Month: October 2013

RACCOONS IN THE MUSIC: Raccoon Fighters

Raccoon Warrior
Now that’s a raccoon fighter!
Source: Worth 1,000

Brooklyn band Raccoon Fighter recently released their debut album, ZIL. Their name came from an acquaintance of the band who was talking about his struggles with a raccoon harming his mother’s garden and how he dealt with the poor creature.  This isn’t too surprising, as I’ve previously discussed the raccoon occupation of New York.  The lack of raccoon presence on their cover art and their songs makes me a little disappointed, but the band’s music is okay.

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The Horror …

Doctor Who vs the Morlocks
One of the people in the group was wearing a shirt with this image. When I commented to him about the Morlocks (from the 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine) he said: “What? No. These are just zombies.”

NaNoWriMo approaches, and I will not be participating.  That is because the draconian overlords of this event insist that you must begin a new project when participating; continuing to work on something is strictly forbidden.  Those who do so are apostates, deemed “Nano Rebels” and forced to interact with others of their kind in their own little pogrom.  I choose not to associate with the NaNoNazis and work in private, more or less, flouting their burdensome rules.

But, as I said, “more or less.”  This morning I decided to sit in on my local official NaNoWriMo group’s preparatory meeting, even though–as I was keen to point out–I was not participating this year.

The experience proved a harrowing one.  Apparently, I am just someone with views of writing that are so drastically different from others’ that I may not be able to mix with them.  Among the nuggets from this morning:

I’m a very visionary writer. I think a lot of people wouldn’t get my writing. For instance I sometimes have two main characters. Both are main characters.

Apparently this person has not heard of a little-known series of books titled A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.  If you want to go back a little, there’s James Joyce’s Ulysses, sometimes called the greatest novel of the 20th century.

I don’t have a lot of control over what I write. I put down whatever my muses dictate. I’m really looking foreword to discovering what they have in mind for NaNoWriMo this year.

Now, considering the person who said this was talking about her hobbies of hunting ghosts and recording EVP (electronic voice phenomena, which surprisingly she insisted are much easier to record with cheaper equipment) I’m not sure how literally she meant this. Scary, no?  This also continued the disturbing trend I’ve noticed of people insisting that planning stories is so passé.

I had someone critique my work, but they had too many notes. They clearly didn’t get what I was doing. Now I only like to share my work with fellow writers.

If your work is so dependent on being read by someone with a particular mindset, there might be something wrong with the work itself.

I like reading fiction but I just CAN’T. I don’t want other peoples’ ideas to influence my own.

I’ve heard of this sort of thing before.  The great writers of the past were voracious readers (and it’s not uncommon that contemporaries basically formed little clubs) and he idea of one’s ideas being somehow poisoned by the works of others is as ridiculous as a martial artist developing a fighting style without ever interacting with other fighters (they might pull it off, but it would be a lousy one.)

It’s not to say that everything I overheard was nonsense.  There was some insightful discussion about how overall writing styles are affected by the times (such as being able to pick out something written during the Victorian era vs the 1920’s other than references to technology and other aspects of the time.)  This echoes my own views that current writing mantras such as “show, don’t tell” are more an enforcement of current trends rather than good writing.

Regardless, I probably won’t be going back.  I also might be a judgmental prick.

RACCOONS IN THE … MEALS?!

Raccoon in a Tuxedo
Your maître d’ … or dinner.

A wholesaler of exotic meats was arrested for distributing such rare delicacies as deer, turtle, and raccoon to an assortment of restaurants in Chicago, primarily in the Chinatown district.  Well, I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes about Chinese food before.  It turns out they’re occasionally true.

Note that there are no statutes that say raccoon meat–or other wild game–can’t be served at restaurants.  The issue is that the wholesaler was obtaining his supplies illegally from nearby Indiana.  States get very uptight about things once you cross a border.  Although I am curious if the Chinese restaurants were actually listing “raccoon” as an ingredient anywhere on their menus.

Source: NBC Chicago

A Slave to Format (Part 2)

Cartoon_All-StarsAs I was saying, I’m currently writing a story that takes a lot of cues from the Saturday morning and syndicated cartoons of my youth, if only because it was inspired by a collection of action figures, just like those old shows.  This compelled me to keep to stick to certain tropes in terms of the story I was telling.  Oddly, I do this with no concern for what necessitated such standards to be developed in the first place by way of focus testing or research.  I merely mimic, trusting that these choices were made previously for good reasons.

Those standards necessitated that the story focus on a team of heroes as opposed to a solitary one or that the central protagonist be male, young, and caught up in the adventure rather than choosing to engage in it.   The makeup of the team of heroes required the presence of certain archetypes.

However I also started to think about matters of structure.  How does one write something “like a cartoon” but in a novel format?  Should the whole thing be done as a script?  That seemed unpleasantly dry to me.  Especially considering that, being an adventure series, it would be very dependent on action sequences … and those don’t translate well to such a format.  However I did hit on the fact a general rule for script writing is that a page should equal a minute of screen time, so the average script for a half-minute program should be about 22 pages long (once you factor in commercial breaks and an opening/closing sequence.)  This lead me to wonder how fast the average person reads.  The answer turned out to be about 300 words per minute. So if I wanted someone to be able to “read” this story in line with a cartoon, that would come out to about 6,500 words per … chapter?  Keeping things analogous, each “chapter” should be an “episode”: having a relatively self-contained story or being a clear multi-parter.  Even looking at cartoons I’m given an upper-limit on the number of episodes: 65.

Maybe better people could say “I want to write something that takes its cues from the action cartoons of the 80’s” and be able to operate in relative freedom.  But here I am, a slave to the format.

A Slave to Format

817313-lion_o_vs_he_manWhile my efforts to find a job in Denver have mostly gone unsuccessful, I’ve at least been able to keep busy far less valuable endeavors.  Like writing.

The current project I’m working on is one I began about ten years ago, as a fan fiction.  (Hangs head in shame.)  You see there was this really great action figure line out at the time called Xevoz, which was a product of Hasbro.  It was fully expected that the toy line would get the full multimedia push, there was a web-based game upon its release, in order to maximize potential sales.  So of course the fans engaged in conjecture about what the storyline for the anticipated animated television series would be.  I was among them.  I went into a bit more detail than most, though, and ended up outlining a three season story arc on whatever defunct forum we gathered on.

Alas, the toy line was not terribly successful and the show never materialized.  Still, I had grown very attached to the story I’d come up with and never stopped developing it.  The first issue was to “divorce” it from its source material; not a terribly difficult task since I had neglected to include the most iconic aspect of the toy line, dubbed “xevolving,” which allowed toys’ parts to be swapped out (via Stikfas‘s ball-and-socket joint system, which they’d licensed to Hasbro for the toy line) into my story.  Once that was discarded you basically had just a bog standard fantasy adventure series populated by colorful characters.

So I’ve been writing a bog standard adventure series populated by colorful characters.

However I felt the need to really borrow from the iconic programs in this genre that I’d grown up with.  Even though my story is not a fan fiction anymore, it still took inspiration from a toy line the same way that programs like He Man and the Masters of the Universe or Thundercats did.  It was actually interesting how, once I realized I was working from them as a template, I started trying to make things fit it properly.

Such as …

1. A Team of Heroes: It’s not just He-Man, but also and the Masters of the Universe.  There wasn’t only Lion-O, so it’s the Thundercats.  Really, I would struggle to think of any of the 80’s & 90’s kids’ adventure shows that weren’t about teams of heroes.  From The Real Ghostbusters to Sonic the Hedgehog there was always a strong emphasis on a team.  Sure, in the 90’s we also had Batman and Superman cartoons, those heroes usually work alone (Batman has his cast of allies, but they’re more guest appearances than intrinsic parts of the show), but they also predate the 80’s and 90’s by a wide margin and so already had their format set.  Heck, Sonic had a gang of side-characters made up specifically for his Saturday Morning show, since the video games were largely solitary affairs.

2. But Still a Main Character, Who is a Reluctant Hero: This one has a lot of exceptions to it.  Still, it’s present in the most well-known examples of this era. Prince Adam/He-Man didn’t set out to be a hero.  He was just some prince (with a fabulous pageboy haircut) who had the power to transform into He-Man bestowed on him by the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, who did this because of prophecies or something.  It’s never really established whether this was a life he wanted, but he certainly took to it.  Then there’s Lion-O from Thundercats, who fans might recall ended up the buff leader of his ragtag band of survivors by accident.  A glitch in his hibernation chamber made him age to an adult form prematurely, but fortunately that was just what was needed to combat the evil of Mumm-Ra.  The heroes in Dungeons & Dragons were waylaid into the fantasy world, and their only desire is to find their way home.  These aren’t the typical RPG band of adventurers who set out in the name of wealth and glory.  In Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, the hero is just some kid who is given half a magic root and needs to use it to stop evil.

As I said, though, there are many exceptions to this.  The Real Ghostbusters is a group of grown men going into a business (although since this is based on a previous movie, and not a toyline, this may not count.)  BraveStarr is a marshall, who presumably picked the career of lawman on his own.  The Silverhawks apparently chose to be “part metal” and “part real” for the sake of fighting (interstellar) crime.   The G.I. Joe soldiers weren’t conscripted, they volunteered.

This post is too long.