28 October, 2015

Plans for NaNoWriMo and those Short Stories

I'll admit, I completely forgot about the short stories that I intended to post in August. Instead, I got sidetracked reading through what I had for Maximum Security Showcase so far...

...and I decided it needs the NaNoWriMo treatment for the second time in a row.

Why? I noticed while skimming through it that there was too much going on, and that some of it detracted from the major conflict at play. In some places, it made the whole thing a disjointed mess with supporting characters taking the action away from where it actually should be. Hence the decision to undertake NaNoWriMo yet again.

Unlike last year, I'll be using LibreOffice to write the story so that I'm not stuck, going anal over what to title those scenes in Scrivener. I did a test writing sprint in late August and managed 638 words in about an hour. With that, I have no doubt that I can sprint through November and finish with a much tighter story.

Wishing fellow NaNoWriMo participants all the best this November!

As for the short stories...

I'm pushing them back to December and January respectively as a two-part serial featuring Mark and Andy from the flash fiction filed in Man vs. Retail. They will be cross-posted on Ello and Wattpad as I mentioned previously.

Additional Note: I'll be honest: I also got distracted by doing some late Spring cleaning, binge-watched some old favorites, and pondered about leaving Facebook indefinitely, which I finally deactivated last week. I harped on Ello about the network alongside other privacy snafus. I initally posted something about that last week, but retracted it, preferring to wait until my one year Ello anniversary rolls around to explain why.

26 October, 2015

Reviewing David Mitchell’s Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse and Jan Wong’s Red China Blues

Note: Cross-posted from Ello

Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse

My newfound love of British Comedian, David Mitchell, goes all the way back to Douglas Adams who inspired me to write in the first place. I can’t count how many times I read through the entire Hitchhikers’ Guide series during high school, but it made that journey so much easier and then some. Not only did I start writing fiction because of Adams, I discovered Doctor Who through “Voyage of the Damned”, my first foray into all things Whovian that happened to feature the Starship Titanic.

It was through a conversation between Arthur Dent and Fenchurch where I first discovered the Guardian and in 2010 I started reading it. Or rather, I frequented their website where I found myself going through articles from columnists including Charlie Brooker, Marina Hyde, and Hadley Freeman. The first two got me hooked—Brooker with his cynical take on modern television and Hyde through her contributions to the Lost in Showbiz blog that poked at celebrities from escapades to personalities.

I read through David Mitchell’s Observer columns, but it wasn’t until after I graduated from university last year when I decided to reread through them as curated in Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse. Why? Thank that time when I watched through That Mitchell and Webb Look last December while sick with a common cold. Those sketches helped me forget how ill I was and turned those couple weeks around from the usual sluggish doldrums.

Like those sketches, Mitchell’s book is just as clever. At first glance, it looks like a self-help book with chapters that group common twenty-first century nuances. This impression helped bring out the humor of the whole thing and hooked me in. Unlike Brooker, Freeman, or Hyde, Mitchell takes a more modest approach that brings out his wit throughout, sometimes imagining satirical situations or pointing out the irony in politics. He knows how to weave anecdotes and wit together to make his modest approach effective, more so than Brooker’s hyperbolic tirades about television. Every chapter had me grinning from ear to ear and made Mitchell’s column worth reading and re-reading.

Red China Blues

I previously mentioned on here how I found this book in the first place along with why I was fascinated with China. This book turned out to be more than I expected.

Jan Wong’s initial Maoist leanings prompt her to head over to China to find out how the ideology plays out, only to find herself studying at Bejing University. From there she tells about what happened during her stay as she weaves reportage and memoir together to create a vivid image of her ancestral home.

Wong’s exploration of her Marxist leanings reminded me of the chapter in Mark Kermode’s book, It’s Only a Movie, where Kermode travels to Russia with his colleague, Nigel Floyd, in order to cover the filming of Mariano Baino's Dark Waters. Kermode himself comes from a similar ideological background, explaining his own Trotskyism while he studied at Manchester in a previous chapter. While in awe at Moscow, he finds himself becoming disenfranchised as he finds himself in more squalid, and unequal, conditions.

Wong’s own experience turns out similar albeit with completely different results as China’s government almost expels her for a trip to the Soviet embassy with a friend. The memoir doesn’t end with her university experience, but moves forward to her days as a Bejing correspondent for the Globe and Mail where she found herself covering the Tianmen Square massacre. Her firsthand experience along with her other investigations reveal China’s more corrupt and inhumane secrets alongside the eventual denial of the massacre from government officials.

Throughout all this, Wong’s voice matures gracefully and sometimes laughs at her past as a Maoist. I’m not keen on spoiling anymore of it. This is a must read for anyone who loves a good memoir, or wants to learn about China from a firsthand account.

22 October, 2015

On Maximum Security Showcase: Specters of Data

Note: Cross-posted from Ello

This foray into the long-term project starts with a confession: I finally got around to buying a copy of Specters of Marx months after I first wrote about it. I plan on reading through it before and during NaNoWriMo so I know more about what I’m dealing with.

Before that, I had some ideas about hauntology that I wanted to test out in the story. All of which deal with the other major source of conflict that I started writing out in June. That aspect in question is another character who is responsible for that “hearsay” through a start-up which merges both social media and TV news. I was inspired, in part, by Hossein Derakhshan’s article, “The Web We Have to Save” where he points out a metaphorical shift regarding how most users use the web today:

But the Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies. 
The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

This, alongside the the algorithmic filters which drive networks like Facebook, brought me back to what a columnist mentioned during a talk at my university; clicks drove most of the front page content. The story’s start-up would compliment that notion, where likes, tweets, and comment threads would drive the rolling coverage.

That’s also where the “bare-bones” hauntology comes in along with that video on Murdoch’s Australian. Not only bare-bones, but personal as this start-up makes the showcase into a full-fledged throwback where those rumors become the top story. All because of of that data stored in those servers, and as Maciej Cegłowski points out in his talk, called “Haunted by Data”, is very similar to how long it takes for nuclear radiation to decay:

The data we're collecting about people has this same odd property. Tech companies come and go, not to mention the fact that we share and sell personal data promiscuously. 
But information about people retains its power as long as those people are alive, and sometimes as long as their children are alive. No one knows what will become of sites like Twitter in five years or ten. But the data those sites own will retain the power to hurt for decades.

No matter how far they escape, data’s absolute nature brings back the worse of their past, both the main character and his friend, and morphs their adult lives straight in the volley of high school and college gossip. “You never change,” becomes a presumed absolute instead of merely an expression. Once that data goes live, they can’t change. At least the viewers will think so when that start-up goes live.

The visit from someone else was only just the beginning…

22 July, 2015

On Vivaldi

Outside of the built-in web browsers, the one that I use most is Mozilla's Firefox. When I first found myself in cyberspace, I had to stick it out with Internet Explorer as it was the default for both the family and school computers. With my first laptop back in '08, I didn't mind it much with the Internet security software I installed...

...until the crashing happened. So I switched because I remember someone saying that Firefox was faster. This was also when Chrome jumped into the scene. Months later, I had an idea for an article I wanted to do for my high school's newspaper where I just tested all the major ones. This, during a time when I was unfamiliar with web standards aside from speed and design, never panned out. Although that's when I defaulted over to Opera.

The speed was personally on par with Firefox, if not more, but it was the design that did it for me. The rectangular tabs were smooth around the edges and I fell in love with the speed dial and multi-purpose sidebar. There was also a BitTorrent client built into the browser--this is Opera 9--that I used to download the Summoning of the Spirits album.

I surfed through Opera for around two years, then switched back. I forgot why, but I remember it being a rendering issue. Not that I minded much.

Fast-forward to Vivaldi, from Opera's founding creators, and I find myself using it more and more. Clive Thompson's Boing Boing post led me to it--I related to the tab issue--but it was the bookmarks manager that did me in then. Later it was the tab stacking and tiling that convinced me. While I'm still waiting for the build with either private browsing or UI extensions before making it my default, here's why I want to do so...

Vivaldi promotes both productivity and the user. With the former, there's no need to have a home page. During my undergrad, my home page was always the university's hub page, or the one that lead to the e-mail and online coursework. Now, I set three folders as my speed dials and use them as a substitute for a homepage. With this, I find myself less distracted by the usual homepage clutter and skip straight to the personal to-do list most of the time.

The latter refers to the slogan, labeling Vivaldi as, "A Browser for our Friends." Friends in this case being the community who once made Opera what it was and other power users. Even if it is closed-sourced and based off the Chromium engine, the face that Vivaldi gives the user control over how they browse, from layout to shortcuts through keyboard and mouse, convinced me to give it a thought.

The tab stack tiling also proved to me that Vivaldi would be my go-to for social media management. Cross-posting to the other networks would be a breeze, meaning that I don't need to use any automation recipes making everything seem emotionless and spam-like. Stacking alone would make reading through articles, or commenting on multiple threads on Boing Boing's BBS much more manageable, meaning that I won't find myself distracted elsewhere on the web.

It's still in alpha, but I have high hopes for Vivaldi, a browser that does what it says on the tin and then some.

17 July, 2015

Maximum Security Showcase, or Last Year's NaNoWriMo Thought Out in Full

Note: First posted here.

It’s hard to explain what this long-term project is about. I started writing it last year as merely a short story for a creative writing class. The premise itself was simple enough: Man dreads visit from old co-workers and finds out why when his girlfriend leaves for dance practice who does not know that co-worker one is ruthless in getting to the top at their old job, and co-worker two used the protagonist to start dating him. The end result being that the main character realizes that he’s now free from them, or rather “been free” as his girlfriend tells him.

Problem was that, thinking about it, I wanted it to do so much more. After I graduated last year, I started writing bits and chunks trying to figure out where I wanted it to go. The plot from the short story wasn’t enough. Come NaNoWriMo, I found myself at a roadblock. I salvaged some of the material, unused in the short story to fit in a new character along with developing co-worker two, but everything else fell flat.

My major problem: the main character.

Even if it was he who drove the story forward, his nervousness about the whole situation and afterward drove it to a standstill. Why does he stay that way?

Then some inspiration happened on a bus ride home, which allowed me to develop the main character more, along with adding in co-worker one's point of view. Later on I started reading Richard Littler’s Discovering Scarfolk. I first discovered the time-locked dystopia while I was at university on accident through their Soundcloud, more intrigued by the constant loop in the 1970s than by the strange oddities contained within.

It was when I started following the Scarfolk blog, before reading the book, that I began finding where my story would go. One of the things that made the town so interesting was the hauntology angle, which I further learned about in Andrew Gallix’s Guardian article:

As a reflection of the zeitgeist, hauntology is, above all, the product of a time which is seriously "out of joint" (Hamlet is one of Derrida's crucial points of reference in Spectres of Marx). There is a prevailing sense among hauntologists that culture has lost its momentum and that we are all stuck at the "end of history". Meanwhile, new technologies are dislocating more traditional notions of time and place. Smartphones, for instance, encourage us never to fully commit to the here and now, fostering a ghostly presence-absence. Internet time (which is increasingly replacing clock time) results in a kind of "non-time" that goes hand in hand with Marc Augé's non-places. Perhaps even more crucially, the web has brought about a "crisis of overavailability" that, in effect, signifies the "loss of loss itself": nothing dies any more, everything "comes back on YouTube or as a box set retrospective" like the looping, repetitive time of trauma (Fisher).

So where does hauntology fit into the mix?

In the short story, the main character’s past “haunts” him through a visit from his co-workers. In the long-term project, it torments him beyond those two.

It is now a story in which a recent past colonizes the area where he lives. A time where he and his friend broke their chains from the heresy tumbling between servers which marked them. Now they click back to life to wrap around him for a Maximum Security Showcase*.

(More on it as I go along, plus research. I referenced Scarfolk in previous posts on Ello--one with a track and another with a review of Discovering Scarfolk.)

*Working Title

15 July, 2015

Where I've Been, Where this is Going, etc.

This post is a few things, with the major one being that it's geared towards Google+ users, mostly because I don't take advantage of the cross-posting feature. If you follow me on Ello, skim through my page there, or via RSS, there's not much new here. If you came here through Twitter, skip down to the "July and August Itinerary" for what I'll be up to. 

So far, I wrote two new flash fiction pieces this year--one with a follow-up Wattpad story, and the other as part of the "Mechanic's Garage" series of flash fiction.

There's also a review of Thomas Piketty's Capital that I got myself into courtesy of a couple Ello shelfies and a post detailing my information diet in brief.

After that, I started focusing more on my long-term project. Three months later and now I have a better idea of where I want to take it. I charted my progress over on Ello, where I'll continue to do so.

I meandered from the schedule I set myself for June with the work-in-progress being only one of those reasons. The other being that I switched computers, going from an 11" to a 15" screen. I'm still in the process of reorganizing my digital spaces, both online and off, but I feel both more confident and productive using a bigger screen when writing from home.

July and August Itinerary (Note: First posted here.)

July: I'll write a long-form post each about the topics that I meant to cover along with any book reviews that I missed along the way. Topics and reviews include my new-found love of the Vivaldi web browser, reviewing British comedian David Mitchell's Thinking About It Always Makes It Worse and Jan Wong's Red China Blues, about my current long-term work, etc.

August: Instead of just one Wattpad short story, I plan on doing two. One to make up for the lack of a June story and the other to round up my initial goal for this year. I plan on cross-posting all three of them on Ello instead of just leaving them there.

23 May, 2015

Weekend Links for May 23-24

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, but instead of the previous format, I thought I'd curate approximately five items of interest that I read over the week plus one video.

With that, the video for this week comes from this year's re:publica conference where Cory Doctorow discusses the issues prevalent with the Internet of Things and general purpose computers with regards to surveillance and digital locks. Reminded me of his 2011 talk at the Chaos Computer Congress that I also recommend watching.

This Week's Links of Interest

Alice Bolin writes about how Agatha Christie plays around some of the most common tropes in mystery writing through Miss Marple:
Miss Marple elevates the archetype of the spinster, which has been, as Kathy Mezei writes, “a recurring icon in British literature.” This phenomenon reflects a reality of British demographics, particularly after the traumas of two world wars: women outnumbered men, and single women were seen as “lonely, superfluous, and sexually frustrated.” Mezei’s wonderful article “Spinsters, Surveillance, and Speech: The Case of Miss Marple, Miss Mole, and Miss Jekyll” from the Journal of Modern Literature lays out the way that a spinster character has been used by Christie and others to accomplish feats of narrative misdirection, and, more importantly, to “covertly query power and gender relations while simultaneously upholding the status quo.”

Simon Pegg follows up on what he said in this week's Radio Times about science fiction and genre films "dumbing down" audiences, noting the traits expressed by Tim and Daisy in Spaced:  
In the 18 years since we wrote Spaced, this extended adolescence has been cannily co-opted by market forces, who have identified this relatively new demographic as an incredibly lucrative wellspring of consumerist potential. Suddenly, here was an entire generation crying out for an evolved version of the things they were consuming as children. This demographic is now well and truly serviced in all facets of entertainment and the first and second childhoods have merged into a mainstream phenomenon.
Jessica Valenti writes in her Guardian column about how the lack of female authors on one's bookshelf might denote sexism, but also points out how others view authors based on sex, race, and gender:
 Part of the problem is that while art or books that white men put out is portrayed as universally appealing, culture produced by women or people of color is seen as specific to their gender or racial identity.
 Leigh Alexander writes about why video game stories are not always gripping:
Having a writer helps, but developers often just bring writers in to help fill in dialogue around setpieces (make up a reason for everyone to have a huge zombie battle in the football arena!) not to contribute to an overall narrative design. Writers on big games have told me privately of the friction they felt between what they wanted to happen in the game and the absurd, dissonant moments of gameplay that were beloved to the developers and too late to change.
Alistair Coleman points out some of the click-bait books that he found on Twitter. Here's one of them:
This man was shipwrecked on an island for 28 years. His one great life hack will blow your mind, and you can use it too! 
May's Itinerary

Same as April's so there won't be another flash fiction piece this month. I do plan on posting a short story to Wattpad in June.

13 April, 2015

Thomas Piketty's Capital

Last year, just before the holiday season kicked into full swing, I went and bought Thomas Piketty's Capital after reading through Cory Doctorow's review on Boing Boing. That and during those first few post-undergraduate months, academic reads became one of my guilty pleasures, reading through the Issues in Feminist Film Criticism anthology along with ordering Richard Schechner's Performance Theory alongside other books. This was the result of my two years as a university transfer student when I took mostly English classes and wrote mostly analyses of literature's past hits, from Shakespeare to Truman Capote, with a Marxist bent. Hence my purchase, which later appeared on my first shelfies for Ello.  

When I first took those shelfies, one of the users asked if I read the book, to which I responded that I didn't but said that was one of the first for next year. Three months later, I can proudly say that I read through the entire thing, except the reference notes. I promised that same user a review so here is my verdict in full.

Goes without saying, this is definitely not a causal Sunday read. Nor do I recommend reading it while snowed in. Even if I do enjoy those academic forays, there's a lot to digest here even if Piketty repeats and reinforces the same points and statistics.

There is his formula in the beginning: r > g (or capital return rate is greater than economic growth). From there on out, Piketty puts this theory into action to reinforce the state of wealth inequality throughout history, on a global scale. Piketty is very thorough to the very conclusion and his proposals to regulate wealth and to shorten the divide between the classes.

There's a vast expanse, but here's what I found noteworthy...

The parts where he brings in literary examples, specifically Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac, to explain how wealth worked in the Eighteenth Century primarily through bonds and land that turned into rent payments, kept me from getting lost in the statistics of it all. Having that lens into how literary characters accumulate, invest, and utilize capital helped mesh the subjective into the objective. There's also Piketty's reference to the "Rentier", which he goes back to later in Part Three where he talks about the resurgence of capital through merit and inheritance, maintaining today's wealth inequality.

Then, Piketty's look at the structure of said inequality over time helped finalize the big picture as to why is there this imbalance between the bourgeoisie and the middle and working classes. With the States, Piketty notices the sharp rise in the wealth chasm before the 1929 Great Depression where he mentions that it briefly compressed shortly after, but not as much as Europe due to the wage inequality that developed overtime.

All this paints the picture today. One where movements like Occupy Wall Street march to advocate for the 99% (proletarians) opposed to the 1%'s (bourgeoisie's) abuses from finance to environment. Piketty himself has his own proposals to curb the gap, including economic transparency and a global tax on capital itself.

Capital's a book worth reading, but if time's short, Pikettty's TED Talk summarizes it well enough...

02 April, 2015

1st Wattpad Story and April Itinerary

After a month of sporadic procrastination, I finished my first short story to Wattpad* which continues where "White Sheet" left off. I would like to thank commenters Wilma Nesti and Chuck for their suggestions that inspired me to take Peter's story further into something that I plan on making a serial. That said, I considered porting the other pieces on here over to Wattpad and cross-post between there, here, and Ello.

With that, here are the changes to April's itinerary...

I may not write a flash fiction piece for April. I mentioned on Ello, when I planned on dedicating a week to the short story, that I wanted to work on last year's NaNoWriMo. I had some ideas between February and now that I want to add, along with organizing and writing the thing in full. That, and I've also been playing Badass Space Dragon over on Boing Boing's BBS where I play as a space lobster with a love of all things fashion, except if it's cardigan sweaters. This, along with other commitments outside the web makes the lack of an April flash fiction a possibility. 

There will be musings based on how I procrastinated last month--from my new-found love for the web browser Vivaldi to binge watching Korean television and even a review on Thomas Piketty's Capital that I promised to write when I announced my first reads for 2015 over on (yes) Ello.

...and that sums up all the changes. Have a Happy Easter Weekend!

*If you are not on Wattpad and would like to provide feedback, comment away here or e-mail me at the addresses listed here.


08 March, 2015

On Having an Information Diet

For three years and counting, I put myself on what Clay Johnson coins as an information diet. I bought his book bearing the namesake a few months after it came out, but I let it collect pixelated dust between my day-job with the community college wilderness years coming to a close. Then, what got me thinking about this whole info-cutting business?

Before then, I was obsessed with world news from the BBC to Al Jazeera English and NHK World. That and in 2010 I gave US national media a shot through the Huffington Post's media section with all the he-said she-said soundbites. That last experience was rather unnerving courtesy of my first  introduction to the craft through shortwave broadcasts of NHK World that turned into visiting the BBC website daily. From teen to early young-adult, I was naive about journalism and what the Internet could do.

Fast-forward to February 2012 where a friend of mine reminded me about national media and how they covered politics. I read through Dan Gillmor's Mediactive months prior which got me thinking about managing my own news consumption. That and considering additional sources beyond the established press. More on that in a few.

Clay Johnson's The Information Diet reminded of Gillmor's book regarding how one can organize through information both sensational and informative alongside other techniques. Whereas Gillmor calls for the user to not only embrace active media consumption, but to also maintain an internet presence, Johnson focuses more on the former noticing the smaller details including filter failure and brand loyalty along how to make one's information diet work effectively though mastering consumption techniques that allude to nutrition, personal fitness, and psychological experiments.

I already utilize some of the methods in my own diet, even before I read Johnson's book combined with Gillmor's suggestions. When it comes to recognized media outlets, I use both local and international sources alongside non-profit organizations including ProPublica, Global Voices, and the Sunlight Foundation without the need to tune into the cable news landscape. Excluding social media feeds, I bookmarked seven international sources along with my region's local paper, and three alternative publications to distill and figure out the stories I find interesting and ultimately newsworthy.   

Which leads me back to the additional sources idea, going beyond the non-profits I previously mentioned. One of my favorite parts in Mediactive is when Dan Gillmor asks readers, "What is journalism?" This question, and the chapter in question shows how the idea evolves to include citizen journalists, bloggers, and organizations which he says perform "journalistic acts". I seriously recommend going through that hyperlink, but long story short, the idea encompasses the mentioned organizations and more. Personally this includes blogs such as Boing Boing, Popehat, Feeling Listless, and other sites on my blogroll that are part-humor and part-opinion, but also link to articles elsewhere.

That, and instead of just going through my bookmarks and scrolling my news feeds, I make it a habit to go through my Feedly where I can subscribe to feeds relevant to my interests a la the now-defunct Google Reader.

I could go on, but I'll just say that any exposure to political partisan material I limit to Jacobin Magazine and any of the mentioned publications or blogs. Because of this ongoing diet, I have a more optimistic and somewhat detached view on current events. In other words, I combined Johnson's advice with Gillmor's suggestion towards a "slower news culture" which I also suggest going through. All this information consumption takes place within an hour to two based on whether or not I'm working or writing. Sometimes, I bookmark an article for later reading. Sometimes, not.

So would I recommend reading through Clay Johnson's Information Diet? I say yes, but also read through Mediactive to get a bigger picture of the evolving media landscape to keep the data-consuming regiment fresh.       

Disclosure: I wrote a review on Mediactive for the student-run publication, Campus Lantern, back in 2012.

23 February, 2015

Housekeeping Part II

After working on last week's piece under the wire, I decided to make yet another change to the itinerary. I'll be doing a monthly flash fiction piece instead of a bi-weekly one, except on the months when I'll post short stories to Wattpad.

Speaking of, I created a mini-catalog grouping flash fiction works with the same characters, themes, and those which don't need any additional backstory. This is only a mere sneak peak as to what the Wattpad stories will be about since going through the labeling process turned up what else I might conjure up. So what are they?
  • Mini-Sketches: Inspired by Ben Lloyd's London and Paris Sketches over on Ello, I thought about doing some of my own. While "Simplicity" counts as a mini-sketch, the newer entries will be longer, providing a window into the passersby in a small harbor town, possibly elsewhere. I have yet to set a schedule regarding when I'll post one, but I plan on cross-posting it on here, Ello, and Wattpad.
  • Memoir-in-Brief: While I was at university, I took a creative nonfiction class where, after work-shopping several memoirs, I thought I could take it on even as a twenty-something. I mulled it over and, especially with the subject I wanted to write about, thought it would make better fiction. Goes without saying that the more interesting moments haven't happened yet. Like the sketches there's also no set schedule for when I'll write one, but I'll cross-post to the same channels.    
As for other second round housekeeping notes, I making Prompted Clippings, my undergrad publication portfolio, private next week to edit and update it. I initially collated my drafts and finished products posting the latter, but I thought scanning them would work better. All this means is that the post itself is the draft with the published work attached through a hyperlink. I intend on finishing that within the next two weeks with two new articles from last year.

I added two new outlets to my bio's "on the web" section--Boing Boing's BBS and the Internet Archive (which for now is just the bookmarks list)--which wraps up this edition of housekeeping. With it still being Thursday on my end, I'll throw it back to the first Kermodian Rant that got me hooked on one of my favorite podcasts to this day. Enjoy!

21 February, 2015

February 21-22 Weekend Links

I noted in my itinerary about other blog postings and with that, here's the first edition of the weekend links. There's no real format, but I'll usually skim through my own Twitter to see what content I found interesting or topical enough to re-tweet, or I go through my Feedly and bookmark similar reads.

Here's this week's links of interest...

Starting with today as International Open Data Day where people worldwide organize public data and create programs using said data to promote the idea to governments worldwide. The link shows ongoing hackathons and explains what one can do to promote the cause. Examples of organizations which help it include the Sunlight Foundation which promotes government transparency in the US.

Early in the week, Mark Drey wrote an article for Boing Boing about the class insecurities brought up in NBC's Hannibal. I just realized that this is an adaptation of Thomas Harris's book series and now I want to read it!

I also found what is now one of my favorite games in the Internet Archive's MS-DOS collection aside from the Oregon Trail and Crosscountry Canada which localization specialist Clyde Mandelin streamed online last year. That game is called Amnesia; a text adventure where the player has the game's namesake from onset and it plays around with the well-known cliche to mesh it into the narrative.

As for more topical stuff...

I mentioned on Ello last week that I was going to jump on the 50 Shades rant train, but thought better of it because romance and erotica aren't my thing unless it's Christine Sneed's work. There are some really good articles and critiques out there about 50 Shades, starting with Jenny Trout's reading (link goes to the first chapter) along with her review of the movie. Speaking of films, Mark Kermode reviewed it for the Observer and Roxanne Gay wrote a piece on it for the Toast.  Then, there's also some clever copywriting from B&Q spotted by Ben Lloyd and two articles about the whole thing being capitalist erotica for lack of a better phrase from the Guardian's Hadley Freeman and Buzzfeed's Anne Helen Peterson.

15 February, 2015

Flash Fiction: Final Lap

After long bouts of procrastination and work commitments, I finally finished up this week's flash fiction piece--initially prompted by me looking back at some of my older and messier works on here. I decided to revisit one of those characters (Russell) for a special, somewhat Valentine's Day-ish story. Enjoy!  

    The waiter placed a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, and home-fries in front of Russell. He sniffed the streaming vapors, grabbed his fork, and went to work. There was no time to waste. He had a gig and he would be there. Once he arrived, he would get his notepad out and scribble from “hello” straight to the end, writing out the legend of a local rally car champion for his fellow motor-heads. Russell saw himself becoming more than a hero, but a figurehead  amongst car mechanics. He saw the royalties, the fans surrounding his garage, the invites to auto shows across the world, the—
    Russell heard a clink. He sat up from his plate and saw Warren holding his fork towards his glass. He sighed, “Aren’t you forgetting someone?”
    “Me?” Russell moved the remaining sausage links into a cluster, “Nah!”
    “Russ, I’m serious,” Warren rolled his eyes.
    “Dude,” Russell bit off a link, swallowing the piece whole, “With a job like mine, I wait for no one.”
    Russell tried to stab the stack again, but poked the placemat instead. He gazed at Warren gripping the plate with his fingers. Russell tried to pull it back, but Warren’s grasp did not break. He did not even flinch, even when Russell leaned towards him.
    “Look,” Warren said, “You either wait for her or we leave you here. Your choice.”
    Russell leaned back into his chair and shrugged, “Okay. Fine. You win this round.”
    “Uh, no,” Warren slid the plate back, “I’m pretty sure I won the whole thing. Thank you very much.”
    “But this is just the pit stop,” Russell placed the fork on the plate, “The final lap’s all mine, my friend.”
    Warren groaned, “I’m only doing this because you fixed my car.”
    Of course, Russell thought, he did not need Warren’s little Prius when something else from the garage could make the drive. Maybe that Volvo P1800 that he won from the auction. Possibly the Mitsubishi Lancer GT with the back doors missing. All they needed was a quick tune-up, some emissions tests, some parts, and Russell would make a bullet line towards his destination.
    That was also the problem. Unlike his beloved Millenia, he stashed his two latest wheels in the garden shed out back. He had too many cars to fix ever since he started his mechanic shop. The time he wanted to spend ordering the brakes and engine parts for the Volvo he spent looking for shock absorbers and tires.
    Then, there was Dana, who took the Millenia out for a road trip just to test out the new four-wheel drive and cloaking system. This left Russell without any chauffeurs made of steering wheels, engines, and fuel. Here he was with Warren who offered him a ride up to the dream come true, the begin-all-continue-all, that now turned out to be a continuous drag across the interstate. There were only so many country songs Russell could bear before he decided to go rouge and hitchhike.
    It was then that Warren’s girlfriend, Josie, finally turned up at the table, grinning. Russell grabbed his fork, ready to slice the hash browns further. She pulled out a chair and plopped in next to Warren, “They just called!”
    “And?” Warren perked up, “And?
    “I’m in! The main star! Me!”
    Warren whooped and hugged her, saying how happy he was with a, “So proud! So proud!” Russell sighed and continued to eat. This would all be over. There would be the paycheck, which he promised to pay in full, then on with the ride. Instead, he heard Warren and Joise drone on about all the plays they watched together, the movies they binged through on Netflix for their one-year anniversary, their first date at her senior prom, and so on. Russell finished off the last of the scrambled eggs, leaving him with clean plate. This also left him with the constant smile and nod routine which he got used to during while stuck in a traffic jam with them.
    Russell got up, “Be right back, guys.”
    He went outside and looked at their car—a small, blue Corvette. He was so close to a chance to meet one of his legends wasted on a stop at some run-down diner. Russell sighed and hung his head low. It was over. He would be stranded, not in the parking lot, but at the theatre listening to a soliloquy. Actually, that would not be so bad. He could make Warren owe him yet another favor. If the play captivated him, Russell would give him a discount, but that was it.
    Russell decided that would be the worst-case scenario and sent a message to his rallying inspiration about the slight delay. This was not a race to the finish, but an endurance run and Russell planned to last the longest out there. 

30 January, 2015

Flash Fiction: White Sheet

After I wrote the housekeeping post, I set up my writing itinerary on the fly, first spewed out on Twitter but organized on Ello. This week's flash fiction was prompted by the blizzard that swept through New England.  Enjoy!

    Peter moved the curtains aside, watching the snow fall down as he tied up each side. He could only see the trees and headlines that lined up his street. The white stuff covered everything else. This was not how he wanted the day to go. He resented being cooped up in his apartment where his roommates left him with a sink covered in dishes—some of them covered with yesterday’s spaghetti breakfast—and dish rags with a scent that reminded Peter of his high school’s locker room.

    If only he could escape this cage, run through the streets and hide in the nearby café with the small booth in the corner. No. They would spot him if someone else called the seat home. Maybe that small house on the outskirts with the bronze statue of three men leaning on vintage Alfa Romeo. The owner was generous enough to let him stay out in the den when Peter first arrived while he looked for apartments downtown. That would work. They never went up there anyway, even when they recover from their hangovers. Peter thought he could hike back home from that place.

    But not today. The snow continued to fall faster in one diagonal white sheet. Peter could barely see the nearby condos. He went to the kitchen and started to place the dishes in the dishwasher. Then, he tossed the rags in the trash and tied it up. The smell ran away with it. Maybe today wouldn’t be so bad. After all, they were out at a music festival for the weekend. Peter switched on the television to a local news bulletin that quickly switched over to a daytime soap. He changed it to a football game, then another soap, then public access, Walking Dead

    Peter switched it off and looked at his phone. Nothing. Not from Duncan back home, or even Helen who penned a dinner date with him, but for who knows when now. He considered sending a text to reschedule it, but put his phone away instead. He heard the wind howl and shrill, and headed down to the complex’s foyer.

    The foyer was empty aside from Peter who decided to go through his mailbox. Most of the envelopes had last night’s timestamp, with the exception of a small postcard. The front had a picture of a bunch of fists, palms forward, with the phrase “Power to the People” underneath them and a huge U hanging from above. Peter flipped the postcard and gasped. There was today’s date in red ink with just one message beneath it, “They’ve blown your cover…run! Will rendezvous outside. That place.”

    Something snapped back into Peter’s mind. Them. The reason why he came here in the first place. The Union wanted him to go undercover and investigate them. Only problem was, he did not know who they were. The Union just gave him a small fortune cookie message taped to the sole of a stiletto heel with some latitude and longitude coordinates.

    Peter dropped his mail on the floor and ran towards the stairs. He jumped over the chains leading down, dashing into the basement corridor. He just bolted down the hallway, only glancing at the labels. He stopped at a door and tried to swing it open, but to no avail. Then another, and another…

    He collapsed on the ground, butt first, near a corner. There was a small slit at the top of the wall—a window completely covered in snow—with a small fifty-watt bulb just below, slowly fizzing out. Peter thought he could hear footsteps, muffled from afar. Maybe outside. Then a creak nearby. Peter tried to keep his eyes open, peering where the squeak came from. He heard the footsteps come closer and closer then…nothing.

19 January, 2015

Experiment Off to Co-Write

Following up from yesterday's update, I want to expand on why I decided to transfer the "Experiment in Flash Fiction" over to Co-Write. I originally started the series after I read a bit of Tim Sevenhuysen's Losing Freight* where readers could vote on what happens next after every chapter. With the Experiment, I decided to use comments to guide the project after I realized that the piece I initially worked on would pass the 1,000 word limit with the outline I had. It resulted in just a comment from one of my relatives that created what could be a stand-alone story.

Now it is. Over on Co-Write.

I briefly touched on what Co-Write is in the last post and I briefly talked about the daily tournaments--currently at 9pm GMT/4pm EST on weekdays--on Ello and Google+. However, it's not all tournaments and competition. Some of the best works just happen as users write and vote on the most interesting sentence to move the story forward. This ongoing story** is an example of what makes Co-Write stories interesting--start out simple and develop it out into something bigger, complex, with the "What's next?" question left to the users.

With that, I thought that the Experiment would make a snug fit and I already posted what was the second part into a plot summary. This one utilizes the plot-development format, based on the Snowflake Method, where users can split the summary into two separate sentences and develop the story further. How does it begin? What happens next? If you're on Co-Write, it's your call!

The Experiment continues!

*Sadly, the link to the actual story on 1889 Labs no longer works. I linked to Tim's blog that summarizes Losing Freight and its first five weeks.  

**Disclosure: I helped write the first part of this story. The second part can be found here. Both utilize the sentence-by-sentence sequence format. 

17 January, 2015


Back in October, I posted about my absence from writing flash fiction, wanting to make a comeback with them and to reacquaint myself with those communities that inspired me to further hone my craft in the first place. I'll confess that it made a good placeholder post and a note-to-self to make a more detailed recap, an actual post about where this blog will go from here on out.

With that out of the way: Hello, everyone! Apologies for the lengthy hiatus, courtesy of two years at university alongside other things. So what happened and what's new?

Graduation happened where I got my Bachelors in English and managed to fist-bump the college president. Then summer happened where I did a lot of summer reading after a good friend of mine introduced me to Goodreads.  

I took part in NaNoWriMo last year to see if I could make good headway on a project I started right after I graduated. I admit that I initially cheated with 4,395 words on day one--approximately 3,200 of which I wrote before the contest began--mostly because I worried about grammatical snafus. This turned into Writer's Block as the month progressed, especially since I did not have a detailed, Point-A-to-Point-B outline. That and I thought I had to name every scene in Scrivener as opposed to just concentrating on the actually writing. 

During that time, I got an invite to join Ello and another one to a website called Co-Write. I noted my progress and the lessons I learned on the former to get myself acquainted with the network that is turning out to be one of my favorites for both its principles and trends like Shelfies. I was personally invited over to the latter by its owner, @maile129 on Twitter, and I've been hooked ever since. The premise is in the name, co-writing, and it can be both creative and competitive, especially in the daily tournaments. Speaking of, here's one Malie recorded last year just to give you a taste of what Co-Write's like:

That's the recap! As for the blog, there are changes:
  • I changed the Creative Commons license for the blog from BY-NC-SA to BY-SA. I thought about moving some of my pieces, especially the Experiment in Flash Fiction over to Co-Write. This is more or less for consistency's sake since all works on the site are under the BY-SA license by default through the site's terms of service.
  • Instead of just the regular pieces of flash fiction, I also plan on musing now and then about anything I find interesting, based on current events, etc.. I plan on cross-posting them--first to Ello, then here. 
If you're looking for me on social media sites, you can find those links in my bio. Happy Reading!