Film NoiARRRRR excerpt

Yo Ho

NoiARRRRR, my film noir/pirate/buddy cop mashup film, has hit a snag: I’ve been too busy with this semester to plan out the entire thing, and it needs to be filmed by the end of this month. There’s not much time. It’s looking likely that I’ll have to rewrite the thing into a spoof trailer, rather than an actual film, and try to get that shot.

Regardless, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give you the first scene. Here’s the excerpt.

Continue reading

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Recent Happenings – October

Spoon River

I just published a post on HackCollege:

6 Halloween Costumes for the Terminally Lazy

“When I talk about last-minute Halloween costumes, I don’t mean costumes that take a solid night’s (or week’s) work right before the Halloween parties start up for the weekend. Those guys who put entire hours of work into their costumes are too hard-working for me.

Besides, all the blog posts giving them advice were up yesterday. Now that it’s the eleventh hour, it’s time for the truly lazy costumes ideas — the ones that you can spend five minutes on, but still qualify for a party with.”

Read the rest

Also, my college’s fall play opens tonight, on Halloween. Which is nice, since it’s about a group of dead citizens of a small town sharing their life stories. Here’s an ad for it:

And I also wrote an opinion piece on feminism and Christianity:

“We all agree that women are people and should do people things, like vote. There’s very little controversy over this. And therefore, ‘feminism’—which is technically defined as the belief that men and women are equal in worth—is something that everyone can agree on. But we don’t.”

Read the rest.

I Just Wrote My Epitaph

spoon river

I’m in the play this semester, a production based off of Edgar Lee Master’s 1915 collection of poems Spoon River Anthology.  It’s set in a graveyard, featuring the monologues of the deceased inhabitants of a small town. So for our bulletin, we’re doing something new: instead of a short bio, we all get to write our own epitaphs. I composed this gem of lyrical grace:

 

Here’s Adam Rowe
As dead as sin
‘Twas finals week
That did him in.

More College Life Vignettes

This year, like the last one, I’m the PR intern in charge of enlightening my college’s entire student body about recent news on a weekly basis. And just like before, I get to open with an entertaining paragraph about whatever I feel like. Here’s the Fall 2013 semester so far.

You know it's a quality college when it's got that weathered, old-photo look.

You know it’s a quality college when it’s got that weathered, old-photo look.

Week 1

Fall semester is in full swing.

That’s right, students have returned and classes are underway. Academic Convocation will be on Friday, August 30 at 10 a.m. in the Field-house. Hopefully you’re ready for the busyness of the semester to begin! Because if you’re not, well, man, I don’t know what to say to you. This is FYI. I’m Adam Rowe, and I’ll be your electronic guide to the Geneva-related events and facts that you should care about on a weekly basis. For example, I’ll be telling you stuff like this.

Week 2

Hi all,

As the fall starts up, college has changed a little: offices have moved; professors have come and gone; and the Alex’s fruit basket has moved from near the desserts to near the silverware. It’s almost too much to process. Twice already I’ve walked towards the dessert in search of an apple. My neural paths haven’t accepted the change yet. Continue reading

The problem with Popular Science

At least he didn't use a red and white color scheme. That's even worse than academic dishonesty.

At least he didn’t use a red and white color scheme. That’s even worse than academic dishonesty.

Malcolm Gladwell, popular author of collections of counter-intuitive factoids, recently published a new book, and it’s catching a lot of flack. As the AV Club puts it:

Malcolm Gladwell has made a mint taking true-life stories and statistics, then wrapping them up together into an easily digestible whole. Like the writers of Freakonomics, he trades in counter-intuitive arguments, showing how conventional wisdom is, more often than not, wrong. It’s a good hook, and he’s been successful with it over and over again. But every hook can become overused, and Gladwell’s latest, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, fails to recognize that rather obvious lesson.

Wall Street Journal reviewer Christopher Chabris has even harsher words:

To make his point about the general benefits of difficulty, Mr. Gladwell refers to a 2007 experiment in which people were given three mathematical reasoning problems to solve. One group was randomly assigned to read the problems in a clear typeface like the one you are reading now; the other had to read them in a more difficult light-gray italic print. The latter group scored 29% higher, suggesting that making things harder improves cognitive performance. It’s an impressive result on the surface, but less so if you dig a bit deeper.

First, the study involved just 40 people, or 20 per typeface—a fact Mr. Gladwell fails to mention. That’s a very small sample on which to hang a big argument. Second, they were all Princeton University students, an elite group of problem-solvers. Such matters wouldn’t matter if the experiment had been repeated with larger samples that are more representative of the general public and had yielded the same results. But Mr. Gladwell doesn’t tell readers that when other researchers tried just that, testing nearly 300 people at a Canadian public university, they could not replicate the original effect. Perhaps he didn’t know about this, but anyone who has followed recent developments in social science should know that small studies with startling effects must be viewed skeptically until their results are verified on a broader scale. They might hold up, but there is a good chance they will turn out to be spurious.

This flaw permeates Mr. Gladwell’s writings: He excels at telling just-so stories and cherry-picking science to back them.

Gladwell is probably figuring out the same thing Jonah Lehrer did: it’s tough to come up with entertaining articles, and counter-intuitive facts can quickly run out. There isn’t a good solution.

Popular science articles need plenty of elements to truly become popular — catchy titles; punchy analogies; a fast pace; evocative descriptors; a high concept topic; a fetish-level focus on facts or otherwise seemingly quantifiable accomplishments; and, most importantly, the subversive topic, which must confront the audience with a conclusion that seems to contradict commonly-accepted sense but it shown, through fact and analogy, not to.

Not that that isn't a good name, too.

They’re called test tubes, not crazy theory tubes.

The act of subversion is subversive. No, that’s not a tautological statement; rather, it should be obvious. If expectations are around to be subverted, than there must be a reason behind their existence. This reason, as decreed by Occam’s Razor, is typically because the expectation is a decent reflection of reality. As a result, academic articles live an arcadian existence, eking out the occasional 2000 words of fodder from among the cracks between reality and an audience’s expectations of reality. The struggle for an innovative topic, understandably, drives authors to ever more tenuous tricks.

One of the questionable methods of capitalizing on a breakthrough is to jump on one before it’s been properly confirmed. Academia skillfully sidesteps this problem, allowing less refined news services to spew click-bait about the latest particle to exceed the speed of light. Still, articles try to have their cake and consume it too, reporting on speculation while reminding the audience that speculation is all it is. Scientific studies are a grey area sensational enough to be acceptable: the implications of a study proving ______ is proportional to _____ are free to run wild as long as the requisite chestnut that “correlation isn’t causation” gets tossed in there somewhere. Accuracy might not be upheld with both hands, but darned if the topic isn’t entertaining.

Personally, I’ve found a different solution to the problem: I write fiction.

Merchant of Venice: The College Years

Ideally, all these actors would be in my adaptation, and it would be filmed in 2000.

Ideally, all these actors would be in my adaptation, and it would be filmed in 2000.

“Cut us, we bleed. Tickle us, we laugh. Screw us over, and we’ll screw you over!”

~Shy, My Adaptation

I was bored in Shakespeare class yesterday and outlined a modern-day adaptation of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, The Merchant of Venice, as set in a college environment. Shakespeare-inspired teen comedies were turned into a fun subgenre back in the late 90s-early 00s, but I don’t think anyone has attempted a version of the play that centers around one guy trying to chop a pound of flesh out of another. The play just doesn’t work well for adaptation. Which is what makes it fun to attempt.

Dramatis Personae:

Tony – The popular, friendly, good-guy jock senior.

“Shy” – A bitter nerdy senior. Nicknamed for his quiet demeanor.

Bill – Tony’s best friend, who has just transferred from another college.

Portia – A smart, driven pre-law student. She’s looking for love, but disillusioned by the self-serving guys within her major.

Jessica – Shy’s freshman sister.

Lorenzo – A dweeby freshmen. Often teased for having a name out of Shakespeare or something.

Plot:

Shy works at the registrar’s desk, overseeing the fraternities on campus. He harbors a deep grudge against Tony, whose frat voted to keep him out back in their freshman year. When Tony comes to him to get Bill into the fraternity at short notice, Shy sees his moment for revenge: he cuts a deal. Bill’s in the fraternity, but if he can’t keep his grades up high enough to stay in, Tony must give Shy his Facebook and LinkedIn passwords — career suicide.

A sub-plot follows Bill’s romance with Portia after he wins a date with her in a contest during Greek Week. He’s the least materialistic, so she picks him. Also, Jessica starts dating Lorenzo, much to Shy’s dismay.

In the end, Bill’s grades tank, and unless he aces his last final, Tony’s career will go down in flames before it has started. Tony must appeal to the student fraternity board, where Portia masquerades as a frat member in order to qualify to defend Tony. Shy is defeated. Everyone else lives happily ever after.

I have a few loose ends to figure out… like how Portia stops Shy, or how the plots can tie together better than they do in the source material. Or how to deal with the extra ring subplot from the original play. I still need a good title. Also, I might give Shy a love interest so that it’s not a totally downer ending for him.

But, perhaps most importantly, this adaptation sets up a nice mirror of the original’s line about Shylock wanting a pound of flesh in order to bait fishhooks:

“What do you want his linkedin password for, anyway?”

“To bait phishers with.”

Fan-fic vs Canon – The Revolution?

Nimona.

‘Fan-fics’ are fan-written material set in the universe of another, established author, and ‘canon’ refers to the official, sanctioned material that said author produces themself. At least, it used to. Times are changing, and the fan-fic/canon distinction is taking several hits.

First, there’s Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program, which allows fan-fic authors to legally write stories set in particular worlds, most notably those of Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and Slaughterhouse-Five. But the distinction isn’t completely destroyed here: we can all tell the truly masterful and official stuff apart from the rest: no one’s going to best Kurt Vonnegut at his own novels. In theory, though, someone could put together a work that’s better. And it’s official, too, putting it in a third camp seperate from fan-fic or canon — it would become a sanctioned continuation, in the spirit of Eoin Colfer’s sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which took over after Douglas Adams’ original five books.

 

In order to completely break down the barriers between fan-fic and canon, we need a little help from the authors involved. And that’s why I was interested to see this post on my tumblr feed.

Artist Noelle Stevenson, most well known for her webcomic Nimona and for her doodles of that one Russian couple from Pacific Rim, was asked a question about the running commentary that her tumblr provides about her webcomic. it’s a case of the original author indulging in fan-fic-style opinions.

Q:

YOU WRITE A LOT OF EXTRA SNIPPETS OF INFO FOR NIMONA WHEN WE ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT IT. ARE THESE CONSIDERED FANFICS, OR IS IT CANON, SINCE YOU, THE AUTHOR, ARE WRITING THEM? ARE THEY BOTH FANFICS AND CANON? I NEED TO KNOW BECAUSE SCIENCE.

A:

it’s all canon because I’m the boss. However that doesn’t mean I can’t change it as many times as I want. So I could say like “the Director is a reverse minotaur” and then a week later I could think of something better and say “NO WAIT she’s a pile of gnomes in a dress” and it would allll be canon.

From the Gingerhaze tumblr.

What’s fan-fic? What’s canon? It’s a whole new wooooooooorld!