Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Wanna cut the cord? Do the math first.

I had this great idea about a week ago: Tired of paying outrageous fees for cable television, I decided it was time to “cut the cord.”

Of course, I still wanted to see all my favorite shows. And be able to record them. But I didn’t want to pay TiVo’s monthly fees — after all, ending monthly fees was to be the whole point of this effort.

I jumped online and did some research. At first, I thought it would be easy. All I’d need would be an amplified digital antenna to pull in HD signals over the air, and a subscription-free DVR to record the content. Then I could cut my cable TV package and ramp up my Internet service, and still come out ahead in a relatively short period of time.

But then I saw the potential of adding AppleTV to the mix, to leverage my house full of Apple hardware. It wouldn’t cost that much more; so, why not?

But now I had a dilemma. With so many worthy peripherals in the living room, to which one would I connect the Ethernet hard line I had planned to run from the router in my office to the entertainment center in the living room?

Easily fixed, I decided. For a small additional cost, I could add an Ethernet switch, and then my Blu-ray player, PS3, AppleTV, and new subscription-free DVR would all have hard-wired cat6a gigabit Ethernet connections. Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

When I started diagramming my planned new data network (because I’m that kind of OCD), I realized that my TV has only two HDMI inputs, both of which are already in use. The new DVR and AppleTV only offer HDMI outputs. What was I to do now?

Obviously, I needed to add a new HD A/V amplifier/receiver. Of course, the new receiver would not be compatible with my 22-year-old speakers (which are currently connected to my 22-year-old stereo receiver). So I’d need new speakers, too.

Did my problems end there? Of course not.

Next, I realized my first-generation Mac Pro desktop computer is too antiquated to run the requisite OS and software to interact with AppleTV. If I were to upgrade just the Macbook Pro laptop, there’s a risk it would no longer be able to “talk” to the desktop tower.

Figuring I was due for a system upgrade after six years, I looked into buying a new Mac Mini with a 2TB Airport Time Capsule, and an external 3TB Thunderbolt array. Pretty snazzy. Despite the expense, I was starting to get excited.

Then I realized that my 30-inch Apple Cinema HD display isn’t compatible with the Mac Mini (or any Mac made since 2009). I would need to add an adapter. A $100 adapter, which might or might not work once linked into a Thunderbolt device chain.

At some point in my diagramming, I remembered that I would need to buy new cables. Lots of cables. Ethernet cables, USB cables, HDMI cables, Thunderbolt cables.

When the dust settled, I crunched the numbers.

By “cutting the cord” on my overpriced cable subscription, and making some much-needed changes to my and my wife’s iPhone plans, we could realize one-year savings of more than $2,500.

Unfortunately, the initial cost outlay in hardware and software (with tax and shipping) for my new data network and computer was just over $3,600. It would take nearly 18 months to amortize the new capital expenses and begin “sticking it to the man.”

So the next time you wonder why more people don’t just “cut the cord” on cable, it might be related to the sticker shock that comes with making the cut.

Mourning a fictional character

Last night, I watched the season finale of the FX series Sons of Anarchy. And by the end of it I felt not only emotionally devastated, but deeply traumatized.

If you haven’t watched the series, know this before you dismiss it out of hand: It is, in many ways, a complex exploration of the story and themes of Shakespeare’s acclaimed play Hamlet (with grim intimations of the Scottish play) — an interpretation more intricate and unforgiving than any I have ever seen — all rendered in modern dress on motorcycles.

Given those starting parallels, which I’ve perceived ever since the pilot episode, I should have seen this season’s finale coming a mile away. But I didn’t. I refused to believe the show would go there. I couldn’t dare to let myself imagine that such horrors would be visited upon such a core character of the series, or that such a beloved and central figure of the series would meet so horrific and grisly an end.

Consequently, I went to bed last night haunted by the death of a character I had come to love, one with whom I had learned to empathize. Someone I was rooting for, even in the darkest moments. I realized as I closed my eyes that, despite all my efforts to purge myself of the memory of that character’s violent and gruesome demise, I couldn’t stop seeing it. It replayed in my mind’s eye whenever I closed my eyes, like some Hollywood cliché.

I realized I’m in shock. I’m grieving for a fictional character. The tragic end of someone who never existed outside of a realm of shared imagination has nearly reduced me to tears.

The actor is alive and well, unharmed, and no doubt already under contract to star in some new series next season. But still I’m haunted; my gut twists as I relive that fictional person’s last moments and I rage against the waste of it, the injustice of it, the stupidity of it. Part of me still can’t believe it. I’m actually in denial.

And that’s how I know that showrunner/creator Kurt Sutter is a fucking genius, and his writing and production staff is clearly among the best in the business.

It also makes me fear for the end of the series. Now that I see this horror was unavoidable, that the parallels to Hamlet and the Scottish play demanded this moment transpire by some means — and when I factor in that the show’s rendering ripped my heart out far more than Shakespeare’s ever did — I now realize what the series finale must have in store. And it’s not going to be good. Not for anyone. If Sons of Anarchy plays out as I now fear it will, it might very well become the most unflinching, gut-wrenching, long-form tragedy ever produced on television.

Time will tell. But until then, I will continue to reel from the blow the show dealt me last night.

“Defend me friends. I am but hurt.”

Tonight’s drunken ramble

My work tonight overlapped with my dinner, which means my two whiskey sours overlapped with a couple of glasses of Garnacha rosé. After making my minimum target word count this evening on the manuscript of Star Trek: Seekers #1, I scribbled this mess on Facebook. Now I re-post it here for your reading enjoyment.

***

Forgive me, folks, I’m a few drinks into my evening.

For some reason, I was just reflecting on the ignorant, sheltered youth I was 26 years ago when I first moved to New York City to attend NYU film school.

When I first came to NYC, I was the product of a blue-collar, western-Massachusetts upbringing. I was more conservative than one would expect of a “Tax-a-chusetts” native. Though I didn’t realize it back then, at the time I was a homophobe, and a misogynist, and a chauvinist, and a giant fucking asshole. (I can already hear a few of you: “Was?” Shaddup.)

Fortunately, I made friends of smart people with good souls. People like Glenn Hauman, and Carol Pinchefsky, and Jeff Willens, and many others, who, through their better examples, saved me from the worst parts of myself and showed me a better way to live. They showed me the man I could be, if I was willing to work at it.

In the years that followed, living in New York City became the best teacher of tolerance (and, later, acceptance) that one could hope for. I made friends with people of many different beliefs and ideologies, different ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, and philosophies. I learned that no matter how different people might seem from myself at first, in the end, they weren’t that different.

We all want to lead lives of purpose. Do work we believe in. Love people and be loved, and not be judged for it. Share ideas and reconsider our own notions without being called flip-floppers or hypocrites. We all want to be treated fairly, and be able to trust our friends, and be trusted in return. We want to be remembered.

We are all human. We all deserve to be loved and respected. None of us should have to explain ourselves, as long as we live in ways that respect one another’s privacy, sovereignty, and dignity.

I’ve learned to love all manner of people as my brothers and sisters. The only thing I can’t learn to accept is hate. Blind hate, no matter the excuse, is a critical failure of the human potential.

In the end, I think we should weigh our lives not by our financial worth or worldly successes, but in the measure of love and respect we share with those whose lives exist beside ours, and whose lives will follow ours.

I still fail sometines. I know I need to do better. I will try. I hope you’ll all help me, and not give up on me when I fuck up.

I am a work in progress. Thanks for sticking around while I work out the bugs.

That’s all for tonight. I think I’ll go watch old TV shows on Netflix now.

***

You’re welcome. You may now talk amongst yourselves.

 

A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry, The Great Bird of the GalaxyA couple of months ago, I was contacted by Cody L. Martin, a contributing writer for the website ingenre.com, to write a short essay for their month-long tribute to Gene Roddenberry and his work on Star Trek, in commemoration of what would have been the 92nd birthday of the Great Bird of the Galaxy.

Because Star Trek has not only been very good to me professionally but also quite important to me on a personal level, I enthusiastically agreed.

Over the past few weeks, InGenre has posted several essays by a number of folks; mine is the last of them, the final essay in the Week Four roundup.

My friend and fellow Star Trek wordslinger Dayton Ward published this rundown of the essays on his blog, The Fog of Ward:

Week 1: Cody L. Martin; Elizabeth Delana Rosa

Week 2: Valerie Douglas; Karen A. Wyle; Dayton Ward

Week 3: Jacqueline Driggers; L. Anne Wooley; Dan Peyton

Week 4: Cassidy Frazee; R.K. Wigal; David Mack

My essay is entitled simply, “What Star Trek Means to Me,” and here is a small excerpt:

Star Trek presents a vision of a future in which humanity has been tested in the cruelest ways possible, and the Earth has endured horrors worse even than those that marked the darkest chapters of the mid-twentieth century. Despite those setbacks, the human race emerged united into a brighter future, one in which it set aside childish things—racism, sexism, nationalism, prejudice, partisanship, greed, and selfishness. In my opinion, this was Gene Roddenberry’s crowning achievement as an artist: He gave us all hope that we could improve as a species and as a civilization by showing us what it would like if we did. He dared us to imagine a future in which—through peace, fellowship, and cooperation—humanity could achieve wonders.”

My thanks go out to Cody and to InGenre.com for letting me have this opportunity to express my gratitude to Star Trek for all that it has given not just to me, but to all of us, over the past forty-plus years.

 

 

Guest Blog by Kirsten Beyer

By now, you’ve all no doubt seen my blog posts from earlier this week, recounting in words and pictures and links my recent VIP visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Today, in what is actually a first for my blog, I am pleased and honored to bring you a guest blog post by my friend and fellow Star Trek author Kirsten Beyer, who shares her perspective on our June 28, 2013, foray into the wondrous realm of NASA.

(Some of you might have also seen Kirsten’s post on my pal Dayton Ward’s blog; we’re both hosting her post to boost her signal since she has no blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed to call her own.)

Without further ado, I present Kirsten’s guest post:

Rocket Big…Space Station Pretty…

By KIRSTEN BEYER

Sometimes, words fail me. This is tough to admit. I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be reasonably proficient at this.

But sometimes things happen that are so far beyond words, I just…

Take last Friday, for instance.

There’s a small group of folks on the planet who are lucky enough to have been asked to contribute to the universe of Star Trek fiction.  Some see each other a few times a year at conventions.  A couple of years back we decided it would be nice if once in a while, we could just gather and hang out without the demands of a convention schedule.

I missed the first one.  No way in hell was I about to miss the second.

Last Friday, I was part of a group of writers who were given a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  (more…)

I engage with “Digressive Obscenity”

A few weeks ago, I traveled to a gritty corner of deepest, darkest Long Island City here in Queens, NY, to sit with actor, writer, and incredibly tall guy Paul Guyet for an in-depth podcast interview unlike most others in which I’ve taken part over the years.

Though Paul steered the later segment of the podcast toward a discussion of my work as a writer for Star Trek and other properties, the first part of our conversation was much more open-ended, exploring topics about which I am rarely asked in interviews.

Here is Paul’s capsule description of the show:

“I sit down with the author of The Calling, Wolverine: Road of Bones, and the New York Times bestselling trilogy Star Trek: Cold Equations.

“We also discuss his ‘benign mental break’ which manifested in an obsession with rabbits, the intricacies of David Fincher’s ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ music video, and how he would end things in the Star Trek universe.”

The result is a refreshingly different, offbeat, and candid interview that I think both my friends and my fans will find informative and entertaining.

So, if you’ve got a decent chunk of downtime to fill, point your browser at Paul’s Tumblr and either download or stream Digressive Obscenity, Episode 11: David Alan Mack.

 

John Fullbright rocked Joe’s Pub

As I posted back on April 7, I recently secured permission to quote a line of lyrics from John Fullbright‘s song Daydreamer as the epigraph for my upcoming novel A Ceremony of Losses. Since then, I had been looking forward to seeing and hearing John perform live. I’m happy to say I finally had that opportunity.

He delivered an awesome performance last night at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Not only is he a masterful songwriter, he’s a great performer and a wonderful musical storyteller. If you have a chance to see John play live, do so! If you miss his show, you should kick yourself. His live performance is even more exciting than his recorded work, full of improvisation and flourishes that add to the texture of his music.

This man is the real deal. He and his music defy easy categorization; he transcends labels, genres, and simple descriptions. His work is powerful, pure, and true. He writes songs that reach both the mind and the heart.

Kara-JohnFullbright-Me
My wife and I were lucky enough to spend a few minutes after his show last night hanging out with him backstage. He’s a true gentleman and a tremendously nice guy, and someone I look forward to meeting again.