me out.

You rotate. There are shifts. Things change. But, if Simon shouted “Stop!” in the middle of a rotation, these four basic types would still be filled. Almost like there’s a need to fill the basic personality types. If it works in real life, it must work in story.

Examples!

Sex and the City. Will and Grace. Frazier. The Electric Mayhem (sans Dr. Teeth).

Why does this work? No idea. Just thought it was interesting. Moving on.

The Power of Three

It’s like someone saw this trope and thought, “All I have to do to be different is get rid of a humor.”

This was a great plan because it adds a layer of previously unreachable conflict. The group of three is unnatural. It lacks balance. We are always trying to find the fourth humor to complete the picture. This is a gut-conflict. It has nothing to do with the story, or the action. We the audience feel like something is wrong and needs to be resolved. We just don’t realize it’s the fourth humor.

Example!

Harry Potter. Throughout the series, we see Ron, Hermione, and Harry rotating through the four humors. Hermione stays pretty solid as phlegmatic while Ron is pretty stable sanguine. The dynamic of the group changes every time a fourth member is added. Neville is melancholic. The Weasley Twins are choleric.

Harry remains the wild card, which helps the audience empathize with him. Like us, he is not always aware of what role he needs to play in the ever-changing dynamic.

And, all this in a world of fours!

Four Houses, four Marauders, four Founders.

We’re happy. In the end, we get our fourth. Ginny. The roles are set, the group dynamic stops spinning.

That’s why you have an epilogue. To prove you’ve stopped searching for the fourth.

This stuff is visceral. It’s not about defeating Voldemort. It’s about finding where you fit in context of four.

That’s simplified, of course. And, as all things in the real world, it’s not necessarily true all the time. But, that’s what stories are, right? Trying to find their way to a universal truth.

Obligatory "Something’s Happening" Post

Guess what? I’m teaching a class on writing?

Aw, you guessed it.

Luckily, I’m teaching teens, so if someone calls me out…yeah, I’ll probably get beat up, but, hey, you take a risk.

Anywho, if you know someone in the DFW area who is 13-17 and wants to take classes on writing over the summer, I’ve got the best deal in town.

Because it’s not just me.

We have real-life writers and authors. You know, like people with agents and books that have their names on them. Like  (feel free to squee) Jenny Martin, and Rosemary Clement-Moore, and Candy Havens, and A. Lee Martinez.

Did I mention it’s free? How much money? None. Because it’s free.

You can get contact info here. It’s sponsored by the DFW Writers’ Workshop.

Sessions are on Saturdays, 1pm-3pm starting June 18th and running through July 30th (no session on July 2nd, due to Independence Day).

Seriously. You’re not going to find a better teen writers workshop this summer. Spread the word.

The Learning Curve

I have these lists.

And, they’re long.

One is Things I Learned in School. This list is finite. It’s not getting any longer, mainly because I’m not in school anymore. The non-academics are on there, too. Like how to become a cool kid (never actually learned that one, but it might be on your list).

Then, there’s Things I Didn’t Learn in School. This one’s infinite, and I discover more things on it every day.

I unfurled a different list this weekend: Things I Should Have Learned in School. Like, say, how to write a query letter. Or, how to get published. Or, how not to look like a crazy writer in front of a group of agents after you spent the last 12 hours in a caffeine-induced heightened state of awareness while pounding out 10,000 words.

Not that anything like that has ever happened to me…

So, what’s the problem? What’s the point?

I wouldn’t trade my education for anything. I took full advantage of the opportunities my school provided. However, one should never assume they are done learning. Every person in the world is a wealth of knowledge. Lately, I’ve felt like a brain slug, leeching off the intellect of people I know.

Is that a thing? Does it count as leeching if they give it to you freely?

On the flip side, do we gravitate towards each other? There must be a law in the Physics of Psychology (yeah, just made that up).

People with like interests and a passion to learn from each other attract. Whether by choice or how the world turns, it seems we all end up in the same place. iHop on Wednesday nights (wink).

So, here’s the lesson you can take away from today’s ramble:

If you want to be a writer, go to class. Go to conferences. Talk to other writers. Listen to what people have to say about the art. Read the blogs. And, keep writing the whole time. Knowing it all is overrated (and BS).

You can’t learn it all in school. You can never stop learning.

Throw it against the wall. See what sticks.

Bohemian Rhapsody just started on my stereo, so y’all know what I have to do.

A review of some kind of media

Storytelling is not confined to the Written Word. We should challenge ourselves to find and hail good storytelling regardless of medium.

And, no, that’s not just an excuse for not finishing a book this week.

So, here’s something else for your enjoyment.

Series Breakdown

(like there’s humor in a situation)

Hot in Cleveland

I remember seeing ads for this and thinking, “I should watch that.” But, like most series I mentally bookmark, I forgot about it. When it popped up on Netflix Instant Play, I had no excuse any more. Queue it up!

Three vapid LA women on their way to Paris are grounded in Cleveland, where they find life is not the same as it is on the West Coast. They buy a house that comes with a snarky caretaker.

I am a fan of Jane Leeves. I’ve seen every episode of Frazier, and I loved her as Daphne. All right, you guessed it, I love British accents no matter who’s “ew-ing” the U’s, but, hey, that’s good casting.

I’m not a Betty White follower, but concede that she is a great actress and has a knack for comedic timing. The relationship between Elka (White) and Joy (Leeves) is great.

You cannot go wrong with the cast. Wendie Malick and Valerie Bertinelli are playing roles they are perfect for.

Sean Hayes (Jack from Will & Grace) has a hand in the series as executive producer.

First Ten:

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Hot in Cleveland took a 30 Rock concept (S1:Ep.20) and turned it into a series.

This is 100% okay. Hot in Cleveland coasts on concept for six episodes. I was starting to think “Okay, I get it. Just one more.” Man cannot live on concept alone.

Boom. Episode 7, everything is a well-oiled machine, and this series hit its stride. It’s nice to see a show that can make fun of the vapid and fast-paced culture of the coasts, as well as the detached and relaxed culture of Middle America. No one is safe.

I started watching season 2 and snorted coffee.

Season 2 begins in a courtroom with Wendie Malick’s voiceover, “In a situation comedy, there are two separate, but equally important, stories.” A Law & Order tribute? Yes. Yes, indeed. A million times yes.

TV Land, hats off to you. Good choice and well done. A hearty Midwesterner cheer for your continued success.