HUMANS AGREE: NORMAL BODIES ARE BORING AND WEAK

“He was turned to steel, In the great magnetic field.”
-Black Sabbath, “Iron Man”

Comic book heroes and superhuman subjects have filled childhood and adult dreams for the better part of a century now. The fantasy of saving the world, being nearly indestructible, and getting the girl just to break her heart because you’re a dark and misunderstood loaner. Maybe it’s that, or just a slight undiagnosed case of schizophrenia that leads to your imagined alter-ego. Whatever, superheroes are cool. I know that, so do I, and me too!

lego batman theloaferonline com
Photo courtesy of theloaferonline.com

A more realistic comic book hero comes in the form of well-off individuals. For example: Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Their super power is money; they’re just normal (not really) guys who could afford some serious gadgets. It works though, and it’s awesome. You know who else has money? The United States Government (not really), and Lockheed Martin has taken a page out of Tony Stark and Marvel’s fantastic book of imagination and entertaining vigilantism.

Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy are making exoskeleton technology come to life as they have entered into a contract to test the gear for industrial use. The suit, Fortis, increases an operator’s strength and endurance, and allows them to hold objects up to 36 pounds effortlessly with a mechanical arm as well as reduce muscle fatigue by 300%, increasing productivity up to 27 times the normal rate. Unfortunately, the suit doesn’t cover the operator’s entire body, nor does it enable the individual to fly (yet, we don’t know). The Navy as explained that their main use of the exoskeleton is for maintenance purposes, but Lockheed Martin has confirmed that they intend to develop more systems for military applications. They have been investing in exoskeleton research and development for more than five years; however, no financial terms have been released regarding their recent government toy (Williams, 2014).

Fortis lockheedmartin com
Photo courtesy of lockheedmartin.com

If we remember the 70’s (I don’t, I wasn’t born yet), then we remember the character, Steve Austin. He, to most people, is the 6 Million Dollar Man. Though it was a television program, it was obvious that progress from comic books to bionic implants was well on its way. From astronaut to secret agent with super-human speed, sight, and strength, Lee Majors portrayed what the government is nearly making a reality. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster (Richard Anderson).” From a financial standpoint, what would the cost of the 6 Million Dollar Man be now due to inflation? Would it be considered obsolete technology like a VHS or is he more like a classic car such as a ‘67 Fastback?

This type of stuff is supposed to be fiction, created by the imaginers and fanatical dreamers, but now it’s a reality. The future is now, and it came fast. It makes people wonder if genetic enhancement is on the horizon, or if testing has already begun regarding Captain America or Hulk transformations. Maybe they are secretly testing serums on professional athletes and that’s why they get in trouble with performance enhancers all the time? Who else would they test? The homeless? That’s too much of a risk. They would just use their super human strength to rob liquor stores.

Williams, A. (2014). Retrieved from http://news.investors.com/business/081814-713660-navy-testing-lockheed-iron-man-exoskeleton.htm on August 22 2014.

REPORT: SHARK WEEK ENTHUSIASTS DON’T REALLY TUNE IN

“So you want to tie both my arms off, And force feed me to sharks.”
-8 Stops 7, “Better”

It’s safe to say that we’re an obsessed culture. We love trash, we love smut, we love gossip, and we love things that we can talk about without ever really encountering. However, when we focus on something that is educational, information necessary for residents and visitors of, let’s say a coastal area somewhere, then it’s perfectly fine to overindulge.

Sharks. God damn Sharks. They’re amazing creatures; they’re beautiful as they are terrifying, and such a unique species that people marvel at their every move, bite, and eerie stalking, but sometimes they may just be out for a leisurely swim, they aren’t always hunting. Give the massive fish a break. I’m sure when you see a person walking down the street they aren’t always heading to a restaurant. Well, maybe the obese ones are.

Unlike obese people, sharks have been around for over 400 million years. Also unlike obese people, sharks workout because of their constant movement, and that allows them to feast on fatty seals and what not. Seals are like the fried chicken of the sea which makes manatees and walruses the chicken-fried steak with gravy of the sea. It’s okay though, they eat fish to balance out their diet. However, there’s more to a shark than their menu and their razor sharp teeth accompanied an extremely forceful bite.

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Photo courtesy of pewterreport.com

This is why television dedicates a whole week to the fascinating creatures. It’s one of the most popular events in television for people to talk about and not really watch; however, there are viewers that are truly interested in learning about the mysterious predators of the ocean. Scientists and marine biologists dedicate their life to studying the creatures; they track their movement and distance traveled, how they mate, how they parent, they determine a shark’s hunting and eating patterns, discover new species, risk their lives to swim and study the body of the wild aquatic beasts, understand the force a shark contains, and of course, photograph those magnificent jaws everyone has become accustomed to obsessing about.

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Photo courtesy of realityblurred.com

Society needs to be aware of what lurks in 70% of the earth, but not only from a human safety perspective, but also that of the species most of the world fears. Sharks are endangered, and we as humans are their only natural predator (except maybe Shamu and all his/her friends, but that’s mostly through defense or territorial disagreements. Oh, and the Kraken). It’s bad enough we pee in their home and mess things up by splashing around and what not; however, sharks are endangered because of threats that are the result of human activities including shark finning and getting caught in fishing gear. These are apex predators and play an important role in the health of the oceans. Without them, the entire food chain can be affected, negatively impacting the entire ecosystem (See The Wild, 2014). Even the strange ones that lurk in the dark deep that is the Pacific Ocean balance out the food chain. You know the place: the unfamiliar area where if there was any chance of opening a hole to another dimension, this would be it.

alien shark rwbyfanon wikia com
Photo courtesy of rwbyfanon.wikia.com

Despite our annual week-long coverage, we still aren’t completely certain about this amazing species. There will never be reassurance in the water; people are scared to even go into the pool after Shark Week. I know I was afraid of the deep end as a kid, and I don’t even think I was aware of Discovery Channel’s informative scare fest, if it was even around then. Please keep in mind that sharks don’t like the taste of people; they’re just afraid of us as we are of them, but I wouldn’t test that theory during the early morning or late afternoon hours (especially off the coast of South Africa). Also, think about this: sharks kill 10 humans a year; humans kill 20-30 million sharks a year (Discovery, 2014). For now, let’s deal with the sharks we have on land that are regularly televised throughout the year.

shark tank boss blogs nytimes com
Photo courtesy of boss.blogs.nytimes.com

SEEtheWILD (2014). Retrieved from http://www.seethewild.org/15/shark-threats.html on August 15 2014

Discovery (2014). Retrieved form http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/shark-week/about-this-show/why-do-sharks-attack.htm on August 15 2014

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

“Tailored suits, chauffeured cars, Fine hotels and big cigars.”
-AC/DC, “Money Talks”

It’s common to desire a higher wage for the services you offer to your employer; there’s nothing wrong with asking for a reasonable increase in pay if you feel that you deserve adequate compensation for recent performance. However, there’s a level that must be respected; please keep in mind that no matter how amazing you are, your job position may not be equally as remarkable. Seriously though, why can’t a manager at a small business make millions of dollars comparable to an athlete’s or actor’s salary? In retrospect, isn’t money based on how much worth you are to your company? If that’s the case, how much would a superhero get paid by the city? Some characters would know better than others.

superman comicsalltooreal blogspot com
Photo courtesy of comicsalltooreal.blogspot.com

Television is a business, and the stars of The Big Bang Theory are certainly proving that. Just like certain athletes have set the bar for “maximum money”, Friends had that effect on programming. The six stars of the famed comedy never really have to work again (and it’s been showing) because, towards the end of the series, they were earning $1 million each per episode. That’s ridiculous if you think about it, but not ridiculous enough for the nerdy version of the Central Perk clan to holdout and delay the start of the upcoming season. They wanted “Friends” money or they didn’t want to work. Kind of like the millennial bums obsessed with unworthy entitlement that you encounter every day, except Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Johnny Galecki, and Jim Parsons actually did something to deserve it, and they won. Here’s their victory package.

Cuoco-Sweeting, Galecki, and Parsons: From $350,000 per episode to $1,000,000 per episode plus incentive for Emmy wins and bonuses for being super hot (Goldberg, 2014).
Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch: Blossom and Blondie have signed contracts increasing their salaries 100% from $30,000 per episode to $60,000 (Goldberg, 2014).
Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar: Once again, Howard and Raj aren’t getting any (money of course, Howard is married to the blonde chick in the show, geez, think about something else) (Goldberg, 2014).

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Photo courtesy of inquisitor.com

Why though? That question requires many answers. It’s not just about television and acting; quite frankly, acting is incredibly difficult. I would record myself while reading my scripts as part of the editing process, trying to add the emotion and tone I wished the characters to have, and I was awful. It was one of those situations where you get embarrassed while no one else is around. Pathetic. Also, you have to take into consideration how many companies buy ad space during a highly-rated television program, and the price tag isn’t cheap. Amongst many other things, look also at what The Big Bang Theory has done for comic book sales, superhero t-shirts, and so on; not to mention merchandise purchased directly related to the show. The program has done as much for television and retail as the Fab 5 did for college basketball, Nike, and Hip-Hop.

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Photo courtesy of secwriter.com

Of course there’s an unbalance in American earnings, but that’s part of the dream of becoming a famous actor or athlete. You must remember that their main responsibility is to keep you entertained. Raise your hand if know someone that doesn’t watch sports or television; hell, even read a book or listen to music? I can’t really tell if you’re actually raising you’re hand so you can put it down, but I’m sure there weren’t many up in the first place. If the public had access to the numbers that entertainment actually generates then they probably wouldn’t mind that one person makes more money for 21 or so minutes of air time than a third-world country nets in an entire year. Maybe that’s why the higher-paid celebrities adopt all those foreign kids? It’s their way of giving back.

Goldberg, L. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/big-bang-theorys-big-bucks-723652 on August 8th, 2014

SELF-PUBLISHING: ADVICE FOR THE CRAZY AND IMPATIENT

“I’m crazy for trying, And crazy for crying.”
-Patsy Cline, “Crazy”

The self-publishing process is attractive and intriguing, but not as beneficial and easy as one would think. Writers often, well not often, almost always have the desire to achieve complete flawlessness in their work in a way that only they deem adequate. The truth is that it will never be perfect in the eyes of the creator. God can probably vouch for that as well.

With that being said, though the word “self” is in the very popular form of publishing, there’s a need for support in other aspects of the process. It’s a difficult route, but also can be a rewarding learning experience, especially for ones vetting for discovery. If no one is going to offer you an opportunity to gain the all-important experience many houses wish you had, you may as well do it yourself. You’re a writer, you’re controlling, you shouldn’t have it any other way.

The writing process is similar to driving (you’re just saying that because you wrote a book on driving). Be that as it may, it’s true. An author can easily get into a routine just like a commuter takes the same route to and from their career at a fast food restaurant cash register at least 5 days a week. You become used to it, and very comfortable in your habits that it becomes a customary part of your daily life. Outlines, character development, draft after draft, edit after edit, re-wording, additions and removals, and so on. However, it’s your routine and no matter how you choose to approach your route, you perform with ease. Big house publishers are the other drivers, the ones that distract you with what they have to offer, the ones that force you to take a different approach or pace to work at, and other comparisons to what you experience on the road you can think of. I wrote a book on driving; it’s your turn to find the analogies.

Driving Cover Image
Photo courtesy of me

Control is a key aspect for the writer. It’s difficult to accept changes, but we must realize that it’s necessary. You can do it all by yourself, it’s not a capability issue, but another eye or another perspective never hurt anyone (unless you’re one of those sensitive people). For example, editing is the most important service one can use. I edited “Driving: An Unofficial Guide” on my own and the 1st edition has typos. Of course it does! I know what I wrote, and I know what it was supposed to say, therefore I read through it quickly because the words were already processing in my mind before my eyes could catch up. In a paragraph near the beginning of the book a starting sentence reads, “Rushing a though process.” It was supposed to say, “Rushing through a process.” The obvious irony has already been noted and joked about, thank you. I’m a very good writer (conceded much), and my grammar is very good as well, but editing with fresh, unbiased eyes is essential. If I edit your work it probably would have no typos, constructive criticism, and productive suggestions. If I edit my own work it could be embarrassing.

Design is another factor. Make sure you do your research on trim sizes, font choices, formatting, gutter and margin positioning, and so forth. You even have to take into consideration the fact that a standard tab at the beginning of the paragraph won’t adjust after formatting changes. It’s not a big deal, but maybe 3-5 spaces will serve as a more attractive insert on a 5” x 8” trim size than a full standard indentation. A tab may look like it’s starting at the middle of the page. Take your time and play around with all these functions; it’s better to have an end product you’re happy with that will be on the shelves or in the digital world forever rather than a rushed draft. A couple more weeks of precise work isn’t a big deal considering you probably just spent months, if not years, doing the same obsessive process while creating your work.

Cover design is a big deal. The old adage goes, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but we all know that’s hogwash. My traffic school instructor (again with the driving, geez) was pretty assuming towards the lawbreakers I shared a classroom with over the weekend, just like you look at the illustration or fonts on the cover of written work or CD album (if you still listen to those things). There’s no reason not to judge a book (literally) by its cover because you can’t read the whole thing for free. Finding a contract illustrator or designer will definitely help, or even someone that you know that’s a great illustrator. You wouldn’t believe how many friends you have that can draw or digitally create; it’s just not a hobby most people feel they should share anymore. Ask around, networking is a big part in the process of self-publishing for reasonable costs.

For example: I spent a whopping $325 to self-publish “Driving: An Unofficial Guide”, and it’s a success (definitions of success may vary from person to person)!

We can get into copyrights, ISBN’s, and what not another time, but please feel free to comment if you have any questions about the process. As of right now, let’s worry about the basics. Take it from a writer who has experienced it; it’s fun and rewarding, but patience is necessary. You don’t want to end up going crazy; on the other hand, it does fit the profession.