Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) lives a routine existence. That same existence can be stilted by his tendency to “zone out” while having fantasies about work and a young woman he finds attractive. But one day, his job and any opportunity to see the young woman—even from a distance—are threatened. How will Walter Mitty react?

Walter processes the negatives for Life magazine, but finds out the print magazine will be cancelled: this will be the last issue. All he has to do is process negative #25 from the adventure photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) for the last cover. But that negative is missing. What will he do?

As it turns out, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), the woman he finds attractive, is in the billing department and might help him find O’Connell’s most recent address. He begins a series of natural conversations with her, and we’re cheered he seems to be retreating into his fantasies less often—but he still has a superhero/villain one involving the guy who will fire him if he doesn’t find the negative. With Cheryl’s help, Walter figures out O’Connell might be in Greenland.

Cheryl suggests Walter go find out. It’s not clear if she’s serious or not. But Walter has everything on the line—the negative, the need to give Life a good sendoff, his job, gaining a good standing in Cheryl’s eyes. He sets out.

What follows is an odyssey a routine person could never dream of. It involves flying with a drunken helicopter pilot, skateboarding in Iceland, and climbing high mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, and Walter’s ability to push himself beyond his wildest hopes and fears is something to cheer. Will he find the negative, keep his job, and impress Cheryl?

Ben Stiller puts in a picture-perfect performance as an everyman who hurtles out of his comfort zone, experiencing highs and lows in parts of the world he knew nothing of. Kristen Wiig is likable (which Stiller said was a quality they needed in that role), so we don’t tire of seeing her in the real scenes and in Walter’s improbable fantasies. And Sean Penn looks unmovable as a mountain as he waits for the perfect shot.

photo by Jiyang Chen 

Ben Stiller has somehow become a master director. He knows how to put together thrilling spectacles, showcasing them from a human perspective. Usually he’s been viewed as an actor who is so stupid, people laugh at him. But that was his comic genius: as long as people laughed, he succeeded. Now he’s put together a magnificent paean to the human spirit, and as this interview details, to the older art of moviemaking. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Captain Picard’s Christmas Song

Make sure you’re not holding a hot beverage when you listen to this. 

Brought to you by people who have way too much time on their hands. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Horror Story: Gift of the Magi

Happy St. Stephen’s Day.  

Have you ever wondered what the song Good King Wenceslas has to do with Christmas? The answer is: nothing. St. Stephen’s Day is December 26, and Good King Wenceslas is a St. Stephen’s Day song, so it gets sung this time of the year.

On to the horror. 

public domain 

One of the most terrible stories I was told at school as a child was The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry. It seems this couple was very poor, but at least the husband had a gold watch that had been handed down from his grandfather. And the wife had beautiful brown hair that went past her knees.

In a desperate attempt to get enough money to buy her husband a Christmas present, the wife sold her hair. That’s right, she sold her hair. Then she used the money to buy a platinum chain for her husband’s watch. 

Meanwhile, the husband had sold his gold watch to buy a set of jeweled combs for her hair.

So on Christmas day, they had a chain for a watch they no longer had, and combs for hair that no longer existed.

All the adults thought this was a beautiful story. I think the girls thought it romantic.

I was horrified by this sequence of events that culminated in an ironic twist of fate.

So Merry Christmas to you, O. Henry, you sicko.

photo by Jane Art

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lindsay Lohan Dream

Late on the evening of 8/2/13, I watched a number of previews, including a ten-minute clip of a Lindsay Lohan movie. The boyfriend in the movie had an image of her on his smartphone, naked (the review I had read of the movie did not warn of any nudity). The clip ended before any large-screen nudity.

photo by Christopher Macsurak 

That night I had an odd dream. I went to a new mall with tall windows to one side that allowed in tinted sunlight. The Sbarro there was so new, they didn’t have their menu up. A woman there suggested an $11.00 combo lunch which I ordered, then regretted paying too much for it. Before my lunch was ready, I looked at my smart phone. A number of images of Lindsay Lohan played on it every few seconds—none of them nude, but artistically suggesting she could be. I realized my watching the preview last night had allowed an app to be placed on my phone, making the images play. I was getting a little embarrassed because people were nearby in the Sbarro area, but I could not find any way to remove the app.

At some point I realized this was a dream and willed myself to wake up. I clicked the night light on the head of my bed, but it didn’t come on. I realized the power had gone out. I grabbed my clock, which is battery powered, but had a hard time seeing what time it was. After repeated efforts to tell the time, I woke up.

The entire experience had been a dream, including my waking up and deciding the power was out. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jury Duty – A nun, a security guard, and a writer walk into a jury room

So I was on jury duty for the past two days. Here’s a hint: bring plenty to read and/or a laptop. It mainly consists of sitting around, waiting to see if you’ll be called in to be part of a jury pool. But first, let’s look at the scenery. First a friendly picture, then a scary one.

The tunnel also handles light rail
which accounts for the tracks

A Metro bus went from near my home all the way into the Seattle underground bus tunnel, where there was a stop right below the courthouse. After climbing the stairs (or using the elevator) one emerged with the King County Courthouse less than half a block away. That was handy today, since it was raining.

Now look at the structure below. Does it look like a huge rectangular block is connecting two tall buildings? You’re right. It’s a skybridge, but with no windows. It goes from the courthouse on the right, beyond the building on the left, and ends at the County Jail one building beyond. This is like Con Air, but without the planes. Prisoners can be frogmarched back and forth without using squad cars. This saves time, since downtown traffic can be bad, but it also prevents the prisoners from escaping during laborious loading and unloading from vehicles. If something bad happens in the skybridge, massive steel doors can be slammed shut, trapping the prisoner inside.

Why so serious?

If this doesn’t make you imagine interesting scenes, maybe you shouldn’t try being a writer.

Here’s Seattle City Hall, about a block from the Courthouse. It really looks beautiful during sunny weather, and sometimes they have people selling fresh produce—an offshoot of the famous Pike’s Place Market. Alas, it’s December, so the only noteworthy thing was me taking pictures.

Just beyond it is the Columbia Tower. It’s the tallest building in the state of Washington. It has numerous little restaurants on the first floor, so if you do jury duty in Seattle, I highly recommend it for a fast lunch. I had a nice turkey pot pie at JJ’s Gourmet Burgers.

I call it the Dark Tower
Guess why

So on to jury duty itself. Something like a hundred and forty of us waited around to see if we would be called to a jury pool. The waiting can take hours at a time, so I got a start on a new novel on my laptop (I won’t reveal the title yet). Then forty of us get called in to a jury pool. The lawyers take turns asking us questions to see if we’re biased.

On the way in, the potential juror in front of me recognized someone who happened to be sitting on a bench outside the courtroom. They were so jovial about being in the Courthouse I thought, “Oh great, they’re fellow criminals.” But after he sat down to the right of me in the jury pool, it turned out he was a security guard. They can be asked in a lot to be witnesses to altercations, so his friend waiting outside the court was probably also in security. I felt better.

As the lawyers tried to weed out biased people, they asked questions that didn’t apply to me, such as whether any of us had ever been shot at, would we use a gun in self defense, whether we had bad experiences with police officers. You can probably guess at some of the arguments they were preparing for trial by these questions.

A woman behind me said in a soft voice that she could not imagine using a gun under any circumstances, even if someone was shooting at her. Based on short bios we had filled out on ourselves, the defense lawyer asked her if she was a nun. I wondered what he meant, then he went on to say that he had trouble recognizing her as a nun, since she wasn’t wearing a habit. This was somewhat ironic, since I had watched the stage musical version of The Sound of Music last week and had just ordered the soundtrack.

Based on the answers to the questions, each attorney is allowed to excuse a certain amount of jurors, each hoping to end up with a jury beneficial to his side of the case. Enough people before me were excused that I ended up in the top twelve. Then, even though I replied to none of these general questions, the prosecuting attorney decided to excuse me from jury duty. That puzzled me until I guessed that he wanted the security guard to be on the jury, thinking he would be more likely to convict the defendant. I didn’t see him afterwards in the jury waiting room, so I think he stayed on and became part of the jury for the trial. 

As a last note, in the waiting room for potential jurors, I saw what I thought was a whiteboard for people to write on. It turned out to be some sort of art. If you see some rectangles on the lower left and some blotches of color in the upper right, you’re correct.

I still don’t see why I can’t write on it

There was another piece of art that was simply a photo of a door slightly ajar. Really, that was all there was to it. I wanted to take a picture of it, but since it’s near the entrance to the ladies’ room, I thought would get accused of being a pervert trying to take pictures of women inside. In that case I would have stayed longer in the King County Courthouse, but not as a juror. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Book Review of The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight

Imagine the Cold War was actually a hot war between the West and the Eastern block, with millions of casualties on each side. Then imagine the Soviet Union collapsing under those circumstances. That’s the premise of  Jack Campbell’s The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight, only on a scale of entire star systems. The fellow on the cover looks sufficiently Russian to let us know whose view this story will be from. 

Artur Drakon, commander of the ground forces for his planet, knows he has no choice but to throw off the remnants of the old empire if he is to survive. Being more decent than most commanders of the old order, he has cultivated highly competent people under him who are fiercely loyal, and they charge into action against the agents of the old order who have enslaved them for so long. 

Aiding him in the space around their planet is Gwen Iceni, commander of the pitifully small flotilla of ships that has to guard them from being reconquered. The stakes are high: if a ship of the old empire gets through, it would not hesitate to bomb the civilian population of the planet from orbit.

What makes Tarnished Knight unique is the paranoia among all the characters, inculcated by years of participating in a system where backstabbing and innuendo were the means of moving up. When Drakon does Iceni a favor, she wonders if he’s trying to get her off guard so he can claim total control of the planet. And if Iceni does Drakon a favor, he wonders if that’s a prelude to bombing the planet herself.

This is the most fun with Drakon’s immediate subordinates, Morgan and Malin. Morgan is a deadly woman who is almost out of control, wanting to kill anyone who might be a threat. Malin is no less deadly but more even-keeled. They first appear in the story as they playfully threaten to shoot or stab each other. Things come to a head when Malin shoots an agent who attacks Morgan, barely missing her. Instead of being grateful, Morgan assumes Malin was trying to use the confusion of battle to kill her but flubbed it, and they do not turn their backs on each other for the rest of the novel.

Those of you familiar with Campbell’s Fleet series know that its main character Geary is a man of incredible honor. The good guys in this series are less so, trying to pragmatically do the things necessary to free their people. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Marvel’s Agents of Shield: Alice in Wonderland Again

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is on Tuesday nights at 8:00 on ABC. They have fun, rollicking adventures in plots that mostly hold together. (The 11/26 episode wasn’t that great, but oh well.)  Agent Coulson survived his death scene in The Avengers (or did he?), and he’s gathered a unique team to fight the good fight. But is it unique? Haven’t we seen these characters over and over again, starting with an old children’s story? 

In order to write, you have to learn to take apart stories to see what makes them tick, at least in terms of plot and characters. (Don’t do this with a story that you love. That would be akin to dissecting a pet.) As I once did to the movie Inception (see my entry here), I can take apart Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and see the characters are based on Alice in Wonderland

The main character is Skye (Chloe Bennet). She’s the new member of the team, and she was forced to join against her will at first. She tries to be the conscience of the team, and she constantly questions whether things should be done the way they always have, and even takes matters into her own hands to change things.

Skye is obviously Alice, the girl who fell down a rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland against her will.  She often disapproves of the wild behavior she sees around her and tries to correct things based on her proper schoolgirl upbringing. 

Next is Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). He is eminently wise and often enigmatic. He is definitely in charge and will often put Skye in her place when she asks too many questions. (He also has a heart of gold, but that’s not part of the Alice character.) 

Coulson is the caterpillar. The caterpillar knows much more than Alice, as he looks down on her from the height of the mushroom. His famous saying about the left side and the right are not explained because he doesn’t see the need to. 

Then we have Grant Ward. The other members of the team regard him as crazy. Whether he casually plans to break into a secure installation or dives out of a plane to save a teammate, he acts without hesitation and without a lot of forethought. 

Ward’s comparison is easy. He is the mad hatter.  Of course, Ward’s craziness is in terms of his actions while the hatter’s is in terms of his speech, but this is the obligatory crazy person. 

Melinda May (Ming-Na) does not even start as a member of the team. She’s hidden herself down in the part of SHIELD where the files are. She is even more enigmatic than Coulson is. She often communicates by giving a sideways look, or in one scene when Coulson is pouring out his uncertainties to her, by not changing expression. 

May is the Cheshire cat. The cat can often vanish, just as May hid herself in the filing area. And the cat’s famous smile morphs into May’s unchanging expression. As long as the character is known for a facial cue, it doesn’t matter if it’s a broad expression or a lack of one. 

Fitz and Simmons are the science team. They are so inseparable, they are sometimes called “FitzSimmons.” They often agree with each other on the necessary course of action, leaving the rest of the team trying to catch up with their tech talk. 

Fitz and Simmons are obviously Tweedledee and Tweedledum. (Although they are from Through the Looking Glass, not Wonderland.) Twins, they are inseparable and known for their combative attitude. They also give a mathematical riddle.  

What about the white queen demanding “Off with their heads,” some will ask. So far, the show has had a couple of evil women working for Centipede, and we’ll see if the second one becomes a continuing character.

Still unconvinced? Rent Resident Evil sometime and listen to the commentary track. Michelle Rodriguez tells how each of their characters corresponded to ones in Alice in Wonderland

As I explained to a middle grade teacher of English and literature, the characters used by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland are archetypes. She asked me where Lewis Carroll got them from. I shrugged. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Finds

Should be Reading hosts Friday Finds—an opportunity to share on their site “books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list.” Mine is Spheres of Influence by Ryk E. Spoor.   

The vivid cover attracted my attention, and when I looked it over in a bookstore, I found the writing style was somewhat similar to mine: A minimal amount of dialog tags (e.g., he said, he asked, he whispered, he shouted, etc.). The way the dialog is included in paragraphs should show who is speaking. 

I made an exception to my current practice of buying fiction in the form of e-books. I bought it from that bookstore as a way of rewarding them for allowing me to grab it off their shelf look it over, and as a way of having the cover artwork lying around. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ender’s Game Joke Fail

On Sunday evening, I visited my church’s youth group, which I’ve done on other occasions. I purposefully arrived late because I knew they were having a nerf gun battle at the start. You have to imagine over thirty middle schoolers and high schoolers battling it out inside a church building. I watched the last part of it from outside and decided it wasn’t the size of the gun, it was speed and strategy that mattered. 

photo by JKDesigns 

After that, they all sat down, and we were asked to name things we were thankful for. I decided to start with something funny, so I said, “I saw Ender’s Game, so I’m glad I got here after your foosball game.”

Obviously, I made a mistake by saying “foosball” instead of “nerf gun,” but I don’t think it mattered. A couple of the kids chuckled. The rest of the 30+ kids stared at me, not making a sound.

So I don’t think I should quit my day job.

I recovered from that and made a strategic statement. I said, “Not all the adults in church will say this, but I’m thankful for the internet. It makes research a lot easier. And as long as you watch yourself, it’s no different from walking into a bookstore.” I was indicating there was no real moral difference, because I didn’t want them to think that all the adults are a bunch of stick-in-the-mud types.

Not long after that, I realized the senior pastor had walked into the back of the room and must have heard what I said. He likes to rail against the internet from the pulpit.

They had leftover pizza from earlier in the evening that they were urging people to take. I wasn’t going to eat anything, but I finally snagged a piece and ate it on the way to my car. That night, I had bad food poisoning and was desperately trying to rip the cellophane open to some pink bismuth (the generic form of Pepto Bismol).

So that was my sparkly evening.

(To see my review of Ender’s Game, click here.) 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review of Ender’s Game

I remember reading the novella Ender’s Game in a 1979 issue of Analog. I never read the novel it was expanded into, but I remember the original story: Ender’s training, the weightless game of propelling themselves towards the opponent’s goal, and Bean. I remember vividly one of the battles in space, and the concern of one of the commanders that they were “pounding the nails in”—meaning that they were crucifying Ender. Then there was the final game, where Ender would be up against their finest game master, hopelessly outnumbered in ships. There was the odd reaction of the commanders, who went into despair because they didn’t understand Ender’s strategy—odd for adults to react to a game that way. And of course, the climax of the story, and how Ender fared. After all these years, I remember the story.

This movie delivers. Eleven year-old Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is chosen to lead humanity’s efforts to fend off an alien threat. Trained from a young age in strategy, he simply thinks and reacts differently than a normal person would. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) sees him as a thoroughbred and keeps pushing and pushing him. But as Major Anderson (Viola Davis) asks, “What will be left of the boy?”

The supporting actors playing the other children in the combat school are terrific. Normally, the temptation would be to show child actors doing cutesy things, but the movie shows them in all their earnestness. The weightless games they play are astounding, and it was right to wait until the special effects business was sufficiently mature to make this movie. All the moral quandaries are there on whether it is right to make Ender such a matchless child soldier, but we know how this will be resolved, we know Ender will be in it for the finish.

Ender’s Game is the best movie I’ve seen this year. (As a note of caution, this movie features children, but was written for adults. Middle graders and below will not truly understand the moral quandaries. Think of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Blockbuster Closing

It’s the end of an era: Blockbuster announced it’s closing their remaining stores. Personally, I preferred Hollywood Video. Remember those? Anybody? Anybody?

photo by Dwight Burdette

Someday you will tell your grandchildren about how you had to rent these disks to see movies, from physical stores. Then you had to drive back and return them in a few days. And sometimes, you even used paper money to pay for them. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Carrie publicity stunt

I don’t plan on seeing the remake of Carrie. But here’s a publicity stunt that was done before the movie was released, pulled on unsuspecting customers at a coffee shop. 

The woman with the sunglasses perched on top her head had the best reaction. But the guy wearing glasses who kept hold of his coffee cake for at least part of it was pretty funny.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tesla Fire - Writing Hint?

Recently here in the state of Washington a Tesla made headlines by going up in flames—and the fire started in the battery. Is there a writing lesson here? 
photo by Plug In America
People assume that batteries are safe compared to something nasty like gasoline—and I’m certainly not saying this is evidence that Tesla batteries are unsafe. But consider: A tank full of gas has to contain enough energy to propel a car weighing thousands of pounds at freeway speeds for a considerable distance. A battery in an electric car has to contain a similar amount of energy. A moment’s reflection will reveal that the potential for fiery disaster exists with either sort of propulsion.

I already had this concept in mind because of a steampunk discussion at a science fiction convention. An artist there was an enthusiastic fan of a Victorian author who wrote about a fantastical machine that could fly from the temperate regions all the way up to the polar regions. The author glossed over the fuel problem by saying it was battery-powered. But the artist pointed out that a battery that compact that would contain that much energy would explode if it were bumped a little.

So go ahead and write your artful accounts of powered machines that don’t use a petroleum product. But acknowledge your readers will have a brain: incredible concentrations of energy will be dangerous. On the other hand, that can make for interesting plot complications. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays—Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. We’re to post two random sentences from our current reads. Mine happens to be from Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics

Both sentences are from Spock, referring to chess: 

“I wouldn’t call it brooding . . . But I have estimated the probability of your beating me at 47.3%”  —p. 122. 

Most people don’t remember the Star Trek comic strips that started in 1979.  Since the stories would continue from one comic strip to the next, this collection has the feel of a graphic novel, composed of a number of short stories.  As the cover above shows, the artwork was more than decent for a daily strip.   

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rhiannon Held’s Tips on Writing

I’ve seen Rhiannon Held a few times at conventions or readings.  Her current book is Tarnished, available at the usual places.  She’s given some helpful writing tips on her blog, based on the movie Pacific Rim. 

And she appears in period dress

I never saw the movie, and it’s not necessary to benefit from her tips.  When she took her first tip from the movie, “Establishing scale” and applied it to writing, I knew she had something insightful going on. 

So look at her blog and see if it helps with your overall writing.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moving Paragraphs

While revising my werewolf story (don’t worry, it’s not a sexy werewolf story), I realized a few paragraphs were dragging things down.  They were meant to increase tension, carry the story forward, and give personal insights into a couple of the characters.  As Jess says, every scene should have multiple functions, right?  Well, these didn’t work, so I planned to delete them. 

The paragraphs are struck through with heavy Xs

Later on in the same chapter, I realized these paragraphs would work.  The main character is getting fed up, and adding these same paragraphs would get him to the point where he’s just had it. 

What’s important is not to just copy and paste them into the other scene with mild adjustments to make the grammar work.  It’s best to rewrite the paragraphs word-by-word while putting them in.  Why?  In that act of rewriting, the author may make changes to match the word rhythm of this other scene, or realize it’s necessary to tighten up parts of the writing, or explain some concept with more detail.  You wouldn’t want some other guy to plop down paragraphs in your story, would you?  In this case that other guy is you, and what you were doing in some other part of your story.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ream of Paper Mistaken for iPad

This BBC News reporter grabbed a ream of paper, thinking it was his iPad, and went on the air with it. 

This is the thing to do with bonehead mistakes:  Just brass it out, as if you meant to do that.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Worldcon Blog Supplemental—Saturday

On my last day at Worldon in San Antonio, I listened to Lou Anders give his workshop on taking tips from screenwriting and applying them to novels.  Although I took copious notes, instead of summarizing them, I’ll give his surprising way of defining antagonists.  The antagonist is not necessarily the villain, but is the person who puts obstacles in front of the protagonist. 

In Casablanca, Rick is the protagonist, but the Germans are not the antagonists.  The antagonist is Laszlo, Ilsa’s husband, because he is the one who puts roadblocks in Rick’s way.  Laszlo is undoubtedly a good guy, so in the end Rick deals with him and with his love interest Ilsa in a way that is appropriate. 

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan is not the antagonist, at least not for much of the movie.  For much of the movie Lieutenant Saavik is the antagonist, quoting regulations against Kirk. 

This different way of looking at the antagonist is helpful, especially when the villain is not interacting with the protagonist for much of the story. 

Speaking of Star Trek, this woman who had a couple of young children with her wore the uniform sheath from the old Star Trek, even though the temperature could be over 100 degrees in San Antonio. 

Very impressive.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Worldcon Blog Supplemental—Friday

First, to continue with what happened Thursday night at the convention, I attended a Literary Beer with Lou Anders. 

photo by Catriona Sparks
He’s the editorial director of Pyr Books.  The Kaffeeklatches and Literary Beers are opportunities for a small group of people who sign up early to meet with a professional in the business to talk about whatever strikes their fancy.  This is much more satisfying than going to a typical workshop. 

Lou Anders continues to be of the opinion that mass-market paperback books will die out soon, just as he said at a Norwescon I attended a couple years ago.  He also said he does not think New Adult (with protagonists aged 18 to mid-twenties) will become a legitimate category.  However, he also said that Young Adult readers are growing older and want something more mature.  Although he knows much more about the industry than I do, perhaps I can put these statements together in an optimistic way. 

So on Friday itself, a number of booksellers put on their presentations of their upcoming new books.  Tor had several, of course, but one in particular stuck out to me:  Antigoddess by Kendare Blake. 

It features characters from Greek mythology such as Athena and Hermes.  My Athena stories feature these characters, so this was of particular interest to me. 

Baen Books had their usual dynamic presentation, hosted by the publisher, Toni Weisskopf. 

photo by Dravecky
As usual, she gave out free books to anyone who was active military or a veteran.  When that happened, someone in the audience got up and walked out.  It’s like there are two different worlds out there.  I remember in one of the airports I was in, the airline had early boarding for people who were active duty military.  When a woman walked up for that reason, some people spontaneously applauded, while a young punk looked sulky.  But way to go, Toni Weisskopf! 

Toni also believes that “in time,” e-books will supplant mass-market paperbacks.  These are not the larger paperbacks—called trade paperback—or the hardcovers, but they are the most common sort of paperbacks.  For more on this topic, look at my previous post here.  

And here’s the entrance to the exhibition hall, where booksellers and lots of memorabilia are on display.  Worldcon really is a professional convention, and convention goers must show their badges to security to enter the exhibit hall. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Worldcon Blog Supplemental—Thursday

So the sessions began on Thursday, and I attended the ones on writing.  A standout one was on self-promotion.  Gini Koch, author of the Alien series, and Genese Davis, a video game personality, were among the panelists. 

They really deserved a picture that was more in focus 

They all gave interesting advice, but Gini Koch said something that was immediately practical: Business cards have no perceived value to prospective readers.  Bookmarks have some value.  But the postcard-sized promotions (often featuring the book’s cover) do have value for readers.  Also, postcards can be mailed, can be signed—only do promotions that can serve multiple duties.  Don’t fill up the postcard with words.  Think in terms of the simple Nike ads.  She speculated that it might be the shape of the postcard that is attractive.  I would second that, since they have golden rectangle proportions. 

I also took the time that morning to visit the San Antonio Museum of Art.  They have an impressive collection of ancient Mediterranean art, including ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman pieces.  I decided to focus on the Roman sculptures of Greek and Roman figures. 

Here is an ancient portrayal of Achilles, famous for his role in the Trojan War.  As you can see, though he kept his shield, he lost his head. 

My favorite among the ancient Greek gods and goddesses is Athena.  Of all the Olympians, she is the only one who is noble, which is why I like to write about her.  Here’s a life-size statue of her in the museum. 

You have to imagine her holding a spear. 

Below is an excellent sculpture of a Roman matron.  Not sure what she was so mad about. 

This next one is rather unusual.  The Greek youth has a laurel wreath on his hair, and his arm draped on top.  The rest of the arm has broken off. 

For some less than fully-clad sculptures, read on. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Worldcon Blog Supplemental—Wednesday

On Wednesday I flew to San Antonio for Worldcon, the big science fiction convention.  I made a point of seeing The Alamo as my first tourist site. 

It contains memorabilia such as Davy Crockett’s leather wallet, and also his long gun, including two powder horns!  They do not allow photographs inside, and they ask men to remove their hats.  I approve of the formality.  The interior walls must not be touched, and they still show names and initials carved into them from that period. 

This view shows more detail of the architecture, as well as one of the grottos up front. 

This grotto has Davy Crockett’s name carved in it, but this is acknowledged to have been done by someone else. 

And what would The Alamo be without cactus?  I touched the side of one of the thorns, and I’m sure if I had touched the point, my finger would have bled. 

The Alamo is easy to find—near Crockett Street and Alamo Plaza. 

Below is a historic church, on the way to and from The Alamo, which preserves the old mission style. 

Here’s a building near the City Hall that shows the beautiful old architecture. 

This building really is as red as the picture shows—no retouching. 

More sightseeing to come, along with reports on the convention.  


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