Sunday, January 27, 2008

Clinical Homophagocinemaphilia

Oh, yeah. I saw Cloverfield last weekend. And I liked it. I thought it was a lot of fun. It was a stylish, with good creature design, layered tension, interesting set pieces, and a informal tone that gave it a sense of urgency. I mean, it was stupid, but it was easy to relax into. It wasn't a Great Movie (tm), but who can dislike giant monsters stomping around New York?

Well, a lot of people, apparently. It was stupid, like much of pop culture. Some people didn't like the jerky filming, which I also understand. Some people didn't like the movie's vagueness. There are reasons to dislike Cloverfield.

NY Mag has written an article asking about the "meaning" of Cloverfield. This, I don't understand at all. Cloverfield is a spectacle. Which comes from the Latin "spectacticus," meaning "gonzo." NY Mag quotes two reviewers who believe that Cloverfield represents some kind of protest against NY yuppies and gentrification and/or young people in general.

Although the makers of Cloverfield might have an anti-Yuppy bias, Cloverfield doesn't scan as such. If the makers of Cloverfield had inserted "meaning" into Cloverfield, Cloverfield would have gone from 60 to 0 in nothing flat. It would have become a drastically overextended metaphor from go.

Cloverfield is simply a cool action flick. I don't think there was even a cigar in it.

The reviews from New York papers reflect the average New Yorker's tendency to feel themselves at the center of the universe, which has been magnified by the 9/11 tragedy. The NYT reviewer saw "tacky references" to 9/11 in Cloverfield. Having lived in NY during 9/11, I did not share that perception. If you are a primitive screwhead, you might think that the sympathetic resonance between the concept of explosions and the concept of New York make Cloverfield a meditation on something 9/11-like.

Cloverfield did give me strong flashbacks to the black-out a couple of years later, when I found myself crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot in the dark. Cause, you know, there's a scene in there just like that! But I got no 9/11 from Cloverfield at all.

Several reviews that I've seen have mentioned a penchant for New York to get destroyed in movies. Somebody mentioned Day after Tomorrow in a similar vein. I think this is just because New Yorkers love themselves soooo much they keep putting themselves in movies. By doing so, they've turned New York into a defacto reference point for movie goers. Everybody recognizes New York. Who would care if Kalamazoo got smushed? Maybe half a million people. Blowing up New York has become a feedback loop that apparently New Yorkers are sensitive to.

Can anybody tell me why movie reviewers are such cannibalistic, cold blooded bastards? Every single reviewer mentioned above bespoke joy at seeing people get eaten because of their race, interestingness, age, social class, being Odette Yustman, or earning power.

I just love seeing people getting eaten on film. All people: Red or Yellow, Black or White, it is precious in my sight when they get eaten by giant monsters. It's a strange condition. I call it homophagocinemaphilia, which sounds creepier than it really is. Fellow homophagocinemaphiliacs will probably get a kick out of Cloverfield too. Not so much if you don't like jerky camera work or Odette Yustman.


They sponser Monsterquest, a show on The History Channel about finding "real" monsters, with beer ads. Enough said.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Quantum Entanglement Visitation Theory

I just had one of those weird little experiences where someone you know from 20 years ago shows up on your doorstep. Today, one of the gentlemen from a company we are consulting with regards to the future of our web page turned out to be a guy I hung out with in college.

I hadn't seen him for 20 years, and I felt like I was 20 the whole time I was sitting in on the meeting. I kept wanting to call him by the name he used in college. Very strange. It was nice to see him and catch up.

Mulling it over afterwards, I was reminded that every year or two, it seemed like I would run into old cohorts and girlfriends one the subway in late winter streaks. Always kind of uncomfortable but, I don't know. I like seeing people I used to know.

Times like these are the only ones when I come close to being convinced there is a deeper order to the universe. They mostly convince me that if there is, no one really has a bead on what it is.

I will propose that the quantum particles given off by the brain during the formation of emotions actually become attached with those of people who cause or share emotions, sort of like entangled particles.

Further more, during certain times of the year, entangled individuals become much more likely to run into each other, like Dickensian ghosts.

This is the Quantum Entanglement Visitation Theory.

I bet the reason that it happens to me in late winter is that my personality ions are negatively polarized. During late winter, the earth is closest to the black holes at the center of the galaxy and exert more pull on negatively ionized personality particles, causing any entanglements to attract each other more forcefully. The general effect of this would probably be masked by a proliferation of non-quantum attractions, like "gravity" and "proximity." So that it's not likely that I will run into old friends or paramours from say, New York or Florida.

Worth it's weight in Craptanium-172.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Poppy is learning to tell jokes.

Ruby picked me up from work the other day. Poppy hollers from the back seat: "Daddy! If Martians come from Mars, and Saturnians come from Saturn, who comes from Pluto?"

"Gee, sweetie, I don't know?" I said, absently thinking: Plutonians?

"Mosquitos!" She shouts.

Now I'm confused.

"No, flies!"

Really confused.

"Fleas." Says Ruby.

"Fleas!" Shouts Poppy. "And, I mean Pluto the dog, not Pluto the planet."

Ah. I might have missed that connection.

So we've been hearing jokes from the books her Grandmother bought for Christmas.

Here's my favorite:

"Knock, Knock!"

"Who's there?"


"Gorilla who?"

"Gorilla me a cheeseburger, I'm hungry."

I feel like a nidiot because that joke makes me laugh. Maybe it's just her delivery.


There is such a thing as hardware being too smart. About three months ago, I noticed that my flash drive has a music file on it. This didn't surprise me. It has some other irritating AI stuff that it does, like automatically setting up impersonal documents files. I hate that.

But there's music in the music file, an odd selection of stuff from my collection that is sort of good and sort of bad, a weird combination of recently ripped stuff that I don't care about and stuff that I listen to frequently. I deleted all of it, because it wasn't well organized and it was taking up a lot of space.

It came back a couple of days later.

So, I've been fighting with my flash drive for months now, deleting this cache of music every time it gets put on my computer.

Yesterday I'm working with my music collection and see some kind of message that music is being transferred to another drive. I come to realize that Windows Media Player is automatically syncing my flash drive to my music collection. It just does it every time I plug my flash drive in.

How fucking obnoxious is that?

Took me ninety whole seconds to figure out how to shut that down.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hart and Boots - a review

Ruby passed along this short story collection, telling me that the author "wrote like me." Which he finds a great honor, I'm sure.

Of course, I had to see what an author who "writes like me," but gets published, is like.

The main difference, of course, is that he is good, and after this next line I will stop using this post as an excuse to talk about my own failures in life.

Tim Pratt, is... I think the technical term is hot shit. The short stories in this collection are written in a vein that I especially like, which is called, variously, the New Weird, Cross-Genre, or Urban Fantasy. This can mean a lot of things. The stories are all set in modern eras. The furthest from modern that he gets is the old west, which is still a long way from knights in shining armor and bards and unicorns. Which are good in their own place, but I've always liked this kind of thing better.

The characters all have a modern sensibility mixed with mythological elements. They are women struggling to get ahead in their profession (stage coach robbing), lesbians sharing apartments with mythological creatures, nebbishes falling in love and stumbling across hidden treasures, assassins looking for the lost soul of a wizard who hid it to become immortal (but after so long would like to die now, thank you very much).

Sometimes they mix technology with magic, or fantasy with other genres, like westerns, super heroes, or space opera.

And even when they talk about big subjects (finding god, becoming a god, killing unkillable monsters) they are always about why people would want to do those things to begin with.

None of the stories were bad. The ones I liked best were the most fabulous, with the most detailed fretwork, but the quieter ones were all strong, and more importantly, fun. None of the stories attempt to put you in your place by being maudlin. Even the most dour end with little jokes. They all have wonder and hope mixed in with the awe and terror.

Because there is so much to like, I can't pause to give you highlights in such a short review. I'll tell you about my two clear favorites, and hope they pique your interest enough to pick this up. Cup and Table is about super heroes looking for God, and has the most perfect closing line. I thought it tied the whole story up like a bow.

Impossible Dreams won a Hugo and you can find it on the other side of the link. It takes an old twilight zone story (film buff finds a video shop carrying movies from an alternate universe) and gives it such a sweet twist that it really becomes quite it's own thing.

This volume offers a lot more, though. It is compulsively readable, beautiful, companionable fiction about the kind of flawed reprobates I used to hang about with.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Artist - Brom

I haven't checked out Brom lately. Brom is not a revelation to most afficianados of fantasy art. Although described as merely gothic in his wikipedia article, Brom is my barometer for "atmospheric" and "dark" fantasy art. Starting with his work for RPGs, he has combined genre and fetish influances in ways that create something really fresh and specific, a kind of sub-genre of its own. Although his art is associated with other people's millieus, such as the Dark Sun campaign setting, the Forgotten Realms dark elves, and the Magic the Gathering game, I suspect he has been a major influence on 21st century New Weird and Steampunk genres and stylings. As I looked at his gallery today, I saw works new (to me) that warm the cockles of my New Weird, Genreblending heart. I particularly admire how he merges flesh and technology into something seamless. This gallery page has a more representative selection of his past work.

What I done good in 2007

I don’t do resolutions. Not for several years. Curiously enough, this year I seem to be running into other people who feel the same way in the bloggosphere. Largely due to my RSS feed.

I had just about decided to create a list of goals for 2008, inspired by our yearly routine at work, when I ran across this post from a personal finance blog that I peruse regularly.

I will probably still do so. But, not wanting to copy, I decided to create a list of what I done good in 2007.

1. I oversaw the reconstruction of the atrium of our library. I’ve done this kind of stuff before, having opened two branches of the New York Public Library to the public. This time, though, it felt really good. Largely because it made my current library look like a place that people can really use and be comfortable in, something that libraries aren’t often good at.

I did it, of course, under the aegis of my director and with much help from my staff and other staff members.

2. I wrote approximately 234 pages of my third (unpublished) novel. Originally, I was shooting for 800. But I had an epiphany a month ago that the book was just going to be too long at the pace I was going. I am hoping to finish a first draft by March, but we’ll see.

2A. Also wrote a couple of short stories. The problem comes when trying to rewrite them.

3. I kept up with my other blog, a magic item blog for the Dungeons and Dragons game. Even though I found out in August that it was going to be largely marginalia. Is that stick-to-it-ness, or idiot addiction to routine?

4. I started a regular exercise routine. Nearing forty, I’m finding it more and more necessary. I do calisthenics when I get up on time. I’m on our elliptical trainer at least 30 minutes every other day.

5. Went back to the New York environs to visit many people I hadn't seen for two years.

All right, Goals:

Read Frankenstein.

Huckleberry Finn.

Read anything about China.

Cook a couple of meals. Actual meals. I liked cooking.

Make one submission per month, working towards a goal of having three submissions in circulation if possible.

Write 3 pieces of flash fiction (added Jan 25th)

I'm also, as a side dish, going to try and make and upload a Youtube video.