Saturday, January 13, 2007

Resolute about Resoltions

Another Friday, another batch of snow. Just got in from cleaning up the yard for a fourth consecutive Saturday. Can I tell you how sick of winter I am? Fortunately we managed to avoid any real accumulation (maybe half an inch), but it is absolutely wicked cold here. How cold? At the time of this writing (2:13pm MST) my online weather gauge says ZERO. Minus 10 with the wind chill factored in. Yet it's clear blue skies. Gotta love Colorado!

So how is everyone making out with their New Year's Resolutions so far?

Me? Ideal. In fact, I haven't felt this good about writing in a very, very long time. A few weeks back I decided to make a concerted effort to get my never ending novel written - this year. Crap or get off the pot as they say. And so I am. I've called myself a writer over the years, but given some of the people I know who actually ARE writers - meh.

I told Fran the other day that for the first time I actually feel like one. I've read numerous books on how to write (Stephen King's On Writing being one of the best), subscribe to The Writer Magazine, and been instructed via some of the rather harsh (some would say Hitler-esque) rules and regs that have been dropped on us since GameDaily was bought out... but something finally clicked. A lot of it actually did in fact have to do with AOL's new writing policies, as they have made me a better writer. But recently I stumbled across a tidbit of info, one I've come across before, that finally made sense. And it came from a very unlikely source.

I get a lot of magazines, most dealing with sports, books, and video games. A few weeks ago I got the January edition of game developer. As I was browsing through it I came upon an article about game design by Noah Falstein entitled, "Do, Don't Show." The first sentence of the article says: "If you've ever taken a creative writing class, you've probably heard the maxim, 'Show, don't tell.' It's intended to advise budding writers to show their characters experiencing events instead of just describing those events to the reader."

I've never actually taken a creative writing class, but I have heard that "maxim" before - or rather, something similar. It's not unlike writing in the active voice instead of passive voice. AOL has been trying to drill this into us forever, and for some ungodly reason I was simply not getting it. But what really brought it all home was the quote from a very famous author - Mark Twain. "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."

As a famous chef would say, "BAM!"

During my "studies" I've read how, when author's are in the flow, the story actually writes itself. One of my biggest hangups was my inability to let things flow. That, and my insatiable curse to to re-edit what I had just written. I couldn't just write, leave it be, and come back to it in the next draft like you're supposed to. But for whatever reason, in this year of 2007 when I'll hit the Big Four Oh, I finally understand how a story can write itself. Over the last 2 weeks I have written more then I have in the last 2 years. Although I know where I'm going, i have no idea how I'm getting there.

Think of it terms of getting from Point A to Point B. You know you have to get there, but HOW are you going to do that? When I sit down to write I have no idea what the characters are doing to do, or where they're going to take me. It's like I'm reading a book as well as writing it at the same time! And it's that curiosity, that "I need to know what happens next" - that now keeps me writing.

After all these years... I finally tracked The Muse down. That bitch. And I ain't lettin' her go. Maybe all those years as a Private Investigator have finally paid off.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


So I have two friends (can you believe that?) who appear to be on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to the upcoming movie by Frank Miller (comic book writing legend and director of the fantastic movie/graphic novel Sin City, which I've talked about before) called "300."

In the historical "last stand" Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas of Sparta led 300 of his troops against the massive Persian army of Xerxes. Although they fought to the death, their selfless, loyal act united Greece against the bigger war against Xerxes.

Mike, who is even more of a history nutter then I am (at least when it comes to historical battles), thinks it's a bastardization of the historical importance of this event. And it was important. During a recent rousing and drunken (can you believe that?) Christmas party at our humble abode, we got onto the topic of history and how we no longer as a people learn from (or remember for that matter) what happened in the past. At some point during my drunken schpeel I made a comment to the effect that certain events throughout history changed the entire course of human history. This was one of them.

Steven, who is also a history buff, thinks it looks flat out awesome. After seeing the trailers for the first time today, I tend to agree. It's ironic because Mike first told me about this movie two days ago, which was the first time I'd even heard about it. As Mike was explaining to me that it was going to be done in the same visual style as Sin City, I agreed with him. It didnt' seem right that Miller (who I admire) was going to spin it like Sin City.

Then I saw the trailers at the official website - and drooled. Check them out for yourself here. The fact that King Leonidas is being played by Gerard Butler, the soon to be "Next Big Thing" when it comes to period piece action stars, helps immensely. The guy is the new Russel Crow, Mel Gibson... you get the idea. He's a good looking guy. hey, I'm confident enough in my masculinity to say a thing like that!

Anywho... I say that because a few weeks back Fran and I saw a movie called Beowulf & Grendel, a movie based on the epic poem, Beowulf, about a medieval Norse hero's (Beowulf) battle against a murderous troll named Grendel (my dog before our spoiled Alaskan Mal Osa was named Grendel becasue of this story). Butler played the role of Beowulf to perfection. If you haven't seen this little heard of movie, and liked Gladiator, Braveheart, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven or The 13th Warrior... you owe it to yourself to see this one.

Since we're on the topic of history... Fran and I have been watching the first season of HBO's
graphic series, Rome. Boy what an eye opener, but boy is it good! Talk about a brutal time! The creators pride themselves on historical accuracy though. In fact, the DVD has an interesting feature that allows you to turn on historical notes that pop up during the course of each episode to give you more detail about what's going on. We got through seven episodes before I realized it was available, and that's only because Renee (another one of my friends, if you can believe that) told me about it. We were trying to catch up for the Season 2 premier (which will be the final season) on Sunday the 14th, but not now. We're going to wait until it comes out DVD so we watch it with the history feature turned on.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quick Hits!

Two big shout outs that I completely and inexcusably failed to do sooner...

First... HAPPY BIRTHDAY OMA! At the ripe young age of 78, you've got more energy and life in you then most people I know. I hope Fran and I live as full a life as you, and enjoy it just as much.

Secondly... big congrats go out to my buddy Shawn and his wife Charis who just had their first baby, Gianna Grace. Shawn says her current hobbies include "chewing on fist and pooping." Very nice! Got yourself a real Mensa Member there my friend! ;)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Don't ignore the Call... of Juarez.

Unless you've been living under a rock, video games have become mainstream, revenue generating, big business. It ain't just for kiddies anymore. In fact, the average age for most video game players is now... hold on to your seats - 33.

Back in early 1983 (at the impressionable young age of 15), my best friend at the time received one of the first ever "home computers" for a birthday present. It was a Timex Sinclair, nothing more than an over exaggerated calculator really. But we were both hooked - line an sinker. Not long after that we were honing our love for "PC's" on the myriad of Commodores that followed, eventually giving way to the big dual and quad core PCs we have today. That lil Timex led us to a path that we both still walk down to this very day. He's a hardcore programmer, and I'm a hardcore gamer.

Twenty four years later, PCs have clawed and scratched their way out of obscurity, rising from dark nerd infested basement's to become integral to everyone, everywhere, in nearly every facet of life. Businesses fully rely on them, houses now utilize them to operate everything from the toaster to the alarm system, and they're now becoming the centerpiece of our home entertainment systems. Can you imagine what kind of chaos the world would be thrust into if every computer around the globe suddenly just stopped working? Within a quarter of a century computers have evolved from a geek's plaything... to quiet literally running the world.

And with that evolutionary rise from the primordial semi-conductor goo to god-like status, so to has the computer gamer changed. Dorks, huddled in front of the green radioactive luminescence of giant CRT monitors endlessly playing with stick figured heroes as they side scrolled their way through crudely constructed castles evading demoniacally possessed Hitlers; spelunking through derivative dungeons trying to destroy dragons; and dodging odd looking objects that were supposed to be asteroids in space... are now considered normal. Many are making good livings being "professional" gamers and game developers. Colleges are eagerly offering courses on how to make games! Oh how the gaming landscape has changed.

I bring all this up because I recently played a game called Call of Juarez. In my review I not only call it the most gorgeous game ever designed, but go so far as to say this might very well be one of the best first person shooters ever created. It's that amazing. take for instance the image of this destroyed railroad bridge, which falls apart around you as you ride under it on horseback.

But there's an interesting lil side story to this Western shooter. Truth be told, think of it as a mystery. The game is developed by a Polish company called Techland. I've been a fan of theirs since 2003, when they released an unheralded game called Chrome, which I played for review during my early tenure with GameDaily. Even then they were on to making gorgeous games, as evidenced by this in-game scene...

Last summer both single player and multiplayer demos were released for Call of Juarez. They got me all hot and bothered because western shooters, for whatever reason, have been completely ignored. The birthplace of the term "shooter," and we got nothing to show for it. Activision's Gun does not count since it was a dismal failure. But Juarez had promise.

Then we discovered that while it had been released in Europe (of all places) in September of '06, and again in Australia the following month... there was no plans for it to be released in North America - the very home of "Cowboys and Indians" - until the ubiquitous second quarter of 2007. All attempts to get information out of Techland and Ubisoft (their French publisher) failed. I tend to think its Ubisoft pulling the reigns back on this thing. Why? Who knows. Who can figure out the French anyway?

So I improvised.

Jumping on eBay I managed to track down a legal Ukrainian (that'd be Russia) copy of this All-American Old West shooter... developed by Polish guys. Crazy, no? Thankfully it installed in English, and the rest as they say... is history. Pick up a copy of this game as soon as you possibly can. Don't wait for the lazy French to get off their arse and get it shipped Stateside (that's a big "if" and a bigger "when"). It's worth the fist full of dollars you'll spend on nabbing it early.