Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Boat That Rocked

Tonight, thanks to Steve's research that suggested the region coding on the Blu-Ray release of this movie wasn't really there and that thus led me to purchase that disc, we gathered to watch the full-length, original version of the film that appeared in the U.S. as Pirate Radio.

I liked it a great deal more than the American release, which I quite loved.

Like Love Actually, another of director Richard Curtis' wonderful films, this movie hits me emotionally and strongly moves me. I've praised the film before here, so I won't go over it again except to say that if you liked the American release and have a Blu-Ray player, you could do a lot worse than to pop for this U.K. version.

Spoiler Alert! Near the end of the film, when the ship is going down, the Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gives a short speech that I love:

To all our listeners, this is what I have to say - God bless you all. And as for you bastards in charge, don't dream it's over. Years will come, years will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song. Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there'll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung, and they will be the wonder of the world.
Rock and roll blasts in my head and is the soundtrack of my life. It is a wonder of power and emotion, and this movie is a love song to it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Manic much?

A lot of people ask me how I manage to survive on as little sleep as I routinely get. The answer, of course, is not a single technique but rather a wide variety of things that range from "I just do" to "I make myself" to "I stop getting tired late at night." The last one always mystifies people, so I thought I'd use last night as an example of how my late-late work can go.

I was showing Sarah a few songs, and we were discussing music. I had been doing work email on one computer, personal email on another, and some interview answers and software updates on a third. I've set up The U of Power so that I can quickly and easily rotate among the machines, so that all three 30-inch monitors are full of appropriate machine state and the moment a machine makes me wait, I can move to another. When Sarah left, I kept the rock songs playing and bounced back and forth from task to task, my mind speeding up, all the different tasks ready to go in my head and waiting only on the appropriate computer resources, the music filling me up with energy and firework bursts of memories of past songs that the current ones triggered--and I was so alive, so full of energy, that I could have worked another six hours without a moment of fatigue.

Then I finished all the other tasks and opened today's novel file. I switched the music to songs appropriate to the moment, stood up and shook off the rest of the world (literally: picture--well, it's probably best you don't--a bad pale boy dance move combined with an all-over body twitch), and settled into a chair and through it without conscious thought into the scene in the book, the wall of the barracks against Jon's back and--wait, that would be telling.

Note the long, accelerating sentences; they give you just a hint of the way my mind is careening along.

Those among you inclined to therapy might now be wondering if I need medication for this mania, but I quite strongly believe, no. It's not as simple as mania. It's the state of letting out what's inside me, evoking the emotions that most of the time I must work so hard to control, letting them fill me until I'm almost ready to burst from the sheer pressure of them, and then using the alchemical mix of music, self-control, and the power of telling stories to force them to emerge from my fingertips as words on a page that will never be a tenth as good as I wish they were but that are the best I can do at that time. I worked hard to develop the ability to hit this late-night state.

In fact, I often don't need the music or the multiple computers or anything else at all to reach that inner zone. In a hotel room, with loved ones sleeping, trying to be as quiet as I can, my only light the glow from the screen, I can often go there and do my work as quickly as the single system permits.

Of course, it's not as much fun as The U of Power.

So, to answer my own title question: yes, every chance I get, and I always want more.

Speaking of which, I gotta go, because a computer to my left is playing my song.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why I wish I could make all appointments online

Every six weeks, I have a check-up appointment with my chiropractor. I started going when I hurt my back about eighteen months ago, and I've kept it up not because my back has been bad again, but rather because the cost (in both time and money) is relatively low, it feels like the work helps, and I love the way he pops my neck (which is roughly the thickness of a pro wrestler's thigh and so is tough to manipulate). Today, I had to call to move an appointment that was falling while I'll be in Boston. The following is not a verbatim transcript of that conversation, but it's pretty darn close. I'm not mean enough to name the doctor, so we'll call him X.

Woman at his office (hereafter, W): Thank you for calling Dr. X's office. How may I help you?

Me (hereafter, M): I'd like to move an existing appointment.

W: Your name.

M: Mark Van Name.

W: How may I help you?

M: I'd like to move an existing appointment.

W: Great. What's your name?

M: Mark Van Name.

W: So why do you want to move the appointment?

M: Because I'm going to be out of town on the day it's currently scheduled.

W: That's a good reason.

M: silence

W: So, you'd like to make an appointment?

M: No. I want to move an existing appointment.

W: When is that appointment?

M: Wednesday, January 20 at eleven o'clock a.m.

W: What name did you say it was under?

M: Mark Van Name.

W: Are you sure?

M: Yes.

W: About the name and the time?

M: Yes. Both.

W: Let me try to find it. Many seconds pass, with occasional typing sounds. You do have an appointment then!

M: Yes.

W: So what do you want to do?

M: Move it.

W: Okay. We can do that.

M: Good.

W: To when?

M: Friday, January 22nd, at eleven o'clock a.m.

W: Let me check. Many seconds pass, with occasional typing sounds. Okay! You're all set.

M: Thank you.

W: Except you can't come at eleven. Our last morning appointment starts at ten forty-five.

M: I'll take that one.

W: So you want ten forty-five?

M: Yes.

W: On Friday, January 22nd?

M: Yes.

W: In what name?

M: Mark Van Name.

W: Much typing. Okay! You're all set.

M: Thank you.

W: Is there anything else I can do for you?

M: No.

W: There's no reason to be all huffy.

M: Thank you. I need to go now.

W: Fine. Goodbye.

M: Goodbye.

On the bright side, at least the conversation did not take place in person, so I get to continue walking around a free man.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My new main home system is now up

and I'm writing this entry on it. I'm still installing apps, replicating email, and so on, but at least all of my basic computing functions are now available again, my iPhone is synced to a system, and the shadow of the system that died over the holidays is now fading from The U of Power.

The path to this point was not simple, in large part because the new computer uses a RAID 5 setup with four 15K SAS drives, and I had to make that setup work on my own; the machine did not come ready to run. I wanted to do it myself so I'd get some useful hands-on info, and indeed I did--but perhaps next time I'll choose a faster, less painful form of learning. (For the non-technical folks, all this basically means that the machine is wicked fast but took many hours to make work.)

I'm quite pleased to be able to report this progress.

Now, back to a job and a novel that are both calling my name.

While I'm away, feel free to listen to another great Gaslight Anthem song.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pimping my work, 2010-style

For the third year in a row, and stealing a notion from the redoubtable John Scalzi, I'm doing a little self-pimping. Specifically, it's Hugo award nomination time once again, so I thought I'd tell you what I published in 2009 that's eligible and how to nominate it or anything else you like.

The list is short:

Best Novel: Overthrowing Heaven

The instructions are a bit longer. To nominate a work for the Hugos, you have to be a member--attending or supporting, either will do--of the WorldCon (or of the last Worldcon) by January 31 and submit your nomination so the Worldcon folks receive it before the end of the day on February 28. You can also nominate online; it's quick and easy. You can read the con's instructions here.

Put differently, if you want to vote, it costs only $50 to buy a supporting membership.

Like any SF writer, I'd love to win a Hugo; heck, I'd be thrilled out of my gourd just to be nominated. I don't think it's likely, especially when the Worldcon is not in the U.S., but it sure would be cool.

That's the end, though, of my campaigning (and more than I'm comfortable doing).

What's more important to me, though, is that people who care about SF get out and nominate, then vote. When I was growing up, seeing "Hugo Award winner" on a book or next to an author's name made me stop and consider the book. Despite that fact, a surprisingly small number of people can make a big difference in the award. For example, it takes only around 50 nominations for a novel to make the ballot.

Many times that many people read this blog every month. The multiplier for Scalzi's blog is enormous.

If you love a book or a short story or a novel or an editor, an artist or a graphic novel, a movie or a TV show, enough that you'd like to see it as a Hugo winner, then spend the fifty bucks and nominate it.

Oh, yeah, one more bit of campaigning: If enough folks nominate Overthrowing Heaven that it makes the Hugo ballot, I promise not only to go the con (and, yes, on my own dime; no way Publisher Toni would pay for that, nor would I expect her to do so), but also to wear my tuxedo to the Hugo ceremonies and to post pictures of it afterward.

Hey, that's gotta be worth fifty bucks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some of the reasons why I write

I write because I must, because I can't not write.

I write

because I tried once to abandon it entirely but couldn't; I couldn't even sleep that night

in a foolish attempt to get all the pain out of me

because I can't stop telling stories

to share the joy in me

because sometimes when I'm writing, I'm truly in another world

to let you feel how it was when I first fell in love

because there's little that compares with the feeling of having written

to share the rage lest it consume me

to find a way back to being human

I write because I must, because I can't not write.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our UFC 108 picks: Not too shabby

We both picked a majority of the winners in last night's show, but I was lucky enough to come away with the W in our competition: I got only two wrong, while Kyle missed four.

From the bottom to the top again, here's how we fared.

Rafaello Oliveira vs. John Gunderson

This is the only fight on the card that we didn't get to see, so I have to rely on blog reporting for my comments. I said that Oliveira's size would help him push around Gunderson and get him the victory, and Oliveira did indeed score a unanimous 30-27 decision victory. Kyle went with Gunderson, so the first fight put me in the lead.

Mike Pyle vs. Jake Ellenberge

We both called Ellenberger, with Kyle figuring on a decision and me being completely unsure. Ellenberger won by TKO. Go, us!

Mark Munoz vs. Ryan Jensen

Thank goodness I didn't let Jensen's work ethic entice me to choose him. I figured Munoz for a submission, and Kyle had Munoz smothering Jensen. Munoz won in rather more dramatic fashion, pounding Jensen into a tap-out due to strikes in the first round.

Dan Lauzon vs. Cole Miller

I figured Miller to win in a slugfest. Kyle chose Lauzon. Miller won by submission in the first, so I notched another correct prediction--though not a correct call on the method of victory.

Martin Kampmann vs. Jacob Volkmann

We both figured Kampmann to win by some form of knockout, and win he did--though by submission. To be fair to us, the submission came after Kampmann had hit Volkmann a few times.

Thus, as the main card was about to begin, I was a perfect five-for-five, while Kyle had two errors.

Junior Dos Santos vs. Gilbert Yvel

The only surprising aspect of this fight was the reason for its existence; Yvel was over-matched before he entered the arena. Dos Santos TKO'd Yvel in the first, pretty much as we both called it.

Duane Ludwig vs. Jim Miller

Jim Miller dominated Duane Ludwig in a quick submission victory, and fortunately for us, we both chose Miller.

Joe Lauzon vs. Sam Stout

We both like Joe Lauzon, perhaps in part because he has a computer science degree. We both chose him to win by submission. For part of the first round, it looked like we had made a wise choice. Then, Stout settled in, and the rest of the fight was his. Stout won a unanimous decision. I think it should have been 29-28, with Lauzon taking the first round, but the judges called it 30-26, 30-27, and 30-27.

My first loss dashed my hope of a perfect set of calls. Kyle now had three errors.

Paul Daley vs. Dustin Hazelett

We both analyzed this fight the same basic way: Hazelett would take down Daley as necessary until he submitted the shorter striker.

Instead, Hazelett stood with Daley for about two minutes, and then Daley landed a left hook that sent Hazelett to the canvas. Daley hit him again, and it was over.

I was down two and Kyle down four going into the main event.

Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

Evans finally dusted off his wrestling, and with it and a lot of movement he dominated and frustrated Silva for the first two rounds. In the third, Silva rocked Evans and looked like he might pull out the victory--and then chose to back away for a few breaths, time that Evans used to recover.

We called Evans, and the judges gave him the decision. With the exception of the third-round mistake, Evans looked the best I've ever seen him.

So, another UFC ends, and we both got a majority of the rights right. I was lucky enough to call eight of ten correctly. If I could do this for six months straight, I might have a new part-time job as an MMA better. Fortunately for my wallet, that won't happen.

Despite these particular results and as always, please never bet money based on our predictions.


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