Entertainment and Angst in 2020

I don’t know about you but rage and angst fill up my social media feeds lately. People are so at odds over the pandemic is a hoax, or face masks will kill you,  or defunding the police, or Trump – the vitriol on Facebook is palpable. People post the most absurd things masquerading as truth, throwing another tire on the dumpster fire that is the year 2020.

In my opinion, protesting on social media is the laziest, most impotent form of protesting. It is precisely a tiny little bit more than doing absolutely nothing at all. People who think the same as you will agree. People who don’t will either scroll on by or argue with you with complete disregard for tact because, you know, acting like a crude little tough guy is easy on social media. Some people get so mean when there is no risk of them getting punched out.

If you find yourself typing out “FUCK YOU” in a post, step back. Is that how you represent yourself? My friends, please, stop being THAT person. And putting in asterisk for some letters doesn’t make it okay, it only makes you look uncommitted. You might as well cuss in symbols – $#!+@$$.

Anyway, nobody is having a good year. We are all just trying to get to the other side of this thing. I think our way of life will never again be the same as before Covid-19, even when we have a vaccine, but let me stop myself before I start going down the rabbit hole of doom, gloom, and despair, and get to the point of what I wanted to share with you, and it’s this:

My choices of entertainment have changed. Right now, with so much death and unhappiness in the news, I need something vacuous and goofy. It needs to be brilliantly stupid. It needs to be… YouTube and, to a much less extent, TikTok.

I have found Rhett and Link, and the Holderness Family, and the How Ridiculous guys. These internet entertainers have become the core of my entertainment since the quarantine began.

Rhett and Link have been friends since childhood, and they produce three main shows on their YouTube channels: Good Mythical Morning, Good Mythical More, and Ear Biscuits, with 16.5 million subscribers. The chemistry they share is what makes the show for me, these guys play the most bizarre games and eat some truly disgusting things. They also have some original songs that are pretty funny. I love it.

Penn and Kim Holderness have a video production company and churn out several videos a week. The Holderness Family creates original music, parodies, and Vlogs to poke fun of themselves and celebrate the absurdity in circumstances most families face. Some of the parody songs are enlightened and always make me laugh. They also come across as extremely likable people.

How Rediculous is a show with infectiously over-enthusiastic Australian guys who drop stuff off of things onto other things. Do you want to see what happens if you drop a bowling ball off a 45-meter tower onto a trampoline? You do. You know you do.

TikTok videos are so short, they often finish before I can scroll past them. I watch lots of cute animal videos here, and of course, Sarah Cooper. Her “How to” series is funny as hell.

Sure, there is intellectual content out there, too, but I need stuff that’s inoffensive and lighter than air. I need to not think about how bad 2020 sucks for a little while. I think we could all lighten up a bit. Take a step back, and watch two guys eat French toast made from things that should not be in French toast. Watch a song parody of Antibacterial Girl to the music for Madonna’s Material Girl. Watch really excited guys throw paper airplanes off the top of a dam.  Look at puppy videos. Everyone loves puppies. And let’s try to lighten up. Please?

GEEK AM I

As a card-carrying GEEK, it is my right… nay, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to complain about the most insignificant and trivial of details when it comes to movies, books, comics, video games, and particularly in my case, board games.

Look at the most passionate geeks out there and that’s what they do – criticize and complain and nit-pick.  I can only surmise that any geek worth his salt would do the same, right?

comicbookguy (1)

Continue reading

Don’t Kill the Dog (for authors)

There are places that authors fear to tread and rightly so.  Some things are taboo and off limits, even in the fictionalized place where we create our stories and taking a certain plot twist can completely lose a reader or worse, make them angry.

I have a tendency to write dark fiction and that is thin ice to tread.  It’s not hard to make a wrong move.  It takes scruples and sense of self to avoid it because when weaving a story (i.e., pantsing), it has a life of its own; taking a direction that almost seems to be beyond the author’s control.  The story is completely in the author’s control of course, but it can sometimes feel like it has its own personae and is making choices for itself, such as having your antihero become a predator on the weak, vulnerable or trusting.  Who would like Batman if he was a rapist or child molester?   Rapists and Child molesters, that’s who, and no one else.

Continue reading

This is Your Brain on Writing. Any Questions?

It seemed innocent enough. A few words on the page; what harm could it do?

A flash-fiction piece here, a poem there – it didn’t take much time. Before long, I stepped up to doing short stories. It was only one a week, at first. Then I was doing it more. I would lie to my family so I could sneak out and write. They thought I was going to the store for bread, but I was at Starbucks with my fingers on the keyboard, typing furiously. Or sitting in the car, scribbling in a Moleskine.

Eventually, they suspected something was not right when I didn’t come home for three hours and when I did, I had no bread but was all amped up on triple-tall cappuccino. The pens and pencils were a giveaway, too. I denied being a writer, of course.

“What sort of loser profession is that?” I scoffed. “Yes, I write a little when there is nothing else to do, but I can stop anytime.”

The truth was – it was under my skin. I was driven to scriven. I had the bite to write. I would uncontrollably write poetry. Soon, the flash-fic, poems and short stories were no longer enough. I started outlining novels.

The outlines grew into acts, and the acts multiplied, with peaks and valleys and so help me – they climaxed. It was out of my control now, and I began doing full-blown novels. I tried to stop. I tried to watch TV with my family, but all I could think about was creating my own stories.

And that is what I did. Every moment I called my own, I wrote. Or I looked at pictures of kittens on Facebook. But mostly, I wrote. I wrote some of the time, ok? Don’t be a nag about it. More days than not, I wrote.

Mind of a writer

My family resigned to the truth – I was a writer. Not like I was an addict, but more like I was handicapped. Like something was wrong with me. Something really, really wrong. Still, they loved me and put up with it, though it was taxing on them.

Barging into the bedroom at 1 AM, shouting to my wife, “Wake up! The second act is complete and I need you to read it all the way through. Help me see what I have missed!”

This never produced the enthusiastic response I expected. Slowly, I learned when to bring up my writing and when not to, and my family adapted as well. For reference, most of the time is not a good time to bring up my writing.

I know, as does my family – there is no cure. I may not be good at it. Maybe I’ll never be more than a hack, independent author, receiving only the most benign acknowledgements. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I do write and I get the ideas out of head and onto the page.

They say the left brain controls the logical thought processes and the right brain controls the creative processes. When you are a writer, neither side is in control of any processes. It just comes together in a big gumbo of thoughts and emotions.

One day, they may have pill to help people like me. Until then, all I can do is write.

© 2014, Mitch Lavender

A Couldrophobic Talks About Jury the Clown–Painted Dollar Art

Jury the Clown is an artist.  If you have to label your artists, you could refer to the genre as Avant Garde.  Jury  paints on US currency.  Specifically, he is known for painting clown faces on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or whoever is on the bill.  Some might call this a violation of the federal statute that prohibits mutilation, disfiguring, perforating or other acts that make the bills unusable.  Arguably, the bills are still usable and so does not violate the law.  Even more arguable is that the bills just might be more valuable due to their collectability.

Anyone who even remotely knows me… hell, just read the ABOUT MITCH section of my blog and you will know that I do not like clowns.

Clowns are the epitome of the Uncanny Valley and long before Stephen King wrote IT!, I knew there was something “not-right” about clowns.  Stephen King accelerated my certainty that clowns were not to be trusted but my phobia existed long before that and it’s not well founded. 

But come on!  You put on makeup to make your face a grossly distorted representation of an emotion!  That is freakin’ creepy, dude.  Creepy!  But I digress.

So I’ve had a severe dislike of clowns all of my life.  This month, I turned 50 years old.  I know, I know – I don’t act my age, but I am an old guy.  As a way of growing myself, I decided to take a thing I fear and find something good in it.  Enter Jury the Clown, whom I discovered on Kickstarter.com.

On the Kickstarter, they are marketing everything from prints of the clown-bills to original works on actual currency.  I think they are damned cool and make a statement beyond the artist’s original intent regarding the current state of government in America, but that’s just me adding junk to the original work, and that work deserves to stand as a unique statement on its own.

If you look at Jury’s work and think something inane like, “Anyone could do that,”  then ask yourself, why hasn’t anyone else done it?  I think it is very cool.

For me, the selling point of the Kickstarter was the lengthy video, where Jury talks about his work.  He is sincere, direct and likable, explaining a little about each of the clown characters he has created.  “Chuckles.  He is the drug dealer of Clown Town.  He doesn’t think he is a bad clown in a sense, but don’t get in his way.”  I could see this spawning a gritty comic or graphic novel, following the denizens of Clown Town, Sin City style.  I laughed out loud at the dog growling off-camera at times.   The dog and I, we have something to learn.

I dig Jury the Clown, I dig his weird art and I dig the growling off-camera dog.  I’ve backed this Kickstarter campaign and I encourage you to take a look, too.

Here is the Kickstarter Campaign for Jury the Clown Creating New Painted Dollar Art.  

As a side note, Jury also does some non-clown art on bills

So, I’ve found something I like about clowns and made a friend in the process.  That is your proverbial old dog, learning a new trick.

STORIUM–A Game for Writers (no asshatery allowed)

Have you ever participated in one of those ongoing stories on a writer’s forum – the kind where each participant writes a paragraph or so and then the new person comes along and adds the next piece of the story, and so on?  In the early 80’s, I ran a computer BBS called The State of Confusion, where most of the forums where like that, and it attracted fun, creative participants.

Once the story got underway and really had momentum,  it was inevitable that someone would pop in and post that all the characters suddenly decided to slit their wrists and die or something equally derailing, and it would ruin the story.  When you could weed out the asshats, it was a lot of fun.  Still, lack of rules or parameters was challenging for those who didn’t know when to reign it in.

Jump to today and Storium by Protagonist Labs is in development.  Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game. With just your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can choose from a library of imaginary worlds to play in, or build your own. You create your story’s characters and decide what happens to them. You can tell any kind of story with Storium. The only limit is your imagination.

Storium uses familiar game concepts inspired by card games, role-playing games, video games, and more. In each Storium game, one player is the narrator, and everyone else takes on the role of a character in the story. The narrator creates dramatic challenges for the other players to overcome. In doing so, they move the story forward in a new direction. Everyone gets their turn at telling the story.

I’ve been waiting for the STORIUM KICKSTARTER to launch, and once it did, it funded in a day!  Amazing.

The following is reblogged from www.protagonistlabs.com, and it has the details and links so you can get involved in the beta version of the game, today!  I’m MitchLav on the site.  If you join, look me up.

_________________________________________________

We’ve just launched our Kickstarter campaign for Storium, the online storytelling game!

What’s Storium?

Storium’s mission hasn’t changed since our original announcement — we are creating an online storytelling medium that plays like a game and lets busy people make storytelling a part of their daily lives.
Since that announcement, though, we’ve done over a year of playtesting that has resulted in major improvements to the game, and we’re more confident than ever that we’re on the right track. If you back us on Kickstarter, you’ll get immediate access to our latest playtest. All our basic functionality is up and running, so you can dive right into play!

What’s the Kickstarter for?

The goal of our campaign is to fund a public launch, so that we can make Storium available to everyone. That means retaining award-winning authors and game designers to build a library of playsets (called “worlds”) for telling stories of different genres and styles. It also means building important features that Storium needs and laying the technological groundwork for future growth.

Our Kickstarter campaign page has all the details!

Who’s working on Storium?

We have an incredibly talented and diverse team of people developing Storium and advising on different elements of its production.

  • Stephen Hood: Co-founder and product lead.
  • Josh Whiting: Co-founder and engineering lead.
  • Will Hindmarch: Lead game designer and head writer.
  • J.C. Hutchins: Advisor and award-winning transmedia storyteller.
  • Mur Lafferty: Advisor, Campbell-winning novelist, and podcaster.
  • Chuck Wendig: Advisor, Campbell-nominated novelist, and Emmy- nominated screenwriter.

Want to Find Out More?

If you’re in the media and would like to talk to one of us about the development of Storium and what we’re trying to accomplish, we’re happy to talk to you! Feel free to contact us at press@storium.com and we’ll set something up.
We’re really excited about the chance to do this, grateful for all the support we’ve received so far, and looking forward to the future.

—Stephen and the entire Storium team

Reality is Far More Frightening than Conspiracy

More and more, I hear talk of nefarious conspiracies.  I have to admit, it is good fodder for a story.

Shadow governments or Illuminati are controlling global affairs. Aliens from other planets are mutilating our cattle and kidnapping people to probe their anuses.  Reptilian elite from another dimension are jockeying for positions to control our world. 

 

WWNconspiracies

It’s instinctual for humans to put reason to the unreasonable – to try to explain what cannot be explained. We have wonderful imaginations.

Is it because shadow governments, invading space aliens or creatures from another dimension are raiding us, creating huge market swings and economic instability? Or could it be that our market is tremendously volatile, flawed and erected on unstable ground?

Conspiracy is a comfortable, if somewhat extreme, explanation for the difficult questions. It’s an easy out.

The hard truth to consider is that our world is in ongoing chaos and no one is in control. We are all passengers on the bus, careening down the road and no one is driving. Yes, there are influences, but no one is in the driver’s seat.

Occam’s razor, folks. Settle in and buckle up, I say. We are spinning through space at 1,040.4 mph, orbiting the sun at 66,600 mph, and yet, I do not spill my coffee. Every single day we do not blow ourselves up or get taken out by a random asteroid is amazing.

Kickstarter, what the hell? No Coin Age For The Troops?

There’s a  cool, little “pay what you want” Kickstarter project by Michael Mindes at Tasty Minstrel Games.  Coin Age is  a simple strategy game using standard US coins as playing pieces on a small map.  In truth, the game is  available for free as a print-and-play version, HERE.  If you want the professionally produced components, or just want to support the designer and producer, you can back it on Kickstarter, HERE.  It only has 3 days to go, finishing on December 20, 2013.

coin-age

The minimum to receive a copy of the game was $3, but they also had a pledge level called Operation Gratitude + Pay What You Want. At this pledge level, you get a copy of the game, and a copy of the game is also donated to the troops in the US Military for every $2 over that you pledge.  At last look, this pledge level had 531 backers.

Kickstarter pulled the plug on Operation Gratitude and voided all pledges at that level, saying it, “violated our project guidelines.”

I looked up Kickstarter’s project guidelines, HERE.

Apparently, the guideline that was violated was the first one listed under the heading, What is not allowed?

“Kickstarter cannot be used to raise money for causes, whether it’s the Red Cross or a scholarship, or for “fund my life” projects, like tuition or bills.”

and the fourth line:

“Creators cannot promise to donate a portion of funds raised or future revenue to a cause.”

OK.  I hear you, Kickstarter. 

But this pledge for Coin Age  is not being used to “raise money for causes”  or to “donate a portion of the funds raised… to a cause.”

It is being used to provide a copy of the game to US Military.  Is that the same thing?

Is it?

Look, this Kickstarter campaign for Coin Age has exceeded all expectation of the humble $5000 goal, and is currently sitting at $44,918 as I type this at 5:50 PM CST on December 17, 2013.  At almost nine times the goal, it’s definitely a successful campaign, and that is after the 531 pledges were removed for Operation Gratitude.  The only ones who are missing out are the US Military who might enjoy a simple diversion from the stresses of military deployment but won’t, because of this change by the jackasses at Kickstarter.

Well done, Kickstarter.  Clearly we set our expectations of you too high, and you have shown us the error of our ways.

While the people using the service might have good hearts, the people running Kickstarter are self-serving and narrow in their interpretation of loosely worded guidelines.

 

UPDATE:

For those who wish to do so, you can buy a copy and have it sent to the following address for Operation Kindness:

Below is the website and other information for Operation Gratitude
http://www.operationgratitude.com

Shipping Item Donations:

DATES: Please deliver between March 15 and May 5 OR between September 15 and December 5:

SHIP TO:
Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Rich Hernandez: Phone: 800-651-8031

 

Post revised twice, last on 12/18/2013, 6:20a CST

Writing Bliss –That Sweet Spot

Think about that candy, cookie, cake or other food that transports you back to the time when you were a child and first experienced it. Remember how fantastic that moment was? The wonder of it and the sheer pleasure – every time you eat it, even now, takes you back and you’re reminded how amazing life is.

Everybody has some food that recalls almost forgotten memories and feelings. We return to these foods again and again throughout our life in an attempt to recapture youth. They are often called comfort foods because of this effect.

That is what typing on a manual typewriter is for me.

WIN_20130929_114918I’ll be the first to acknowledge it is weird, and as I write this on my HP Desktop Computer with dual 24” monitors, I realize what an oxymoron this write is, but it is still true.

Just like you do not eat a Baby Ruth candy bars every day, I do not use my Royal Quiet DeLuxe  manual typewriter every day. It is not healthy to choke down bars of sugar day after day, and in my case, it is not conducive to productively writing to use a manual typewriter every day. Banging out the words on paper, flaws, typos and all, and not being able to edit or cut and paste without a complete rewrite? It’s tough.

Still, I treat myself to a page or two  on the Royal Quiet Deluxe once in a while and it rarely produces usable writing but is good for my soul.  The sound of bars striking the paper makes me smile, even at my slow typing speed.

Honestly, how Hemingway did it, I’ll never know. I do think alcohol was his comfort food, and maybe that explains it. Maybe not.

Keep at it, friends.

Mo’ new wallpapers in Wallpapers for Writers

I don’t really get in the groove for holidays, but I tried to do some horror-themed wallpapers, anyway.   I’ve added some stuff themed after:
Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and most scary of all (to me, anyway)  William Strunk (of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style).

There is also a wallpaper themed after Dr. Seuss, because you know, he was pretty damned cool.  Not very scary, but quite bizarre.

Enjoy.

WALLPAPERS FOR WRITERS

Cubify 3D Systems Offers Personalized, 3D Printed Star Trek Figurines

Not long ago, a guy published the plans for making a working gun with no metal parts using a 3D printer.  But who wants that, except terrorists and bad guys?  Sometimes, the coolest stuff has no real application at all.

Take, for example, the latest offering from Cubify 3D Systems – Star Trek figurines with your face.  All you have to provide is two pictures of yourself, $70, and your preferences on pose, shirt, etc, and they print up a little you in Original Star Trek duds.

I’m not going have one made myself, not that I don’t think it cool, but I did something like it a couple of years ago with my Xbox avatar, and well, there are only so many action figures one can have of themselves before it gets weird.

Actually, it’s already weird with just one.

Want to be weird, too?  Make yourself into an action figure, HERE.

Kiss $70 goodbye on a useless piece of plastic. But it’s cool.

Unplugged From Social Media Update: Day 65 – The Guilt

On May 3, I decided to go three months without Facebook, Twitter, Pintrist, Reddit or Goodreads  to see if removing these obvious distractions from my routine helps me focus and be more productive.  Here’s how it’s gone so far.

Guilt.

Where would we be without guilt? 

Happy, I know.  I meant it as a rhetorical question, so shut-up.

For the last two months, I’ve been deleting e-mail from Facebook and  Twitter, telling me how many pokes, invites, posts, updates, etc. are waiting.  My Windows Phone tells me how many friend updates to Facebook have happened each day and it is usually over 200.

I’m not checking those, and that makes me feel guilty. 

Now, I know that over 50% are solicitations to things I never respond to – repost something “if you love your mother” (as if I don’t love my mother if I don’t repost a overly sentimental paragraph on Facebook), or invites to events I will never go to, or  just pictures of someone’s food.  Sometimes they are posts in Hindi from a friend in India, so I can’t read it anyway.

Of the remaining 50%, 25% are intended for groups I am a member of but not active in.  15% are from friends and not something I will respond to, but enjoy seeing.  The last 10% are things I would respond to or be an active participant in.

Ands in doing that little exercise, I realize that – of that load of stuff I am not looking at right now, because of the hiatus – over 75% is stuff I don’t really care about seeing.  That makes me feel better, but I do feel bad about that 10-25% I am missing out on.

Less than a month to go until my 3-month hiatus is done, and I am head down into my work.  It will fly by. 

An now, the Unplugged Memes of the Week:

unplugged-laughing at post

unplugged-for serious

unplugged-treatplease

Flying RC Car – Just take my money and shut up.

I dig Kickstarter – a site that lets individuals build funding for their creative projects.  I usually check it out to see what projects from authors and game creators are looking for funding, but sometimes I come across something unexpected and cool that has nothing to do with writing or games, and that’s the case with ‘B’ the Flying Car.

First of all, it’s not a full-sized car.  It’s a (~1/10 scale) Remote-Controlled hybrid car-helicopter with very cool design.  My son is big into RC Cars right now, and he flipped out over this one.  I did, too.

B-flyingcar

 

Swing on over to Kickstarter and check out the video of ‘B’ The Flying Car.  It’s one of the cooler things I’ve seen in a long time.  Yes, I’m probably getting one.  For my son, of course.

Unplugged From Social Media Update: Day 51– First World Problems

On May 3, I decided to go three months without Facebook, Twitter, Pintrist, Reddit or Goodreads  to see if removing these obvious distractions from my routine helps me focus and be more productive.  Here’s how it’s gone so far.

It’s true, I haven’t laid eyes on a status update in 51 days.  I’m disconnected from my friends in the virtual world and those are the ones I miss most, but that is such a first world problem, isn’t it?

“I have to get dressed so that I don’t look too lazy when I go out to pay the gardener.”

“My laptop battery only lasts for four hours and the flight is five hours long.”

“The fact that I’m paying money for Hulu+ and I have to watch political campaign ads fills me with suicidal despair.”

“I can’t see my friend’s status updates on Facebook or Twitter.”

See?  First World Problems.

Besides, I signed up for Instagram last night. Hey, don’t judge.  It’s not on my unplugged list.

“I had to use the iPad, because the Instagram APIs only allow you to create an account in their application, and there is no Instagram app on Windows phone or Windows 8.”

Another FWP.  If you’re on Instagram, friend me.  I only have one friend right now, and he’s my cousin.  It’s lonely.  So lonely.

And now, the Unplugged Memes of the Week:

Unplugged-Mitch Please

unplugged-unproductive

unplugged-creepy scout guy

 

Playboy Playboy Playboy Play Boy Plae Boie Ploy Bay. People Are Funny

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

stats1

So the Life64 blog gets around 20 hits a day, more or less.  I know – it’s nothing to brag about, but check out June 12 – what happened there?

This was the date I posted the Review of the Kindle e-book: The Playboy Interviews: Men of Letters.  I am surmising that queries for “Playboy” picked up this post and brought some additional traffic to the site, who were expecting to see more of what Playboy is known for, and probably not a review of a book of interviews with authors.

I’ve seen this same dynamic before: When I posted Typewriter Pr0n in 2012, featuring pictures of old typewriters, it generated a similar spike in traffic.  Alice Denham (fully clothed) and her typewriter were featured  in one of the pictures.  She has the distinction of being the only woman to have published an article in the same issue of Playboy that she posed in, and the hits bumped up.

For the record, I’m not trying to artificially inflate hits on the blog with the Playboy references – it’s completely innocent, legit stuff.  Still, I’m amused.  With the internet brimming with  all the porn anyone can imagine… some porn seekers still stumbled onto my little blog about writing.

HA!

Internet-Porn