Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the category “Fun Articles”

Reading format

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One pointlessly heated discussion that seems to occur with painful regularity in reading circles is which book format is superior. Do you prefer audio, or digital, or paper, or papyrus, or clay tablets? Personally I can’t see anyone topping the long-term data retention of carving stuff into stone cave walls. Bit time-consuming for authors though.

When this discussion starts everyone rolls out their usual banal reasoning for their preferred format. Without fail someone will talk about the smell of dead tree books (DTB), or the feel of eviscerated tree flesh in their fingers, or refer to some dodgy research that denigrates e-books. For some reason the reading world is filled with technophobic troglodytes intent on proving that their old-fashioned way of doing things is better.

Currently I read books in three different formats: DTB, e-book, audiobook. I like reading all three formats and they have various advantages and disadvantages. I have many fond memories of dead trees. The time I used one to level a table with an uneven leg. The time I threw one at the TV on election night. The time I used a bag full of them to prop open a door with a hydraulic hinge. Good times. I’m sure I have some fond memories of e-books and audiobooks…

Let’s run through a few pros and cons of the three formats.

DTB Pros:

  • They are a book.
  • You can read them.
  • They make you look smart/nerdy when you have lots of them on shelves.
  • Can turn to the end of the book to see if that character actually died.

DTB Cons:

  • Being a physical entity they have to be physically moved to your house.
  • Generally more expensive than an e-book.
  • Are heavy and awkward to hold.
  • Hate having tea spilt on them.
  • Can’t stop a .45 slug, despite claims to the contrary.

E-book Pros:

  • They are a book.
  • You can read them.
  • When you want another you just download it instantly.
  • Everyone thinks you are reading the latest political biography when you are really engrossed in the love triangle between a teenage girl, a 100-year-old pedophile, and a smelly dog (yes I got dragged to the Twilight films by my wife).
  • Text can be resized.

E-book Cons:

  • E-books can’t be used to start a fire in a life threatening situation.
  • E-book files won’t be forever, but the database will be, which means updating your collection.
  • E-readers cost money too.
    • Dedicated e-readers are the domain of avid readers, everyone else can just read on their phone or tablet.
  • Hate having tea spilt on them.
  • E-readers are even less likely to stop a .45 slug.

Audiobook Pros:

  • They are a book.
  • You can read them.*
  • Can be read when you’re doing something else.
    • Exercising and reading is a personal favourite.
    • Certainly a better way to read when driving.

Audiobook Cons:

  • Can be expensive.
    • Are becoming cheaper in digital versions.
  • Some voice actors don’t have great voices, nor acting.
  • Takes longer to read… unless you read by sounding out the vowels still.
  • Are probably the least likely to stop a .45 slug.

What is my key point out of all of this? If you like reading you will like reading regardless of the format. The medium isn’t the message.

The reality is that we have to stop with the snobbery of the format wars. Every format has benefits to enjoy. Every person I have met who has bravely tried e-books and audiobooks has commented that they were unsure until they made the leap. Then they fell in love with all the formats.

I love books in all their forms, you should too.

*Yeah, go ahead and try and argue that point. I dare you.

Taking Criticism

One of the most important aspects of writing is taking criticism. It is an important skill that you need to develop in order to:

  • Tell the critic how wrong they are;
  • Explain to the critic in excruciating detail how they just don’t understand your art;
  • Make an extensive list of places the critic can go to think about their mistakes.

See more from JP:

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How to Write an FAQ

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Most companies and organisations have an FAQ page these days. What should be a chance to address Frequently Asked Questions often turns into a telling display of the values the company or organisation holds. A lot can be gleaned from the FAQ, and not just opening times and how many health code violations they have accumulated.

Recently I was looking for local martial arts facilities and came across an FAQ page that painted the organisation in a bad light. This isn’t the only poorly written FAQ I’ve come across, but I’ll use some quotes from it as an example.

What you don’t include says as much as what you do include.

FAQs are meant to be about sharing information. Hey, we’re a friendly organisation, just letting you know a bit more about us. So when you avoid sharing information you come across as deceptive as a used car salesman, or as useless as a Scottish underwear store.

How much does training cost?
We do not have contracts or direct debit arrangements; you simply pay the fees to your Branch Instructor at the beginning of each calendar month. You do not pay any fees for months in which you do not train. Our monthly training fees are probably the lowest on average for any mainstream martial art school in Australia.

So, those fees would be how much again?

By not actually including the pricing people can only assume that the fees are ridiculously high, or that they want you to sign over your soul as payment. At least they don’t straight up ask for your firstborn.

Obviously the answer was intended to convey that the fees were competitive to similar services, and that they have easy payment options. They probably didn’t include the pricing because it probably varies by dojo and class sizes. But by not putting these competitive prices in the FAQ it gives the impression that a guy with a curled up moustache will con you into signing up to a ski resort timeshare, while also pressuring you to join up and pay exorbitant fees.

Lesson: be transparent.

What you do say says a lot about you.

If you are a relaxed organisation or business you might include some joke Q&As. If you are friendly you might include some oversharing information to appear personable – or possibly unhinged if you go too far. If you are a jerk then you won’t be able to help yourself.

Can I compete in tournaments?
No. [Our martial art] is a traditional martial art, not a martial sport. We train to perfect technique for real self-defence applications, not for point-scoring or competitions. We believe that, as opposed to the sports approach, the traditional art approach builds physically stronger and more mentally confident practitioners.

So, other martial arts suck?

Nothing makes you sound like a prat more than belittling others…

I’m doing this to help. Not to be a prat. Honest.

Obviously you want to promote your organisation or business, and obviously you think your organisation or business is better than others. But there are ways to do that without walking over to the competitor’s place and taking a dump in the middle of the floor.

This answer could have been phrased in many ways. They could have suggested that their martial art is a good base for moving onto sports applications, perhaps name drop some members who have done that. They could have just left the answer at stating the two are quite different styles of the same martial art, and they focus on the self-defence style. Instead they couldn’t help but stick the boot in and suggest the other styles are crap.

Lesson: don’t be a dick.

How you say something says a lot about you.

There are several ways to say the same thing. There are several ways to skin a cat. If you decide to skin that cat by starting from the tail down, it says one thing, whilst starting once the cat is dead says something else. What the hell did that cat ever do to you anyway?

Can I cross-train in other martial arts?
No. [Our martial art] is a traditional martial art, so all members are expected to show the traditional loyalty to a single master instructor… Bear in mind that our general philosophy is that it is better to learn one art, and learn it extremely well, than to learn several arts to a lower level.

So, I should phone you before I make any decisions? Do I pledge my fealty in writing or by polishing your shoes with my tongue?

What was obviously meant to be a diplomatic answer about the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) and people learning multiple skills, comes off as a decree about slavishly devoting your soul to this martial art and the master. How dare you be unfaithful!

The mindset of telling someone what they can and can’t do in the hours they don’t spend at this dojo is that of a manipulative bully. You will obey. You will conform. And we’re doing it for your benefit, so you will take our abuse and love us for it. You kinda expect them to have a lesson listed on how to be abusive to your spouse or partner somewhere else on the website.

They could have stated that most students don’t cross train. They could have paraphrased some Liam Neeson, ‘You will learn a particular set of skills. Skills you will acquire over years of dedicated training. Skills that will make you awesome at breaking boards.’ Instead they showed themselves to be exactly the sort of people you don’t want to learn martial arts from.

Lesson: don’t be a dick.

Hope that helps.

That isn’t literature

When I think of literature I think of an older guy sporting a greying moustache, sipping a sherry, wearing a smoking jacket, seated in a library of leather-bound books in front of a simmering log fire. The guy speaks with an aristocratic English accent and expounds on the greatness of some book that other older men dressed like him, sitting in similar log-fire warmed libraries, also like to read when not shagging the maid.

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Aspiring literary snob reader

Now clearly not everyone who reads literature fits this image. Some probably can’t even afford a maid to shag. But it does appear to be an image that people aspire toward, an image that informs what they deem literature, and thus what they deem worthy of reading. Rather than judging any written work based upon its lasting artistic merit – although that definition is so subjective as to be useless and ideal for starting pointless arguments…. (cough) – people seem intent on creating boundaries before a work is allowed to be judged. They must defend Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works.

Normally I’d launch into a whinge about how speculative fiction is unfairly maligned, or how I’ve read crime fiction that has more artistic merit than most literary works. But instead I’m going to talk about graphic novels. In an article on The Conversation, Catherine Beavis explained how the graphic novel Maus came to be part of the literature curriculum.

Despite this explanation there was always going to be someone in the comments telling us how a graphic novel can’t be literature. I assume they wrote their comments whilst wearing a smoking jacket and taking a break from shagging the maid.

Well well……..so it’s art as literature.

Why not a more well-known comic (sorry graphic novel).

Not saying this isn’t a worthy addition to any curriculum, but more as social comment rather than literature.

Surely the novels of great Australian writers should be preferable – Winton, Malouf, Carey etc.

Let’s break these points apart one by one. As will be seen from further comments, the argument primarily revolves around the feelpinion that because graphic novels contain pictures they are art and thus not literature. A similar argument could be made for movies being TV shows and thus we could abolish the Oscars… actually, that isn’t a bad idea. Anyway, I guess we’d better break the news to the literature professors that Shakespeare’s plays need to be taken off of the curriculum.

The argument then moves to the “I haven’t heard of it, so it can’t be good” assertion. Maybe because they realise this isn’t a great argument, they immediately distance themselves from it. But we start to see the worthy argument being formed. I’ve argued many times that worthy is a great subjective argument put forward by people who think they are worthy.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a literary argument if someone didn’t cite some authors they deem worthy. For those unfamiliar with Winton, Malouf, and Carey, they are award-winning Aussie authors who write “interior histories” and about “people rebuilding their lives after catastrophe” and “people who experience death and will never be the same again”. None of those statements could be applied to a graphic novel about someone who survived the holocaust…. No sir.

Their list of worthy authors is as subjective as their comments about graphic novels and Maus. I could similarly ask why the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy isn’t on the curriculum. It has a lot to say about society and has entered the lexicon, which is more than can be said for any of the other authors mentioned nor the graphic novels being shunned. I could say the same again about Superman or Spiderman, which have implanted ideals and phrases of morality into society, regardless of whether people have read those graphic novels or not.

*Steps on soapbox*
I personally welcome any work into the class that will encourage kids to read, think and learn. And to anyone who derides graphic novels, they are clearly saying they don’t or haven’t read any.
*Steps down from soapbox*

The commenter responded to criticism of their subjective opinion:

That may be so, but my bigger point was that literature = words.

This is art with captions.

Not disputing that it may be hugely popular or good (even great)…
but literature it ain’t.

I think the appropriate response to this is a head shake. The problem is the black and white definition of what literature is, whilst ignoring the fact that the graphic novels fit the definition of literature. Pointing out the flaws in these opinions is as easy as saying that graphic novels, with very few exceptions, are composed of words. They also use graphics, but that is often a collaboration between the writer and the artists they work with. Thus, by the definition of “literature = words”, graphic novels are eligible to be classified as literature.

But anything to keep only the “worthy” books in contention as literature. Can’t have that kids stuff being called literary!

So I named three contemporary Australian writers – call me subjective.

I am not knocking the (art) form…just that it (to ME) is not literature.

Your opinion is obviously as valid as mine……don’t get huffy.

The last point here is one that irks me more than irksome irkers on an international irking junket. Opinions are not equally valid. That sort of subjectivism nonsense eats away at reality and suggests we “just don’t know, man”.

The commenter made a subjective list, so I put together some examples that were superior in quantifiable ways (impact on society, entering the lexicon, referenced by society) to show that the subjective claims were more worthless than a $9 note because clearly not much knowledge or thought was put into the claims.

There is also the idea of literary critique and argument, rather than stating feelpinions. I’ve stated an opinion and argued it, offering reasoning. The examples I countered with aren’t necessarily the best choices, but I have justified and quantified my argument, something you learn in high school literature class. Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer, so clearly someone in the literati agrees. And surely a Pulitzer prize winner is worthy of being on the curriculum. But of course all opinions are equally valid and “I’m entitled to my opinion”, dammit!

Surely the whole point of literature is that the reader has to imagine the scene described, the way words are spoken, the implications of what is said and much more. It’s all in the mind, which develops through reading.

A graphic novel presents the words and pictures with almost no imagining required. The number of words is hugely reduced to give way to often wasted space. In the example above there are 21 words, which if in normal lowercase type could be written in 10% of the space.

Sorry I’m not convinced graphic novels have any merit for senior students.

Shakespeare’s plays give stage directions and poetry is often deliberately obscure. So how do those examples fit this exclusionary definition of literature? I’m sure some artists would object to the idea that they aren’t conjuring a scene that develops in people’s minds. And is the idea to only allow readers to imagine a scene? Isn’t it about conveying ideas and emotions too? Isn’t this some great mental gymnastics to try to maintain Fort Literature from invasion by the Lesser Works?

The second paragraph is also exemplary of someone who hasn’t read many, if any, graphic novels. So of course this commenter wouldn’t be convinced that graphic novels are of any merit. First they’d have to know something. But that doesn’t hold them back from commenting.

While I’m in the mood for alienating folks, let me also say that this is a good example of dumbing down literature.

Give the kids a picture with limited words and maybe they’ll get the idea.

Don’t kids these days have the attention span to read a novel?

The last graphic novel I read was 480 pages long and took many hours to read. It covered sexual identity, morality, the greater good argument, do evil deeds make us evil, etc, as issues. The last “literature” novel I read was about a woman who manipulated people to get what she wanted. It was ~300 pages long and took many hours to read.*

This argument is typical of people who have a snobbish attitude to something based upon pure ignorance of the topic. Similar statements have been made throughout time, decrying the dumbing down or declining standards of today’s youth. Oddly enough it has been proven false again and again only to be spouted once more.

XKCD on declining writing standards

See the full original here: https://xkcd.com/1227/

There is a similar article on The Spectator – a home for uninformed opinion – which argues that if we let graphic novels into literature we have to let in everything. They must defend Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works. Maybe I’ll address that one at some stage when I’m feeling masochistic, but I’m going to leave it there. The maid has arrived.

*This comparison was true at the time of my original comments on The Conversation. I’ve read many graphic novels since, but no further literature novels.

Answers to one of those list thingies

Questions and Answers signpost

Angela at Books and Opinions posted one of those lists where you are meant to pick either/or. In true Tyson Adams fashion – which has suddenly grown to referring to myself in the third person – I’m going to ruin the list with my answers.

1) Paper or Digital?

Both. They’re both books. I like books. And repeating words.

2) Romance or Sci-Fi?

I love science, so sci-fi.

3) History or Current Events?

I remember back when history was current events.

4) Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?

Sherlock Holmes because he likes music, logic, and drugs. Lots of drugs.

5) Twilight or Hunger Games?

Blade or Battle Royale? Have to say Blade.

6) Jane Eyre or Anna Karenina?

I’ve ignored both equally.

7) Harry Potter or Narnia?

Living in a cupboard or travelling through one: tough choice. Have to go to the sorting hat for this one.

8) History or Biography?

To be honest, not a fan of either. Especially if it is the history of a sport or biography of a sportsperson. Or the history of biographies.

9) Stand Alone story or Series?

Series has the advantage of telling a story over many books. Stand alone has the advantage that the story isn’t dragged out over many books. There’s a lot to be said for both.

10) Dante or Tolstoy?

Dante has far more literary nerd cred for those trying to impress people on the bus/train.

11) Sauron or Jadis the White Witch?

Jadis hands down. Sauron isn’t even in the same race. He’s like the annoying sidekick.

12) The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew?

The Hardy Boys and their jalopy, overt racism, and old-timey values.

Bring back the Percontation Point

Have you ever written something sarcastic only to have someone take you seriously?

Have you tried to be ironic but people are confused as to whether you are being serious, ironic, or satirical?

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Well, how about we try to bring back the Percontation Point.

The Percontation Point, or the Irony Mark, used to be a punctuation mark that indicated that the sentence had another layer of meaning to it. With spoken words we get to use tone of voice or facial expressions to make sure people are hearing the other layers. In writing we have to make our layers so obvious that we bash people over the head to make it clear. Even then people will inevitably ask:

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Seriously, there is an entire website devoted to this.

So it is clear that writers need to revive the use of the Percontation Point to indicate sarcasm, satire, and irony. It is an essential tool for smart people to use to make stupid people feel even stupider. Which makes it the best punctuation mark of all.

Also called the Percontation Point and the Irony Mark, this one's used to indicate that there's another layer of meaning in a sentence. Usually a sarcastic or ironic one. So it is essentially a tool for smart people to use to make stupid people feel even stupider. Which makes it the best punctuation mark of all.

 

Summarising The Fast and Furious Series

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Fast and Furious: Car Porn

The Fast and Furious series continues to make money at the box office. I have previously summarised the movies but it is time for an update.

The Fast and the Furious
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker prove that by combining the acting chops of Keanu Reeves and the charisma of Patrick Swayze you can recreate Point Break with cars.
Fun Fact: Boys under 25 were inspired to buy Toyota Supras by this movie. Failing that, they attached hi-flow exhausts to their Hyundai Excel.

2 Fast 2 Furious
Diesel was 2 busy and subsequently introduced Tyrese Gibson to the series. Thus started the series long question “What is he doing here? Is he the comedy relief without the comedy? Why hasn’t he been accidentally shot yet?”
Fun Fact: Someone actually thought you could replace Diesel with Gibson.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Lucas Black and Bow Wow make Diesel and Walker look like Shakespearean actors. Even with the most cars and jailbait in skirts, we still wonder how this is a Fast and Furious movie.
Fun Fact: This movie got made. No-one is quite sure how.

Fast & Furious
Diesel and Walker return to remind us that as unlikely as it would seem, they make this series work. I’m sure there was a plot and stuff probably happened. Cars exploded though.
Fun Fact: This wasn’t released direct to DVD.

Fast Five
The Rock is introduced and immediately this series becomes awesome. Diesel realises The Rock is in this film and spends the next few films trying to buff up and look half as intimidating as a single eyebrow raise from The Rock.
Fun Fact: The Rock is in this film!!

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Fast & Furious 6
The Rock gains an endorsement from Under Armour and Johnson’s Baby Oil to help hold this film together. Characters get resurrected. Others die. We are painfully reminded that street racers are not professional mercenaries.
Fun Fact: Tanks and Planes can be destroyed with sports cars. Engineers and the military are working together to figure out how they got things so wrong.

Furious 7
Hey look, we just made a billion dollars with this movie. Pretty impressive for a movie that is a loosely strung together series of set pieces designed by a kid with a Hot Wheels obsession. The heroes also decide that they want to see how many innocent people they can get caught in the crossfire for the final showdown.
Fun Fact: They actually did a touching send off for Paul Walker.

The Fate of the Furious
The Rock and Jason Statham are now the stars of the series. They have all the coolest scenes and make you gloss over the various characters who have disappeared.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Lamborghinis were bulletproof? Apparently a grappling hook goes straight through the door but not any bullets. Amazing engineering.

Future Fast and Furious movies?

Fast and Furiosa
Charlize Theron returns as the villain. The Rock and Statham join forces to stop the Imperator. Diesel fights for relevance in the series with huge doses of steroids. They probably use cars despite them not making sense for the plot.

Furious and the Walking Dead
CGI advances to the point where Paul Walker is resurrected for the series. This once again gives Vin Diesel relevance to the series. The Rock and Statham pull out the zombie fighting kit and attack the uncanny valley.

Book to Movie: Lord of the Rings The Return of the King – What’s the Difference?

Previously in What’s the Difference? the Cinefix team have covered The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. So it is time to wrap up their coverage of Lord of the Rings with The Return of the King… and enough partings to make you think you are a hairdresser.

A lot of epic stuff happens in the last third of the Lord of the Rings. A lot of tearful goodbyes happen as well. Honestly, when you are reading the paper version you reach the first ending and can’t figure out why there are so many pages left. By the third ending you start wondering if it will ever end.

As I’ve previously discussed for the other instalments, I think the movie is a fantastic adaptation. The minor changes, like Sam not putting on the ring, don’t make much difference – but that one didn’t make much sense either. The major differences are actually quite welcome. Except one.

First I’d like to comment on Sam not wearing the ring. I actually thought that whilst being a minor point, it was also very important to his character and the later act of carrying Frodo. Sam experienced just for a short moment the burden Frodo bore. It helped him redouble his efforts. And also made for a more believable way for Sam to infiltrate the Orc camp.

The major difference that I thought should have been in the film was the reclaiming of The Shire from Saruman. Obviously we’d already had too many endings and needed another one like an extra hole in our heads. But the heroes returned from war to a village ignorant/indifferent to the war and the sacrifice – can anyone say Vietnam vets? That isn’t really a happy ending. By having the heroes come home and expel the evil from their village as well, it would have shown their growth as warriors, but also tied their sacrifice to the people they had defended…. Plus, it would have been another action scene in a boring section of the film.

Now that Cinefix have finished with Lord of the Rings it is hard to know what they will cover next. Fingers crossed that is a 6 video coverage of the 3 movie adaptation of the 1 book story The Hobbit.

Edit: Since posting this article I’ve come across a video that explains why the ending of The Return of the King feels so long. The video below argues that it isn’t too long, but rather there is a gap between when the plot finishes and where the story does.

Of course, there is a 30 minute gap between the plot finishing and the story ending. The tension has been resolved so the film feels to drag on, entering Ending Fatigue. 30 minutes out of 558 is 10.7% of your run time devoted to that gap. That’s a lot of time. If they had managed to use less screen time for the story ending/s then we wouldn’t have noticed. Or if people were first watching the films in a marathon, such that 30 minutes out of +9 hours feels shorter, then they’d notice less.

More Books You Haven’t Read

I have written previously (here, here) about how people like to pretend they have read something they haven’t. To summarise my take on this phenomenon: Stop it!

People claim to have read books (1, 2, 3, 4) and watched movies they haven’t in order to appear more intelligent. From the new list that I will discuss below, you have to question who they are trying to impress by claiming to have read Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson.

Impressing people is what this is all about. We all have an inability to admit we like (or dislike) stuff because others may have a subjectively different taste and ridicule us. We even come up with the fake term “guilty pleasure” to describe something we like but are ashamed of for some reason. There shouldn’t be guilty pleasures, only pleasures… unless that pleasure is illegal or immoral or both – such as the movies of Uwe Bole.

This new list of lied about books comes from a poll of 2,000 UK adults. In it 41% of respondents admitted they fibbed about what, and how much, they read. This was part of The Reading Agency‘s look at reading habits. It found that 67% of respondents would like to read more, but 48% claimed they were too busy to read… but caught the game on the TV and did you see those new cat videos? Another interesting point was that 35% said they struggle to find a book they really like, and 26% want recommendations from someone they know. I.e. reviews are important.

As you will see from the list, most of these books have been turned into movies. That was probably why people lied. They wanted to impress people in a discussion but couldn’t just admit that they had only watched the movie. Hint: us readers can tell you haven’t read the book.

 Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

1. James Bond novels by Ian Fleming

I can’t claim to have read many of the James Bond novels – one, I’m pretty sure I’ve only read one. But I have watched most of the movies at least once. For my own part, the reason I haven’t read more of the books is partly lack of interest, and partly making time to catch up on older novels. There are a lot of influential authors and novels I’m yet to have a chance to read. Plus I’ve heard that the books have far fewer explosions.

 The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Admittedly I read the novel after the first movie came out – or possibly only finished it after the first movie came out. I’ve covered this book recently as part of my Book vs Movie discussions (1, 2, 3). I don’t think you can blame people for watching the movies instead of reading the book. The book is long, waffly, and at times difficult to parse. The movies are only long and awesome.

 

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I’ve only read six of the seven Narnia novels. I read this series when I was young and pretty much lost interest before reading The Last Battle. The first two novels (chronological, not published) are well worth reading, but I can understand people not bothering to read the rest. I can also understand people having watched the movies and decided not to read the books. The movies are only okay, which is generally not enough to encourage most people to read books.

4. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Apparently The DaVinci Code is one of the most read books of all time…. if you just go by book sales. I have a love-hate relationship with Dan Brown’s Artefact McGuffin Adventures. While I have read two of Brown’s novels, I actually prefer other authors who write superior Artefact McGuffin Adventures. Can’t really blame people for watching Tom Hanks run around historical places instead of reading about Robert Langdon.

 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I can honestly say I haven’t read this book, nor been interested in doing so, despite the paperback being on our shelves. The movies didn’t exactly inspire me either. The main reason I haven’t tackled it is that my wife only thought it was okay and similar to Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

6. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

I didn’t even realise the movie was based on a book until relatively recently. I’m sure most people will have seen the movie and assumed the book is pretty similar.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Another book I haven’t read and one I’m not really interested in reading – nor the rest of the series for that matter. I’m not sure why anyone would claim to have read this book when they haven’t, unless they want to say “Oh, the books are so much darker” when the movie is being discussed.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

8. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Another novel that is on our shelves thanks to my wife. The impression I have of the main character is that I would probably not enjoy this, especially since I try to be out of the room when people are watching the movies.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Ugh. I read part of this book before shredding it and using the remains to create a nest for a family of rats. Even the Wikipedia synopsis of the novel bores me to tears. Any “thriller” that starts with ten pages of descriptions of flowers, followed by a few more pages discussing home renovations had better make them giant mutated flowers with Uzis that are renovating the home with explosives. If only people would stop talking about this book so that people would stop talking about it as though it was good.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

10. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

I bought The Godfather from a bargain bin next to a pile of remaindered books. The only reason I decided to buy and read it was that the movie was/is a classic. It is probably fair to say that most people only ever considered reading this because of the movie, so it is no surprise that people inflate that from considering to have read.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I have neither read this book nor watched the film. My entire understanding of this book comes from Thug Notes. That’s enough for me.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book certainly isn’t for everyone. When I reviewed it I called it literary crime fiction, which puts it between genre fiction that people like reading, and award-winning stuff people only pretend to like reading.* That means it could attract people from both audiences, or annoy both audiences – yes, I am assuming that those two audiences are disparate entities that share nothing in common. So I could see why some people would claim to have read this novel, what with the awards, and praise, and movie forcing them to either admit something about their reading habits or to make some facile excuse for not having read it yet.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

13. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This book has the dubious honour of being a novel I was only aware existed as a result of it appearing on these lists of books people claim to have read but haven’t. Maybe this book doesn’t actually exist but is inserted into these reading lists as an internal check for the survey of readers. Let’s see who notices that this book is fictional fiction.

As you can see, it is easy to admit which books you have and haven’t read. Some books you may not want to read. Some you may not have had a chance to read yet. Some you might only be aware of due to the movie adaptation. The main thing is to acknowledge the truth so that entertaining books are promoted (review books, but do it the right way), rather than dreck that people haven’t read but assume is entertaining. And if you want to continue to lie about books you’ve read, here is a summary of some classic novels:

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*Yes, that is me being snobby. Yes, I am meant to be against that judgmental stuff. Yes, I am a hypocrite at times.

Book to Movie: Lord of the Rings Two Towers – What’s the Difference?

Last month Cinefix covered The Fellowship of the Ring. This month they cover The Two Towers with What’s the Difference?

For me the middle third of the Lord of the Rings was both the most enjoyable and most annoying. As mentioned in the video, there are three tales running separately and rather than moving between these tales as they unfold in the narrative, we jump back to start again for each perspective. The book has some of the most memorable moments in this section – I may or may not have named one of my computers Entwash – but the order of events feels confused. Sorry, not confused, more drawn out, which for a novel that includes a hell of a lot of walking is something unneeded.

As with The Fellowship of the Ring, I think the movie is a fantastic adaptation. Seeing the battles brought to life was certainly a highlight. Nothing quite like watching Ents smash up Isengard rather than just reading about it.

Next month we’ll see the last instalment from Cinefix. Well, until the 6 video coverage of the 3 movie adaptation of the 1 book story The Hobbit.

Book vs Movie: A Clockwork Orange – What’s the Difference?

Time for some ultra-violence with this month’s instalment of CineFix’s What’s the Difference?

I can’t remember if I read the book or watched the movie first. A Clockwork Orange was a novel in my parents’ collection of novels, which is why I turned out so well. I do remember the novel wasn’t as easy to consume as the movie, mainly because you can interpret spoken language more easily than understanding the lexicon employed in Burgess’ written words.

This may be a somewhat shocking statement, but I’m not much of a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s films. I always found them somewhat bland, as though there were a lot of empty space on the screen. As such, there are parts of the film I find to be bordering on dull, and others that strike me as weird and hammy (such as the scene with Alex’s parol officer). Meanwhile, the book managed to be entertaining and yet critical of youth culture whilst discussing free will.

It is ironic that I would enjoy a book that is critical of “kids these days”. But the fact that it was written in 1962 only further proves my point that complaining about the younger generation has been a popular pastime for old people since the invention of young people. Oh, and free will probably doesn’t exist.

Top Posts of 2016

human-era-calendar-feature-image-12082016

Since everyone else is blogging about their most popular posts of the year, I thought I’d jump on that bandwagon. I love bandwagons. Especially if they have drinks.

I’ve been blogging for 6 years now and the views, readers, and regulars has been gradually increasing. So a big thank you to everyone for joining me here.

1) The Actual 10 Most Deadly Animals in Australia

Who’d have thought a listicle would be the most popular thing I’ve written? Originally written for one of those comedy list sites, I’m glad so many have enjoyed this one.

2) Why Being Smart Sucks

I didn’t write this one, just added some colour commentary. Wish I could claim more credit on this piece.

3) Beware The Meme

Before people were aware of what a dangerous kook David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe was, I wrote this piece dissecting his memes. I did try to get this published in a science magazine, but apparently Wolfe doesn’t like people reproducing his content… a lot of which is stolen from other creators. I like that I was ahead of the curve on calling this guy out for his dangerous nonsense.

4) Kids These Days

This article needs to be rewritten and published somewhere with a huge platform. It could then be used as a regular rebuttal to every whiny piece complaining about the younger generation.

5) Cool Book Art

This one clearly ranks high on Google Image searches.

6) Do People In Australia Ride Kangaroos?

One of my trademark snarky Quora answers. Its popularity here shows that I need to write more articles about Australian animals.

7) Pen vs. Keyboard: Fight!

One of a few posts I wrote in response to anti-technology pieces that were being circulated through writing groups. It annoys me when bad studies or preliminary studies are cited as the final answer on a subject. It annoys me more when those same studies are misrepresented because someone is pushing an agenda. I’m glad people actually read this response.

8) How to Spot Anti-Science Nonsense

This article is a response to a question from a reader. It is another article addressing an anti-technology piece that was being circulated, this time on GMOs. A version of it appeared in Skeptic Magazine without the yeti cocaine addict joke.

9) Is Sport King In Australia

When I pitched this article the response was deafening silence. It was also my most down-voted item on Reddit. Apparently we don’t talk about sports negatively. Especially not if you back it up with facts. I’m glad people here have enjoyed it.

10) Mythtaken: Shark Attack Deaths

Another animals article, another poke at how we overstate the dangers of loveable creatures who just want a hug.

Here’s to 12,017: I hope everyone has a good year!

12017

I Before E “Rule”

i-before-e

That’s right. Never trust anything the grammarians say, with their “rules” and mnemonics.

Apparently the 923 words figure comes from a QI fan who crunched the numbers from Scrabble. Most of the words are more obscure, so the rule is probably okay for the average person, and invaluable to football commentators.

Book vs Movie: Die Hard – What’s the Difference?

die-hard-is-the-best-christmas-movie-of-all-time

What better time of year for CineFix to do a What’s the Difference? episode on the best Xmas movie of all time!

While I have gotten my grubby hands on the Roderick Thorp novel (Nothing Last Forever), I must confess to not having read it as yet. It is probably a good thing I don’t mind spoilers. Hope you don’t mind either, because, you know, spoiler alert.

The differences between the two endings is interesting. Having the watch moment with McClane’s wife/daughter play out differently, and Dwayne Robinson’s sacrifice, would not have made this a classic Xmas movie. So it makes sense that the movie’s creative team changed those things to make this a more upbeat ending.

Enjoy the season rewatching all the the Die Hard movies… except A Good Day to Die Hard: that is an abomination and an offence against not only cinema, but the good name of Die Hard.

uqhwzod

I said what? Kangaroo edition

Recently a video of a man punching a kangaroo that was trying to…. Actually, have you seen the video? Do you reckon it was? I mean, you know. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Anyway, the kangaroo is all over the man’s dog and the man valiantly defends the dog’s honour with a nice right cross.

roo-punch-gif

As a result of this internet sensation, my article on dangerous Aussie animals has become quite popular. In that article I discuss the National Coroner’s data report from 2000 to 2010 and give flippant explanations for the death tolls. Some people liked my article so much that I’m being quoted:

KANGAROO ARE SERIOUSLY DANGEROUS
Kangaroos can seriously injure or even kill a man with their powerful hind legs. As per Tyson Adams*, Kangaroos are one of the ten most deadly animals in Australia. The site ranked buck on fifth place claiming that the species has 18 deaths to its name. It further mentioned that though Kangaroos look loveable and cuddly, underneath that skin lays a nasty, vicious bully.

There are a few things to unpack here:

  1. They don’t mention how ruggedly handsome I am.
  2. Kangaroos do rank in the top ten deadly animals…. but;
  3. Worth noting my explanations of how kangaroos managed to kill people, which was from traffic accidents;
  4. Worth noting that 18 deaths in a decade is officially classed as SFA by the Coroner;
  5. Worth noting that I also referred to kangaroos as modern-day, sleepy, vegetarian, T-Rexes.

While I’m flattered that people are reading and referencing my article it would be nice if they had understood the point I was making. Yes, that would have required the TechPlz people to read the entire piece rather than just the bit about kangaroos, and it would also have meant comprehending how cows could make Rambo look like a cub scout. I feel that they should have been referencing that the 18 deaths were over a decade. Or referencing that they ranked 5th based upon a coroner’s report (with a little artistic license in the rankings from me). Or that citing a coroner’s report doesn’t make the deaths something I’m claiming so much as the official statistics on the matter. Or that Aussie animals aren’t anywhere near as dangerous as we Aussies like to make out. Or that linking to my article would have been nice….. Yeah, it’s mainly the last point: I want the traffic.

I suppose the main thing is they spelled my name correctly.

* That’s me!! Is I famus nowz?

I live in Australia and want to study Creative writing?

christopher-hitchens-everybody-book

I am 48 years old and want to write this novel I KNOW I have in me …..has anyone any suggestion? Thanks

There are plenty of ways to learn to write, the primary way being to write.

Most writers’ festivals have short half-day courses on aspects of writing that are worth attending. Writer’s festivals | australia.gov.au

Most states also have writers’ centres that run events and courses. Writers’ Centres

Several universities run creative writing courses. My friend and author, David Whish-Wilson (read his books, they are great), teaches creative writing at Curtin University in Western Australia. There are plenty of courses available via Open Universities online.

Another option are centres like the Australia Writers’ Centre who run various courses year round. I’ve done a course with them myself. My friend and author, LA Larkin, also teaches a course at the AWC.

But when all said and done, the primary way to learn to write is by doing it. But before you do remember the above sage piece of advice from the late, great, Christopher Hitchens.

More advice from some of the most prolific authors in this article from The Atlantic.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

The header image quote is discussed in more detail here.

Book vs Movie: The Crow – What’s the Difference?

Is The Crow one of your favourite cult movies? Well, it should be. CineFix discuss the movie and the comic it was based upon in this month’s What’s the Difference?

The Crow remains one of my favourite films, which probably says a lot about my teenage years. The comic it is based upon, however, was not a book I enjoyed reading.

As the video mentions, author James O’Barr wrote the comic as a way of coping with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. The book is bleak, and when not being directly about revenge, it is darkly introspective and depressing. The main character is clearly a form of Super Id – drawn as lean, muscular, 6’5″, invulnerable, unstoppable – and acts as a form of cathartic revenge against a cruel world. That might be fine for a Steven Seagal movie, but there’s a reason why you had to look up who Seagal was just now.

The movie is an example of a great adaptation, especially considering the film couldn’t be completed as intended after the unfortunate death of Brandon Lee. They managed to capture so much of the tone and character of the book whilst not making a movie that would have you slitting your wrists halfway through. The video refers to this as Hollywoodising, but I think they are being too harsh. The story was a revenge tale, but the movie manages to create an actual character arc and have more compelling bad guys. Case in point: Michael Wincott’s Top Dollar. The movie also trims off the bleak stuff in favour of a more cohesive narrative. This is why I had a poster from the movie on my wall and gave the comic away.

What are some great books that will teach me to be a creative writer?

being-a-good-writer-is-3-percent-talent-97-percent-not-being-distracted-by-the-internet-writing-meme-photo-kill-your-darlings-atl1

I love creative writing and I’m good at university dissertations, but when I try to write a story, I struggle and the writing is often awkward. Yet I love doing it. What pratical guides or reading list would you recommend for people who wish to masted the art of writing and creative writing?

Creative writing is as much about practice as it is about any advice you can read in a book. Part of that practice is writing, part of it is editing your own work, and part of it is reading to see how others construct their prose.

Essentially, if you already know the mechanics of how to write, then the part that is missing is the hours and hours of practice and analysis of that practice.

That said, there are plenty of manuals on style and grammar that would be helpful. E.g. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is regarded as a classic of writing.

I personally think Stephen King’s On Writing is a must read for any author.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

What is a genre of music invented in Australia?

There are three genres that were invented in Australia:

  1. Pub Rock
  2. Bush Ballads
  3. Indiginous music

People around the world may be familiar with Pub Rock thanks to a little known band called AC/DC. They and many other rock bands were touring at a time when the live music scene revolved around the Aussie Pub. As a result, the music, and particularly the lyrics, reflected this.

Bush Ballads are the lesser known and more antiquated Aussie music style. Think of it as folk music written by people who loved sheep a bit too much. As a mix between love of rural Australia, folk music, country music, and oldy time-y nostalgia, the genre is less popular now than when gramophones were a thing. That isn’t to say that Bush Ballads had no influence, as Waltzing Matilda is regarded as the unofficial national anthem, and some songs have gained international audiences from cover versions (see Dr Hook example below).

Indiginous music as it stands today would generally be better referred to as fusion. This is because it combines traditional Indiginous musical styles and instruments and fuses them with other genres (rock, hip-hop, rap, country, etc). What makes it such an Australian genre is the cultural themes and lyrical content, which is very unique.

 This post originally appeared on Quora.

Let’s Get It On… I mean, fight!

Bloody-UFC

I’ve been a fan of martial arts for as long as I can remember. While I’m not a fighter (I’m a pussy) I have great respect for the athletes that beat the crap out of each other for our entertainment. I also love a bit of choreographed hijinx in films as well.

But for some reason there are people who don’t share my love and respect for people punching each other in the face until someone carts them off on stretchers. They decry boxing and MMA as bloody and violent sports that should be banned – won’t somebody please think of the children! At the same time they blithely ignore the injury and deaths from good old harmless football et al.

So I thought that I would run through a few of the statistics and studies on those violent sports to see if the claims stack up. Yeah, you know what’s going to happen: don’t you!

Let’s start by looking at boxers and MMA fighters: just how likely are injuries and knockouts? Well, a study of 1181 MMA competitors and 550 boxers found that boxers were less likely to suffer the cuts and bruises of MMA fighters, but they were more likely to be knocked out.

Boxers were significantly more likely not to experience injury (49.8% vs 59.4%, P < 0.001), whereas MMA fighters were significantly more likely to experience 1 injury (typically contusion/bruising, P < 0.001). Boxers were more likely to experience loss of consciousness (7.1% vs 4.2%, P = 0.01) and serious eye injury (1.1% vs 0.3%, P = 0.02).

This makes sense given that there are more ways to win an MMA bout than by points, KO, or bookmaker arranged dive. Also the overall injury rate in MMA fights of 8.5% is surprisingly low for two people beating the crap out of one another.

The overall injury rate was 8.5% of fight participations (121 injuries/1422 fight participations) or 5.6% of rounds (121/2178 rounds). Injury rates were similar between men and women, but a greater percentage of the injuries caused an altered mental state in men. Fighters also were more likely to be referred to the ER if they participated in longer bouts ending in a KO/TKO.

Other studies have found higher rates of injury, 28.6%, but have similar conclusions regarding the types of injuries – facial cuts and bruises – being higher than boxing, but knockouts being lower.

Part of this is down to the small, fingerless gloves used in MMA. Less padding, that is mainly there to protect the hands from breaking with every punch, leads to a different force being applied to the opponent’s face.

All padding conditions reduced linear impact dosage. Other parameters significantly decreased, significantly increased, or were unaffected depending on padding condition. Of real-world conditions (MMA glove–bare head, boxing glove–bare head, and boxing glove–headgear), the boxing glove–headgear condition showed the most meaningful reduction in most of the parameters. In equivalent impacts, the MMA glove–bare head condition induced higher rotational dosage than the boxing glove–bare head condition. Finite element analysis indicated a risk of brain strain injury in spite of significant reduction of linear impact dosage.

Okay, so how do these nasty violent sport stats compare to less violent sports? What is the chance of dying in MMA or boxing compared to, I don’t know, horse riding? Well, a 2012 study from Victoria found motor sports, fishing, equestrian activities, and swimming all led to more deaths in a year than boxing. That’s right, riding a horse or going fishing is deadlier than standing in a ring getting punched in the face. That brutal and nasty boxing didn’t even make it into the top ten. Hell, even real life is more dangerous, as another study found motor vehicle accidents and falls were far more likely to kill people than boxing or any other sport. It’s almost as though the controlled forum of a boxing ring or MMA octagon are somehow stopping things getting out of hand.

The Victorian study is only looking at one state in Australia, so hardly representative of the entire world, and only looked at 2001-2007, which isn’t a huge time span, but the results are still very interesting:

There were 1019 non-fatal major trauma cases and 218 deaths. The rate of major trauma or death from sport and active recreation injuries was 6.3 per 100,000 participants per year. There was an average annual increase of 10% per year in the major trauma rate (including deaths) across the study period, for the group as a whole (IRR 1.10, 95% CI, 1.06-1.14). There was no increase in the death rate (IRR=0.94, 95% CI, 0.87-1.02; p=0.12). Significant increases were also found for cycling (IRR 1.16, 95% CI, 1.09-1.24) off-road motor sports (IRR 1.10, 95% CI, 1.03-1.19), Australian football (IRR 1.21, 95% CI, 1.03-1.42) and swimming (IRR 1.16, 95% CI, 1.004-1.33).

Did you take that in? I’ll let the authors summarise:

The rate of major trauma inclusive of deaths, due to participation in sport and active recreation has increased over recent years, in Victoria, Australia. Much of this increase can be attributed to cycling, off-road motor sports, Australian football and to a lesser extent swimming, highlighting the need for coordinated injury prevention in these areas.

But is this representative? UFC boss Dana White likes to compare his sport to NFL, as MMA fighters are kept sidelined after concussions for longer than their football (should be hand-egg, but let’s not quibble) counterparts. According to a report made by One Sure Insurance, the fact remains that under all that protective gear used to play rugby, NFL players are hitting each other with the (padded) equivalent force of a car crash. Studies of brains show that all contact sports are bad for the brain. Even Soccer (or is that Football?) players are at risk of brain injury. MMA like to keep their fighters healthy, whilst most sports want their players back next week to go again.

I keep seeing these claims about MMA or boxing being dangerous to health. Meanwhile, football, rugby, gridiron, that skating sport that Canadians jizz over, all seem to have just as much chance of injury or death. Essentially, we can easily list a dozen sports more dangerous than fight sports (seriously, cheerleading: WTF!). But that doesn’t really matter. The main thing is to know the actual risks so that athletes (and spectators) are making a well informed decision. Because as much as horse riding is bad for your health, it is also boring to watch (NB: personal opinion and quite a snobby one at that) so people won’t really care about another death in that sport. Whereas a death in an exciting sport like MMA is much more visceral and likely to have spectators on hand. Hard to compare horse riding to MMA, unless we had Kentucky Thunder step into the octagon.

The main problem I see with the “MMA is violent and dangerous” or “Boxing is a brutal sport” and “They should be banned” (please, think of the children!) is that it assumes fighters are unaware that being punched in the head is bad for their health. Do people really think that fighters love being knocked out or injured, instead of just spar that vast variety of dummies (e.g. these mmalife.com/the-6-best-grappling-mma-dummies/)? Even UFC and Boxing acknowledge that they need to understand the risks of a career of head-butting people’s fists.

It could be argued that young athletes are unaware of the risks of being an athlete, what with the naivety of believing they are bulletproof and will be young forever – don’t worry kids: you’ll be cool your entire life. People do have a fascinating ability to ignore long term risks in favour of short term gains. UFC champion George St Pierre reportedly retired from MMA due to persistent headaches (maybe). So it is important that athletes are made aware of the risks of injury and long term debilitation, with further research in this area being essential – yes, there is an echo in here. But it also has to be acknowledged that athletes aren’t exactly unaware of the issue. George Foreman was aware of the risks of eponymous naming of kitchen appliances, but the money was good. He was also aware of the risks of being a boxer, and named his kids George so he wouldn’t forget them – “You have to plan for memory loss in boxing.”

Then there are those that see fighting as entertainment for lowlifes and thugs. That somehow only the uneducated or the uncivilised enjoy seeing two people belt each other around the head. This is, of course, just more of the “I don’t like it, therefore it is bad and only poo-poo heads like it” argument that snobs like to make. Nothing like playing the moral and intellectual superiority card to denigrate something. Ignorance is always funnier when someone thinks they are superior.

Some argue, as the AMA does, that the intent of boxing and MMA is to belt each other senseless. If all you see in fighting is two people trying to kill one another, then you aren’t watching. You’re distracted by the superficial aspects of the events. Insights that shallow just show an ignorance of what is happening in the ring. In MMA and boxing there are many ways to win a fight, as already alluded to above. Take for example this famous clip (more here from my friend Stick):

Now the superficial view of the video has us watching Ali wailing on a guy against the ropes. Obvious, but not the reason this is classic boxing footage. Boxing fans would point out Ali’s footwork, the athleticism and skill involved, the amazing speed, and the fact that his opponent is seriously outclassed. Boxing isn’t just about punching your opponent. Watch what happens when someone tries to reverse the tables with a flurry of punches thrown at Ali:

This is athleticism defined. This is why Ali is still regarded as such a great fighter, as it takes far more than turning your opponent’s brain to mush to win a fight. And that is what non-fight fans don’t understand. They can’t get past the superficial to see the sport. They are so caught up in being snobbish and outraged that they missed the amazing athletes doing amazing things.

That and the beating the crap out of each other.

Other articles:
Australian Sport Injury Hospitalisations 2011-12
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/uoa-mma110515.php
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/boxing-mma/more-brain-injuries-caused-by-sparring-than-real-fights/news-story/258aa1bd5e7d7823d3ddb102310f1dba
https://theconversation.com/should-boxing-be-banned-38907
http://www.thejournal.ie/the-journal-factcheck-mma-boxing-safety-injury-2713577-Apr2016/
http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i389 and http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i389/rr-0

Does MMA Make You Stupid? Impact, Concussions and Brain Damage in Mixed Martial Arts

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