Heard a story on NPR today about St. Paul being in the spotlight for the Republican National Convention. The part of the story that stuck out to me was when Erin Dady, director of marketing for the City of St. Paul, made this assumption about the national media:
“I would guess a significant percentage of the 15,000 members of the media who are coming to town couldn’t even locate St. Paul on a map,” she says. “So, what better way to tell our story to the world than to have 15,000 members of the media here in town? It’s really priceless media attention.”
Maybe Dady has some research to back up that assumption (in which case, why not use the research instead of speculating?) or maybe she’s referring to the fact that national reporters seem unable to distinguish St. Paul and Minneapolis (though that has little to do with locating St. Paul on a map)—I don’t know. But however you spin it, it seems like a really dumb idea for the marketing director of St. Paul to insult the intelligence of 15,000 journalists who are about to descend on our city.
On October 4, 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik, the first man-made object to orbit Earth. Not content with second place, the United States quickly rallied to achieve their own interstellar milestones. On July 29, 1958—50 years ago today—President Dwight Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, creating NASA. On July 20, 1969—almost exactly 11 years later—Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.
It took a mere 11 years to go from first satellite to the first steps on the moon. That’s incredible progress in an incredibly short time. A little more than a decade and you can walk on the moon. (via kottke.org)
Early this morning I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and so finished reading the entire seven-book Harry Potter series. I’ve read them all before, of course, but I wanted to do it one shot. It took about a month.
A few observations from reading the whole series at once:
It’s amazing how J.K. Rowling loves the exposition. Without fail every book in the series has a climactic moment that comes to a grinding halt while we bring on the exposition:
- Sorcerer’s Stone – Quirrell explains everything to a stalling Harry Potter.
- Chamber of Secrets – Tom Riddle stops to fill Harry in on everything instead of just calling the basilisk and getting it over with.
- Prisoner of Azkaban – Sirius and Lupin have to recount the whole story of animangi and werewolves.
- Goblet of Fire – Pick your expository moment! Voldemort tells Harry exactly how he came back, Fake Moody reveals exactly how he got away with it, or Dumbledore gets the full story from Harry (Harry sitting in Dumbledore’s office as exposition happens repeatedly).
- Order of the Phoenix – A lengthy bit of post-climax exposition where Dumbledore explains everything to a raging Harry.
- Half-Blood Prince – Since Malfoy can’t kill Dumbledore himself, he might as well do some exposition. While the climax is fairly exposition free, most of the rest of the book feels like cleverly disguised exposition.
- Deathly Hallows – Another pick your expository moment! It could be Dumbledore’s brother before Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts, or the entire chapter of Snape’s memories, or the psuedo-heaven sequence with Dumbledore (among others). This book could be divided neatly between daring action scenes, the three main characters arguing/plotting/camping, and exposition).
I’m not saying all this exposition is bad. These stories clearly need to fill in the details so you can know what’s happening. And for the most part, Rowling does that fairly creatively (though by the end I think the pensieve was cheating). I just think it’s amazing that she continually saved all the exposition for the end. After a while it starts to feel like you’re being strung along because you know all the pieces won’t come together until the very end.
Don’t get me wrong—I like exposition. I think most of the novels I’ve written have been exposition. I just don’t like it when the action grinds to a halt so we can fill in the missing pieces. I think it’s lazy.
Continue reading Observations from Reading the Harry Potter Series
You can hear nearly an hour of me on the Something Beautiful podcast. For some reason Jonathan Blundell thought it’d be fun to talk to me, so there I am. We talk about a wide range of issues, including:
- Church Marketing Sucks.
- My faith journey and why I moved away from a Baptist background.
- Being blacklisted over population control.
- How I got to where I am in my writing career.
- Living simply (for which I’m a poor role model).
- How jealous Jonathan is of the Detroit Red Wings and their awesome Stanley Cupness.
It was a fun conversation and I hope I don’t sound like a jerk. I have to admit, however, that I do sound like Dr. Hibbert. My wife always says I have a Dr. Hibbert laugh, and after listening to this I have to concede that she’s right.
Josh Whedon (of Buffy and Firefly/Serenity fame) has finally released his online superhero musical spoof, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day. It comes in three installments that will be released today, Thursday and Saturday. Then on Sunday night it will be taken down and you’ll need to wait until the DVD comes out (how diabolical!).
For now you can watch it at the Dr. Horrible site or buy it on iTunes.
This little musical bit of entertainment was conceived during the writer’s strike and put together on the cheap. And it’s pretty funny. It’s also receiving a lot of attention for something that amounts to 42-minutes of entertainment: TV Guide, Wired, MTV, Entertainment Weekly, Gawker. But we’ll take it.
After a four-year hiatus the band Sixpence None the Richer is back. If you’re not familiar with them, they were the buzz band of the late 1990s with the hit song “Kiss Me,” but they were also famous for lead singer Leigh Nash’s airy vocals, their lush instrumentation and their genre-defying faith. Who could forget Nash’s rare interview by David Letterman after the band’s performance? Nash tried to catch her breath and Letterman graciously gave her the opportunity (after a few jokes) to explain the roots of the bands name, which comes from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
As I was saying, they’re back. The four-song EP My Dear Machine is available from NoiseTrade (a music download service from Derek Webb where you can download an album for whatever you want to pay or by giving the e-mail addresses of three friends. I’m not sure how I feel about using your contacts as currency, but it seems to work for Webb.) and they have a Christmas album (!), The Dawn of Grace coming out October 14.
I was never very excited about their breakout self-titled album, but I loved 2002’s Divine Discontent (specifically “Eyes Wide Open” and “Paralyzed”). I’m still deciding what I think of My Dear Machine, but at the very least it’s nice to have them back.
Shaun Groves has a great blog post about getting along with your neighbors, though it can really apply to getting along with anyone. Sometimes it’s too easy for relationships to go sour and it’s so hard to make things right. We’ve all got our pride to protect and we easily forget that getting along with someone means making compromises and sacrifices. It happens on all sides and when you least expect it.
But as Shaun points out, we all have masks, and behind those masks are real people with real problems and real hurts. It doesn’t make everything OK, but a little understanding goes a long way.
I owned a Nintendo Wii for less than 24 hours. For the uninformed, the Wii is Nintendo’s latest game system that seems to engage the non-gamer by using motion sensing technology. Basically instead of pushing buttons, you move the entire controller, much like a baseball bat or steering wheel. In short, it’s revolutionary.
I’ve been eyeing one of these systems since they came out in late 2006. But they’ve also been hard to come by. I’ve only seen them in the store once. Until Thursday night when we walked into Best Buy and they had four Wiis sitting on the floor. With a large pile of unspent birthday cash still on hand, I snatched up a Wii. I spent $330 on a Wii, an extra remote and an extra nunchuk (the controllers the Wii uses–it comes with one remote and one nunchuk, as well as the Wii Sports game), including tax. I planned to purchase one more game, Mario Kart, which was currently out of stock but would run another $50. So a $380 minimum investment.
We went home and played bowling, baseball, tennis and boxing (I think I might have lost every game, but that’s beside the point). The next morning when I woke up I was having second thoughts.
Continue reading Why I Returned my Nintendo Wii
Every year or so I like to follow up on the members of the lost but not forgotten ska band, Five Iron Frenzy, and see what they’re up to. It usually happens when iTunes shuffles across a Five Iron track and I slip into a day-long ska fest and play their entire catalog. You can guess what happened today.
So what are they up to?
- Brave Saint Saturn – Third and final album due out late July and a little web site.
- Hollyfelds – Former FIFers go alt-country?
- Hearts of Palm (formerly Nathan & Stephen) – Lots of bearded men and a girl named Jeff. Oh, and a free download.
And if actual FIF alums isn’t enough for you, how about other bands singing tribute? Relient K has not one, but two tracks on its brand new The Bird and Bee Sides release paying tribute to Five Iron:
“Five Iron Frenzy / They were good, they were good / They were really really really good.”
You can grab the normal version or the ska mix. Reminds me of the hidden track on the W’s debut album thanking Five Iron Frenzy.
OK, we all know that I’m a geek. But the latest and greatest proof of that is that my favorite posts on Twitter come from fictional characters. Darth Vader, Cobra Commander, Fake John McCain, Fake Barack Obama. I don’t know what it is, but I’m a sucker for the fictional updates (as long as they’re good–G.I. Joe’s General Hawk kind of sucked).
There’s something about getting an update from Cobra Commander that makes me laugh. Maybe it’s the thought of an evil character doing something as mundane as text messaging. Or maybe it’s just the burst of something over-the-top funny and short. Sometimes life gets a little too serious and you need a little funny.
Anyway, I love the fake Twitter characters. And I want to write one. I’m into too many things that don’t pay the bills, so if I go this route it’ll have to pay. I haven’t figured out how to make Twitter pay (neither have they, so I’m not alone), so if anyone has ideas I’m game. Or if anyone would like to hire me to create their fake Twitter character, I’m so there.