Archive for December, 2008

Irresolute Year

Last year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. The year before that I made some non-resolutions. How’d I do with those, over the course of the last two years?

  1. Go to the theater and see some good shows. It doesn’t have to be a Vegas-only experience!
    FAIL. Although Cats, Rent, Fiddler on the Roof and Wicked are all coming to Seattle next year, so I have lots of opportunity coming up.
     

  2. Get a pedicure once a month even in winter – and splurge on the extended foot massage.
    FAIL.
     

  3. Listen to new music every month.
    I did this, actually, with the help of iTunes and exposure to new stuff via Wii Rock Band and Guitar Hero.
     

  4. Spend less time at work and more time with friends and family.
    Epic FAIL. Sigh. A couple of colleagues and I are supporting each other on this in 2009.
     

  5. Do something creative every week just for the joy of it, e.g. make jewelry, write, paint, garden, do a home project, or a web project.
    FAIL. But I did complete NaNoWriMo again. :)
     

  6. Take more naps.
    FAIL. I hardly took any naps last year, although I’ve done a bit more in the last month.

One out of six is 16%, not exactly stellar performance. Apparently even non-resolutions are not for me.

Happy New Year!

Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: creativity, downshifting, work | 3 Comments »

Deal with the Dark Side

Yet another recording artist has gone to the dark side. Bruce Springsteen’s new album will be released as a Wal-mart exclusive.

Sure, there are pros. The process of releasing directly from musician to distributor, in some cases, enables the band to both reap a greater profit from the release and price the product at a more consumer-friendly price. You can buy an album for $12.

Big deal. My time and integrity are worth something, too.

I purely detest shopping at Wal-mart for a multitude of reasons. When Walmart moves into a community, they drop prices and hurt local business – when competition is gone, they raise prices again to the prevailing market rate. The least-price-product model means limited variety of low quality – lots of trinkets and trash. The company pays below-poverty-level wages and its employees are, in Washington, the single largest consumer of state Medicaid services. And on a personal level, the store is incredibly inconvenient, crowded, cluttered and dirty, with undertrained and overworked staff – shopping there is a fairly unpleasant experience.

Janiece said it best with her “E” avatar:

One does not simply walk into Walmart. There is evil there that does not sleep.

This trend of releasing directly and exclusively to Walmart is disturbing. These artists will NOT be getting my business. The first three pages of a Google search on “wal-mart exclusive music” indicates that they include:

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • AC/DC (ok, I caved there, but shouldn’t have)
  • Eagles
  • Garth Brooks
  • Josh Groban
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Nickelback
  • Shakira
  • Taylor Swift
  • Keith Urban

What this means for them is that their music cannot be downloaded. (This was part of AC/DC’s objective – they feel that single-song downloads hurt the album-as-art-form.) It can’t be sold by independent music stores. It can’t be easily purchased by those with no Wal-mart in their community, although Wal-mart does have an online, e-commerce interface like any other giant retailer.

Interestingly enough, there are reports of some independent music stores buying up albums by these artists at Walmart and reselling them at minimal markup, unopened, in their own store, just so they can offer their customers a complete artist’s oeuvre.

I can’t believe that anti-competitive, exclusive deals are, in the end, good for the consumer, no matter what the current price point looks like.

Posted on Sunday, December 28th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: entertainment, music | 8 Comments »

Awesome Parting Gift

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is leaving the team today after ten years as head coach. He’s not yet saying he’s retiring – just that he’s taking a year off to decide what’s next. The team presented him with this fully dressed 2009 Harley Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Friday after practice as a parting gift:

Holmgren Motorcycle

It sure beats a gold watch or a signed desk set!

Posted on Saturday, December 27th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: Uncategorized | Comments Off

Winter Photography

The youngest took his camera out for a walk through our winter wonderland.

Icy Cedar

Snowy Pine

Snow Berries

Click to enlarge – and email if you’d like a print sized version. Thanks, Zach, for allowing me to share these.

Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 by Jeri
Under: photography, weather | 5 Comments »

A Novel Question

I’ve recently been reading a series – or maybe more accurately, a serial novel, by Charles Stross, whom I admire. He could write a preface to a phone book and I’d enjoy it, but in this particular instance, I’m finding myself becoming annoyed. He’s triggered my three main pet peeves of novel writing, so I’m probably done for now.

The Endless Series
I like stories that wrap themselves up in a single book. I enjoy multiple novels set in the same universe, chronologically (see: Vorkosigan, Miles) but I’m not crazy about never-ending story arcs. In some cases I can tolerate trilogies if there is some story resolution within the larger arc, giving definition to the individual novels, but I can’t think of a longer series I’ve enjoyed. In a sprawling series, I dislike the proliferation of characters at the expense of character development, the lack of forward momentum on the plotline giving a “perils of Pauline” feel to the story, and the introduction of more questions than answers into a story (see: Wheel of Time series). I especially detest the cliffhanger ending; the lack of resolution actually has the opposite effect on me, I’m much less likely to buy the follow-up novel because it makes me highly annoyed with the story and the author.

Diverging Points of View
When writing a sprawling series, it’s very difficult to tell a story of broad scope and scale through a single hero’s point of view. As the story grows more complex, and groups of characters split, divide, and go their own way, the point of view splits, divides, and follows different groups of characters, interwoven throughout the book. (see: Clancy, Tom) This creates multiple interlocking story lines that are interdependent upon each other, that converge and impact each other, and that affect each others’ pacing. When used sparingly it can be effective; when overused it can kill a story. All too often, if there are too many groups of characters that the reader is not sympathetic to, or story lines that are faltering, it drags the whole story down with it – plus, the author can create a sense of chaos by trying to follow too many different points of view simultaneously.

The Mary-Sue Heroine
The Mary Sue is a term originally coined in fan fiction but extended to regular fiction to describe the hero or heroine who is too perfect to be possible in the universe at hand. It’s used to describe an over-the-top and clich├ęd character whose features, such as exotic hair and eye colors, mystical or superhuman powers are greater than those of the other characters. This character often has exotic pets, possessions or origins, or an unusually tragic past, often glaringly out of keeping with the inner consistency of the universe. The character is often improbably lucky in romance, adventure, battle or popularity, and the rules and customs of the universe bend for him or her. (see: Wright, Jim) In this particular series, the main character is believable, but a couple of the supporting heroines keep developing Mary Sue type qualities in deus ex machina ways. “Oh, we need X talent? Oh, in spite of what it seemed like, she has the talent, she’s had it all along, she’s just been a covert operative hiding that capability.”

What are your reading pet peeves – what makes you so annoyed that you are not likely to finish a book, continue a series or continue buying from an author?

Posted on Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Jeri
Under: reading, writing | 15 Comments »