Peculiar Reality Check

Lately life has intervened to tangle up my clockwork appearance on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Pressing issues with real people have usurped the time I typically would have spent scrolling timelines. So why do I feel guilty about it? I mean social media is about socializing. That means talking and interacting. We should be able to turn off the computer and do it the old fashioned way, right?

As I think about this, various emotions ricochet through my head. Anger at those who wouldn’t understand my disappearance from the virtual world. Frantic fear over a schedule that is purely self imposed.

These last few days have given me a much needed reset. Real life matters. Virtual life is great, but it has to take a backseat. Think about it. You can vanish from the online world for weeks or months and pick up where you left off with few consequences. Try that with your real flesh and blood companions. Not the same. Not at all.

Tim Kane

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John Carter is a Myth. Deal With It.

Went out this weekend to see John Carter. I liked it. A solid adventure flick. I certainly felt I go my money’s worth. Then I checked out some of the reviews (which I often do only after I see a movie). They seemed to fall into three categories. First, older reviewers praised the movie, noting the adaptation from the book. Younger reviewers accused the film of ripping off elements from older sci-fi movies. I don’t’ think these people realize that this book was written in 1911 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the same fellow that penned Tarzan. In truth, most sci-fi flicks have stolen from him.

The third category of review irks me the most. People whine about the inaccuracies of the film. There is no atmosphere on Mars. People wouldn’t jump that far with Martian gravity. Ships couldn’t fly with sunlight. To this I say, John Carter is myth.

Princess of Mars written by Burroughs

Think about it. I could climb to the top of Mt. Olympus and what would I see? Maybe some rocks. I certainly wouldn’t be in the fabled city of the Olympian gods. Yet this reality doesn’t diminish the awe I have when reading the Greek myths. They are a fantasy I am more than willing to indulge.

The same goes for John Carter. True, we have a much more information about the red planet now. Yet considering when this book was written, think of all the amazing elements Burroughs got right? The absence of water. The difference in gravity. His story is an adventure, pure an simple. For those that can’t accept that, then perhaps they shouldn’t buy a ticket.

I will say, John Carter felt much more believable than Mission to Mars ever did. That film, which pretended to be an accurate movie, had a fellow living in a tent with a couple of plants for a year. Apparently a few ferns can produce enough air to survive on Mars. Who knew?

So lay off Burroughs. He wrote an adventure story and the film was a great adaptation of it. Buy some popcorn, sit down, and enjoy.

Tim Kane

Papercut Art by Peter Callesen

I can cut snowflakes out of white paper. That’s about it. Peter Callesen takes paper cutting to an entirely different level. He often imbues his work with a whimsical or surreal quality. The two-dimensional negative space where the figure is cut from is just as important as the three-dimensional figure he creates.

“Inspiration” is a perfect example. The tree is created from the negative space and the roots from the tree.

Another amazing work is “Casket.” Here you can see where the casket shape was cut. The flowers have been cut out and seem to grow from the casket. The actual cut outs have been dropped into the three-dimensional casket.

A more recent work, “White Dairy,” shows just how insanely complex this guy can get with white paper. It shows a human head with a sketchbook in the center. Ideas flow from the book, filling the head. The detail is so enormous, that only from a distance can you see the figure for what it is.

The detail of this piece shows a full blown city.

Callesen says he likes to use white paper because it’s so ordinary and represents something common to the viewer. We all write and print on the stuff. Yet in his hands, dreams are created. Click over to his website to view all of his breathtaking art. You won’t regret it.

Tim Kane

Steamypuff Girls (Powerpuff Girls Go Steampunk)

Just when I thought that Powerpuff Girls had done it’s finest pop culture reference ever (Meet The Beat Alls, complete with Beatles references and Yoko Ono), Craig McCracken created a vintage Powerpuff girls set in the wild west. I believe this may be the first steampunk cartoon made (back in 2004). It recreates the girls’ origins. This time they are created from sassafras, arsenic, and everything old fashioned. Chemical X is replaced with, what else, coal. They get their abilities from massive coal and steam powered rockets strapped to their backs.

The premise is simple. The girls fly after Mojo the Kid to bring him to justice. When their superpowers wane, the Professor simply shovels more coal into the girls’ contraptions. Finally, when the steampunk rockets are shattered (thanks to Mojo the Kid’s banana gun), the Professor invents “duly undercoated concentric tear-strip”, or duct tape, to repair the machines. Mojo punching ensues.

Watch this episode via this link (part 1, part 2). Enjoy.

Tim Kane

Spelling Shortfalls (Personal Word Demons)

I am not the world’s best speller. Yet I teach English as one of my core subjects in sixth grade. I’m a big believer in having a building error-checker. You should be able to sense when a word is wrong, even if you can’t figure out how to spell it correctly.

Ironically I was a finalist for a spelling bee in first grade. My stage fright was so great, that I pleaded with the teacher not to let me go. She obliged and I was spared the task of standing on stage and mangling words (though I must have been pretty good at that stage).

My error detector is fairly well tuned. I can sniff out some weird words even on printed paper (no squiggly red lines needed). Yet I do have my blind spots that, for whatever reason, baffle me.

Success: I am determined to spell this word as “sucess”. I think because the second C makes and S sound, my mind tunes it out.

Traveling: I desperately want to add another L to this, making it “travelling”.

Meet and Met: Whenever I type either of these words, I pause and sound it out to make sure I’m using the correct on. A year teaching Kindergarten helped with this.

Lose: This is my all time Achilles heel. I know it and still I type it wrong. I want to spell it as “loose”. In my defense, there is no logical phonetic reason for the spellings. Lose has that weird Z sound it it, like “looz”. Am I crazy here, or does it not sound like it should have a pair of Os in it? I mean, you try spelling it phonetically. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if “loose” weren’t around.

So next time you see a tweet or a blog post from me were I am “loosing my mind”, send me a quick message and tell me that my demon word has struck again.

Tim Kane

How Do You Define Yourself As A Writer?

Hi, I’m a creative and imaginative dreamer? Really? Sounds like you’re a bum to me.

Why can’t we get away with introducing ourselves via our talents? So often we define ourselves with jobs (teacher) and relationships (father of a wonderful daughter). Think about it, we even describe kids by their age or station. My daughter is 4 and a half, about to enter Kindergarten. Not a word about her personality at all.

As writers, we particularly suffer from this. I know that I do. I’ve published a non-fiction book and multiple short stories, yet why do I often feel like I’m not a “real” writer yet. Why? Because I don’t have that elusive “novel” published. It’s frustrating because I know I am a writer. I write. Every day. But it’s those accolades that we yearn for.

Perhaps we should all loosen up a bit. Let’s be what what we do. I write. Ergo, I’m a writer.

Nuff said.

Tim Kane

Protagonists-R-Us

We’re having a sale. Today only. Buy one protagonist, and get the antagonist at a fifty-percent discount. Such a deal. You can’t have one without the other.

I teach writing to sixth grade students. Here’s a typical plot line: Character meets another character and they talk. Then they meet a third character. They talk some more. Finally they all rush back to a) home, b) school, c) a castle. Yes, I know it matches up with a few of the Twilight books (don’t be a hater, I actually like Stephanie Meyers), but what most of my tween writers lack is an antagonist.

Or to be more specific, conflict generated by an antagonist. The two are inseparable. Yes I know that the protagonist herself can have doubts, thus generating conflict. Likewise, nature can also be an obstacle. But let’s face it, nothing beats a good ole white hat versus black hat. (If you wanted to go the Twilight route, Meyers handled that quite well.)

The antagonist defines the protagonist. He often strives for the exact same goal as the protagonist. Since only one can achieve that goal, it creates tension. I love antagonists that mirror the protagonist. For example, if I have a protagonist who hates monsters and the grotesque, I might pair him with a an antagonist who is a monster herself, yet despises it. Perhaps they’re both seeking the goal of destroying the evil beasts. Yet our hero does this out of fear and ignorance, while the villain strives for this goal from self loathing.

However you achieve it, make your antagonist linked to your protagonist. It creates a deeper bond and makes the final mano-a-mano showdown that much more interesting.

Tim Kane