Thoughts on "Defiance"

Defiance-IMDB-NolanIrisa

There is a new show on Monday's at 9am on SyFy called Defiance.  As a lover of science fiction and genre television, I was very excited for it to come on.  After watching the premiere and the second episode, I am pretty pleased with the direction it is going.

Defiance stars Grant Bowler as Joshua Nolan, a former soldier of the Pale Wars, who made a rough living from scrounging tech from fallen pieces of alien spacecrafts (Arks) until he gets caught up in the happenings of the town of Defiance (formerly St. Loius).  His companion and adopted daughter is Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), an alien from a race called Irathients.  She is something of a fiesty wild child with a good heart, but clearly with a traumatic, although as of yet unknown past.  There two wanders get stuck in town, and drawn into a larger conflict, that leads Nolan to become a peacekeeper in the town.

The town is run by Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz).  She is the new mayor appointed to fill out the term of the previous mayor.  Although she was the previous Mayors aide, she is clearly inexperienced and out of her depth in so many ways. however, she turns out to be stronger, more inspirational, and far more capable than many gave her credit.  There are many other town players, the most prominent being those from the Castithan Tarr Family, and their rivals the Human McCawley family.  Defiance lays out a fairly rich and complicated world, that offers a lot of opportunity for relationships and great stories as long as they can keep the history clear and the characters motivations realistic.

The show has set itself up with a lot of material.  There are the intimate relationships between Nolan and Irisa, between Datak Tarr and his very crafty wife Stahma, between Rafe McCawley and his children.  There are the greater conflicts in town between the Datak Tarr (in essence the mafia boss of the town), and Rafe McCowley (the owner of the town mine, and main source of income).  There are the standard threats one would face an a frontier type town and the continual racial tensions that are bound to come up when several alien races live together.  There is also a larger, and still very mysterious grand threat to the town that can play out over a full season or many seasons.  If the writers can keep everything straight, they are certainly not lacking for possible material.

I will say that that Defiance takes a lot from westerns, space westerns, and a myriad of other scifi influences.  There are aspects of the stories and elements of the world that anyone who watches enough scifi has seen many times before.  The show is still working on making those influences seem fresh rather than borrowed.  That said, the real charm is in the characters.  In just three hours, the show has managed to create several characters who are interesting, and feel like real individuals with complexities and believable motivations.  While Nolan fits the lovable rogue archetype in a lot of ways and Irisa fits the teenage rebel, they feel like their own people, and characters that you want to know more about.

Like almost all new shows, Defiance, needs to continue to develop itself more in order to capitalize on its rich potential.  It succeeded wonderfully though in creating people and a place that you care about, want to visit again and continue to learn more about.  I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

Can't Stop the Running

Like all of us, the events of the Boston Marathon have been on my mind constantly this week.  I've watned to post my thought, but have waited as I processed and came up with the words I wanted to say.  My family is 3000 miles away from Boston, and this year is one of the few that we did not know anyone running in the event, so in that regards, we are fairly far removed from the horror of the event.  At the same time it hit us painfully close to home.

We have created a family of runners.  My husband (Kelly) has been a runner for well over a decade.  Be fore we met, he had discovered the joy of running.  I came into it, only at his urging.  Inch by inch, mile by mile, he cajoled, pushed, and dragged me into the sport.  After a lot of work, quite a bit of whining, and a few exhilarating races later, I was hooked as well.  Our lives in many ways are built around races.  I have gone from not even being able to run a block, to running 5Ks, to starting to venture in half-marathons.  Every race, Kelly is there with our daughter at the finish line cheering me in.  For a time, Kelly was a national level disabled athlete.  I followed him around the country to several track events encouraging him from the grandstands.  After his track days, he started focusing on the long events.  Our weekends filled up with half-marathons and a couple marathons. For awhile, before some injury setbacks that made the marathon distance a challenge he was trying to qualify for Boston.  Boston 2013 was a goal that had been tossed about.  Had things gone differently, we might have been out there on Monday 4/15

In so many ways we are those spectators and runners.  Kelly and I have both been the exhausted and exhilarated runner trying to finally get across that finish line and earn that coveted medal.  We have both been those people crowded tightly against the rails trying to catch a glimpse of out loved one.  When I saw the blast, I could see us as the runners being blown of their feet.  I could see us and my beautiful daughter as the unsuspecting spectators whose lives were horrifically changed that day.  It gutted me and still does.

It infuriates me that those two men could do something like that...to so wantonly ruin people's lives and mar what is one of the most triumphant events in the sport of running.  How dare they?!  It also makes me more determined than ever.  It makes me feel defiant.  I refuse to let this mar running, or to change something that I enjoy.  I am going to run and race, and bask in the thrill of it.  Nobody is allowed to take that away from us.

A CNN iReporter started Run For Boston 2014, a pledge to run in solidarity with Boston.  The challenge is to run or walk a race, or any miles for that matter in memory of those lost, in honor of those wounded, and in defiance of those who would try to bring terror to the great pastime of running.  I am taking up that pledge.  For the rest of the year I dedicate my miles to the victims of Boston.  So far, I have 3.75 miles on the books.  I #runforboston, and nothing in the 'verse can stop me.

The Crochet Bug

I have noticed that my hobbies seem to go in cycles.  A Co-worker once showed my a Birthday book that had a page for every day of the year.  It listed the traits for people born on that day (this does relate to hobbies, I promise).  My day was called the day of the "Big Bang."  People born on that day tended to burst onto the scene in an intense and dramatic way (example: Elvis who shares the same birthday) or does things with bursts of extremely focused energy.  I initially thought it funny and ill fitting.  The phrase "Big Bang" suggests something big and exciting and I have always seen myself as mostly quiet and one who prefers routine and peace.  I certainly didn't seem myself as intense.  My co-worker thought said she thought it fit well.  When I looked at her questioningly, she explained that when I get certain projects at work, it is like the outside world doesn't exist to me.  She stated that I can get very intensely focused.  That was when I realized that "Big Bang" actually fit more than I realized in a lot of ways.

That painfully long little detour brings me to my point.  I seem to illustrate classic "Big Bang" characteristics in relation to my hobbies.  I go crazy with intense focus on a hobby for a period, get my fill and move on to the next hobby for awhile.  My latest "obsession" or "Big Bang"  is crocheting.  I have crocheted on and off since I was a child.  Up until recently, I have not done much at all.  That seems to have changed with my Sister-in-law's baby shower.  I decided to crochet her a blanket for her soon to be born son.  Talk about igniting the fire.  Tackling that blanket has sent me into a bit of a crochet obsession.  I am working on a project almost every moment I have.  The good thing is that I actually have a couple projects that I have wanted to tackle.  The bad thing is that if I don't slow down, I am going to wear out my wrist.  Still, it is nice to be back into the activity.  There is something very meditative in looping the yarn around the hook repetitively.  Crocheting also really satisfies my need to create.  There is nothing more satisfying that completing something beautiful that you've made by hand...well, except for maybe giving it to someone and seeing the satisfaction and joy in their eyes at receiving the gift.  My 3 year old daughter is also thrilled by this development because she benefits from it.  I am finishing up a scarf for her and she knows that since I have left over yarn, she is likely to get a matching hat too.

I wish I had remembered to take pictures of the baby blanket I made so I could post them.  It really turned out well.  I will have to post pictures of other projects as I work on them.

Not sure I have an overall point to this beyond musing over my obsessive tendencies toward hobbies.  At least I am having fun with my current obsession.

Thoughts on The Pope Stepping Down

I don't normally post about religion.  I am an active Catholic, but of a slightly more progressive lean.  I don't generally post a lot about that because my faith is in general something personal to me.  I will answer freely when asked, and have enjoyed wonderful discussions and debates with a number of friends and co-workers from a variety of backgrounds.  I just am not comfortable broadcasting my faith in words on a regular basis and never have been. I don't want to put out the mistaken thought that I am somehow an authority, or voice in any way for the Catholic Church, because I am still so much a work in progress.  Especially in recent years, I have struggled a lot with faith issues and am very careful because of that to ensure that it is clear that I don't have any answers.  On top of that, I generally don't use social media to share my faith views more often because I do try to adhere to that now seemingly old-fashioned belief that you try not to discuss religion or politics in mixed company.  I have friends from a variety of world-views and belief systems and find that things are more peaceful when faith views are brought up and discussed at times when people are ready rather than confronting them with it daily. 

That said, I just felt that I had to post something about the recent announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will be resigning at the end of the month.

At face value, it seems to be a good thing; an honorable act from a man humble enough to realize that he can no longer keep up with the stressful demands of the position.  As I understand it, in his book Light of the World: The Church and the Signs of the Times he discussed the very issues of what he world do should his health hinder him from fulfilling his duties as Pope.  He stated that he would have no problem stepping down if his health became a problem.  In this light, it appears that he is standing by convictions that he has held about a pope being able to fulfill his duties.  This actually makes a lot of sense.  Papal duties today in a much more globalized world must be far more taxing than they were even a century ago.  Traveling to far flung locations was not an option once upon a time.  When traveling to far flung corners of the globe to days, weeks, or even months, it wouldn't do to have the Pope away from the Vatican and Vatican business for those long stretches of time.  Logically, a long time ago, the Pope could be in more fragile health and still perform the bulk of his duties.  With the relative ease of travel and a farther flung flock, the Pope's duties today are likely far more physically demanding.  For a person step down because they realize that they cannot be what is needed in that position of power, even if it has not been done in 600 years is a refreshing display of humility.

There in lies my problem.  As a Catholic, I should be taking this at face value, and appreciating the humility in the act.  There is a cynical part of me, however, a part that has been betrayed by the sex abuse scandals that immediately questions what's behind this.  A part of my mind asks what is the Vatican hiding now.  Physical health issues didn't seem to deter recent previous Popes.  John Paul's Parkinson's had him twisted like a pretzel, and incredibly frail toward the end of his papacy and he stayed until the end.  The doubting mind starts to wonder is it just Benedict's health, or is there more?  What additional scandal are they are trying to hide or mitigate?

I hate it that my mind even goes to that direction.  Benedict XVI is the Pope.  He is supposed to be God's representative on earth.  Certainly, I don't deny that all popes are still fallible human beings, but as a Catholic, I should not be thinking the worst of him.  He has been looking more frail in recent months and he is certainly not a young man.  Given his previous statement that he would consider stepping down if health became an issue, that should be enough to believe him, at least for the time being.  Still that cynical little voice keeps warning me.

Coming from the Los Angeles area where the priest sex abuse scandals have been particularly damaging,  I know I am more sensitive and more skeptical than some as we have been lied to for years by the church leadership here.  And given the church's history, particularly in L.A., my skepticism really is justified to a degree.  Still, the level of cynicism and doubt I have seemed to have developed toward the Catholic hierarchy troubles me.  I feel caught in this limbo. My personal experiences on the ground level with the church have been wonderful, supportive, and spiritually fulfilling.  Because of that, I can't just walk away from the church.  I see a truth there that I still believe in.  But I have seen evidence of the evil done within the church, and in the name of the church.  Those actions leave me distrustful.

There is no easy answer for me right now.  I will just need to pray and sort things out in my own mind.  In the meantime, the skeptical side of me waits for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.  I only hope that whoever becomes the next Pope can help to clean up some of the tarnish and help to restore at least a little more trust in the hierarchy.

New Year, New stab at Blogging

Every year I make the same "resolution." I want to write more, and in particular, I want to write more in my blog.  Once again, I am taking another stab at it.  2012 was an improvement for me in the writing department.  While I was lacking in the LiveJournal department, I managed to actually finish the rough draft of a novel, and "Win" Nanowrimo.  That was a huge victory and I am hoping to build on it over the year.  I am still weak, however, in the blogging arena.

I tend to be a feast or famine sort of poster.  Discipline is my biggest weakness.  I tend to be very energized in spurts, and then let other things in life take over and stop posting.  It isn't that I can't pop in and post something.  I usually have at least a bit of time sometime during the week to post a little something.  I just tend to choose not to.  Writing, even a light short blog post, takes effort.  You have to think through what you want to post.  If nothing particularly interesting is happening in your life, that alone can be a hang up.  I have to absolute worst inner editor who usually sabotages me at this point.  That little voice tends to say that I have nothing worth posting.  Once I get through that point and decide that I want to write something, I then get hung up in how to say it.  That evil inner editor really goes to town that this point and usually a half hour later I am still staring at a sentence or two, utterly stumped at how to proceed.  A logical part of me knows that it isn't like I am writing the next great American novel.  Hell, it's not like I am paid for blogging, or am even expecting a large audience of any sort.  Still, the inner editor tear it down until I give up and say that "I will post later."  Of course later rarely comes.

Still, despite all this, I want to "fight the good fight."  I managed a Nano win, so I think I can manage to utilize this journal more than I have been.  So, in order to push me to write more, I am setting a solid goal rather than the vague "blog more".  I am going to commit to journaling something, even if it is a tiny paragraph, every two weeks for all of 2013.  We will see where my mind and my writing go with that.

NaNoWriMo 2012 Wrap-up

On Friday, NaNoWriMo 2012 came to an end.  This was the third time I had attempted the challenge.  Apparently the third time really is a charm.  For the first time ever, I managed to pull out a win finishing with over 52K words.  Better than that, I actually finished the story.  That was a huge victory for me.  I have finished numerous short stories, but for one reason or another, I have never managed to complete anything longer than about 25 pages.  My story ended up being 5 times that.  The story itself is bad.  When I say bad, I mean really really, would require almost an entire rewrite bad, but the fact is, I managed to write something and finish something more complicated than I had ever managed before.  This was a huge victory. 

Aside from actually "winning,"  the experience has actually taught me a lot.  The first is learning how to get to the real work of writing.  I have always written as a hobby, and as my "muses" have struck me.  That always worked for short stories.  It never worked for the long stories.  When writing the longer, more complicated stories, it would take me to a point where the initial excitement of pouring out the thoughts in my headed faded.  At that point, writing became real work and my "muses" would always fade to the background.  In the past, I let those moments defeat me.  This time, I buckled down and worked though those moments.  It was painful at times, but I finally learned that I can keep going through those moments.  I don't have to let those inspiration lulls stop me.

The importance of outlines, character profiles, and plotting beforehand was also reinforced over this last month.  I have always been a "pantser" - someone who takes a concept or a character and then just jumps into writing a story on really nothing more than a wing and a prayer.  "Pantsing" can certainly take you to interesting and unexpected places.  It also can cause you to develop characters in a way that you never expected.  Those surprises are exhilarating.  I have long known on some lever, however, that there are definitely limitations to that method.  It is especially problematic when trying to write a long story with multiple characters and plots.  This time around, the need for outlining was proven to me very clearly.  I did manage to do a month of prep before starting NaNo.  I had a bare bones outline, and some basic character sketches.  I honestly do not think I would have finished without having those.   I also think that my story suffered greatly from the fact that the character sketches in particular were not as deep as they could be.  As I was going along, I realized often that I didn't understand certain characters motivations nearly as much as I should, and that certain scenes would make far more sense if I did understand better.  The outlining portion of writing is not nearly as exciting as the actual story telling is for me, but if I want to continue to tackle more ambitious projects, I know that I am going to have to get used to doing it.

Another thing that Nano proved to me clearly was the old mantra "practice makes perfect."  I know that with anything, the more you do it, the better you get.  Sadly, I did not realize just how rusty my writing skills have gotten over the years.  When I was in college, writing class papers ever week helped to polish my abilities.  When writing just after I graduated, I managed to hang onto those skills for while.  After several years of working in an environment where I use more tables and formulas than prose, I have found that the sentence structure, diction, and word variety that I once enjoyed is simply not there anymore.  I am sure that I can get it back, but I am going to have to take far more time working out my abilities.  I really need to use writing prompts and exercises more often if I want to keep writing and keep improving my story telling skills.

Finally, during this NaNoWriMo, I have learned how to put my inner editor in a cage and let myself go.  Obviously, the nature of NaNo does not produce quality work.  At least it does not produce instantly high quality product,  Even the best NaNo results in a product that requires huge amounts of editing.  That said, the nature of NaNo forces you to shelve that devil that sits on your shoulder and tells you that what you are writing is not good enough.  You will never make word count if you are constantly doubting yourself.  In order to win, I had to accept that I had written a lot of bad story and keep going.  I had to remember that moving forward and not letting myself get bogged down was the most important thing and that I could always go back and fix it later .  Obviously, under different circumstances, I would want to let my inner editor out a little more often.  It is a lot easier to revise something that has some quality to it rather than having to rewrite something awful.  Still, but learning to banish my inner editor, I found a certain liberation.  I was able to push through those moments of self doubt that in the past paralyzed me,  I hope that this experience will help me to put that inner editor into perspective going forward.

All in all, this year's NaNo was a great experience.  It has inspired me to keep writing my ideas.  It has also showed me that I can accomplish more that I think I can if I keep at it, learn from my failures, and put in a concerted effort.  I hope that I can put this all to use and do even better next year.

I'm Baaaaaaack...

For whatever that's worth. 

This last year has been insane filled with a new house, managing a ton of projects related to the new house, drama at home, a new car, and rededicating myself to running and losing 20 pounds.  Obviously blogging and writing has fallen on the back burner.  I have hardly written and obviously ditched LJ for awhile.  Now things feel like they are at least moving to a more even keel.  So here I am, back to rambling on LJ from time to time.

I am actually fairly excited about Nanowrimo this year.  I tried and fail in '09 and '10.  I learned a lot though.  I skipped last year.  What with moving and doing marathon painting/flooring the entire interior on a 1400sq foot house in the month of November, having and ounce of energy to even sit at a computer and type more than a "LOL!" seemed completely impossible.  I feel in a much better place to try this year.  Interestingly enough, I am actually in a much better place in terms of story.  In the past, I have been what they call a "pantser".  I'd have little more that a character or two and the barest of concepts and then I'd just go to town on them and take them as far as I could.  I am notoriously bad at outlines.  Obviously, that is not often the best strategy to craft a 50K + story.  This year, I have been trying to plan more.  I had to throw out my first concept, but my new one has a few characters, the first chapter sketched out, a concept, and the bare bones of a 3 act outline.  I actually have my story in it's entirety broken out into 3 acts.  I still have fleshing out to do, but for someone who is absolutely horrid at outlines this is an amazing step for me.  It has me even more excited.  I can't wait for Nano to start at this point.

Fickle Muses and Writing

So my fickle muses have returned.   Actually, thinking on it more deeply, I think that my muses are always there.  I am just too easily caught up in real life, and tend to put them off until they really scream at me.  Lately, they have been taking my the shoulder and shaking me vigorously.  This time they have presented me with a trio of characters from a fantasy world.  I am in the very early phases.  I am still trying to figure out these three characters.  I have a good idea of snippets of their childhood together, and have a clear image of how they are drawn into the main conflict (I really have to write these scenes as they are so clear in my mind right now).  I find myself feeling that excitement I used to get of my Farscape fan fiction writing.  It has been awhile since I have really been this excited over a project.  Even my last Nano, which gave me some really fun characters whom I would like to use in something else didn't give me this feeling. 

There is is a lot of world building to do though.  It is both daunting and exciting.  I have never really succeeded at world building.  I have lacked the focus to do a really good job at it.  I tend to get frustrated because I want to get to the action and frankly, the research and mundane planning that is required in world building can be a bit of a drag.  The thing is, I have discovered time and again that if you do not have a clear world and characters that you really know, the story can hit roadblocks, walls, and fall to pieces very quickly.  I think that is why I have been drawn to fan fiction writing in the past.  The worlds are built and the main characters are already fleshed out.  I want to get over this world building issue I have though.  I have these places I want to explore, but if I don't do the hard work, then the adventure never finds it's conclusion. 

I think the world building issue is why I want to make this story a Nano project.  I may be shooting myself in the foot by putting off the heavy duty story writing until November, but it does give me a lot of time to really understand the characters, create additional side characters, and create a more vivid world that can bring the story to life.  I have always tended to be a fly be the seat of my pants-er, which works well for me for short stories, but has never worked for longer projects.  I think giving myself time to build up the background, then maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this idea justice.  Here is hoping.

As a side note, I have already hit a bit of a structural conundrum.  The main conflict of the story takes place when the main characters are in their late teens.  The thing is, what draws them together and what sets off their involvement stems from an incident that took place 6 to 8 years earlier.  That entire back story isn't just about this one incident.  It also explains why one of the MCs was even friends with them.  As I think on it, the childhood story has become larger and more detailed.  At this point, it feels like it may be getting to big to be told in flashback, but still to small to be an act or novel of its own.  It is an interesting problem.  I will of course keep building it simply because the more details I know, the more real it will feel no matter what I include.  It will just be interesting to see which way the background piece goes and if it takes on a life of its own.

Random Thoughts for the Day

 - In a business, when one is switching to a completely different Email/Calendar system, it probably is not the best idea to make the change the day everyone gets back from a week long vacation.  Everyone is already fuzzy and out of their routine.  A totally different piece of software that has a completely different logic to it doesn't help.

 - In business it is especially not the best idea to pull this on you accountants after they have been off a week. It is time to close the books for the year and they have exceeding tight deadlines to make.  New software makes them inefficient when they most need to be on their game, and super cranky to boot.

 - Breakfast Burritos from the Corner Cottage in Burbank are more calories than anyone wants to contemplate, but they are absolute heaven to eat.

 - I ran 2 miles tonight.  It wasn't earth shatteringly grand or anything, but I got out there.  Besides, starting back slow is probably the best way to ensure I stick with it.

 - The down side to running at night is that I get so pumped, I can't fall asleep as early as I need to.

 - I either need to find my ipod charger and get that sucker working again, or I need to find a music station I can stand listening to on the way to work and on the way home.  Usually I like to keep informed with News Radio, but I don't think I can handle another year of election nonsense.  It is only January and I already have election year fatigue.

Another New Year

It never ceases to amaze me how fast a year can go.  I keep thinking "wasn't 2011 just starting."  Of course I seem to wonder that every year.  And of course, a new year tends to mean that you look back at the last one and see all the successes and failures and layout some hopes for the coming year.

2011 was a very eventful year for me.  I think at the beginning of the year, my hopes were for me to write more, develop spiritually more, and to run more.  Success in those areas have been slight, little to nothing, and mixed respectively.  I have written, but consistency is still an issue.  I simply haven't made much time for spiritual development, but that is an ongoing battle for me.  With running, I have experienced my greatest success to date (completing a half marathon) only to fall off the running wagon and ending back at nearly square one.  Like so many, my hopes for 2011, like so many other so called resolutions didn't exactly pan out like I had hoped. 

That said there were fantastic surprises in 2011, the greatest being that we bought a house.  I am writing this as a home owner.  Not only that, but we managed to do a lot of work on the place before we moved in.  My entire fall was consumed by house buying, home improvement work and moving.  The end result is so wonderful.  We have a long way to go since it is an older house in need of a lot of upgrades, but we have managed to really make it feel like home, and a place we can invite people over to.

When I look back, even though this year has held its disappointments and has sapped my energy beyond belief, I have to say that it was a good year, albeit filled with the unexpected.

For 2012, I have similar hopes to last year.  I want to keep working on my running.  I want to write more.  I want to work in spirituality.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  Those are the perennial items of self improvement that I think I will always be working on.  I think the most important hope I have in addition to those is that I hope that 2012 proves a healthy and overall happy year for my family, and that we all appreciate the moments we have with each other this year.  Life is so short, and I want to make sure I adore every minute that I have been given with the people I love.

Happy New Year, Everyone!
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