A (Semi) Long Weekend

Image Source: http://fitnesscorner.ca/august-long-weekend-hours/

First of all, thank you to everyone who liked yesterday’s post. I really wasn’t expecting such a positive reaction to a fairly negative–okay, let’s call what it really was–a mini-rant, of a post. I’ve been dissatisfied for a while about the way creative writers are treated at my university and I’ve wanted to speak out, but knowing that several in the graduate school read these posts, I’ve been hesitant to speak out. However, I’ve had such a terrible and eye-opening week at the same time, that for good or ill (probably ill knowing my luck), I refuse to stay silent about it any longer. I’ll call it out periodically, but for now, I’m going to say thank you to everyone who responded and move on to a different topic.

Spring Break (Sort of)

So, my university’s Spring Break has come and gone (and I was sick for every moment of it), but my second job is at an elementary school and they’re on Spring Break this week. While I could have asked off for most of the week, I did not (& I’m glad I didn’t as I needed the diversion of something else to do thanks to the downright crappy week that I’ve had at my university). However, today we’ve finished all our tasks and a new supervisor is coming in on Monday, so we have the day off. Now, normally I would go home on Saturday mornings, but today (hopefully) I plan on leaving early and if so, will do some much needed yardwork on Saturday morning (when I’m normally driving down).

Taking a Break and Planning My Future

So, while I will (hopefully) get a little rest, I would like to also take a moment and decide on my future with the program. I’m 3 years into a 4 year program, so it seems a waste to throw those three years away, but I’m so unhappy right now, it isn’t even funny. I plan on playing a game or two, but mostly I plan on putting on some music and doing some much needed creative writing. After that, I’ll probably cruise the internet and see what my options are in terms of the schools, jobs, and the like. I have a teaching license that doesn’t expire until 2022, but I don’t really enjoy teaching at the K-12 level. So, realistically, I’ve thrown away 5 years of my life getting a degree (Master’s of Education) for a teaching job that I don’t really like (K-12 education). I really enjoy teaching college students, but I don’t enjoy all the extroverted “B.S.” that goes along with getting the degree to allow me to do that and advance. So this weekend is going to be a lot about figuring out what are my options. I’m also hoping to catch up on some movies that I’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix, so hopefully there will be new content on media (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) soon.

Anyway, thank you all for listening and have a great weekend!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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The Big Squeeze

Bearded man with a Foot on his Face
Image Source: https://www.nojitter.com/big-squeeze

One of the most frustrating things about graduate school (well, there are many which I’ll probably do individual posts about for the next month or so) is the fact that it is my writing time that gets squeezed in the process of “becoming more educated.” I’m not very appreciative of the fact that, as writer, my time for writing every week gets slowly wittled away as I have to complete more and more assignments which touch on, ironically, writing and the theories and applications of the writing process. My Master’s Degree is in both Rhetoric and Writing and my Bachelor’s Degree was in English: American Language and Literature (with a Concentration in Writing), which just means that I took extra Writing courses on top of the required literature courses. Writing is instrumental to pretty much everything that I am and/or do as an individual and citizen.

We Want You To Write–Just Not What You Want To Write

One of my greatest sources of frustration with the educational process in general, and the way Rhetoric and Writing is treated in particular, is the fact that we privilege the teaching of writing as something that is both special and magical in terms of allowing students to find their own voices/means of expression, but also a craft and requires work through revisions, and yet, the program I’m in does not actively privilege my creative writing endeavors. Only a handful of people in my “community” know that I “Dragonhawk” was accepted for publication and not a ONE of them is a professor. Not to appear boastful or braggadocios, but this is a success that pretty much all my professors of writing should be happy about. I’m able, at a high level, to use the techniques that we teach our students (inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, revision, consideration of audience, and perseverance to see it through to publication) to create and shepherd a work to fruition.

No Conferences = No Credentials

No, I’m not talking about the conferences professors hold with their students. I’m talking about conferences that academics attend to present papers and the like. That’s really the only true measure of graduate student’s success. How many conferences did you attend? How many papers have you presented at a conferences. I both understand and am appalled at the process at the same time. Conferences, let’s be honest, are built for the extroverts who love being with other people. Sure, if you’re an introvert, you can (sorta’) get by just attending panels for the ideas and information. But, to use an old analogy–there’s as much noise (socializing) that occurs at a conference as there is signal (information/ideas). Conferences, while stimulating and fun, are not the end all and be all of an academic’s existence–which is what they are at the moment that I write this.

Value ALL Academic Expression

The main reason why this blog has been spotty this semester and that I’ve had very little time to concentrate on anything writing related, is because I’ve been fully committed to writing, reading, and working for class and for both of my jobs. I’m not really happy as the results for all my hard-work have not materialized the manner that I would have expected after giving so much of myself–and foregoing so much of my creative output in order to do all of this work. I think that if I felt that I could talk to (and get praise from) my professors for the creative work that I have done (and am doing), this would go a LONG way to assuaging the dissatisfaction I feel in that others are being treated better because they are playing the “academic” game, whereas others, who are not, seemed to be “looked down on” (and I’m not okay with this. I’m using the exact same techniques in my own writing life that are good practices (using brainstorming methods to come up with ideas, engaging with the material, drafting–including multiple drafts, getting feedback on my writing, incorporating feedback through revisions, and persevering through multiple rejections until I find a market who is willing to accept the story). The fact that I’m made to feel that my writing endeavors are not worthy in lieu of someone else who simply attends a conference is very distressing to me as a writer.

Hopefully, after this (very) disspiriting semester is over, I can get back to writing (and enjoying the things that I write) more frequently. Right now, I can say that irregularity of the blog is simply a symptom of a larger set of issues and hopefully, regularity will return when I can address the larger problem of being made to feel that my worth as a creative writer is less than someone who just enjoys playing the “academic game.”

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

The Death of Critical Thinking (or Buy, Buy, Buy!)

Image Source: https://blog.education.nationalgeographic.org/2017/01/20/12-things-we-learned-this-week-8/ultimate-critical-thinking-worksheet/

Okay, so there’s something that I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that has come to a head with the launch of Anthem–the idea of being a “critical thinking” is under assault like never before. Now, this is nothing new–politicians often want to sway public opinion. This has been the case in western civilization throughout history so there’s nothing new there. However, when I was in school, both in elementary school and high school, we (as students) were taught look at a situation, a work (literary or entertainment-based), a problem–whatever it was, and analyze it critically. The goal may be different–how to navigate an unfamiliar situation, how look at a non-fiction work to for its educational properties, how to decipher what is the better value, and so on. However, tied into the rise of the idea of “alternative facts” and “fake news” is this idea that social media knows all and is the ultimate arbitor of who you should be and what you should be doing, irregardless if it makes sense for your life. And–if you can’t tell–I’m not okay with this.

They’re called “Influencers” for a Reason!

Now, “marketing” has been a major for in American capitalism since their ascendence in the 1950s (see Madmen), but before social media, the focus was on the product and on the competition. How can we make our product better (or more competitive–which isn’t necessarily the same as better)? How can we show that our product is better than our competitor’s product? How can we increase our market share? Now, however, the marketing departments are targeting the consumer. For instance, Mike Ybarra, an executive for Microsoft, took issue with the critical reviews of Anthem. Okay, we get it. You would like Anthem to be this awesome game that you can then use to promote the X-Box “brand.” However, ignoring the flaws in the game and spending money on an experience that you will probably dislike doesn’t do you, the consumer, any good, while it does help the company’s bottom line. I’m so incensed about this because there’s this idea that that reviews are no longer relevant–they’re old, outdated. You should be watching a “streamer” play the game. I’ve heard this at least twice from two different people in the gaming industry.

No, No, and NO! Reviews are part of the critical conversation that is essential to the critical thinking process. The best reviews provide pros, cons, and context to the piece being reviewed. A streamer (or influencer) plays the game and the company relies on peer pressure to influence your purchasing decision. Look at how much fun this person is having–or if it is like Anthem, see how pretty the game is, surely the problems can’t be that bad. Rather than allowing you to make an educated decision as to whether something is valuable and/or useful to you, they’d rather use the pressure of your peers and the appeal of the product to sway your decision. And I’m not a fan.

Toe-May-Toe or Toe-Mah-Toe, it Still Equals Tomato, Except On YouTube.

Think this isn’t truly the case–then take a look at pretty much any comments section of a YouTube video, especially one where the speaker pronounces a word differently than others. Beta is something that is usually (in America) pronounced as (Bay-Ta), but some people pronounce it (Bee-Ta). However, there’s no room for individuality on the Internet–everyone has an opinion. For the Beta video that I’m referring to, pretty much every third commentor was focusing on the speaker’s pronunciation of Beta–not the actual news story that the Beta. Social media relies on the idea that all the “cool” people are doing this, so you should be doing it too. Don’t like that movie, what’s wrong with you, don’t like that game, you’re so square, love that show, everyone knows its crap–why are you even watching it?

Others can be swayed by this “death-by-peer” mentality forced on us my the various social media platforms, but I value my critical thinking skills and will continue using them. Corporations–want me to buy your product? Give me a good product at a fair price. If that’s too hard, then no amount “hype” from streamers/influencers is going to sway my opinion. Governments–want me to believe you? Show me, not by your words, but by your actions.

A critical review is a thousand times more useful than social media–and I’ll fight tooth-and-claw for my right to continue to exercise my right to think for myself–as much as corporations and governments may hate it.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Starlight, Starbright (Sci-Fi Short-Story — 2nd Draft — “Opening Incident” (2/5 sections)
  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Image Source (includes printable goal tracker): https://www.happyorganizedlife.com/goal-tracker/

So, a quick note: yesterday’s blog post directly relates to my desire to simplify my life. It was a “quick hit” post, meaning that I didn’t have time to write a formal, longer post, but still wanted to get a post done for the day and out there, so when I’ve run out of time, I’ll use either the “quick hit” format, or the “potpourri” format to quickly write a entry if at all possible. That should both simplify my life and allow me more consistency with my entries. And now . . . back to the regularly scheduled posts.

Last year, especially in regards to school, I managed to complicate so many things about my life, from the courses that I took as well as the design philosophies of my own course. 2019 is all about simplification.

Weekly Goals

I’m okay at weekly goals. I generally have a sense of what I need to accomplish week-to-week and order my days accordingly. I’m not really awesome with Daily Goals, as sometimes I only achieve one or two, while making up for them earlier or later in the week. Generally speaking, I know what I have to do in a given week and I use the days of that week to get it done–again, how much gets done simply depends on my mood/time, but generally speaking, I accomplish weekly goals, even if I don’t always accomplish my daily goals. I’m using this to help generate rough drafts, character sketches, and pre-planning materials as well as submitting finished materials to markets.

Monthly Goals

This is (usually) where I shine. My mind is “pre-programmed” to think in “chunks” of months. From Pre-K until graduating High School, my uncle took me to the public library for books, every month. I say every month because the loan period at that time was 28 days, with one 28 day extension period (now it is only 3 weeks, with 100 renewal periods which doesn’t work for me and I don’t check out nearly as many books). My allowance was also monthly and I had to calculate my wants and desires to the monthly schedule my parents set forth. My brain is literally “hard-wired” to think in months as I have always had to decide what books I was going to read/buy in a monthly calendar, allocating enough time to finish them, or making them last depending on whether I was renting them from the library or buying them with my (limited) supply of money. I’m using these to finish stories (2nd and 3rd drafts), and draft longer works, like scenes in my Graphic Novel.

Yearly Goals

So, I’m only okay at yearly goals. Usually, these are too far out to plan for as I don’t know how much time I’m going to have available. It is easy to say in January that I will have a novel/screenplay finished in December, but there’s no way of knowing what will happen in the intervening months. So, rather than trying to focusing writing tasks around yearly goals which I’ve done is some fashion or form since the late 90s/early 2000s and been disappointed every time, I’m going to keep my writing goals nebulous. I hope to finish the Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel this year, but if I don’t, I’m not going to be disappointed and I’m certainly not going to give a time-frame. The first 3 months of the year, I know I need to be a reading, reading, reading, to prepare for a major test in the middle of March, so I’m not going to stress if very little in the way of writing happens during Jan-March. Something has to give, so there’s no need putting additional stress on myself by saying I need to write 3 scenes a week for 52 weeks or else. It isn’t going to happen, not with that very important test looming in the near future. Same with the nebulous screenplay and novel that I’d like to write. If it happens great, if not, no pressure. I do have two school related things that need to happen this year (one of them the test that I mentioned), and I’m going to put all my efforts towards those and if I happen to accomplish any of the writing ones as well then hey, bully for me!

So, finishing up, I’m really working on simplifying my life (esp. my writing life, but in other areas as well) to see if I can become a more productive writer and human being in 2019. Wish me luck!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Walmart’s Running a Surprisingly Rhetorically Aware Ad (via Scam Awareness)

Video Source: Scam Awareness — https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDfPhRbYYHKUbVgbaRfAUgQ?feature=embeds_subscribe_title

So, I was standing in line today at Walmart (I went to price TV stands for my apartment at school) and they had this ad running on their TVs over their Money section. I wasn’t really paying attention to it, but I happened to see the captions playing underneath the action and I happened to read it and found it to be very rhetorically savvy, especially for a store like Walmart (no, offense to Walmart or their customers is intended, rather Walmart isn’t, by its own admission and pricing structure, a Macy’s or Nordstroms, or other upscale retailers.

The Best at What It Does

This is an (older) tagline for Wolverine, the marvel anti-hero who is now an icon in popular culture. As a pure brawler/warrior, Wolverine styled himself as the “best at what he does.” The same could be said for this advertisement/PSA as it truly does what I have tried to do in this past semester. I won’t bore you with a scene-by-scene breakdown, but it challenges the viewers perceptions in terms of ethos (credibility of the speaker), pathos (appealing to the viewer’s emotions), and logos (a logical, fact-based argument). I actually want to start with the last one as it pulls a “fast one” by giving a statistic, but then not giving any source for that statistic, but trusting in the viewers’ ability to be swayed by simply throwing numbers/statistics around. The ad acknowledges what it did in a very clever way: it straight tells you what it did and then leaves you, the viewer, to draw your own conclusions from that knowledge. It then makes you question your assumptions. Similarly, with ethos and pathos, the ad makes you question the speaker–is this a “good” guy, does he have my interest at heart or his own, is he trying to scam me or is he just informing about scammers, etc. The authors of this video play with ambiguous lighting, a morally “gray” character, and verbal trickery, to try to mimic the ambiguous nature of scammers and their scams and the inclusion of bits of truth mixed with lies in order to throw you, the mark, off target.

Too Guillible

Right now, many of our youth–I’m speaking generally here as there are, as always, exceptions to this rule, are simply too gullible when it comes to matters of credibility. They confuse entertainers and having a good time with being a credible source. Just because someone is famous, doesn’t make them credible, and yet, I see it all the time in class. So many students defend stars or people whose methods don’t yield results, simply because they “know” of them, or because they “enjoy” them, but denigrate those who do get results because they are unknowns or because their styles are not a flashy or flamboyant as the “stars.” While I intend to use this commercial/PSA in future classes, I don’t think that it will do much good until we can get students to understand the fact that just because you like what they have to say, doesn’t necessarily make them “credible”–not until you do some digging around on your own to see if they are really as credible as they want to appear to be to you, the viewer.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Happy 2019: Annual State of the Blog Report

First off, Happy New Year! Hope that you’re having a great start to the New Year and that it treats you well. Let’s all resolve to make 2019 a great year!

Top Ten Posts

10. Nostalgia Review: AD&D Pool of Radiance (SSI Goldbox AD&D Game) for the Commodore 64: This one is fairly surprising to me as D&D is still popular, but this game was the beginning of (successful) translating of the D&D rule-set for computers that is also a great game. SSI, the company making it, had cut their teeth on war game, but they really knocked it out of the park with their “gold box” D&D games.

9. Commodore 64 Nostalgia: Kung-Fu II: Sticks of Death (or Caveat Emptor): If the number 10 post was surprising, this one was pretty much shocking. I never thought that anyone would be interested in this particular post and/or game, as this was a shocking example of misleading advertising. This game, among others, helped teach me the value of independent reviews.

8. 250 Words = 1 Typed Page: This is the first one on the list that I’m not really surprised to see in the Top 10 posts. We all are crunched for time, and a fully typed page seems so long, but when you add in the correct font and the correct spacing, a fully typed page doesn’t have a lot of words, only 250 words. Just think–1,000 words is about four full pages. Now we just have to turn that knowledge into Action!

7. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Season’s Greetings: So this is the post I did for 2017, but many people found it relevant for both years. Christmas wishes and holiday greetings are ALWAYS relevant!

6. Black Panther vs. Spider-Man: Learning How to Navigate Social Interactions through Comic Book Trading: I’m glad to know that both the characters of Black Panther and Spider-Man are enjoying a resurgence. They were massive popular in the late 80s/early 90s, but faded away with the popularity of anti-heroes like Wolverine. It’s good to know there’s still a place for true heroes in today’s anti-hero loving world.

5. Author’s Note: Here Be Monsters: I’m actually not sure why this one has made the list. HBM is one of the stories that I thought would sell based on the amount research that I did for the story, but it is one that I’ve sent out approx. 5-6 times this year, but publishers didn’t decide to take it. It has been accessed quite frequently this year, however, so I don’t have an explanation for it.

4. “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”: This is sorta’ my “statement of purpose.” Sci-Fi and Fantasy are a huge part of my life and THE reason that I’m such a great reader–I found my niche as a reader early in my childhood and now I just need to find that love of reading and being a successful reader into my love of writing and becoming a successful writer.

3. The Outline’s the Thing (to Catch a Story) Redux: This post is the one that I’m very glad is so high on the list. This is part of my own personal writing philosophy (& my teaching philosophy). While I understand the writing process is different for various writers, I contend that the outline gets an unfair rap as something that is restrictive or binding and shouldn’t be used, especially for creative writing. Outlines allow you to tell the story to yourself first and then look for places to dramatize the story.

2. Great Actors in Small Roles: Madalyn Horcher as Sgt. Leach: I’m really gratified that others are reading this post as I thought Madalyn Horcher’s performance was something special, but I haven’t seen her in other mainstream projects (that I follow, at least). It’s easy to give your all as a “mega” star, but to give your all in a small, “helper” role, is truly the mark of a great actor.

1. Ranking Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Movies–My Take (2018 Edition–now updated with Thor Ragnarok & Black Panther): This, again, is the number one post of 2018. Right now, we really, really like Marvel movies. During the month of April, there was fever pitch excitement for Avengers: Infinity War and it translated to this post’s viewership. I feel like I let the reader’s down as I actually didn’t get a chance to see this one in the theaters, but I might try to get there in 2019 for the 2nd part as I see the readership really like Marvel! To quote the late Stan Lee, “Make Mine Marvel!”

Well, that’s all that I have for today–a look back at the OtherWorlds blog through the popularity of the posts. I hope everyone has a great, productive, and successful 2019!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

“I Need the Rest”

tired meme: dog sleeping
Image Source: https://www.frankiesweekend.com/2016/01/what-im-doing-wrong-on-rest-days.html

The title of today’s blog comes from Tommy Lee Jones’s character at the end of the movie, The Fugitive. He gave 110% trying to catch Harrison Ford’s character and then pieced together the puzzle of the mystery at the heart of the movie (yes, it’s an older movie, no I won’t spoil it for those who’ve not seen it).

The image above (thanks, Frankie’s Weekend) is a visual representation of me during this semester. I gave 110% in terms of trying to teach my classes while taking classes as well as working part-time. I’m sorry that the blog took a “hit,” but to be honest, it wasn’t the only thing. My creative writing also suffered during that period. When you’re grading papers at 3 am in the morning, after trying to write a 15 page paper and study for an exam within two days of each other, things just get a bit dicey.

2019 — Trying to Get Back on Track

Before the end of the semester, 2018 had a lot of great refinements to both the blog and my creative writing. My goal (or resolution, if you prefer) is to continue to build upon the successes of last year. While I’m striving for a daily blog, I may have to realistically aim for 3 entries every week, and use the weekends to “stockpile” entries for when I get overburdened with school/classwork. I’m also trying to find a consistent time to write–these shorter times work for blog entries, but are unsatisfying for short stories. I’m still in search of the perfect writing time/space.

2019 — Creative Writing

So, in 2018, I wasn’t able to publish any of my creative writing. I also didn’t really finish any new pieces, although I started on several. I did, at least, find a way to submit work and to keep it circulating to give myself a chance at publication, but the stories were the older ones that I finished that most publishers just don’t seem interested in while the ones that I’ve started are in various stages of “production,” but none are really ready to market (in my opinion), so I have to keep submitting the older ones. One good thing is that I found a “system” that works for me: I submit my stories “weekly” now–write on the weekdays and submit on the weekends. I’ve been able to keep 1-2 stories out each month, for the past two months using that system. As I finish newer stories, I can add them into the rotation, and hopefully, they’ll see publication by sticking to this system, so that’s one area where I can now say that is no longer broke, so I don’t need to fix it anymore and I can put my energies to figuring out other areas of concern in my writing process.

Well, that’s all I have for today. Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2019!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)