‘Lorem Ipsum Dolor’ Just Got Yummier

Who needs boring old ‘placeholder text’ that’s doggerel Latin based on an 18th century manuscript when you can have ‘placeholder text’ that includes bacon? No really: HEAD HERE and you’ll get 5 paragraphs of “all-meat” text to paste into your layout for whatever design purpose you have. Here’s a sample of what that means:

Magna eiusmod ex, bresaola ad brisket meatloaf pancetta cillum. Jowl beef ribs swine jerky t-bone. Esse sirloin excepteur pork chop id in, bacon short ribs pig rump strip steak. Laboris shoulder reprehenderit excepteur, t-bone meatball est sed pork belly beef ribs ullamco turkey sirloin boudin. Jowl strip steak cow, ground round ball tip pork chop ea beef. Andouille pork pastrami, voluptate meatloaf sirloin jowl ground round id pancetta pork chop ullamco. Short loin consequat aliquip, sirloin consectetur quis officia pariatur salami cow flank commodo adipisicing do.

Head to the bottom of that page and you can specify a different number of paragraphs, as well as whether you want some filler included with your yummy meat, or if you want to start with the words ‘Bacon ipsum dolor sit amet…’ and then carry on with meat or a meat mixture. Yes, anything goes better with Bacon!!™

How to Pitch Your Thing to the Media: the AUDIO

So, finally, I have completed the editing of the audio for last month’s event with Stephen Quinn: How to Pitch Your Thing to the Media. Profuse thanks again to Mr. Quinn for his amazing generosity and enthusiasm throughout the entire organizing and carrying-out of the event.

Due to a few limitations that WordPress.com has for blogs hosted on their servers, the file is being stored over on the Atomic Fez Publishing web-site, in its own little Shebeen-dedicated folder. Thus, the MP3 ends up being declared an “outside source” by some anti-virus programmes and ad-block-based browser plug-ins. Should you get some sort of “hey! whattya doing! this could be bad!” warnings when you click the link below, reassure your software or browser that all is well, and to let you do what you want to.

Instead of clicking the little [PLAY] button immediately below and not moving for awhile, some of you might want to [right click] the words in the link, and select something like “Save link as…” or “Save target as…”, and thus download the file to listen to on your iPod or in the car, or wherever you listen to sound files that run 85 minutes in length.

How Not to Get the Media’s Attention

How Not to Get the Media’s Attention

How to Pitch Your Thing to the Media

Yes, that’s right, the file is nearly one hour-and-a-half long. I tried to trim out as much irrelevant material as possible — especially my prattling nonsense — but the problem is that Stephen Quinn is so gosh-darned informative and entertaining, that this is the shortest I could make it without taking forever to provide the audio. Hopefully Mr. Quinn will be amenable to returning in the near future so that we can hear more specifically on the topic of “journalism in the new millennium”, now that we’re in the post News of the World reality that he had the fortune of investigating whilst filling in at As it Happens this past fortnight.

The media package Mr. Quinn mentions at the 15 minute mark is the one you see in the photo above. An astonishingly odd piece of promotional material, even without the context that he places it within as part of his talk. Click the image for “biggification”.

The material Mr. Quinn plays is from Ira Basen’s six-part series “Spin Cycles”, which was twice run as part of CBC Radio1’s The Sunday Edition in 2007. You can learn more about that series — as well as access all six highly informative instalments — at this link RIGHT HERE.

I look forward to repeating the success of this event September 19th, upstairs at the Revel Room (on Abbott, between West Cordova and Trounce Alley).

Patience, Grasshopper

I’m still working on the audio track from last week’s event with Stephen Quinn. Originally running one hour and forty minutes, I’m trying to get it down to something more reasonable, as well as remove any un-necessary nattering on my part. the end result ought to be nothing but informative yummy goodness about how to make your information appeal to the ever-cynical, un-caring, heartless bastards of the media.

In the meantime (and partly because none of the media seems to give a damn about my exciting news), have a look OVER HERE about how Atomic Fez Publishing has been short-listed for Best Small Press by the British Fantasy Society’s awards.

Is Journalism Dead? Did the Bean-Counters Kill It?

This evening’s event with Stephen Quinn causes me to think about a book read some time ago Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies.

While Mr. Quinn is not a newspaper man, he is — first and foremost — a journalist. The book by Mr. Davies is about journalism, and the dearth of it in the papers found principally in London, but not exclusively so. Being a regular writer for The Guardian, his expertise lies in the output of Fleet Street rather than elsewhere, and thus he devotes much of his book to the state of British journalism in its newspapers as well as the BBC News web-site. It’s a fascinating read and highly recommended for people who think.

First, however, let’s have one thing clear from the outset: this is not about how some minority group or secret committee is controlling the world and / or the media. While there may be decisions made about things by groups we know nothing about (that’s why they’re ‘secret groups’ after all), it’s all too easy to shuffle off one’s responsibility for not doing anything to change things by blaming an anonymous ‘powerful individuals’. Here’s an H.L. Menken quote included in the book (p. 395) which goes some way to explain how this sort of thinking can be rubbish:

…the central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his rights and true deserts … [He] ascribes all his failures to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street or some other such den of infamy.

This book is specifically about how there are few, if any, people in control of the media. While many reporters and editors find all too frequently that they aren’t able to do the fact-checking they wish to — and are frustrated at the situation’s stasis — they aren’t the cause of it through lack of initiative; they simply haven’t the time. According to the staggeringly persuasive argument of author Nick Davies, the newspapers of the UK are essentially now all owned by people who have little interest in publishing newspapers containing journalism. What these individuals are principally concerned with is simply ‘selling copies of the paper each and every day, and the more the better.’ This quantity over quality approach is why they are termed “the Grocers” by Mr. Davies.

Cover art of “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies

Cover art of “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies

Certainly, any business must be operated with an eye to profit v. loss. However, there is so much an avoidance of idealism towards the media’s content, that the readers are being under-served to the point of unconscionable delivery of falsity on the part of the various persons responsible for the media outlets’ content.

While the book focuses much of its time upon the newspapers of London — including entire chapters each devoted to the Sunday Times, the Observer, and both the Daily and Sunday Mail newspapers–the problems and trends can all be recognized as being world-wide in scope. The newspapers of North America are, thankfully, prevented from out-right lying about individuals in print, owing to a reversal of the onus of proof in legal arguments here, when compared to the UK. That said, the habit of reporting quickly and loudly, then correcting slowly and quietly, is one which no legal or regulatory procedure can effectively prevent.

The other worrisome trend is the one first identified in the book: things being simply repeated from the texts of Media Releases without any effort to confirm that there is any validity within them, or even if they contain amplified — or ‘sexed up’, to use the UK Government’s term about the Iraqi WMD reports — versions of the truth which is then responsible for a snowball effect of panic about the subject in question; which then is fed-back into (EG: Iranian Elections get dropped to cover Michael Jackson’s death) or someone is able to stop the thing by explaining that it’s simply not true in the slightest and we can all relax now (EG: the nullification of the principle of habeas corpus in the USA is only applied to the cases of those naughty terrorists).

The fact that this book doesn’t cover is the recent development of newspapers closing due to financial decisions by their owners, despite any budget restraints they may have imposed prior to the shut-down. It would be fascinating to know what Mr. Davies’ views of the ‘new media platform’ might do to return journalists to the forefront of the delivery of facts. He suggests late in the book that an over-haul of newspapers is required, with the probable method of delivery being some sort of display screen.

Read this book, not to begin seeing some Secret Star-Chamber Cabal controlling the World’s fate, but in order to see that there is an ordinary group of men frantically pulling levers behind the curtain so as to continue making the Great Oz of the Media just as impressive and seemingly required as ever before.

Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies; PP 420 (including index), ISBN: 978-0-099512-6-84; 2nd Edition published in 2009 by Vintage, an imprint of Random House, London, SW1V

Why This Applying of Limiting, Alien Categorization?

Two things today: a quick note that next week’s event is shaping up to be our most crowded ever, with 25 reservations already made. In theory space is limited, but I’ve no idea what that number is. Click THIS LINK and get your reservation made and paid for. Later you take your chances and pay more for it.

Second: below is an article I’m freely stealing from myself over at the Atomic Fez Publishing blog, it being part of my weekly series called “This Week’s Fish-Wrap” where in I review the previous week’s news in the publishing field. The entry below examines the question of ‘categorization’, but effectively skips over the superior story-telling of the David Fincher “work print’ for Alien³,  as well as the fact that “tetralogy” is a far better word for the four films than the ridiculous made-up word some marketing idiot slapped on the box, because the Ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about how to tell a saga, let me tell you!

That last part of the second paragraph is the sort of thing you can discuss at the meeting next week with me.  See what a smarty-pants I really am?

A few months ago, I finally got around to watching the Alien series of films, none of which I had ever seen before¹, because just prior to Christmas I picked-up the “Alien Quadrilogy” box-set of the four films. I watched them through once on their own, then once more with the Audio Commentary tracks switched-on, so as to get a richer sense of the story-telling background that went into the decisions which resulted in the final versions of the films (plus I’m just that sort of obsessive, trivia-buff who loves hearing film directors slag-off the heads of studios who insist on things being made badly in order to keep to an arbitrarily determined budgetary figure).

Still from “Alien”, showing SF-based lab

Still from “Alien”, showing SF-based lab

The end result of my watching the films was a mixture of admiration for Sigourney Weaver’s talents as an actress playing the same role four times in entirely different ways; a deeper understanding of the effect different directorial styles have on a story; and a question that continues to burble around in my mind which has prompted this posting.

Why is the publishing world filled with such narrow views of story types?

At some point through the four films, I tried to determine the type of film I was watching, and decided it was an SF, Horror, Thriller, and Action film. The various entries in the saga mix those up in different proportions, but–ultimately–they are all four of those at some point in each of them.

“Alien”, starting the ‘Haunted House’ sequence

“Alien”, starting the ‘Haunted House’ sequence

Alien (the first one) begins as an SF film as we watch people wake-up from ‘hyper-sleep’ and then land on a planetoid in response to a beacon. There, we continue with the SF theme with the discovery of odd, egg-like things, and poor John Hurt is carried back to the ship. Once he has his stomach explode (which is a bit of an odd thing for an otherwise very polite person to do at the dinner table, I might add), we shift into ‘Horror/Monster’ mode, and start searching for the little lizard-like thing around the ship.

Now that we have a residence / working area hiding an un-known monster, we’ve also introduced the plot device of ‘The Haunted House’ where everyone tries to locate the ‘other being’ — typically a ghost or ghoul, but here is a space-based one — while we in the audience keep shouting “It’s right behind you!” like we’re watching some Christmas Pantomime. After trying to destroy the thing using a variety of military techniques–thereby introducing the ‘Thriller’ and ‘Action’ genres–the important thing to do is to get the heck out of here, which reduces the victory required from “destroy all monsters” to a simple goal of “get out of here alive”. Throughout the film, the defenceless cat is seen as ‘that which must be saved’, because otherwise everyone would have a much easier time of the whole thing.

“Aliens”, introducing the ‘Space-Ships Are Cool’ theme

“Aliens”, introducing the ‘Space-Ships Are Cool’ theme

Aliens (the second film), introduces the same sort of elements with the added attraction of it being 57 years later, our heroine being frozen in sleep for that period, thus introducing a bit of ‘time travel’ which we’ll very much see later on. This film has a huge reliance on ‘military action movie’ due to the involvement of the unit of Marines who accompany Ripley to the now peopled planetoid we saw in the first film. Again, once we determine the ‘house’ is ‘haunted’, then that we cannot truly conquer the ‘other’, the characters must get out alive. Complexities of situation get in the way of that, obviously, and so things crash, ways through danger are blocked, risks are taken, and the little orange stripy cat is replaced by a little dirty-faced girl. The monsters are larger and more numerous; however the weapons are stronger and more advanced. Yet the same balance exists: monsters are wilier than the guns. In the same way, our ‘defenceless complexity’ is seemingly more important for she is human now instead of feline.

“Aliens”, introducing the ‘Children Are Helpless’ theme

“Aliens”, introducing the ‘Children Are Helpless’ theme

Alien3 (that’s the third one, obviously) provides all of this, but makes things trickier. The enemy is though gone by Ripley, but she needs to make sure after crash-landing in mysterious circumstances on a maximum security jail planet. Once she’s determined the monster exists, she then has to convince others that the thing exists and is as dangerous as she avers. This time, there is only the one monster, but there are no weapons to speak of, so we have a battle of wits betwixt the group of criminals² she’s won over to her cause, and the complex’s various hallways and storage rooms, and ultimately its lead works. After trapping the beast once, only to have it let out again³, the next plan is to get the thing into a mould and drown it in molten lead.

Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘We Are Tiny in Thy Sight’ theme

Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘We Are Tiny in Thy Sight’ theme

Meanwhile, a second ‘evil’ is on its way to the planet: the Corporation wants to preserve this dangerous creature and study it in order to create their own ‘biological weapon’ in the form of a living, killing machine. We had a taste of that in the second and first films, but it was only a plot point and was never manifested in any sort of imminent fashion. Now, the people who need ‘rescuing’ — in the way we had the cat and child previously — are everyone we see, but the ‘cavalry coming over the hill in the nick of time’ are shadowy Men in Black, who may save our heroes, but at the cost of technology trumping safety by letting evil live to fight another day. Morality plays and Biblical questions of “what is the ultimate right”, as well as philosophical questions of “whose interests are best served by this or that plan of action”, are all invoked by the time we see the credits roll. But, just in case we didn’t have enough religious symbolism of ‘pure, cleansing fires of death’ and ‘the fires of Hell contain much evil’ already, Ripley’s — believe it or not4 — sacrifice is made doubly-meaningful as she kills both herself and the fœtal alien she is carrying; but she swan-dives into the forge, dying so that others might live, visually screaming her messianic purpose so loud only the blind and deaf might miss it.

Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘Guess the Symbol’ theme

Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘Guess the Symbol’ theme

I watched Alien Resurrection the same day as Alien3 simply because my only thought was “how in blazes do they get her to return?” Here, we have a lighter tale, cover the same ground as the previous films, and toss a bit of humour into the mix. The other major thematic element is “does knowledge and science trump all other concerns?” We get a bit of that with the story in the book of “Genesis” in The Bible with ‘The Tree of Knowledge’ being something humanity is forsworn to partake of. Here we have a sort of warning about what might happen if we irrevocably make that mistake.

Science has taken Ripley’s blood, left just prior to hear death, and re-constituted both her and the Little Alien Child within her.5 The various previous attempts are viewed in a lab, and Ripley commits a sort-of suicide by destroying the failed experiments. “Science does bad things” comes the warning here.

Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘They’re Slimy, But Smart’ theme

Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘They’re Slimy, But Smart’ theme

From here on we have a fairly straight-forward shoot ’em up style of tale, with an ending filled with another dose of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one”, as we had before. Here, we have extra-added joy of watching a mother — or ‘God/Creator’, if you will — destroy her child — or ‘give of her only-begotten son’, in a sense — so that humanity might be rid of an evil.

So… what’s my damned point, then?

Without ever seeing these films before, or even hearing much about them other than what do you mean ‘you haven’t seen them?’, it’s possible to find instances of the SF, Horror, Thriller, Action, Western, Judæo-Christian Dogma, and Haunted House plot elements. Not only are ‘Noble Warrior’, ‘Dangerous Other’, and Plato’s questions of ‘what is “good-ness” and “right-ness”?’ thrown in for good measure, there’s also the recurring question of “if you destroy or create a human-like robot, have you destroyed or created a life?” It all works, too!

Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘Who Are We to Create Life?’ theme

Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘Who Are We to Create Life?’ theme

Why, then, given that we can all agree that novels can contain far more complexity than any movie will, do we have to limit the number of influences and thematic threads to that some nit-wit in a corner office — who like as not hasn’t bothered to read the book — can slot it into the ‘horror’, ‘thriller’, or ‘general fiction’ slots in their marketing campaign?

Please do comment below here, and tell me why the lines of published fiction are categorized upon release when the initial distribution of films are free of these content labels?

Given the above, I don’t understand why it’s done.

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  1. Stop looking at me like that! Yes, it’s true. Honestly! Listen, have you seen It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Third Man, The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil, and Lawrence of Arabia so often you can quote huge chunks of dialogue from them verbatim? Well I can, because while you were watching the “Alien” series, I was committing those other ones to memory. Right; are we okay now? Good. [ BACK ]
  2. Inevitably referred to as ‘a rag-tag bunch of men that society has rejected…’ etcetera… [ BACK ]
  3. Yes, the ‘work-print’ version that David Fincher originally wanted; it’s got a much better story arc [ BACK ]
  4. Sorry… couldn’t resist. [ BACK ]
  5. Thankfully, they never attempt to create an answer to the question how do you do that, exactly? [ BACK ]