Wednesday, 2 September 2015

IWSG: Back to School

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

Today is the day of the big IWSG announcement that has been alluded to since the last round of IWSG posts. It's been a somewhat lengthy month-long wait, but I have no doubt that whatever the Ninja Captain has in store for us would make it worth it. You'll need to head over to his blog for the answer though, since this post was written and scheduled before the announcement was made.

But while you're here, I also have an announcement of my own to make, one that I have equally been keeping close to the chest until the right moment. And as you may or may not have guessed from the title of my post, it has something (read: everything) to do with school, or my higher education to be precise. That's right, this IWSG member has decided to further his education with a master's degree.

The degree in question is in Computer Science, a field that has always been a huge part of my evolving interests, and the course itself is to be delivered online, which means I can still continue to work and whatnot. The decision was made a few months back, even though this is a move that has been in the pipeline way before I started this blog or decided to publish any of my writing. In fact, one of the reasons why it took this long for me to pursue it was because I had decided at the start of 2012 to focus exclusively on my writing, a year that resulted in one of my most productive as a writer.

But I guess there comes a time in every writer's journey when you need to weigh the difference between what you want to do and what needs to get done. Getting my master's definitely falls in the latter of the two categories. So I guess my biggest insecurity right now is where this would leave my fledgling writing career. Would I still be able to squeeze time out to write, as unrealistic as that sounds, or does this mean I would be putting everything on hold for the entire duration of my course?

Monday, 17 August 2015

Immortalized (Music Review)

Two months ago, the heavy metal band known as Disturbed took fans by surprise when they announced the August 21st release of their sixth studio album, Immortalized, an announcement that was sweetened by the instant availability of its lead single, The Vengeful One. This was following a rather lengthy gap since the 2011 release of their compilation album, The Lost Children, and it effectively brought an end to their hiatus.

In readiness for the awesomeness that was sure to come, I had spent the past two months listening to their entire back catalogue, starting with their hard-hitting debut, The Sickness (2000), before moving on to Believe (2002), the album that marked the start of their gradual shift from heavy metal to hard rock, a trend that became more glaring in their subsequent albums, Ten Thousand Fists (2005), Indestructible (2008), and my personal favorite, Asylum (2010).

And now that the new album is almost upon us, fans are being treated once again as the entire album has been made available for streaming on iTunes and Spotify. I've listened to the album a couple of times now, and while I don't consider it their finest, I still think it is a worthy addition to their catalogue, with its fair share of highs and lows.

Just like with Asylum before it, the new album opens with an instrumental track that foreshadows and segues into its title track, Immortalized. This is followed by The Vengeful One and Open Your Eyes, the latter boasting one of the heavier guitar riffs on the album. Thereafter, the album quickly devolves into Nickelback/Theory of a Deadman territory with songs like The Light, You're Mine and the somewhat head-scratching ode to marijuana, Fire It Up.

Equally as head-scratching is the slow-paced cover of the Simon & Garfunkel song, The Sound of Silence. I know it really wouldn't be a Disturbed album without one such cover, but this one would've probably been better served as an album closer or dare I say a bonus track. I mean, the song allows lead singer David Draiman to shine like never before, but you can't shake the fact that it is still essentially a piano ballad in the middle of what is supposed to be a heavy metal record.

The deluxe edition of the album contains three bonus tracks, the strongest one in my opinion being Legion of Monsters. Another standout from the album that is quickly growing on me is Who, with its simple yet poignant sing-along chorus. In summary, if you're a fan of the band, then there's perhaps enough material here to justify the 5-year wait between Asylum and Immortalized. But if you're not, and are looking to get into their music, then I'd advise you start with Asylum or The Sickness instead.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

IWSG: Selling Out

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

Today, I would like to touch upon a topic I've found myself thinking about from time to time. I was having a discussion with a coworker of mine the other day, about his blog which he'd been trying to monetize with Google AdSense. The blog in question is a celebrity gossip blog, and he has been running it, on and off, for more than a year. But for whatever reason, his application for AdSense keeps getting declined, with what appears to be a form-letter response triggered by Google's bots.

According to the form letter, the decline had something to do with Google's policies and standards, but the letter was rather vague and it failed to pinpoint exactly what area of their policy or standard that wasn't being adhered to.

Anyway, I also spoke to my coworker about my blog, and the fact that I have been maintaining it for close to 4 years now, during which time it has somehow managed to amass more than 1,250,000 views. I'm not quite sure if those numbers are below or above average, but my coworker seemed to see nothing but dollar signs at the mere mention. He asked why I hadn't tried to monetize my blog, before proceeding to lecture me about real-life stories of bloggers earning considerable money off their blogs.

I must confess that I have indeed considered placing ads on my blog prior to this discussion. But the thought has always left me feeling conflicted. I mean, the original purpose of this blog was to chronicle my journey as a writer, even though it seems that has been relegated to these monthy IWSG posts. So I guess what I am asking is would placing ads on my blog compromise my integrity as an artist or writer?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Ant-Man (Movie Review)

Marvel has done it again. They've taken another one of their lesser-known comic-book heroes and brought it to wondrous life on the big screen. Last year it was the Guardians of the Galaxy, this time around it is Ant-Man, a hero whose powers come from a suit that enables him to shrink down to the size of an ant (as well as communicate with/control the ever-present ants), all the while retaining his full, human strength.

The movie opens in 1989, where we see a scientist known as Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man and creator of the Pym Particle) refusing to let his shrinking technology get militarized. This results in a rift between him and his protégé, Darren Cross, the movie's villain, who in the present day is in charge of Pym Technologies and has managed to replicate the technology in a shrinking suit of his own, the Yellowjacket.

This prompts the present-day Hank to recruit a new Ant-Man, the much younger Scott Lang, a skilled burglar who is fresh out of prison and determined to turn a clean slate for the sake of his young daughter. His plan is for them to steal the Yellowjacket suit from a heavily-protected vault deep inside the Pym Technologies building. They are aided by Hope van Dyne, Hank's estranged daughter, who is working with her father to foil Darren Cross, despite seeming loyal to him on the surface.

And that right there is the basic premise of the movie. So in other words, you can think of it as a heist movie with a superhero twist, one that works as both a standalone movie and a bonafide addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It also works as a family comedy of sorts, and as such, is one of the funnier entries in the MCU, even though it is nowhere near as quirky (read: brilliant) as Guardians of the Galaxy.

Paul Rudd does a more than decent job as the titular character, bringing to the table his distinct flavor of comedy gold. But I think it is ultimately Michael Peña, who plays Luis, the talkative former cellmate and friend of Lang's, that garnered the most laughs in the cinema where I watched the film. The biggest highlight of the movie though was the shifting perspectives, and I think this is where the movie truly shines.

Whenever Ant-Man shrinks, we are treated to a view of the world that makes the typically mundane seem grand or epic. So while the action (and the movie as a whole) might be taking place on a way smaller scale than other movies in the MCU, it is nonetheless visually-stunning and breathtaking, in a refreshing sort of way.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

IWSG: Getting Social, the Professional Way

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

Recently, I've found myself spending a lot of time on LinkedIn. And for the two or three people out there who don't know what that is, it is yet another social network where writers tend to hang out; just think Facebook, but instead of friends, you've got connections, the professional kind. I opened an account years ago, but I'd never really been active on the platform, until now.

What was it that rekindled my interest you ask? Well, the answer to that question has more to do with advancing my career prospects than with writing, not that I don't consider writing a full-time professional endeavor in it's own right. I've heard stories of people being poached by giant tech companies based solely on the strength of their LinkedIn profiles. And between you and me, I feel like I could really use some giant-tech-company love right about now, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, so I've been on LinkedIn these past few weeks, trying to grow my professional network, all in a bid to hit that 500+ connections that is supposedly meant to signify how well-connected you are. And since most of my early connections were writers themselves, basically 95 percent of the requests and suggestions I've been receiving are writers as well. I presently have over 800 connections, but you are more than welcome to add to that number by sending me a request:

Contrary to how it might look, I am not just trying to gather as many connections as I can. I genuinely feel that I've learnt a lot from the writers in my network, just by reading their posts and observing their various interactions. Granted, some of them were too busy shilling their wares to say more than a cursory hello. But even that is being done in a professional, non-spammy way, which is more than can be said about their counterparts on Facebook and Twitter.

What about you? Are you on LinkedIn? If so, then what has your experience been like since the day you joined? And if not, then what other social networks do you tend to gravitate towards, and why?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Jurassic World (Movie Review)

Yep. The poster says it all really. But as preposterous as the scene depicted on the poster might seem, the latest entry in the Jurassic Park series proves that watching a bunch of dinosaurs running loose and causing havoc is still as fun today as it was 22 years ago, when the first movie was released.

Jurassic World is the fourth movie in the franchise, but it serves as a direct sequel to the original film, choosing to ignore (for the most part) the events of the second and third movie. According to its timeline, a second dinosaur theme park (the titular Jurassic World) has been in operation for several years, but it has recently come under the threat of declining attendance levels, as the novelty of having a park full of living, breathing dinosaurs continues to fade.

This prompts the owner of Jurassic World to seek out a way to rekindle public interest in the park, by asking his chief geneticist to engineer a new breed of dinosaurs that would do just that. Their answer to the problem is the dinosaur dubbed Indominus Rex, a dinosaur hybrid that was specifically engineered to be the most ferocious of its kind. And the dinosaur lives up to that claim when it breaks out of captivity, to appropriately spectacular and chaotic effect.

It didn't take very long for me to realize just how closely this movie has been modeled after Jurassic Park. Much like the first film, this one starts slowly, taking the requisite amount of time to establish its premise and introduce its key players, with lead actor Chris Pratt failing to make an appearance until about thirty minutes into the film. But once the chaos begins, the action never let's up, and we get to experience the same level of tension we saw in the first film.

And therein lies the movie's greatest shortcoming, that sense of déjà vu that seems to pervade every other scene. Some might call it simple fan service though, and if that is the way you choose to look at it, then the movie-makers have achieved precisely what they set out to accomplish. They've created a worthy successor to Steven Spielberg's original vision, and a viable starting point for a new chapter in the Jurassic Park saga.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

IWSG: Under the Weather

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

I am writing today's post from the confines of my bed, and as I write, the rainclouds hang heavy in the sky. This serves as a perfect metaphor for how I am feeling right now. I'd been nursing a cold for about a week, which turned into a full-blown fever over the weekend. The good news is I am already on the mend, but I still have to endure the side effects of the drugs I have been taking.

Needless to say, I haven't gotten any writing done recently. But don't worry, I won't be whining about that today, as tempted as I am. The funniest thing here is I am feeling too lightheaded at the moment to feel bad or beat myself up about it, all thanks to the aforementioned side effects. So I guess that every cloud does have its silver lining.