the iPad. LOL!

January 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple – iPad – The best way to experience the web, email, and photos.

I love these promo videos (click the link above to check it out, if you’re curious). I love the look of dewy-eyed wonder that all of the Apple people have in them. The one designer guy, Jony Ive, looks like he’s just made contact with an intelligent, alien life form or something–and he has the best lines, too. Like…

“When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical. And that’s *exactly* what the iPad is.” -Designer Guy

…and here I thought it was just a giant iPod? Is it really all that wondrous that it can support the same apps that the iPod supports? That it allows you to do the same stuff as the Touch? Admittedly, that technology did feel pretty magical when the Touch et al. came out–and it’s still a gold standard. But all this “the iPad is magic and I just created life from inanimate matter” stuff seems a bit much.

“There’s no up, there’s no down, there’s no right or wrong way of holding it. I don’t have to change myself to fit the product… it fits me.” -Designer Guy

… in the way that a rectangular product with a flat, interactive surface (which is admittedly cool, but not particularly new), that can operate in either portrait or landscape orientation “fits me”? I mean, it’s neat that it flips (what was that? Oh yes–just like the iPod), but I don’t really know how he manages to deliver these lines with a straight face–leave alone with that ardent look of love in his eyes. (And, for the record, there are many wrong ways to hold it. Fact.)

Of course, he’s not the only person with great lines:

“Its going to change the way we do things every day.” -Marketing Guy

… I really don’t understand what he means by this. We’re still going to surf the web, watch videos and read email. We do that on our laptops or on our ipods, while sitting on the couch, the bus, etc. already.

Anyway, it’s a cheesy video. I suppose they have to make it seem like it can walk on water–and turn said water into wine in the process–but I find it both funny and slightly offputting. It makes me wonder who exactly they think they’re kidding.

I wonder–are they trying to over-hype it, knowing that as savvy viewers, we’ll parse out what’s actually kind of different & cool from the (admittedly cool) stuff that’s basically imported/recycled from other products? Or, do they really think we’re going to swallow this nonsense, hook, like and sinker? Most of it is simply not new. It really isn’t. The iPod was a revolution. This is an evolution–but I also question whether or not it will be a particularly viable one.

I fail to see the use of it–at least for me. I already carry around my Macbook Air, and have to baby that. I already have an iPod that I use on the bus and for quick email checks etc. I have a book reading program loaded on it, which I use with some regularity. So why would I need a third product–particularly one that I can’t easily type on, without getting out a little keyboard and special stand? I might as well use my laptop instead. If I’m going to get something for reading all my books on, I’d prefer something like the Kindle because the screen is easier on my eyes.

Now, if they had law books available on it, I might, admittedly, be tempted–and that’s about the ONLY reason I’d be tempted (I’m fine watching videos on my laptop, or on t.v.. Or on my iPod). But, if they somehow artificially prevented those books from being accessible on the iPod simply because they want people to shell out for the iPad, then I’d probably be too irritated to bother.

Plugging Plot Holes and Creating Brilliant Characters

January 3, 2010 at 5:37 am | Posted in Challenges, writing | Leave a comment

I recently read Grisham’s The Firm, which was fine, though I didn’t love it. Still, one of the strong points for me, was that Mitch, the main protag, behaved intelligently. He didn’t make the kind of stupid mistakes that drive me crazy in some books. He wasn’t blind beyond the point of reasonableness to another character’s flaws, or to the obvious disaster lurking around the corner.

This, in turn, raised what has been an interesting question for me: namely, what’s a writer to do, when working with a protagonist, or even a secondary character, who is smarter than she is? Which is to say, I’m no genius–so how can I approach working with characters who are supposed to be much cleverer than I am?

For me the best answer is to plot out the character’s actions–sketch out appropriate next steps, figure out flaws in my planning, and then think my way out of those flaws. That goes for other plot holes as well. There’s little that annoys me more, as a reader, than feeling that a writer hasn’t done this. It feels like the writer has taken shortcuts or gotten lazy in not looking for obvious flaws in the narrative and addressing them. It makes for far more difficult writing, but the results are exponentially better, and far more satisfying.

For instance–and this isn’t a matter of a character’s intelligence, but rather just of a plot issue that’s really going to screw up my self-imposed deadline, but needs to be addressed. In my current WIP, I was hurtling towards the final showdown, when suddenly it came to a screeching halt. I kept staring at the screen and getting annoyed with myself. Why wasn’t I busting through? Why wasn’t I getting these final scenes written? The end was so close I could taste it.

It was actually a discussion with friends–a Facebook thread (thanks, James and Andrew!)–that brought the “aha” moment I’d been missing. One of my friends remarked upon the archetypal quest paradigm and the importance of the journey, not just the destination. I responded:

“It’s true, re the journey itself. That’s where the insights are learned and gained, and the hero’s transformation takes place. But the finale is the test of those insights–where we see whether they actually stuck or not. There’s always the concern that the destination, in that sense, be worthy of the journey taken.”

And there it was. I had it. I sat down and wrote down each of the main characters’ story arcs. And voila! All my characters, EXCEPT my two main characters had great story arcs. All my secondary characters had cool, believable changes and developments in their emotional arcs. But somehow, in the middle of all those comings and goings, I had lost track of depicting those changes for the TWO MAIN characters! Embarassing, but it would have been more so, if I hadn’t spotted it. I don’t know that this sort of flaw is that obvious–it would more likely be a subtle sense of dissatisfaction, upon finishing the book. A sense of emptiness, like something was missing. And the thing that was missing is that my main female protagonist did not change or develop or do much of anything other than walk around, during the entire narrative (an exaggeration, but that’s almost how it feels to me, thinking back on it. Without that emotional underpinning and transformation, it feels empty). And that’s why the ending wasn’t coming–because she had nothing to test in herself.

Nothing had changed, so she was just going through the motions, in survival mode–acting rather than developing. Which is fine in real life–that’s what we do often enough. But we turn to story for something more than that. The catharsis/epiphany is in seeing that the transformation has worked–that the hero, having journeyed, and learned, has internalized the changes enough to be able to pass the final test.

So, no showdown. I don’t think it’s worth writing at this point. I need to go back and rework the scenes between my main female and male protags. The male protag’s story arc is better–he does change, but it’s not strongly enough drawn as it is, so that also needs to be brought out more clearly. I suspect once I fix that, the finale will write itself. Wish me luck!

As as for the question of writing about characters who are more intelligent than I am. It’s a conundrum all right–but again, by working through the steps, methodically and critically, I figure I can at least enhance the character’s intelligence. After all, he or she must figure out those solutions in a high-stress situation, and often has to think on his or her feet and make snap decisions, where I will have spent time, and many sheets of paper, working it out, and trying to eliminate the issues. In that sense, it reminds me a little of the LSAT. They say that most people, given enough time, can get high marks on an LSAT–it’s getting high marks in each section, with tight time constraints, and under the stress of a high-stakes exam situation, that’s the tricky part.

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