This creative writing training will help you become a literary wordsmith

Creative writing can be a nerve-racking endeavor. It’s just you, your thoughts and that very, very blank page or word doc. You might have an idea for the story you want to tell, but what form does that story take? A novel? A short story? An article? Maybe even a blog post?

Writing your story isn’t as simple as simply writing your story. However, you can start answering those tough questions and steering your creative output in the right direction with the truly massive Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle.

It’s a 10-course package that includes an almost ridiculously giant 1,500 hours of hands-on training. Yeah, 1,500. That’s over 62 days worth of materials aimed at making you a better writer. Of course, we don’t advise taking it all at once (you’d be mighty tired by the end!), but it’s nice to know how much quality instruction is available to devour at your own pace.

After you explore the mindset of professional writers and test yourself out in a variety of creative projects with the introductory Creative Writing course, then you can start digging into a whole universe of writing sub-genres.

If you want to write the next Great American Novel, Novel Writing can help you shape plotlines, characters, scenarios and more. If you’re more interested in telling real-world stories, you can flex those muscles and find out what makes for a solid news story with the Freelance Journalism course. Or if you’ve ever had dreams of writing about life on the road, there are a pair of Travel Writing and Travel Blogging courses that can light the way for that pursuit. Read the rest

Watch this preacher cure coronavirus through the TV

Televangelist Kenneth Copeland urges you to put your hand on that television set and he, or rather Jesus, will cure you of COVID-19. Amen. Read the rest

Watch this housefly do amazing tricks (1910)

In this 1910 film, a housefly perched (glued?) on a matchstick, demonstrates fantastic feats of insect strength and agility. From the British Film Institute:

This truly delightful (or singularly repellent) film is the work of Percy Smith, pioneer of a particularly engaging early form of natural filmmaking. 'The Acrobatic Fly' is one of a series of Smith films on similar subjects around this time, and near identical to, though briefer than, a sequence in his 1911 release 'The Strength and Agility of Insects', which also features similarly impressive accomplishments by a scorpion, a flea, a grasshopper and a praying mantis. Viewers might worry about the techniques used to secure such performances, but Smith always insisted that his stars were none the worse for their moment in the spotlight.

Learn more about Percy Smith at the British Film Institute's Screenonline site.

(via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

XSplit VCam is the simple solution to fixing video backgrounds. And it’s under $20.

If you shoot videos for your business or just for fun, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll eventually start wanting to up the production values. For most vlog style videos, it’s not like you need Star Wars-level special effects or anything. But even trying to change out your background digitally with a simple green-screen effect requires extra space, precise lighting and...yeah, a really big green screen.

Instead, XSplit VCam has packed in green screen capabilities and other simple effects to instantly up the quality of your videos with their easy to use app.

And we definitely mean easy to use. Just choose your camera source, pick one of the assorted possible backgrounds, and in seconds, your video is transported to any locale with a professional-grade appearance that can often look seamless to the untrained eye.

XSplit VCam also gives you loads of options for getting that background just so. You can insert a GIF, JPEG, a website or even a YouTube video as your background, so your video can take on virtually any feel you want to project. Or if you like the look of your current cam shot, but maybe would like to hide some of the clutter and mess going on in your office or living space, you can add a subtle blur effect to give your video the look of a DSLR style portrait effect that draws viewer attention to you and not your background.

No matter whether you’re recording videos or live streaming, XSplit VCam is compatible with a full assortment of services like Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), Steamlabs, and XSplit Broadcaster. Read the rest

Fifty years of Zappa's "Hot Rats" and how it inspired the jazz-rock fusion genre

In December of 2019, Ahmet Zappa and longtime Zappa “vaultmeister” Joe Travers released a 6-CD collection of the Hot Rats Sessions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking, now classic Frank Zappa solo record. This LA Times piece chronicles the enduring impact of this recording and how it inspired the entire genre of jazz-rock fusion.

Long before novelty hits like “Valley Girl” and his televised jousting with the would-be music censors of Tipper Gore and the Parents Resource Music Center, Zappa was already a musical force to be reckoned with. “Freak Out!,” his 1966 doo-wop-meets-dada-rock debut with the Mothers of Invention, was cited by Paul McCartney as inspiration for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Zappa repaid the compliment in 1968 with “We’re Only In It for the Money,” which pilloried “Sgt. Pepper’s” with its cover and all things Summer of Love with its music.

“Hot Rats,” however, was completely different. Raw yet refined, accessible yet sophisticated, “Hot Rats” introduced what would come to be known as jazz-rock fusion, but with the added allure of Zappa’s intriguingly idiosyncratic take on classical music. Its beautifully layered textures were the result of previous experiments with variable-speed recording. For all its organic innovation, though, it was both a critical and commercial failure, topping out at No. 173 on the Billboard album chart. It did well in Europe, however, and eventually became one of the Zappa catalog’s most consistent sellers.

Listening to Hot Rats today, you have to remind yourself that this was 19-freakin'-69. Read the rest

Why Yoko Ono once performed backup vocals for "Rock Lobster" onstage with The B-52's

In February 2002, Yoko Ono took the stage with the B-52's during a New York performance of "Rock Lobster." The story about how she got there is fascinating and I'm surprised this is the first time I'm hearing of it. It begins in June 1980 when John Lennon heard the song and was inspired to start making music again after a long creative lull. The song's unusual backing vocals reminded him of Yoko Ono's style.

John Lennon, in a 1980 Rolling Stone interview:

"I was at a dance club one night in Bermuda... Upstairs, they were playing disco, and downstairs, I suddenly heard 'Rock Lobster' by the B-52's for the first time. Do you know it? It sounds just like Yoko's music, so I said to meself, 'It's time to get out the old axe and wake the wife up!' We wrote about twenty-five songs during those three weeks, and we've recorded enough for another album."

Writer Brian Scott MacKenzie:

"Rock Lobster" lit a fuse of inspiration that flared into Lennon’s 2-LP set Double Fantasy (1980), plus a posthumous release, Milk and Honey (1984). Without the B-52's, our world might lack "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)," "Watching the Wheels," "Woman," "(Just Like) Starting Over," and "Nobody Told Me."

Atlanta Magazine (2013):

"I said, 'That’s Yoko!,'" Lennon recalled that fall in an interview with the BBC. "I thought there were two records going at once or something. Because it was so her. I mean, this person had studied her... I called her and I said, 'You won’t believe this, but I was in a disco and there was somebody doing your voice.

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And now, a skateboarding sparrow

This is a java sparrow that's learned to ride a tiny skateboard.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Watch the trailer for HBO's "The Plot Against America" miniseries debuting 3/16/2020

Philip Roth's 2004 alternate history novel about a Charles Lindbergh -ed Nazi takeover of the United States, The Plot Against America, has been adapted as a 6-part HBO miniseries. Created by David Simon and Ed Burns (the duo behind The Wire), it debuts on Monday, March 16, 2020 and stars Winona Ryder and John Turturro.

BBC has a review, giving it 3 out of 5 stars. Conclusion: "The Plot Against America has high, half-realised ambitions. Preaching to its audience didn’t have to be one of them." I'm going to watch it anyway. Read the rest

Why did anyone watch 'Friday the 13th'?

A hit movie with a trailer that is comically horrible. I guess the trailer doesn't matter.

This movie was a huge thing during my childhood. I was never into slasher flicks. RomComs are scary enough. Read the rest

The strange planet where it rains iron

On the planet Wasp-76b, it rains iron. Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and colleagues observed the planet, 650 light years from Earth, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in northern Chile. On the planet's "hot side" that faces it star, temperatures can be above 2,400°C. It's a good thing the residents of Wasp-76b carry tungsten umbrellas. From ESO:

“One could say that this planet gets rainy in the evening, except it rains iron,” says David Ehrenreich, a professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. He led a study, published today in the journal Nature, of this exotic exoplanet. Known as WASP-76b, it is located some 640 light-years away in the constellation of Pisces.

This strange phenomenon happens because the 'iron rain' planet only ever shows one face, its day side, to its parent star, its cooler night side remaining in perpetual darkness. Like the Moon on its orbit around the Earth, WASP-76b is ‘tidally locked’: it takes as long to rotate around its axis as it does to go around the star.

On its day side, it receives thousands of times more radiation from its parent star than the Earth does from the Sun. It’s so hot that molecules separate into atoms, and metals like iron evaporate into the atmosphere. The extreme temperature difference between the day and night sides results in vigorous winds that bring the iron vapour from the ultra-hot day side to the cooler night side, where temperatures decrease to around 1500 degrees Celsius.

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Husband and wife team proudly reselling sanitizers and wipes at quadruple prices

A Toronto Star article profiles married couple Manny Ranga and Violeta Perez, who drive around to Costcos and load their pickup with hand sanitizer bottles and disinfectant wipes, then resell the items on Amazon at quadruple the purchase price. They claim to have made over $100,000 so far by gouging.

From the article:

The couple say they’ve made a bundle in the past three weeks hitting up every Costco store in the region each day, buying up as many Lysol wipes and liquid cleaners as they can — spending thousands of dollars at a time — and then reselling them, mostly on Amazon, to private individuals and companies.

...

Ranga, 38, said one six-pack of wipes that goes for $20 at Costco can fetch four times that online. (A check of Amazon on Thursday showed that a six-pack was going for $89 under their seller name “Violeta & Sons Trading Ltd.”)

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Reality TV stars of Diesel Brothers fined $850,000 for removing smog prevention devices from trucks

The Drive reports that "the stars of Discovery Channel's Diesel Brothers television show are being ordered to pay $851,451 for their role in producing and selling modified diesel pickups that wreaked environmental havoc in the state of Utah."

They were found guilty of stripping emissions equipment from diesel pickups. The trial was initiated by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, which purchased a modified truck from the Diesel Brothers and tested it for emissions. The "results showed it emitted 36 times more pollution and 21 times more particulate matter than if it was equipped with proper emissions systems," reports The Drive.

The federal judge in the case also said the gentleman, known as "Heavy D" and "Diesel Dave," are also on the hook for the plaintiffs' $1.2 million legal fees and that the fines can't be avoided through bankruptcy. Read the rest

Watch 80 joyous minutes of newly discovered Seinfeld bloopers

At r/Seinfeld, MrJonLott writes:

At the Raynham flea market 2 years ago I found a DVD with 80 minutes of previously unseen Seinfeld bloopers. These are different from the official DVD bloopers, which are already on YouTube. This DVD was in a bootleg case with a bootleg design, and a simple unvarnished disc inside. I ripped the footage from the DVD and uploaded it raw to YouTube. Forgive the video quality; the DVD has low-grade video.

The DVD was produced in 2000, which makes me think it's a bootleg of a blooper DVD made for the cast and crew of Seinfeld in 1998 or 1999, to be shared in the days before internet. There is nothing else on the disc.

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Optical illusion demonstrates how your brain sometimes makes the wrong choice

In this segment of Curiosity Show we are presented with an illusion involving two playing cards. In just a couple of minutes we get an entertaining lesson in art history, perspective, and vision. Read the rest

Netflix's CASTLEVANIA show is so much better than it has any right to be

Netflix just released the third season of its anime Castlevania adaptation, and I certainly never expected to be so excited such a thing. Sure, I played the games a little bit as a kid. But I don't usually go in for that much anime, or that many video games adaptations.

This one, however, is written by Warren Ellis and directed by Adi Shankar, and it was been a consistently enjoyable ride. Ellis himself acknowledges that he's never played the "vampire jump game" at all, and just used Wikipedia to figure out the relationships worth mining to tell a good story. And at that, he succeeded. The dialogue is hilarious and crass; the bloody, brutal action sequences often make me squee with delight; and the characters are all complex enough to make you want to spend time with them, even when they're absolutely awful people. Hell, this show might have the most empathetic and sympathetic depiction of Dracula I've ever seen — which is impressive for a dude who starts a global war to feast on humans.

I'm only halfway through season 3 — which adds Bill Nighy and Lance Reddick to an already-excellent cast that includes Richard Armitage, James Callis, Alejandra Reynoso, and Jamie Murray — and I'm eager to finish the rest.

If you're looking for something to keep you occupied during your self-quarantine, and you don't mind a lot of blood and cursing, I highly recommend it. If the plot-based trailer above doesn't intrigue you, then perhaps this will:

Read the rest

The legend of Biggie Smalls' belt

In 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) visited the Manhattan offices of The Source, then the most influential hip hop publication in the world. Biggie was there for a photo shoot and took off his size 52 pleather belt to change clothes. He told Source writer Rigo “Riggs” Morales to hold on to the belt and he'd grab it later. Biggie forgot. A couple weeks later, Biggie was killed in a drive-by shooting. A few years later on his last day at the magazine, Riggs instructed the office's incoming resident, writer Aliya S. King, that Biggie's belt was never to leave that room. Over two decades, nine people were charged with keeping the belt safe Over at Level, King tells the tale of Biggie's belt and why it matters so much to her:

It didn’t feel like a monumental relic or symbol of hip-hop history. It wasn’t one of Big’s infamous Coogi sweaters or the Versace sunglasses that he wore or shouted out in his rhymes. It was a no-name brand size 52 belt. And yet, Riggs decided it needed to stay in that spot. “That belt doesn’t leave this office,” Riggs said to me.

I nodded.

“Not under any circumstances,” he continued. “It stays right there. Right on that hook. Unless Big himself comes here to get it, it doesn’t move.”

“I got it.”

“If you move offices or if you leave The Source, the belt stays here. You can tell the next person who moves in here.”

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PornHub offers free Premium service to Italians and will donate proceeds to fight coronavirus

“Pornhub is donating its March proceeds from Modelhub to support Italy during this unfortunate time," the company said on Twitter:

Model earnings will remain untouched, this is coming straight from Pornhub's share. Italy will also have free access to Pornhub Premium throughout the month. Forza Italia, we love you!

It's kind of wild that a porn site has already done more to fight coronavirus than the US President Who Has Sex With Porn Stars, but here we are.

Pornhub offers free premium service in Italy to ease coronavirus pains [Joe Tacopino / NY Post]

Image: Public Domain via Pexels Read the rest

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