Sunday, 5 June 2016

Avatars, Anime and Apps

The word of the week is ruminate.

May 30 – App-B-Gone

Crash, crash, and crash again.

Sometimes, you don't realize how often checking FBook is as part of your day, when you suddenly can't do it anymore. Like when my phone's official FBook app decided to stop working completely after the latest update, as well as after an uninstall / reinstall.

Ah well. Made me look up alternatives, which is always fun.

After looking askance at more than a few apps that purported to 'do it better' than the official FBook app, I settled on one called Swipe, which hooks into FBook's mobile site to display information about your social account. From the reviews, it looked to be solid, regularly updated( with far fewer bugs than the official app )and most importantly, light on phone resources - unlike the official app.

Using it all this week, I was impressed enough to shell out a few dollars for the Pro version, which among its better features allows you to exclude keywords from your newsfeed. So Trump, Kayne West and all their ilk are now blissfully missing from most of my daily reading, which alone is worth the price of the app.

It makes me wonder how a huge, deep-pocket company like FBook can't manage to improve its bloated app while others can do so with seeming ease...

May 31 –  Korra

I've been a bit distracted the last few months, but in a good way.

Watching The Legend of Korra on NetFlix has been an eye-opener for me, in that I had no idea how good the series was. Airtight writing tied into fully developed characters and wonderfully laid-out plots awaited me when I finally got around to watching and I've had to limit myself to a few episodes every other day to avoid the dreaded phenomenon known as Netflix binge-watching.

Kudos to those responsible for making the show.

It takes a ton of hard work to create something truly worthwhile, and the irony is that the majority of that work goes unremarked by most who see the end result. For an animated television series, there are many components: the artwork, the animation, the voice acting and of course the writing that is the seed from which everything grows...

All these combined perfectly in Korra, and it shows. At no point did I wonder what was happening, what the characters wanted or whether I was interested in what was going on: the show swept me up with gently cradled hands and carried me along with the characters as they experienced the events unfolding.

Just some of the great characters in the show

I found it inspiring as a writer and for that reason alone, I'm glad that I've been watching as much of the shows I have these last few months. With my own inspiration flagging since last summer, it's been a real struggle to visualize the end results of my own creative efforts and seeing a masterpiece such as Korra helps me greatly to talk back into my own hard work that still lies ahead.

And I still have one more season of Korra to finish watching...!

June 1 – More Time

Looking at my calendar lately, it's pretty empty. I like it.

I've divested myself of most distractions, to better concentrate on what's important. Now that another month has rolled around, I'm ensuring that what ends up in the calendar are only vital things, like family and friends and little else. My writing group's activities seem to be self-supporting this year, 6 months in, and I'm looking to keep it that way. Even my critique group is only meeting once a month at this point and since I don't have any new material, there's little I can do to contribute apart from critically reviewing the work of the other members.

It's funny how when I look back, I needed to find time to do so many things yet never felt a sense of accomplishment when I managed to scratch a few things off my ever-growing To Do list. What I've done in the last six months is put many of those things on several smaller and more concise lists: Write Today, Do Now and Get Around To Later - just having three lists means I can better juggle everything overall and not feel a daily dissatisfaction and not getting so much done as I think I should.

It's been a difficult year so far in 2016, for myself and some family members.

My anxiety has, through daily effort, being got under control and I'm making progress towards being much healthier with regular exercise and decent eating. My sleep is still somewhat scattered, though I'm finding that by going to bed earlier and waking up around 6 AM is helping stabilize things for me.

Stability, I think, is my main goal for the rest of 2016.

To date I've managed to achieve mental stability and even a good deal of financial stability, though that's still got a long way to go until I can just watch my bank balance grow without eyeing it askance every day. Personally, I'm doing wonderfully well with my girlfriend and my family - for the most part - seem to be on an even keel though it's been difficult for my sister of late in some areas. But I'm there to help her, as are my parents, and were getting through things together.

My goal is to have a calm summer, full of writing and relaxation and not worrying about the future nearly as much so I can concentrate on enjoying the Now.

June 2 – Building Dreams

It's incredible what people can do when they put their mind to it.

That old saw of a phrase is exactly what popped into my head when I saw this pop up in one of the Dark Crystal FBook groups that I'm a part of:

This extremely talented person is putting together a screen-accurate cosplay of a Garthim from the movie by Jim Henson. It's staggering what he's already managed to accomplish in a few weeks and I think the final result will be essentially mind-blowing in its effect.

Did I mention that this is exactly what I wanted to create back when I was in grade 5?

Back then I didn't have these skills nor the resources to put together anything even remotely like this, plus the proper materials to create it were not widely available - the original suits were made out of fiberglass and weighed upwards of 60 pounds each, far too heavy for the kid to wear or even move.

Decades later, it's simply amazing to see my childhood dream come to life, albeit under another person's hands. All the same, I'll be watching closely to see what the final product's like, with an eye towards re-creating it for myself one day.

There are some costumes that you just have to wear, especially if there are childhood dream come true.

June 3 – Sim Easter Egg

What would my week be like without a bit of Neil Gaiman?

As one of my writing idols( along with Ray Bradbury, among many others )he's always managed to surprise me with his work, and today I discovered a piece of his I had no idea existed... because it was hidden inside a video game!

Back in 1994, the PC game Simcity 2000 was released. I'm pretty sure I have a copy of it, though I can't seem to find it among my collection now( which surprises me )and I had no clue that it contained some of Gaiman's early work!

Apparently, when you selected the library in the game, there is a menu that popped up, one of whose options was 'Ruminate' - when selected, up came a 1000-word whimsical piece about cities that Neil Gaiman had penned! Here's an excerpt:

It's wonderful glimpse into the fantastical world of his mind and I am quite grateful to have run across it in the wilds of the Internet. Even 20 years ago, it's clear that Gaiman's imagination could carry him to places that most others had not dreamt of... and that his ability to so clearly share his experience of those places is what makes him such a great writer.

All the more reason to better my own work!

June 4 – Heat Headache?

What glorious weather!

The temperature shot up today to the mid-20's, with clear skies and blazing sunshine heating up Vancouver Island from the early morning hours: lovely!

My sister and I joined my parents out for lunch at Nourish, a new Vegan restaurant, occupying a spacious century-old home located in swanky James Bay. We were seated inside at a bay window with the sashes open to let in the cool breezes, though I was still rather hot; I seem to be far more sensitive to temperature these days, and even just wearing a T-shirt with shorts was making me sweat today. We enjoyed our lunch together to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday, milestone that were all pleased that she's reach given the numerous medical troubles she's had over her lifetime, including a recent minor discovery that we hope will be mitigated in a few months’ time with proper care.

Unfortunately, my head began to throb just after lunch and I spent most of the afternoon in bed with a debilitating headache, nixing my plans to enjoy it outside on a patio as I did yesterday reading my copy of the Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer. A few Tylenol and some serious shut-eye managed to eliminate it by the evening however, and I was quite grateful not to waste the whole day.

In the evening, my girlfriend and I watched several episodes of the first season of Star Blazers, a series I've been eager to introduce her to as it was so formative to my own creative psyche and interest in sci-fi so many decades ago. I've mentioned it before and I will say again: this is what made me want to write Space Opera, and it still holds up today more than thirty years later.

June 5 – Even Hotter!

Holy summer-scorchers, Batman!

The temps here shot up to a blistering 28C today, but didn't feel higher as the humidity's dropped quite a bit. I was again thankful to be living in a ground floor apartment facing north and west that only gets direct sunlight on the front windows for a few hours each evening. Even that is mitigated essentially by an overhanging balcony and a very large tree by the roadside, which can raise the temperature significantly unless the front blinds get mostly pulled across.

All the same, I felt fairly relaxed and comfortable in my place with a fan going as I wrote and read for most of the afternoon. My girlfriend wasn't feeling well this morning( I think the lack of humidity was bothering her )and thus our plans for the day went by the wayside... but I'm hopeful she'll be better with some rest, which is worth taking the time for. 

I decided to test myself a little today, and went for a walk to get some groceries. With a hat, and water, and keeping to the shade as much as possible, I ambled about twenty minutes to the downtown Market on Yates, where I enjoyed the cool air from the refrigerated section until I was ready to head back home... which went without a hitch. The humidity is a startlingly low 30%, which means that yes, it is a dry heat that's settled onto the Island for today and tomorrow both.

So I'm thinking: test passed, I may sweat but I'm just fine walking around sensibly in the heat, as long as I stay out of the direct sun for any length of time... and as long as the humidity's low. I won't have to feel anxious about going out to enjoy the temperatures, as long as I'm smart about it - which is the way it should be, right? And it’s great that the sprinklers come on in the evening out the front, which helped cool things off nicely:


Getting the blog done early( by 8pm! )was nice, as it meant I could relax for a few more hours before bed and get some reading in. Since I now wake up regularly at 6am, I've been trying to hit the hay around 10pm, to get a little balance in there and make for a restful 7 hours of sleep. With less preying on my mind of late, I'm hoping that I'll be waking up far more refreshed in the mornings in the coming months, perhaps enough to get some writing in before work... who knows?

Thanks for dropping by. I'm afraid things aren't going to be as... exciting as they've been these last few months, what with trips to WA and ON and all that, but I'm pleased to say that it's probably for the best: I've got work to do and can't really afford too many distractions from that worthy goal...