Thursday, February 28, 2013

Turn of Phrase - Neil Gaiman on Writing

Posted By: Jeff McKown

Linderhof Palace in Germany
"You put one word after another, like putting bricks on to a wall, and sooner or later, you look and you've managed to build the palace of mad King Ludwig of Bavaria out of matchsticks."

~ From acclaimed English Sci-Fi and Fantasy author Neil Gaiman.

Anyone who writes fiction knows how daunting the task is, and it's helpful to read encouraging words from those who have already climbed the mountain.

Flavorwire assembled short videos with advice for aspiring writers from Gaiman and 11 other famous authors. You can see the Gaiman video, as well as clips from Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, Ian McEwan and more here.

Daily Zen - Thursday, February 28

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.

                      ~ Alan Alda

The final episode of M*A*S*H aired thirty years ago today on CBS, ending a successful 11-year run.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Daily Zen - Wednesday, February 27

It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean.

                 ~ Jon J. Muth

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Phenomenal Show of Sportsmanship

Posted By: Jeff McKown

This isn't the first video clip of a touching act of sportsmanship in a high school basketball game, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Still, you can't see enough good news stories, and these moments of kindness and generosity should be shared and celebrated.

With one simple act, Jonathon Montanez gave a developmentally disabled teenager the gift of a lifetime, and without intending it, he gave the rest of us something lovely to smile about (and maybe weep a little, too).

(Hat tip to Kyle Sheridan for sharing the video clip.)

Daily Zen - Tuesday, February 26

What would be ugly in a garden constitutes beauty in a mountain.

                      ~ Victor Hugo

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fun Facts and Stats From Our 2013 Oscar Pool

Best Actors: DDL, Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting: Anne and Christoph
Marathon movie-watching days, internet articles about the indecipherable politics of the Academy, coffee shop chats about amazing films that were totally overlooked (The Impossible - just sayin').

If you're a mega movie nerd (like me), you need one more day to ease out of Oscar season, and this post is for you.

I've already been online and read the panoply of opinions about Seth McFarlane's performance as host (and apparent offender of some, but not all, women). Now, it's time to nerd out with fun facts from our online Oscar pool.

We didn't totally suck. On the whole, our contest participants did pretty well. If you look at our majority picks, we nailed the winners in seven of nine categories. The two categories we blew were "Best Director" ( 67% of us picked Spielberg, not Ang Lee) and "Best Supporting Actor".

We whiffed on Christoph Waltz. "Best Supporting Actorwas far and away our worst showing. Though a handful of people picked Waltz, as a group we awarded him the least votes in the category, apparently expecting a win from someone in the tried-and-true crowd.

We weren't fooled on Best Picture. Of the nine Best Pic nominees, only three received any of our votes at all.  Some expected Lincoln to sneak the win, and a few thought Silver Linings might pull a major upset, but 76.5% of us correctly picked Argo as the winner.

Optimism usually pays, but not this time. Most of us (foolishly?) expected the Oscar broadcast to run close to its 180 minute time slot on ABC. In our Oscar pool, 92% of participants underestimated the actual length of the broadcast, although one person pegged it exactly. (You killed in the tiebreaker, Beth Peery, now if you could only pick the categories right!)
  • Our average guess for the length of show was 190 minutes.
  • The actual broadcast ran 215 minutes from opening through the final credits - a whopping 35 minutes over the scheduled time.
Contest math is not for sissies. The spreadsheet I created to track and calculate contest results involved 24 columns of data, 11 different Excel formulas, and one reassuring technical call to Jane Regenstreif.

Overall, I loved this year's crop of Oscar films, and I had a great time putting together the contest. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Related Posts:

Daily Zen - Monday, February 25

If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange—meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil. 
                     ~ Anthony Burgess

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Way Things Turn" Oscar Contest Winner

Our grand prize winner for the 2nd Annual Way Things Turn Online Oscar Contest is Emily Matthews! Your $25 gift card will be in the mail shortly, Emily!

Congrats also to our runners up Mike Lee and Rodney Worsham.

Emily, Mike, and Rodney all guessed 8 of 9 categories correctly, but Emily won our tiebreak with her guess of 200 minutes for the Oscar broadcast duration (which clocked in at 215 minutes). Mike - if the broadcast had run one minute longer, the glory would have all been yours. Your guess of 216 minutes was closest, but sadly, not closest without going over. Sorry, friend.

If you missed any of the show, here's a list of all the Oscar winners. I'll update the blog tomorrow with a few more fun facts and stats from our contest.

Thanks to all who participated!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Weekend Zen (Oscar Edition), February 23-24

Steven Soderbergh
(Winner, Best Director - Traffic)

I want to thank anyone who spends a part of their day creating. I don't care if it's a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. 

Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unlivable without art. 

                    ~ Steven Soderbergh
         (From his Oscar acceptance speech)

The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is this weekend. Enter our Oscar Pickin' Contest by 3pm (Pacific) on Sunday February 24!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Enter the 2nd Annual Oscar Pickin' Contest!

The 2nd Annual Way Things Turn Oscar Pickin' Contest is open for business! The online survey is linked at the bottom of this post.

Choose the most correct winners in the nine pre-selected Academy Award categories, and win a $25 Gift Card to the movie theater of your choice!

The rules are simple and the contest is free. You may enter only one time, and we can accept only the first 100 respondents. Don't wait until the deadline or you'll miss out!

Here's all you have to do:
  1. Click the link below before 6:00PM (Eastern) / 3:00 PM (Pacific) on Sunday February 24. After the cutoff time, no entries will be accepted.
  2. Follow the electronic survey instructions and mark your answers for ALL questions listed; provide your name / email in the space provided.
  3. Click "Done" after you've answered all 10 questions.
  4. Check The Way Things Turn blog site on Monday February 25 to see if you won.
Here's a link to a printable list of nominees in all the categories for your reference. You won't be able to print your completed picks from the survey, so be sure to record your answers to track your progress during the Awards show.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@waythingsturn) as I'm planning to live Tweet the awards show on Sunday night. We'll be updating the blog with fun facts and updates throughout the evening too!

Daily Zen - Friday, February 22

Hugh Jackman
Best Actor Nominee (Les Miserables)

There comes a certain point in life when you have to stop blaming other people for how you feel or for the misfortunes in your life. 

You can't go through life obsessing about what might have been.

               ~ Hugh Jackman

The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is coming up on Sunday, February 24 and so is our second annual online Oscar Pickin' Contest.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday's Children: It's the Words

Posted by: Jeff McKown

Thursday's Children is a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about what inspires them. I'm participating today and you can too. 

A link to other Thursday's Children writers is at the end of the post.

Thanks to Rhiann Wynn Nolet for orchestrating this affair.

I'm a massive dork when it comes to writing. I keep a schedule with daily word count targets and I track my progress compulsively. My customized Excel spreadsheet has one tab for story structure, and another where I keep a "to do" list of open questions and issues. But the holy grail of my spreadsheet, the tab to end all tabs, is the formula-laden sheet where I calculate my output and performance to daily goals - the page that lets me know whether to flog or reward myself at the end of each writing day. I’m just that kind of guy.

With my aforementioned schedule, I have a pretty good idea of when I’m going to finish the second draft of the novel I’m currently revising. In two weeks, I’ll be done and that scares the living shit out of me. I lose sleep wondering about the great abyss that lies beyond the security of my daily writing rituals, and the uncertainty of what happens next makes my heart pound and my stomach churn. Because I’m also that kind of guy.

Having worked on this book off and on for a decade, I’ve had ample time to consider my fear, to examine it, to roll it around in my palm and squeeze it like a turd. I’m pretty intimate with my writing fear, but it’s only now, as the end of the second draft draws near, that I have begun to fully comprehend its meaning.

Writing isn’t a hobby for me, it’s a dream. And not a champagne hot tub Beverly Hills limo dream, but a third-grade no-pants school bus dream. Okay, not exactly that either. More like an MLK “I have a dream” dream, only less uplifting and lyrical, without all the concern for equality and brotherhood and the well-being of mankind.

You see, I love words. All kinds of words. I love how they fit together like jagged little puzzle pieces, conjuring nightmares and landscapes no one else ever imagined. I love how choosing the right words and assembling them in a meaningful order conveys a profound thought, a stunning image, or a devastating emotion. I love how words, when properly aligned, become art.

That's my dream - to make word art, the kind that makes you weep in a quiet corner or laugh out loud on a crowded train. To share ideas that make you shake your head in disapproval, or words that make you love someone more. To craft thoughtful collections of phrases and sentences and paragraphs, and carefully cull them into a collection of pages that rock you, crush you, or piss you off.

And therein lies my fear. I’m two weeks away from finishing the second draft of a novel, my best attempt at chasing the dream and making word art, which I daresay is a damn sight tougher than most of us know. I’ve invested so much. I spoke my dream aloud. I left jobs to pursue it. I sought peers and mentors and editors. I read blogs, and books, and books about books. I bought software. I meditated. I lived in a cabin in the woods. Thousands. Of. Hours.

Now I know, thanks to my trusty spreadsheet, I will soon reach a new milestone. In fourteen short days, give or take a day, I will cross another bridge on the way to my dream, with no way of knowing what awaits me at the far end of the span. Maybe my dream comes true or maybe there’s a nightmare end. More likely, the dream will just go on, and I'll be left to keep running after it.

I’m scared, but whatever happens next, I have the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my all. I pursued something in my life that mattered to me, something I cared about. I surfaced something honest and real from deep inside - the words. Because you know what? I’m that kind of guy, too.

Click here to view other Thursday's Children blog posts, or check out Rhiann's website for more info.

Daily Zen - Thursday, February 21

Best Actor nominee Daniel Day-Lewis
In and out of Lincoln makeup

I didn't like the idea of being foolish, but I learned pretty soon that it was essential to fail and be foolish.

                   ~ Daniel Day-Lewis

The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is coming up on Sunday, February 24 and so is our second annual online Oscar Pickin' Contest.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Daily Zen - Wednesday, February 20

Sally Field (Lincoln)
Best Supporting Actress Nominee

It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes.

                 ~ Sally Field

The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is coming up on Sunday, February 24 and so is our second annual online Oscar Pickin' Contest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Daily Zen - Tuesday, February 19

Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Best Actress Nominee

There's a lot of skeletons in my closet, but I know what they're wearing. I'm not gonna act all ashamed of it. 

                     ~ Naomi Watts

The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is coming up on Sunday, February 24 and so is our second annual online Oscar Pickin' Contest.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Daily Zen - Monday, February 18

Director Orson Welles
~ Featured Zen Contributor
for Oscar Week ~

We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.

                 ~ Orson Welles

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Second Annual Online Oscar Pickin' Contest

On Sunday February 24, ABC will broadcast the 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony.

That's all fine and good, but more importantly, next Sunday we will host the second annual Way Things Turn Online Oscar Pickin' Contest!

Sure, our contest won't have a red carpet or a celebrity host, but we will have live results updates throughout the broadcast (on the  blog and on Twitter @waythingsturn) and a $25 gift card prize for our winner.

And dammit, we'll have fun!

Here are the basic contest details.
  • Entry in the contest is free.
  • Ballots will be collected via online survey (I'll publish a link a few days before the show).
  • Participants will vote on 9 categories (one more than last year):
    • Best Picture
    • Best Director
    • Leading Actor
    • Leading Actress
    • Supporting Actor
    • Supporting Actress
    • Cinematography (our new addition)
    • Original Screenplay
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • We'll once again use the Oscar broadcast "end time" as our official tie breaker.
We'll announce the winner on The Way Things Turn website, and I'll mail a movie theater (or Starbucks) gift card to the participant who makes the most correct picks.

Here's a printable list of all the Oscar nominees for your reference. There are nine Best Picture nominees, and a host of other films that received nominations for their screenplays and for the outstanding performances of their stars.

You only have one week left and there are tons of films to consider, so get busy with your last minute movie-watching and stay tuned to The Way Things Turn for updates and the official contest link!

Weekend Zen, February 16-17

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.

                ~ Frederic Chopin

Chopin practiced what he preached, and his Berceuse Op.57 is a spectacular example. On a side note, it's fun to read through the comments about videos like this on the YouTube site. My favorite comment on this piece was actually about the pianist's interpretation of Chopin's music.

From commenter FredMyOpinion: "I think this is the most appropriate tempo for this piece. Askhenazi awakened me to this realization. I can see a beautiful garden when he plays."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Daily Zen - Friday, February 15

Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything.

                  ~ Ray Bradbury

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daily Zen - Thursday, February 14

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. 

                ~ Henry James

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Daily Zen (Peter Gabriel Edition) - February 13

          It is so strange the way things turn.

                     ~ Peter Gabriel 
                     (Don't Give Up)

We never know what the world will offer us, or what it will take away. But we know this - there's a good chance things won't go the way we expect.

A couple of years ago when I started this blog, I struggled to come up with the just the right name. I wanted a word or phrase that was consistent with my core philosophy, and something that might be catchy and easy to remember.

I ended up using a phrase from the lyrics of Don't Give Up, one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs. You can listen to all the lyrics and watch the haunting video of Don't Give Up (featuring Kate Bush) here

Today, on Peter Gabriel's 63rd birthday, we wish him all the best and thank him for loaning us a thoughtful lyric to name this blog.

Since it's Peter's birthday, here's a "daily zen" bonus - the original video for Peter's best-known hit In Your Eyes.

And the re-recording of the song almost thirty years later in 2011, with Peter's vocals accompanied by the profoundly beautiful sound of the New Blood Orchestra. Maybe things really do get better with age. Then again, maybe not. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Daily Zen - Monday, February 11

To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows.

                  ~ Jean Anouilh

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Zen, February 9-10

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart... forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.
                    ~ Hannah More

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wisdom For Creative Beginners From Ira Glass

Posted By: Jeff McKown

In a few weeks, I'll finish editing the second draft of a novel I've been writing off and on for years. As I read through my work, I stumble on a few flashes of writing competence, but just as often, I find frightful blunders that fill me with doubt and make me want to click and drag the entire novel into the trash bin.

But I won't throw it all away...

I'll see the novel through to its natural end, whatever that turns out to be, and I'll keep blogging. Partly because I understand faltering belief is part of the process, and partly because I couldn't stop writing even if I wanted to.

Ira Glass, creator and host of NPR's This American Life, shared this short piece of advice for beginning "artists" of any kind, and his words are helpful, heartfelt, and real. #HopeFightWrite

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Daily Zen - Friday, February 8

The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only. 

              ~ Joseph Wood Krutch

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Daily Zen - Thursday, February 7

Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. 

                         ~ Rumi

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Daily Zen - Wednesday, February 6

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

               ~ Abraham Lincoln

(Hat tip to tennis guru Jeff Salzenstein who shared this yesterday!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Daily Zen - Tuesday, February 5

Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging. 

                 ~ Henry Aaron

           (Happy Birthday Hank!)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Turn of Phrase - An Open Coffin in Newtown

Noah Pozner, age 6
Died, Sandy Hook, CT
"If there is ever a piece of legislation that comes across his desk, I needed it to be real for him."

- From Veronique Pozner, who escorted the governor of Connecticut to view her six year-old son Noah's casket, which she insisted remain open at his funeral. 

Noah was riddled with 11 bullets during the Sandy Hook school shooting in December. Inside his coffin, the boy's face was covered with a cloth. "There's was no mouth left," his mother said. "His jaw was blown away."

What a devastating reminder of all that is truly at stake behind the gun rights' argument. A mother's love is a powerful tool.

Daily Zen - Monday, February 4

The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

                 ~ Bertrand Russell

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Weekend Zen (Super Bowl Edition), Feb 2-3

Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein. 
                  ~ Joe Theismann

(You can find Bleacher Report's 100 Best Sports Quotes here.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Daily Zen - Friday, February 1

Paradise is at your own center. 
Unless you find it there, 
there is no way to enter. 
                   ~ Angelus Silesius