SUGAR WE’RE GOING DOWN by Fall Out Boy

Yes, I know that there are rumors that MTV still plays some music videos between the hours of 3 a.m. and 9 a.m., when it’s not doing Jersey Shore marathons or finding the next Heidi Pratt or whatever. MTV used to play videos 24 hours a day. Now all you can watch are country videos on some nearby channel. Do I need country videos about somebody’s dog dying and the transmission on his Chevy going out and his wife leaving with his best friend, and him sure missing his best friend? No. I need a channel that just plays music videos. VH1 doesn’t count.

This video by Fall Out Boy is  a rocking tune with lyrics that nobody understands.

Listen closely. Tell me if you figure out (a) what the lead singer is saying, especially around the chorus and (b) if you can divine any meaning to those words.

Also: there is a parody video that tries to explain the lyrics. Quite funny and well done, though a smidge NSFW. If you fire up the YouTubes, you can probably find it.

TAKE ON ME by A-Ha

If you were alive, and breathing, you remember watching this on what we used to call MTV, which played these things called “music videos” instead of endless reality shows starring people from New Jersey who tan a lot.

Sidenote: Sir Tans a Lot would be a funny name for a rapper who made fun of The Situation.

Three things: (1) the hair makes me laugh, (2) the effects seems cheap now and (3) the storytelling in the video is much better than the lyrics of the song.

Check out the lyrics below.  I’ve read them twice. Saw the video a zillion times. The video sort of makes sense. The lyrics, not so much.

TAKE ON ME

by A-Ha

We’re talking away
I don’t know what
I’m to say I’ll say it anyway
Today’s another day to find you
Shying away
I’ll be coming for your love, OK?
Take on me, take me on
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

So needless to say
I’m odds and ends
But that’s me stumbling away
Slowly learning that life is OK.
Say after me
It’s no better to be safe than sorry

Take on me, take me on
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

Oh the things that you say
Is it life or
Just a play my worries away
You’re all the things I’ve got to
remember
You’re shying away
I’ll be coming for you anyway

Take on me, take me on
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

 

Stop-motion music video dubstep goodness

After watching so many horrible music videos — ten pounds of fail packed into five-pound bags — it is a pleasure to see something new and different and wonderful.

This is Delta Heavy’s “Get By” and I like it all: the music, the lyrics and the stop-motion creativity. They use Rubik’s cubes, Battleship, Hungry Hippos, you name it.

Wonderful. Well done, well done — and give us more.

 

YES, SIR, I CAN BOOGIE by Baccarra

Bring back the ‘70s.

ABBA, John Travolta, bell bottoms, CANNONBALL RUN – and solid gold stuff like this music video, by a Spanish disco due named Baccara.

This isn’t insanely bad. You won’t need therapy or anything.

The song and video is simply fun to check out.

Things to watch and listen for:

  • an early version of the macarena dance (I kid you not)
  • interesting lyrics (listen closely)
  • does the singer in white ever really sing or dance? (seems like she’s lip-syncing the whole time, and not happy about it)

Stretch your editing muscles

Proofing for boo-boos is easy. Line editing is tougher.

Structural editing is the toughest.

So let’s play around with a little flash fiction from Joey’s contest and see what we can do, first with a standard edit job, then with a different kind of big-picture spitballing.

Original flash fiction entry by Mayumi – 196 words

Stone stairs and the blood of Landstanders foolish enough to raise arms against him disappear beneath Fin’s boots, as every step takes him closer to the top of this tall, windowed tower, and to the girl trapped within.

“Wavewalker!” a guard warns, but he’s silenced by metal tines already streaked red; it’s the same for his partner beside. And up Fin runs, never stopping. His muscles ache, his lungs burn, but the door is just ahead, and suddenly he’s crying her name as his spear splinters the heavy wood:

“Cauda!”

He’s barely broken through when she rushes up, arms thrown around him. And though her eyes are wide and frightened, her voice drifts to him with such gentle love, like the dreamy sway of the coral among which they used to swim. “You came.”

Time is short – more Landstanders are surely already racing to reclaim their princess prize – but still he cups her face, so sea-pale and soft, and kisses her, for fear it will be the last thing he ever does.

He draws back at the taste of tears.

“There’s no way out,” she whispers.

The spear creaks in his fist. “There’s always a way.”

# # #

Comments:

Of all the entries, this one had the most action, which is probably why I liked it. Other stories mostly hinted at action to come, or actions in the past.

Edits: switched to past tense instead of present, fixed various things.

Edited version – 178 words

Blood on the stone stairs disappeared beneath Fin’s boots, every step taking him closer to the top of the tower and the girl trapped within.

A guard’s shout was cut off by a blade already streaked with red. And up Fin ran, never stopping. His muscles ached, his lungs burned, but the door was just ahead, and he cried her name as he spear splintered the heavy wood.

“Cauda!”

He’d barely broken through when she rushed to throw her arms around him. Though her eyes are wide and frightened, her voice drifted to him with such gentle love, like the dreamy sway of the coral among which they used to swim.

“You came,” she said.

Time was short – more soldiers were surely racing to reclaim their princess prize – but he cupped her face, so sea-pale and soft, and kissed her despite the fear it would be the last thing he ever did.

Fin drew back at the taste of her tears.

“There’s no way out,” she whispered.

The spear creaked in his fist.

“There is always a way.”

# # #

So, a typical editing job. Nothing fancy.

I’m more interested in the guts of a piece — short story or stump speech, HBO series or Hollywood blockbuster. What’s the structure, the setups and payoffs? How do things change?

So here’s another flash fiction entry. No line editing here. Let’s look at the bones and spitball some options.

# # #

I’ll never forgot that old, mossy stone porch. Johnny and I used to lie there after the dances, enjoying the smooth coldness of the stone against our sweaty skin, and talk about what we would do with a building like this if it were our home.

“First off,” he would say, “I’d kick all these damned people out!”

He used to love to make me laugh. I thought I couldn’t live without him. We were both 17, and it seemed like the perfect life lay before us. Everything in the world was perfect, if only for a moment.

That, was of course, before the booze took hold of him.

It’s hard to believe, only a few short years later, here I stand looking at that porch, with its glorious white columns, standing tall and proud, with the fadings of Johnny’s fists on my face. Oh how life changes so cruelly.

He will wake up soon, in the E.R., and wonder how he got there. He will yell and call out my name. The nurses will not know that “Jenny” means Jessica, because they will not know that in his drunken confusion he often mistakes his mistress for his wife.

# # #

Nice. I like it. There is a difference between the beginning (Love Story by Taylor Swift) and the end (Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks).

How can we pump up the story without adding Michael Bay explosions, robots fighting and Megan Fox randomly running around in short-shorts?

Most of this piece is either remembering the past or predicting the future. So my first crazy idea is to make it all present tense, because there’s instantly more tension if it’s all happening now.

Let’s strip away the pretty words and look at the bones. Boil it all the way down. Right now, the original gets down to something like, “Wife plans revenge on cheaty McCheater.”

How can we change the structure to something happening now, and make it so memorable that it gets down to a sentence that makes your jaw drop. So, let’s spitball here. (Note: theese are not the words, but story / structure / outline.)

# # #

Jessica loves Johnny SOOOO much that she wants to marry him. They’re on a picnic at this amazing stone tower. It’s romantic, and yeah, she actually bought him a gold band and might ask him tonight, if it feels right. It’s a modern world. She wants to be married, and to him. And he seems super polite and nervous today, like he maybe is thinking the same thing. Her entire life could change tonight. It’s beautiful and perfect.

She’s decided to ask him. Why not? But he beats her to the punch. “Jessica, can we talk about us?”

She says, sort of quietly, “I’d like us to be forever.” But he’s starts talking about some new job, in some other city, and some girl named Jenny who he sort of slept with.

So when he stands up to awkwardly hug her goodbye, she sort of pushes him off the tower.

# # #

Now that can boil down to “You would not BELIEVE what happened last night” headline: Woman pushes cheating lover to his doom — on night she hoped to get engaged

The lost art of rhetoric and persuasion

Whether you write (a) for fun, (b) for money or (c) for all the fast cars and groupies, I bet you’re specialized.

Specialized in the kind of writing you do. Specialized in the kind of education that got you there.

Journalists usually go to journalism school and screenwriters to film school. Playwrights all come from this MFA program in Wisconsin for some reason, and all kinds of novelists spring forth  from the middle of Iowa.

Maui, I could understand. Iowa is cornfields, right? Never been there. Why the cornfields is a fiction mecca, I don’t know.

Anyway: You can divide writing into three areas, based on the goal:

1)      Writing to INFORM (journalism, papers of news, TV, radio, all that)

2)      Writing to PERSUADE (the lost art of speechwriting & rhetoric)

3)      Writing to ENTERTAIN (novels, movies, plays and, as much as it kills me to say it, poetry, though not Gertrude flipping Stein)

Now, I know enough about all three to be dangerous, and this split is something I’ve used when teaching seminars and such.

HOWEVER: It is all bunk.

Total nonsense. Absolute horsepucky. My friends across the pond would call it completely daft.

Col. Potter would use other words. Take it away, Potter.

What are you really trying to do?

Journalists aren’t really trying to inform. Sure, that’s part of it.

Reporters want people to read their story, and to make that happen, they need to persuade their editors to assign them the juicy serial killer piece instead of an obituary about some man who was the once president of the Scranton Valley Chamber of Commerce back in 1985. Then you persuade sources to give them quotes and scoops that other journalists aren’t getting. Next, you write an amazing story to persuade other editors that your story belongs on top of A1 instead of buried on page 18 next to a wire story about Snooki’s baby daddy getting arrested or whatever.

And finally, journalists want to persuade you to read the story — and for the people who judge journalism contests to give them some kind of prize, maybe even a Pulitzer, so they can convince a bigger newspaper to hire them and let them write bigger stories for slightly bigger paychecks.

Novelists, screenwriters and playwrights aren’t really trying to entertain. Their biggest challenge, again, is persuasion.  There are 5.983 gazillion cable channels, radio stations and movies on Netflix competing for your attention. There’s also an insane diversity of free diversions on the Series of Tubes — and even this place old-timers used to call “outside” and “the real world,” where people sometimes KISSED A GIRL.

Entertainers are competing against all that for your free time and, more importantly, your money. In the two seconds of your attention they have, entertainers need to hook you with a book cover, movie poster or guitar riff, then convince you to blow two hours and $23 bucks on a hardcover book or tickets to THE AVENGERS in 3D plus overpriced popcorn or the Greatest Hits Collection of ABBA.

In the end, it’s all persuasion.

The lost art

The thing is, nobody really teaches rhetoric and persuasion these days.

How many of you know somebody who majored in rhetoric? I bet you know all kinds of people who majored in anthropology, art history and other majors that begin with A and are not exactly in demand. It used to make news when some professor started teaching a class where students dissected episodes of Star Trek, and now it only makes waves when you can MAJOR in pop culture / Madonna songs / Snooki fashion choices during Season 1 versus Season 2.

Even people who did speech and debate don’t exactly get an education in the art. They basically throw you in the deep end of the pool. If you swim, you stay on the team and spend a lot of time riding in vans, sleeping in cheap motels and cutting evidence cards.

Yet the art of rhetoric is more important than ever.

In the old days, you could get by on intimidation and fear. The biggest, toughest, meanest caveman ran the show. If you tried to win a debate with him, he won by using the unstoppable rhetorical device the Greek masters dubbed “crushing your skull with this rock.”

Today, the entire planet runs on oil. Lots of oil. Also, coal, windmills and nuclear power, though the Japan tsunami thing kinda screwed up the whole nuclear shebang. But aside from oil, the world runs on ideas and words — on persuading other human beings to work with you.

The world only works because we can, and do, persuade each other without resorting to rock vs. skull.

You see rhetoric in action every day, whether it’s persuading your four-year-old to brush their teeth, getting a coworker to help on a project or dealing with a tough client.

And unless you work in an ice cave, you’re doing something (a) creative with (b) other human beings (c) in a group. That takes the skills of rhetoric. Also, free bagels sometimes. That greases the skids.

The biggest moments in life aren’t about informing or entertaining. They’re 100 percent persuasion: asking somebody to marry you, getting the bank to hand you MASSIVE PILES OF CASH to buy a home, persuading a boss to hire you, getting the jury to believe you — it’s an endless list.

But we don’t truly teach this. Not in journalism school or film school. Not in that MFA program in Wisconsin or the fiction mecca of Iowa (I like your John Deere hat). And certainly not in high school or college, though it’s not an accident that elite private school and colleges do teach rhetoric, and make students write speeches and deliver them. They know that future CEOs, U.S. senators and presidents sorta kinda need to know how to give speeches and persuade other people to do things.

It’s not like these are big dark secrets. Philosophers were writing all kinds of books on rhetoric TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO, a long time ago in a European country that’s far, far away. These books are still for sale in places we used to call “book stores.”

HOWEVER: Maybe we should talk about such things a little — the basics, nothing crazy advanced or complicated — and save you from reading all 616 pages of Ian Worthington’s A COMPANION TO GREEK RHETORIC.

P.S. Ian the Worthington, I think you rock.

P.P.S. Aristotle was a genius, Socrates was cool and Plato was kind of a fascist jerk.

Insanely bad B-movies: RAWHEAD REX

This is a banner day for Bad Movies.

True film fans enjoy stuff like this, because it doesn’t pretend to be anything but B-movie trash. There’s all sorts of trash aiming for Deep and Meaningful that hit entirely different targets named Pretentious, Obscure and Boring (shorthand: POB).

RAWHEAD REX looks like a silly little nugget of stupid fun. And to be honest, watching films with subtitles is fine, but if all you ever watch is black-and-white movies with subtitles about depressing and intellectual things, it will simply put you in therapy and give you migraines. Your brain, it needs a break sometimes. It need simple fun like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC or TRANSPORTER or, if you really want to wallow in the B-movie mud, stuff like RAWHEAD REX.

See? What’d I tell you:

  • The special effects are terrible.
  • The monster is a foam rubber joke that would feel at home on the set of Doctor Who.
  • The shreds of a storyline are simply an excuse for crazy scenes of mayhem.

Do these flaws matter? No. Because when you already know you’re watching nonsense, so the lack of polish is refreshing and a conversation starter.

Music Video Monday: Some White Girl

Now, this is interesting.

She just cranks this out, like it’s effortless to sing beautifully while spewing 150 bazillion words per second.

I don’t know her name. I don’t know the song.

I do know this: some record company exec with half a brain should SIGN HER UP.

Vonnegut, Einstein and a Grand Unified Theory of Writing

Kurt Vonnegut was the Man.

Go back and read his books. DO IT NOW.

Once you’ve read his books, and fully appreciate his literary genius, you can watch this low-definition video with horrible audio that still rocks because it has KURT FREAKING VONNEGUT.

I would have paid monies to have him as my professor. Now that I think about it, I did pay monies to have professors. Hmm. Though my journalism profs were top-notch. Props to you all.

Now, it’s not so complicated, is it?

Hero in a hole.

Boy meets girl.

Girl with a problem.

Albert Einstein — and thousands of other people far, far smarter than you or I put together, even on our good days when our fingers spark magic and the coffee we drink would do better on an IQ test than Michele Bachmann — spent many years trying to come up with a unified theory of everything.

See, the whole E=MC2 was only part of the answer. That’s the equation for energy. He wanted to do an equation that also explained gravity and whatnot. IT IS COMPLICATED. We will not get into it.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a muffin of stud with epic hair. I salute him. Image via Wikipedia

But writing isn’t rocket science. Not even close.

Oh, people get all mystical and complicated, and come up with their own jargon and rules. Yet these self-appointed writing gurus all disagree, and they specialize so much that they know more and more about less and less until they know absolutely everything about nothing.

You’ve got screenwriters and reporters, poets and novelists, playwrights (who spell their name wrong) and songwriters (spelling it right, good job), copywriters and non-fiction authors — all with their own rules and jargon, their own writing conferences and groups that hand out awards.

You’ve got endless shelves of books about the craft of writing, each expert giving their own special equations to maybe solve a piece of  of the puzzle.

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: We could unify this sucker, and we could do it without a lick of calculus or a single imaginary number. (Having -1 bottles of rieslings does nothing for me.)

So let’s do it. I have evil ideas, and have scribbled on the blackboard while cackling with glee.

But I’d like to hear what my brilliant writer friends say. How would you smash the walls that separate the different houses of writers?

A secret society of British editors discovers my silly blog

It’s two in the morning. Everybody sane is asleep.

But a secret society of British editors was busy sneaking onto my blog, reading my love letter to all who wield the Red Pen of Doom to pay the mortgage.

I know this because a man in a black hood crept inside my secret lair, entered the bigger turret and whispered in my ear, “Me and my mates are dead chuffed.”

He wore a pendant around his neck that looked a lot like a sharp red pen, dripping blood. Also, he smelled like good tea.

I dig the British, and the Australians, so it’s a happy accident that a bunch of Brits and Aussies and New Zealanders read this blog.image

The brilliant and beautiful British editors must have told their friends in Canada, who were also up early for some reason, and hitting my silly blog at an ungodly hour despite the fact that I know Canada is only five hours behind Eastern Standard Time, being up north with the sun either shining all but two hours in the summer and that same daystar hiding out for all but two hours in the dead of dark, dark winter.

It was hilarious to read their comments on Twitter, where I asked to join the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), perhaps as Fetcher of Coffee — or maybe Puncher of All Who Need to Be Punched.

They said sure. Join our group.

So I might. Even their acronym looks cool, and I belong to the Swedish Institute of Learned Men Without Beards Who Truly and Absolutely Hate Acronyms, Poets and Mimes (SILMWBWTA).

Editors and proofreaders of the United Kingdom, I salute you. Start making two lists: coffee preferences and people who need instant nose jobs.

And just because I can, four of my favorite videos related to all things British, with the exception of Bond movie clips. 007 deserves his own post later.