Saturday, December 15, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
And then there's Yoda Claus.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
On-line cataloging tool and Web 2.0 darling Library Thing recently started an Early Reviewers program, playing match-maker between publishers looking for reader reviews and book-worms looking for another fix. My friendly neighborhood mail-carrier delivered a hastily-packaged paperback to my home, which I dutifully reviewed.
The title in question is Hunting Gideon, a Mormon (self-declared) cyberpunk adventure. The publisher describes itself as releasing "provocative, unconventional, yet ultimately faith-affirming stories that yield new insights into Mormon culture and humanity". Upon reading the back cover of this book, several alert lights went off in my head, including the ones marked "Crazy Christians" and "Bad Literature".
I decided to give it a go regardless. They did send it to me gratis, after all, and a gentleman must try to live up to his end of a bargain.
The book turned out to be pretty bland, but that's not today's topic. I want to know why those alert lights went off. Why did I assume that something written with the stated goal of lionizing a particular faith would be bad? Why do we make a distinction between propagandist art and "real" art?
When's the last time you listened to a Christian rock album? Did you try that Left Behind video game? I didn't. I'm normally the first to netflix a movie about airplanes, but when I heard Behind Enemy Lines was financed by the military, I lost all interest.
And yet our classics were in large part created as proselytism if not flagrant evangelism. We consider Michelangelo an artist, not a Christian painter. Beethoven dedicated Eroica to Napoleon, and we don't call it genre music. Shakespeare's histories? At what point did we stop accepting propaganda as art?
Certainly examples exist of modern voices sneaking past our anti-establishment filters and attaining some note (Jars of Clay and Creed did well, as I remember) and pre-modern artists touting a more humanist viewpoint, but the concept of the truest art as being strictly artist-centered and institution-hating stands. At our cocktail parties and in our book reviews, around the pub table and on our blogs, any artist aligned with a mainstream political or religious group is considered inherently lesser than the more bohemian.
This prejudice in and of itself creates a type of propaganda in modern works, inculcating a belief that the only valid subject matter is the individual's experience and emotion and culling any pieces which may say otherwise out of the body of respected art and literature.
The trouble is, Christian rock actually isn't as good. The literati are right -- propagandist works in the modern age normally can't compete with the rest. But who knows? Maybe they're out there, excellent art, literature, and music which we just ignore because the artist is a Such-and-such and makes only Such-and-such stuff.
Whether or not a strictly humanist mindset actually makes a person a better artist could certainly be debated, but for now let's just say that we should not automatically assume that works made with an organization's ideals in mind are inferior by definition; we should at least give them a chance to prove it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Yet, as if response, today I received nano's weekly pep-talk email. This latest iteration was penned by Neil Gaiman. There are notably few people out there of whom I would describe myself as a "fan", and spooky Neil hovers near the top of that list.
Oh Neil. Why couldn't you just let me be? Let me accept and even enjoy missing the goal? Why must you infuse me with pep?
Friday, November 16, 2007
Unless I have some elves-and-shoemaker-style experience, it doesn't look like I'm going to reach 50,000 words this November. Trouble is, I actually like the story too much to just punch through it.
I'm trying something new this time. I don't have any clear ideas about exactly where the narrative is headed. Last time, I had the plot all outlined like a good do-bee, and ended up with pale characters hung from a thin string of events. I'm spending much more time on character stuff this time around, so here's hoping.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Apparently 7:40 PM on a Sunday is no time to be walking through one of Buffalo's best-lit, most well-appointed and most frequently traveled areas. Good to know.
So, Greg gets robbed. Jess sees skeevy dude of the day. There's some hoodie-sweatshirted sexual offender running around Chapin. My brother gets robbed. Greg finds one of his windows has been tampered with. Dave gets robbed.
I've been banging the "live in the city, it's awesome" drum for a long time. Now my neighborhood has apparently become a hot-bed of violent crime and burglary. I must confess to feeling more than a little frustrated. Much of the reason I have spent so much of my life behind a desk is to be able to afford a place in a safe neighborhood. This time seems to have been wasted.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I know this seems like the sort of thing that should tug at a young man's heartstrings, but it really wasn't any big deal. Me: "Hey, this watch still works". Grandma: "You want it?". No symbolic passing-down gestures, no wistful tales of how he wore that watch through the Korean War and countless several-alarm fires in the hamlets surrounding Burlington. None of that.
My co-workers notice the smallest changes in my wardrobe (a statement of A- how desperate these kind souls are to find something to talk with me about and B- how rarely I shop for clothes), and I am concerned someone will notice the watch. "It was my grandfather's" is sure to give the impression that I have ponderous and beautiful feelings regarding this watch, and when it turns out I don't have them, the legend of my jerkitude will simply expand to include this new anecdote.
Yet, every time I wind it and hear its ticking, I think about my grandfather listening to the exact same thing.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
One of the bonuses of having internet access while on vacation is the ability to update your Librarything account with your latest purchases.
It's true, though. It's like a travel diary. "Ah, yes. Durham, North Carolina. I bought that Verne collection there."
Speaking of travelogues, Penguin's Great Journeys series caught my eye, but mainly because the covers are cool.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I've become something of an oddball at work. An insistence on aligning my pens with each other. An incapacity to endure a buzzing sound. Pulling up socks in the middle of conversations.
These sorts of things combined with my insistent reserve make for an eccentric fellow about whom no one knows anything. The quirks replace character and personality, indeed become them in the eyes of many.
I have to confess, it's kinda fun.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Just got back from New Orleans, and while there found myself growing awfully naval. On a self-made bookstore tour of the French Quarter, I picked up the dramatically-named and hideously-covered Men, Ships, and the Sea for some steamjournally research. Also bought a few old prints of (what else?) Boston Harbor circa 1800.
After a few days I even began to look like a seaman. My skin burned, my stubble grew. I wore my shirt far more open than is my normal Northeastern habit, and pale drawstring shorts which may just as well have been made of sailcloth. I even went barefoot at times, heels scraping on the sun-bleached deck.
This is all well and good, as International Talk Like a Pirate Day grows large on the horizon, large as a great Spanish brigantine heavy with booty and ripe for the takin', me hearties.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tongue-in-cheek sarcastic humor? Check.
Disdain for some or all establishments and authorities? Check.
Penchant for short rants? Check.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Yesterday, driving back from the heinous suburbs, I passed a new game store on Delaware a block up from Kenmore. Oogie Games, LLC -- or at least that's what the tarpaulin/sign says. I can only assume the owner read the article and decided to jump on the wagon before it gets too crowded in Buffalo's Akihabara.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
My feelings, like a prep school dance, are mixed. The HC are truly meant for poser intellectuals, which of course I am, but regardless I love them. I could be pressed to say I lurv them, if provided enough alcohol.
Today's fifteen minutes consisted of half a chapter of the Confessions of St. Augustine. zzzz. Here's hoping Two Years Before the Mast grabs the attention a tad more. I will, as always, keep you posted.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Why does Luke get to be the super-Jedi? Why does chosenness have to pass from father to son? The message "if you ain't born with it, you can't get it" just doesn't fly with me.
Trouble is, it's so easy. You build a world with supernatural qualities, and why does your main character get to be the one to use them? Because of his parents, that's why. So, for some time now I have tried to write stories where a non-superhuman obtains superhuman powers through practice and tenacity, in which anyone can be a wizard, not just people from the right gene pool.
Then I come across this article by super-genius Jane Espenson, in which she explain how to sell sci-fi.
And if that wasn't enough...
It's a very specific type of Hero's Journey, the most potent sub-case. It's told over and over again, and it works, over and over again. Dorothy Gale, Buffy Summers, Harry Potter, Charlie Bucket, Luke Skywalker, even Peter Parker, they all fit a very specific pattern. They're living a life, sometimes a fine one, often a troubled one, but certainly one governed by ordinary rules, when suddenly the curtain is pulled back and a whole new world, or a new set of rules of this world, is revealed. And what's more - and this is the important part - in that new world, they are something special. They are The Chosen One.
So here's what I think we need to do if we want to write a sci-fi or a fantasy show and give it appeal way beyond the normal boundaries of sci-fi/fantasy fandom. We need to start with an empty page of notebook paper, write "The Chosen One" across the top and start brainstorming. At least, that's what I plan to do.Damn it, Jane! So, I need to do the precise and stated opposite of what I have been?
Thing is, I don't agree. Starbuck being Miss Prophesy is lame. In Heroes, all of the characters' parents know each other and have been manipulating them the entire time -- also lame. As soon as a show starts down the "it is your destiny" path, I lose interest. The predictability destroys the enjoyment; no matter how much a Chosen character rails against their certain fate, they always succumb* because superpowers are bad-assed. "Just be yourself" is a lot easier when your self can fly.
So, Jane, you know I love you, but on this we disagree. Give me Wedge and Xander over another mewling "why must my life be so hard, what with all of my awesome powers and all" puss. I'm sure to be Chosen is to live alone and there's some sort of proportional relationship between great power and great responsibility, but a person who chooses himself would be a welcome change.
(With the exception of Luke. It was his destiny to kill Vader. It was his destiny to join Vader. He did neither.)
Saturday, August 11, 2007
"A representation of your recent artistic work within the last 5 years."
This represents a large corpus of work for, let's say, Jess, but for me? Let's see...
- Several drafts of the Magnum Space Opus, the most recent of which being written mainly in a single month.
- A play written under similar restraints.
- One piece of flash fiction, sent to Artvoice and rejected.
- One sci-fi short story, sent to a few magazines and rejected.
- A version of Jorinda and Joringel.
- Another short story submitted to a contest. No prize awarded.
- Another few remarkably horrible short stories.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Should it be "Sofas etc....", with a period for the et cetera abbreviation followed by an ellipsis?
Perhaps "Sofas etc.....", with the above and then the period which ends the phrase?
I'll ask my buddies Strunk and White, but I doubt they would deign to discuss it.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Here's a link from lifehacker with some booky ideas.
I went in to Borders this weekend on the hunt for an edda. I forgot it was Harry Potter Day. Yosh.
Tagged most of my books in Library Thing yesterday. Apparently my tastes in books have not changed since I was twelve, a discovery I find neither surprising nor displeasing.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Speaking of pictures, I was part of another great wedding this weekend. I'm always a little nervous about the pictures, though. Every time, I end up looking like I would rather be anywhere else than with the happy couple. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong -- I smile and think happy thoughts, but it doesn't seem to work. Quite embarrassing, really.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Any library gives me a feeling of coming home, of course. The decor in my apartment is a testament to that. The Buffalo library, while awesome, did manage to piss me off. There's a "Mark Twain Room" in there, outside of which is a recently posted sign reading "Iconic Mark Twain". Grr....
My hatred of the "i" word knows no bounds.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
As this is my first salvo into comedy, I have found myself in an new situation: asking myself "is this funny?". The answer is usually "if somebody funny said it...". A new vertex is added to the normal author-piece-audience triangle, that being the actor. Weird.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I read a sample chapter of Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean. Wow. Now that's just bad. Here's a taste:
The Magnum Space Opus doesn't seem so awful now, does it?
The storm seemed to come out of nowhere. It came at Grace and Connor just when they were at their most vulnerable, out beyond the harbour in the open ocean.
It didn’t give them a chance.
The sky changed colour so fast, it was as if someone had ripped away a sheet of blue wallpaper to reveal a gaping black hole.
Also watched Pi. I have four things to say. Awesome, awesome, and also awesome. The fourth is as follows: shame on you Wachowski brothers. I knew The Matrix was stolen, but I didn't realize it was that stolen. The blinking command-line prompt? Scrolling numbers? Multiple monitors and loads of hanging cables? A man standing in complete whiteness? Sentient computers? A Massive Attack song? A subway showdown scene? Shame.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
I picked up a copy of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in Milwaukee this weekend. Awesome. I first heard of the book in an intro Neil Gaiman wrote for one of the trade paperbacks of his Sandman series, and it has been a staple of Alex's Fantasy Library ever since.
While in WI, the friend I visited shared that one of her life's goals is to read all of the books in her home. Yosh.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
First #4: 2nd Intermission Geekiness
Greg and I attended that game against the Leafs where the local boys came back like fifty goals in the last seven picoseconds of play. T'was awesome.
In between the second and third periods, we opted to risk ejection for wanton nerdosity and catch a little DS. One of the young bucks sitting next to us craned his neck over, presumably to drunkenly taunt us. "So, you two are connected wirelessly, right?" he asked.
The tradition has stuck, in a fashion reminiscent of that Gradius game that would play on the Jumbotron at the second intermission in Blades Of Steel.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Ok, so it's not really lucky. The Sabres don't seem to care what hat I'm wearing, if any. It is, though, the first time I have worn any apparel with the new logo, and also my first New Era cap. We all must support New Era; before long they will be the only employer in the area. Best to get in good with our future haberdasher overlords.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
First #2: Update Boy
Dr. Fishman has been a fan of Sabres hockey nearly as long as there has been such a thing. It's s shame, since he has not watched the Sabres win in years. Now living in Columbus, the man is, one supposes, bad luck. His own father has disallowed him from entering New York state when a game is on.
My role has been to text message the Fish with updates. Prior to this, I might have sent three texts lifetime. See? Watching sports teaches you new skills.
This year's hockey playoffs have brought vast change to the B A Start household. Check back for updates.
First #1: The Playoff Beard
Whether this good-luck tradition is localized to Buffalo fans or not, I cannot tell. Either way, the bulk of my small-conversation recently has been related to whether or not it itches, if Jess likes it, and general maintenance issues.
My co-workers have been talking with me much more often of late. Apparently flying the "I like the local professional hockey club" flag has given them a toehold, opened a small door into the mysterious personal life of the man they call 'Alex'. Heretofore, I was a sphinx, inscrutable and unmoving. The appearance of facial hair has revealed to the world that a human heart may yet beat beneath the Great Stone Face.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Monday, May 07, 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I'm a Marvel. And I'm a DC.
*The Keeblers. That stand of trees they work in must be closer to a decent city than the North Pole, regardless of what kind of in-house facilities St. Nick provides. Also, Santa's work may be seasonal, and the annual layoff would be a bitch.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Sabretooth from the Xmen movie.
Clearly the same person. This begs the natural question, which members of the Xmen would make good men's hockey players, assuming a 'limited powers' rule?
Iceman, naturally. Very at home in the environment.
Magneto. Skates are metal.
Longshot. A lucky carom here and there would be helpful.
Gambit. Lots of practice with small flying objects.
Beast in goal.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
"I'm finding that I get sick a lot when I eat."
"That means the baby will have a lot of hair."
I've learned far more than I should about the birthing of babies from the apparent safety of my desk. Apparently water does not only break, but it can also be broken by a licensed physician -- an act I dasn't imagine. If you yawn, the umbilical cord will strangle the half-formed progeny. The mother's nose changes shape during pregnancy, but snaps back to normal at an undisclosed later point. Also, men simply do not get it, and they should try lugging around all that extra weight and having a hungry little person inside them for nine months before they complain about anything. All valuable lessons.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Molyneux says he and his crew at Lionhead Studios (now part of Microsoft) take a similar approach to creating games. “Does a painter decide to make art or paint a picture? Does a composer decide to compose a piece of music or make art? Does a film maker want to make a film or art? I think they're more concerned with evoking emotions and creating something meaningful and enduring.
“I set out, especially today, to instill emotions in the people who interact with my games, which are broader and more visual than they have been before,” he explains. “I want players to feel a range of emotions, not just excitement—that is my ambition. If on this basis some critics describe this as artistic, then I will feel like I have succeeded.”
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Sham-rock Solid Savings!
We have found it -- after years of diligent work, American society has hit upon the platonic ideal of lame marketing.
#1 - Shamrock needs no hyphen. It's a word.
#2 - That being stated, "shamrock solid" makes no sense, but "sham rock solid" implies falseness. This is the point in the brainstorming session where I would have recommended scrapping the idea. I feel for the poor Cassandra who presumably did so in my absence.
#3 - "Rock-solid savings" also makes little sense.
"How were the savings at the store?"
"Oh they were solid. Rock-solid, I say without hyperbole."
"Dear me, that is solid. Rather solid. Perhaps I should go to the store. As the savings are not fluid, I assume I will have a similar experience to yours."
"I should say so. Quite solid, really."
All in all, just shameful.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Writing fiction set in a past time is presenting some challenges, but I'm finding the limitations to lend a little inspiration now and then. Instead of having to make up all of the "in a world where..." stuff, I can just look it up on Wikipedia. Noice.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
The show possesses so many of the qualities I dislike. It's cheesy and trite. It mimics X-men more than a little too much. It reinforces racial stereotypes, including that white guys are evil. There are too many plots. They clearly have no idea how it is going to end. They keep getting rid of the characters I like.
I mean, I could go the rest of my life without seeing another episode and still feel I have lived fully, but there is simply no chance of that happening. I will watch them all, the TV's blue light reflecting off of my grinning teeth.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
In other word news, I'm tired of the word 'iconic'. Ever since Superman Returns, I keep seeing it around the web. Stop it, people. We know you saw the movie.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I spent the bulk of Saturday doing Mr. Fix-it stuff. That's how bad it's getting in here. So, do me a favor and pour some libations to the sun gods before this turns ugly.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Date: Two Wednesdays ago.
Alex's clothing: blue shirt, blue blazer, blue-and-orange striped tie, tan slacks.
Comment: You look like you went to Yale.
Date: Last Wednesday.
Alex's clothing: red tie, white shirt, yellow sweater, tan slacks.
Comment: This week Alex wore his red tie so we would know he went to Harvard.
While these comments were certainly meant as compliments, I would like to set the record straight. I did not go to an ivy league college. I did not go to prep school, or even regular old private school. Neither did my parents. I don't have a trust fund, and have never 'summered' anywhere. I'm just not that guy.
I do get it a lot, though. I think it's a combination of the non-Lucy-Arnaz accent, my coming to this land from the exotic East, the British last name, the English major, and the whole good-fences-good-neighbors thing. To the casual observer, I certainly could be that guy, but come on. I get my ties at Target, for sake o' pete.
Monday, February 05, 2007
I made the first cut, but it's been a few weeks since the second deadline, so it should be safe to say I'm not the guy.
The experience does beg a veritable horn-o'-plenty of questions, though. Are there other similar jobs out there? Is the time worth the supplemental income? Would it give me any writer cred?
Would it be fun?
As with all things writery, I'd love to try it. Okay, maybe not all things writery. I don't think I could bring myself to go to anything called a "blank jam" where blank is a style, genre, or type of writing. I draw the line at jams. Other than that, though.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Why not live life by experience points?
From their dice-and-paper roots to the modern user-generated worlds, role-playing games have always had to deal with the question of how a character develops. This is normally handled through experience points (XP). Kill a were-turtle, get 5 XP. Accrue 500 XP and you gain a level. Et cetera.
While certainly an attempt to recreate in some way a person's actual skill advancement in real life, it would seem that XP would work in the actual world similarly to the way it does in the digital. For example. Let's take a skill you want to develop, say running. Set a series of levels in front of you, and choose XP amounts for given tasks:
Go for a 1 mile run, get 1 XP. Go for a 3 mile run, get 4 XP. Run in a charity event, 15 XP. Finish within 1 minute of the leader in a competitive run, 200 XP. Run a marathon, 10,000 XP.
Level 1: 30 XP. Level 2: 500 XP. Level 3: 3500 XP. Level 4: 5000 XP. Etc.
So, you could get to high levels just by running a mile at a time, but getting there would take forever. Doing bigger things yields bigger numbers, and thus faster level-ups.
Here's a wrinkle: in games, a higher level means better stats. A level 2 character is stronger than a level 1, and that means an easier time killing beasties. Aside from the fact that you would actually improve, how would this work in real life? I say you'd have to have your friends involved, and the bragging rights would do it. Either that or have specific level tasks, e.g. you can't get to level 4 until you run the Turkey Trot, no matter how many XP you've got.
This could work for all kinds of things.
- Career -- go to a seminar, 10XP. Get the corner office, 5000XP.
- Arts -- participate in Nanowrimo, 150XP. Get published in a magazine, 500XP.
- Education -- go to a class, 1XP. Get a PhD, 10,000XP.
- Fandom -- read the Lord of the Rings again, 5XP. Go to Marquette and lie about doing a research project to get the Special Collections guy to bring out the secret not-for-display Tolkien stuff, 10,000XP.
- Connoisseur -- try a new beer, 5XP. Go to a wine tour in another state, 1,000XP.
- Family affairs -- email your mother, 2XP. Don't yell at Shannon on Xmas, 50,000XP.
If you're willing to spend hours of your life pretending to be a druid and running around killing lizards until you can get that robe you want, why not take that rewards system and move it to real life? I'll DM.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Neuromancer was published in 1984. For comparison, AOL for DOS came out in 1991. Netscape Navigator, 1994.
The term 'cyberspace' was coined here. It's the start of the cyberpunk genre, and from what I can tell also the start of modern life. Perhaps not the best book to be reading while adding to and revising my own scifi opus, what with the inherent comparison between this giant of the genre and my paltry puppet-show, but hey.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
DAVID BECKHAM IS COMING TO AMERICA.
To play SOCCER.
In other news, David Beckham is coming to America. To play soccer. Professionally.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Friday, January 05, 2007
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Monday, January 01, 2007
Not to belabor the writing thing, but I am embarking once again on a month of productivity. Like a twenty-five-year-old, I'm starting to flesh out. I'm shooting for an additional 30,000 words by month's end.
Joining me on this journey is the ineffable Greg, prompting us to name January Agnowrimo, for "Alex's and Greg's Novel Writing Month". Why not "Greg's and Alex's", you ask? Ganowrimo, pronounced after the fashion of a third-grade bully.