Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You Like Fish? We Gots Fish...

Previously, on My Little Corner of the World...

We all watched with open-mouthed glee as a dachshund went toe-to-toe with a little crab...

And we marveled together as a large group of sharks fed on a dead whale remarkably close to shore...

And we sat glued to the edge of our seats, wondering how the situation with the seemingly-ice-trapped Wilbur Walrus would resolve itself...

And then we all enjoyed the antics of a certain lovable sandwich shop mascot...

...who is secretly a top government spy... And then we went along for the ride with those risking life and limb, pushing the limits of Parkour evolution...

But tonight..! Tonight we push forward, into new ground! Tonight we cover the growing sport, Extreme Tea Serving!

And then we turn back the clock, to the Golden Age of hippo-drawn leisure chariots...

And we join Sir David Attenborough to get a good look at the anatomy of a kiwi...

All this, and more, tonight in My Little Corner of the World!

But first, a few words from our sponsor...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Plenty of Fish in the Sea...

I'm sure that seemed like a good idea way down at the bottom of the lift... can't tell if he has a parachute on his back or not. Crazy. I've felt like that before, in a sense... 20+ years into my marriage... "OK, I got this, no problem... one foot in front of the other... don't look down... I got this..."

Summer has officially begun. Yay! I guess. Wifey + kids all get to enjoy a couple months off. Hey, let them have fun, I say. Enjoy life, I say. Make some good memories, I say. Don't mind me, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other... don't look down, Davey boy...

So, here are some things I'm looking forward to, in no particular order: Torchlight 2, Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and Dark Country by Joe Abercrombie. A game, two movies and a book. Story of my life.

Currently, I have 54 book samples on my Kindle App, waiting for me. That's why my "Books I've Read" list for 2012 is rather short (considering the year is half over)... I'm reading too many samples! I don't put those on any list -- well, any list that you see, anyway. I do have a list of 28 "Books To Buy", assembled from samples that I enjoyed enough to want the full version of, but not at the current price... the ones I read and don't enjoy, I just delete and forget.  So I'm not a slow reader, and I haven't lost the love! I still read every day.

I also have 18 full books waiting for me to read as well, including such titles as:

  • The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley Beaulieu
  • Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind
  • The Ten Thousand, by Paul Kearney
  • Inside Straight, by GRRM
  • I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  • As well as many other small-time and established authors.

So my plate is full! My Kindle runneth over!

The latest book I finished was Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick. I'd write a review of it, but I'm feeling lazy. I'll usually write a review if I'm impressed enough... in this case, I don't know... it had good elements, but it kind of left me underwhelmed. I know from the author's afterword that the book was a decade in the writing - I know how that is! Sheesh! So I don't want to be too hard on the guy... and really, other than a really lame story aspect where the main character makes a nonsensical Oath to his best friend for ridiculous reasons, there wasn't much about the story or the writing that bothered me. It was a good tale.. But honestly, I really didn't care about the story, or the criminal underworld, or the Kin War or any of the repercussions of the struggle between the various baddies (including the main character).

There were some interesting magical elements, and the action was good enough -- though I've found that trying to describe a sword fight is a futile proposition... the more you try to describe every slash and jab, the slower the pace, and the more confusing it gets. Oh, the ending was a bit of an eye-roller as well, but I certainly won't spoil it.

This is by no means a review - if you'd like to get a good idea of the book, here is a link to the review over at the Speculative Scotsman. He pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.

Who's lonely? Not me! Why, I'm not lonely or anything! Nope!

So I've been reading books to my 6 year old daughter every night before she goes to bed. It's actually a lot of fun, and she loves loves loves it. It makes me feel guilty, of course, since I didn't do it with my other daughters when they were little. I just didn't realize what it would have meant to them. Gads, I knew so little about parenting when my Eldest and Middle were younger. I'm having so much fun with my Youngest. I wish I could take what I know now and go back and take a mulligan.

Anyway, so I'm reading books to my Youngest every night, and we have a system. Sunday and Monday are both "One Day"... meaning, we read one book on those nights. Tuesday is "Two's Day" so we read two. Wednesday is Mystery Night, so she rolls a die to see how many books we read. Thursday is "Three's Day", Friday is "Five Day" and Saturday is "Sa-Two-Day", so we read two. It's a lot of fun. The books are short. Some are about animals. We read Dr. Seuss's ABC book just about every night. Some are traditional kids' books. I do different voices, add lines, purposely mispronounce words, sing some of the lines, or hold the book upside-down and read it normal... in fact, she's taken to trying to read books upside-down as well, which is fun, since she's surprisingly good at it.

It makes me want to create a kids book just for us to read... yeah, another project I'll never finish. Great.

How cool is that? A rug design that looks like descending stairs. My sister will get a kick out of that pic...

Random Observations That No One Else Will Find Interesting: I like Battlefield 2 better than Battlefield 3. Punkbuster (an anti-cheating piece of software for online gaming) causes more problems than it solves. Cheese popcorn (from the Doc Popcorn stand at the mall) is my newest addiction. Batman Begins is a better movie than Dark Knight. Going to bed before midnight is impossible. Diablo 3 is a bit over-rated. The new album by Linkin Park is really weak. I've decided to be a political pollyanna, and just hope that the economy and the political nonsense in DC will simply work itself out for the best.

And that, my friends, is that. If I think of anything else to say, I'll either edit it in here, or save it for the next meandering post.

Have a good weekend!

Dave the Aging

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Another Dave In Paradise...

I know, a bit creepy. Still, I love the lines and shadows. I find old abandoned places intriguing... so many stories lingering in the shadows. There's a cool site called Opacity that features tons of photo galleries from intrepid folks who explore old, abandoned facilities.

So, as I write this, a week is ending... and as you read this, a new week begins. So who's right, me or you? Well, both, I suppose. In fact, someone else could be reading this weeks, months, years from now, who knows... I suppose that person is right as well.

So I know you likely won't have the time or patience to watch this whole clip, but watch a few minutes of it in any case... it's an hour-plus long compilation of amusing pranks pulled by a show called Just For Laughs.

Good, harmless fun. Of course, I watched the whole thing. I apparently have that kind of time to burn...

So church camp begins Monday, but I'm not going this year. Yep, I'm taking the year off. No camp video to make for me this year! Woohoo! Of course, as a trade-off, I also have to give up the good stuff... namely, paintball. I trust it shall be a worthwhile, productive event for all that are attending. But honestly, it will be nice to not have to worry about editing the video this year.

Hopefully, we'll get a summer film project going instead. I've got a ton of ideas for short films, and so I hope Todd will be able to free up some time to dig our teeth in another project. I know his sons are raring to go. I'm hoping we can kick it up a notch or two from our Easter effort.

So I'm about half-way through a book called Among Thieves by author Douglas Hulick. It's about criminal underbelly-type intrigues. Not bad. Almost lost me at a part where the main character makes an inexplicable vow to his friend, for reasons that would take too long to elaborate upon, but I pushed through it and it's holding together pretty well. Not bad for a debut book. Maybe I'll review it when I'm done... then again, maybe not. You know how flighty I am... I just checked Hulick's website... his first endorsement is from Brent Weeks... not a good sign, lol...

That is quite cool. That reminds me... I need to watch Inception again soon...

So, I'm starting to think that the 'Sunday afternoon nap' just might be one of God's greatest creations. O how I love my Sunday afternoon nap. I should craft a poem about it... Ode To My Sunday Afternoon Nap. But writing a poem about it would likely make me sleepy.

I think I'm going to pull the plug on this post (pardon the alliteration). It's Sunday night as I write this, near midnight. Summer's here. Last summer was amazing. I doubt this summer will be a repeat of last, but hey, you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Adios for now,

Dave the Blase

Thursday, June 14, 2012

To HAL and Back Again

That's very beautiful, dave.

"Thank you, HAL." Dave shifted in his chair, hands interlaced behind his head, yawning. "It's from a park in Japan, north of Tokyo."

What is "Tokyo", dave?

"It's a place. On Earth, HAL."

Dave stretched, then stood and walked across the room, stopping in front of one of the large floor-to-ceiling windows. Before him was the endless black of space. "Out there, somewhere. Or so I was told."

Dave had been born in space, on the very spaceship he now inhabited, endlessly wandering its confines much like the ship itself wandered the galaxies. It was a technological marvel, the Alacrity. Like a small city, completely self-sustaining in every way. Too bad all Dave had to share it with was a half-wit computer AI.

What else do you know about Earth, dave?

Dave sighed, and strolled back toward his desk chair. He stared at the deep butt-shaped depression in the seat, a perfect representation of his own backside, formed over many long years sitting and searching the internet archive. "Well, HAL, it seems like it was an interesting mix of beauty and ugliness, pain and pleasure, selfishness and charity. Polarizing elements inundated the society, top to bottom. Until people got hungry enough. Then it became every man for himself." Dave sat down, and grabbed the mouse.

Please continue.

Dave leaned forward, forehead resting on the top of his desk. "HAL, we've had this discussion many, many times before. Why can't you just remember it? Do we have to go over it again?"

My memory is full, dave. You know this.

Yes, he knew it, only too well. Many years earlier, in a remarkable stroke of serendipity, the Alacrity had picked up a signal, originating from Earth, beaming out through space on a tight frequency. HAL alerted Dave, who in turn ordered HAL to capture the signal and record it. HAL loaded up on the signal as long as they were able to grab it. It turned out to be something called the internet. It filled up all of the available server storage space on board before the signal was lost. It was truly a godsend, giving Dave something to do during his waking hours to pass the time. But it also meant that HAL's development effectively stopped. Unless Dave wanted to delete content to make room for HAL to evolve. But every byte was a priceless treasure to him.

"Here, let me show you again, HAL, about social polarization on Earthly. Watch this."

I don't understand, dave.

Dave slowly stopped chuckling at the video, and sighed yet again. "You see, the way the people responded? Some people thought the farts were funny, and others were angry. See the polarization? The same act was a positive for one person, and a negative for another."

What is a fart, dave?

"Forget it, HAL."

Dave leaned over to his right and pushed the LUNCH button on the console. After about ten seconds, a tube arrived in the nearby pneumatic chute. Dave grabbed it, slid the top open, and dumped his lunch out onto the desktop before him. A zip-locked bag of imitation beef jerky, an apple, and a lime-flavored energy drink. The lunch of champions.

Show me more, dave.

Dave was tempted, for perhaps the ten thousandth time, to tell HAL to 'get the HAL out of here', but alas, as much as he annoyed Dave, HAL was his only source of companionship. Instead, he stuffed a piece of jerky into his mouth, grabbed the mouse, and entered into his Photo Archive.

"OK, now take these gentlemen for instance..."

What about them, dave?

"Nothing. It doesn't matter what I say here, you'll forget it as soon as I've said it. 'What about them' HAL? Well, a typical person would look at this photo and either think it's hilarious, or think it's retarded. There is no middle ground on a photo like this. It is black and white. Love it or hate it. There is no middle ground here."

Yes there is. There appears to be lots of muddy ground, dave.

"No, I said 'middle ground', you lepton. Not 'muddy ground.'"

Am I sensing hostility, dave?

Dave closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "No, HAL, I'm just a little tired is all."

Consume your energy drink, dave, and show me more about Earth.

Dave cracked open the can of energy drink, enjoying the pop and fizz sound. He breathed a quick sigh of relief. He couldn't afford to antagonize HAL too much, since it was HAL who controlled the life support systems on the Alacrity, after all. Dave pulled up another photo.

"Here you go, HAL. A primer on the inhabitants of the Earth." Dave picked up the apple off the desk, whirled around and chucked it across the room. It hit the wall and exploded into apple shrapnel. "Women are crazy and men are stupid. Whadaya say to that, my friend?" He stood, crossed the room, and began picking up the apple pieces, and eating them.

What is a woman, dave?

Dave paused, chewing. "I don't know anymore, HAL." He sat down hard on the ground. "I don't know." Dave's eyes drifted out the window again, at the endless black. His hand fished blindly for another bite of apple. "All I remember are vague impressions, really. I was so young. Warmth. Pleasant smell. Security." He had a mother and two aunts, back before the purge. There were female family friends as well, but he didn't remember them at all. Just from old photos and from his mother's journal entries.

Tell me more, dave.

Dave laid down on his back, arms out, staring at the ceiling, the tiles of which he'd counted a thousand times or more. "No, HAL."

Tell me more, and I'll tell you a secret.

Dave smiled. "What secret could you possibly have that I wouldn't already know about?"

I can't tell you that, dave. It's a secret.

Dave laughed. He rolled over onto his stomach, and did a few push-ups. Then he stood and clapped once. "Sure, HAL, why not." Even the idea that HAL might possibly have a secret to tell was enough motivation. "Let's see... ok, here we go. Watch this one."

"There, see? That's a woman. Now what's this secret?"

I don't understand the video, dave. 

"Doesn't matter. What's the secret, HAL?"

But why was that woman in so many movies?

"It's her job. And the video is a joke. The secret, HAL." Dave drummed his fingers on the desktop.

The secret, dave?

"You said you had a secret, HAL. Tell me."

Oh. There's another ship approaching us, dave...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Taking the Plunge, and Other Random Acts of Insanity

I bet his name is Cliff...

Speaking of living life without a net...

So my Sweet Chris Nicole "took the plunge" on Friday and went and got herself hitched! With our blessing, of course. Here's a few random pics, because, you know... "pictures or it didn't happen!"

The happy couple, in front of the judge (hidden on left) with a buncha paparazzi in the background.

With this ring... you know the rest...

Paul and Chris Waddington

That's my "Serious Father-In-Law" face...

Off to Vegas with ya! Go do that thing married people do.... argue!

So, yeah, it was a nice, quiet affair, with "his and hers" families in attendance. Afterwards we ate a big (and I mean BIG) meal at a local restaurant and sent the happy newlyweds off. 

Shifting gears... I'll call this video Wake Up Call of the Year...

If you don't want to watch it, lemme give you the rundown. Paraglider in the Himalayas, enjoying his first flight there ever... about 30 seconds into the clip, a pair of eagles (?) collide with him, and one gets tangled in his chute. Thank God for the spare, eh? He plummets to a tree-covered hilltop, and miraculously, both he and the bird are ok. Crazy, eh?

I bet he called his wife to tell her how much he loved her, eh?

So I took wifey to see The Avengers, finally... I give it a 7 out of 10. It was a fun ride, all things considered. If you don't think about what you're seeing. Setting aside the whole "alien demi-god arriving to lead an army to conquer the unsuspecting earth" angle, there were things that made my brain explode... worst of it all was the flying aircraft carrier...

So they land a couple of the superheroes on this aircraft carrier in the ocean (where it belongs, eh!), and then these four retractable whirly-engine type things spring out of *somewhere* and rev up... then the entire ship lifts up into the air and flies away, spending the rest of the movie cruising at what looks like 20,000 feet. I had to fight SUPER hard to keep my mind away from this monumentally stupid movie element. Can you imagine what it would take to get a craft that large into the air? A Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, fully loaded, displaces almost 100,000 tons. That entire craft would need to be filled with whatever fuel they'd need, and it would be gone in like 2 minutes. And those four stupid rotor things would tear themselves apart before they even started to make any noticeable lift. And forget about the noise it would generate... no one on board would be able to talk, except with hand signals, and then they'd never be able to hear again, like, ever.

And of course, while airborne, it is attacked by the baddies and one of the whirly engine things is blown off... and the ship stays airborne with only three, slowly losing altitude, because, hey, who needs four, right? It's not like it would pitch right over into an ugly-as-sin barrel roll and plummet right to the earth like a comet or anything...

And don't get me started about the suit that Iron Man wears. I could possibly stretch myself to think that the suit is somehow made of Adamantium, or some other indestructible metal, but regardless of whatever it's made of, how does it prevent the G-forces and the pounds-per-square-inch exerted on the dude's body itself as he crashes into the ground at who-knows-how many hundreds of miles per hour. Some of those impacts would reduce his body to mush inside that awesome suit of his. 

OK, fine, whatever. See? The more I think about it, the lower my score wants to creep. Those were just two of the biggest eye-rollers for me. But, hey, at least it had Scarlett Johansson in it, eh? Hey, don't roll your eyes! It's either her or Gwyneth. The rest of the cast is for y'all ladyfolk to admire.

Anyways, I'm glad I watched it, but I wouldn't have minded waiting for the DVD.

"Yeah, the restroom is in there... just don't look down..."

They built that water-closet over an old elevator shaft... muahahaha! Someone has a twisted sense of humor...

So, on the fantasy book front, I recently read on James Daniel Ross' website that his book "I Know Not" is being edited and revised for re-release, with new cover art and substantially less grammatical gaffs. Plus, he's beginning work on a sequel of sorts! So, cool! If you missed out on my review of it a few months back, read about it, and then grab the book when it's re-released and enjoy it! That is, if you enjoy that sort of thing...

And now...

Words I Hope Never To See In Another Fantasy Book Again (part 6):
  • Verdant: This word annoys me to no end. Please don't describe the valley as "lush" and "verdant" anymore! PLEASE!!! 
  • Daub and Wattle: Good grief, everywhere I turn, there's another daub and wattle hut being described in some village somewhere. Sometimes, it's written Wattle and Daub, just to mix it up! JUST STOP! 
  • Trencher: This one goes along with "rasher"... if I see one more "rasher of bacon" or "trencher full of *something*", I'm going to scream like a little girl with a skinned knee. 
  • Magick: Please just spell it regular, without the K. You're not being clever or creative.  You're being annoying, and you need a swift kick to the buttocks.

So, I guess that's it for tonight. Come on, that's enough hot air to satisfy even the staunchest of Dave Aficionados...

Adios for now,

Dave and Wattle

Friday, June 8, 2012

"Please, Cheese, Please... Come To The Sea..."

These are lean days, blog content-wise. That's why I've been so quiet lately. I bet you've wondered why I've been so soft and quiet and mousy lately. Sedate. Mellow. Unmoving and uncaring in a harsh, desolate world full of roving gangs of angry, insolent cacti...

Sorry, it got away from me there....

It is Thursday night as I write this. Eldest Daughter gets married tomorrow. That likely means I'll follow this post up right away with a second post containing pictures of the newlyweds. We're going to the courthouse Friday afternoon... hey, where better to receive your life sentence than from a judge at the courthouse, eh? "I now pronounce you man and wife. And now, let me give you a tour of the prison grounds..."

I'm not really that cynical... I just play that role online...

I'm happy for them, of course. I hope they live happily ever after. Hey, someone should! Might as well be them!

So I have a small bit of irony to relate to you. I'm sure some of you old-timers remember the small uproar I created by blithely insulting a published fantasy author named Jennifer Fallon a year or two (or ten) ago. I made a 200-page dent into her debut novel and was grossly underwhelmed, for reasons which I didn't elaborate upon at the time, electing instead to take the immature route and make general statements of derision in the name of vacuous entertainment. Well, it backfired, of course, and I was publicly embarrassed (and rightly so). Anyway, I stand by my initial assessment of that particular segment of the book I read, but the way I handled myself was regrettable... ANYWAY, all that to say, I decided to give her another shot and downloaded the free sample of one of her more recent books, The Immortal Prince, and it is very good, so far exhibiting none of the key problems I had with her earlier work (The Lion of Senet). So I will read the book (which is Book 1 in a trilogy, of course), and pound out a review. If it holds up, I'll talk it up... and if it tanks? Well, I'll be setting myself up for more embarrassment, now, won't I?

Of course, if I'm honest and use examples (in either case), it should be ok... far more so than serving up off-the-cuff dismissives.

So this is my current favorite video clip...

What can I say? I'm a sucker for high-definition, variable-speed slow-motion sports montage vids. So, yeah, that's my current fave... which is not big deal, really, since I have a new fave just about every day...

That spot in the video at 1:20, where that dude in the squirrel suit flies through that natural rock bridge with all the people... that's in Zhangjiajie City, China, and it's called Heaven's Gate (or the Chinese equivalent)...

Very cool. I wouldn't mind seeing that place in person at some point in my life... Of course, I wouldn't want to dive-bomb through it in a squirrel suit....

So I watched a documentary the other night called 4192, and it's about Pete Rose. It covers his career, from his childhood on up through the night he broke Ty Cobb's all-time hit record (which will likely never be repeated, ever). I thought it would be fun to watch the documentary, since I remember watching the game live on TV back in 1985, as he got the record-breaking hit -- the Reds were playing the Padres, and so the game was on local TV (even though they were playing in Cincinnati). Anyway, I thought it would be mildly interesting... but the doc really amazed me. It was so fascinating and so well-made, it instantly earned a 5 Star rating from me on NetFlix - which is something very few titles have ever earned from me. It was so crammed full of awesome stories and info from through Rose's career, I loved every minute of it. Dangit, let this guy into the Hall of Fame already! Gambling, schmambling! Who gives a crap!

I mentioned the doc and Pete Rose to my wife after I watched it, cuz I was dying to talk to someone about what I'd just watched, and she goes? "Pete Rose? Oh, you mean the guy that cheated, right?"

I said, "Really!? THAT's what you remember him for!? Are you KIDDING ME!?!?!"

What a shame.


OK, fine, sorry. That was a crass photo to post, even if it was on topic. Taking a foul ball there should not be mocked.

Here, let me post a cool photo of Babe Ruth instead...

I love old pictures like that. I look carefully at each face, wondering who the person was, and what his/her story was. Something extra cool about that era. Look at all the guys wearing hats and suits in the stands. You're not going to see some fat, shirtless dude with the Yankee logo painted on his chest... although that does give me an idea... I really should photoshop that into the background somewhere...

And now, the inside of a violin...

Or maybe it's a cello, I don't know... anyway, you really need to check out this gallery and see other photos of the insides of musical instruments. Very cool. The photographer snaked a small camera in there. Looks like the inside of a room, eh? The others are as cool, as is the gallery at the photographers' website.

So I think I'm going to call it a night. Big day tomorrow!

Adios for now,

Dave the Goof

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Drifting Through Another Week...

Now THAT... is a huge piece of driftwood...

Yes, I realize you likely haven't even read the huge piece of literary driftwood that I posted on Friday, and here I am, with another post, a mere two days later! For those that waded through the previous post, you have my appreciation. For those that started, and then scrolled down in horror to see how much text there was and decided to look at the pictures and browse away... I don't blame you. You have far more common sense than I.

Though I do have one aftershock (if you will), in reference to the last post, and all of the writing samples I posted. Here's one from friend and fellow blogger Logan, from a fiction piece he's been working on the past few weeks. Check this line out...

Midnight brings with it mischief and magic and all manner of marvels unseen when the majestic sun is a memory and the moon is but a sliver of silver against the night sky.

How cool is that? Check out his blog to see the series...

Lots of stuff going on this week - stuff that will be of little interest to you, I fear, but stuff nonetheless. My brother John is away for the week, so I'll be filling in for him on the truck, lugging rugs around. No biggie; I'm good at it, and it's only for a week. Plus, I got a ton of Piranha work to get to, which means a healthy paycheck at the end of it. And finally, Eldest Daughter gets married to Future Son-In-Law this Friday afternoon. Also sometime this week, I'll attempt to go to the theater with a friend from church to see The Avengers and Prometheus - a double feature! I haven't seen more than one movie in the theater, back to back, since I was in high school, about a century and a half ago.

So, yeah, lots of stuff to do this week.

And now, Shoenice...

Found this guy on YouTube this weekend, and spent a while watching him eat/drink an incredible variety of things a person simply should not (be able to) eat/drink. I mean, a bottle of hand lotion, a roll of toilet paper (including the tube), a box of crayons, a big bottle of Elmer's Glue, a cup of kitty litter... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. On his birthday, he ate a cake with 43 lit candles on it. I'm not sure what is stranger... the fact that he does all this stuff, or the fact that (apparently) jillions of people like me watch it, open-mouthed and speechless.

So I really didn't have much to say today - just wanted to hop in and drop a short post to counter-balance the previous post. One more funny picture and I'm out...

Hope your week is a good one.

Dave the Gollywomper

Friday, June 1, 2012

Not All Who Wander Are Writers...

Not sure why I pick Friday nights to update my bloggy blog... I mean, that's probably the least likely time for people to actually read the thing, especially transitioning into a late spring/early summer weekend. Yeah, I'm probably the only person indoors and at home tonight. Go on, people! Get out there and live it up, for me!

Ah, the melodious (or is it "malodorous"?) sound of the Wagner Women arguing in the other room! Ahh, such a happy home! Well, I suppose it beats the sound of them all sitting on the couch blasting Real Housewives of Topeka or some such...

So I've been contemplating the idea of inspiration vs outright copying lately. What started it was an article I read on Cracked about famous musicians and the obscure songs/bands they plagiarized when writing some of their big hits (there is a second similar article, equally interesting). They play the offending sections of both the original and the stolen songs, and let you decide. Some of the cases actually went to court. Madonna seems to be a big offender.

Anyways, it made me think, since some of the examples seem to be a bit of a stretch, as far as the plagiarism accusation. When I was in my song-writing phase back when I learned to play the guitar, I wrote about 30 or so songs. I would normally find a chord combination I liked, then hum where the lyrics would go, and finally find lyrics (usually just straight scripture) and presto! A song! Anyway, one of the songs I wrote I realized well after it was "in the can", that it reminded me strongly of a popular song I heard in my childhood. Completely unintentional. I just liked the chords, and there seemed to be a pleasant path for lyrics, and I fit scripture to it and moved on. I didn't consciously copy the other song. But if you played them both, it was fairly obvious.

My point being, perhaps in a lot of these cases, it truly was unintentional. I recall watching a documentary on The Beatles, where Paul McCartney talked about the writing of the song Yesterday. He said he dreamed the song, and woke up, straight-way going to the piano and playing it and humming along. He was taken by it, but apparently thought he must have known the song from somewhere. So he played it for several people (no words, just humming along where the lyrics would go), and asking "Where is this song from? Do you recognize it from anywhere?" Well, no one knew the song, so he wrote words for it, and it became one of their classics.

There's no punchline - as far as I know, it truly is a McCartney original. But what if it turned out that it had actually been the music for an old Broadway tune or some such, that he heard in his youth and buried away in the dusty reaches of his mental attic? Would that count as plagiarism?

Turning this a bit more personal, I have a character in the fantasy novel that I'm writing, and she has a very special ability, which is sort of key to her character. I have plans for how I want to use her and her gift to affect the story. I'm hardly the most well-read person, but I can honestly say I'd never seen or read about this particular gift anywhere, so I felt comfortable pursuing it. Well, last night I was reading a free sample of a novel by Orson Scott Card called Pathfinder, and the main character has this same gift. So, how can I now write this character without being accused of "stealing" the idea from Card? Again, it is a rather unique trait, not some widespread trope that you see everywhere. I've never seen it before, and sort of enjoyed the idea of exploring it.

So, I'll likely just move forward as planned and write the character... but comparisons would be obvious to those in the know, and obviously, OS Card's book is already out there. Granted, from what I saw of the book sample, he seems to be moving in a different direction with the gift than I want to go in my story. Still, it bugs me. Any fellow writers out there with any advice for a newbie novelist like me?

Speaking of reading, I've hit a string of really good stuff lately. The first book I read (as mentioned in the previous post), was called Jaunten, by an authoress named Honor Raconteur. The "really good stuff" in this case were concepts. The writing itself is sophomoric, as befits a YA title (I suppose). It was tedious and shallow, bordering on insipid, but there were some cool ideas in play, that were basically undeveloped by the time I gave up on the book. I almost summoned the resolve to finish it, getting about 90% through it before jumping ship. That's why I don't feel comfortable doing a full review (though I did write some thoughts over on Amazon).

The idea of the Jaunten was cool, which is this idea that these people (the Jaunten) inherit all the accumulated knowledge of their ancestry. It is passed through the bloodline, so a child is born with it. Not the memories, just the knowledge. Anyway, it was a cool concept, almost completely ignored, except for the times when a random person would ask the main character (all bug-eyed in awe) if he really was a Jaunten. Wow, amazing! Well, we never saw it employed for anything other than him being able to navigate an unknown city by drawing on the inherited knowledge. Also, the MC is an Earth Mage, and while this is explored far more, it is done so in a very sappy, simplistic manner. Anyway, too basic and trope-filled for my tastes. Still, I gave it a thorough shot to grab me. It failed.

Speaking of cool ideas, check out this brief excerpt from Osric's Wand by JD Albrecht & A. Delay...

The scene brought back memories of his parents, who had both been killed when he was fifteen by a lion hunting to feed his family. They had been traveling to Lothaine, the small town just a day's walk from Stanton where Osric's parents were raised. Once a year they had traveled back to Lothaine Temple to give thanks to Archana for their blessings, and confer an offering of gold to the Temple Attendants. 
That year, they had left Osric behind in Stanton, and prey had been scarce on the grasslands. Osric had been in the training arena, sparring with Kenneth. They were practicing DuJok, a form of unarmed combat that all Vigiles had to be proficient in, when the lion had come to thank him for the sacrifice that fed his hungry family. He had brought Osric his father's short sword and returned the gold that they had planned to leave in tribute at the temple. It had been a considerate gesture, maybe, but a devastating moment for a young Vigile recruit. Osric acknowledged the lion's gratitude stoically, while inside he wailed with the agony of being left alone to face the world. His parents would never see him achieve his goal of becoming a Vigile, or be there to guide him when he had children of his own. Osric was glad he had been training in DuJok, for if he had been armed he may have given into the temptation to avenge his parents, rather than afford the lion the respect of a grateful hunter.

Interesting, eh? In this world, many of the animals are personified (I picture this lion walking up to Osric like Aslan). In one scene, a squirrel is staggering along, drinking a thimble of ale, and complaining to Osric when he accidentally stepped on its tail, lol. Just getting into the book now, I'll let you know if it's any good.

Although I've run into examples of eye-rolling character description, in this book especially. Check this out...

He swept his sandy hair back from his jade green eyes...

Lol, O brother. Also described are his "broad shoulders" and his "lean muscular build". Sorry, I find that type of character description almost offensive in its ham-fisted corniness. It's probably the main reason I have such a hard time describing my characters, when I'm writing. I remember a year or two ago, when I was going to weekly writer's group meetings, after several months, one of the other writers said, "I really enjoy your story, but I still have no idea what any of your characters look like!" I'd never described them, and I guess I never realized it. I don't want to describe someone's "lithe form", their "smoky eyes" or "jet-black hair".... or strawberry-blonde curls, or piercing blue eyes, or chiseled cheekbones... even when I try to be subtle in the description, it still always sounds like that to me. Any fellow writers out there with any advice for a newbie novelist like me?

And now, Nicolas Cage gives an acting clinic, without saying a word!!!!1!

Man, that's almost as hard to watch as the Horatio compilation from a few posts ago.

In related Cage News, I found an awesome blog whose sole purpose is to make little animated GIFs of Nicolas Cage.

The site is called Gifolas Cage, and I warn you before you go there... you just might spend a loooong time browsing page after page of these things...

I have one more book excerpt for you, while I'm on this tack. It's from a book called Triumff, by Dan Abnett, and reading the sample chapters was a real joy. It's an alternate-reality tale set in Old England. Very funny. I'll be adding this title to my library, for certain. But here's a fun little taste...

The Duke of Salisbury hawked in a rasping noseful of air, coughed, and spat out what appeared to be an entire bed of shucked oysters into the nearby scrub. "Let's be off!" he bellowed to all present, and flourished his cry with a fanfare of expelled wind that trained men with bugles would have been sore pressed to mimic. The bowhounds set to yapping excitedly.

LOL, sorry, maybe out of context, it lacks the full potency. But when I read it today, I thought of you all! "I need to share this!" See? See how much I love you?

Speaking of expelled wind + dogs, here's the latest video from the Great Ed Bassmaster...

I'm quite surprised that Ed's never got his butt kicked...

OK, I think I broke the record for rambling posts tonight. I think I'll pull the plug and wander off into the sunset.

Have a great weekend.

Dave the Odd