Saturday, June 28, 2014

Storytelling time

Thursday night, I drove to Motorco in Durham for my second try at telling a story at a StorySLAM event from The Monti.  I first went last December and had a decent time on stage, though I learned in the process that the tale I'd chosen was simply too long for the five minutes the StorySLAM format offers

Armed with that knowledge, I crafted my presentation differently and was ready with a humorous piece that fit nicely in five minutes.  The topic was "PISSED", and my piece fit it well.  They chose me to go first, which is typically the kiss of death for winning, and so up to the stage I went.  I felt I nailed the story.  The audience seemed to agree; they laughed almost constantly throughout my performance--which was my goal.  The judges gave me pretty good scores.

I ended up again in third place, but I was much happier with my delivery and story this time.  I haven't decided yet whether I'll go again, but I had a good time.

Dinner afterward was a tasty sandwich from a nearby food truck, Porchetta.  I ate with friends at a bench under the stars, the night life of Durham swirling all around us.  A delightful way to end that part of the evening.  If I had not had to work another almost six hours upon my arrival home, the night would have ended perfectly.

Jeff Polish and the folks who help with The Monti are doing a good thing by promoting verbal storytelling, and the two hours of live entertainment you get is a more than fair return on the price of the ticket ($13.65 after the ticket service's fee, $12 without the fee).  Check it out if you get the chance.

Friday, June 27, 2014

And now the Supreme Court pisses me off

Okay, Supremes, though I strongly support the Massachusetts law that provided a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, I can at least understand your free-speech argument in striking down that law:  People have long gathered on public streets and sidewalks for discussions and protests, so this Massachusetts law went too far in stopping such gatherings.  I don't like this decision, as I said, but as a free-speech advocate, I can at least understand the basis of your reasoning.


Except that you've established other types of buffer zones to protect people.  

Except that you don't apply it to the equally public property around your own building.  You get to have a safety zone, a buffer zone, on which no one can protest.

That's bullshit.  Afford the same protection from protest to others that you afford to yourself, or open your own area to protest.

Be consistent.

Supremes, this time you let us all down.

For much more on this, check out the Rachel Maddow show below bit on this topic.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Way to go, Supreme Court!

Though I'm frequently critical of the work of this court, I have to say that I applaud their recent decision to require police to have a search warrant before they can look through the contents of a person's cell phone.  With all the information that today's cell phones can carry, I believe this ruling was absolutely the right one.  They even explained it well near the end of the ruling:

The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant. 
The ruling, which is worth at least a skim, displays a refreshingly good understanding of the role smartphones play in our lives today. 

Good job, Supreme Court!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A weekend of two SF movies

The one I wish I could go see but that will not open in any theater near me.

What's not to love?

Instead, because I'm such a geek fanboy, I will check out this movie, which looks decidedly less awesome.

What the heck; at least it has Marky Mark.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Catch me this weekend at ConTemporal

ConTemporal is a local steampunk convention that was nice enough to invite me to be a guest even though I've never written any steampunk stories.  I like to support local conventions, so of course I agreed to go.  I'll be participating in three activities at the con, so if you're going, you could do worse than to check them out. 

Friday, June 27, 5:00 p.m., Oakwood room:  A panel, It's the Little Things

I'll be joining Suzanne Warr and JM Lee in an hour-long discussion of the benefits (and possibly the pitfalls) for writers of belonging to a professional organization.  As a life member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), I do have a few opinions on the topic.  I may also discuss hamsters, gardening, getting off the Pope's grass, and who knows what else; once you get me rolling, it's hard to stop me.

Saturday, June 28, 12:30 p.m.:  Meet the Guests

I have no idea what I'll be doing at this event, nor where the event is, so anything might happen.  I may bring a boombox, or perhaps a book to read, or maybe cookies for all.  You can't know unless you come by.

Saturday, June 28, 6:00 p.m., Sandalwood room:  Worldbuilding 101

Starting only with a thimbleful of dark matter, my fellow panelists--Allen Wold, Todd Stewart, Tanith Tyr, Win Strock--and I will proceed to build new universes before your very eyes.  Will these miraculous creations result in rainbow unicorns--or in the reinvention of the platypus, a cruel joke of a creature if ever there was one?  Again, you cannot learn the answer unless you come to the panel.

Disclaimer:  I mean no offense to any rainbow unicorns or platypuses, living, dead, or imaginary. 

If you do attend any of these events, feel free to come up and say hi.

I hope to see you at the con!

Monday, June 23, 2014

A wonderful obsession

I'm not talking here about any of my own intense pursuits; I'm referring to the obsessive interest of inventor Tim Jenison in how Vermeer created his amazing paintings. That interest, plus Jenison's friendship with magician Penn Jillette, led to the creation of the documentary, Tim's Vermeer, which Penn's partner, Teller, directed.  A group of us watched this 80-minute film the other night, and I highly recommend it. 

You don't need to be an art fanatic or historian to enjoy this movie, nor do you need to know anything about Vermeer or his work.  The story certainly revolves around Vermeer, but its heart is Jenison and his complete commitment to exploring his theory, a commitment that leads to five years of part-time (and sometimes full-time) work on the project. 

One of the facets of this film that I most enjoyed was that its ending simply did not matter.  Both we viewers and Jenison himself know from the start that Jenison cannot prove he is correct; the best he can do is to amass more evidence for his theories.  No one has been able to turn up any documents that prove--or disprove--that Vermeer worked as Jenison posits, so Jenison is doing all of this work, years of it, and incurring huge expenses, simply to demonstrate that Vermeer might have worked as he theorizes.  I found that commitment wonderful to behold.

Teller does a masterful job of making the movie compelling and managing its pacing so you are never bored.  Penn is a fun narrator, an obviously biased teller of the story of a friend--but one who makes the friend's case compellingly. 

Check out Tim's Vermeer, now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Amazon video, and probably other outlets. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

22 Jump Street

is not a good movie, but it is, most of the time, a very enjoyable bad movie.  The small group of us that went to see it the other night laughed for the majority of the film, though in some moments it was so bad we groaned.

In its best moments, the movie delivers good sight gags, bad jokes, and great self-deprecating bits from Channing Tatum, who is way better at comedy than many people give him credit for.  Jonah Hill plays himself, the only role I've ever seen him play, but Tatum stays to his character throughout. 

The movie is also chock full of self-referential jokes, and though sometimes they fall flat, most of them work quite well.  During the credits, which are worth sitting through, you see the next dozen or so possible sequels, each just amusing enough to justify its seconds on screen.

If you're in the mood for a lot of cheap laughs on a hot summer night (or afternoon, for this would make a great way to escape the heat), check out 22 Jump Street.  Just don't go in expecting more than it is.


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