Wednesday
    Oct072009

    Appearances

    I did a few interviews recently that have just hit the web.  Check them out:

    The first is for Bite My Review, and the questions are a ton of fun.  I really had a good time doing this one.

    The second is for a podcast called Q's House.  Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication when we set this one up.  When he told me he'd call me at 11am I didn't realize he was based in Florida - he assumed I knew he meant 11am East Coast Time.  Then, when he woke me up with the call at 8am my time (I know, I get to sleep in, poor me) he decided to just keep recording and do the interview anyway.  So if you want to hear me totally incoherent as I try to put a sentence together and wake up at the same time, give that one a listen.

    Also, I was lucky enough to be asked back by the awesome film nuts at the /filmcast to talk about Zombieland and The Invention of Lying.  It is a long show, but great.

    Hope you enjoy these - I'd love to hear your feedback below.

    Saturday
    Aug222009

    Re-Kindle-ing old habits

    I just finished reading George R R Martin's first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones, the other night - and I'm about 6 chapters into Book 2, A Clash of Kings, as I write this.  Wow, what spectacular, exciting fantasy writing.  Vivid, compelling characters (is anyone cooler than Tyrion Lannister?), intriguing, edge-of-your-seat plotting, and best of all, superb use of language.  I feel a tinge of regret at not having read these novels earlier (especially since the announcement of the HBO series adaptation makes it feel a bit bandwagon-jumpy of me).  I remember when I re-read the Lord of the Rings before the first Peter Jackson film was released, I wanted to go right to another epic fantasy story, and a friend told me about Martin's Song and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.  I went with WoT and was pretty disappointed with it, which ended my epic fantasy lust fairly quickly (Jordan fans take heart, my girlfriend at the time picked up The Eye of the World when I set it down and promptly consumed the entire series with gusto.  One reader lost, but another gained).  No doubt if I had made the other choice I would be one of the numerous impatient throng, clammering for the completion of A Dance with Dragons.

    But this blog post isn't about A Song of Ice and Fire.

    I also read the last half of A Game of Thrones on my brand new Kindle, a delightful birthday gift from my buddies and co-hosts over at the Totally Rad Show (thanks, fellas!) - and really grew to love the experience.  I always thought the Kindle was a solution in search of a problem (what's wrong with books?), but having one now has made me a believer.  I feel I'm reading quicker, easier, and - let's face it - cooler than I used to.

    But this blog post isn't about the Kindle, either.

    No, this blog post is about reading.  Reading in general.  As someone who happily makes his living talking about movies, tv, video games, and comics, I am struck once again by the narrative advantages of the novel.  As much as I love those other artforms, no other medium can match the thrill, richness, or depth I experience while reading a great book. 

    I've come to the conclusion that I tend to be a cyclical guy by nature.  I can get into something very heavily for a while, leave it for a time, and return to it later with as much (more?) enthusiasm, causing the cycle to repeat.  Reading is a great example.  I'll find myself an excellent book, fall in love with it, and spend hours on Amazon, planning out my next few reads.  I'll actually take a break from the book I'm reading to get lost for a time in the (wonderfully) infinite loop of Amazon lists and recommendation pages, based on that book, to see all of the cool, previously undiscovered experiences that await me when I finish it.  It is as if the joy in reading the current book creates a line-up of promises that I then use as incentive to finish it.  "So excited to read Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind," I'm saying to myself right now, "but not until I've gotten through the four Song books."

    Yet somewhere, somehow along the line, life seems to conspire to steal me away from the reading experience.  I'll find myself not reading - worse, not wanting to read.  One step in my chain of promises might be less than thrilling, and I fall out of the habit of reading.

    But when the inevitable return happens - when I move along the cycle to the point (as I am now), where I rediscover the unmatched joys of losing myself in a great writer's words - I wonder why the hell it took me so long to get back into reading!

    So... here, at long last, is really what this blog post is about:  This blog post is a reminder to myself to pick up a book.  Hopefully, when that down-cycle in my reading pattern inevitably comes to pass, I'll find myself editing this blog page, and I'll glance down a bit and see what I wrote here, and maybe, just maybe, I'll make some time to pick up a book, and cut that "not-reading" part of the cycle a bit shorter.

    And maybe you're in your down-cycle, too.  Maybe you haven't read anything great in a while.  Maybe seeing this post can have the same effect on you.  I'd love to see some great recommendations of excellent reads down in the comment section, something to inspire me or another reader to try something new.  To grab a book.  Because, damn, there really is nothing better.

    Oh, and no spoilers for Song, please!!  I'm reading as fast as I can!

    Thursday
    Jun252009

    New Rules: Video Game Edition

    Hey game developers!  Here are a few rules I wish you'd use when making your next game:

    1. Never, under any circumstances, use a countdown timer in your mission.  What a cheap, frustrating way to add "urgency."  Seriously, you can't think of a more interesting way to challenge me than to put a clock on the screen?  Lame.

    2. Be smart enough to know when I'm safe to quit.  If I literally JUST saved my game and am now exiting to the main menu, don't tell me "Any unsaved progress will be lost."  Why isn't the game smart enough to know when I've saved and when I haven't?  Any simple word processing program since 1982 has that feature, can't a highly advanced video game system do the same?

    3. And while I'm at it: Have a smart checkpoint system!  Don't want to just let me save the game anytime I want?  Ok, I can live with that.  But you'd better not force me to sit through the same cutscene twice, or get back into a car just to drive to where the mission starts, or re-complete any objectives that were part of a mission.  Anytime the game updates me on my situation, there should be a checkpoint.

    4. Minimize the time between when my character dies and when I can get back to playing.  My frustration level is in direct proportion to how long it takes between dying and trying again.  Granted, I'm no expert on the intricacies of game programming, but if I've just been running around the Big Library, why does the game have to re-load the Big Library when I restart?  Isn't it there all along?

    5. Don't ever make me defenseless.  I know you're in love with your snazzy rag-doll physics, but please, if something knocks my character back and triggers the rag-doll animation, don't also make him vulnerable to being shot at the same time.  I'm so happy I survived the blast that rolled me down the hill, but I'm riddled with bullets from enemies on the way down, completely unable to defend myself.  Frustrating!

    Have any more rules you'd like to see added to this list?  Reply below!

    Monday
    Jun082009

    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily...

    Way back before I ever started doing the Totally Rad Show, there were two audio podcasts I would never miss, week after week: 1up Yours and This Week in Tech.

    Sitting at my day job, dreaming of doing something similar, I'd listen to those shows wishing I could throw in my opinions with all those personalities I respected.  When I started running to train for my first marathon, those audio shows were with me.  I'd forbid myself from listening to them while I wasn't running, so my desire to hear the newest episode always motivating my training.

    And this week, in the SAME week, I was actually a guest on both shows.  What?  Whose life is this?  On the scale of things you can brag about to your parents, I suppose this doesn't rank very high, but for me it is pretty incredible.

    It has been an amazing couple of years doing TRS, and I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who listens to us each week in the same way I listen to my favorite shows.  I just wanted to take a step back and note a pretty cool moment.  Sometimes dreams do come true :)

    Oh, and in case you missed them, here are the episodes I was fortunate enough to sit in on:

    TWiT 198

    ListenUp 6/02/09

    You may also want to check out my recent appearance on /Filmcast, a newer favorite show of mine.

    And to everyone reading this, thank you for all your support.

    Thursday
    May282009

    Why run? An Unapologetic Cliche

    I am proud to say that on May 25th I completed my third Los Angeles Marathon with a time of 5 hours 23 minutes.  Not my best time, and not particularly impressive for serious runners, but for me it was an accomplishment.  I can tell you, running 26.2 miles is the most difficult, painful thing I've ever done, and it doesn't seem to get any easier year after year.

    So the obvious question is... why the hell do I do it?

    Well, let me answer that question like this: The most common response I get from people when I tell them I've run a marathon is, "Oh, I could never do that."  And the thing I always say is, "Yes you could." 

    You know how I know?  Because I thought the same thing.  I was never a runner - still don't feel like one.  I had friends in high school who ran Cross Country and I remember thinking how foreign and out of reach that was for me.  Then, four years ago, a friend of mine ran the marathon - a friend who I didn't think was in particularly better shape than I, who wasn't really a runner, but who just decided to do it.

    "Well damn," I thought, "if he can do it, I should be able to do it" 

    So I decided I would, too.  And really, that's the thing.  Making the decision.

    There is nothing more powerful than knowing you can't do something and doing it anyway.  There are so many things in life that I cannot control, but deciding to run is completely up to me.

    You know how they say it is all mental?  Wow, is that true.  The process of running a marathon is a titanic struggle between two warring factions in my mind.  There is the army I brought with me - the guy who set out to do this, who has a goal, and is full of optimism.  Then there is the opposing side, the guy who creeps in along the way who, for the love of God, just wants to STOP!

    "Just stop running!" he says.

    "But, I've got to do this.  I want to get a better time!" my side responds.

    "I don't care!  No one cares!  Why do YOU care?  It doesn't matter!"

    "But I'll care tomorrow.  I'll feel terrible."

    "You feel terrible NOW.  Every step hurts!  Why would you do this to yourself?  Just make the pain stop!"

    And it goes on like this for miles.  Sometimes my side wins and I keep running hard.  And sometimes the other side wins, and I slow down (which is why I didn't achieve my under 5 hour goal).  But the process of that mental battle is absolutely empowering.  I've learned so much about myself.  And despite the pain, it is an experience I return to because my army gets a little stronger each time.  Even better, I have the chance to bring that same army to bear in other areas of my life, to know that all I have to do is keep going forward and I'll win the war.

    So there you go.  My sappy inspiration for the day.  I do it because I didn't think I could.  I cannot recommend enough doing something you think is impossible.  It doesn't have to be running (I also cut red meat out of my diet years ago, something that with my love of steak and burgers I thought I wouldn't be able to do, either).  If you do, I'd love to hear about it.  I can sure use the inspiration for my army, too.

    And if all else fails, at least rent the documentary Man on Wire.  That dude REALLY does the impossible.