riggstories

The Stories and Art of Michael J. Rigg

Welcome to my OFFICIAL Web site.  

Oh, I know there are other Michael Riggs out there: the rock star, the surgeon, the filmmaker, and the Czechoslovakian kite maker... but this is the official place to find out all you need to know about someone who isn't a rock star, surgeon or filmmaker. 

Can I interest you in a kite? 

> NEW <

 

LOOK AT ME!

I can't really call this a blog, because blogs are typically regular, aren't they? I looked back through my previous posts, and enjoyed my musings, particularly because they were all of importance to me at the time I wrote them. The problem with maintaining a blog, for me, is that I don't have anything of that level of importance to "chat about" on a daily, or even weekly, level.

So what makes me post now? Am I afraid that the lack of added content to my Web site is giving me the appearance of a creative flounderer? Is my lack of creative input sending the message that I'm just like everyone else who owns a Web site--that I'm following a fad, much like a New Year's Resolution, quickly to be forgotten and brushed under the rug with the stack of unappetizing protein bars? Did I start this Web site as a launchpad for my novels (to-date only numbering one), and does it reflect the pace at which I'm writing (again, novels published equals one).

Probably. I'm being honest.

But that's not who I want to be. There is a section in this Web site that talks in relatively grandiose terms about "transmedia," and my dreams of building my own Transmedia Empire. (For a more complete education on what Transmedia is, Google JC Hutchins.)  I haven't really done anything with that. I don't even "tweet" anymore. Why? Because I find many avenues of social media to be sinkholes of ridiculousness. Have you looked at Twitter recently? It's just a non-ending electric river of "LOOK AT ME!" populated by people I don't care about--and the horribly sucky thing about that is that I truly do care about the people I follow on Twitter. I have friends who "take breaks" from Facebook, or talk about "quitting" all together, as if the social media platform giant was a pack of cigarettes. I don't have that problem. I have to force myself to look at Facebook, and I've never fallen down the rabbit hole of spying on other people's lives. Sorry. It's all just "Look at me!"

At this point I stop writing this blog and wonder... am I doing that now? This isn't a New Year's Resolution to maintain a blog, lose weight, read more, or launch a podcast... or is it?

I've decided not to label anything.

Moving forward, my 2015 will be filled with accomplishments both big and small, and even grandiose and minuscule. But, I'm not going to announce their launches. I'm not going to talk about their progress. I'm not even going to say, "LOOK AT ME!" I'm just going to do them.

And I think, for a resolution to actually work effectively, you have to not talk about it.

Just do it.

Okay, you can stop looking at me now.

Writing Through the Pain

A Writer's Review of the Kinesis Freestyle 2 Keyboard

 

The Kinesis Freestyle 2 in-the-box.

The Kinesis Freestyle 2 in-the-box.

I was moved to seek out a new ergonomic keyboard when I found myself saddled with a painful bout of tendinitis coupled with carpal tunnel syndrome. The dull aching, stabbing, sharp pencil-jabbing, tingling numbness in my right hand was enough to bring wails of frustration.


Aaaaahhh!” See.


And then I found the Kinesis Freestyle 2 keyboard.


Keep in mind, I'm still in the throes of a full run of wrist and hand inflammation as I write this. I can still feel the periodic burn in my elbow as the nerves fight through the congestion in my digits, but I was compelled to take a break from my medical break and talk about this remarkable input device.


I won't bury the lead. I'll come right out and say it: This is by far the best keyboard I've ever used. Period.


As a long-time sufferer of carpal tunnel syndrome and problems associated with repetitive use of mice and keyboards, I've become something of a connoisseur of ergonomic equipment. Until now, I'd kept all my eggs in the Microsoft basket, my latest being the Microsoft Comfort Keyboard 5000—which I strongly recommend for those of you who suffer from repetitive stress syndrome who aren't confident enough to take the extreme leap toward a fully segmented input device like the Kinesis ergonomic keyboards. The Microsoft Comfort offers a gentle curve to the keys that ease your hands away from the “pinched wrist” position of a normal keyboard.


If, however, you've had it up to that familiar pain in the neck with repetitive stress—and if you're a “touch typist” (one who can type without having to look at the keys)--allow me to proudly introduce you to Kinesis.


My layout of choice for the Kinesis Freestyle 2. Note the stand for my iPhone between the halves.

My layout of choice for the Kinesis Freestyle 2. Note the stand for my iPhone between the halves.

The most striking feature of the Kinesis Freestyle 2 is its segmented design. The keyboard is divided into two “halves.” Imagine sawing a regular keyboard in half between the G and H keys and you'll get the idea. Out of the box you have the option of angling the two halves to accommodate your hands through the use of a pivot hinge, or you can easily unsnap the hinge and spread the two halves about the width of the arms of a common office chair.


The purpose of segmenting a keyboard like that is to give you a range of options for the best comfort. Ergonomically, your wrists should be straight and your hands resting comfortably. Kinesis realizes that everyone is built differently and there are as many variations of comfortable positions as there are people. So, the Kinesis Freestyle 2 goes one better by giving you the option to spread open your posture all the way to your arms so you can keep your elbows at a comfortable 90-degree angle without twisting them in or bending your wrists awkwardly.


And speaking of comfort... The soft touch of the Kinesis Freestyle 2 is smooth and silky, and the button clicks are so quiet you could type at a rattling 75wpm in the same room with a sleeping spouse and not disturb them. There are tactile nubs on the F and J keys as well as on the HOME, END, PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys, which are aligned along the right side of the keyboard since the Kinesis Freestyle 2 does not have a dedicated number pad. More on this in a moment.


While the placement of the QWERTY keys are aligned as you'd expect them, I was concerned that I'd have some difficulty finding my way to the CTRL, ALT, BACKSPACE, ENTER and arrow keys. I was pleasantly surprised that my brain directed my fingers to where they should be and that's where I found them.

Left side with the optional VIP3 option (not attached)

Left side with the optional VIP3 option (not attached)


The left side of the Kinesis Freestyle 2 features pre-programmed keys for Web navigation as well as—get this—one button functions for “CUT,” “DELETE,” “COPY,” “UNDO” and “PASTE.” I find this to be a godsend, especially when I use those functions a lot in graphic design as well as writing. Bye-bye CTRL key.


What some users may not like about the Kinesis Freestyle 2 is the aforementioned lack of a dedicated number pad. Kinesis does sell an add-on number pad for a price if you really need one; otherwise, you can train yourself to utilize the “Function Toggle” to use the number pad that doubles as your J, K, L, U, I, O, 7, 8 and 9 keys. Just be mindful of the toggle or you might wns 4- ry-5nf n6nawnaw d6e QH53WA (end up typing nonsense for awhile) without even realizing it. Fortunately, it's pretty hard to accidentally hit the toggle. The Fn key is all the way on the bottom left of the left half of the keyboard. If you feel like you can get used to it, however, the Function Toggle is just as intuitive as the rest of the keyboard. I find it easy to shift to “NUM pad” mode after tapping the toggle, and there's even a function key that opens your computer's calculator. Handy!


Another sticking point might be the “forced purchase” of certain ergonomic accessories. You can find the Kinesis Freestyle 2 for between $80-90. That's not bad for a high quality ergonomic keyboard, until you realize that the secondary ergonomic part will cost extra.


Kinesis calls it the “VIP3 Accessory,” and you can buy the Freestyle 2 with the accessory for a few extra bucks. Sold separately for $30-40, the VIP3 is really nothing more than a pair of “kickstands” and wrist supports that clip easily onto your Kinesis Freestyle 2. The legs are adjustable and allow you to “tent” your keyboard halves at 10 and 30 degrees. I personally don't use the tenting legs because I found that a dull ache developed along my biceps, probably because my desk surface is a bit higher (or my chair a bit lower) than it should be. Still, it's a good accessory to have, particularly for the wide and very comfortable wrist rests. Now, while the wrist rests are built just as sturdy as the rest of the VIP3 kit and the keyboard itself, I had to groan when I saw that I had to peel-and-stick the foam padding on the rests myself.


VIP3 Accessory attached. Left side at 10 degrees, right at 30. Kinesis also sells an accessory that will make each half completely vertical. Wow.

VIP3 Accessory attached. Left side at 10 degrees, right at 30. Kinesis also sells an accessory that will make each half completely vertical. Wow.

People who know me know that I'm not terribly gifted when it comes to maintenance of any kind. I'm not good at “crafty” things or aligning parts that go together. Come on, Kinesis! If you're going to make us pay extra for the ergonomic trifecta, at least have a machine, or a tribe of old ladies, glue on the foam pads!

 

So, what about the bottom line? Is shelling out $110 to $130 worth it for an ergonomic solution to your typing dilemma?

 

Yes.

 

Despite the lack of a numeric keyboard and having to purchase the adjustable tenting option (and wrist rests) separately, the Kinesis Freestyle 2 is the perfect keyboard for writers, bloggers, or anyone who spends a lot of time typing. The first time I used the keyboard was during the pinnacle of my tendinitis pain. I didn't suffer at all during its use, and the right side of my palm and wrist actually felt better after typing a few minutes. It was almost like therapy for my RTS because I could move my hands and fingers effortlessly with my wrists and elbows in the perfect position to allow freedom of movement for all my tendons and muscles.

 

Medical Sidebar Disclaimer Type Thingy: There is no substitute for medical attention, physical therapy and rest for repetitive stress issues. If you suffer with pain anywhere from your fingertips to your neck, consult a doctor and check out the treatment options that are best for you. In the short run, I recommend resting as often as possible. Ice is also your friend.

 

If you'd like to find out more about the Kinesis Freestyle 2, or any of the other awesome ergonomic products offered by Kinesis, visit them at www.kinesis-ergo.com. They have a great trial option for businesses looking to provide ergonomic solutions for their employees as well. They're definitely worth checking out.

 

And, if there's a question I didn't answer about the Kinesis Freestyle 2, or the VIP3 accessory, write to me at riggstories(at)gmail.com (Or via my Contact Page) I'd be more than happy to talk about it (because it will give me a reason to type with it).

 

Marketing and Sales Disclaimer Type Thingy: I bought my Kinesis Freestyle 2 and VIP3 accessory from Amazon and paid full price. I was not contacted by Kinesis to act as a pitchman, nor am I a spokesman for ergonomic equipment in general. I'm not a chiropractor or an orthopedic surgeon. I make no money from selling wrist braces or Tylenol. I'm just a user who suffers from repetitive stress and strain who is very satisfied with this product. 

Dreams do come true.

Yesterday I celebrated as I watched the public debut of my novel, Clockwork Looking Glass, rise to #2 on Amazon's Hot New Releases charts. As the day wore on, I was treated to my first review: 5-Stars! And more sales than I'd hoped for considering my "noob" status as an author. I nearly wore down the T, H, A, N, K, Y, O, U and ! keys on my keyboard.

But I'm not in it for the sales, fame or critical recognition.

I'm in it for the adventure of creation. I'm in it to make other people happy; to make them smile; to give them a few hours of escape from their crazy lives; to give them a world they can daydream about, become part of, and to leave them longing for more.

It's why my books start out as free blogs, why I invite input into character creation, and why I hold contests to give readers deeper involvement. It's a shared experience that I enjoy fostering, a heartfelt connection between writer and reader.

And now that I've had my "flash in the pan" on Amazon, I'm already looking forward to the next adventure. I'm currently plotting the sequel to Clockwork Looking Glass, and scheming ways to make the entire Heart of Bronze universe a transmedia experience that involves readers even more. I created "The SkyTrain Depot" as a launchpad for upcoming news, images, information and stories; and so much more that's too soon to discuss here.

Stay tuned. It's going to be a thrilling 2014.

+][@|\|k y0L |.

Sung to the tune of money

Today is my birthday. 

(Pauses for well wishes). 

Thanks. But I'm not here for accolades of age, the ubiquitous annual congratulations for something I had no power over 48 years ago today. I'm here—writing this musing—because I've always been curious about what I call the ridiculousness of The Birthday Song. 

You know it.  

"Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear ___, 
Happy Birthday to you."

Did you know Warner Music makes $2 million per year on that little ditty?  It's only four lines, three of which are redundant and one of which is merely a direct address version of the other three! I heard a long time ago that the reason restaurants make up their own versions of the song is because it's actually copyrighted. (Someone should tell Warner about my local Red Lobster. Damn seafood birthday rebels!)

I never gave that much thought, always shrug it off as a wives' tale or just some litigious ghost story told to kids at Chuck E Cheeses around the globe, but I guess it's true.

Now, as I spend my wee umbilical-cutting anniversary hours falling down yet another rabbit hole of the Internet (The birthday conundrum stopped here), I can't help but wonder if anyone will ever challenge Warner for what really should be Public Domain. 

Then again, if I owned the rights... 

I'd be spending today in Cancun. 

Did I write it wrong?

For those of you who read Heart of Bronze and return here once in a blue moon to see if I'm EVER going to publish it... I need to confess something.  

While Heart of Bronze (now known as The Clockwork Mirror) is billed primarily as a Steampunk novel, I have to confess that I never actually read any Steampunk prior to writing it. I've always been a fan of gears and brass, old trains, Zeppelins, Tesla's theories and crazy gadgets.  I just wanted to throw them all together into something else I love: a good psychological urban fantasy historical mystery war thriller sci-fi, erhm, thing.

Heart.png

But I just picked up the anthology STEAMPUNK! and have been combing through the awesome stories. And... oh boy ...did I get it wrong? 

I've read through five stories so far and they all have one thing in common (beyond the gears, brass, Tesla, blah blah blah). They all feature a language Heart of Bronze doesn't. Each story, regardless of its suggested "time" or "history" features characters and exposition right out of the Victorian or Wild West age.

My novel contains modern language, with the odd "y'all" thrown in for good measure, and a glimpse here and there of Maggie's Scottish brogue.

So... Did I write it wrong? 

Maybe not. For starters, The Clockwork Mirror is just a story (or will be when it's published). The language, characters and setting are its own. I don't have to stick labels on it to make it real, do I? After all, I'm not looking to compete or even share shelf space with the Steampunk Greats, nor will I refer to them as my "counterparts" or "peers."

Unless, of course, they want me. 

No, when Mirror hits the virtual shelves this holiday season, I'll tag it with what's closest. Whether you like it or not is entirely up to you. 

For now... I need to get back to it. 

It's a Girl! (...well, two, actually)

Following the loss of our family's last dog, my wife and I decided—actually decided long ago—that we would always be Dog People.

And the enormous love and affection shared with our Italian Greyhound, Velvet, pretty much solidified her breed as our breed of choice when looking to adopt our next baby. 

BabiesDay1.jpg

Well, last night we were thrilled to invite Maggie (aka. Sweetie) and Daisy into our home. They're both Italian Greyhound - Pomeranian mixes from the same litter. They were extremely shy at first, standing like timid statues, but last night they curled up together and slept peacefully through the whole night. This morning brought a lot of tail wagging and clinging to mommy and daddy's sides. 

It's so great to have the sound of ticky-tacky little feet on our floors again, and the unconditional love of a beautiful animal who counts on you to take care of them. 

We will always be Dog People... and proud of it. 

For more information about the Rescue we used to adopt our babies, click here. And so much thanks goes out to Liz for brightening our home. 

 

The Videogame as Art

I let a few days of incensed Nerd Rage pass before I put fingers to keyboard to muse on the missteps of two of my heroes. I didn't want to give you the same reaction I had when I read that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas spoke out about videogames, inferring that they're "not art."

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (Image from blastr.com) 

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (Image from blastr.com) 

WHAT THEY SAID

According to the article (linked above) from SyFy's blastr.com, the two movie moguls (whom I credit for giving me the creative spirit and fostering the lifetime of wonder and adventure I've enjoyed since 1977) recently spoke at the opening of a new School of Cinematic Arts building at USC.*

After going on about how storytelling is a "complicated process," George Lucas—The Godfather of Star Wars—said this: "[Telling a story] is a very complicated construct and very carefully put together. If you just let everybody go in and do whatever they want then it's not a story anymore. It's simply a game."** He went on to describe a "divide" between games and stories before his buddy Steve stepped in.

Spielberg—The Godfather of everything from E.T. to Schindler's List—said, "And the second you get the controller something turns off in the heart. And it becomes a sport."**

 

WHERE THEY'RE WRONG

Presuming The Masters actually meant what the blogosphere is saying they meant, that videogames are not art, I'd like to present as Exhibit A as an argument...

Advertisement image for The Last of Us.

Advertisement image for The Last of Us.

The Last of Us, by Sony and Naughty Dog, is a mature videogame produced exclusively for the PS3. Not your typical "zombie shooter," there is actual science behind the infection described in the game, an infection that turns part of the population into mindless flesh-eating monsters. Take a trip down the rabbit hole of the making of The Last of Us and you'll be amazed at the thought that was put into this title (There's a link at the bottom of this missive).

"Believability" aside—and that's a zombie of a different color—let's center on Steve and George's alleged assertion that games are not art, using The Last of Us as a test subject. 

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW... I only played the first 25 minutes or so of the game, but I'm extremely familiar with it following several Q&A sessions with my son-in-law who devoured the title like Spielberg's Bruce devoured swimmers around Amity. Keeping that in mind, I repeat, this is not a review of the game.

Philadelphia, as imagined by Naughty Dog and Sony 20 years after a horrific virus decimates humanity.

Philadelphia, as imagined by Naughty Dog and Sony 20 years after a horrific virus decimates humanity.

Put simply, Steve and George, open your eyes to what's being done with graphic design, video production, motion capture, characterization, modeling, 3D animation, voice acting, facial emoting, coding, musical score, pacing, scripting and—yes—storytelling—as all of these elements are combined to give audiences immersive experiences.

The Last of Us is just one example of a game that immerses players into a story where we actually care about the characters. When one of them dies within the first 15 minutes of gameplay, I found myself tearing up because I was already drawn in and actually made to care about what happens. I didn't feel myself "racking up a score." I actually felt my heart pounding and my mind straining as adrenaline shot through my body and my survival instincts kicked in.

Yes... From a videogame.

The character of Ellie in The Last of Us. Look at her expression. Then tell me this isn't art. 

The character of Ellie in The Last of Us. Look at her expression. Then tell me this isn't art. 

The first thing that struck me as I watched (excuse me, "played") was the level of expression from the animated characters. The way eyes moved, nostrils flared, lips twitched all made these "people" come alive just as much as a character played by Daniel Day-Lewis or Jennifer Lawrence (2013 Oscar® Winners in their respective accolades of gender). They paused dramatically, they laughed, they cried, they spoke with articulation, inflection and emotion (very much NOT like a certain portrayal of your own Anakin Skywalker, Mr. Lucas) And just like a well-acted character in a movie, I cared.

As I played through the start of these character's lives, I became interested in their story. I wanted it to go on. I wanted to help them succeed. Shooting infected monsters or other survivors who tried to take what I had didn't feel like "racking up points." It felt like a story. It felt real. It felt like I was part of it.

 

HOW IT ENDED

All of that aside, I think a punch at the end of the blastr article missed something. Spielberg concluded by saying, "Whether it's a movie screen or a computer screen, we gotta git rid of that [square]. We got to put the player inside the experience, where no matter where you look  you're surrounded by a three-dimensional world. And that's the future." 

It sounds to me like these guys are actually looking to (or hoping for) a future where the deep kind of immersion I described in The Last of Us becomes even more immersive. Now that's something I can get behind; truly the next level of artistic expression.

Not that it's needed just yet. I think the ART is doing fine as it is. 

Official Site for The Last Of Us.   * n4g.com  ** blastr.com