Misc


LM_InstaPro_Product Photo2It all started with a birthday gift for my little sister back some fifteen-odd years ago. My sister was really into the idea of becoming a vet, so for her birthday, my parents saved up a bunch of old medicine containers and filled them with tic-tacs, Pez, Skittles, and Chiclets to use as “medicine” for when we played vet. It was a great–and rather inexpensive–gift that we enjoyed the heck out of for months, carefully doling out tic-tacs to our stuffed animals (and, of course, eating them ourselves) and writing prescriptions, delighting in “curing” their faux aliments.

The funny thing is that the placebo-effect is actually quite strong. A couple of years ago, my husband (currently finishing up med-school himself) found an article regarding “the placebo-effect” that showed not only that placebos do–in fact–make a measurable, positive impact on people. More surprising than that, however, was the finding that even when you know what you’ve been given is just a placebo, it still creates a placebo-effect. You can take a tic-tac, for example, and say “If I take this, I’ll feel better,” and lo and behold! You just might. Might, of course, is the key word. It’s not actually changing anything in and of itself, but the brain is a powerful (and apparently suggestible) organ.

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A number of years ago I decided to play with the placebo-effect myself, and used a little antique glass bottle wrapped in a Post-It Note for “Productivity Pills.” I put white Tic-Tacs in it, and whenever I was feeling sluggish, or didn’t want to write, or didn’t want to focus at my day-job, I’d pop a “pill” and get back to work. Did the Tic-Tac actually do anything? No, of course not! Well, it may have made my breath a little minty fresh, but otherwise, no. However, popping one from that silly little bottle reminded me that I was supposed to be focusing on getting stuff done, and I got a LOT of writing and work stuff done during those years. Beyond that, it was just seriously fun and made me smile.

Which got me thinking–what if I could make little snake-oil bottles for all the various “writerly ailments” I suffered from? Things like writer’s block, or self-doubt, or rejection blues? When I really got to thinking about it, there were tons of “ailments,” so I decided to start making those snake-oil “cures” for them under two brands: Lucky Muse and Dr. Eponymous.

DrE_RutRemedy_PourLucky Muse is the snarky, snake-oil, cheater’s brand–the “cures” that promise instant success, brilliant prose, loads of money, and all without really having to work at it, because who wouldn’t love a book deal to fall into their laps? Dr. Eponymous is a bit more serious (though still quite snarky, because–hey, it’s me.) writerly ailments for those committed to improving their craft and surviving the day-to-day pains and aches of being a writer.

I’ve also created a few that are for a general audience, which I had a ton of fun giving as gifts this Christmas.

With a little prodding, I’ve finally opened an Etsy shop (called, what else? The Placebo Emporium!) where I sell some of these silly things, and I must say, I’m having a wonderful time! I’ve got quite a list of new “cures” to get designed and put up there, mostly for my own growing apothecary than anything else! Curious? Check out The Placebo Emporium here! Any particular writerly “cures” you’d like to see? Let me know!

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And if you know me, you know I wasn’t watching the hardcore horror/SF either. I was a kid in the 80’s, so I watched kids movies. A LOT of kids movies. And except for E.T. (there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who liked E.T. and those who were terrified of him. Me? Second category.), I loved SF. And I didn’t even realize it! I didn’t go out of my way to watch science fiction movies, they just comprised the list of most of my favorites, and most of the ones I loved are probably considered the base-of-the-base by today’s standards. Which flicks?

1) Flight of the Navigator – Even before I spoke words in a way that didn’t sound like jibberish, I was drawing scribbly pictures with dots to represent my favorite movie. I don’t even remember doing this, but apparently Flight of the Navigator (In those years, and in my child-like broken English: “Flag of the Alligator”) was my all-time favorite movie when I was 3. And I know why: Max? Hilarious. Wasn’t until I was about 22 that I realized he was voiced by PeeWee Herman! There were certainly scary parts in this flick that I squinted through even at a slightly more conscious stage of childhood, but mostly, it was just so cool that a kid and a robot/alien could kick back to Beach Boys, tootle around the world in the coolest space ship ever, and time travel to boot. I think what also resonated with me was the idea of being left behind by some strange phenomenon, where you’re still a kid even though your little brother is in college. It was my first taste of spec fic, and I wanted more!

Also, R.A.L.P.H. was my FAVORITE character when I was little. “Pardon me, coming through.” :D I didn’t even know who Jessica Parker was yet! Bet she didn’t either.

2) The Cat from Outer Space –  Hey, I warned you they’d probably be bottom barrel by today’s standards! :) The obvious draw for little 5 year old me was first and foremost the talking cat. Who wouldn’t love a talking cat? Jake was clever, thoughtful, and pretty adept and dealing with humans. You know. For a cat. And an alien. I used to watch this one back to back, and never got tired of it. Watching it now, I do wince pretty heavily at the portray of female scientists (but at least they say she’s actually a scientist! Even if she’s only there to get kidnapped at the end with Jake’s love interest.) Still fun–and let’s face it, anyone who’s owned cats would probably vouch for this: aren’t there moments when they look at you that makes you feel like maybe they’re recording everything you say for future analysis on the mothership? (Ok, technically this wasn’t 80’s, it was late 70’s, but gimme a break! Actually, I found it kind of surprising that it was from ’78–it always struck me as an old 60s or 50s movie!)

3) The Last Starfighter – This one is near and dear to my heart, because my parents decided on my name while watching this film. The graphics are painful–no argument there–but the story is awesome. Small town guy gets a chance to be a superstar battleship captain? That’s awesome. Him having to have a look-alike android fill in for him while he’s gone? Hilarious! And Grig will always be one of my favorite aliens. :) The scene with the evil Xur melting the spy’s brains, though, took me almost a decade to be able to watch without covering my eyes. (I still squint.) The setting, the likableness of the characters–I just can’t help but love this one. Plus, it probably helped listening to it prenatally. :)

4) Short Circuit – I totally didn’t even know this was filmed in Oregon until I watched it a few weeks ago! NO WAY! *local knowledge +10 pnts* I love this movie. It’s cheesy as all get out–downright blush worthy in places–but it makes me laugh every time, and I can’t help but love Number 5. I remember watching this one for the first time out in Oklahoma while visiting relatives. Just can’t get it out of my soul. :) This is definitely one of the reasons I write robots so often.

 

5) Batteries Not Included – Again, an oldy but a goody. I loved this story. Even today, when I go back and rewatch it, I LOVE it. I love the cast of characters, I love that while the corporate villains are irredeemable, the dude they get to do all their work does find a kind of salvation by the end. I love the setting of the crumbling diner. But of course, most of all, I love the robots. I love how they “build” children. I love how they interact with their human counterparts–mostly friendly, but a bit wild and defensive. I love how they fix things. Time and again, I just love this one. Another part of the reason I write so many robot stories. :)

There are others movies that also made an impact on me, though they span more time than just what was created in the 80s, like The Oddball from Outer Space, Cocoon, Planet of the Apes (original), Ghostbusters, Star Wars 4-6, 2001, Back to the Future, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Soylent Green, Star Trek  (NG) flicks, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Forbidden Planet, and even Tron (though I saw Tron much later in my youth, so it didn’t stick quite so much in my subconscious–after all, Tron was cool, but the chick was basically just there to make out with the guys. Who did she even like, anyway? Tron or Flynn? Still not sure…). There are a lot of others, too that I won’t list out for you. :) I was a movie geek in my youth, and still am now. But the five above are nearest and dearest to my heart.

What can I say? I was a sucker for sci-fi before I was even born. :)

Hey all! Just a quick note to let you know that my first blogpost for The Zombie Feed is now up for public consumption! It’s a bit of an overview about what I’ll be doing over there, and relates the story of a cold April day in Albany, NY, which started the seed in my brain for zombie preparedness.

Also, I like Twizzlers. They’re tasty. :-)

They’ve finally programmed a robot (other than Roomba) to do something I desperately need help with!

Granted, we’re not quite to the evolved state of being able to do this quickly (it currently still stares at the laundry as long as I do when trying to figure out how to fold it), but someday. Someday.

I keep giggling whenever it pauses to look at the towel. I can just imagine it thinking: “What the hell is this?” and then, “This isn’t my towel. How’d it get into my laundry?” before going on and folding it anyway. (Because, really, what else are you supposed to do with a strange, clean towel? I ask you.)

That happens to me from time to time. :-)

Will post more about Norwescon/etc./etc., but I’m so tired right now. Quick highlights!:

+ Got proofs for “Memories of Hope City”
+ Met (briefly!) Cherie Priest, and she liked my coat ^_^
+ Met a bunch of Apex authors from Close Encounters of the Urban Kind
+ Laughed at parents tweaking out when they realized that what their kids were looking at was Bizarro lit
+ Hung out with Apex Editors Jenn Brozek and Deb Taber
+ Sat in a hot tub
+ Andy got a job! (***YAY!***)
+ Came home, and kitties were still alive, and had not gotten face/claws/paws/ears/tails caught in the automated feeders!(1) (***YAY!***)
+ Went to critique group & am totally jazzed to start editing backlogged fiction drafts
+ Hung out with writer’s group folks
+ Ate at Pok Pok for Sadie’s birthday, shoveled sinfully delicious foods into my mouth with my hands, and YES, it was that good. Whiskey before hand on an empty stomach probably helped, but the waiter told us it was best to eat with our hands, so there! Don’t you judge me.

– Exhausted.
– Tired.
– Need to catch up on a bunch of Apex Submissions this weekend
– Need sleep.
– Over Socialized & Grumpy
– Brain-frizzled.
– Did I say exhausted yet?

Why, oh why is it only Wednesday?! T.T

(1) The kitties have not (even Oz!) ever gotten their faces/claws/paws/ears/tails caught in the automated feeders, but I always worry about it because when the little tray is turning to reveal the new food, Oz always dive-bombs the bowl with his face before it’s done.

[Utah standing with Bodhi on the beach, in the rain, facing the 50-year storm.]

Bodhi: But look at it, Johnny. Look at it! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, man. Just let me go out there, let me get one wave before you take me. One wave. Where am I gonna go, man? Cliffs on both sides. I’m not gonna paddle to New Zealand! My whole life has been about this moment, Johnny. Come on, compadre. Come on. COME ON!

[Utah stares at Bodhi, then unlocks his handcuff. Bodhi smiles, grabs his surfboard, and starts running to the waves. Utah smirks, pulls out his gun, pops a cap in Bodhi’s right knee. Bodhi falls into the light surf, screaming, clutching his leg.]

Bodhi: You son-of-a-b***!

Utah: It’s not tragic if you die doing what you love, right Bodhi? Isn’t that what you said, man? [Pauses and squints towards the waves.] Damn, those look like a fun ride, though.

[Cops swarm, haul Bodhi off to jail, Utah slow-walks off in the rain. And every year, in jail, Bodhi gets surfing videos from Utah on the anniversary of Pappas’ death, just to rub in the fact that he’ll never surf again because he’s just such an a**hole.]

—-

Copywrite most quotes: Point Break, 1991 (Peter Iliff, Rick King).

When most people think of robots, myself included, they think of metal, wires, cogs, and maybe malleable synthetic skin with micro-heaters beneath the surface to make them feel “real”. But maybe the next wave of our little mechanical friends will be made from more transient materials. Like paper?

D+ropop is a cardboard-made mannequin robot, and looking at her, it’s hard to imagine being afraid of some kind of robot rebellion.

It does make me wonder what paper robots would be like outside the shop windows. For one thing, walking in the rain might be a little tricky if they’re not sealed with some kind of waterproofing spray. For second, they’d be pretty light–light enough to fly? We’ve already got winged toys that fly using simple motors. But what would be the practicality of paper robots? They’d be fragile, they’d be flammable, they’d be weak. Or would they?

They do make cute toys, though, even if they don’t have motors…

I’ve always been a big fan of robotics. Ever since Short Circuit and Max from Flight of the Navigator, all the Star Wars robots, and then later stories by Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, various manga (Chobits comes to mind) and the onset of modern robots (like the Roomba), I’ve been drawn to our mechanical counterparts. Wall-E melted my heart, as did Data in Star Trek, Beta in The Last Starfighter, and David in A.I.. And 2046–a Hong Kong film with half the movie revolving around the sci-fi plot the author is writing on the side–has a slew of  fun androids.

I also write a lot of stories about robots (though usually of the semi-magical clockwork kind), and my first in-print story was about one. There’s just something I find fascinating about the whole human-robot debate: is a robot “real” or “alive”? can a robot “feel” or be truly autonomous? what separates machines and humanity? are robots really–at all–immortal? are all robots destined to be perfectly logical, or can they be irrational, illogical, irritable? (Love Marvin from Doug Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and C3PO’s constant paranoia! Bender from Futurama, as well as all the animated robots in the first four seasons, are wonderful, too!) And for robot emotion and sexuality, check out Kal Cobalt’s ROBOTICA. I don’t tend to read a lot of erotica (or much at all), but Kal explores some really cool ideas in the collected stories.

For me, the human-v-robot debate is one that I like to get involved in, though usually from the side that human beings are really just biological machines made of flesh, blood and nerve rather than silicon, copper wire, and computer chips. And I don’t doubt that someday we’ll have the technology to create machines that are fully indistinguishable from ourselves (not just physically, but mentally as well–theologian/mystic androids, artist androids, writer androids (who may both soar to the bestsellers lists or wallow in self-pity and writer’s block like many of us humans)). Scary, sometimes; cool, most definitely!

Until I started this blog entry, I didn’t even realize how often I come across robots, and what a profound interest they hold for me. I’m no scientist (I leave that to those I know who have PhDs in robotics!), but I’m fixated by this constant drive to create autonomous beings. I finally learned how to set up a Google Alert today, and I’ve got robots on there. If I see something cool, I’ll let you know! For now, here’s a clip of the Actoroid android–she’s kind of the new Aiko, and for as jerky (and a little “crazy-eyed”) as she can be, just imagine what we’ll be able to do in ten, twenty, even fifty years! O.O

Orycon coverage to come!

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