Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Predictions

I returned to blogging this year after a pretty long hiatus, and decided to go with a clean slate. As I look back at 2011, I have to say that I didn't realize how much I missed posting to the blogosphere until I got back into the grove of doing it. As much as I love writing, I absolutely enjoy reading everyone else's stuff. You all are just a hoot. So I thank you, not just for reading, but for writing posts that make me laugh, think, get angry, and get to know you a little bit.

Now I will shift gears and look forward. As I gaze into my crystal ball, here is what I see for 2012:

The iPhone 5. Not only will it speak and answer your questions (from the mundane to the vital), but it will actually make decisions for you. The new iPhone 5 won't even wait for you to ask. It'll just tell you what to do. And if you don't comply, you will lose all of your iTunes music and contacts.

Amazon. This juggernaut will dominate how we buy books, and we will be inching even closer to ebook sales making up 50% of ALL trade book purchases. The Big 6 will continue to fight back by pushing ebook prices up to protect its paper sales. But they will lose, as readers will turn to smaller presses and self-published works.

Facebook. The internet version of crack will continue to screw around with its platform until no one can make sense of anything, thus everyone will switch over to Google Plus.

Ebooks. The quality of self-published books will continue to improve, and readers will be more willing to take chances on these brave pioneers. Although there will still be a lot of crap out there. Right now, I will put 60% of self pubbed stuff in the "crappy" category. In 2012, half of self-published books will be on equal footing with NY Times bestsellers.

Netflix. This company with the most stupid CEO in the universe will survive. Somehow. How much longer beyond 2012 is a crap-shoot. They keep making people angry, and that's not a way to run a business. I mean, I can only watch Troll Hunter so many times.

Justin Bieber. He will completely overhaul his image, starting with the hair. He don a big mohawk, followed by all kinds of tattoos, wearing leather with spikes on it, and singing a new kind of heavy-metal/grunge fusion. And a new doll will come out to help perpetuate this new image.

A&E. They will come out with a new show titled: Beyond Ice Road Hoggers and Hoarders That Pick Storage Pawn Parking Intervention Wars. And it will be a big hit! The Discovery Channel will fight back with Surviving the American Dirty Logging Chopper Guns vs Wild Mythbusters.

Young Adult Paranormal Romance. This genre will continue to evolve and solidify, but readers will tire of vampires, werewolves, fall angels, and demons. We will see more dystopia - more edgy stuff that will be sure to challenge young readers more.

Young Adult Readers. Oh, and with Kindles getting so cheap and in the hands of younger people, young adults will actually read more young adult literature than full grown adults. Meanwhile, adults will still venture into the YA world, hoping to relive the drama of their youth.

Dr. Oz. He will be the new Oprah. Dr. Phil, meanwhile, will challenge him to a battle in the Octagon with Suze Orman as referee.

The Apocalypse. Mayan Calender be damned! The end of the world will not come on December 21, 2012. December 22 will come and go, and Black Friday will still be dominated by the Early Birds with no sign of the End Times. Life will go on.

Just ask Justin Bieber...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's The Holiday Season...

So whoop-de-do, and hickory dock...

Lots going on, and I'm going to shut it down for the next week or so. I'm not disappearing totally, as I hope you will find my goofy comments on your blogs in the next several days. But there's so much on my plate that I just won't have time to think of anything witty to say on here.

My day job is stressing me out, as I just learned that they want to relocate me. Very far away. And not anywhere exotic. (Sigh). So I have some pretty heavy decisions to make.

I just received my copy of my signed publishing contract for The Dragonfly Warrior, and I still can't believe it's happening. I've been a "hack" for over fifteen years now, and it took a lot of rejection, frustration, and hard work to get to this point, so thank you for all of your support and encouragement.

Finally, my thanks go out to all of you who wished me a happy birthday. I am getting old. Literally standing on the very precipice of my 30s. One gentle gale away from being pushed over that hill and onto another decade. Kinda sucks. But not really.

I will be back to post just before the New Year, so Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, my wonderful blog friends.

Oh, and enjoy this fun little video of a very creative way to dispose of those old Christmas trees.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Songs We Love To Screw Up

One of the greatest joys in life is listening to what people think some misheard song lyrics are. Growing up, I KNOW I completely ruined songs with what I thought I heard. For example, when The Clash came out with "Rock the Casbah," I was 9 years old and I thought in the chorus, he was singing:

Put your weenie on the side yea. Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah.

But the proper lyric was: Sharia don't like it. Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah.

This is what's called a mondegreen.

So in the spirit of Christmas, I give you a bunch of holiday songs either I personally have misheard or maybe was in the presence of someone butchering a song using the wrong lyrics to these treasured classics.

Winter Wonderland. Later on, we're perspire. As we dream by the fire...

Deck The Halls. Deck the halls with Buddy Holly, fa la la la la la la...

Strike the heart, enjoy the florist...fa la la la la la la...

Noel. Noel, noel. Noel, noel. Barney's the king of Israel

Carol of the Bells: Gaily they ring, white people sing, songs of good cheer, Christmas is here...

The Christmas Song: Jeff's nuts roasting on an open fire. Hot sauce dripping from your nose...

Faliz Navidad: Pa-leaze Mommy's dead. Pa-leaze Mommy's dead.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful: Sing choir of angels, sing on eggs on stations

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you buy my slave tonight?

* * * *

What do the follow people have in common: Alyssa Milano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Criss Angel, and me? We all share the same birthday - December 19th.

Man, I am getting old...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bah Humbug Blahg Fest

Christmas is a time of joy and happiness. Where we hold high the ideals, and hope for a better world. Unfortunately, there's a lot of garbage that gets in the way. So in the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, I give you my twelve Christmas annoyances:

1) Early Bird Specials. First of all, I hate early birds all year-long. At garage sales for example, these early vultures stalk the neighborhood, trying to get stuff cheaper than a quarter. During the holidays, it's much worse. Why would stores deliberately want to entice these cranky shoppers so early in the morning?

2) Giftcards. Nothing says "Hey, I really don't care to think too hard about you" like a stupid giftcard. Personally, I'd rather receive a hand-written note. Something even a little more personal. One year, I got two giftcards to Starbucks. And I don't drink coffee!

3) Bing Crosby. Okay, normally I like the guy. But I HATE his version of White Christmas. It's overplayed on the radio, I hate his crooning runs (reminds me of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon), and whistling gets on my nerves. The only whistling I can stand is from "Walk Like an Egyptian." I will say that Bing and David Bowe's "Little Drummer Boy" is both creepy and very good.

4) Atheists. I'm still trying to figure out how you can believe in nothing. Isn't believing in nothing still believing in something? Atheists are angry all year-long, but Christmas seems to bring out the hate. Leave the Christmas lights alone, don't protest having a tree in the classroom, and just go on believing in nothing over there in the corner and let the rest of us sheep have our fun.

5) Spoiled brats. I once went to a Christmas get together, and my family was actually the only group not part of the hosts' extended family. So when they decided to open presents, it was a two-hour depression-filled show of watching all of these kids get mountains of expensive gifts. All the while, me and my brother and sister are just sitting there in awe. I felt like crap. And I'm sure my parents felt like crap. But the people opening all of their gifts looked like they were having a good time.

6) Nutcrackers. First of all, I hate the word nutcracker. Second of all, these stupid things don't really crack nuts. They disintegrate in my hands. Probably made in China.

7) LED Christmas lights. These things do not give off the warm glow of Christmas. More like a harsh blast of electric radiation. They might last longer, and be more efficient, but the strange hue these lights emit make your house look radioactive or like a long lost ship from the planet Krypton.

8) Lexus Commercials. First of all, the people in these commercials are beautiful. Secondly, they are young. Thirdly, it's obscene to think that people actually do this shit in real life. Dealerships can even provide you with a big-ass red bow to go on top of your luxury vehicle gift, you materialistic good-looking yuppie bastard.

9) The Must Haves. Why don't people realize that they are being controlled by advertisers. Growing up, I watched news footage of grown mothers beating the crap out of each other for a Cabbage Patch Doll. Then it was Tickle Me Elmo, Furby, Zhu Zhu pets. Look at #5 on my list. Parents out there, don't give in to the hype! Stay strong. Don't be a drone.

10) The War on Christmas. Look, there's no WAR on Christmas. Just calm down people. There happens to be a bunch of other holidays going on this time of year. Yes, Christmas is Christmas - the king of holidays here. And yes, there is a little of that political correctness going on. But let's not be sensitive pricks like the atheists. If anybody has a right to be angry, it's the pagans. We Christians just ripped the solstice from right under their feet 1500 years ago.

11) The Post Office. I think ebay has killed any morale you might find within a postal office. On top of that, dump Christmas gift shipping and long lines, and you've got yourself the perfect storm for at least one huge outburst from some grumpy person on either side of the counter. That's why I now go to the drug store for stamps.

12) People who complain about Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Blahg Fest Bloggity-Doo

At the stroke of midnight, I will be Scrooge-o-licious and give you my top 12 Things I Hate About Christmas.

For more about this Blahg Fest, go to Grumpy Bulldog's Blog

Monday, December 12, 2011

Science Fiction Becomes Science FACT

Science fiction is not merely fantasy, made up of the dreams of an imaginative author. Even dreams can have a basis rooted in reality. And sometimes, maybe science is actually inspired by the works of speculative authors. For example, H.G. Wells is one of my all-time favorite authors, and he dreamed up quite a bit of fantastical technological wonders in many of his works.

He wrote about men landing on the moon, a giant bomb that killed using radiation, and he imagined giant machines coming to invade our Earth, shooting lasers at us - long before lasers were invented. Indeed, many things Wells wrote about has come to pass.

So I give you just a handful of the many wondrous science fiction technologies that have now become a reality:

Drones. You're hearing quite a bit about drones doing all kinds of survailance and actually firing weapons upon unsuspecting enemies in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Iran recently admitted that it had captured one of our drones and is reverse-engineering it. But drones have been in science fiction for some time now. I remember Frank Herbert's Dune books containing killer drones. I remember the 1980s Flash Gordon movie there was a drone zipping around and shooting people. And of course, with the AI takeover of Skynet, you had drones flying around dispatching terminators all over the place and wiping mankind off the face of the Earth.

Jurassic Park. Okay, well not quite yet - but according to recent scientific articles, scientists are close to being able to take the DNA preserved in permafrost of the long-extinct Woolly Mammoth, and through the power of cloning, actually create a living specimen. It's a little freaky, but it sounds so cool. Pushing aside any of the moral implications, could you imagine going to the zoo and watching a real Woolly Mammoth walking about?

Hoverboard. It's become an iconic science fiction film scene. In the movie Back to the Future II, Marty McFly  jumps onto one of these beauties and somehow gets away from a pissed off Griff (Biff's cyborg grandson). I remember when the director, Robert Zemickis, said that hoverboards were in fact REAL, but were deemed too dangerous for kids. But reality is just around the corner. Although the hoverboard is not ready for mass marketing, a French artist created a working hoverboard!

Cyborgs. For me, the first real cyborg I ever saw was Darth Vader. Part man, part machine. Science fiction is full of them, especially comic books. There's even a comic book hero named - Cyborg! But you think cyborg technology is only in sci-fi? Wrong! Scientists have developing all kinds of human interface/mechanical parts to help amputees. The US military, in fact, has several prototypes of robotic exoskeletons that soldiers can wear that will enhance their abilities. Mech Wars anyone??? But the one example of cyborg technology that is just amazing is the one developed at MIT to help the blind see again.

Time Machine. To me, this is the Holy Grail of science fiction technology. How many TV shows, books, and movies have employed the use of time travel? Quantum Leap is one of my all time favorites, along with Doctor Who. Christopher Reeve might have been able to travel back in time just by thinking about it (there's a word for that, and it's schizophrenia). But a Russian scientist claims to have built a REAL time machine!

Although everyone knows you can buy one on ebay:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paranormal Frenzy

I spent two hours at a local Barnes & Noble the other day, and of course I ventured over to the Science Fiction/Fantasy section. And I noticed that the Paranormal Young Adult Romance section was sitting right up next to it. Granted, it had been a long time since I had gone into a big book store. But what struck me was the amount of books in that genre. The second thing that caught my attention was that a vast majority of them were marketed to females.

But just on the other side of the book display was the regular Young Adult stuff, and even that area was pretty full of more paranormal books. Now I'm not going to tackle teen paranormal romance right now, as that deserves it's own post. But I did want to talk about the popularity of everything paranormal.

As you probably know, paranormal is hot right now. But why?

Stories dealing with the paranormal is nothing new. X-Files, Stephen King, all the super hero movies, The Twilight Zone, The Ghost Whisperer, any of M. Night Shamalamalammading-dong's movies...dealing with things that go bump in the night is nothing new. Authors have been writing about vampires, ghosts, werewolves, UFOs, people with powers, etc. since forever.

The big shift is that the paranormal theme is hot among teens. Growing up, I read Goosebumps. Those in their upper teens/20s grew up with Harry Potter. And of course, the book that really propelled Paranormal YA Romance, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series and the billions of copycats that have followed it, has put paranormal subject matter up front and center.

This world is just full of all kinds of tragedy. On September 11th, America had lost its "innocence" like no one had ever seen since the attack at Pearl Harbor. Our country has been in an economic tailspin going back to 2007. Mom and/or Dad has lost their job. Houses foreclosed on, forcing families to vacate homes and move to a new town. In the information age, eyes and ears are everywhere - so we know about more murders, beatings, and heroes that have fallen and let us down. All in the blink of an eye.

We live in a very uncertain and oftentimes cruel world.

The paranormal strikes a deep-rooted nerve within many of us in our thirst to understand the unknown. To try to make sense of the senseless. Geez, adolescence is already such a difficult and trying time when young adults are trying to figure out who they are, who their friends are, what the world is like, and what their future holds. For a teen, the world is one big uncertainty where bad things can happen to good people. And that's scary as hell.

In many of these books, the protagonist has powers and is able to use those powers to save the day. Often, that main character is an outcast or was quite ordinary until the powers manifest themselves during puberty or something. Or maybe the protagonist falls in love with someone with powers. The common denominator here is that you have teens coming to terms with maybe being different, or dealing with change and the unknown, and in the end coming out ok. Maybe even end up being a hero. Or being loved. Or being accepted. Or at the very least, understanding a little bit more about life and learning about some of the things that we, in fact, can control. The unknown isn't so scary.

Stories dealing with the paranormal is not only appealing, but it's therapeutic. Reading these books might give teens a sense of  empowerment, maybe help them gain a little more insight into this crazy mysterious world.

And that is quite normal.

*I took a lot of adolescent psychology in college, and then I was a high school English teacher for five years. On top of that I coached sports. I even coached the girls tennis team where the truth of female adolescent behavior and attitude slapped me across the face. Hard.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Earth-Shattering News

Two quick things:

1) NASA is confirming the discovery of another planet nearly identical to ours. Earth 2.0. The only problem is that it's 600 million light years away (3,521,828,160,000,000 miles).

2) I have been offered a contract to publish my current WIP, The Dragonfly Warrior. More details to follow!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ray Bradbury Wants the Kindle (to be on) Fire

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a classic. One of the pioneering books in the dystopian genres, up there along with Brave New World and 1984. When I read it in high school, it showed me what thoughtful and powerful science fiction could be.

Since it's publication in 1953, it has sold more than ten million copies. It's an eye-opening science fiction novel that has proven to be so incredibly prophetic. The story of a future society controlled by the state where reading and books are banned (and burned) is not really about censorship, or how important the printed word is. In fact, it brings to light the very definition of what a book really is.

To me, the message is clear: what is important is the power of words. The power of the emotions words evoke in you. Words express and contain the human experience. In the novel, the government destroys books, so a band of rebels memorize the them word-for-word. The bound paper might be up in flames, but as long as the words remain in their minds - that's something no one can take away. Memorizing the books is how they preserve the survival of their culture.

That's why it's amazing to me that his great work in just now going to be available in ebook format, despite the author's previous protests.

A couple of years ago, Yahoo! asked Bradbury if they could put one of his books online. His response: "To hell with you and to hell with the internet." In fact, he once told the NY Times that ebooks "smell like burned fuel."

So I went to my Kindle and sniffed. I disagree. Ebooks smell like gummy bears.

Anyhoo, but Bradbury finally gave in when he renewed his contract with Simon & Schuster, and part of that deal included making all of his works available in ebook format.

I find Bradbury's protests very ironic. First of all, I had no idea that the man was still alive! Apparently he is. Secondly, it's funny how the man that wrote a novel that tells us the written word transcends mere paper and pen is so vehemently against ebooks.

It's obvious that the man hates all technology. His book also attacks television and other media, saying that they are a distraction. Just last year, he told the LA Times: “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.”

But with ebook readers, no need to burn books. Just hit DELETE.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Does Grandma Smell Like Toast?

This is one of my favorite posts - originally posted in 2005 on my old blog, The Phoenix - Where Science is Stranger Than Fiction. I'm not being lazy, but just waxing nostalgic. Enjoy!

Warning: The following post is a little if you're faint of heart or you are eating, you might want to skip this. I know you sickos will keep reading, of course...

On July 2, 1951, Mary Reeser brought Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) to the forefront of scientific investigation. Her death is so bizarre, it really defies logical explanation. Ms. Reeser had said goodnight to her visiting son and was last seen sitting in her easy chair of her modest St. Petersburg, FL apartment. Her neighbor, Ms. Carpenter was awakened by smoke, and traced it to Mary Reeser's door - which was scolding hot.

What firefighters and police found was immensely gruesome and incomprehensible. Mary's 170 pound body was nothing more than 10 pounds of ashes, her skull that had shrunk to the size of an orange, and her left foot completely intact. The room showed signs of heat damage - plastic was melted on switches and outlet covers, melted wax from her candles, and her chair was severely damaged. But that was it no widespread fire damage at all. Dr. Korgman of the University of Pennsylvania that performed the pathology exam was baffled. He said it would take temperatures of more than 3000 degrees to do destroy a body so...especially the bones.

With that much heat generated, the entire apartment - the entire building - should've gone up in flames. It's a classic case of SHC. So what happened? Is SHC real?

There are several theories out there:

1)Alcoholism...probably perpetuated by Charles Dickens in one of his novels where a drunk spontaneously combusts. They did an experiment where they saturated human flesh and tried to light it. Sounds like a Beavis and Butthead episode to me. The flesh didn't burn much.

2)Divine intervention...this was popular in the 17th century, particularly in the less-education population. I guess the thinking was you look at your cousin in the wrong way and God will turn you into crispy toast for having such lewd thoughts.

3)Build up of static electricity...ok, I tried this in the 5th grade. The library had thick lush carpet. I dragged my feet on it for almost 20 minutes straight and shocked the hell out of Todd Weber. He screamed like a girl and told on me...but he didn't shoot up in flames.

4)The "Wick Effect"...this is the most widely accepted scientific explanation. In 1999, the BBC TV show QED showed how SHC was really not such a mystery. They believed that body fat could indeed burn for a long time. So they did what any British scientist would do - they burned a pig! They took a pig, wrapped it up in a blanket (ha), put some petrol on it, put the pig in a room, and lit 'er up! The result? Tasty bacon on English muffins with tea in the morning.

5)Build up of methane gas...this theory was made popular by the renowned investigative TV show South Park. Here's an excerpt from one of their episodes where Kenny apparently spontaneously combusts:

Mayor: All right, people. Scientist Marsh and I have been working very hard on the problem of spontaneous combustion, and we have finally come up with a solution. Mr. Marsh?

Randy: The little boy combusted because he had a new girlfriend. It wasn't the girl that caused him to combust, it was the fact that Kenny did not want to pass gas in front of her. The methane gathers here in the bowel area where it causes pressure. Normally a person would expel this byproduct in the form of a pleasant fart. Should the gas not be expelled, the methane can build up and then ignite, leading to... disaster. Kenny combusted because he held his farts in for too long.

Townsfolk: You mean, all we have to do is fart and we won't explode?

Randy: Exactly. [after a while, a fart is heard, then more farts follow as the townsfolk release their gases]

Mayor: So, from this day forward, everyone in South Park will be required to fart on a regular basis to insure that nobody else spontaneously explodes.

So please, take spontaneous combustion prevention measures at regular intervals and whenever you deem neccessary.