Archive for March 23, 2017

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

“What has the nasty writers got in his pocketessss, Gollum?”  

Well, to be fair the answer is neither nothing nor the One Ring of Power. Maybe, I beat that question because Smeagol might not have the vocabulary to figure out things like an iPad, keyboard, pens, mechanical pencils, notebook, score sheets, power cables and a few other things that I’m not sure I remember when I dropped ‘em into my black bag of writerly doom. Or maybe I punch Gollum in the head until he squeals for mercy.

It’s kind of odd doing the periodic inventory of my mobile kit that I take with me whenever I need to be anywhere but my house making my words. I have three levels of where I keep my stuff: pocket, bag and car. Because there aren’t any excuses ever and even less Mother May I in writing.

My pockets end up filled to the gunnels with things I need to move around the city and get home again, but when you include the black coat I wear nearly everywhere, even when sane people broiling in 80-degree temperatures in Sunny California might rightly wonder about such a high-albedo fabric color, I become a one-man mobile writing machine. The coat is thin only good for wind and water and provides the pockets needed to supplement that the only pocket in my various pants devoted to my writing is the cellphone pocket at my right thigh. I wear sweaters underneath on cold days.

On a light travel day, patting me down you’ll find the cellphone, a cable, a mobile battery, my reading/typing glasses, my earbuds and some cheap shades. The battery powers the phone until it dies giving me a few more hours sitting in a plush chair swilling coffee when I don’t want to make the logistical commitment to bringing my black bag into the room.

The interim state involves the aforementioned black bag where I keep iPad, keyboard, notebook, pens, pencils, 3” x 5” cards, a pack of writer support cards (a victorious acquisition at a recent Christmas White Elephant party), connector cables of all the just in case types for iPhones and iPads, score sheets and clamshells paper clips in a couple sizes leftover from the last time whenever that was that I had a paper manuscript in the bag.

As you may surmise, this bag is the most modular item in my kit. If I know I need to read something in goes the book, Kindle or comic book. If I’m stuck for ideas I’ll drop in the heavy ass idea dice that I recently took out of my bag precisely because it was a heavy ass bag of dice sitting at the bottom of my bag on days when I didn’t have any trouble finding the next thing to work on, at least in the coffee shop.

There is a constant war between me wanting to lighten this black shoulder bag versus getting my day completed. Dice go out. Dice go in. Graphic novels in. Different graphic novels replace the first one. I thought I would replace the iPad and full size Apple Bluetooth keyboard, still in the original coffee stained box it came in, with a cheap Lenovo running Windows 10 (see Hide in Plain Sight, Axes to Grind), but I hated how said crap-wagon technology interfaced with me so the iPad Mini remains despite being slightly heavier.

Two other contests for space in my bag and pockets continue to the present moment. I have music aspirations that fear and needing to write have delayed for a couple years now. I used to carry a harmonica in the pocket where I keep my keys and business cards and might again when I finally get over being a scaredy cat composer, but for now I’m saving weight by leaving it home. Currently, I have an unopened pack of score sheets in my bag that’s the other relic of saying I’m a composer. Additionally, some of the cables in the bag are music oriented in that they’re intended to connect an iPad/iPhone to a recording microphone that I’ve also generally left at home to save weight avoiding forms of creativity I’m not feeding at the moment.

The other contest involves switching back and forth between a regular 6” x 9” spiral notebook and one of those special notebooks with the proprietary paper that works with an expensive note capture/smart pen (post to follow whenever). Sometimes I take the regular notebook. Sometimes I take the note capture gear. And sometimes I take both. This will end when I’m ready to call it that the note capture pen actually saves me time taking my handwritten work directly into the phone instead of merely re-typing my handwritten pages. We’ll see when we see…

It’s kind of funny to me that the bag might have influenced a key sartorial choice. For a long while, I would wear shorts bringing the black shoulder bag with me. A black soft bag splitting the difference between shoulder/messenger bag and briefcase somehow doesn’t go with shorts. So I decide to wear pants (a decision that also coincides with cold weather and shorts that have holes in them from a Leatherman tool sitting wrong in the pocket, take salt here liberally), because pants just look better with this bag. 

Lastly, we come to what’s in my car that helps me write. I keep a blank spiral notebook in the map slot near my ankles. And I have a bunch of interesting things in the center armrest cubby. Coffee mug. An extra portable lamp (the twin of a similar light in my bag glossed over in the paragraphs above). Yet, another portable battery kept fully charged just in case the three in my bag run down or I blow off bringing my bag. And a spare USB-Lightning cable separate from the one that plugs my phone into my car.

Wow! That is a lot of small items to lug around just to make sure I don’t get to try the cheesy ass lame I forgot my calculator, Sir excuse that didn’t even work when I last tried it in a middle school science class. And for sure, this post is generally representative of a Slow News Day that I’m basically emptying out my pockets to keep up my word quotas.

But, when you think about it maybe you’ll have a greater understanding of the tools you like, why you acquired them and why you’ve become emotionally attached. And maybe we’ll give Gollum a kick to the head…just because.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I’m probably doing a bit of disservice to people I know and with whom I share productivity time in reviewing Alex Studios’ independent series Mania now instead waiting for a few more issues. But, Issues 1 & 2 are all that’s available to read for the moment. Here goes. 

The series, proposed as a six-issue miniseries, follows the doings of two superheroes in a future California city, New Renard, where implanted augmented reality chips (ARC) have linked people together the way those Google Glasses were supposed to a few years ago. However, if a citizen experiences psychological, emotional or possibly spiritual difficulties the interaction of troubled mind and ARC chip can create a spandex-hero or spandex-villain. At the level of concept, sign me up, which I have contributing to the successful Kickstarter to make Issue 3 a reality.

But, then I read the first two issues and my ardor based on what is actually on the page has cooled some. It is still a brilliant concept filled with visually striking art and lots of potential still lurking just beneath the surface. But, it hasn’t figured out how to introduce characters, present the reader with the awesome world building that jumps off the page and tell a three-act story about fearless and mentally damaged heroes chasing a canister of DNA, all in a proposed six issues. I hope Alex Studios extends this miniseries out to at least Issue 8 to give their story elements some breathing room.

Issue 1, The Shift, follows the spandex-hero Jumpstart as he rescues a female citizen from one of New Renard’s robotic cops about to go haywire and make a lethal wrongful arrest. The blond long haired hipster in a woolen beanie rips up the cop and appropriates the still-active cop brain segment trying to teach the officer not to draw down on innocent women on the street, while a supermanic spandex-villainess robs a bank nearby using enough explosives to level whole city blocks.

Issue 2, The Light, introduces us to Iris, aka Dr. Tessa Ignatius, a supermaniac who harbors resentment towards the ultimate Big Bad, Fahrenheit Corporation, the inventor of the ARC chip, for stealing her hyper-efficient fusion reactor technology. She is, for lack of a better word, mugged on the subway by Prism, a former lesbian lover who works for Fahrenheit Inc. as a agent working to control the occasional and random appearance of supermaniacs. A fight and escape ensues.

A common element of both issues so far is that both Jumpstart and Iris start to have conversations with a voice on the other end of video phone calls. The mysterious voice is very worried that Lady Midna, a supermanic spandex-villainess with a penchant for mind control and dressing up as a clown (the Joker just called, he wants his metaphor back) just stole a canister of DNA labeled JAN. He demands both heroes start working to make things right working together, even though they don’t know it, yet.

So here we are at the end of Issue 2 hoping something picks up for the as yet unpublished Issue 3. I won’t go so far as to start bad mouthing this series (I’m committed through Issue 3 because of the Kickstarter), nor will I ever confuse a still-great concept with a reading experience that like many before it needs a few issues to hit its stride. But, so far the concept and Player Pitch (superpowers as a result of mental illness) are holding my interest more than the narrative.

We have seen two supermaniacs, Jumpstart and Iris, so far. But, while we do get some sense of Iris’ past with a mention that Fahrenheit Inc. has stolen her fusion reactor technology and the nasty lesbian spat behind an armored spider-bot mecha with Prism, I’m not sure I could tell you what Iris’ superpower actually is. Given that it’s traditional to assign superhero codenames based on powers, I’ll assume that she has light manipulation powers, but maybe we’ll get more clarity as the story progresses.

I know even less about Jumpstart. He leaps from tall buildings to save the woman in the red dress. He rips up the cop about to create the future world equivalent of an unlawful police shooting. But, I have zero understanding of what he does other than fly and display super-strength, powers that pretty much everybody everywhere has. I would guess that a guy named Jumpstart has some kind of electro-mechanical powers that helps him fly/fall with attitude, rip up officer-bots, and restart broken machines and hearts suffering cardiac events. We’ll see as the creators tell us the story.

The two villains presented in these two issues have been given more attention. I may joke about Lady Midna getting a call from the Joker over his appropriated villain metaphor, but psycho crime clowns have become one of the great comic book villain motifs. But, I found myself enjoying her presence despite that we only really see her robbing the bank to get the JAN canister and can’t stick around to use massive amounts of exposition to clue the reader into her raison d’être.

Similarly, I learned more about Prism through her fight with Iris than I did about Iris herself. I got to feel the annoyance of having to confront a former lover who has chosen the side of freedom over the conformity offered by the Fahrenheit Corporation. And that Prism will have to face superiors with a temporary failure.

I can’t reiterate enough that so far the Mania world is something that I want to see thrive once the need to introduce new characters gives way to telling a fun story where heroes chase a McGuffin (the JAN canister) for three acts. Once I get a handle on Jumpstart and Iris and how they will interact with the evil in charge of everything Fahrenheit Corporation that wants JAN to control all future advances in seamlessly connected biotechnology, this literary franchise should take off. Possibly, with an, as yet, unplanned second book.

Right now, Mania, is a tour de force of world building and innovative coolness that just needs to get busy with telling a story. Fingers crossed…