Friday, July 30, 2010

Ringworld, Arthur C. Clarke, "The Call of Cthulhu," and Cordwainer Smith

Listing them out makes me realize how scattered I am. Scattershot approach, I always say. Have as many irons in the fire as possible, you get more done that way. Um. Yes.

I've begun reading from the short stories of Clarke, Lovecraft, and Cordwainer Smith because Ringworld is starving me in a number of ways. The ideas are interesting and for that—as a hypothetical situation, you know, a planet in the form of a ring around a sun—I give Larry Niven credit. But the characters lack soul. The conversation is dull and even the moments of introspection that crop up from time to time for Louis Wu are emaciated.  

The interaction between the three different races could be more than what it is, and from time to time there's not enough insight into why the kzin or puppeteer (the two main alien races) do strange things. Niven seems to want to convey a sense of danger or mystery to certain actions, but instead I feel cheated in moments such as when Speaker-to-Animals (the Kzin, who is like a humanoid cat. Think Cats-the-musical-creatures with the height of a Wookie) leaps into the bushes suddenly after grinning maniacally at Louis Wu. Later we learn that Speaker-to-Animals was just going hunting, not that something monstrous happened to him, as the foreboding tone initially suggested. 

Niven leads you down a path part of the way and then jerks you in another direction, for seemingly no reason except perhaps because he can. I get it: he wants us to feel as confused as Louis Wu does by the aliens and their oh-so-alien behavior. I guess that's one way to accomplish it.

But to me this is the problem with a surplus of show-don't-tell. You end up with just the skeleton, which, as interesting as that is, requires some skin and meat to make it attractive. This is why when I pick up Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu," I devour it. It's why as soon as a friend loaned me Cordwainer Smith and I saw that there was more than just soulless dialog and fruitless introspection, I dove in headfirst. 

I knew nothing of H.P. Lovecraft until last winter. Kind of insane, don't you think? It blows my mind that despite my eight years in college studying literature and before that, the twelve years of public education, I read obscure things like the City of Ladies, but no Lovecraft. 

This baffles me even more when I see in his writing such carefully constructed prose and beautifully rendered scenes that I can feel the horror growing (and it's not gory horror, at least, not so far. It's the kind of horror that suggests that "we live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far." As soon as we figure out the universe, we'll go mad...) with each sentence as the protagonist journeys further into his discovery.

Perhaps I go overboard. I haven't finished the story yet, though it's short. I am also in the midst of "Scanners Live in Vain" by Cordwainer Smith. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get through Ringworld. I DID finish the story "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke and I am sad to say it was a huge disappointment. This is the only Clarke I've ever read and the sheer uneventful nature of that short story makes me wonder if I ought to read any more.  

The thing is, I think I struggle with hard sci-fi. I don't really know where the line of demarcation is separating hard sci-fi from soft (?) sci-fi, but I'm going to say it's between Ringworld and Lovecraft. I know, I know, Lovecraft is horror. Not sci-fi. 

So what is hard sci-fi? I plan to research it more and perhaps when I'm done with Ringworld and the short stories, I'll put up a review. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Saw "Inception" last night. It was....dreamy.

I would recommend that my mom not see it. She doesn't read my blog anymore, but if she, on a whimsical note, stops by and happens to see my recommendation, well, there it is.

She would have been sighing the whole time, well, until she stormed out of the theater in frustration. I mean, I got restless about three quarters through.

But the only reason I got restless was because it was intense and I was a little confused. I thought I knew what was going on, but I wouldn't KNOW until the end.

Sort of a rude thing to do to your audience. For three hours.

BUT, Di Caprio was fantastic. And I liked the rest of the cast. There were some things in it that I thought, huh. Like, Ariadne. WHO ON EARTH WOULD NAME THEIR KID SOMETHING SO PRETENTIOUS?

Wait. Actually that's not so strange.  Parents everywhere seem to be giving their kids trรจs pretentious names lately*. I think it's the plague of my generation. Don't get me started. I'm very intolerable once you get me started on certain subjects and that's one of them. Know your weaknesses, eh? You'll thank me someday that I warn which subjects they are.

Anyway I thought the film held up well. 

There were no highly uncomfortable sex scenes in it.  I know, weird.  How'd they do that? Hmm. I guess the writer didn't have to convince us that the main character's reason for action was based on a hollow sexual conquest (like most movies). 

The main character actually ends up having believable depth because he's not wholly selfish.  He's heroic, but it's not one of those (tired) epic heroic tales of a guy saving all of humanity from an impending crisis. Instead he's more like an average person who just wants to do something right. In fact, over the course of the film, I found myself falling in love with the character Di Caprio portrays. Don't worry, Stoker did too heh heh. 

And as I write this, I'm more and more awed by the writer (Nolan) who so successfully sculpted a character like this man, and in such a way that what I know of him unravels slowly enough that character is the main mystery driving the story. Originally I thought it was going to be all Matrix-like in its action and methods. And while there is some interesting cinematography and fun action sequences, the engine of the story is character. 

Which leads me to a new, compelling idea: Cobb in a cage-fight with Neo Anderson. Who would win? 

*See what I did there? Heh heh heh.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mercenary Team Deathmatch: How Call of Duty Relates to Life

I realized last night while playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (online) that my life can be expressed in the experience of Mercenary Team Deathmatch.

For those who are repulsed by video games, or who just don't understand them and who have no grasp on the particulars of Mercenary Team Deathmatch, it's simple: I'm on a team. Me and my team shoot the guys (or girls) on the other team.

It sounds boring, but if you like amusement park games where you target shoot or anything similar to that premise, you'd love online deathmatch. It's challenging. You run around trying to be stealthy and outsmart other humans who are much more inventive than a mere AI.

Not only that, the guns are accurate representations of actual guns in the real world. And since I enjoy gun stuff, I find that part of it compelling also.

Oh sure, sometimes I feel quite stupid that I've just spent an hour or two running around a fictional universe shooting fake people. But it's become a compulsion and as we all know, there is no refusal from within the grasp of compulsion.

A couple weeks ago I got arrogant and downloaded the new map pack from the Playstation Network. It costs $15 and it gives you access to several new locations for the slaughter-fest (spell check didn't like slaughterfest. I agree, it should not be allowed to enter the lexicon as a compound word. Too offensive).

I didn't think before I downloaded it that the only people who'd be downloading it are the real junkies. Addicts. These are the players who have devoted days—not hours—to the game. There are 70 levels a player can progress through and then, just to make it interesting, the game developers introduced what's known as Prestige leveling. That means that once you get to 70, you can start all over and progress from level 1 to level 70.

I know. It's a sickness.

There are special insignias next to your player name to identify what level you are, and there are even more special insignias to indicate how you're an insane moron who's Prestiged fifty thousand times. Because, to be gluttonous about it, you can do it more than once. Generally these players are unstoppable. And I hate them.

So I'm only on my first time. Level 67 or something. But I still suck. And here's the thing: a lot of your success depends on how well you know the maps, or the layout of the environment the game is in. Because if you're very familiar with it, you know what the other team will be doing. Surprise is a powerful weapon.

And this is how it's just like my life.

Quite often as I'm shooting someone (in the game—I feel I should specify that so as not to be mistaken for a serial murderer), I'll run out of bullets before they're dead and I have to reload. During that time, the opponent kills me. OR, another player from my team will step in and finish off my opponent, which gives me only an ASSIST in my stats menu. So when the game finishes and the stats are onscreen, inevitably I have a very low number of kills, and seven thousand assists.

See how it's like my real life?

I'm always just a step behind, or, while the real good crap's happening, I'm caught reloading. Or, before I can draw a bead and pull the trigger, my opponent has lightning reflexes and I'm dead.

So I respawn and lo and behold, the game puts me near the guy who just killed me, and he kills me again. And again. And before I can get anywhere or do anything, I've been killed ten times in a row without inflicting any damage on a single foe.

It's frustrating. I can never quite improve because the moment I start to get better, some bigger fish swims up, devours me, and spits out my bones. There's ALWAYS a bigger fish. I can never get comfortable. The moment I do, a swarm of evil soldiers or militia-men runs around the corner and slaughters me and I flounder helpless like a My Buddy doll wielding a useless Lego gun or some such nonsense.

And this is just like my life. Exactly like my life, in fact. No, but it's a fantastic metaphor, and it illustrates nicely the way I'm always a step behind. Some of us are mediocre at everything. I'm mediocre at everything because I lack the capacity to focus with laser-like precision because I'M ONLY HUMAN.


But it's good. Because, as I was thinking this morning, do I seriously think those whom I perceive to be on top don't sweat bullets every time they make a career decision? Especially people in a fly-by-night industry like publishing, music, television, or film?

I was thinking about Garth Brooks, for some odd reason, choosing from the billions of demos that were most likely made just for him. Back in the day he was IT. I bet the choice gave him ulcers. I bet he worried that he wasn't picking the hits. I bet it's hard to tell which song will rock number one for fifty weeks, and I know because I hear some of the demos that run through Nashville and I think, dang, that's good.

And you know, no matter how high you get on the ladder, you always feel like you're struggling like hell to make it, and if you don't, you're either a moron or you're blind and I don't understand you. Life's a battle. A war zone. Mercenary Team Deathmatch.

So I hope you have a good team. I hope I have a good team. I know one thing, I need larger magazines and a steadier hand. And maybe a new controller. I think this one's broke. Heh heh. Excuses excuses.


Related Posts:

How Dragon Age: Origins Interferes with Real Life

Infamous and Flying in Video Games

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Is it wrong to laugh at the MST3K version of "Manos": The Hands of Fate?  

For me it's serious quandary. I would have glided through the experience just fine if the friend who lent me the movie hadn't mentioned in passing that the man who played Torgo killed himself just a few months after the premier back in the 60s.  

The Wikipedia entry states that his suicide had nothing to do with the failure of the film, that Torgo had no social life and a non-existent relationship with his father:  

"John Reynolds (Torgo) committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun on October 16, 1966, although the incident reportedly has no relation with Manos. He had a depressing social life as well as being a drug addict and had almost no connection with his father."

One thing that strikes me here is the rationale that the incident had no connection with the failure of his BIG CHANCE. Finally, something is going right in his life. Here's his chance at success. His ship has come in. He's going to be in a film. He'll get some recognition. Directors will be lining up outside his door. Torgo was just the beginning.  

But no. Manos was a flop. His dreams went down the drain. What's left?  

What I find alarming is his capacity to kill himself with a shotgun. Is that common? Seems like it would be very difficult, and I know it's macabre of me to bring it up, but honestly, I just can't picture that. Not that I want to. But I just can't begin to imagine how someone could hold a shotgun up to their head and reach the trigger, though I'm not one to go around putting guns of any sort up to my head.  

So it seems to me that they WERE RELATED. It's like saying the rampant growth of the tomato plants in my garden has nothing to do with the soil, rain, or water. They just grow independent of those things.  

Poor Torgo.  

OH. AND BY THE WAY. That thing about the drugs and Torgo, did I neglect to mention his drug abuse was related to his role in the film? Oh, yeah. Right. Well, according to the Wikipedia entry, during shooting, Torgo wore this metal rigging to make him look like a satyr (ohhhhhhhh, he's supposed to be a satyr!), BUT he wore it backwards. And no one told him. It damaged his kneecaps permanently and it was, apparently, really painful. He self-medicated with drugs until his death.

Anyway, it's funny how those two facts are so far apart on the Wikipedia entry. Not that I'm accusing Wikipedia of some conspiracy to cover up the truth about Torgo or something. It's just interesting.

And sad.  And it made me feel incredibly guilty to laugh at everything Torgo did, particularly the "itsy bitsy spider" part, where he's trying to seduce the unconvincing actress who played Mike's wife.  The "itsy bitsy spider" scene is one of the best.  Well, pretty much everything with Torgo is hilarious, from the Torgo-music to the wives molesting-him-to-death scene.  

But how can I laugh when I know that Torgo killed himself due to the film's failure? I just can. Call me cold-hearted. Call me evil. But maybe Torgo would be really happy to know that his film has achieved cult-status. That they're making a sequel. And a production company in Nashville redubbed the audio track last year and I guess there's a documentary on the director in the works. 

Someone should also make a documentary about Torgo, because I sense a good story there.  

So I guess it's not entirely sad. It's just rough to know that it was someone's failure and they got depressed enough about it to die. You know?   

Monday, July 26, 2010

Top Ten Lists For Writers....and Morons

What doesn't help me is reading about writing.  Does it help anyone, really?  Especially lists for writers. Top Ten Lists for Writers that are composed, essentially, of no-duhs.  

I read one today and became extremely depressed about writing in general.  I was filled with this sense of despondency about my verb usage and my abilities to construct sparkling sentences of varying lengths and styles.  I realized there was no hope for me.  I spiraled downward in a trajectory of hopelessness where I was forced to confront the realization that my stories are not fabulous.  They lack intriguing ideas.  The plots are starved. The voice resonates as loudly as the gurgle of a titmouse at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  

I am a deluded moron, I thought, laboring at a futile task.  I might as well be in one of the seven circles of hell.   

I mean, I'm not, really.  I'm fine.  If I suck at writing, no big deal.  If my stories bite, big whoop (is that how you spell it?  I'm going for a colloquial tone here).  

One day recently, I arrived home in an unusually sunny mood.  Stoker was there, haranguing Bastet (the cat), teasing her and such (she loves it) and I said to him, "Yeah, I had a great day writing.  I got over whatever lethargy I was feeling and realized I'm good.  My stories are good.  I'm fantastic.  I suddenly realized I haven't been laboring at a futile task for the past five years. It was great."  I said it with an appropriate amount of animation.  

And he said, "Well, if you think about it, everything we do is futile. Right? I mean, it's all for naught anyway.  Isn't it?  Your writing.  My life.  Your life.  My job.  Your job.  Etc."

So there you go.  Just when I'd gotten to the crest of the hill in my emotional roller coaster, someone was there to quash it with a nihilistic lecture.  

No, it was funny, really, and I gave him hell in a funny, ribbing kind of way, because what better method to counter nihilism than with a well-timed sarcastic comment?  Eh?  Eh?

I need a good dose of sarcasm right now.  Whose idea is it to make those ridiculous Ten Tips For Writers lists, anyway?  Seriously?  

Some people thrive on the coaching style wherein the cruel drill sergeant-type hurls insults littered with a good amount of spittle at them until they rise to the occasion and emerge victorious.  That's great.  I mean, to continue the metaphor, no one wants pampered soldiers because a spoiled, indulged soldier will turn and run when they need to confront an enemy (or whatever). 

I'm not saying I need to be coddled.  I do get tired of the emotional roller coaster, though.  It's easier to give up and not try at all.  Eventually I rise to the occasion and get over the negative thoughts plaguing me.  I shouldn't read the lists in the first place and that would be a great start.  I should be less susceptible to negativity and more idiotically confident and ignorant of the possibility that I might truly suck at whatever I'm trying.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, for all I know I'm one of the tuneless, tone-deaf morons trying out for American Idol under the misconception that I'm great.  "People have been telling me that my whole life, that's why I'm here, Simon, because I'm the next American Idol."  

"You're terrible.  Dismissed.  Thank you.  Goodbye."  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Family Visits: Good or Evil?

I can't decide if I prefer people visiting me in Nashville, or if I prefer to be left alone, an exile in this southern jungle of furious heat and humidity. Hmmmmm.

When they visit, they being my family—most of whom live in the desert oasis Utah—when they visit I am reminded of everything I left behind to come here. The ties between us are renewed and I feel again the strength of the familial bond. I remember part of who I am, the part that fits in an extended family structure. Me, the middle sister. Me, the wife of Stoker. Me, the niece. Me, the daughter. Me, the daughter-in-law. Me, the sister-in-law. It's complex.

Then they leave and I'm left with one family identity, wife. Which is good. Sometimes that's all I have energy for, heh heh. Stoker and I are best friends, too, so there's also that, which doesn't mean I'm only a wife.

Wife has a lot of baggage, doesn't it? Some of it not good. There's wife the nag. Wife the servant. Wife the slave. Wife the property. Wife the chattel. Ha ha. Some of those are synonyms, so I'm cheating, but hey, it makes the point.

I think originally, like maybe when Adam and Eve were hanging out together in Eden, wife meant something decent and the term was unburdened with negative human constructs. There was no wife property. Wife meant help-meet. Friend.

Maybe that's too idyllic of a view when you come right down to it.

Anyway, the point is that I'm not against the term wife. But for some mysterious reason I feel all this pressure to defend my perspective, as though just by discussing my roles in a family and partnership I'm submitting to servitude and archaic views of relationships.

But I don't think words like wife and husband should be poisoned by post-modern constructs and ideas. There IS a lot of baggage here, in the present. There are a lot of crappy relationships and all that, which give marriage a bad name.

And love. It gets a bad name too.

I also feel like the whole attitude about in-laws, you know, like this, "Oh man, my in-laws are visiting. Ick. They're horrible, what a burden..." is awful. I like my in-laws. I stepped into marriage and was aware of most of the roles, most of the cliches, such as this one about the terrible in-laws, and was confused that I didn't feel all of them.

Maybe I'm an oddity, but I look forward to their visit. What I typically rue is their departure. Perhaps that's because sometimes I feel like I live here in exile, depending on how dramatic I'm feeling at the moment, even though I love Nashville in a number of ways (the fireflies, the small feel of the city, the people, the used bookstores...I could go on and on). I guess as time has passed I've grown to realize more and more that the portion of my life that I love the most is the time I spend with my family. The trappings of material pursuits disappear with time and age. What remains is the memories I have with the people I love.

What the heck? I must be getting old. Old and wise.

In any case, when they go back to Utah, their absence is loud and the silence in our home is powerful. I get back to my routine. Thank goodness for routines, eh?

So anyway, I still can't decide. I guess it's better to have them visit and deal with the quiet after they leave. I shouldn't be such a baby about it. I'm tough, after all. Right? Right?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

From My NEW NEW NEW Website

I finally got my website up. It's taken me my entire life, but I've finally arrived. Finally! Check it out. This is from the front page which will change from time to time:

For the past few months I’ve put the book revisions aside to work on some short stories. This isn’t to say that I’ve given up on the series, because I’m still in love with the ideas in it, but I’ve wanted to work on my character development, which means really getting inside their heads. I have strong feelings about women writing male characters and men writing female characters, but apparently not strong enough for me to shy away from writing male characters. Heh.

I won’t go into the reasons, but it mainly concerns the fact that I have a hard time conceptualizing the way men see the universe. However, I think it comes easier to a woman because women live in a man’s world. I’m not a vicious feminist, but I do believe that the male gaze influences how I see the world, meaning that I was raised in a world which sexualizes women, so (and yes, this is a total rationalization) I feel like women tend to understand how men see females BETTER than the other way around.

The caveat to that, the whole male gaze thing and women living in a man’s world, is that I think it’s changing. I’m not here to make men feel guilty or to vindicate the oppressed or anything, because I don’t know how to do that. And, in any case, I think we are all living under various oppressive institutions. I just want to write stories about ideas that interest me and make them entertaining. So read them and let me know what you think. You can find my contact information on my About page or you can read my blog and leave comments there. I love feedback.

What Part of Forever

I love it that his band is comprised entirely of women. He seems to have taken a cue from James Bond or something. The girls are even dressed like they're from a Bond movie straight out of the 70s. Anyway, love this song.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Phantom Legs and Blinking Pigs...

little dragon_blinking pigs from jin angdoo lee on Vimeo.

In case you didn't follow the link in the previous post.

Secret of Happiness

I've figured out the secret to happiness.

It's quite simple, really. The secret is to realize that life is rather miserable. So expect misery, but be happy through it all. Right? It's not that hard. All you do is understand that life isn't supposed to be a visit to Wonka's factory and you'll get along swimmingly.

I was thinking about it today. I have about a hundred bruises on my thighs from this new bed-frame I got on Saturday. The bed-frame looks great. I swear it improves the entire bed, which was really starting to give me back problems. I feel like an adult, having a bed-frame and real bedroom furniture instead of whatever college leftovers Stoker and I could throw together. That's nice. There's nothing like feeling like an adult (even if all any of us ever does is fake it).

Anyway, the footboard has some wicked corners and being a dolt, I've run into them about a million and two times. I'm always in a hurry. I'm always charging ahead and ramming my legs against things accidentally.

So I was noticing how abused my legs look. The bruises are bad and hurt, as bruises are wont to do. But still, this song I was listening to put me in a good mood. I was singing along, getting into the song, and it hit me: life is like that combo--seeing the bruises and pain but being in a good mood because of a song. Or whatever you have that can add a positive note to the sorrow.

Priceless. I'm giving you kernels of wisdom here. Go with them and let them set you free, my child.

I know it seems like I have all the answers. But actually, I have a degree in fakery. I forget all the lessons I've learned almost always. If I've been hurt often enough, I can learn. Like, for example, the lessons of the inexplicable cabinet in our kitchen.

We bought a fixer-upper that was built in 1940. I think the kitchen cabinets might be the original cabinets. I assume refrigerators must have consistently been five in a half feet at some point and that's why this floating cabinet just hangs there with nothing under it, waiting to crack you open as you clock your head against its vicious corner on your way into the dining room. It's right next to the doorway. I think I turned my head into something like a squishy peach five or six times before it became habitual to automatically compensate for the stupid thing (and now I have brain damage. So sad. But it was worth it! To learn such a valuable lesson....).

What I mean to illustrate is how difficult it is for humans to learn. Or at least me, the slowest learner, the latest bloomer ever to feign intelligence.

But it took five or six good concussions before I learned. So in the end I think I came out on top. Or perhaps that's the brain damage talking.

The point is, misery should have a soundtrack. Find yours. I've got mine and it puts a great spin on everything. It's not that bad! Things are fine! Listen to this Cee Lo Green song, this Jamie Lidell tune or my favorite right now, Little Dragon.