Merry Kitchmas!

First, I would like to riff on last week’s post with a video of Alton Brown reviewing some ridiculous single-purpose kitchen accessories. Shining above the rest in how much it it makes us shout, “Whyyyy?” is rollie, because someone actually thought, “You know what would make my life better? If all my food came in tubular form.”

This year I’m baking a cheesecake, a recipe my mother modified to use dark chocolate making it a hundred times more flavorful than anything I’ve had at the Cheesecake Cafe. (I’ll add the recipe to this post along with pictures later.) The last cheesecake I baked was one of my best, due to the pizza stone I shoved in my crappy old oven to help regulate the temperature, as well as the crust I made from scratch.

I used to use Oreo crumbs, as everyone else does, but when I dug the box out of the back of my cupboard I noticed its best-before date was sometime in 2012. Good thing I tasted before using them, because they no longer tasted like food at all. The desiccated crumbs tasted of nothing but bitter chemicals that made my lips slightly numb. I was damned well not going back to the store, nor giving Nabisco anymore money for that crap, so I spend over a couple hours trying to find a substitute recipe online.

It was ridiculous. Almost every recipe out there calls for pre-made cookie crumbs. I wasn’t about to spend a bunch of time making chocolate wafers only to crumble them up then add extra butter and sugar to bind them together in another form. As I said, it took a couple hours, but finally I found this recipe. It turned out better than any cookie crust I’ve ever made. It’s funny how it’s called a “mock” cookie crust, seeing as cookie crusts probably started out as mock crumbles. But, as I said, cookie crusts are now so ubiquitous it’s difficult to find a recipe for making them from scratch.

As a final note, the complete antithesis to what I’m doing has to be this miniature hamburger kit from Glorious Nippon. It’s another video that makes me go,“Whyyy?” It probably takes twenty minutes to assemble, in meticulous detail, this tiny abomination they dare to call food. I can see a kid enjoying it exactly once and, after tasting the first flavored playdoh hamburger, letting the rest dry out to become proper play food instead of trying to pass it off as something edible.

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Taking Out the Trash

I dedicated myself to getting rid of all my useless physical stuff earlier this year. I think now (though this could just be a symptom of general frustration) it’s time to take out the mental trash.

Desperate to come up with a blog post this week (because of course I waited until the last minute in the current state I’m in), I went through my idea bin and found almost all of it crap. Every stray idea I had to write down, yet didn’t feel compelled to elaborate on at the time, has less worth than a penny – that is, it took more resources to generate than it was worth. I took the time to write this crap down. Should I waste more time going through those ideas and deleting most of them? What’s the point?

I suppose writing the dumb ideas down in the first place helped me get them out of my system, so it saved my brain more energy than if I’d let them idle in my mental parking lot. Going through them now has also been enlightening, because I can tally up how many ideas I turned into something worthwhile and how many lingered unformed because they’re utter crap. I could work out a ratio of garbage to good ideas – and I don’t know what the point would be other than making myself feel better.

Going through my idea bin, chucking things out, feels as therapeutic as doing the same thing with physical junk. Maybe this is what the end of the year should be for. Why not? I spend way too much time feeling guilty over such compulsions, telling myself I’m dicking around, when maybe I have this compulsion for a reason. I suppose, for a week (no more), I’ll follow it and see where it goes. If I find my mind lighter after cleaning out my files, I’ll consider it time well spent – and then get on with more constructive things. Stupid brain.

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Why Some Fantasy Franchises Fail

There’s a pattern I’ve noticed in failed movies trying to make the next Harry Potter out of a book series that had reasonable sales. They’re usually big budget, with tons of gorgeous CGI and special effects, and hit the box office like a cold lump of lead. There are a lot factors, I’m sure, in what makes a movie box-office poison, but the biggest one in fantasy movies, particularly those aimed at kids, is this: a missing sense of fun.

Now, I say fun because “sense of wonder” is what all those films are going for. The problem is a “sense of wonder” isn’t enough if the movie’s a dreary slog. Perhaps it was back in the 80s, when The Neverending Story captured a whole generation’s imagination despite being incredibly depressing. What I’m saying is vicariously getting to ride Falcor the Luck Dragon made up for watching a horse drown in the mud.

The Neverending Story eventually got a sequel, but much like part 2 of the book, it was a hundred times more unpleasant and deservedly tanked. All I’ll say about the second half of the book is it lives up to its title because no one’s ever finished it. Most films following the The Neverending Story format never get a sequel these days. After all, who wants to waste their time watching a humorless hero go through a thankless quest just to see a unicorn when there’s more enjoyable fantasy fare out there?

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Why I’ll Never Sell Out

Because nobody’s buying my shit. Har har.

Seriously though, the term “Selling Out” has been abused by hipsters and douchebags for so long, using it now flags you as one, like the words “sky wizard” or “crotch spawn” or “sheeple.” Yet while trying to figure out that point where something you like becomes a souless mockery of itself, I found no other term as useful, so let’s unpack its baggage, shall we?

The term Sell Out has been characterized to mean the following:

  • “When everybody else jumped on the bandwagon and now I can’t get a good seat anymore. Boohoohoo.”
  • “When my favorite band stopped making music I like in favor of literally anything else. Damn them for trying to stretch their creative horizons. I wanted the same old graunchy shit again and again!”
  • “When my favorite thing appeared in an advertisement. How dare they use their IP to shill products of any kind. All money is poison!”

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What Makes Good Design?

The simple answer to this question is: whatever looks good and does the job. But that’s hard to quantify, so let’s break it down. Here are the basic rules to making yours designs not look like crap:

 

The information is readable.

 

Believe me, I’ve seen people screw up this basic requirement. Back in art college, I and a couple other students were tasked with making a poster for our art show, and I actually got into an argument with them over some stupid font they thought looked cool, but was totally illegible. They wanted to use it for where the show took place, when it was, and all the other important information people needed to know to go see the fucking thing.

To make extra-sure what you’ve done is readable, take a step back and look at it from a few feet away. Then look at it again sized down to a thumbnail. Is the most essential information still readable at a distance or tiny?

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How to Murder an Earworm

So I’ve managed to stick to my vow to write for an hour minimum every day, but all I’ve written is crap and I haven’t been able to edit it because I’ve been sick the whole damned week and my brain is fuzzy and no does grammar good. So without further ado, here’s a load of crap:

Don’t you hate being earwormed by a song you hate? My hatred for certain songs comes close to being full on misphonia. I mean, I get seriously enraged. It’s not healthy. I’m not going mention any songs in particular, because that would be like telling someone, “By the way, here’s my anti-Kryptonite, the thing that will turn me into the Incredible Hulk. Feel free to fuck with me for a laugh.” (By the way, the blog post will be extra sweary. This is unfiltered shit you’re getting here.) I’m exactly like this bear, and yes I even love Gary Numan so much that playing We Have a Technical is the secret sauce to chilling me out from an angry high.

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Sudden Comprehension of Writing Failure

I once again find myself struggling to get my weekly blog post up in time. The one I had planned is still a mess. I spent way too long trying to rewrite it from scratch, only to delete every single word. My head is also a mess, partly due to me having a sick day. I was going to take that as an excuse, but after putting off working on this post for the past two days, all I’ve done is set myself up to fail on the day the work is due.

I’ve engineered my own failure simply by falling out of the daily habit. My post/week schedule has often led to me only writing once a week, which is not enough if I’m going to write something weekly worth a damn. A weekly blog post has been a good tangible goal. It’s at least kept me honest, as I’ve not completely failed to deliver so far – even if I’ve got a few in a day late.

However, I’m past the point where just getting it done is good enough. I insist what I post be more than merely passable, which means putting in enough time to not just do a first and final draft, but get a second draft in as well. My first drafts are hot garbage, and cobbling them into something reasonable takes more than one edit – always – and too often I let myself forget this and post something sub-par.

Today’s post is an example of sub-par shit. All I’m doing is berating myself, and posting it in public to hammer it into my head with shame. So, in the interest of writing something useful, here is what I must do to avoid this dilemma in the future (apologies for having to break my one-fuck-per-article rule, but this needs to be said in exactly this way):

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Your Generic-Ass Cover Makes Me Think There’s a Generic-Ass Book Inside

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Screw that. We all do, which is why you need to get your cover right. It’s the first thing people see. Before they figure out what your book is about, the cover has already made an impression. If that impression is boring, I don’t even let the title sink in. I’ve already gone on scanning, for a book that stands out and looks sexy.

So what makes a book cover uninteresting? How about rows and rows of samey shit. I don’t care if it’s as slick as a movie poster. If your cover is some Photoshopped stock model jobby with a dude on a horse, or a leather chick in the boob-butt pose, or some corseted lady swooning in Fabio’s arms, all your cover says to me is: “This is a McDonalds burger, just like every other McDonalds burger you’ve ever eaten.”

This is all some people want. I get that. I’m not here to denigrate that choice (much). I’m writing this for the authors who want to find success by standing out, not blending in. If you haven’t written the literary equivalent of a McDonalds burger, then holy crap do not package your book like a McDonalds burger. Avoid slick movie-poster covers, because everyone has one. Everyone but the trad pubs…

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Ethics for Dudebros: The Golden Mean

You may think Aristotle was just some boring old Greek philosopher dude, but he taught Alexander the Great how to conquer the world (most of it anyway) so Aristotle totally knew his shit. He was a dude who knew how to live the good life, and he laid down how everyone else could be good dudes too, by following what he called the Golden Mean.

The Golden Mean is our scale for being a Chillbro. It means if you go too far with something, you’re being an Asshole, whereas if you’re not doing enough, you’re being a Douche. Being a Chillbro means sitting comfortably between the two extremes. According to Stotes (Stotes is what I call my main man, Aristotle), there’s 12 ways you can be awesome (Virtues), but 24 ways you can fuck it up (Vices), so there’s two Vices to Each Virtue. Here’s a chart to make it nice and simple:

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