Because it’s Christmas Eve, and because I haven’t blogged since Remembrance Day, I thought it high time that I jotted a little something down and put it here for all to see. Hang it on the web, with care, as it were.
One of the topics upon which I used to wax verbose in one of the previous incarnations of this blog was pop culture. And by pop culture, I mean superhero and science fiction television shows and movies.
My blog, my definitions.
On my way home from work today (after an early release. Yay!) I was thinking about how much I love Christmas and how much I love “pop culture” (see above definition), and it occured to me to wonder just how much Christmas there is in superhero and science fiction lore.
I can’t think of too many references, quite frankly. Maybe writers/creators/producers are trying to make the future more “ecumenical”. Or maybe there just isn’t much one can do with a holiday/yuletide theme in a futuristic or fantastical setting.
But lo, what sound is this? Is it the scratching of heads? The rubbing of chins? Or both? It would seem I set you up in that last paragraph. For how much more fantastical can one get than the notion of a bearded man in red in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and delivering presents to good little girls and boys all over the world in a single night?
Every year on this day, I think about a man I never met. I share a first name—and a lot of DNA—with him. His name was Eric William MacDonald, and he was my mom’s brother.
Uncle Eric enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War Two. He volunteered. He felt that it was his duty to serve in the armed forces and fight for freedom and democracy. He didn’t have to go. It was his decision, and his choice.
He rose to the rank of Sergeant, and was deployed to England, serving as the tail gunner on a Lancaster Bomber in the 83rd Pathfinder Squadron. The Pathfinder Force (PFF) was a group of squadrons in RAF Bomber Command whose mission it was to locate targets and mark them with flares, providing increased accuracy for the main bomber force that came in behind them.
As someone who has always been possessed of a love of language, it’s a no-brainer that I would have readily agreed when my friend Kimberly asked me if I’d like to be involved in organizing the first Halifax BookCamp back in 2010. Following on the heels of the Vancouver and Toronto events, BookCamp Halifax was a small but mighty gathering that brought together publishers, editors, writers, and readers of all shapes, sizes, varieties, and flavours to talk about the current and future state of the written word in all its incarnations.
Small it might have been, but the conversations were wide in scope and deep in focus. Despite an attendance of less than fifty bibliophiles, the event was considered enough of a success that it spawned an offspring, namely BookCamp Halifax 2011, in which I also participated as an organizer (though sadly I was ill on the day of the event and unable to attend).
Again the event was a success, and though 2012 came and went without a BookCamp Halifax (due primarily to the busy lives of the organizers), the idea remained in the hearts of minds of those who had attended the previous two, and quiet, murmuring questions began to arise from various quarters, wondering whether or not another BookCamp Halifax might yet come to pass.
Great. Only four posts in, and I’m already making puns out of my own post titles. This bodes poorly.
Ill-advised though it may be to have two consecutive posts with such similar titles, I shall proceed nonetheless, because that’s just the kind of stubborn sonovabitch I am.
A couple of weekends ago, I had a lot of time for reflection and rumination. This was a good thing. It helped me to put some stuff in perspective and get a sort of mental picture of what’s important and what’s not. It’s easy to allow down time to become do-nothing-except-slob-around-and-watch-TV time, but that’s a trap I’ve fallen into on one too many occasions. It’s unproductive and generally makes me feel worse about myself, because I basically did fuck-all.
This time, not so much. I got to thinking about how nice it is to be quiet sometimes. To be slow. To not rush. To look at the world instead of barrelling through it.
I’ve always been prone to overwhelm. That’s just the way my psyche is constructed. If there’s too much going on around me, I can’t focus. If I’m in a roomful of people who are chatting amongst themselves, I can barely hear the person I’m talking to through the background noise.
I know there must be a name for it. But damned if I know what it is.
It’s confession time. I’d like to own up to the real reason I started up this blog again.
Anyone who’s on my Facebook or Twitter is likely painfully aware that I’ve been working on a novel for the last three years. For a while there, I was posting almost daily updates about my word count and what draft number I was on. It was a bit much, actually. Especially since I kept saying how close I was to finishing.
Well, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. After three-and-a-half years and seven drafts, I’ve reached the end of the road. The manuscript has been read and reread by multiple parties, and the story is in the shape that I want it in. I have one final passage to write, and then all that will be left is prettying it up.
[Just to get some old business out of the way before delving into my main topic for this post, let me just say that I’m painfully aware of how much I have discussed the process of blogging and the blog itself in my past posts. This has been self-indulgent and counter-productive. Writing about the blog in the blog is the kind of meta-writing that accomplishes very little and makes me look as if I have nothing of substance to talk about.
So, here endeth the self-referential blog posts. I have started the process of customizing this new version of the blog, and all future customizations and tweakages will speak for themselves. I’m going to get on with the serious business of writing about stuff.]
In today’s edition, I’d like to get a little something off my chest. It has to do with music and singing, and how you should really know your material before performing it.
So… let’s say you’re a singer. Let’s say you’re in a band, and you make a living doing what you do. You play a lot of gigs, and you have a decent following. You’re doing all right for yourself. You sound good, and you enjoy performing.
I would think that somebody in that position would take the time to understand the songs they sing before performing them in front of an audience. A lot of performers out there do a lot of covers of other people’s songs, and not only is it important to know the lyrics; it’s equally important to understand what those lyrics mean and what the song is about.
It’s like being in a play. If you just rhyme off the words without fully understanding them, then you’re not going to convince anybody that you’re really that character. You’re just going to be parroting somebody else’s words, and that’s exactly what it’s going to sound like.
This site has been in stand-by mode for some time now. It’s taken me a while to figure out just what to do with it. It was definitely time for a revamp and a relaunch, but I just couldn’t get my head around how to approach it.
You see, the site was hacked again. Yes, again. It happened once in 2010 (twice within a couple of months, actually), and then just over a year ago.
I was going to abandon WordPress. I was really seriously considering it. Because WordPress was the software running my site both times it was hacked. I even went so far as to install Joomla on the site and play around with it for a while. It was complicated, and my brain got tired really quickly from trying to learn a new content management system.
Next thing I tried was reading a tutorial on how to create my own blogging system using HTML and PHP. It was fun for a while, but then reality set in, and I realized that if I wanted anything beyond simple blogging, I would have to write the modules myself.
So, what does it take to get me out of my cave and writing a new blog post? A new superhero movie, evidently.
Hmmmm… But that doesn’t quite ring true. One might have thought I would blog about The Avengers. But I didn’t.
Why not? It was the superhero movie event of the decade. I enjoyed the hell out of it, make no mistake. It was the movie that everyone wanted to love, and damn near everybody did love. It’s the movie we love to love. There was just so much right about it.
And therein lies the problem. There was near-universal agreement about the movie and about the sheer brilliance of Joss Whedon’s script and direction. There wasn’t really anything for me to say that hadn’t been said a million times in a million ways by a million other reviewers, bloggers, and fans.
This blog post was inspired by a pile of unwanted DVDs in my living room.
I’m just letting you know. In case you want to spend your valuable time elsewhere.
Okay. So. We’re good?
Fine. It’s your time.
Traditionally, I open my blog posts by commenting upon how long it’s been since I’ve written a blog post, wistfully recalling the days of yore when I actually wrote blog posts on a regular basis, or casting aspersions upon myself for my inability to stick with anything in my life that I actually have the energy to start.
Well, I’m not going to do that this time.
[Aside for the ironically challenged amongst you. I just did what I said I wasn't going to do. And I did it before I said I wasn't going to do it. Isn't that clever?]
So, anyway, as I was saying, this blog post was inspired by a pile of unwanted DVDs in my living room. And I’m repeating that so you’ll still have a chance to bail, in case you didn’t really get it the first time. Because sometimes we don’t really get things the first time we read them. I can read an entire page of something and have to go back over it because I wasn’t really paying attention.