Sunday, September 4, 2011

Writing Good Dialogue

There's nothing more frustrating to me than writing good dialogue, and for good reason. While overall quality of one's writing is essential to producing something worth reading, it's the dialogue that really defines one's characters and gives them the essence of being alive rather than some kind of 2d caricatures. Take these examples if you will:

An Example of Good Dialogue:

"Damn it."
"I forgot my phone back in the office yesterday."
"Wait! What? Are you stupid? We just stole the answers to the fucking final!"
"I know, I know! We've gotta get it back!"
"We? Ha! You, my friend, are the one who needs to get your phone back! It's not me they're going to expel from the university if they find out."
"Oh, so you're just going to abandon me! What kind of friend are you?"
"A smart one, amigo, a smart one. I've already invested over 50k for that little slip of paper that says you're no longer just any burger flipper, you're a burger flipper with credentials. There's no way I losing out on that."
"You know, when you put it that way, stealing the answers was totally worth it."

(If this actually an example of good dialogue, then it's a fluke for me)

And an Example of Bad Dialogue (Taken from the Twilight Series, by Stephenie Myer):

"And for all that," he continued, "I'd have fared better if I /had/ exposed us all at that first moment, than if now, here--with no witnesses and nothing to stop me--I were to hurt you."

I was human enough to have to ask. "Why?"

"Isabella." He pronounced my full name carefully, then playfully ruffled my hair with his free hand. A shock ran through my body at his casual touch. "Bella, I couldn't live with myself if I ever hurt you. You don't know how it's tortured me." He looked down, ashamed again. "The thought of you, still, white, cold . . . to never see you blush scarlet again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses . . . it would be unendurable." He lifted his glorious agonized eyes to mine. "You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever."


So, as you can see, there's a BIG difference between dialogue that actually brings the characters to life, and dialogue that makes the characters predictable, flat, and ultimately uninteresting. And this is where my problems come in; I cannot, for whatever the reason, write dialogue that I'm actually satisfied with. Perhaps I'm too critical of myself, or perhaps my talent for writing is restricted to my ability use proper grammar and syntax.

And this really gets to be the problem when you've started a story 3 times, each averaging about 4 or 5 pages, before you start to realize that you hate how your characters are interacting.

Fuck it. I need a drink.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Men and Hair

I'm pretty sure most ladies will agree with Hugh Jackman being sexy. Well check the next pic.

It has been known for quite sometime that men, on average, are hairier than women. In fact, throughout history, hair in many instances, especially in Europe, was a sign of manliness,maturity, and wisdom...and, at times, barbarianism (as in the modern definition suggesting that one is uncivilized, not simply bearded). Now it would be false to suggest that hairiness has always been in fashion, because indeed such has not been the case. Take, for instance, Russia under the reign of Peter the Great who, in the late 1600's, decreed that all men in Russia were to shave their beards. In fact, so strict was Peter with his decree that it has been stated that he personally cut nobles' beards. Of course this reasoning had a lot to do with losing wars to the West, concepts of what it meant to be "progressive" and "civilized", etc., but it is telling that it took the decree of the tzar to get men to shave their beards.

Yes, that's right, he's got a bear cub clinging to his chest, and it ain't letting go.

Fast-forward to 21st Century, and not only are men shaving their faces regularly, but, more to the point, they are also shaving other parts of their body. Chief among these areas being shaven is the chest.

Now in some populations men naturally have little to no body hair (Ex. - Many East Asian populations, many Sub-Saharan African populations, and many Native American populations), but among populations that do, specifically Western and Northern Europeans, there is an increasing trend, at least in the States and Canada, of males having baby smooth abs and chests completely void of hair. Now I am not personally against this trend, and, admittedly, I am among the number of men that do like not feeling like I'm walking around with a bear cub strapped to my chest. However, I also realized that this mindset may actually be culturally induced and I'm just following the trend in order to fit into the social and cultural norms of the society in which I live.

So the question then becomes, why do hairy men shave their chest and other parts of their bodies? Is it simply because of the society and cultural values of the nation/state in which they live? Is it due to preferences of their partner or partners? Is it simply because men now feel more free to present themselves how they wish in a society that, while still maintaining some strict gender/sex-binary stereotypes, has loosened its hold somewhat on how people are allowed to express themselves? Or could it simply be that having a metaphorical bear skin rug on your body gets a little old after awhile?

This also extends to facial hair. I've noticed that very few men, at least in professional settings, tend to grow full beards or sport stubble lined faces. I, myself, have sported both and noticed that there appears to be a presumption among many that you are either unclean, lazy, or simply look unprofessional. Now of course this could just be me, and my face might not be suited for more than a goatee. I don't know, and any opinions or experiences would definitely help to clarify what the chief cause may be concerning why most men regularly shave their faces.

The preferred look?

Now I leave you with a set of statistics gleaned from everyone's favorite and trust worthy information source Wikipedia!

There have been occasional studies documenting patterns of chest hair in men and occurrence of these patterns. A study of 1100 men aged 17 to 71 defined and documented ten patterns of chest hair in Caucasoid men. In this study 6 percent of the men were found to have no chest hair. The largest group, 56 percent, displayed pattern four as shown in the accompanying figure. The remaining 38 percent of the men displayed a lesser quantity of chest hair. Seven percent displayed pattern one, 13 percent displayed pattern two and 18 percent displayed various other patterns.[citation needed]

The same study documented the chest hair patterns of 60 African-American men aged 20-40. For these men 22 percent were found to have no chest hair. The largest group, 37 percent displayed pattern four and the remaining 41 percent had a lesser quantity of chest hair. Eight percent displayed pattern one, 12 percent pattern two and 11 percent displayed various other patterns.[1][2]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Help Me Rhonda - The Beach Boys

This song brings back some childhood memories

Help Me, Rhonda lyrics
Well since she put me down
I've been out doin' in my head
I come in late at night
And in the mornin' I just lay in bed

Well, Rhonda you look so fine
And I know it wouldn't take much time
For you to help me Rhonda
Help me get her out of my heart

Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda yeah, get her out of my heart

She was gonna be my wife
And I was gonna be her man
But she let another guy come between us
And it shattered our plan

Well, Rhonda you caught my eye
And I can give you lotsa reasons why
You gotta help me Rhonda
Help me get her out of my heart

Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda yeah, get her out of my heart

Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda yeah, get her out of my heart

Availability and Reliability

Availability -
1. Present and ready for use; at hand; accessible
2. Capable of being gotten; obtainable
3. Qualified and willing to serve or assist

Reliability -
1. Capable of being relied on; dependable

Availability and reliability are important, both in business and in friendship. As many learn with their first job, their first friendship, or their first romantic relationship, in order for any of these relationships to be successful one has to be both available and reliable. After all, there are plenty of flaky people in the world, but who honestly wants to attempt to make a solid friendship with someone who is rarely, if ever, available when you need them? And when in a related work situation, lacking both of these traits could easily get you terminated.

Availability and Reliability are two things I really need to work on in my personal life. In work situations I always attempt to be punctual and I'm almost always reliable, and in the rare instances that I'm not I go out of my way to correct the problem. However, in my personal life I'm a bit of a slacker. I always have plenty excuses, like being exhausted after work or being busy with -insert activity-, but really it's just laziness. I mean, it doesn't exactly take a lot of effort to pick up the phone and call someone, or post a random blog post to my blog just to keep it alive and the conversation going.

But for some reason I'm actually more apt to procrastinate in my personal life than in my professional life. Now some might suggest, given the two, that procrastinating in my personal life is better than procrastinating in my professional life, but I disagree. Sure, being on top of the job is great, but it's also just as important to maintain steady contact with friends, both in real life and online. After all, no one likes to feel ignored, and those of us who have been ignored by our alleged friends tend to feel a bit...sore about it, so to speak. The purpose of being friends with someone, in any capacity, is to support them and to be supported by them, otherwise you could just be acquaintances and leave it at that. If you're attempting to be, or are, friends with someone, you're no less than abusing that friendship when you can't be counted on.

So, yeah, I'm working on being more reliable and more available, because being flaky is bad for both my relationships and myself. I just wish there were more hours in the day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why I Haven't Written in Months

There are three things I've come to hate during the past few months since I last posted on this blog of mine. Those three things are 1. People, 2. Graduate School and 3. Being Broke.

Now I know the first one may appear to be a bit extreme, but allow me to explain because this is all linked together. Over the past few months I've been forced to come to the conclusion that I was, and to an extent still am, terribly naive about the way the world works. I used to believe that with enough hard work and sincerity people could advance in their given career or field, but I have been, in short, disillusioned in a most brutal and unforgiving manner.

While I won't go into too much detail, the simple facts are as follows. 1. I've been interning at a non-profit for almost a year getting paid a pittance while people without degrees, or even high school diplomas, make 2x's as much as me because they're part of the "family" ( and if that sounds like something out of a mobster movie, believe me, it almost is). 2. When the state of Illinois, god bless it's corrupt, malformed, and broke as hell heart, failed to pay up the program support money it owed the organization, I was summarily canned (i.e. - fired). Now this was understandable at the time given my intention to go to graduate school in the fall, so I wasn't too fazed at first. But then things went down hill. Fast. Like a bullet train headed straight to Hell kind of fast, but more on that later.

Anyway, numero 3. When I asked my supervisor, a pretty cool and understanding guy actually, about possibly finding some kind of funding to stay on he managed to wrangle up a position through a volunteer organization. Now at the time I thought this was a god send as I was broker than broke, in the middle of paying for a math class (which ended up costing me about 500 dollars) in order to get some university credits in order to take up another major, and was floundering in student loan debt. However, as it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.

The position paid (or should I say pays, since I'm still there for a few more days) federal minimum wage, which puts me exactly at the poverty level (Yay me!), and doesn't really offer me diddly squat as far as benefits are concerned. On top of that, much to my horror and dismay upon my return, I found out that no one, other then me, had been fired. That's right; out of who knows how many people, I, one of the few people with an actual degree, had been fired while people who slept most of the work day kept their jobs and continued their naps. Now don't get me wrong, I know these people need jobs too. Really, I understand that completely. But seriously, what the fuck?

Needless to say, I will be gone by the end of the week after a month of trying to make this crap work out. Now, to address the bullet train to Hell that was my experience attempting to enroll in graduate school.

It should be well known by now that the U.S. economy is sinking faster than a dingy which sprung a leak, and this sinking has had serious ramifications on every facet of society. From healthcare services, to programs designed to aid the working class and those in poverty, to education; all of these things have faced serious budget cuts or have been cut entirely. And while this is true on the federal level, it is even more true on the state level, especially in the wake of the of the mid-term elections. Many states are now headed by Tea Party governors, governors' who have the idea that salvaging their state's finances involve budget cuts, the dismantling of unions (I'm looking at you Wisconsin), and developing policies that favor corporations over the middle and working classes.

And this is where my applying to graduate school comes in. The good news is, out of the 4 schools I applied to, I got in 2 of them. The bad news is that one school was a private school charging a ludicrous amount and didn't even offer assistantships, and the other one was located in Michigan, which pretty much equated to the same thing since I live in Illinois and would thus have to pay out-of-state tuition for a grad. program. In both cases I could take out student loans totaling over 30,000 dollars for the next two years or so, or I could simply forgo going to graduate school...again. Now, considering that anthropology, in the best case scenario, will allow you to either teach or get paid around $70,000, maximum, for a job in the private sector, you can imagine what my decision was. That's right, I flipped anthro. and the two grad. programs the bird and took my grumbling ass all the way back to step 1. It was around this time that I was "let go" from my internship/job at the nonprofit too.

So now we arrive to the third thing I've come to hate, or, more accurately, have always hated. Being broke. As stated, my current "job" at the non-profit is currently paying me federal minimum wage (i.e.-poverty pay), and even before that I was only able to work part-time hours for burger flipper pay. So, yeah, my bank account is currently weeping and writhing over the amount of money, what little is still left that is, I will not have as I pay for a paralegal program, which I can ill afford and which will put me 7,500 more dollars in the hole in terms of what I owe the government.

So, yeah, I'm broker than broke, living with my parents (shudder), and going into even more debt.

So, yeah, I haven't exactly been in the best of moods to write. However, if I still have some readership left, I would like to apologize for just disappearing without a trace. I've been busy busting my ass and getting nowhere, when I could have been typing up witty satire, movie reviews, and more for you.

I'll try to keep my priorities in line this time. ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Top Ten Best and Worst Movies of the Past Decade - In My Opinion

Film, like all other forms of story telling, can either be a work of art or the equivalent of a train wreck colliding with a multiple car pileup. And, yes, it can get that bad. Case in point: Twilight. But let me not get ahead of myself. Starting off this list, as I believe is proper, will be the movies that I considered to be the best of the past decade.


#10 - The Beat That My Heart Skipped

A french film by director Jacques Audiard starring the immensely talented Roman Duris, The Beat That My Heart Skipped is one part crime flick and one part family/romantic dysfunction. My description doesn't do the film much justice, but Audiard has developed such a film that it is somewhat difficult to put it into one genre, or even competently describe it. In either case, however, the film is both dark and grim, while simultaneously being a film on the power of art, passion, and memories to draw us back from the brink of self destruction and emotional ruin.

#9 - 28 Days Later

One of the better "End of the World!/It's the Apocalypse!" movies I've seen. While definitely lacking as it concerns special effects, I'm of the opinion that the film didn't need them. The story isn't so much focused on violence and gore as it is focused on the relationship developed by people when violence, gore, and fear start to gnaw away at our sense of security and humanity. Conveying both sides, the need to connect with someone and the disconnect between people when survival and personal contentment are paramount, 28 Days Later, in my opinion, uses horror to draw you into a film which is hoping to convey much more.

#8 - Princess Mononoke

Created and directed by the Lord of Animation both in the East and the West (Eat your heart out Disney), Hayao Mizaki of Spirited Away fame, Princess Mononoke is a dark and lovely fairy tale focusing on the battle between man and nature, and why such a conflict exists. It is also focuses on the ability of a single man or woman to make a difference in the world, and to change things for the better through indomitable will and the ability to reason and care for other living beings outside of themselves. While the animation alone makes this film worth watching, the story is also incredibly dynamic and full of three dimensional character portrayals. As in reality, both humanity and nature are flawed in such a way that to say that any character, or characters for that matter, are evil would be to misunderstand an essential element of the story.
#7 - Donnie Darko

Attempting to describe Donnie Darko in anyway that might possibly be considered eloquent and concise would be akin to attempting to drive a car with your mouth while flossing your teeth, tying your shoe laces with one hand while attempting to sculpt Auguste Rodin's The Thinker in Silly Puddy with the other. Okay, okay, so maybe it's not quite that impossible to describe it, but with a plot as off the wall and full of holes, and yes, holes in the plot are actually a good thing as far as this movie is concerned, as this one, my thoughts on the film itself and the ending are still forming even a year after seeing the movie. Needless to say, I think just about everyone who was ever an slightly out-of-place teenage boy can relate to the protagonist, played by a young Jake Gyllenhaal. Well...almost, sometimes I felt that Donnie might have been suffering from some form of autism, but that's neither here nor there ultimately.

By the way, stay far, far, far away from the sequel S. Darko.

#6 - Bronson

Because absurd violence and gratuitous fighting are awesome.

P.S. - The story (a semi-biographic), acting and directing aren't bad either. Synopsis linked here:

#5 - 2046

Describing 2046 as a story of discovering what it means to love would not do the plot justice. 2046 is a tale of romance, both actualized and unrequited, that, while bordering, at times, on the level of softcore porn, still remains a work of art. From the costumes to the directing to acting, 2046 did away with many of the puerile portrayals of relationships in American romance films, and delivered something a little more substantial.

#4- Revolver

Directed by Guy Richie, I wouldn't actually recommend Revolver to anyone as I feel that, with the plot, the writing could have been better. However, if for no other reason than the fact that Andre 3000 and Jason Fucking Statham, who gives one of his best performances to date, are in this movie, I personally enjoyed this film. The overall concepts of selfishness, ego, and attempting to discover a way out of the "Game" which we play with others and oursevles was intriguing, but the execution, though definitely stylized excellently, could have been better. Regardless, I still really enjoyed this movie, even if some of the technical aspects weren't all that great.

#3 - Persepolis
While definitely not on the same level as Princess Mononoke as it concerns the quality of the animation, Persepolis is without a doubt one of the few movies, animated or otherwise, that I actually felt deserved an Oscar nomination over the past few years. A story of growing up under difficult and trying circumstances, attempting to fit in, coming into one's own, and falling in and out of love for the reasons that people do, Persepolis was, I felt, a poignant autobiography. Full of humor and tragedy seemingly symbiotic in balance, it was one of the few films which I actually became invested in emotionally, which is indeed a rare occurrence.

#2 - Inglorious Basterds

Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds really makes one think beyond how one normally does as it concerns those we consider historical villains and heroes. In Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino makes it a point to show the human side of the most famous war ever fought. The film portrays, albeit at times rather comically, how in war there are no winners, there are no "good guys" in most circumstances, but rather people who hold on to certain convictions that may be right or wrong. However, those people are still people in the end, and when root for their deaths are we not transformed into the same monster that we were so convinced they were? Of course this is only one part of the film's message. Needless to say, the acting is, mostly, top-notch, the directing and editing excellent, and the characters perfect shades of gray, with the exception of Colonel Hans who is, without a doubt, the most Magnificent Bastard to have ever appeared on a cinema screen.

#1 - Amelie

Quirky, witty, and charming, Amelie is a film that calls out to all of us who live in our own little worlds and enjoy having our own little quirks. However, the films message, of perhaps sharing our microcosm with the macrocosm, is also remarkably effective as the character of Amelie, portrayed by Audrey Tautou, never discards her idiosyncratic ways but rather embraces them and engages the world on her own terms. Having been a quirky child with bizarre parents, I could definitely relate to this film's protagonist. Oh yeah, and the directing and style weren't bad either.


The Top Ten Worst Films of the Decade will be featured in my next post.