Yes, I took last week off from this. Of course, it’s hard to call it a job if you’re not getting paid, right? So maybe I just typed fewer words or something. Things are late this week due to a variety of family things coming together and happening all around the same time. The hard parts of these are settled and with as good a result as one can hope for in the short term, so that’s a good thing.

YouTube links of wonder will return next week. Unless I decide I’m done with that. Like I said, I’m doing these primarily for my own amusement and some perhaps misguided sense of obligation to my audience out there, all three of you.

I’ve allowed work on NIGHT EAGLES to get bogged down in world-building (don’t worry, I won’t explain a bit of it on the page). But I needed to know a bit more about things so that I could make them transparent. This might sound counter-intuitive and even paradoxical, but I assure you it is not. There’s nothing worse for me than getting to a section of a book/story/whatever and thinking to myself “Wow, you must have done a lot of research.” Believe me, this is not a good thing to have your readers think. Ever. Sure, build a compelling world and know its ins and outs, but do your reader a favor and never explain them except in action or a side line of dialogue as your character gets ground up by the world they find themselves in. Do not explain a damn thing. Trust your reader.

And I was dangerously close to having to explain stuff, because I didn’t know it myself. Which is a sign to me to get back to work on the stuff behind the façade, make sure that it can stand up in at least a breeze, much less a stiff wind. The whole point is to make the reader move along briskly and feel something, not to explain how long you spent lovingly crafting the world and oh yes, that it’s very important that these barber poles are white with red stripes and not red with white stripes. What’s important is that the barber is really running a front for a Turkish crime organization, right? (Yes, I just re-watched EASTERN PROMISES again recently, why?)

The point is to make the world alive on the page (or in the script so that your collaborating artists can make it alive.) The point is not to sit down and talk about the history of this city block for the last fifty years (not unless the story is about the city block in question, I guess.) And I just wasn’t there. Good news is I’m almost there. Though I think I’m going to try a different approach on writing this script, mostly because the last attempts were feeling very stiff and lifeless, enough so that I threw out all but the framing sequence. Going to try and let it run under its own power, as it were.

So, sure, go crazy on world building and research. And then make it invisible. You know, like special effects done right? Seriously, your work will be better for it.

On a side note, having been watching THE VOICE on and off with my wife, I’ve got a few observations about goings-on in that show and the world of art for hire in general. I’ll be brief, don’t worry.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, THE VOICE is a talent competition. You have four celebrity judges (all singers themselves) picking unknown/semi-pro singers for a team, take them through multiple rounds of elimination and weeks of training/image makeovers/sanding off rough edges and after a few months, you’ve got a winner, crowned The Voice Winner, Season Whatever, and then they go off and sing in Reno and Vegas, maybe tour and are often never heard from again.

The singers who come onto THE VOICE are all undeniably talented, some of them have even worked like hell to get where they are (there is a huge difference between talent and work). The fun thing is that they all are generally more interesting at the start of the competition than they are by the end. Also, the show really seems to reward the vocal gymnastics/technical events side of things rather than emotional power, but that’s another story. See, when these folks come in, they sometimes don’t even know who the hell they are. Oftentimes when they find out, they’re just like any other number of interchangeable pop singers. Oh, sure, they all have individual flourishes and the like. But in terms of quality, they’re all more or less indistinguishable. And, frankly, they’re often indistinguishable from their judges/mentors on those terms. Those rough edges get ground down. Dress a little like this. Get outside yourself. Be more relatable.

However, one of the things that happens, and pardon the technical aside here, happens in what they call the head-to-head rounds. This is where two singers on the same team sing either in a duet (in the first rounds) or their own solo track (later rounds) in direct competition with a teammate. One wins, one goes home. And it’s always a heartbreaking and tough decision. And usually there’s talk about how Xiang had a lot of emotional power or some uniqueness (more often than not, being more idiosyncratic) and Javier was just plain louder and more accessable, connected directly with the audience (more often than not was just more commercial.)

Lemme tell you how many times the singer named Xiang gets picked in that one to one. Uniqueness gets run over by accessibility. Every time. I know, big surprise. This is a competition where they’re trying to pick the winner that the most call-in-voters will love. And that audience is more and more fragmented, so they have to go for the sorta least challenging option. I get that.

Just it’s funny that it’s always a hard choice, but it never really is, right?

Go ahead, read into this all you want. But I’ll be the first to note that I don’t write very challenging material.

In terms of stuff I’m consuming in my off time, just finished Charles Bowden’s DESIERTO, which I’d started reading on a trip and had more or less misplaced until earlier this week. It’s a stunning book, though feels more and more out of time in 2017 even though it’s perhaps even more true than ever. Read the Morrison and Frazer ANNIHILATION, which wasn’t bad, but didn’t feel like it would be anything lasting, really. Re-Read Darwyn Cooke (and friends’) THE NEW FRONTIER which feels even more classic than ever. I really wish DC had picked up the ball and made other creator showcase books like this. But maybe that would draw attention to the fact that the creator is actually more important than the franchise, which is something that is being hard downplayed in Big Two comics these days.

Caught THE VOID on VOD and it was really only okay. As much as I appreciated the commitment to practical effects (IE rubber monsters and fake blood versus CG models and the like) the story was too scattered, as well as the debts being paid to multiple inspirations in the field. Picking one main line  would have suited them better. Still, I want to see what they go on to. There were some genuinely freaky moments and a real sense of place due to the nature of the effects. That same night I watched THE BABADOOK (on the recommendation of my son) and wow did that one hit it out of the park. Highest recommendation on this, if you like psychological horror that is heavy on the psychology and inference and very low on the fountains of gore. Nice to see that good horror is still being made. Believe me, there’s a lot on Netflix that gets labeled as horror, but just comes out as trying too hard, never delivering.

Back to work. I’ll check in next week.

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