Friday, September 30, 2011

Farewell, my curmudgeon

This coming Sunday Andy Rooney will do his last segment for 60 Minutes, capping off more than half a century of annoying the crap out of audiences. Now future generations will have nobody to encourage them to ponder the mysteries of why coffee cans contain less coffee than they used to, what Lady Gaga thinks she’s doing, why computers need to be replaced more frequently than typewriters, how hard the Pope’s job must be, what it feels like to be punked by Sacha Baron Cohen, and how much simpler and cheaper everything was when I was your age.

Spot the fake story in that list. Hint: none of them.

In honor of Rooney’s professional passing, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes from the Book of Beavis:

“Why do they call it ‘taking a dump’? You aren’t taking anything. They should call it ‘leaving a dump.’

“Funk dat!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Progress update

For some reason it takes Amazon 24 hours to put a book up on Kindle. So WWDG didn't actually make its debut until this afternoon.

When it finally showed up, it was weird. There it was on Amazon, just like everything else on the largest online retailer in the world. Disorienting, really. But in a fun way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Progress update

This morning I figured out how to publish books on Kindle.

I started with Staban Beria’s “Witchy Women and Diamond Girls,” as it was pretty much the perfect length, neither too short to be inconsequential nor too long to be cumbersome.

What I haven’t figured out is how to make it available for free. Amazon insists that we charge at least 99 cents for the title (presumably because it isn’t a public domain work). Now, why anyone would want to pay even a buck for something that’s available for free at the site and via downloadable PDF, well, that’s another question. Maybe in the future 8sails Press will produce something that isn’t available online for nothing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Too many organs

Somebody give an an answer to this question: why is creative writing almost always taught primarily through the use of group discussion?

Basically what you’ve got is a class full of people who have little or no understanding of the topic at hand, and they’re supposed to learn the ropes from each other. Other students are even worse as teachers than some random person dragged in off the street, because at least a non-student stands a chance of being a typical reader rather than someone blindly stumbling around in the early stages of learning a craft.

Imagine if other subjects were taught this way.

Physics: “I thought the part about the masses of two objects was fine, but I think the Gravitational Constant needs some work. And distances between two objects? Please! Nobody’s going to buy that.”

History: “I felt the Constitutional Convention was trite and unconvincing. I mean seriously, who would go to all the work to set up a new government? Plus the ending was an obvious set-up for a sequel. What are you going to call it, Constitutional Convention Two: The Bill of Rights? Audiences hate it when you pull tricks like that.”

Anatomy: “Why do you have both a large intestine and a small intestine? Save everyone some time by just combining them into a single intestine. And what’s with all this extra nonsense? Gall bladder? Pancreas? Nobody even knows what any of that’s doing in there. Just cut it out.”

I openly admit that my own efforts in the creative writing realm have been less than stellar. I’ve never taught creative writing, and I probably never will. So perhaps I’m in no position to criticize the earnest efforts of professional practitioners of the art.

However, in my undergrad years (when I wasn’t busy running away from the dinosaurs) I did take a Fiction Writing class from Paul Lim, one of KU’s full-time writing teachers at the time. We did a lot of the group critique stuff, most of which was useless and none of which I even remember. What I do recall was that Lim placed some limitations on the discussion (such as “Nobody is allowed to say ‘This reminds me of ...’”) that helped cut down on the “group therapy” aspect of such exercises.

I also remember his direct feedback to me. That’s what I was there for: some help from a professional who knew the craft and could tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. Not a bunch of blather from frat boys and emo kids who were there mostly because they figured the class would be an easy A and didn’t read the kind of writing I was trying to do.

There’s nothing wrong with having everyone read everyone else’s writing. But the bulk of the feedback needs to come from the pro in the room, not the other students who represent neither learned expertise nor the market for the product.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Death is here

After promising that “Death is coming soon” for nearly five years now, Death to Culture has finally arrived.

This section of the 8sails web site is like no other, as its distinctive look and feel indicate. It’s designed to be a little “edgier” than the rest, more openly antagonistic to some of the nonsense that goes on. If 8sails in general is the guy muttering criticism to the other folks at his table in the bad American Media Comedy Club, then DtC is the extra-drunk heckler down front.

The new section may eventually include essays and maybe even original art. At the moment, however, all the entries – all four of them – are lists of grievances. Which is nice, because lists are easy to add to, and we’ve all got grievances now and again.

I’m also pleased that activation of this section means that we now have no more “dark” pages on the left-hand side of the Octopus. Still some dark and dim spots in the Media section, but we’ll get there soon enough.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Progress update

The Herd is done.

This is likely to be the last work on the guide that's going to be visible anytime soon. I've got a lot of behind-the-scenes prep work (info gathering, organization, writing, graphics, etc.) to complete before I'm going to be ready to upload more stuff.

Still, I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Progress update

Four more cows added to the herd this morning. That's 15 spots down and five to go (with reasonably solid concepts for all of the unfinished graphics).

Some trivia about the ones I added today:

In the Television graphic, the picture faintly visible in the background is a Soviet-era test pattern from Russia.

The Radio picture is of course our friend the Survival Cow masquerading as the inestimable Dr. John Romulus Brinkley.

And the Books graphic is a combination of a couple of pages from the Book of Kells (plus a little 21st century addition).