Wednesday, June 30, 2004

This Week in Public Radio, Part II

I pretty much just cracked the hell up in my car listening to this segment on NPR's Day to Day about a recent commercial for Ball Park Franks. (At the preceding link you can read the text of the story, which is from ad report card on Slate.) Warning: the topic of girth is discussed in great detail. That's the only spoiler I'm going to give you.

At the end of the NPR segment, I freaked out. No, not from excessive amusement; and no, I haven't had any drugs or even alcohol in the past few days, unless there was something interesting in the mushroom tacos I ate in Mexico on Saturday. What freaked me out is that the name of the guy who wrote the segment is (get ready) Seth Stevenson. And no, I'm not aware of being related to the guy. But a number of thoughts went through my head. Here are some of them:

  1. His name is Stevenson, and he's already funny and famous! No fair! He's funnier than I am! Double no fair! He gets to write about commercials! Triple no fair! AARGH!
  2. Is there room for more than one amusing, writerly Stevenson in the entertainment world at one time, or will it cause some sort of disruption of the space-time continuum? Will I be incapable of success while he still writes and publishes? Is this why nobody has published me yet?
  3. Am I sure he's not related to me through Rob? Because that would be really weird. It might also be cool if I could do some serious coattail-riding.
  4. It's like he's an unholy blend of me and my former boss at IGN, Seth Cooper: Seth Stevenson. Eww--I just imagined Seth's head on my body. The reverse isn't pretty either.
  5. What if I met this guy and he was like a female version of me? That would also be really weird.
So, yeah. It was strange. But read the article--it's funny.

This Week in Public Radio, Part I

Unless you're in on the comics/graphic novel publishing world, you might not be aware that there has been a growing trend in nonfiction--particularly autobiographical--comics. I read several in an independent study class on The Craft of the Graphic Novel (put together by my school friend Natty); the one most people have already heard of is Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Another great one I read recently is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, an autobiographical account of a childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

Yesterday on NPR I heard a segment on All Things Considered about a new series of nonfiction comics called Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan. The publisher, James Disco (his real name? who knows) wanted a medium that would appeal to American youth. Each book in the four-book series tells the story of a different boy's journey. I think this is a great idea, and I highly recommend listening to the segment, available at the NPR site and linked above.

Monday, June 28, 2004

A Few Good Articles

Today's fiction for young adults is reflecting a readership that is more than just a group of short-attention-span spazzes (actually, maybe that's MY generation), attracting technology-savvy teen readers that still make time in their overcrowded schedules to read a book or two, according to this SFGate article on summer young adult fiction. In particular, novels in verse and text-message novels are increasing in popularity. Thanks to Tanita for passing this on.

Ben, this guy who (like me) also used to write for IGN, has a new posting on his self-described "Temporary Caveman-Like Blog," WhoDigsBen.com. Scroll down the left-hand side to 6-25-04. He is quite amusing and bitter and writes a hell of a rant--much better than I could ever aspire to.

An article about Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Warning: contains spoilers.

And lastly, a tooting of my own horn: I posted a new article this past Friday on my Suite101 Welsh Language site: the second installment of Early Welsh Manuscripts, this one about the Red Book of Hergest, which was a major source for the Welsh folk tale cycle known as the Mabinogion.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Geeks Gone Wild, v. 1.1

There are folks out there for whom I promised I would chronicle my gaming adventures. In Geeks Gone Wild v. 1.0, there is an overview of our adventure party, but I hadn't quite gotten around to setting down our actual heroic exploits until now, so here goes.

For novices to the gaming world, we get together as a group on Thursday and Friday evenings for about four or five hours, probably two or three of which are in fact spent on gaming. The rest of the time involves primarily eating and bullshitting and, for the MJC employees, gossiping about work. Also, a not insignificant amount of time is spent quoting and/or discussing geeky TV and movies, but if you hang out with me at all you won’t be surprised by that.

Gaming-wise, though: Our little party resides in a town the dungeon master has dubbed Grontsberg (from an old Goblin name), on a relatively newly settled (and hence full of unknown adventures) continent called Transcatania. The first gaming session was devoted mainly to our characters getting to know one another and figuring out whether, say, my druid character Delyth ferch Gwydion—a somewhat asocial denizen of the nearby wilderness—would have been likely to have prior awareness of Rob’s character Dipsie Flashpowder, a gnome wizard alchemist (take off the evil horns and replace the little demon familiar with a toad, and there’s Dispie).

In any case, in our first adventure, the dungeon master informed us that a delegation of several Halflings (i.e., hobbits) have come to town, some wearing strange, ornate ceramic armor. While some of the party try to get to know the Halflings, others with more advanced spying skills unsuccessfully try to eavesdrop on what the Halfling leader is saying to the mayor of Grontsberg. After a local lout and known troublemaker steals one of the suits of armor, the party decides to chase after him to get it back. We trace him to an island in the nearby lake, and locate his cabin hideout with the help of my trusty eagle companion, Greywing.

But upon approaching his cabin, we disrupt the impending attack of a small horde of undead—zombies and skeletons. This is decidedly odd, but we have little luck figuring out where they might have come from (the so-called “creepy ruins” on the other side of the lake are a likely possibility) or why. Then, of course, we have to fight them, and I discover that every time I try to attack with my sling, I have the uncanny ability to roll a 4 and therefore miss. (Again for novices, you have to roll over a certain amount with your 20-sided die for the attack to be successful. This is the game part of the role-playing game. Otherwise we’d just all be invincible heroes, and where’s the fun in that?) I do discover that Summon Nature’s Ally is a bad-ass spell and sic a big black bear on one of the zombies. Rob, or rather Dipsie, discovers his rallying cry "protect the gnome!" at around this time.

The undead obviously want something inside the cabin—possibly the armor—which the local lout leaves behind as he flees in cowardice once we have kindly warned him that undead are at his door. Once the undead are dispatched—some escaping into the water from whence they emerged—we recover the armor and several other items stolen from the local townspeople. We return the armor to its rightful owners, who inform us that they have come to Grontsberg because they want to try to move in; a strange hybridized group of Mongrelfolk have taken over the Halfling village. We agree with the mayor that having Halflings move in on us is unacceptable, and so we accept the challenge of freeing their tribe’s land of Mongrelfolk, in exchange for (of course) payment and knowledge.

This is all way behind schedule. I’ll catch y’all up more on our adventures later, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Blog Roundup

The fact that I would call anything a "roundup" is a dead giveaway that I've worked in internet journalism, I think. It's probably one of those phrases I need to ditch from my vocabulary, like "shoot me an e-mail" and "FYI." Nonetheless, I have in fact "rounded up" several of my compadres' blogs, and here are some of their recent postings:

On I asked for a car, I got a computer, Corey has posted musings on flags, bikes, and Anti-Monkeybutt Powder. The latter is a must-see.

On Makura no Soshi, Shin Yu has included her take on the Questionnaire of Marcel Proust, various literary happenings, and a new review of her poetry book, Equivalence.

memepool, my old Weird Wild Web standby, has a Friday 6/11 post on Chiff and Fipple's Tinwhistle Internet Experience (more interesting to me than you'd think, since I own an approximately twenty-year-old tinwhistle of--according to this website--dubious quality), and a Wed. 6/9 post of cool Fluxus websites.

On writegrrrl, Rachel has a Friday Top Five and a blurb about the Fametracker website--which looked eerily, disturbingly familiar until I did some surfing around and realized it had been an affiliate website of former Snowball.com site (and sister IGN site), the now-defunct ChickClick.com, meaning I had very likely included it in e-mail newsletters and such. Work flashback! AAARGH!

And lastly, to toot my own horn, I've started a blog in Welsh, called Castell Tywod, meaning Sand Castle. I'll be practicing my Welsh by posting several times a week, hopefully.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Some Thoughts on Writing

I was typing up an e-mail to a former classmate from my grad program and ended up articulating several ideas on writing, and the workshopping of writing, that I hadn't really put into words before. Plus, I was fairly impressed by the general decrease in Art-Institute-related bitterness. And since I'm unlikely to either teach a class and ingrain students with my doubtless piercing insights (ha), or to randomly soliloquize to my writing or non-writing friends and thereby alienate them forever, I thought I'd post them here. Enjoy!

On Workshops, and the tendency to emphasize form and literariness over content: I think it's because there's a hesitancy or unwillingness to tackle content because it may be seen as a personal attack on the writer's interests, a critique of the individual's legitimacy as opposed to the quality of their writing....I think that ideally there should be no discernible separation between content, message, and form. That is, a finished piece shouldn't distract the reader with the way it is told, but be a seamless whole in which the writing style is integral to and enhances the story and message. This is something that often seems hard to articulate in a workshop setting--it's easy for discussions to go off on tangents.

On Attracting the Interest of an Audience: My advice is to worry as little as possible about what people gravitate towards. There's no accounting for taste! :) This is sad but true. People will like what they like, and it doesn't necessarily mean a writer is doing something right or wrong, unfortunately. It should, I agree, be different in a writing class--there should be a higher standard of objectivity--but you can't count on that....this is just the way people are, and graduate programs are...

On Bringing Diverse Readers Willingly Into Your World: ...if the writer and reader are both sincere and open, [different perspectives/experiences] shouldn't matter--I read an incredible variety of work by/about people whose lives are entirely unlike mine. I agree with you--that's one of the fascinating parts of reading. You can enter into someone else's world. And, as a writer, you can bring others into yours. I think it can be done, especially if (as I mentioned before) the writing and the content and the message all support and enhance each other, as well as your intent. But you can only offer your reader the experience--it's a two-way street. You can't guarantee what they will bring to the reading of your work, nor can you control how they perceive it or interact with it.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Attn: Travel Addicts

I found an article on MSNBC--excerpted from a book--about Places to See Before You Die (an intimidating prospect at best). I'm not sure how many of them I'm likely to see, though I'd like to. Though maybe I can skip the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I already live in Modesto. In fact, last night I had a close encounter here in town with several East Bay Dragons.

I am, however, going to Mexico City with Rob this summer, for five days, during which we will be attending a wedding in Celaya--which, coincidentally, is where one of my favorite aunts (by marriage) is from. So it's sort of like a pilgrimage, I guess.

Ego Surfing

We all do it. Whether we admit it or not, most of us have, at one time or another, typed our names into Google just to see what comes up. I used to do this fairly often, when I worked at IGN and spent huge amounts of time in front of the computer.

I tried it today, mainly to see how quickly Google had cataloged--if at all--any of the newly redesigned pages on our deckled edge site (which, I'm warning you, is largely incomplete at this time). In fact, several pages in I did find a listing for Rob's pages on the site. However, I also found out that there is a Sarah Stevenson, British Taekwondo Champion, and a Sarah Stevenson, Canadian Sculptor. My outdated Suite101.com profile also appeared, all on the first page of results.

I decided to see what happened if I typed in my maiden name, in case somebody from my former unmarried life goes looking for me (I just added Sarah Baig to my Meta Keywords today for the deckled edge) and, lo and behold, my IGN fame came back to haunt me. The first two items to pop up were Weird Wild Web articles: the Imaginary Web Page review and the SUV Poseur page review. Yeeks! I also discovered that there is a Sister Sarah Baig (not me!) at the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose. You'll also see me (the real me) on the page of Heuristic Squelch past editors and on various Welsh-related websites (again, actually me) before the list degenerates into random other Sarahs and Baigs. Fascinating!

Goodbye Productivity, Hello Loafing!

With a codename of "Revolution," it must be cool. According to IGN's FAQ about the new Nintendo console, it will revolutionize the way we play video games. Apparently the advances will not be in technology alone, and considering the artistry involved in Nintendo's proprietary games (i.e., Mario and Zelda), I expect nothing less.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Democratize Me

Thanks to my mom, here is a conveniently capsule-sized Atlantic Monthly article from 1992 summarizing Benjamin Barber's book of the same title, Jihad vs. McWorld. By capsule-sized I mean not book-length (a.k.a. "supersized")--it's still pretty long, but worth reading, even though it made feel like a crappy, capitalist, apathetic loser.

On a less sobering note, this guy's rhetorical and alliterative skills give Jesse Jackson a run for his money. Case in point: The pressures of McWorld "mesmerize the world with fast music, fast computers, and fast food -- with MTV, Macintosh, and McDonald's, pressing nations into one commercially homogenous global network: one McWorld tied together by technology, ecology, communications, and commerce." You go! Amen, bro!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Geeks Gone Wild

I really should call this post "I hate Internet Explorer," since I just typed two paragraphs and my browser crashed on me. That'll teach me to type directly into the window instead of typing it into Word first. Actually, it won't, since I'm not.

Anyway, Rob and I have finally become certified, card-carrying geeks. Or perhaps I should say dice-carrying, since I'm referring to Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, we've joined a D&D group, and no, I've never visited that D&D website prior to today. That's for y'allz benefit.

So after 8+ years of hiatus, we dug our dice pouches out of dusty boxes, purchased the requisite player's handbook, and obtained appropriate miniatures (which we haven't painted yet, so I guess we haven't quite hit the depths of geekdom). We've joined a group that, in real life, consists of an art professor (Rob), an unemployed artist/writer (me), two math professors, a history student, an art student, a librarian, and one other person whose profession I don't know.

In the game world, we're (respectively) a gnome wizard, a half-elf druid, dungeon master, a half-naked monk, a cleric/blacksmith, a half-demon thief pirate, an urban ranger/rogue, and a psion. We eat snacks, drink soda (though I may soon up the ante to alcoholic beverages), joke around, and generally have a geeky good time. Though I'm somewhat concerned that this endeavor will suck up all of my creative energy, at least I've got someplace to go on a Friday night in Modesto.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The War on Art

Two weeks ago, an SF gallery owner closed her gallery doors indefinitely after suffering attacks--verbal and physical--over a Guy Colwell painting depicting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Read the article here.

Go here for clips of the gallery's closing. Oh, and be sure to watch the one called "This man..."

Something is seriously wrong when, in possibly the most liberal city in the U.S., a woman gets a black eye and cut brow just for exhibiting a piece of art that happens to be politically controversial.

I'm starting to think more and more about moving to Canada.

This info courtesy of Julie McNiel, an awesome artist and friend.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Ghost in the Machine

Okay, this is a little weird. I followed a link on PoopReport to a news story on Scotsman.com (no joke) about a little device called the WC Ghost:

"Every time someone raises the toilet seat, the "ghost" speaks and warns the visitor that the seat should be put firmly back down. The voice, which assumes it is addressing a man, gives one of a series of warnings."

And as if that weren't enough, I decided to poke around this Scotsman.com site, and ran across THIS lovely little tidbit about everyone's favorite humorous ethnic sausage product. What haggis has to do with duck-billed platypus, I'm not sure, even after reading the haggisclopedia.