Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Reason for the New Blog Title

I’ve copped a little bit of flak for the new blog title, and admittedly, I almost changed it to something a little more palatable. However, I’ve decided to live with it for a few months and see how it fits. In this post, I thought I’d tell you why I called my blog “The Shit I Know” instead of something less confronting like “My Writing Blog” or “I Write”.

Quite simply, I know shit. About lots of things. Useless shit, but still, I know it. And I talk it. A lot.

I compare it to my wife who saves up all the nails, screws, bits of wood and anything else we pull off the house when we renovate. She tells me she never knows when it will come in handy.

No different to the shit in my head.

The problem with knowing so much shit though, is my brain keeps it all locked up in a tiny corner of my memory, and only lets out little bits at a time when prompted by something totally unrelated.

Conversations are good to unlock the hidden shit in my head, but drinking is what really does it. I no longer drink as much as I used to, so less shit gets out, which means there’s still so much of it clogging up parts of my brain. That means less room to retain more shit.

I need to clear some of it out so I can cram more in. Why? Because I’m a writer and you never know when that useless shit can come in handy.

Anyway, long story short,I needed an outlet to get that shit out without getting drunk every weekend (though that would have been fun), and I thought what better way than my blog.

Plus, it means my wife doesn’t have to pretend she enjoys listening to my shit.

So there you go - that’s just a little about The Shit I Know.

What do you do with the shit in your head?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday Sesh Preview

The first winter Sunday Sesh kicks off next weekend, with a review of Harviestoun Brewery's Old Engine Oil Dark Beer.   

Before I kick it off though, I thought I'd share a beer that I would love to get my hands on, but at $169.99 a bottle at Dan Murphy's it's a little out of my price range.

It's called Tactical Nuclear Penguin, and it's made by a brewery in Scotland called Brewdog.

I always thought Scotsmen were crazy, and after seeing how they came up with this beer, I know I'm right. You can't help but love their ingenuity.

Since I can't afford to get this one I decided to live vicariously through someone elses review.

What do you think? Is it worth $170?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey - Is It Black & White?

I decided pretty early on that I would never do book reviews on my blog. The simple reason is that books, as with any type of art, are subjective. Whether someone likes them or not depends more on taste rather than the skill of the author.

Also, I’m a writer myself, and I don’t want to come down on other writers in any way since I know how hard it is to finish even the shortest of stories. For that reason, I had decided to stick with the adage “if you can’t find something good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I also pride myself on not buying books just because they’re trending. Not that grossly popular books are necessarily a bad thing. I like to wait until the hype has died down a bit, check out reviews from what I think are reputable sources, and decide whether I’ll jump in and see what the rest of the world is talking about.

And so it was that last week, when looking for something a little different, I finally relented and decided to see why everyone was making such a fuss about Fifty Shades of Grey. Apart from searching for something to read, I also like to download samples of big sellers to see what they’re doing that I’m not to see if I can learn anything from them.

Anyway, I read some reviews on Amazon for Fifty Shades - a lot of them singing its praises, some of them ho-hum and a lot that were quite scathing. At risk of being unpopular, I’d be in the latter camp.

Since I read most of my books on the kindle now, I took advantage of the sample feature so I could decide whether to plunk down $9 for the full electronic version. I’m pretty glad I did - safe to say, I saved that $9 for a more worthy book.

It’s no real secret that this book (and series) began life as Twilight fan fiction somewhere on the interwebs where people flock to read that stuff for free. It would, after all, be a major copyright headache for people to write about their favourite characters (who they did not create) and make money off them without the original author’s permission. There is a whole other discussion about the ethics and legality of making money from fanfiction on the interwebs as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

Seems there’s not too great a change needed in order to avoid a copyright suit these days. While I also didn’t read any of the Twilight series (at the behest of some good friends, who said not to waste my time), I did get talked into watching the movies. I have no idea whether the movies stayed true to the books or not, but usually the movie versions tend to be more dramatic than the books. If that’s the case with Twilight, I’m glad I didn’t read the series. However, I digress. My thoughts on Twilight are for another post, but my point is I have no idea how much of Fifty Shades (formerly known as “Masters of the Universe”) is similar to the Twilight series.

Anyway, after struggling to get through the sample chapters, I was not happy to go ahead and purchase the full version of Fifty Shades because, for me, the writing was (as Ana would say) “triple crap”.

It came across to me as a fifteen year old writing an erotic fantasy about hooking up with her unattainable crush in the secrecy and safety of her bedroom. Even from the start, the character of Ana seemed naive and not in control of her life.

The dialogue was stilted and overly formal, and the author seemed to have a very limited vocabulary when it came to cursing (crap, double crap, holy cow) and description (lips and eyebrows “quirking up”, Ana biting her lip and rolling her eyes). Apart from that the author is British, and the setting is the US. Nothing usually wrong with that, except that the whole book is really written in British language, despite the American spellings.

Apart from that, the whole thing just didn’t really make sense to me, even in the very little I read of this book. Granted, I never got to read any of the erotic stuff because the sample only ran to two chapters, but I was ready to give up after the first page. The whole scene in chapter two when Christian comes in to the hardware store, where Ana works, to buy rope, cable ties and tape is just a bit weird for me. Having read the reviews and knowing what the whole deal is with the series, I know it’s not a romance, but come on. He just happens to decide that Ana is someone he wants to bring into his seedy world of BDSM after meeting her once?

I must admit though, I was disappointed that the sample ended where it did, and I was tempted for a second to download the full version just to see how bad it got - you know, like seeing a car crash and despite feeling queasy you just can’t tear your eyes away? But I told myself that, in reality, erotic fiction isn’t really my thing anyway, no matter how good it is, so even I would have questioned why I didn't like it in the end.

So, rather than try to discern why it is people are raving about this series so much, I’m going to ask you. If you’ve read Fifty Shades, or Twilight for that matter, what about them made you enjoy them? And if you’ve read both sets of books, are there any major similarities between them? Anything that made you get that de ja vu feeling of having read it before somewhere?

I ask these questions, not to scoff at you for reading tripe, but in order to discern why it's such a phenomenon despite it's short-comings. I am, afterall, still learning my craft, and part of that is finding out what things work in other fiction, and why.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Broadcasters - the new rule makers for the NRL

Turns out beer isn’t just for summer. I should have known this since the Poms drink beer even though it’s like winter all year round in their half of the world.

During summer, I discovered I quite enjoyed the dark ales - the traditional wintery brews - and want to get some more under my belt. I’ve done a little bit of research, and have come up with a “short” list of 26 beers I’d like to try, and will whittle this down to 13 over the coming weeks.

Each week, I’ll try to give you a heads up on what’s coming up next so you can enjoy a couple with me and tell me your thoughts. All of that kicks off with the official start of winter on the first weekend in June.

Until then, I’ve decided to reprise the Sunday Sesh sans beer, just to flex my writing muscles a little, and because there’s so much to talk about.

This week, it’s footy.

I wasn’t really going to take too much interest in it this year to be honest. The Origin is the only series that still really gets me excited, but I’ve been hearing things around the ridges and reading a few things that have taken my interest. Plus, I’m in a tipping comp so I really should take some sort of notice in order to have a chance at winning at least some of the pot.

So this weekend I was reading the Saturday paper (the courier mail) and a little article, tucked away beside an ad and under a match preview, caught my eye.

Apparently, the TV rights renewal for the NRL is coming up for renewal, and Channel Nine has launched it’s new bid, along with Fox Sports. Now, I don’t get pay TV, and I’m happy(ish) with the number of games I get to watch over a weekend. After all, I can’t possibly find time to watch all of them, and not all of them would interest me. If there are games I’d want to watch but miss out on because they’re not on free-to-air, I just suck it up and move on.

This article made me take pause though. Because apart from wanting to dictate on what nights are best for their bottom line, they also want to make subtle changes to the game in order to increase their advertising revenue.

This (from the Courier Mail) is (probably only part of) what they’re proposing:

  • Increase games from 90 to 95 minutes
  • Extend half-time from 12 to 14 minutes
  • 30-second breaks for stoppages on scrums and line drop-outs, and between try conversions and restarts

On the surface, this doesn’t look like much. The stoppages occur anyway, and the extent of the time is at the referees’ discretion. Often, one team wants to keep the game moving, and the other wants to slow it down. Also, an extra 2 minutes at half-time could be good for coaches - we often try to squeeze as much out of the time we have in the sheds so I can’t imagine there would be too much of an uproar.

The problem, however, lies in who is asking for these changes. The broadcaster should not be the one dictating these types of changes to the group that provides the entertainment. Changes to the game, even small ones, should always be about the game itself. They should come from the players and the people who run the game, for the betterment of the game, rather than the maximising of revenue.

I know, I know. Sport is supposedly all about the dollar now, and I accept that to some extent.

My problem lies in the fact that if we allow a broadcaster to dictate how a game can change, where do we stop? Do we introduce stoppages for substitutions? Or how about we allow whole forward-lines and back-lines to be substituted at the same time, depending on whether a team is attacking or defending?

And who times these stoppages? Do the ref’s on ground get a call from another official that it’s okay to blow time on? And how do these stoppages in play affect the overall time in the game? Does the clock get stopped for these breaks or does the 30-seconds just tick down until the ref blows the whistle to say the ad break’s over?

My biggest problem, however, is that the game isn’t just about the fans who love it or the advertisers who support (and make money off) it. It’s about the players who play it. Most of them will tell you that they want a free-flowing game, that can ebb and flow on its own merits, not at the will of advertisers or officials.

There are subtle nuances of the game that I fear are being lost. I love yelling at the TV for players to get up and stop trying to slow the play down, or at the ref for letting them get away with it, or at my team for not doing enough to lay around on opposition players trying to make fast play-the-balls.

I get cranky with the opposition team when they're only 1 or 2 points ahead, kicking the ball out, or taking ages to get back for a restart. And don't get me started on the 10-metre rule (I swear the refs have no idea how far 10 metres really is).

All of that is at the discretion of the players and the refs during the game.

The thing that rugby league does so well that other codes could learn from is stressing the grass roots - the fans and the amateur players. If we start making it about advertisers and broadcasters, that grass roots philosophy starts to take a back seat.

Besides, isn’t it enough that we have to listen to Ray Warren and crew rabbit on about the betting odds at every opportunity? Not to mention cross-promoting The Voice and other shows I doubt they’d take any interest in. But that’s another post altogether.

What do you think? Are Channel Nine’s proposed changes good for the game? Should “partners” to the NRL be allowed to dictate them? And what changes, if any, would you want to see if you had a say?