Monday, October 22, 2018

Faltering At the Finish Line

Like when I talked about DC's Dark Nights Metal, I'm going to talk about a comic book story.  So please, please, please resist the urge to say "I haven't read that" or "I don't read comic books" and actually read the whole article.  Or maybe just skim to the end where it gets to the point.  OK?

I've been a big fan of Tom King's writing on Omega Men, Vision, the novel A Once Crowded Sky, and most recently the Rebirth-era Batman series.  A big development in this series was that Batman asks Catwoman to marry him after a mission to kidnap the Psycho Pirate from Bane.  Where I left off, Batman had defeated Bane's attempt to get the Psycho Pirate back and Batman told Catwoman a story about a war between Gotham's villains led by the Joker and the Riddler.

The story then begins to focus more on the engagement.  Batman and Catwoman travel to Saharan Africa for proof to clear Catwoman's name for a crime she didn't commit.  This is to clear the way to being able to live as man and wife.  But Batman's ex Talia al-Guhl--the "mother" of his test-tube son Damian--isn't having this and so she squares off with them.

After this, there are a couple of stand-alone issues.  In one, Batman investigates a series of murders that seem engineered to implicate his enemies like Two-Face and Mr. Zsazs.  In the end, Batman finds the murders were conceived by a little boy who has a serious obsession with Bruce Wayne, to the point he had his own parents killed!  In another issue Batman and Catwoman go on a double date with Superman and his wife Lois Lane at a carnival.  Everyone is supposed to dress in costume so Superman wears Bruce's Batman costume and Bruce wears Clark's Superman costume.  And Lois Lane wears Selina Kyle's Catwoman outfit.  Selina gets the short end of the stick as Lois doesn't really have a costume.  Anyway, it's just kind of a fun little issue without any big superhero fights or anything.  There's a two-part thing after that where Batman and Wonder Woman go to another universe filled with demons.  They exchange places with the guardian of that universe to give him a day off.  Except a day in our world is like 40 years in the other universe.  So Batman and Wonder Woman fight monsters for like 40 years--though never age or anything--while this guy gets to hang out with his wife and stuff--until Catwoman finds out what's going on and makes him go back.  There's another stand-alone issue where Catwoman sneaks out one night and steals a dress from a bridal shop without Batman knowing.

Before the wedding are three more short arcs.  In the first, Poison Ivy has put a mind-control poison in all the world's food over a long period.  When she finally triggers her mind control, only Batman and Catwoman are able to get a cure in time.  In the end they recruit Harley Quinn who gets her friend Ivy to stand down.  This also serves a lead-in to King's upcoming "Heroes in Crisis" miniseries about heroes and villains in psychiatric counseling.  Another arc also probably leads into that event.  Blundering hero from the future Booster Gold thinks he'll give Bruce a gift by saving his parents.  But that creates an apocalyptic future where Gotham is even worse than it usually is and the Batman there is Dick Grayson, though he goes around with guns and stuff like the Punisher.  Ultimately everything gets put back to normal again.  The final arc before the wedding has the Joker ambushing Batman and knocking him out.  Catwoman goes to confront the Joker and they wound each other pretty bad before having a chat while lying on the floor bleeding out.  But of course they don't die or anything.

Issue #50 is the actual "wedding."  After battling Kite Man (Hell yeah!) they decide to get married at dawn on the rooftop.  Batman goes to kidnap a drunk judge while Catwoman busts out her best friend.

So after about 38 issues...Catwoman gets cold feet and leaves before dawn.  Because she was worried if Bruce Wayne was happy, he couldn't be Batman anymore.  Or he couldn't Batman as well.  This just now occurred to her and she decided not to even talk it over with him.  Nope, just leave.  Afterwards, Catwoman's best friend meets up with Bane and other villains.  Apparently this was all part of Bane's plan to get even with Batman.

What a cop out.  King and DC can say whatever they want, but this has the bad smell of editorial meddling.  I mean, why would you craft a storyline for almost 40 issues (starting around the beginning of 2017) and then at the last second just say, nah, let's not do this anymore.  Needless to say fans were pissed, especially since DC and comic book stores pulled out all the stops to market the book with fake wedding receptions and everything.  And then it was just a total cop out.  Why wouldn't people be irritated?

OK, I get it, Batman is supposed to be dark and brooding.  The idea of him being married was obviously just too messed-up for some people to contemplate.  The thing is, though, King did such a great job of making them a plausible couple.  Not just Batman and Catwoman but Bruce and Selina.  It worked because Catwoman/Selina knew Bruce was Batman and didn't really care.  To her his war on crime was like dating a guy who's really into fantasy football; it's a thing that can be annoying and time-consuming but ultimately you just put up with it and go along with it.  I think that's why it worked so well--she wasn't stamping her feet and shrilly demanding he quit.  And in the end, isn't that a big part of love:  putting up with your partner's bullshit?  (And he/she putting up with yours?)  It was a good partnership and a lot less creepy than any of the Robin ones because she was a full-grown adult.

Speaking of, if the reasoning is a wife would make him happy, how is it he's had a son for like 12 years now?  Even if that son was grown in a vat and trained to be an assassin, having a kid didn't really soften Bruce Wayne or make him stop being Batman--except when he was thrown backwards in time by Darkseid and got amnesia after fighting the Joker, neither of which was because he had a kid.  If they could make that work, why not a wife?

Sure, we all know eventually like Spider-Man's marriage to Mary-Jane (or probably Superman's current marriage to Lois Lane) it would end eventually with a reboot or Catwoman "dying" or some other damned thing.  But with all the work he put in on it so far, it would have been really interesting to see where King would have gone with this.  Maybe he'll get the chance eventually.  Until then, it was a dick move to set all this up and wuss out at the end.

So, if you're skimming, now we're at the point.  Endings can be really hard and the worst thing is an unsatisfying ending.  The most unsatisfying are the kind called "non-endings" (copyright by me) where a character goes through a bunch of shit and before he or she can make a decision the book just ends.  Like if after a bunch of stuff Batman asks Catwoman to marry him and...that's it.  We just end the book there and never get back to it.  It would be really annoying because there's no closure.

In this case it's sort of a non-ending.  It puts together Batman and Catwoman and has them face all these issues and then before we even get to resolving the issue of whether Batman can still be Batman if he's married, the story just backs away from all that by having Selina run away.  She doesn't even give him the chance to make a decision for himself.  Total cop out.

To have a satisfying ending, you need to have the character face and resolve whatever issues are presented.  Whether it's defeating the villain or facing up to some issue from the past, you need some sort of closure.  A happy ending, a sad ending, or a little of both, it doesn't really matter.  The point is that you have a feeling that things are settled in some way.

Otherwise you're just ripping off the reader.  I mean, why read a book or watch a movie if at the end there's no resolution to it?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Aaaaaactually, Know-It-Allism Gets Really Tiring

"Actually" wasn't a dirty word until the Internet came along.  Then jerks turned it into a bad word by constantly using it to point out every slight error or imagined error.

After years of this on social media and such it's gotten to be pretty tiring.  I suppose I'm as guilty of it as anyone.  Though sometimes I do it ironically.  Still, it can get to be a bit much sometimes, to where just the implied "actually" irks me.

Like a couple of recent things on Facebook.

When Bernie Sanders endorsed Abdul El-Sayed for Michigan governor I commented that it was a waste of time because there was no way a Muslim was going to win in Michigan. (And I was right.)  To which someone made the bewildering comment:  "Egyptian."

Um, so what if he's Egyptian?  I didn't say anything about where he was from.  Or maybe you think there aren't Muslims in Egypt?  (Which would be decidedly untrue.)  So, WTF?  You're Actually-ing me over something I didn't even say?  Gah!

Another even more innocuous comment was a radio station was asking on Facebook about some of the best sad songs.  And I said, "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor.  To which some ass says, "[Actually] Prince wrote that."

So the fuck what!?  I didn't say who wrote the fucking song.  I was just referencing that version of the song.  What the hell difference does it make who wrote the fucking thing?  I mean, can't I just mention a goddamned song without some fucking know-it-all trying to bring me down and make herself look smart!?  GAAAAAH!

But one of the DJs for the station agreed with me, so suck it wanna-be know-it-all.

Another case on Facebook:  on an article about 3D printed guns I just said it seems like the Secret Service wouldn't want people able to have untraceable guns like this.  And this dork says, "Actually if it has a piece of metal in it then it's legal."  Um, so what?  I didn't say anything about legality.  So what are you actually-ing me for?  Again, not even something I said. 

On Critique Circle someone used the word "gypped" in a post.  Then this other posters says, [Actually] that's a racial slur against Gypsies.  Um, really?  First of all, it's obvious from the context of the sentence the original person wasn't using it as a slur against Gypsies.  Second, looking it up on it said that while it might have been based on the word "Gypsies," gypped hasn't ever been used as a racial slur.  I suppose you could make the case it's like calling someone an "Indian giver" but really in the context there was no insult intended.  But instead of just letting it slide, this person (who is not a Gypsy) has to get anal retentive about it.  Maybe it was the same person who also complained that "spaz" is a slur against spastic people.  Again, I've never seen or heard that use of it.  I mean, honestly, words change meaning all the time.  Words like fuck, faggot, and gay used to mean completely different things than they do now.

It's like these people are so addicted to trying to show how smart they are that they just jump on anything whether it makes sense or not or whether something needs said or not.

Really though is there anywhere on the Internet that's safe from this shit?  Where you can say stuff without someone correcting your spelling or saying, Aaaaactually...?

Aaaaactually, I don't think there is.  I might have to just go off the grid soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Doomsday Prepping: Writer's Edition

One of those inane questions on Critique Circle:  How do you organize your WIP?  To my surprise there were these people with elaborate systems for their work.  Like they have a file for each chapter!  How else can you keep track of what chapter you're on?  Um, Find in Word or Google Docs?  That's what I've done for years.  And one guy took it up a notch from that:  I have a folder for each part and a file for each chapter and I have three copies:  one on my computer, one in Google Drive, and one on a thumb drive!

And he added:
An IT friend of mine once told me that any data you don't have at least three backups of is data you don't really care about. He also recommended having at least one backup in an offline location (as protection against loss of internet access and virus corruption).
Which just seems ridiculously paranoid to me.  It is like those "Doomsday Preppers" who build elaborate bomb shelters with years of food and toilet paper and stuff.  I suppose someday they'll be right and Doomsday will come and that'll show us--who are all dead now.  My opinion on those scenarios is to quote Krusty the Klown:  I think the survivors would envy the dead.  Who wants to live in a nuclear-blasted wasteland like Mad Max?  Ugh.

Anyway, I guess you can go to all this trouble, but really I think the joke will be on you.  An issue with modern films is that so many are shot on digital, but the problem is that those formats might not be readable even 20 years from now.  Meaning we'll be deprived of masterpieces like Transformers 5!  Oh no!  How will future generations watch our terrible action movies?  This is similar to problems with early films where the film they shot it on was easily combustible and so lots of early prints were lost.  It's why some early movies like Metropolis end up being cobbled together from scrounged footage and sometimes they have to splice in descriptions for stuff that has been lost.

Now then, if you really want to save your manuscript forever, what's the best way to preserve it?  The old-fashioned way:  Paper!  Paper in a bag maybe that's in an airtight box or safe.  Because all that stuff on the Cloud or on a PC or thumb drive might wind up unaccesiable if there's some cataclysm that wipes out society.  There might not be an Internet or even electricity.  Or computers might advance so far that the data you stored is no longer readable.  Think of just 25 years ago when most data was still stored on 3.5" disks.  About the only way to access anything on one of those is to go to a museum.  I mean I still have a box of old disks with story files but I don't have any computers operational with a floppy drive.  Even then a lot of them were formatted for Apple II computers; you'd probably have to go to the Smithsonian or Apple's spaceship campus to find one of those.

So I think if you're really so paranoid about losing shit, you should just print it out every day (the whole thing) and keep it locked in a safe.  Better yet, get three safes and have one at home and one at a friend's house and another one at your mom's house or somewhere.  And get a safe deposit box from the bank for a fourth copy.  Then you'll never lose anything and preserve your story for future generations, by which time all competition will be wiped out and so future humans (or aliens) will think you must have been the Shakespeare of your day!  (Provided they know who Shakespeare is still.)

Immortality awaits!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Period Pieces

On Critique Circle over a month ago someone was writing a story set in 1988 and they wanted some details to help sell the time period.  Some people offered suggestions like big hair, cocaine, glitter pens, and a Wembley Stadium concert for Nelson Mandela.  I mentioned there were two Olympics and a presidential election in the US as well.  And the biggest movies that year were Rain Man, Big, Coming to America, Die Hard, etc.

The thing that occurred to me is when you're trying to do something like this you get details in two categories:

  • Period specific details
  • Year specific details

"Big hair" and "cocaine" are period specific as they apply to the 80s in general but not really a specific year.  Someone mentioned Dallas and a show like that also is period specific.  Now if you mention "Who shot JR?" that would be specific to a particular year.  Or if you say the premiere of Dallas then that would be whatever year but otherwise just mentioning that could be any of the range of years it was on the air.

Year specific is something specific to that year.  Like an election or Olympics.  Like if you have characters go to see a particular movie in the theater--presuming you say it's new.  In the Pulitzer-winning Independence Day, Richard Ford helps to set the time frame by having his narrator mention his son put a "Lick Bush" bumper sticker on his car.  Since the book came out in 1996 there was still only one Bush president so it was either 1988 or 1992.  Then he also mentioned Dukakis so if you're versed on election history you know it's 1988--and if you're not then you're not reading literary fiction.

I mentioned movies, which is something John Updike does in his Rabbit Angstrom novels.  In Rabbit Redux he and a girl go see 2001: A Space Odyssey, which tells you that it was 1968.  Two books later in Rabbit at Rest, he and his wife watch Working Girl and she's inspired to go into business.  That also tells you it's 1988, along with cocaine, AIDS, and Rabbit's car dealership being taken over by the Japanese.

In Where You Belong I looked up a football game between Iowa and Iowa State and mention that Iowa State won for the first time in a while, which was in 1976, the day Frost Devereaux was in a car wreck.  (Or maybe it was Iowa that won.  I don't remember right now and don't feel like looking it up.)

In a short story once I mentioned Watergate so people would know it was taking place around 1974.  If I just wanted it to be general 70s I could mention bell bottoms or disco or whatever.  It just depends on whether you want an exact setting or just a rough period.

About the same time as this discussion came up I was writing a historical set in 1960s Hollywood.  I didn't really nail time an exact time, though I figured the mid-60s or so.  I mentioned a lot of old stars like Cary Grant, Clark Gable, John Wayne, and so on.  And there was a mention of Elvis making movies so that also helps to isolate the time period.  It's just little things like that that can help the sharp reader figure out when it is.  Or I guess you can just say in the description or one of those Tom Clancy type things where it gives the exact time and date.

I prefer the lighter touch but some people need hit over the head with a hammer.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Everyone Starts Somewhere

A nurse/writer "friend" on Facebook joked that she wondered how much crime scene cleaners made.  Which reminded me of the movie Sunshine Cleaning because that's what Amy Adams and Emily Blunt do in the movie:  start a crime scene cleaning business.  They figure it'll be pretty easy money.  I mean, all you have to do is go and clean up blood and brains and stuff, right?

Well, during their first attempt of a job they find out it's a lot more complicated than that.  You have to have licenses for handling chemicals and you can't just throw dirty stuff in the nearest dumpster or anything.  And a lot of experienced pros get pissed off that these know-nothing amateurs are horning in on their business.

It reminded me of writing.  There are plenty of people now who get into writing and self-publishing books thinking it will be easy and lucrative.  With tools like KDP, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords it is pretty easy to throw a book together but it usually isn't all that lucrative.  To actually make a good book, though, takes some work and know-how.

And it's true that more experienced authors, especially those who are traditionally published but not big names, don't take kindly to these amateurs horning in on their turf.  Even those of us who have been around longer can get pissed off about it.

Of course all of us were rookies at one time or another.  That's something important to remember.  We should be patient and try to guide the newbies instead of regarding them with scorn because they're the competition.  There are enough readers for all of us, right?  Right?  I don't know.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What the World Needs Now is...Empathy More Than Love

The recent Brett Kavanaugh hearings have really illustrated the title of this entry better than any other example I could come up with.  Whenever a woman comes forward with sexual harassment/assault claims there are all sorts of people saying, "Why didn't she say it sooner?"  "She's just looking for attention."  And often enough, "She was asking for it."

There's a distinct lack of empathy from a good many people.  Instead of hearing the woman out, they try to shout her down, blame her for her own rape, or make her go away--and then we wonder why women don't report these allegations right away.  Also when statistically 94% of those accused of rape get off scot free.  And other times they just get a slap on the wrist--remember that kid from Stanford I think it was who only got 6 months?

Of course this isn't the only instance where empathy is sorely lacking.  For most of my life especially, Republicans have loved demonizing the poor.  Reagan blathered about "welfare queens in Cadillacs."  Red states have time and again restricted access to food stamps, Medicaid, etc.  In the past they've had drug testing, which usually caught no drug users.  Wisconsin has such a restrictive food stamps system that it'd be easier to list what it DOES let you buy.  Now the latest thing are work requirements.  Because of course the people on welfare, Medicaid, etc are just lazy drug addicts sitting around collecting easy money at taxpayer expense, right?

The problem is it's not just rich, asshole politicians who are at fault.  There are plenty of poor people who spout the same bullshit and of course vote for those asshole politicians.  There's a sort of arrogance prevalent where people think that because someone isn't as rich or successful that they are that they must be dumb and/or lazy.  Maybe in some cases it's true, or maybe the other person just got some bad breaks--like this person!

The point is, when we blame and fight amongst ourselves it only helps to keep us divided.  That allows rich asshole politicians to keep accumulating power.  Until we can put aside the pettiness, we'll never have a better world.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Ultimate Question: And the Answer Isn't 42

Back in August I made the mistake of leaving the TV on after one movie and Cool World came on.  I have some deeper issues to discuss but first let me just say this movie is utter garbage.  Basically like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?--only terrible.  The cartoon characters range from annoying to gross and the human character who should be the lead isn't really developed while the human character who shouldn't be the lead is given a lot of screen time.

At this point you can stop reading and say, "I've never seen that."  Or, "I've never heard of that."  Or maybe, "You shouldn't watch movies you don't like."

Or you can read the rest of the post to find out what the point is...

OK, so the premise is there's this cartoonist named Jack (Gabriel Byrne) who's in prison for apparently killing his wife's lover.  (Not that we ever see that or anything; it's just referenced in passing by some guy we never see again.)  He draws this whole series of comics called, you guessed it, Cool World.  His favorite creation is this hot blonde named Holly Wood (Kim Basinger first in voice and then body as well) who's like a sluttier Jessica Rabbit.  She wants to escape the cartoon world--and who can blame her?  It sucks pretty hard--so she decides to seduce Jack and draw him into the cartoon world to have sex with him, thereby making her real.  They go back to the real world but the effect starts wearing off so she goes to the top of a hotel in Vegas for some MacGuffin and he has to stop her and in the end he turns into a parody of Superman (who talks like Dudley Doorite) and they live Happily Ever After in a comic book or something.

So the uncomfortable, weird, creepy question is:  have you ever made a character so attractive to you that you'd want to fuck him/her/it?

I don't really think so.  I mean I've made Sims of a lot of them and stuff but I don't really think of them that way.  Maybe it's because as a writer I think of them more as my children than sex toys.  Even the ones I create for erotica stories aren't necessarily ones I think of that way.  If I'm pulled into Chance of a Lifetime or A Hero's Journey or whatever, I don't think I could sleep with Stacey or Emma because it'd be too weird.  It'd be like incest.

At least consciously.  Now, unconsciously, if I see someone like Stacey Chance or Emma Earl or maybe one of my erotica book characters on the street and she starts coming on to me, what, I'm gonna say no?  Hahaha.  Yeah, right.

Of course with the exception of some erotica characters (some), my characters aren't sluts so they probably wouldn't really try to seduce me like that.  And really most of them live in worlds better than this one right now so if anything I'd try desperately to get into their world, not the other way around.

But let's open it up more:  are there any literary characters you would want to sleep with?  Mr. Darcy?  That guy from Outlander?  Arthur Dent?  Edward from Twilight?  Bella from that same book?  Katniss Everdeen?  Harry Potter?  Hermione?  Gandalf?  Frodo?  Hamlet?  MacBeth?  Don Quixote? 

Hmmm...maybe Candy from The Cider House Rules if she looks like Charlize Theron. Mara Jade from the Timothy Zahn Star Wars books.  I mean she's a hot redhead with the Force!  Think how nifty that would be in bed.  (She could probably Force choke me for some auto-erotic asphyxiation.  Maybe Force choke something else so I have a hard-on for hours.) 

If we include comic books, would I want to sleep with Wonder Woman?  Probably not.  Any of those bulky ones would just be too intimidating, so I'd rule out Supergirl, She-Hulk, etc.  Batgirl?  Maybe.  Catwoman?  Maybe.  Batwoman?  Crap, she's a lesbian.  Maybe I could just watch her then.  Jean Grey/Phoenix?  She could probably just brainwash you into thinking you had sex without actually doing it.  Rogue?  No, she'd kill me with her touch, right?  Would Storm's power have any useful application?  Hurm.  Ooh, Silk Spectre II from Watchmen.  OK, either Silk Spectre, I'm not picky.  Black Widow?  They're supposed to kill after mating, right?  Katana?  As long as she doesn't stab me and steal my soul into her blade.  Zatanna?  As long as she doesn't do any of that stupid backwards "magic" talk.  The Scarlet Knight?  Oh, wait, that's where this all got started...

This is really going all Brodie in Mallrats now.  Bet you wished you stopped reading after the first paragraph now.  Just try to erase this from your brain.  Bwahahahahahahaha...

Friday, October 5, 2018

CYA: Cover, You Ass

I know at least once I've pointed out covers with typos on them or that were just bad.  Apparently some people didn't get the message, so here are some more:

Besides using the same title as my 32-book series (more like 50-something with holiday titles) the cover said Volume 3 but the page originally said Volume 2.  So which was it?  Duh.

This one is a bit more complicated:

It says "Into HIS Sister" but he's turned into a girl who isn't replacing his sister.  And since HE no longer exists, how can he be HIS sister?  Really it should be "HER Sister" because the guy becomes the sister of his sister, not the sister of himself.  But Lisa Change doesn't give a shit about detail.  Case in point:


Schoolgirl is one word, damn it!  Not two words.  I've pointed this out at least once but she doesn't care.  She keeps doing it wrong anyway.  And gets more five-star reviews than I do.  Probably sells more books too.  SMH.

Here's a bonus one that just looked really bad to me.  Look at the way the bulldog looks like he's sitting on the water, totally out of scale:
WTF is going on here?

I guess some people really shouldn't make their own covers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

You're Branded

Over a month ago author Lawrence Block retweeted this tweet from fellow author Chuck Wendig.

The thing that occurred to me is that whether you set out to or not, you’ll probably end up creating a brand.  Wendig’s foul-mouthed, in-your-face attitude is his brand, whether he consciously set out to do that or not.  Noir-ish crime stories set in New York are Lawrence Block’s brand, whether he set out to or not.  Soft-core gender swap and age regression stories are Eric Filler’s brand, which he only semi-consciously set out to do.

The thing is, it’s not just “voice.”  For most authors it’s a function of the genre they write, the language they use (“voice,”) and the way they look at the world.  If you asked me to do a “blind” taste test of authors--names and titles removed from a book--could I tell a John Irving book from a Michael Chabon book?  Most likely.  Could I tell a Stephen King from a Dean Koontz?  Maybe, though I haven’t read much of either.  Could I tell Chuck Wendig from Chuck Palahniuk?  Possibly.  Could I tell Lawrence Block from Donald Westlake?  Probably.  Could someone tell an Eric Filler book from a Lisa Change book?  Um...I hope so?  Could someone tell that Eric Filler, PT Dilloway, and Ivana Johnson are the same person?  “John Daniels” couldn’t, but he’s an idiot.

Because I’m very familiar with both authors, let me use my first example.  I could tell Irving and Chabon apart because the language would be different (Chabon tends to use “bigger” words while Irving’s style is blunter) and the subjects would be different--Irving tends to do more cradle-to-grave stories while Chabon has a narrower focus.  Irving frequently references wrestling, Vienna, and hookers.  Chabon frequently references Jews and at least one character usually turns out to be gay. So yes I could probably tell them apart.

If you take a classroom of writing students and give them a topic sentence they would all come up with something different--unless someone cheats and that would tell you something about him/her.  It’s more than “voice,” it’s how they see the world and approach it based on their background.  If you write enough books, eventually you’ll establish your “brand” for good or ill.  It’s simply not possible to change your style and way of looking at things and solving problems enough to be completely different.

That’s also why it’s foolish to try to force a brand.  Chances are you’re not a good enough actor to maintain a personality in your writing, in person, and on social media enough to keep it up for too long.  It’s one of those times where “be yourself” probably is the best advice because few people are good enough to be someone else all the time.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The IT Crowd: Proof Not All British Comedy is Clever and Subtle

On Pluto TV they frequently advertised this British comedy from 2006-2010 called The IT Crowd.  So finally I watched a few episodes on one of their channels.  They weren't that bad.  But if you're worried that British comedy is so much cleverer and subtler than American comedy, well, prepare to be pleasantly surprised!

The premise of the show is similar to The Big Bang Theory and it premiered a year earlier.  In the basement of some big company is the IT department of two nerdy guys:  Roy and Moss.  And then they get a new boss, a redheaded woman named Jen who knows nothing about computers.  In one episode when she gets a swelled head about making a speech as Employee of the Month, Roy and Moss trick her into thinking a little black box with a red blinking light is "the Internet."  Like the whole source of the Internet.  The idea is to make her a laughingstock...except her audience is so clueless none of them realize the joke either.

So the humor of the show isn't exactly slapstick pie-throwing but it's not overly subtle either.  Most of it made me think of Seinfeld from the 90s as usually it involves them committing some social faux pas or otherwise getting embroiled in some situation and then making it worse.  Like one episode when they go on a "work outing" to a play and Roy tells a fib about being disabled and winds up being taken to a home with a bunch of other disabled people while Moss tells a fib when he stumbles into the employee restroom and ends up becoming an employee for the night.  Stuff like that where little lies or faux pas snowball into bigger problems.

One funny episode has Roy suffering from a sore back so he goes to a masseuse.  At the end of the massage the male masseuse gives him a very unhappy ending by kissing him on the bottom.  So Roy takes the guy to court.  Meanwhile Jen is dating a guy who looks mentally challenged because he's in a band--at least until her meddling gets him kicked out.  In another episode Jen tries to show up a female coworker by saying she can translate Italian.  Since she can't, Moss rigs up a translation program on her laptop.  There's a password for it so she needs to get it from Moss, except he's gotten himself stuck in one of those claw machines in an arcade to try to get an iPhone from it.  "I can get an iPhone without having to pay any money to Apple!  I'm living the dream!"  (Also the only way I'd be able to get an iPhone.)  But when the boss forbids using laptops in the meeting with an Italian businessman, Jen ends up just blathering gibberish and no one except the businessman is any the wiser.

Another good bit is when the government changes the emergency number from 999 to some horribly long number, Moss can't remember it when he starts a fire in the department.  So he emails the fire department!  I wonder how many times that happens in real life?  And then when Roy comes in he says "Don't worry, I've sent an email."  While the fire is continuing to burn.

Or in another episode when Moss and Roy decide they're spending too much time together, Moss answers a personal ad for "someone to cook with" but gets there to find out it's a German who wanted someone TO COOK.  Realizing the mistake in the ad they just watch a movie.  Later, when Roy is trying to find somewhere to watch a bootleg DVD, he pretends he wants to be eaten--so long as he can watch a film first.  When the police show up you think they're going to bust the cannibal, right?  Aaaactually they just want Roy for pirating a movie.

Most of it is pretty funny.  I just wish it didn't have a laugh track because then I start to question whether I'm laughing because I want to or just because I hear the canned laughter.

What is refreshing though is that there's never any will they-won't they romantic crap between the three characters.  Jen never hooks up with Roy or Moss.  She pretty much hates them except as work colleagues.  That's much better than those annoying American shows where they have that cycle of hooking characters up, then unhooking them, then rehooking them ad nauseum.

Of course being a British show the four "seasons" are only 6 episodes each.  There's a "fifth season" that's actually just an hour-long episode from 2013 that wraps up the series with Jen, Roy, and Moss becoming the heads of the company.  (Is it a spoiler if no one will read this or actually go watch the show?)  I watched it mostly on Pluto TV but I could have watched it in order on Hulu.  I don't know about Netflix; they might have it too.

What I'm really jealous of on that show is they never seem to do any actual work and their "office" looks like the clubhouse of a couple of teenage boys.  Here I am busting my ass in a shitty gray cubicle when they have an office with a couch and video games and toys.

BTW, Roy's catch-all solution whenever anyone calls is:  Have you tried turning it off and on again?  So the next time you have computer troubles, maybe try that.  If that doesn't work, blow on it.  That always worked for Atari and Nintendo cartridges.


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