August 30, 2015

Going Down Well-Worn Grooves...

How do you spell "silk"?

Now say it five times.


What do cows drink?

How many of you answered milk?

August 27, 2015

From Tragedies To Feel-Good Movies -- The "Little" Movie That Changed Hollywood In The 1970s

I found this interesting quote from a Vanity Fair article which talks about how movie (and, really, storytelling trends) can suddenly change. I mean, can you believe that the original Star Wars movie had at its beginnings been considered a "crappy little adventure film"? Neither can I. Anyway, it's still fun to note how it changed the industry back in the 1970s:

What people sometimes forget about the first Star Wars was that when it hit theaters, in 1977, it was startling not just for its revolutionary special effects but also for its unabashed sense of fun. After 10 years of haunted, pessimistic, even nihilistic hits such as Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, The French Connection, The Godfather, Chinatown, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Network, and Taxi Driver--films in which more often than not the heroes, such as they were, ended up compromised, defeated, or dead--there was something radical about a movie where the good guys win an unambiguous, bell-ringing victory, and receive medals in the final scene to boot. As Time put it in a big 1977 feature about Lucas and Star Wars, "It was a weird idea to make a movie whose only purpose was to give pleasure."

The rest of the article where I got this quote from talks about how trends change, with notably interesting takes on scifi back in the 1970s, as well as the whole uproar that's been surrounding Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman and her somewhat more controversial (yet realistic--yes, the truth does hurt sometimes) portrayal of white America in the 1950s aound the time of the Civil Rights Movement. And, frankly, now that I've found out more about its background, I really want to read the book!
Anyway, you can check out the full article on Changing Tastes here.

August 26, 2015

Where Is Everybody? -- The Fermi Paradox

From the Hubble telescope
The current calculation out there right now regarding how many stars are in our universe come to a gross count of 10 trillion * 100 billion stars (or 1 with 29 zeros after), living in over 200 billion galaxies (and the number keeps getting larger as our technology improves). So we could be talking about 10^24 planets here, and that's just within our own, known universe.

Of course, the question begs to be asked: Are we alone out here? And if not, where are our cousins?

Nearly 50,000 galaxies in the nearby universe detected by the Two Micron All Sky. Source.
I mean, doing the math, if only 0.1% of the currently estimated billion of habitable planets in our galaxy has intelligent life, and of those only 0.1% have beings with an intelligence like ours or higher, that still leaves 1000 possible planets. Just in the Milky Way alone.

August 25, 2015

Commercialization Of Literature

Photo by Richard Avedon
"It's possible that the fact that literature has been commercialized now in a way it never was before has had an influence. That is, the fact that people now talk about "bestsellers," that fashion has an influence (something that didn't used to happen). I remember that when I began to write, we never thought about the success or failure of a book.
What's called "success" now didn't exist at that time. And what's called "failure" was taken for granted. One wrote for oneself and, maybe, as Stevenson used to say, for a small group of friends. On the other hand, one now thinks of sales. I know there are writers who publicly announce they've had their fifth, sixth, or seventh edition released and that they've earned such and such an amount of money.
All that would have appeared totally ridiculous when I was a young man; it would have appeared incredible. People would have thought that a writer who talks about what he earns on his books is implying: "I know what I write is bad but I do it for financial reasons or because I have to support my family." So I view that attitude almost as a form of modesty. Or of plain foolishness."
~Jorge Luis Borges 

A Stance On What A Political Party Should Be Like (1930)

I was reading this article on 100 years of politics in Belgium since its independence in 1830, and found the following quote to be quite interesting, especially in today's complicated environments:

"A [political] party does not have a reason for being unless it possesses its own ideal which it pursues with  the conscious and tenacious effort to progressively achieve it, an ideal which is susceptible to arouse within its adherents enthusiastic impulses and fervors of faith.
Does that mean the party must adhere to an immutable dogmatism, whose rigid rule will be the norm of its activity? Definitely not. It must, on the contrary, understand that when it comes to translating its idealism into positive laws, that these can only be the legislative raiment adapted to the measure of the social being who wears it; that this collective being, through internal and external transformations, suffers all the phenomena of growth and development, health and sickness, and that yesterday's impossibilities must consequently become today's possibilities and tomorrow's inevitable. If such is not that party's concept of politics, it would soon become a power of blind conservatism first, of reaction next. From then on, its decline would sanction its divorce from the people's material and moral necessities whose destinies it would have the pretension to hamper."
~Albert Devèze, Un siècle de libéralisme (1930)

To read the rest of the article on belgian politics between 1830-1930, click here.

Creative Geniuses

Art by AnnSoDesign
"Ideas can't be created out of nothing. Ideas are created by you when you take something and combine it with something else." [Dean Keith Simonton] Logical thinkers will exclude the things that can't be combined and creative thinkers don't exclude anything.

Thus starts an interesting interview of Creative Thinkering's author Michael Michalko (which you can read fully here).

Michalko goes on to say that "genius is tantamount to th[e] theory of evolution, because genius requires the production of many ideas"--many through the forced and challenging combination of two dissimilar things--of which only a select few will survive (just like a select few genetic mutations that create new species will survive, while the majority perish). Or, as Da Vinci called it, "connecting the unconnected."

August 21, 2015

The Precious Language

17-18th century French salon
Once upon a time (during the 17th century, to be more precise), in France, lived a group of women who, tired of the crude jokes played at the royal court(1), took it upon themselves to prove they had just as much, if not more, wit than their so-called "stronger sex" counterparts.

That's when the salon was created, where the ladies playfully dueled with their quick and often satirical words, where they discussed such topics as trial marriages, and even divorce (would anyone be shocked they were for it?), and of courtly love(2), but also developed a particular kind of language, Le Langage Précieux, that had to follow certain rules such as, for instance, the fact that one couldn't call body parts by their actual names. And that tendency spread to other, if not all expressions, to the point that a dictionary would have to be used to understand them all.

Madeleine de Scudéry
famous Pr
Here are a few examples:

August 20, 2015

On Utilizing A Foreign Workforce

Jean Jaurès, French Socialist leader (1859-1914)
Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy reading and learning about economics and finance (among a plethora of other things, as I'm sure you've noticed).

Anyway, I fell upon this little quote (that I've translated from French for you), which I thought made for excellent food for thought. I think it's particularly interesting to note that this was said during a speech at the end of the 20th century...

What we do not want is for international capital to find its workforce in markets where it is the most degraded, humiliated, disparaged, to then throw it onto the French market, and to bring salaries around the world down to the level of those in countries where they are at their lowest. It is in that sense, and only in that sense, that we wish to protect the French workforce against the foreign labor, not, I repeat, out of a chauvinistic exclusivity, but to substitute international well-being to international misery.

~Jean Jaurès, speech "For a socialistic customs system" (Fr: "Pour un socialisme douanier"), February 17, 1894.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject?

August 19, 2015

What Would Have Happened If... Napoleon Had Won?

"Napoleon has humbugged me, by God." ~Duke of Wellington.

What if those words had held true the whole way through, even at Waterloo?

I found this interesting article while doing some research on a completely different topic (don't you find that happens to you a lot too? It's why I have this blog after all, to write down all these disparate and seemingly unconnected pieces of information I come across--you never know what might inspire another art piece!) which, after a lengthy talk on Napoleon's life and the reasons for the battle of Waterloo (a battle which shouldn't have taken place), gives the reader an alternative history theory on what could have happened if Napoleon had committed fewer mistakes during his last battle and managed to defeat Duke Wellington's armies and allies...

August 11, 2015

More On Vanquishing Writer's Block

I know I've written a number of posts already on writer's block (1), but I just wrote an answer about how to get over that wall on Quora and, really, how can one not write more about one of writers' most dreaded enemies?

So here's the basic gist of what I had to say...

Here are the two chief causes for my getting writer's block, and a few methods for how I deal with it.

August 6, 2015

King Arthur Is (Almost) Back!

Charlie Hunnam as the latest King Arthur
Photo by MARC HOM for EW
I've been a big, big fan of Arthurian legends ever since I inadvertently got my hands on Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, which also happened to be the book that propelled me into the world(s) of fantasy fiction.
In any case, I'm always really excited whenever I get to see more fiction or other works of art related to the noble king and his dashing knights, such as Barjavel's L'Enchanteur (another amazing take on the legends, for anyone who can read in French).

There was, for instance, this great French/Canadian musical called Graal with great songs (I particularly appreciate their Celtic flair) and vocal artists. It's really too bad I never got to see the full-on spectacle...

Is it therefore any surprise that, after a long while, I just couldn't resist and had to add my own take to a never-ending list of Arthurian tales? But unlike the upcoming movie, the Morgana Trilogy's Blood of the Fey and Rise of the Fey (the third and final volume isn't quite out the gate yet) are set in modern times (although there is this whole parallel universe going on with Avalon and the world beneath the lake). It's also thanks to a fan that I got to be introduced to the BBC's Merlin TV series as well, which ended a few years back (aaack, I can't believe it's already been 2.5 years!!).

Anyway, all that to say that legends of the Knights of the Round Table, and of King Arthur in particular, never cease to be a fount for inspiration. And that brings me to the whole point of this article: Guy Ritchie's own take of a 5th century Arthur is coming to a cinema near you in 2016 with none other than The Sons of Anarchy's engaging Charlie Hunnam (pics courtesy of EW).

August 5, 2015

How To Pick Your Book's Title

From Becoming Jane
I usually like to have an inspiring title already set when I'm working on a story. After all, I love to pick names whose meanings are relevant to the characters I'm giving them to (exceptions made for the Morgana Trilogy as I mainly used those already available in Arthurian legends).

Because titles are really important. The have to intrigue your targeted readers as much as possible, oeuvre d'art one thing during your whole writing period that you cannot change it later.
enough to make them pick your book up and read the blurb (which should then inspire them to read the first few pages of the book, which should in turn get them hooked into reading the rest of your work--a perfect snowball effect!). So it doesn't hurt to think hard about what title would best fit your story and your genre. But worry not, it's not because you've called your

Here are, for instance, a few famous book titles' before and after: