I come from academia, and one of the things I have always, always, always hated about academic papers is that they’ll have really snappy titles (sometimes), only to undermine the whole point of a snappy title by tacking on a godawful subtitle that’s 400 words long. A helpful hint I always want to give people is that if the subtitle is as long as the work itself, it’s time to trim.
I don’t know if author NP Martin has a background in academics or not, but his book, 1500 Words Per Hour: How to Write Faster, Better and More Easily Using the Simple and Powerful Speed Write System for Writing Mastery has easily the longest subtitle I’ve seen on anything I’ve read this year. So long, in fact, that this is the last time I’m going to refer to the book by its whole name, as I get tired even reading it.
There are a lot of books available on the Kindle that say things like, “Write a book for Kindle in 24 hours!” or “Write a Kindle book in a week that will sell thousands!” I know that anyone following the advice of these books is going to churn out something designed specifically to separate undiscerning readers from their money, regardless of the quality or lack thereof. I also think that the pseudonymous NP Martin probably wrote one of those books because 1500 Words Per Hour is a pretty uninspiring piece of work. Not totally useless, but definitely not something I’d recommend you spend your allowance on.
I don’t want to say Miami Vice is predictable, because that would be unfair to the show. It’s not predictable, as it showcased a bewildering variety of plots over the years and all of them resolved a little differently even if they might have been similar to something that came before. I kind of marvel at the showrunners’ ability to keep the program fresh over so many years given the relatively tight focus of the show’s premise. A less creative type might make a Miami Vice that is nothing but a drug-deal-of-the-week program, but the Miami Vice we have is so much more than that.
No, if Miami Vice is predictable on any level it’s on the thematic one. The essential tenet of Miami Vice is this: things fall apart, the center does not hold, and people who don’t deserve to be punished suffer terribly. There was a point in the first of our two episodes this week, “Milk Run,” where I said out loud, “Something terrible is going to happen.” There wasn’t anyone around to hear me say this. I just had to let my tension out. Because something terrible was almost predestined to happen. That’s how Miami Vice is.
“Milk Run” centers around two teenaged losers from New York, Louis (Evan Handler) and Eddie (Al Shannon) who have a genius idea: they’ll scrape together every nickel they have, Eddie will fly to Colombia to pick up a kilo or two of cocaine, and then the two of them will sell that cocaine in Miami, thus quadrupling their money. Brilliant, right? Except that Miami’s vice cops are on to this sort of scheme and quickly try to chase Louis and Eddie off before they can get themselves into trouble. This doesn’t work, but at least Crockett and Tubbs tried.
Meanwhile our heroes are investigating a couple of (possibly) dope-dealing brothers who may (allegedly) have been behind an massive explosion at a coke-processing house where five people died. Eventually this investigation will come to involve Louis and Eddie again and then everything goes to hell.
It may not seem like it, with my languid book-a-year publication pace, but I write a lot. I write a whole lot. I generally knock out between four thousand and six thousand words every weekday, which adds up pretty quickly. But despite all of my fast, fast, fast word accomplishments, I still have issues working consistently and establishing routines that enable me to achieve the writing-machine status I desire. I’m never going to be satisfied until I write a million words in a year. So far I’ve never even come close.
I do not suffer from writer’s block, and I clearly don’t have a problem delivering the words on those days when I do work, so why exactly am I reading a book called Writing Habit Mastery: How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block? Because I believe there’s always something left for a writer to learn. I don’t care if you’re just starting out or if you’re Stephen King, you don’t have all the secrets and you can stand to be exposed to new ideas. It’s why I’ve been reading so many writing books of late. Not because I don’t know how to write, but because I want to learn how to write even better. If there’s a chance, however small, that I can glean some useful bit of information from books like these, I’ll read a hundred of them.
Writing Habit Mastery is actually two books in one. Author SJ Scott is a writer, of course, but he’s primarily a teacher and his subject is the establishment of good habits. Habits, as he points out, make the difference between someone who consistently delivers (or overdelivers) and someone who consistently underdelivers. Both types of people have habits, but only one of them has constructive habits, and these constructive habits make all the difference. Consequently, though Writing Habit Mastery is a writing book, it’s mostly about creating a space for yourself to improve as a person, and its lessons are broadly applicable across multiple areas of your life.
When my wife and I were first courting, way back in the days when we all rode dinosaurs to work, I used to send her the names of movies she should watch. Movies I considered essential, or at least recommended, viewing. One of these movies was the Mickey Rourke film, Year of the Dragon, which I considered at the time (and still do) a vital piece of a fully rounded crime-movie library. I have seen Year of the Dragon countless times, and though I revel a little less in the aggressive boorishness of the hero, Stanley White, I still think the movie’s terrific. Certainly it’s the best film Michael Cimino ever did. Also you have to love any movie that has to include a disclaimer in the beginning explaining that all Chinese people aren’t crooks. Where’s The Godfather‘s disclaimer?
Anyway, I love Year of the Dragon, but surprisingly I never actually went back and read the novel on which the movie was based. I knew there was a book and I saw it on the shelves of the local bookstore, but I never picked it up and read it. Maybe I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. Who knows? But finally I have read it and I can safely say that it’s half of a really solid book.
Author Robert Daley was and is a longtime New York Police Department veteran and he wrote some very popular bestsellers over the years putting his experience to good use. If you want to read a book about the NYPD, especially set during the bad old days of the ’70s and ’80s, you really should seek out Daley’s novels. You’ll find them just as readable today as they were at the time of their publication.
I know it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given what a cultural phenomenon The X-Files would become, but it’s kind of amazing how many really good episodes appear in the show’s first season. A lot of shows, genre or otherwise, take forever to find their footing. Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, is widely regarded to be total crap in its first year and only slightly better in its second. The show only hit its stride in third season, which is probably longer than any network show would be allowed to blunder about before being shot behind the ear.
While these first few weeks of reviews have not all been sunshine and rainbows — “Space,” I’m looking at you — there have been some truly remarkable hours of television in just this tiny little corner of The X-Files that we’ve uncovered. One such remarkable hour is “Beyond the Sea,” the first in our pair of episodes this week.
It doesn’t hurt that the cast list for “Beyond the Sea” includes Brad Dourif, as Dourif pretty much kills it in any role he takes on, and that includes the progressively more awful Child’s Play movies. He’s right on the edge of acting too much at different points in the episode, but he’s otherwise so excellent that I’m not going to complain beyond that.