Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let's Not Settle for Settlements

I recently received a check from American Express for a class action lawsuit of which I was unaware.  A few weeks ago, I received a large check from a class action lawsuit against LA Fitness.  I have on my desk, a form to fill out for Anthem (Health Insurance) fee settlement.  While I'm happy to receive all these checks, I feel it speaks to a larger issue. Namely, what are all these corporations doing that requires so many class action suits to get them to stop?  (We hope!)

In two of the three cases, my check was for illegal fees.  In the third case, the one against LA Fitness (my employer), it's because they refused to pay any overtime for instructors.

Despite the clear violation of our laws, the corporations push the limits to see how far they can go and what they can get away with.  In these three cases, they were caught, but how many more times do they get away with it, or worse, as in the case of Wall Street's "too big to fail" buyout of 2008, are caught, but completely unpunished?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Arrested Development

Last night, I finished the new (fourth) season of Arrested Development. I was mildly apprehensive when I heard they were bringing it back since I wondered if they could recapture the original magic. Then I read how the episodes were going to focus on one character and I became even more concerned and with good reason. Although I really enjoyed a few full episodes and some scenes here and there, overall I thought the series' resurrection fell flat. 

The main problem is that some of the characters are just too quirky to be featured in their own storyline without them becoming too annoying. Tobias and Lindsey are very shallow and humorous in contrast to Michael who's dedicated to his son (at least in the original series) when they often forget they have a daughter. But seeing a full episode focused on just one of them left me more annoyed and, in the case of Lindsey, sad as the comedy doesn't work when it delves so deeply into their shallow waters.

They also took the bedrock of the series, Michael Bluth, and turned him into just another neurotic selfish member of the family. He became more pathetic and even backstabbing. ( I'm trying to write this without spoilers so I'll leave it at that for now.)

I loved the original series and have seen it from start to finish at least twice. I was genuinely looking forward to its return, but bringing back the show without bringing back the original formula that made it so great (namely, the family interaction), left me disappointed.  Yes, the series is clever, the storyline complicated, but it often felt too clever for it's own good.

Lastly, I know they're trying to lead up to a movie, but after a long seven year wait for the show to return, they needed to have some kind of closure to the storyline and instead they left it far too open and too many things unexplained.  This might be okay if we knew for certain when we would get more answers, but the series' future is left in doubt and it would be unfortunate if, after the brilliant wrap up of season 3, we were now left with this anti-climactic finish with nothing else to follow.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Food Pictures Rant

I don't know when it became so fashionable to post pictures of food, but I have a request -- please stop. Unless you work in the food industry and are promoting yourself, your services, or your wares, I don't want to see a picture of your meal.

I know that it's now so easy to take a picture of anything that we feel as though we have to take a picture of everything, but really, we don't. This isn't a picture of your significant other on the beach, your child acting cute, or you and your friends hanging out that you'll nostalgically look back on in ten or twenty years. It's a picture of a meal, just one in a thousand that you'll have this year (assuming you eat three meals a day). You don't need a record of it.

If you do insist on photographing your food and posting it (really, it's just the posting I mind. You can take all the pointless pictures of food you want as long as you keep them to yourself), then I'm going to insist you also take a picture of what that food looks like coming out the other end. Apparently, my grandfather started doing this a few years ago to show his doctor (who told my grandfather it wasn't necessary, yet he continued anyway), so why not share that as well? Oh, because that sounds stupid -- well so does posting your meal!

So if you are one of those people who takes pictures of your meals and posts them on Facebook or tweets them to your friends, please stop. No one cares. No one. Not only that, but it's incredibly narcissistic to think that anyone beyond your dinner table cares what you're eating.

If this utterly absurd trend does continue, I just may puke. And take a picture of it. And post it. But I won't!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Facebook Fan Page

As usual, I'm far behind social media trends.  I created a myspace page when everyone was migrating to Facebook.  Now people are getting tired of FB and dropping it, so naturally I just created a FB fan page!  Here's the link:

Like the page and you'll be able to follow updates on all of my writing projects including Afterlife.

(I'll also try to post here more often.)

Clouds Over Cuba

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was fortunate enough to add a very tiny contribution to the documentary and interactive website called "Clouds Over Cuba." I wrote a character study / background for one of the characters in the "What If" chapter in which we take a look at what might have happened had there been a limited nuclear exchange between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

Here is a link to the website:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Life for Afterlife!

This post is long overdue, but I want to announce that the rights for AFTERLIFE have finally reverted from Tokyopop back to myself and Rob Steen. Although Steen has decided not to continue with the book, I am going to push forward with it and try to find a new publisher. It is my hope to publish the entire story in one large volume rather than separate volumes, but ultimately, I'll do whatever the publisher (whoever that may be) wants. I'm currently trying to find a new home for the book.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Surfing Reviews

I stumbled upon a reader review of Afterlife on goodreads.com that I enjoyed:

My housemate gave this to me randomly and I liked the concept of the afterlife being just as meaningless and confusing as life, having nothing to do but wander around forever and talk to people and eventually go crazy, freeze up in fear, and get shoveled into the abyss, where you presumably freefall for eternity.

I'd be fairly comfortable with the whole affair as long as those demon things weren't flying around fucking things up. Other than that, it's pretty sweet.

Anyway, a good effort.


Privacy Advocates Slam Facebook Change

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Privacy advocates slammed revamped Facebook privacy controls on Thursday, saying the change masks a move to get members to expose more information online.

"These new privacy changes aren't so great for privacy," said Nicole Ozer, northern California technology and civil liberties policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) rights group.

"It's great that 350 million people are being asked to think about privacy, but if what Facebook says is true about giving people more control over their information, they have a lot more work to do."

Online rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) labeled aspects of Facebook's privacy change "downright ugly."

The world's leading online social network fired back, saying its critics are wrong and that time will prove that Facebook is taking "a giant step forward."

The controversy came a day after Facebook began requiring users to refine settings with a new software tool that lets them specify who gets to be privy to each piece of content uploaded to the website.

While the Facebook privacy overhaul has laudable features, there is a push to get the online community's members to expose information, according to EFF.

"Facebook's new changes are obviously intended to get people to open up even more of their Facebook data to the public," EFF lawyer Kevin Bankston said in a blog post.

"The Facebook privacy transition tool is clearly designed to push users to share much more of their Facebook info with everyone, a worrisome development that will likely cause a major shift in privacy level for most of Facebook's users, whether intentionally or inadvertently."

Prior to the change, Facebook users could keep everything but their names and networks private.

A newly created "public" category at Facebook now includes names, profile pictures, home cities, pages users have joined as "fans," gender and friend lists.

"There is a whole lot more information that users have no ability to keep private," Ozer noted.

Software that walks people through modifying privacy settings recommends making more personal information public and doesn't allow stricter settings than were previously in place, according to the ACLU.

"If users aren't careful, the transition tool will transition them to less privacy," Ozer said.

The privacy change doesn't address the ability of third-party applications installed in Facebook profiles to mine data from the social network, according to the ACLU.

"Facebook's system now is if I am friends with you, I am friends with all the stupid apps you run too," Ozer said. "Even if your friend takes a quiz, they could be giving away your personal information."

Names, profile pictures and claimed home cities are public, so people can find friends, colleagues, and other acquaintances they want to connect with in the online community, according to Facebook.

Users are not required to provide profile photos or specify the town where they live.

"It is not that big of a change," said Facebook director of global communications Barry Schnitt.

"The vast majority of users have already made this information available to everyone."

More than 20 million Facebook members used the new privacy tool Wednesday night and more than half selected their own settings instead of relying on automated recommendations, according to Schnitt.

"This data shows that privacy advocates are wrong and that users are much smarter in paying attention to privacy than advocates think," he said.

"The process is more transparent and transformative than they give us credit for. When they see how many people around the world have made choices about privacy this will be hailed as a giant step forward."

Facebook said its privacy settings let members avoid being listed in Internet search engines or receiving unsolicited messages.

"People come to Facebook to connect and share, not to hide," Schnitt said. "When users find their friends or are found by friends, they get a much better experience and that is what they want."

Original Link:


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creative Gigs

Over the years, I've seen a lot of ridiculous ads for writers posted on the internet. This is simply the latest. (My favorite parts are in bold.)

Production Company looking to hire a writer to write a work-for-hire, low budget horror screenplay with an existing storyline. The project should be completed over no more than a (6) week period, commencing within the next two or three weeks. This would be strictly a work for hire; the writer must waive/release and also interest in the project other than a writer credit for/to, the finished script and a copy of the film when it has been completed. Writer must also understand that if we edit the script we will share a writing credit. Compensation will be $1,000. Writer will be paid as we go along. We can discuss the exact payment terms upon our decision. We may be willing to pay a little more to the right person and only upon the delivery of a project that is so good it simply leaves us breathless. So think of it as a generous bonus to an amazing job well done!
• Must be able to collaborate with producers and production team.
• Must have own car and be able to travel to producers (will absolutely reimburse for gasoline expenses—separate from pay)
Must be available to meet in person with other members of the team at least once per week for approximately 90 minutes in the Hudson Valley.
• Must only submit original material, that means work that you—yourself think up and create. You will be entirely responsible and liable if you steal someone else’s work and get caught so it’s best not to go in that direction.
• Must be willing to sign a statement of non-disclosure. (this is just our insurance that you will not sell, share, or trade in any way, the material we have paid you to write for us, in confidence)
• Must be an experienced writer and have, on hand, some writing samples available to email with your inquiry.
• Must know screenplay format and be able to convert the files to both PDF and Final Draft.
The contact email: greathorrorscript@***.***.

I sent this out to a few friends who are writers and one of them sent me a link to another crazy ad for animation that was posted on craigslist:

2D ANIMATOR NEEDED for a very special project. We need a young hungry animator with a sharp eye and wild taste to create a 70 minute movie to go along with a concept album by AN ESTABLISHED ARTIST. THERE IS A VERY BIG NAME, AN AMERICAN ICON, ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT. THIS IS A VERY SPECIAL, DARK, PSYCHEDELIC album and it needs a counter-part in the form of an ANIMATED MOVIE which plays on top of the album. Digital is preferred, as we would like to move quickly with this project. The look of the animation and character design should be similar to AMERICAN POP, HEAVY METAL, PINK FLOYD: THE WALL, etc..

That's L.A. for you: work for nothing but the dreams that brought you here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ender Series

I first read Ender's Game many years ago while I was still in college. I found it immensely engaging and finished it in two days. I was thrilled to discover that he had written a sequel called Speaker For the Dead. The second book is very different from the first and begins a new trilogy (not counting Ender's Game) that Card, when I started it, had not yet finished writing. Finding a free copy of Ender's Game lying in a box of books at my local library a few months ago prompted me to at last reread the first three books and finally finish the fourth. (Note: Card has since cashed in on the popularity of his creation and written a large number of additional novels. For the purposes of this review, I'm focusing on the original series.)

The first two novels are just as good as I remembered them to be. Unfortunately, the third book, Xenocide, is overwritten and often becomes whiny and more than a little annoying. By the time I hit the fourth book, Children of the Mind, I was feeling weary, and apparently so was Card. It's the least interesting of the series, and Ender, the foundation of the first three books, figuratively and literally shrivels out of existence. Even worse, Card ends up resolving many of the titanic problems the characters face with weak deus ex machina solutions that are more magical than science fiction. It's a very disappointing end to such a promising beginning.

I would still recommend Ender's Game to anyone interested in a good science fiction novel. Unfortunately, even though Speaker for the Dead is an enjoyable book, it begins what can only be described as a disappointing trilogy (I know there are four books, but Ender's Game is kind of like Tolkien's The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings.)