Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seeking Advice

In writing (or other aspects of life), there are inevitable questions that come to mind. Sometimes, we can find answers through books or articles, but there are cases when we just need guidance from others.

A basic principle to follow is this: don’t seek diet advice from a fat person. In the writing world, this translates into not following the ideas of people who aren’t where you want to be. For example, suppose my goal is to get a novel published. If I post a question about how to make this happen on a writers’ message board, I’ll get a lot of answers, but of those answers, few (if any) will be from authors with published novels. It therefore makes little sense in following the majority of the posted advice.

Even with an understanding that inexperienced people won’t give the best advice, I’ve made the mistake of asking a wider audience anyway, hoping that I might be able to count the most popular answers as wisdom. Unfortunately, people often share the same misconceptions, so the popular answer might not be helpful either. Again, the best source of wisdom is experience.

General questions are great for general audiences, but for specific answers, seek specific counselors. Don’t waste your time elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I realize I’m about six years late, but I finally started watching "Firefly," a short-lived series created by Joss Whedon. I’d seen “Serenity,” the movie based on the series, and kept meaning to watch the series at some point, but I’ve only just now gotten around to it.

"Firefly" is essentially a space western. The crew members of Serenity (a Firefly-class ship) take up odd jobs, including ones deemed illegal by the Alliance (the overall government). In addition to the captain, first-mate, pilot, mechanic and hired gun, Serenity adds four others to its roster: a pair of fugitives, a missionary and a prostitute. The cast is a great mix of characters, and I think it’s the characters that draw me back to the show more than anything else. Whedon is a master of characterization, and as a writer, I aspire to create such memorable characters in my own work.

Another great aspect of the show is the dialog and character interactions. Whenever I think I know where something might be going, the writers turn things around. For example, in an episode I watched last night, the captain, weak from torture, fights one of his tormentors. Some of his crew come onto the scene, and one aims his weapon towards the torturer. The first-mate pulls his arm down and says, “This is something the captain has to do for himself.” The captain immediately says, “No. No, it's not!”

Humorous and action-oriented, Firefly is a series I wish had stayed on the air longer. 14 episodes (only 11 were aired) isn’t enough for something this good. If you get the chance to borrow, rent or purchase the DVD’s of the series (it comes as a package of four discs), I doubt you’ll regret it later.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Rock Band

I’m a big fan of Rock Band. I’ve played it on Nintendo Wii and Playstation 2. Not only are there two guitar players, but a drummer and singer as well. Now four people can pose like musicians!

As a drummer, I find the drums to be comparable to actually playing a drum set. The bass drum pedal is a little awkward because in real life, the pedal operates a stick that bounces off the drum, whereas in Rock Band, the pedal is all there is. Also, there is no second pedal to control the hi-hat in Rock Band, but this is understandable because that would push the player to complete hand/foot independence, which is a little much to ask of the average player with no experience playing set. Another awkward thing is that even at the expert level, I can sometimes hear the drummer in the song doing things a little different than the notes displayed in the game. Even though it isn’t a perfect match to playing set, I find myself playing drums on Rock Band more often than any other instrument.

My least favorite is the singing. It’s not that I can’t carry a tune, but the game is all about matching pitch and rhythmically speaking the lyrics (or your own variation of the lyrics). Also, there are some tambourine/cowbell hits made by smacking the mic. But since I’m not a fan of karaoke, I just don’t get much out of singing in Rock Band. I feel like I ought to be hitting or plucking something, and the tambourine/cowbell parts don’t fulfill my needs (although the cowbell hits on “Don’t Fear the Reaper” come close).

This game was by far the most popular at our New Year’s party. I think it offers enough variety that even those who aren’t that skilled with the guitars or drums would at least enjoy the karaoke aspect. Add an audience, and everyone becomes a ham. Great fun!