Explain Watch Parties to Me

Okay, hive mind. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve seen some of the various online streaming services promote the fact that they can do watch parties. And while at first glance, that sort of seemed intriguing, I can’t for the life of me figure out what you’d actually use it for. I mean, maybe sports? If I could talk to my friends while watching a BYU game or something, that might be fun. But talking to my friends in the middle of a movie . . . doesn’t sound like the bestest thing ever to me.

Have any of you actually done one? And I suppose more importantly, have any of you done a second one after the first?

Yesterday we tried out our first real “Zoom visit” with friends or family, and I have to admit that it worked much better than I thought it would. I mean, heading into it, I was really skeptical any other Zoom anything would be enjoyable. (This, despite the fact that the get together was my idea. Desperate times, my friends. Desperate times.) Denisa suggested we hook up the laptop to our home theater system so that everyone could see the screen easily, and that worked like a charm. The audio was great, and the picture was easy for everyone to see. I’m not sure how our mic situation was, but next time I might try using an external mic to make it even better.

In the end, it worked out and felt quite like a family visit. The only real drawback is the fact that it’s hard or impossible to have any side conversations over a Zoom broadcast, and it’s not like people can just peel off and head into other rooms to visit. (Though I suppose I could make that happen. I’ve done breakout rooms, after all . . .)

Of course, it would have been good to find out that Zoom visits can actually be fun back in March or April or May, but then again, maybe they wouldn’t have been. Maybe it’s just to the point that anything other than what I’ve been doing is fun in comparison . . .

Anyway, after that much-better-than-I-thought-it-would-be experience, I wonder if maybe there’s something to “Watch Parties” that I just haven’t understood yet. So if any of you have actually tried one (for better or worse), I’d love to hear about how it went.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

#GiveThanks

Last Friday, President Russell M. Nelson posted a brief YouTube message (posted below), asking people (members of the church and non-members, alike) to make a switch in their social media approaches. Basically turning the attention to things they are grateful for, one post a day for a week, with the #givethanks tag.

I don’t know how big of an impact this has had for people outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I’ll say that for me personally, it made a tremendous difference in my feed on Facebook. Suddenly all the contentious posts disappeared, replaced by a stream of people talking about their families, their hobbies, their pets, and more. Granted, it comes at a good time, when many people are focused on thankful posts in the leadup to Thanksgiving, but that had already been happening before President Nelson’s message, and the flood of posts after it was still night and day. It’s been especially nice to see some people start posting who I haven’t seen posts from in years.

Of course, I have to admit that I haven’t participated in a #givethanks post. I planned to write a blog post about it (that you’re reading right now), and I think there must be something inherently contrarian in me. I really don’t like doing things everyone else is doing, and I didn’t want to do it just out of a sense of obligation. (I don’t know. I’m on vacation this week, so I’m not going to take the time to psychoanalyze myself . . . Is it hypocritical to appreciate the #givethanks posts and not be participating in them myself? Perhaps. But I also write this blog each weekday, and I’ve only got so much in me I suppose? Who knows.)

In any case, the posts have helped me reflect on what, exactly, social media can do well. Connecting people is definitely a strength. Changing minds? I don’t think it does that well at all. It’s more of a forum for argument. If there were one holiday Facebook would typically represent, it would be Festivus.

Big on feats of strength and airing of grievances, light on warm fuzzies (sometimes, at least.) I’m confident everyone posting these #givethanks posts still has the same beliefs and opinions about masks, Trump, politics, and everything else that they had a week ago, but because we’re not constantly shoving those opinions into other people’s faces for a bit, it’s easier to start viewing people as friends and family again instead of as enemies or wrong-headed. (I’m overstating it, but probably not by as much as I wish I were.)

When we can view other people as people and not as debates waiting to be won, we’re much likelier to reach compromises with them.

So as much as I typically don’t like to follow the crowd, I’m going to put that feeling aside and follow suit for the week. I really do feel like there’s something beneficial there both for myself and for others. I invite you to do the same if you haven’t started, and if you have, thanks for making my week a bit brighter.

Netflix Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Sometimes it feels like I’m always last to the table when it comes to reviewing different series on streaming. Then again, whenever I actually write the review, I’m surprised to see many people often haven’t even heard about what I’m reviewing. It’s hard to remember sometimes that just because I keep an ear to the ground on new series doesn’t mean everyone does.

That said, The Queen’s Gambit has been all over the place recently, so maybe this is an instance where everyone really has already heard about it. Still, it’s rated TVMA, and that’s often a deal breaker for some, unless there are extenuating circumstances. This is an instance where I would go ahead and recommend Queen’s Gambit to just about anyone mature enough to think a series about a young female chess prodigy sounds remotely interesting. (It has no nudity, but the main thing getting that TVMA rating is extensive drug use (though it’s very much presented in a non-glorified fashion) and a fair peppering of bad language.)

So why should you give a shot to yet another Netflix show? The Queen’s Gambit stood out to me in a number of ways, and I ultimately gave it a 10/10. It’s a rare show that starts strong and maintains that strength from start to finish. But if my recommendation alone isn’t enough (why not?), here are some specifics:

  • It’s about chess. How many other shows do you have on that subject? Better yet, it makes chess look exciting. It helps to know a bit about chess, but you don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy it.
  • It’s a limited run. No cliff hanger at the end of the series. Seven episodes depict the story from start to finish. There are a number of shows that I enjoy for the first bit, but then they turn their focus to lengthening the show instead of telling the story they set out to tell. This one doesn’t do that.
  • The acting is very strong. I found the characters engaging and surprising, but not in a gimmicky sort of way. You really grow to understand them and see why they make the decisions they do, even if you might wish from time to time that they’d just wise up.
  • The finale is a really great piece of television. It’s the strongest episode of the series, building on all the pieces that were strewn throughout the earlier episodes into a climax that really packs an emotional punch.
  • It has, at its heart, a very encouraging theme. I found it ultimately uplifting, and I really need more of that now.
  • It’s also a fascinating period piece, with great attention to scene design and costuming. Even in the lulls, it’s just a pleasure to see what’s on the screen.

All told, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year. Give it a shot.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Copyright, Royalties, and Sausage Making

I woke up this morning to see my Twitter feed covered in something other than politics and COVID. Suddenly, the focus has switched over to Disney and its refusal to pay an author royalties. In a nutshell, Disney seems to be arguing that when it bought Lucasfilm, it bought the rights to print all the old Star Wars books, but didn’t need to take on the responsibility for honoring the contracts of the authors who wrote those books.

This is obviously more than a little distressing. If a company the size of Disney is able to get away with this argument, it sets such a terrible precedent for all writers. A company could just sell the rights to a novel to a sister company and then duck out of ever paying the author any royalties. If that were the case, authors would no longer have any incentive to sell any of their rights to anyone.

Book publishing seems really clean on the surface. Authors write the books, agents sell the books, editors help get those books ready for publication, and then the publishing houses pay for the books to be produced, and readers get to happily consume those final products. Readers pay for the books, and that money then gets shuffled around between everyone who was involved in the process.

But the longer I’ve been directly involved in this process, the more I’ve realized that often that chain breaks down. That when you look to see how the sausage actually gets made, it can sometimes turn you off eating it altogether. Do I have any company actively not paying me royalties at the moment for books that they’re selling? Well, I’m not going to say I do, but I’m also not going to say I don’t, and that’s about all I’ll get into at the moment. Let’s just say I can relate to what Alan Dean Foster is going through, albeit on a much smaller scale.

You write your book and put it out there, and you celebrate when it finds a home. But that home is sometimes temporary. Your precious book becomes a commodity that’s sold and traded as companies shift hands. It can be disconcerting and bewildering, and sometimes it stops making any sense altogether.

Which is why I’m very glad that writing books isn’t my main line of work. I’d love it if I could get to the point where it could be, but stuff like this just makes me happy to remember I get a paycheck as a librarian . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Planning a Break

Here we are, halfway through November, and I still haven’t taken much in the way of vacation. (For a variety of reasons. There was just so much uncertainty around the future that I didn’t feel comfortable taking a vacation over the summer, and the ones I’d had planned all fell through. I wanted to hold onto vacation days in case something more extreme happened. Many higher education institutions had been implementing furloughs, for example, and I’d rather get paid for time off than not.)

In any case, the bottom line is that I’m going to be taking a fair number of days off in the next month and a half. Knowing myself, if I don’t do something special, there’s a good chance I’ll blow through all of those days and get to the other side wondering what exactly I did with all those days. (Not that I’m planning on just working non-stop through the break, but still. I know I will be disappointed if I do nothing other than play video games and dink around the house checking Reddit.)

Enter my innate desire to plan just about everything. I like to sit down ahead of a break or an event and picture what I’d like to be able to say about it after it’s done. My kids can confirm that I’ve frequently posed the question: “If we had an awesome day today, what would we say at the end of it that made it so awesome?” Once you can define that, then it becomes much easier to reach that goal.

I would like to get some things done this break. I want to clean the house and declutter a fair bit. I can picture it in my head: a house where there’s less clutter. It looks peaceful. Relaxing. So I’ve already sat down and made a big long list of all the rooms I want to declutter and clean, as well as a list of places in those rooms that need decluttering and cleaning the most. Will I get to all of them? Who knows. But I know that by having the list and working toward it, I have a better chance at getting to more of them than I would have if I didn’t have the list.

Of course, I’ve also made a list of other things I want to do. Treats I want to bake. Activities I want to do. I know those lists probably sound like torture to some of you, but I know I feel more accomplished when I’m actually getting things done. With these lists, I can now go through my days off and pick a few things to do from the list each day. Not so many that I feel overwhelmed, but enough to feel like Something Got Done. And then when I’m done with that something, I can rest, knowing full well that I’m making progress toward my ultimate goal. It’s the same way I get entire books written. Once I write 1,000 words in a day, I’m good to go. I know I’m on track.

What am I going to do with all of the clutter? One of the things that’s been stopping me is that many goodwill stores aren’t taking any items right now. That’s been enough of a speed bump to stop me from making real progress. However, I know for a fact that each year at this time, I will begin to get boxes. Lots of boxes. So many boxes from so many places, bringing in things I’ve ordered for Christmas. Usually it’s a big pain to break all the boxes down. My current goal is to leave the boxes up and instead fill them with things I no longer want. Stuff I’m getting rid of. That way, it can all be packed and ready to be donated whenever places are taking donations again. If that’s earlier, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. It will all be tidied and ready for the future.

So wish me luck. Here’s hoping I get a fair bit off that list before January rolls around . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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