Storytelling Done Okay: Falling Skies

I started watching Falling Skies with real enthusiasm when it first aired. I won’t try to deny that I’m a sucker for anything that prominently features a historian. From the initial season, Falling Skies promised the perfect combination: the chief main character was a history professor, and there were aliens. Awesome. Throw in high stakes and a general sense of human-decency-at-work, and overall this was a pretty good show. At some point it lost a bit of interest for me (the last season languished a long time in the DVR), but I really did like how the characters behaved with a lasting sense of optimism and morality. Too many of the “world gone wrong” shows depict everyone at their most hopeless and worst. And that’s interesting for about five minutes. It’s the cast of characters with a code of conduct that keep me riveted because I wonder how long they will hold up under the strain. Continue reading

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My Thoughts on Dead-Dog Children’s Fiction

When I was in second grade, the teacher read us “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls. Maybe it was part of that year’s curriculum. Or maybe she just hated us. Maybe she thought that a few of us had reached the ripe old age of 7 without losing enough grandparents, getting punched enough on the playground, or that we weren’t spending enough nights lying awake with terror at what little we understood of the Cold War. Perhaps, she thought, “Where the Red Fern Grows” would round out the character building we were surely missing out on. Continue reading

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Storytelling Done Right: How to Get Away with Murder

Both seasons of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” have held me spellbound. I generally take forever to watch anything. Shows – show that I really do like – pile up in the DVR. Programs that friends and family strenuously recommend stay on my “to watch” list for months (for years!) because I’m still slogging through the things they recommended before that. I love shows across the genres: science fiction, law dramas, detective shows, fantasy, historical fiction, anything that’s well done. Yet, for all my enthusiasm, I still usually plod through programs because there’s only so many hours in a day. I like to watch when I can actually pay attention, and carving out time for that isn’t easy. This show, however, is one I’ll watch a season of in three days. It’s like a train wreck that I can’t look away from. Continue reading

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Audible, a review

I’ve been hearing commercials, mostly on various podcasts, for Audible for years now. Seriously. Years. And it didn’t really snag my interest until a few weeks ago. The basic spiel is that you pay $15 every month in exchange for an audiobook. Now, what’s obvious to the routine purchaser of audiobooks, is that that’s a good deal. Have you priced audiobooks lately? Any typical novel can cost between $20 and $30. A very long novel can run anywhere from $30 to $50. If you normally buy an audiobook every month, Audible’s an excellent idea. I, however, normally never bought any. For some reason I thought reading only ‘counted’ if I actually read the words myself. Having them read to me by a professional narrator seemed…somehow like cheating, as far as reading goes. (I’m not going to try to make that make sense.) Continue reading

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Fight, Fight, Fight, Bite, Bite, Bite

I enjoyed the first season of Daredevil. Check out that description! Blind lawyer by day, vigilante by night. What’s not to love? In season one we got to meet Matt Murdoch, learn how he developed his awesome fighting skills, and watch him start up the little-lawfirm-that-could. Over the course of that initial season, Murdoch/Daredevil took on the suave-but-crazy Wilson Fisk, risking everything to stand up against corruption. It was a pretty good baker’s dozen of episodes and I queued up each one with a reasonable amount of interest. Then, they offered up season two. Continue reading

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Why I’m a Jerk at Dinner Parties

People think I like to help in the kitchen. There’s two truths to the matter. I do like to be involved in cooking (I’ve cooked professionally and love to cook to this day). But I also like to keep tabs on how the food I eat is being prepared. Anyone who wants to be blase about checking the temperature of their Sunday roast or who thinks that wolfing down raw cookie dough is a necessary part of childhood, allow me to steer you to the Food Poison Journal. If you want to be casual about your own health, that’s jim dandy, but when it comes to preparing food for others (which might include young children, the elderly, people with chronic illness, and those who simply wish to not become very ill) being negligent about food safety is inappropriate. Oddly (and, sadly, for me) this stance makes me an unsociable weirdo when I decline ill-prepared food. I’m the villain. Me. The person who’s sharing this article from Nutrition Action Healthletter only because I give a damn about your health. Continue reading

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Audio Classics (for the Classics-Resistant)

My relationship with classical literature is tenuous and recalcitrant. Friends occasionally try to engage me on the great works I should have read, only to ask, mystified, “what kind of English major were you?” Well. I’ll be honest. I was the kind of English major who found the classical style of writing about as familiar and appealing as the corsets and straight-last shoes people wore when they penned their masterpieces. A voracious reader since childhood, I dreaded each new semester’s syllabi, rife with things that promised to be a hard slog at best. (Since high school, I have been assigned to read The Faerie Queene no less than five times. I grind my teeth just thinking about it and, yet, will confess: I have never actually read it. I managed to pass every pop quiz and test by taking good notes from the lectures.) I believe classical literature has its merits but I also believe teachers, students, and casual readers should all consider that writing style has an impact on our ability to understand and enjoy a written work. Reading the classics can be as challenging as if we were to dress in period costume, perch on badly made wooden benches in drafty, uninsulated buildings, and study those pages by candlelight. Continue reading

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Barnes and Noble and the Bookstore Dilemma

Fifteen years ago, I thought Barnes and Noble was second only to Powell’s City of Books (incidentally, if you haven’t been to Powell’s, it’s pretty awesome). The nearest Barnes and Noble to me, back then, was 75 miles away and fuel for the drive there and back cost as much as two paperbacks. I loved the enormity of the store, the fact that they sold coffee, and that amid the spacious sprawl they provided places to sit. The community I lived in had no library back then and my other bookstore options at the time were grocery stores (the nearest mall’s Waldenbooks had vanished) and two used bookshops, one badly disorganized and the other with a cranky, sharp-tongued proprietor (you couldn’t buy sci-fi books there, “trade only!” was the snarling response the two times I tried). Naturally, I was an eager purchaser of books online once that became an option. Continue reading

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The Sound of (horrible) Music

The way that some people are picky eaters, I’m a picky sci-fi fan. The way others might wrinkle their noses and pluck mushrooms from their casserole, I remove lots of things from my sci-fi buffet. I’d like to like it all. I really would. But I don’t. And I have a confession. I wish I could like Blade Runner. I really do. But I don’t like it and the reason why – tragically – has almost nothing to do with the story itself. I hate the music. While I appreciate the idea of replicants and the exploration of what-makes-us-human, I can’t get past the awful soundtrack. I’ve tried. It’s (to me) so, so, so awful that I don’t plan to ever attempt watching it again, unless it’s muted and I’m just reading the dialogue captions. Continue reading

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Pandora, and Gift Horses

It was my good fortune to attend the Taos Toolbox workshop in 2014, an experience I give my highest recommendation to anyone considering it. Besides the excellent instruction and critiques, I made some wonderful friends. One of them, my roommate, shared my tastes in music and upon coming home, I queued up her favorite Pandora station: Moby Radio.  A year and a half later I am still listening to that channel 95% of the time when I’m on Pandora. It might not be the perfect choice for every writer, but it seems to have an excellent balance of instrumentals against songs with lyrics, and I find myself clicking the ‘thumbs down’ maybe once every six weeks. Continue reading

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