August FB Gems

Somebody asked me why I was posting this with a kind of “do you really need MORE filler” tone to the question, and it just got me thinking that perhaps I’m not being clear about why I’m posting these compilations twice a month. 

This is NOT filler. This is much of the writing I’m doing right now. I’m busier than I want to be at a second job and writing less than I would like to be, but I’m not sitting around thinking one article a week is “enough.” That much of my writing is happening in smaller chunks on my Facebook page has more to do with the fractured attention span so many of us are dealing with during Covid-19 and the frenetic pace of current political life that has disrupted so many creatives. 

Artists will often put an ongoing project on hold because something else grabs their attention for a while. This is just that. I’m still writing every day, just like I counsel other writers (who want to be working writers) to do. I am simply doing it on a “distracting project” right this second. Writing About Writing is always going to be my baby. Remember these are only the “best.” There’s probably two or three times as much that I don’t repost here. If you want to follow that writing, you’re always welcome. Just check out the last question in my FAQ so that you do it right. If for some reason your Patreon support is very strictly linked to only WAW posts, I understand if you want to put me on hold for a while (though I do hope you come back), but rest assured that as life slips back into normal (even “the new normal”) you’ll be seeing more and more posts here.

And as always thank you. I can come to my muse, Cathamel, every day, and sometimes kind of “aim” where my creativity goes, but I really have no actual control. 

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So I had this idea.

Seems like masks are going to be a thing. Maybe for years, possibly just something we learn to wear because it’s dangerous not to (like shoes).

If you are so inclined, how about a selfie with your very favorite or most stylish of masks, so we can start to normalize them as part of our wardrobe with as much care (or not) for them as part of our fashion.

Maybe by showing off our bestest masks, we can normalize them some tiny bit. (Seriously feel free to drop your best pic in the comments or on the comments to this post on whichever social media you found it.)

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Remember that the “community” upon which Facebook bases its “standards” is a bunch of predominantly white techbros sitting around saying, “How is THAT racist/sexist/bigoted?” unless the subject is white men (then they get really sensitive).

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Razor Van Lines is a moving company on the east coast that I’d never heard of until two different friends in as many weeks told me of how they screwed up badly enough to prompt legal recourse. And not just in an “hours late and scuffed the wall with the dining room table” screwed kind of way. I’m talking no call, no show on the scheduled day, put people on hold for hours who call to find out “what the fuck?,” and leave the client’s shit in the place they are no longer paying rent on so they have to scramble with ex-landlords and new moving companies and pay a lot of extra money.

All after pocketing the deposit.

THIS is me naming names.

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[In response to NY’s AG suing the NRA]

Buckle up.

You’re about to see a LOT of people who don’t understand that the National Rifle Association and the 2nd Amendment are actually two entirely different things. Trump first among them.

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Things I could do an impromptu 30 minute lecture on (no prep):

-Why the modern day knight errant from romantic literature is…..a detective.

-The ways in which the Norman invasion of Britain still affect our prescriptive linguistic elitism today.

-Any of the elements of the craft of fiction. (Character, setting, plot, point-of-view, etc.)

-How theme is the most important element of fiction, and the interplay between the others and theme is what makes for great fiction.

-How to read “as a writer.”

-Why speculative fiction doesn’t get a seat at the “literary” table, and why that’s absolutely bourgeois bullshit.

-The connection between elves and Nephilim and “the epic heroes” of Beowulf, and why English narratives (even presumably “unbiased” historical ones) give such deference to those übermench who came before.

-Video games as high art

-How to learn to write for an hour or two a day every day, without difficulty, every time you sit down

-How to fit a “pretty-dang-woo” worldview into skeptical language by embracing metaphors, Rorschach-inkblot-LIKE phenomenon, the placebo effect, the power of the brain, and intentions as mental clarity and focus.

There’s probably more.

What about you? What could you stand up and lecture on for 30 minutes without so much as a minute’s prep or notes? Seriously. This started as a FB post but answer in the comments.

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Everything about an effective Covid-19 response requires a sense of the social contract. It’s not that these things are good for a person (maybe a tiny bit). It’s that if everyone does them, it’s GREAT for society. Masks help the person wearing them incrementally; but if everyone buys into the social contract and wears them, there’s MUCH less spread. Sheltering in place, wearing masks, distancing, and being tremendously open and honest about “pod integrity” to flatten the curve requires tremendous personal sacrifice….for about two months; but if everyone does it, then contact tracing can actually work and some semblance of normal can return. Contact tracing is useless to the individual once they have Covid; but if you have a good contact tracing system in place on a flattened curve, you can ALMOST have a halfway normal life back.

That’s why the U.S. is failing so spectacularly as a culture. That’s why I said three months ago that we were going to hit a million deaths. We are UNIQUELY unsuited to rise to this challenge. This is a culture that makes it a point of pride and virtue not to give a single solitary shit about “other people.” (In addition to having anti-leadership, at this moment in time, that has found politicizing the pandemic and its response to be expedient.) People won’t wear masks if they have to breathe stale air. They won’t stay inside if they miss people. They won’t even socially distance if it makes them feel awkward.

US culture had to shred the social contract to get us to buy into the worst of predatory capitalism. We had to believe that no amount of social good was GOOD if it sent us home with a few dollars less pay. We had to look at billionaires standing next to homeless people and blame the latter for poor decision-making skills. And abhor the thought of a progressive tax that hit the former “too hard.” We had to not regulate or tax corporations too much lest we de-incentivize their greed that we have erroneously assumed is the only engine of innovation.

And we had to culturally rationalize these values the whole way as “rugged individualism,” or it would never work to tell a whole society that it’s okay to screw everyone a little so long as you get ahead a lot. We had to be a country of “embarrassed millionaires” who reject whole cloth the idea that we’re all in this together. Without that indoctrination, we’d see right though the ethics of our choices in a cold second. So we had to make greed a virtue and fucking people over an “I got mine! Fuck you,” moment instead of something we regarded as immoral and unkind.

We aren’t just selfish. We are breathtakingly, shockingly, uncaringly self-absorbed. And so when we get into a situation where it takes being good for little benefit with the hopes that everyone else will be good as well to benefit us a lot, we fail this variation of “the prisoner’s dilemma” over and over and over.

And now the US can’t react to a pandemic to (literally) save its life. Because a modicum of personal convenience, comfort, pleasure, and even “giving it to the weak for having the temerity to be vulnerable” is actually VALUED in big chunks of our culture more highly than taking care of the society in which we’re all a part.

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So we’re just not doing “phrasing,” right?
Like that’s not even a thing anymore?

With the caveat that of course everyone is entirely entitled to their opinions and to express them (just as I am entitled to be as far away from FB when I know that’s going on en masse), it should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following me a while that I do not think the far left––OF WHICH I AM A PART––does enough to engage the pragmatic reality around them that they CANNOT govern if they don’t win, and they CANNOT win in a pluralistic society if they do not engage in a massive, sustained ground campaign to win over the hearts and minds of the very people they insist they would do a better job of governing.

That’s a big topic and I have decided to wait to get into it. I’m going to focus on there BEING a democratic process come 2021, and things like hundreds of thousands of casualties (that didn’t have to happen) due to an ongoing politicized reaction to a pandemic. I will go full throttle criticizing a status quo supporting criminal justice record when there is an administration that isn’t breaking the status quo every day in the OTHER direction.

So I will just say this here.

The criticism of Harris, of which there will be salient, valid, and entirely reasonable kinds (and my god, HEAR me that I am not saying you have to like, tolerate, or even vote for her), is ALSO going to include––EVEN FROM THE FAR LEFT, and especially from the white dude socialists who deeply resent their more colloquial sobriquet––a tendency toward sexism and racism in the attacks on her and will be ginned up by the right and probably Russia, who would love nothing more than for the far left to sit this one out and keep Trump in charge.

I’m not here for it. Now I’ll handle my shit on my end––I know where the 30-day snooze button is, and I can keep hitting it until the general is in the rearview. [Writer’s note: remember this was originally a Facebook post.] But if you bring gendered or racial slurs HERE or triple down on some “but she’s bad so bigotry doesn’t count” argument after having your BS pointed out (or you just go “all in” on that shit in your own space and I see it), well, it’s been a long 5 months without a proper fucking hug here, and I’m not inclined to tuck your feelings in at night. It’s a terrible ticket for folks on the far left. It absolutely is. (Although, I might suggest QUITE HIGHLY that everyone who thinks they know how secretly conservative she is take a look at her actual Senate voting record before deciding that the criticism of her early career––that was a talking point when she was running against everyone’s favorite democratic socialist––is taken as the end of nuance.)

But regardless, that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to watch our fucking mouths.

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I’m not exactly looking forward to watching the people I care about the most reproduce the last 15 minutes of Captain America: Civil War, but please don’t forget that Russian psyops are playing the part of Helmut Zemo.

They don’t pick shit that we don’t care about to poke at. They gin up the places we already don’t get along. We would just roll our eyes and scroll past a meme that claimed “liberals” were better dressers than “leftists.” They know exactly how to hit us where we live.

I have no end of empathy for folks who have to do right by themselves to make whatever choice they need to make, and I’m not going to be so obnoxious as to assume they have somehow missed the last four years and don’t know what’s at stake when it comes to all the harm to be reduced.

But it is going to be a BLOODBATH in the comments if people start looking at things like 150 THOUSAND mostly-preventable deaths (and a million more lifetime health issues), travel bans, border policies that curdle Amnesty International’s blood, dismantling of public education, attacking the post office with the explicit goal of voter suppression, a slide into fascism, alienating allies and praising despots while being a national embarrassment, stealing elections as plain as day, and the veritable Grand Canyon CHASM differences in the two parties’ platforms, the SCOTUS judges they would appoint, and their attitude towards gerrymandering, voter purges, and voter ID laws….

…and use phrases like “only marginally better than Trump.”

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Your friends on the west coast aren’t just whining about fop sweat and swamp ass.

This is the worst heat wave in 70 years (and we’re already dealing with multiple fires that are only going to get worse and kill the air quality). Rolling blackouts are happening and more are promised as PG&E shuts down those places in higher risk of fires because their equipment hasn’t been upgraded. It’s extra bad sauce over lightly seared double plus ungood with shaved yikes on top, all placed on a bed of baby “OOF!.”

Plus places (like mine), that don’t have A/C because being next to the water means it isn’t needed 99% of the time and it’s usually always at or around 70F/21C, don’t have the infrastructure to deal with sustained heat that is bad by 9am, lasts until midnight and goes on for days. Also, all the places one might go to beat the heat, like a pool or the movies, are like level-eleven exposure threats for Covid-19. So we kind of just have to sit still and hope not too many people die––quite literally.

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I gotta tell ya, it takes a special level of political nihilism to see the USPS under attack (explicitly to suppress voting, as stated by the leader of the GOP in a said-the-quiet-part-out-loud moment), Ukraine solicited to be part of a conspiracy to subvert a democratic election, Russian psyops (and with at least a few people, collusion?), Cambridge Analytica, disenfranchisement laws, voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and everything that the right wing (always, fucking ALWAYS, the right wing) is dedicating tens of thousands of hours and hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars towards, all while lying through their teeth the whole way about “fraud,” to take the votes away from people….

…and to conclude that voting can’t make a difference.

If votes didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be trying so, so, SO hard to steal yours.

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Unfortunately the pragmatism that gets overlooked comes back to bite the far left. If you tell a politician you’ll never EVER vote for them, that’s it. That’s the ballgame. Now they work around you. You don’t get invited to the table. (And people remember you don’t compromise on electoral politics when you show up at the next election with demands.) Now you lost your power. Now they never bend left to get your support. Now they don’t take your calls. Now they go to the center to grab the votes and money. You get nothing. The actual people who make the actual laws that affect your actual life don’t consider you worth their time. This was why the environmental lobby was so weak for so long.

If you negotiate, bring them votes, and then hold them accountable for every spineless piece of legislation, they know you have something to offer them more than dank memes.

Now they take your calls.

We have the opportunity to choose our difficulty level (maybe……and probably only once more depending on what gets chosen). We can pick literal fascism, or by inaction allow literal fascism to take root. Or we can pick a right-of-center party that will present SIGNIFICANT resistance to our core values and ideas. But EVERY MEASURABLE GOAL (from criminal justice to environmental reforms to funding education)…. Every. SINGLE. ONE! we would want will become more difficult to achieve and FAR less likely to be accomplished under the literal fascism of the US right wing.

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**looks at an avoidable six figure death toll caused for political expediency and the economy**
Yeeeeeaaaaaaah, that doesn’t sound like him at all. 

You have to understand, Trump doesn’t walk into a room of lawyers and ask “Can I legally do this?”

He walks into a room of lawyers and says, “Create the justification for this thing I intend to do.” And then he waits to see who’s going to stop him.

So the monocle-wearing, brandy-sipping constitutional scholars out there who like to point out the traditional separation of powers have really GOT to realize that “he can’t do that” isn’t a thing anymore.

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Americaanz. Bubby. I’m your white knight.


Please be advised that Trump is DEFERRING your taxes, not cutting them, and he’s desperately hoping you won’t notice until after the election when the lump sum comes due.

His promise to make those [tax] cuts permanent if he’s elected is….well, if you haven’t figured out after four years that he A- lies every time his lips are moving, B- doesn’t pay people he says he will as a POINT OF PRIDE, C- is a con artist, D- says anything that will make people love him, I don’t know what to tell you. And if you’re wondering how he’d pay for it…….I mean, it’s not like some big coincidence that terminating social security was mentioned hours later. The fact that his party told him not to say the quiet part out loud and do a big lying liarface “just kidding” like he has so many times in the past…. Again, see A-D if you’re not sure where this is going.

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I’ve noticed this in the last few years. It’s not that they can smell people with bad boundaries, or something. They just get hazed lickity-split by people with good ones.

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find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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