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Monday, January 31, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq - While polling stations finished the first-phase count of millions of ballots from the weekend election that many Iraqis hope will usher in democracy and hasten the departure of 150,000 American troops, it now seems certain that the Iraqi people have voiced their decision to have Jim Pascoe lead their country to freedom.
"I'm overwhelmed with joy," Pascoe said from his interim throne in Los Angeles. "The prospect of leading these people -- my people -- to greater freedom and prosperity is, well, it's hella cool."
Electoral commission officials said turnout in hardline Sunni areas was better than some expected, though they cited no numbers. A U.S. diplomat warned that Sunni participation appeared "considerably lower" than that of other groups. This could be the cause for Pascoe's easy victory.
"It's no secret that the Sunnis aren't my biggest fans. They appear to be upset that the insect bad guys in my Buffy the Vampire Slayer story, Out of the Woodwork are modeled after Islamic insurgents. Nothing could be further from the truth," Pascoe insisted. "Clearly, the insects were representative of the Nazi's totalitarian rule."
Pascoe went on to say that if people disagree with that interpretation of the antagonists' profile, they should read the story for themselves. The comic book trade paperback is available for sale at Amazon.com, BN.com, and other fine retailers.
Pascoe's editor at Dark Horse Comics, Scott Allie, said, "I heard the election results from Iraq, and wanted to congratulate you -- I don't know if writing comics, novels, and other greasy kids stuff is good experience for a prime minister of a soon-to-be-failed democracy, but I figure it could be worse."
No one from either the Bush camp or the interim Iraqi government would comment on Allie's doomsday prediction specifically. Main Bush party supporters were said to be "praying for Pascoe to bring peace to the Middle East," while Iraq's interior minister, Falah al-Naqib, told Britain's Channel 4 News he expected there would be no need for U.S. troops any longer than 18 months because "with Pascoe in power, Iraq's security forces will finally have the leadership necessary to handle the job without U.S. assistance."
Pascoe's response was simple: "Fail?" he said. "How could democracy fail with me in charge? I'm the man."
Friday, January 28, 2005
All this research into writing software has been very good for me to analyze how I write books. All of the ten books of written, including the scripts for the Buffy comics, I have written in Microsoft Word. Because a good many of these books were written with the mighty Tom Fassbender, the majority of "development work" was done verbally and in e-mail.
Tip #1: Do not underestimate the value of e-mail as a tool for story development.
What do I mean? When I write with Tom, it's remarkably easy to type up a "status e-mail," i.e., here's what I worked on last night, here's what I'm thinking, here are my problems that I can't quite figure out, and maybe end with a series of questions that I would leave HIM to figure out.
Believe it or not, you can e-mail yourself. And if you can get over the hang-up of writing to yourself (it's better than talking to yourself, but hey, I do that too), then this can be incredibly effective. I find that writing an e-mail is less intimidating that staring at a blank page with no idea how to begin.
When I'm writing solo, I almost always start simple, with a single Word file. This first starter file becomes my "notes" file. It's a total mess. It's actually more like a zygote file, in that it spawns all of my other files.
This file is essential my first e-mail to myself. I just start talking about the story (I ask myself lots of questions and occasionally call myself names). This could include a set-up, attempted themes, main character descriptions, even thoughts on what I DON'T want the story to be. An example of this overblown self-direction, from the novel I'm working on now:
Explore the role of coincidence and the impulse of the writer's mind to CREATE CONNECTIONS where none exist.
Is there regret in a character like this? How can someone like this look back on his life and be happy. Here's someone who is so lonely that he wants to constantly surround himself with crowds only to do things to push them away.
The interesting back-story here is his family. What is it about how this guy grew up that would make him so lonely? First of two children?
I separate thoughts into separate sections with an asterisk, like I'm doing now.
At some point, this file becomes unwieldy. My very first file, from the current novel, grew to six pages before I thought it was time to split it up. It becomes four documents: characters, outline, text, and notes. The notes file is essentially whatever's left that doesn't fit into the other three.
I spent some time last night trying to cram my existing work on this new novel into both CopyWrite and Jer's Novel Writer. I like Jer's character database, which may be more useful if you have 75 characters (as Jer suggests he does) than if you're just trying to keep track of the 10 or 15 main characters, let alone a core group of, say, five. But Jer's software is totally geared toward writing the body text of a novel, with some ancillary support features (like margin notes, which I can imagine would completely rule). It's no wonder that Jer wrote one of those blog-inspired novels-in-a-month-things for national write a novel month. I, myself, am not the kind of writer to sit down and just start cranking out (blogging out?) the main text of a novel, but if that's for you, Jer's with get you going with minimal distraction.
I liked CopyWrite's attempt to manage multiple document -- after all, this is how I write using Word. I was a bit excited at first, but I'm not totally in love with the interface. It's not easy to change the font size or the magnification on the page (I like my type tiny so I can see in a glance a wide range of what I've just written).
All this leads me to the following conclusions: 1. I'm going to stick to Word for my creative writing, thank you. And 2. My new most-requested upgrade feature to Word, one that I believe will happen sooner rather than later, is tabbed document windows. Even on my glorious 17" screen I can barely fit three word files side-by-side (I'll usually do something like make my outline very thin, say an inch wide). If I could have a bunch of files open, but all neatly arranged in clean tabs, now we're talking.
I would LOVE to hear from other writers on their techniques. I may be an old dog, but I'm always up for new tricks.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
I was recently asked by friend and fellow word-lover Steve Dale: "you're a Mac guy ... do you use a 'writing tool' for the Mac, or do you just use a word processor?"
The first thing I thought of was "storytelling" software like Dramatica and Power Structure. I remember when Dramatica came out about ten years ago, and while I leafed through the manual several years ago (it read like a theory book more than software documentation), I've never used the program. Power Structure, on the other hand, I really tried to give it a go about two years ago.
Holy hell, talk about over-complicating a process. There are fields for charactes and plots and themes and so on. Presumably its power comes from its relational databse of data entered; that is, character actions entered in the plot area are linked to the entries in the character section. If ... oh, and I mean IF ... you have a huge mess of a story that needs some amount of structure, AND you have a working knowledge of story structure theory (like you're a Joseph Campbell groupie), THEN you could probably spend a day or two filling in all of this meta data about your story into this program, only to find that it's not going to FIX it for you, just show you that it's a mess.
Mr. Dale went on to ask about a specific program, that shame on me, I hadn't heard of: CopyWrite. So I downloaded the demo. And I did some research online. It appears that a number of programs have come out recently that are more "project management tools" rather than storytelling tools, as with the lot above.
This research led me to Ulysses. I'd have more to say about this program if it weren't a cool hundred Euros. No, thanks. Plus, I've read a bunch that it includes much of the same functionality as CopyWrite.
Okay, enough with the stalling! Here's the deal with CopyWrite: It essentially offers you a master project view that give you access to multiple document files that have separate info in them (chapter, characters, places, elements, ideas, premise). Within these categories, the program gives you the option to keep a revision history (date modified), including a status marker (new, rough, second, final). My favorite feature (and one that is not easily replicated in a standard word processor) is the ability to keep a separate notes file with a sepatate space for reference URLs associated with each document.
Just this morning, I found another program that looks quite interesting. It's called, lovingly, Jer's Writing Software. It's in pre-beta (though he's not calling it alpha ... hmm), so it's free if you're up for the bugs. The plus side of it is that if you register as a bug tester, you'll get a free copy of all the paid 1.x versions.
Does this really make writing easier? Well, in a classic Pasconian dodge (to the original question, no less!), I'll answer that tomorrow. Now, get back to work! (Or if you're still on your "break," you can watch this.)
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The comments on my stray Beatles post have grown into an interesting discussion. I'd love to hear more comments on Brian Wilson's SMiLE. I'm interested in hearing it, but haven't given it a listen yet.
Perhaps I'm a little stalled because after years of hearing everyone say that Pet Sounds is one of the top pop/rock records of all time, I decided to give it a listen.
Not really my cup of tea.
When I listened to a Beatles' album for the first time as an adult, I was always struck by the songs on the record that WERE NOT hits. These end up being my favorite songs: "I'm Only Sleeping," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Sun King," "Cry Baby Cry," etc.
While at the same time, the hit songs don't seem over-played -- even though they clearly are. Only a couple songs: "Taxman," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Birthday," don't do it for me on repeat listens.
And on a final note, I heard a guy in his early 50s say something to the effect of "If I never hear another Beatles song that will be okay with me." And he wasn't talking from a Beatle-haters point of view; he was talking about this concept that music could, possibly, have an expiration date.
Which could mean that SMiLE has an advantage of being released now. Funny.
In the age of digital music, will the over-consumption that I'm witnessing now add to this expiration or delay it? Or will it make music more (even more?) fleeting?
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
On the morn' of the Academy Award nomination announcements (no, I was not nominated), I've been thinking of how much I don't like bio pics.
Sure, The Aviator was okay -- not 11 noms okay. And Kinsey was interesting. But I always get to the end of films like these and feel like "so what?"
No matter how much fictionalizing goes into these biographies, there's too much truth in them for me.
Now, there's good truth and there's bad truth.
Good truth is an awareness that is created in the mind of a reader/viewer. It is an emotion. An extreme. A revelation. An understanding. A secret.
Bad truth is an invented convention that attempts to address "what really happens." Objectivity. Why is this so important to people? Why must we throttle ourselves with a governor on imagination?
Truth is never really stranger than fiction. "Truth," in this sense, is a crutch to prop up sensationalist "fiction."
I want movies to live on in my mind, in the same way that the most important part of a comic book happens between the panels. When I see a movie like The Aviator, and I go home to read that Howard Hughes was married before he met Hepburn or worse that he made two movies before Hell's Angels and BOTH of them won Academy Awards ... well, all of a sudden, I feel cheated.
And I'm left with a skeleton of arbitrary facts that don't register any emotions.
Time for another cup of coffee...
Monday, January 24, 2005
No, I'm not talking about that character on Desperate Housewives;I'm talking about my non-desperate, non-housewife wife Gabrielle, who today celebrates her birthday. (My mother-in-law is convinced that because Gab works in the ABC Building that the DH producers named their super-model character after her.)
Like many lucky husbands, I feel that Gabrielle should be given the very best of everything on every day. Perhaps this is the one day when we try even harder to make it happen. Some of you know Gab, and some of you do not. But please do me a favor and join me in wishing her the happiest of birthdays by leaving a well-wishing comment here.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
My current favorite Beatles song is "I'm Only Sleeping" off of 1966's Revolver. So good.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
"Computers are useless; they only give you answers."
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
A little advice: whenever you go in for your first day at a new job, NEVER wear your best underwear, because it assumes on some kind of sick, subconscious level that you expect to have someone see your underwear.
I don't buy this whole "it just makes me feel good about myself" business. Wear a tie, people.
And your worst pair of undies. Consider it good luck, Pasconian style.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
This is super, super cool. But perhaps the coolest thing is one of the new ad slogans: Enjoy Uncertainty.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Yes, it's not just raining here in Los Angeles, it's something far more extreme. Our backyard is a swamp. Our next-door neighbor lost four pine trees. And I have no desire to leave the house for any reason.
I do have a desire to call faithful reader Graham to the carpet for his recent comment below. Simply put, he said I look like a hobbit at my wedding. How in good god's name could I go from the David Bowie of Publishing to meager Middle Earth dweller in the span of a year?
I could tell you, Graham -- if that is your real name -- that my battles in the entertainment industry resemble the challenges faced by Frodo and friend. Certainly there are many numbers of orcs and evils wizards in television and publishing.
Before I dwell on my own paranoia about furry feet and smoking long pipes, I should make it clear for the record that I have cut off all of my hobbit hair. Now I have a funny little mustache that makes me look more like a character in Peter Jackson's King Kong remake.
Funny how things change.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Lovely wife Gabrielle has done a bang-up job of putting a large majority of our wedding photos online. In her own words:
"I know it's been a few months since Jim and I walked down the aisle, but I finally had a little time over the holidays and used it to post some wedding pictures to the Web site. You can see them at http://www.littlebird.com/gabjim."
Be sure to check out the invitation (if you were not one of the few who received one) -- we hand-silkscreened them on wood.
And Gab would be forever grateful if you took a moment to sign the guestbook.
Monday, January 03, 2005
I'm not one for looking back, but a friend asked me to name my favorite albums from 2004. So here's the list that I put together:
Air - Talkie Walkie
Bjork - Medulla
Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands
Einstuezende Neubauten - Perpetuum Mobile
The Faint - Wet from Birth
Iron and Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
Mono - Walking Cloud ...
Nick Cave - Abattoir Blues
Sonic Dragolgo - 3 7-inches
Telefon tel Aviv - Map of What is Effortless
Vincent & Mr. Green - Vincent & Mr. Green
This list includes only music released in 2004. When I look through some 2003 releases, I see a lot of music that I started listening to last year. This includes Michael Nyman (The Actors), EyvindKang (Virginal Co-ordinates), and William Basinski (The Disintegration Loops).
But enough of the past.
Some people complain that I don't update this site as frequently as they would like. That's because I haven't found a robot who is capable of automating this duty. Until now...
Okay, RoboPascoe will not be posting here. Sorry if I got your hopes up. Instead, I found this amazing site called Audioscrobbler. These folks make a plugin that relays back to a free hosted Web page every song that your computer plays (on your player of preference). My page is here.
The last thing I want is to turn this into a comercial! But if you want to know what kind of music I'm listening to, check this page out. It's updated live, so you can see what I'm listening to at this very moment.
And for the record, happy new year.
© Jim Pascoe. All Rights Reserved.