Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

June is the month for the CSFF to bring you Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos. This is a hard-to-classify story that's a social commentary on the way Christians tend to make Jesus in their own image rather than the one God intended. Modern, quirky, and irreverent, Mikalatos shines some light in places we usually don't talk about and gleefully holds up a mirror so we can be sure of what we see.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things You Never Thought Would Happen to You In the Years B.C. (Before Children)

Open refrigerator. Say, "Hey, there's a big glass of grape juice that someone's covered with a piece of Saran wrap." Think that's kind of odd but not the strangest thing to happen. Remove glass from fridge. Remove Saran wrap. Drink liquid.

Race to sink. Say, "Hey, that's not grape juice; it's rinse water from purple paint brushes" while spitting liquid onto last night's dishes.

Return to fridge. Eye the glass half full of apple juice. Say, "Well, that doesn't look like a urine sample..."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Committee on Un-American Activities

OK, it's been a few days and I've got to say that I'm getting hooked on World Cup football. I'm starting to understand the strategies, I can see how the players are setting themselves up for passes and openings, and the international tournament setting is pretty neat. Even the low amount of scoring is now creeping through my system like crystal meth. (This is called 'variable reinforcement' for those who care, and it's much like gambling addiction.) There's also cool injuries to watch on the super slo-mo. (Some North Korean guy got carried off on a stretcher!)

But the best thing about watching the matches is that the clock never stops so there are no commercials. Just forty-five minutes of ball kicking. Twice. (I suppose that's the real reason this sport never took off in America. Logos on jerseys and flashing signs on the sidelines just can't take the place of the Coors Light Twins.)

And so I'm off to watch Bafana Bafana crush Uruguay. It's kinda cool to watch the dreams of a nation unfold in sport. America really hasn't had a moment like that since the 1980 Olympic hockey team. We'll see if South Africa can gain the same thing.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Americans Love a Winner

...and will not tolerate a loser! But even though George Patton would snap his baton at the result of today's World Cup match, you gotta be happy with a draw. In anticipation of my year in Africa I've been trying to pay attention to things that might be important to those I'll be interacting with. Football is one of them.

International goodwill not withstanding, I'm having trouble really embracing a game where both sides often play for a couple hours only to shake hands after a 0-0 tie. While I understand that not losing against England is a good result as far as the tournament goes, it just grates on me that one side or the other couldn't figuratively stand on the bloody chest of a fallen enemy and thrust red steel into the air.

If this keeps up I'll be reduced to checking the standings occasionally and the game will be as meaningless to me as the NBA. (The Lakers are in some kind of important set of games, correct?)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Can Never Go Wrong With Zombies

Son Number Two is a genius. He has wicked computer design skills and an artist's eye for how to employ them. One of his current games of choice is Roblox, a Lego-like building program that lets you design and move around in your own worlds. I watched him build a world with different levels and spinning things and elevators. Then he sat back and said, "I'm not really sure what to do with this place now."

My reply was quick and firm. "Zombies. You can never go wrong with zombies."

And, thinking about it, that's right. If you are designing a system that encourages people to move through it in some way or another, whether it's a game or a corporate voice mail system, there must be something that keeps people on their toes. Use their brains, so to speak. Thus, you can never go wrong with zombies.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Writing Lessons From Sting

Saw Sting at the White River Amphitheatre last night. As predicted, it was cold and rainy but we were seated under cover so all was well. The orchestra was a great touch and the musical highlights were "Mad About You" and "Desert Rose."

But there were also a couple of tidbits that apply to writers. Sting said there were two types of love stories. I Love You/You Love Me, which is boring and goes nowhere, and I Love You/You Love Someone Else. It's the second one that's the most interesting and has the deepest dramatic goldmines to plunder.

Later on, he talked about how he writes songs. He's been doing it for decades and still calls it a 'mysterious process.' His tendency over the past ten to twenty years has been to arrange the music first and then let that music suggest mood and character. Fiction writers do the same kind of thing when we come up with the framework of scenarios and settings and then wait for a story and hero to fill the spaces. The interesting thing he said was not to be afraid of what comes along and demands to be written, even if it's a story about things that make us uncomfortable.

Good advice, and it's worked well for him so it's something to consider.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ebb and Flow

I got back from Hawaii a few days ago and immediately got caught up in the Siren call of Uneventful Yet Strangely Busy Normal Life. Lawn, garbage, teaching Son Number One to drive, that sort of thing. Anyhow, what's taking up most of my time nowadays is working on getting mobilization orders overseas, probably to Africa. There's a tremendous amount of bureaucratic inertia that I have to overcome to make that happen; it's actually pretty funny. Things like three emails back and forth to the same people before we all figure out how to get my security clearance updated. You know how it goes.