I'm kindof a punker. Go figure. Who would've guessed, eh? Actually, in high skrewel, I think I was more of a loner type, or just a generic dork. I started acting more punkish toward the end of it, but I was more of a goth/industrial type: dressed dark, kept my mouth shut.
I was once asked to stereotype myself shortly after I graduated, and I said "Goth poser". As in, I think it's fun to dress up like a vampire sometimes, but I don't actually think that I am one.
I've changed a bit since then. I don't know what my answer to that question would be now...It is currently in determination. Here's my options: Corporate whore, Weekend rocker, or total white trash. We'll see where that goes; each has their benefits and pitfalls.
Scientific stereotyping: I forget exactly what my four-letter personality type
is suppossed to be. I've also figured it out on more than one occasion. The latest one was through a book about doing what you're suppossed to be, which went something like this:
I answered a bunch of questions, and basically said I'm more of a loner type, that likes working with computers and logic problems. I get off on taking a complex problem, breaking it down, and solving it. I have very little patience for personal issues. I'm a very hard worker when I'm involved, but kindof a slacker when I'm not.
So this test, which I'm sure took gazillions of dollars to develop, told me: "You're more of a loner type, that likes working with computers and logic problems. You get off on taking a complex problem, breaking it down, and solving it. You have very little patience for personal issues. You're a hard worker when involved, but kindof a slacker when you're not. You should look for a job that fulfills these natural predelictions."
Well, thanks for that. An hour of my life I'll never get back.
Another post that reminded me of the same story: I'm sure the incredibly misnamed "Career counselors
" are a total fucking waste of time. You would expect them to help you get a job, but they seem more interested in finding which type of job you should have. Problem is, if you go to them to help you get a job when you actually know what you want, they're useless.
I actually went to one at my school, but I went in knowing what I wanted. He gave me a few helpful tips, but nothing I wouldn't have done on my own and a few that I ignored as stupid. Again, he seemed more geared toward counseling, helping young heads full of mush figure out what to make of themselves, discovering what their Personality type is; than actually, you know, starting someone's career. Like I said: misnamed. They should be called "I'm fucking stupid and perhaps clinically retarded and don't know what the fuck to do with myself-counselors". That would be an accurate description. "Career counselor" implies that they will counsel you on your career, which is the total opposite of what they do.
credit where credit is due
First: Oh, so you what, sit on your ass and keyboard all day
? And you get paid for this?!?
Kidding, kidding, I wouldn't want this job either:
But do you have any idea how boring it is to transcribe a list of every conceivable risk associated with carpal tunnel surgery?
Christ, take me now.
Also, I've linked pages found via Ilyka a few times here, occasionally without credit. Because I'm lazy. And I know she's missing those one, maybe two hits. I know it's ignorant, especially to someone who has been very good to me. But, like I said, I'm lazy, and "Rude" follows "Lazy".
Really, I don't want to link her in every post, because then I just look like a follower, or perhaps a stalker. Only one of which is a cool thing to be. I make a point of keeping her webpage open on my browser, so she dosen't get like ten hits a day all from me. Sometimes, I sit outside her house and...well, you don't really need to know about that.
Here's something that's weird: she posted some text from something I wrote, and I didn't even recognize it as my own writing. I read through the post on her page, then went to see the text of the post she linked thinking "I think I wrote about this too", and it linked right back to my own blog. On which she had left a comment, days ago. Guess I should check those more often.
Anywho, many thanks to the authoress who calls herself Ilyka Damen for all the times she's linked me or I've linked her and I've been too much of a prick to acknowledge it.
I know this linking stuff is important, it's votes in the popularity contest that is the blogosphere. But I read Ilyka, generally daily, because she is really one of my favorite writers out there; not only does her head seem to work alot like mine, she's better at putting it into electrons.
So if you visit this blog, then visit Ilyka
as well, and save me the trouble of linking her, already.
Okay, I'm on the topic of fiction. What I really want to write is a fictionalized version of a soldier's time in Iraq. Ideally, it wouldn't really be a story so much as a series of snapshots. If anyone has read Tim O'Brien's "The The Things They Carried", then you know what I mean. It wouldn't be strictly factually accurate, but mostly. And it wouldn't be a narrative so much as a series of scenes; jumping from critical moment to critical moment.
Start probably in mobilization, or maybe even in basic training. Then follow one soldier, jumping through the lengthy periods of nothingness to the key points, or key days, maybe a dozen out of a yearlong deployment.
There's several things that make it complicated: keeping the pace up, of course. Communicating the boredom that comes in the skipped weeks or months without actually describing them. And most importantly, making the reader feel the story, put him in the experience. Combat, conflict, service, the lifestyle; not only the big points, but the minor details. Especially the minor details, in fact. The minor stuff is what makes it so real both in my memory, and in a story. Getting across the small victories and defeats of life in a combat zone (or, really, life anywhere, but it's amplified in such a situation) is what seperates a hack from the great.
Unfortunatly, this project is probably beyond both my attention span and my writing talent. I am a moderately talented author, but I don't have the time or the talent for something like that. People have done it: Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tim O'Brien come to mind. Their books communicate not only the things that you would expect, but the stupid shit that is so very real.
Anyway, I liked the title. If I ever do get around to putting some of my war-stories to paper, the title will come from Mark Antony's speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Cry Havok...And let slip the Dogs of War". "Cry Havok". That single line, even taken out of context, is so evocotive; it brings to mind not only a literal image, but an emotional one.
That is exactly what I want to write: A book full of literal imagery, but also full of fury; a story that communicates not only the mundane aspects of life in the desert, such as, say, incoming mortar fire; but also the chaos, confusion, and havok of it:
The first blast was drowned out by Evanescence and Madden Football, playing on the bunk next to me.
The second took off the end of our building; spraying through the thin warehouse walls we were bunked in. A piece of it hit Jennet, three bunks down.
I had no idea what was actually going. We set up tents inside the warehouse, to create the illusion of a living space; I couldn't see the shredded metal or fire at the far end of the warehouse. The second blast shook me out of my Clancy novel. I marked my place, grabbed my helmet and rifle, heading to the tent door as a matter of habit.
"Not a-fucking-gain." That was Ritenour, who bitched every time we took fire. Outside the tent, the walk we usually took to the bunker was on fire. Fuck.
The truck. The HMMWV was safe. I headed to the close end of the warehouse.
Well, see, that's not really it either. The idea is that it moves fast, but still creates an emotional impact, hopefully even moreso because of the blunt, swift syle. I'm not really doing either here; too much explaining, too impersonal.
But damn, do I like the idea. I like the book. Now I just have to hope I can pull it off.
more fiction I'll never write
Dark tales is accepting submissions for horror stories
. I ran across this link, and immediatly stopped surfing the web and tried to start writing.
Nothing. Eh. Writing on demand apparently isn't my thing. Still, I'm hoping to come up with something before the deadline, and I wanted to share it with all you aspiring crappy-fiction authors in the blogosphere.
"Blogburst" That's a new one by me.
Anywho, Judith at Kesher Talk is issuing one.
Read her post, I don't pretend to know enough about the topic at hand to be able to explain it fully.
Actually, pretty much everything I know about the destruction of the first two Jewish Temples and the creation of the third comes form Joel Rosenberg's action novel "The Last Days"
. I think the author is Jewish, but being as it is a Clancy-style political thriller, it isn't exactly an authoritative source. (Actually, if there is anyone out there who has read the book and actualy knows what they're talking about, put me in some information here.)
My complete and total ignorance has never stopped me from writing about a subject before, though. I have to do at least some research, but this is an area that would be greatly served through further examination in the general public, fictional and nonfictional, from Believers and Non-Believers. I would like to write a piece of short fiction around the event, if I have an opportunity, and alot of the other more talented writers around the blogosphere should at least look into it. It is both filled with potential material and a current, relevant event, making it ripe material for fictional examinations from several points of view.
in answer to the question,
I'd hit it.
officially one of the cool kids
Another thing I should've mentioned long ago: I have officially been welcomed onto the Conservative Punk links page. I, like a dork, sent an email asking if they'd link me, first and hopefully last time I do that, and they were kind enough to add me.
Actually, the dude that emailed me was very cool about it. One of these days I'm going to send him a thank-you email, but I'm as bad at emailing as I am at blogging. Or worse, even, which is kindof a scary thought.
If you're a regular reader to this page, you will have noticed the link to them off to the right. I've also mentioned them several times; my little Johnny Ramone tribute comes to mind. There's other times, but I dont't remember when; I think the first time I linked them was when Graves called into Sean Hannity's show. Hannity kindof cut him off, I thought, but that's what he does, and the name caught me. Since then, they've been one of my favorite websites.
I think I've explained why I like this page so much; and why I like the movement even more than the webpage; I'm too tired to do it again. But check it out
, especially if you're a Bush voter that thinks that Sean Hannity is kindof a douche-bag, or one of those few Republicans that listens to the Sex Pistols but can see the point of thinking differently than your favorte band.
a striking resemblance
Smaller beak, add a crest, but the exact same noise:
The real life version, who is currently pooping on my desk, was trying to carry on a conversation with him.
I guess the pooping is maybe a comment on the duck's conversational style.
kids these days
stolen from Ace, this bit of prose just won an award from a group of alleged educators in Australia called the "Multicultural Educational Services" :
I waken to the sounds of bombs. Women and children crying. Rubble. That is all there is to see.
Baghdad: once filled with beds of flowers and happy smiling faces. Now destroyed homes: destroyed families -- no peace, no hope ...
I miss my ma and papa so much. Images of their mangled bodies lying in pools of blood will never leave my mind ...
The back door opens. Two American soldiers. The enemy. The destroyers, who say they are here to save us. I hate the Americans ...
"Get them to the camp," the gruff one orders ...
A prisoner of war with nothing to live for except maybe to uphold the memories of my beloved Allah, my parents and my country.
To truly show the world what it means to be Muslim, I reach under my salwaar kameez and release the catch of dynamite strapped to my chest. Two minutes. Silence. THEN!!!!!
This kid needs treatment, not an award. Nevermind the bizarro fantasy of Baghdad before and after; fantasy is what kids do. But I thought we were suppossed to be keeping track of kids with violent tendancies and giving them the help they need, not rewarding murderous role-play.
People keep bitching about Grand Theft Auto, or whatever the violent video game du jour is, but acting out your violent fantasies on your own is considerably more likely to lead to actual violence.
If a kid wrote a passage of skinhead literature, he'd be sent to the shrink, possibly kicked out of school, and his parents would be getting a call from social services. Same goes for any social outcast that gave the slightest indication of violent fantasies, much less actually turning in a paper full of them. A kid who wrote a paper role-playing as a soldier in the desert blowing away every muslim in his path certainly wouldn't be given an award. The passage "I hate the Iraqi People" wouldn't be allowed to stand.
And rightly so: violence and murder fantasies are not tolerable subjects for school papers. That goes for all situations; "I hate muslims" and "I hate American Soldiers" are equally unnacceptable; either one should be punished or, at the very least, questioned closely. Certainly neither should be rewarded, and any educator who smiles on that kind of writing shouldn't be allowed anywhere near any children.
this is what we mean when we say "far left"
I haven't looked around the webpage that much, but I don't think this is a parody. It seems like this guy is for real
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- (OfficialWire) -- 07/05/05 -- America, for some reason perhaps only known to its own people, if at all, possesses an unhealthy fascination with aggression, violence and destruction. Not merely limited to television programs, attacks against defenseless sovereign nations and the torturing of innocent prisoners, Americans yesterday unleashed their hostility on a comet—Tempel 1—which the nation of soccer-moms and menacing war-leaders has had ‘their eye’ on since 1867.
If it's a parody, it's a good one. If not, and it dosen't seem like it is, this guy and most of the folks that write there should seek professional help, the sooner the better.
Link curtosey of that Great American, Liberal Larry
suggestions for a temproary bachelor
My girlfriend, who is also my roomate (read: unofficial wife) just left on vacation for over a week with her family. She will be alternately miserable and relaxed: trapped in a house with her entire extended family, but hanging out on a beach with absolutely no work or other real-life responsibilities. It isn't exactly idyllic, but it is, at least, a vacation.
I, on the other hand, can't go. For the next week, it's just me and the pet bird, keeping each other company.
So, what are some ideas for activities for a sudden, temproary bachelor?
When the cat's away, the mice will play, right? Well, I would really like to work some playtime and relaxation into my looser schedule, but I still have a full time work schedule to keep up with, and a killer school schedule. I'm hoping I can get caught up on some latent schoolwork over the next week, actually.
Other than that, my plans basically involve alot of drinking. That's about it. I may spend one night at a bar alone, looking like the lonely dork in the corner. That won't last long. I'm actually considering buying a new video game, just to occupy time. Hang out with my dad, maybe visit my brother.
But other than that, I've got nothing. So what's a guy supposed to do, when faced with a week of empty hours, but not enough of them to add up to real time? Time consuming and interesting suggestions are welcome in the space below.
Apparently, I'm not the only one noticing a lack of reaction to the attacks in London: Steve
Personally, I refuse to belive we are that completely insular. I think it has more to do with a lack of anything to say. Post a link, note the tragedy, then...what else? What else can be said, or done?
For example, Ilyka
put together a new banner and one short post. Sadie
put up a post noting some early thoughts. Some traced
developments through the day. But the common theme here isn't anger or outrage, it's appaled reaction with sympathy for those lost. It's a day of mourning and introspection.
The outrage will come. After we accept it and the body count is finalized, the horror will become reality and outrage will follow. But I have to disagree with Steve's idea that we've become so numbed to Islamic terrorism that we are immune to it; I think it's the opposite. Today the world was again shocked by the brutality of one human to another, and was too busy reacting to be pissed off.
But I don't doubt that the pissed off is coming.
maybe I'm just immune because I'm such a news dork, but I keep hearing how surprising it is how little coverage the London Bombing is getting outside of news-dork circles. Certainly the largest terrorist attack since Madrid, possibly the largest since 9/11, but apparently unless you're listening to talk radio nobody's heard much about it.
Well, first off, my heart goes out to the people in London and the people of England. The meshed flag above comes from Are You Conservative?
; it's a nice touch and potentially a signifigant sigil.Ace has been doing a bang-up job keeping up with response from political leaders and pundits
. As usual; I can't praise enough the strength and resolve that comes from those who choose to show it. And I couldn't be more disgusted by people that want to minimize or trivialize what happened here in the name of a political agenda.
This war is not between the US vs. whatever, but rather Western freedom and, by extention, decadance; vs. religious zealotism. It isn't US opression vs. freedom fighters, it is the right to live life how you choose vs. living life how someone else chooses. In that sense, an attack on Britain, or on Spain, or on France, or on Iraqi Policeman is an attack on us, an attack on our side of this fight.
We get lost in the back-and-forth of it, but events like today's crystallize what is going on, and all that nonsense gets pushed into the background, where it should be.
I'm no political pundit, though, so let me just say that I hope we, and the governments on the same side of the fight as us, do everything we can to comfort those who have lost loved ones and track down and rid ourselves of those responsible for this cowardly, destructive, and ultimately futile mass-murder.
the hat trick...or, perhaps, "powdered wig trick"
Three Supreme Court judges retiring within a few weeks of each other?Could be happening
. I'm not going to pretend I'm smart enough to analyze the politics of this; I'll leave that to the legal, political and constitutional scholars. At least until something about it gets under my skin.
But the incredible political ramafications and ensuing shitstorm are obvious. If nothing else, it'll make for interesting reading.
death of the american auto industry, a short pictorial
For various reasons, I am considering getting rid of my very nice, rather new Celica and buying into a piece of junk car to drive around in for a bit. (Actually, the reasons are simple; there's about 400 of them a month between the loan and the insurance, capped off with a sudden, inexplicable need for about 4000 new reasons in repairs).
Now, I love Japanese Cars. Most of the cars I've bought have been Hondas, plus this latest Toyota. Despite the 4000 arguments to the contrary mentioned above, American carmakers have been sucking wind trying to keep up with the Japanese for decades on reliability. An early 90's Honda can go 200k+ miles without needing major repairs, Chryslers seem to have a hard time making it to six figures.
On top of that, American carmakers seem to make design decisions based on how the boxes they buy their shoes in are designed. I don't know if they simply fired every single competent designer or they really think Americans all want cars that look exactly like the one next door. Especially when you consider that that car next door is fuckin' ugly.
But as I said, I'm looking to buy junk. When I buy junk, I don't want a plasticy rice-burner, I want something that pollutes like the word "Kyoto" is simply a city in Japan, a car that weighs more than a herd of African elephants, something that I can drive into a head-on collision with a Bradley and come out with a bent fender. My only requirements are that it be inspected and expected to live for at least a few more months without needing major repairs, and that the body...well, that it still has a body.
I figure, if I'm bearly breaking 4 digits on sticker price, it's not going to last very long whether it was made in Detroit or, well, Kyoto. At that point, I would rather have something big, nasty, and American. They're generally cheaper to fix, and besides, I don't want to be driving around in some little dorkmobile, I want something that could potentially be a "Classic" if only the rocker panels weren't rusted through and the transmission weren't wonky.
So I'm paging through the local paper, and there's a decently priced Oldsmobile Tornado that I think might be worth checking out. Now when I, and hopefully many of you, think of the Tornado, something like this is what comes to mind:
Now that, I would say, is a helluva ride. That's actually a 422, but it's similar in design to the original Tornado. And I don't really get the poster ("The car for spear-weilding jungle dwellers"?), but that car has cojones. I would be more than happy to drive that around, riddled with rust and with the muffler held on by a coathanger.
But oh no. I get home and do some looking around, turns out this is a 1984 Tornado for sale. Newer is better, right? Nope. Because at some point through the seventies and eighties, Jimmy Carter was elected, gas went through the roof, the Japanese invaded, and American automakers committed group hara-kiri.
So instead of perhaps a more efficient version of the car above, what you get is this:
I know. Ugh. A broke-down version of that is not the kind of trashy-chic I'm looking for here. It's just trashy.
But that's what you get. There are a few exceptions, but nearly every car from an American manufacturer after the mid-seventies is almost identical to that one. To get a car that has any kind of style to it whatsoever and dosen't just look like another K-car, you have to go back to the really, really old ones, i.e., ones worth thousands and thousands of dollars because somebody put in the time to maintain or restore them. You won't find anything like the first car above in the cheapo section of the paper; almost anything that old is either under a tarp in a garage or in a junkyard.
So what are those of us looking for halfway enjoyable junk to do? Well, I'm holding out and watching the papers. You never know. But eventually, I'm going to have to either make some more car payments, or break down and go for an aging jap-scrap. I won't really like it, but at least I will be able to beat a few extra miles out of it than I could with a similarly-fugly American car.
more actually-important stuff
Alot of people knocked Live8 for a bunch of singers trying to change world politics.
In a way the detractors are right; no world leader is going to sit down and say "Gee, these rock folks think this is a good idea, maybe I should do what they say".
But the concerts did serve the function of raising awareness, which, in a way, is more important than what world leaders think. Elected leaders think whatever their voting populace tells them to think, and nobody is better for altering what the populace thinks than a bunch of rock stars. The concerts were major news for weeks; and while the G8 leaders may not have listened, a huge number of people paid attention to the concerts, and damn near everybody paid attention to the news blurbs about them. That, my friends, is star power; that is raising popular sentiment.
I don't know how much good it will do, but I respect their methods, and, to a certain extent, their goal. I don't particularly agree with their politics, but they are using the tools they have at hand to further an important cause, so power to 'em.
That's a sideways method to bring up the post I want to mention. The blogosphere, ironically for Live8's blogging detractors, serves much the same function as the concerts. If you're a blogger or blog reader, then I have news for you: George Bush dosen't care what you think. No elected official has any use for your personal opinions. The only hope you have is the same as the performers at these concerts, and you have much less pull than they do. You, a political nobody, can alter world policy through a connection to a massive group of other political nobodies.
All through public perception and awareness.
Anyway, I tend to get melodramatic with stuff I find important to spread around, so I'll just shut up and put up: go read this story
. See? I'm raising awareness, to a much lesser extend than Bob Geldof. But I think it's important, and if you do as well, then share the story, and maybe something can get done about it.
a community tragedy
, or really here
and read. We can't do a whole lot, but whatever we can do is at least some comfort. My sympathies to the bereaved.
Blogging really is like a community, so think of it as the internet equivalent of bringing a casserole or whatever.
security, and other laughing matters
Do you know why security in this country is a farce and a joke? Do you know why we could seal the borders tomorrow and people who wanted to get into the U.S. would still be able to? Because some friendly, good-natured, gullible jackass can always be counted on to let them in.
Having some experience as a "Professional Security Officer" (Christ, how those words make me cringe), I can fairly accurately verify that she is exactly right on this.
First, there's the security itself. Most folks working security are...well, they're generally good people. Honest people. But security dosen't pay well and offers zero adavancement, so they generally don't attract the highest quality candidate. The upside is that, given proper training and managment, security isn't a terribly difficult job. Just follow the rules. If the rules are structured so that they make it clear what is and isn't allowed, baseline officers usually do this job pretty well. Much to everyone's annoyance, of course.
The first breakdown is management. If the guards are poorly trained or poorly educated, it isn't their fault, it's whoever is in charge's fault. In the army, the saying is that "A soldier is only as good as their leadership", which isn't true in all situations, but is in an awful lot of them.
The next, and one of the biggest, breakdowns comes from the people who security is suppossed to be protecting.
As an example: I used to work security at a R&D facility for a large tech-industry corporation. Security there was wicked, and generally on the ball. Lots of high-tech, expensive equipment, a very smart staff and capable management. But if an employee wanted to flout these rules, all he needed was one phone call.
Unfortuantly, it happened fairly often; and not just with stupid rules. This was place where you couldn't be hired to mop the bathrooms if you had had a misdemeanor charge ten years ago. But if Mr. Hussein, an employee, wanted Mr. Bin Laden to have free access to the building, then hey, he got it.
Much to the disgust of the security staff, but after all, we just follow rules. Alot of the rules are stupid, but we enforce them anyway. Until an employee wants an unscreened foreign student to have full access to the building; then all those rules don't matter.
That is what Ilyka is talking about. Most Americans, really, still think security rules are stupid and an interferance. They don't want to be hassled coming into an office building, or when getting on an airplane, or coming back from vacation in Mexico, or when trying to get into a supposedly secure apartment complex. And because the general perception is that these rules are stupid and useless (Because hey, what could happen?), they have no problem violating them. Even ranking officials fall victim to it; rather than having someone be inconvinenced, they bend the rules.
There was alot of things about the army I didn't like, but at least there rules were rules. If you don't meet the criteria to come on base, then hey, guess what: fuck off. Dosen't matter who you are or who you call, the security personnel have the absolute perrogative to kick your ass out.
Dosen't work that way in the civilian sector. In everything from immigration to corporate security, people bend and break whatever minimal rules have been set on a daily basis. Maybe someday that will change, but it will take a large-scale and personal (read: one that affects you directly) crisis to make that happen. And, of course, by that time, it's too late anyway.
fiction and politics
I'm sure I have a million things to say about this, but while writing the book review below, the following paragraph popped up:
The author's politics are plainly visible, which wouldn't bother me so much if he didn't harp on them so much, and if he would do something other than harp on them. The longest speech the protananist gives is a tiresome rant on the evils of the United States, and it is given several times. The hero is a fully unformed character, a projection of what the author wishes he was, and the speeches are a straight channeling of the author's opinions onto the page, wholly unsuited to the book. I would say "a straight channeling of the author's opinions without respect to the opinions of the character", but the character dosen't have any opinions, or a personality on which to base them. He is simply a fantastical creation of the author's desires. I've read alot of books whose authors I would disagree with politically, but none have tried so hard to force their politics onto an unwitting character.
I cut that paragraph from the previous post because it didn't really seem proper, and it needed more explination.
Most of my favorite authors are Democrats, or at least lefties. Their work usually includes anything from an offhand remark to outright political criticism. Among these are Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut, along with a whole host of others.
But the point is, their politics never lessened their writing. Even authors whose politics I would thoroghly despise and who included it in their writing still managed to engage me, to make me think, to entertain me, and most importantly, to keep their writing focused on the task at hand.
Stephen King has alot of characters toss off political remarks. But they generally don't affect the story heavily, because he dosen't really write about politics. He writes horror. And his politics don't distract from telling a good (and usually great) story.
Vonnegut writes heavily political novels that are designed as heavily political novels. I don't shut the book when he mentions politics because, for one, I expect some leftie propaganda from him, and for two, his books are intended to be fairly political. The sheer strength of his writing carries me through, even if I do disagree with him.
But if you are sitting down to write a thriller, having your main character go off on a two-page, unrelated tangent about wacky conspiracy theories probably isn't a great way to go. Especially if that character hasn't said ten words before and, really, isn't much of a character at all.
Focus on the task at hand: commiting your kooky fantasies to page is not the formula for sucess. Writing a good book is.
I've probably made my point, but I want to beat on this dead horse anyway. If I write a character that is, say, an ACLU lawyer that is known to fight for many left-leaning political causes, then a longish rant from him when faced by hard-nosed cops isn't really out of character.
By the same token, if I write a gun-totin' good ole' boy militia-type known for his anti-big-government beliefs, then a similar, if opposite response is probably authentic also. Neither of these characters have much love for authority, and when faced by an authortarian police force will tend toward anti-government rants.
But if I'm writing a book starring a character that has no known history, no beliefs, no nothing, nonexistant dialogue or actions to establish a character, really not a person at all, then I have him sit down and fire a bunch of stupid political stuff at a few cops, what happens? Well, the book goes in the toilet, as it was destined to do eventually anyway with a character with that. The author is dictating his politics through a non-character, a faceless mouthpiece.
This is worse than disagreeable politics, it's shitty writing. I don't want this to color my previous review of the book, it sucks on many more levels than politics. As I said, I can handle disagreeable politics in a good book.
But, unfortunatly, this is disagreeable politics shoehorned into a book that sucks really hard on its own.
which I strongly suspect has to be some sort of pseudonym...
Sucks. I bought the book "Red Tide" off the supermarket shelf because I'm a sucker: at the top of the cover, it said "MUST READING", -HARLAN COBEN.
So I bought the book on authorial reccomenadation. I've had some sucess with this, I have bought a few books on Stephen King's reccomendation, and haven't been let down. Despite the odd grammar of the above quote, Coben is one of my absolute favorite authors right now. He has some serious storyline issues to work out, but none the less writes some of the most enjoyable books out there. Coben has a sense for clever narration and an extremely rare talent with dialogue that, combined with his other talents, makes him a spectacular storyteller. (Let's see if that shows up on the cover of his next book. Seriously, though; he's one of the best out there right now).
So I bought this book by "G.M. Ford" based solely on Coben's endorsement as a "Must Reading".
And dear god, is it awful. I don't expect alot from my pop-fiction writers, but I do expect something. There is nothing of value to be found in this book.
The characters are completely flat. The author dosen't even bother to explain who most of them are. New facts about their lives are constantly popping up out of the blue. Who they are or what they are, appparently, isn't relevant to the story.
Which wouldn't be so bad, if the story wasn't so awful. Alot of Ford's personality shows through between his writing and the pic used of him on the back of the book. I don't want to make a judgement like this based on one book, but I'm going to anyway. Based strictly on the picture, I would guess that this is a wannabe-biker. Shaved head, tough-guy goatee, shoulder tatoo partially in the shot. But the photo says alot more: this is a guy that really, really wanted to be one of the hard-asses in school, but couldn't quite make it.
And his writing style reflects it. Imagine a guy that wasn't smart enough to be a true dork, so he spent all his time trying to fit in with the hardcase types, but never quite fitting in. Now imagine this guy wrote a book. This is that book: a fantasy of what the hardcases would like but fear and respect, from the perspective of a slightly more intelligent outcast.
Really, I think Mr. Ford would probably be a pretty good author if he stuck to smaller scale projects. Say, focus on one character, no more than five characters in all, and a simple yet interesting mystery. Instead, this book involves a dozen major players, the "protaganist" gets less page-time than the villian (the hero spends most of his time being dragged about by other characters with a silent, stony look on his face). The sheer number of people he tries to develop get lost in the soup, and most wind up simply serving the function of the God in the Machine. In fact, that seems to be the primary function of the hero: when everybody else gets stuck, he has the ingenous solution or obscure facts to resolve the problem, usually due to some unexplained quirk in his history. (And the Deus Ex Machina clanks along...)
And beyond the failure with a large number of characters, the massive, end-of-the-world scope of the book is remarkably unbelievable. Unlike in more thoroughly researched crime novels, the relationship between law enforcement agencies is plastic and stereotypical. The author's politics get in the way of both character development and storyline. It isn't story-driven, because the characters play a larger part than the story; but it isn't character-driven, because there isn't any worthwhile characters in the story.
Really, the book is author-driven; it is ego-driven. The only power behind the book is a fantasy for the author to be who he has tried hard to be. It may be a compelling fantasy for him to write, but it does not make for a worthwhile read.
a work in progress
yeah, I know, it needs an awful lot of work.
As usual, the blog design comes in way low on the list of priorities. I decided a while ago I was going to learn CSS. I promptly did so, then lost interest before doing shit with this blog, then I didn't have time to. So now I'm relearning, and experimentation will ensue.
First thing, I'm going to crop the picture of Frankie on the sidebar, and figure out how to lose the bullets on the blogroll. From there, it's anybody's guess.
But I like this already. Much easier on the eyes.
Comments/suggestions/ideas are very much welcome here. Tell me what you think, especially if you know the previous design. I'm not promising I'll listen, but this is new territory here.
i hate livepaint
Okay, only a very few people will know what the hell I mean by this, but I thoroughly despise Illustrator's new "Livepaint" feature.
It has an awful lot of uses. It makes alot of jobs faster. But it makes a simple paint infinitely more complex; all I want to do is a paint fill: half the time it won't "Make" into a group (with no explination on how to fix the problem, although I think I know why), the other half it fills stuff I don't want it to.
If you work with it every day, it probably simplifies the job a lot. But the lack of a standard paint bucket makes the livepaint feature more of a pain in the ass than an asset for the occasional user.
Livepaint is the ultimate example of making the simple extremely complex, and in this case often impossible, in the name of easier use.
finding a replacement
Here's what's going to happen:
Bush will nominate a moderate, right-leaning judge; the least controversial figure he can find that holds to a vaugely constructionalist view of things. Probably someone obscure who, I think, will be pro-life personally but not express any desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. This person will be of some type of minority, probably hispanic, maybe a female. Their professional credentials will be pretty much impeccable.
The liberal pundits will go bugshit, screaming about how this person is just another right-wing nutjob seeking to further the hardline Christian-right agenda. They'll find some minor flaws to pick at, amplify, and worry at endlessly.
The right-wing pundits will insist that this person is really just a center-of-America, regular Joe. Even though they will probably be somewhat right of center, and will probably bear as much resemblance to your average millhunk as Elton John.
Some or all of the "Party of seven" will object, with many soundbites and endless non-debate ensuing. If they eventually cave, the nominee will go to the Supreme Court. Grousing from the democrats will ensue, but the "Spirit of cooperation" will be the riding theme. If they don't cave, that nominee will go away and another, virtually identical candidate will take their place. The process will repeat, and this time, the nominee will almost certainly be sucessful after the pressure to just get it over with has come to a head. Spirit of cooperation and compromise is the buzzword once again, with more or less bitching involved depending on how vitriolic the debate over the first candidate was.
Bush dosen't have the political capitol for a serious right-winger, but he has too much hubris to put up anything less than a moderate conservative, and a political base that would murdify anything less. The Democrats don't wield enough power to fight that forever, and while their natural tendancy is to fight every single thing Bush does, eventually they'll be forced to give or wind up looking like sour grapes.
There, I just saved you hours and hours of cable TV and talk radio.
story of my life
Then there’s writing. I’ve been doing the same thing for many years. I want to do something else. Not something less or different, but something else. I think I know what that is, but it’s hard – not in terms of what it will demand, but it because it means upending this velvet groove. On one hand I like the idea of detonating everything, moving to Arizona and writing detective novels set in 1947 Minneapolis. On the other hand that’s not going to happen tomorrow or next month or next year. And what if I find myself sitting in a lawn chair staring at the desert, the radio chattering in the background, lemonade in my hand, thinking: eh. I’ll write tomorrow.
I have written a lot, anyway. What’s one day.
Well, it’s all you have, and they do add up.
another proud statistic
emotion and politics
One of the things that attracted me to the Republican Party, or at least the right side of the debate early on was that the right tends to base its arguments on logic, what works in a practical sense even if they don't like it; whereas the left tends to react more emotionally and bases its arguments on how they feel about a given topic.
Several examples: War. Republicans say, "I don't want people to die, but because of x, y, and z we have to do what we have to do"; where as leftists say "I don't want people to die, therefore war is evil and we shouldn't do it." This comes in alot also in fiscal policy; where righties can outline a series of steps why lower taxes and such make sense, lefties say "Rich people are living and luxory while the homeless starve, so we should take money from rich people and give it to poor people" without ever examining it from a practical, logical, realistic viewpoint. This mindset is the driving force behind political correctness, smoking bans, and dozens of other lefty talking-points.
Rush Limbaugh, hated as he can be and as much as I disagree with him sometimes, is a good example of the type of rightie I'm talking about. He takes facts, and makes them into arguments. He highlights the facts that support his argument, have no doubt, but rarely does he simply rail against a position with with he disagrees. He dosen't get emotional, he takes in everything that is known and lays out a plan or opinion that makes sense in a realistic way.
But lately, this focus seems to have been shifting. Part of it probably comes from a long-surpressed emotional drive, and alot of it seems to come from suddenly finding Republicans in power for a while after years of somewhat repressive minority in which right-leaning thoughts were ridiculed and protested.
I don't think I like this shift. The power of sensible argument is what got us the majority in the first place; forgoing it in favor of emotional appeal is great for applause lines but is not a strategy for lasting sucess.
There's two forces driving this new, emotion-based movement: the much-feared Christian right and what I like to call the "Michael Savage Movement".
The first has been discussed over and over and over, but what it comes down to is this: I don't care what your religion is, If you can't give me a reason why you think a certain way other than because God tells you so, I don't want to hear about it. Protesting abortion centers with signs that read "God says abortion is murder" isn't convincing me or anyone else. I am somewhat pro-life, and am open to the (many) reasons why current abortion laws are wrongheaded. "Abortion makes the baby Jesus cry" isn't one of them. Similarly, Leviticus is not an argument against Gay Marriage. There's alot of reasons why gay marriage (which I generally support) is a bad thing, but if the best you can come up with is "God hates fags", you are doing more damage than help to your movement.
The other, and more troubling, half of this movement is the true emotional right. I characterize this as the "Michael Savage" wing because, even though Savage criticizes the right on several points, the primary thrust of his arguments is not argumentation but rather viceral. A leftie says "Rich people are evil and their money should be given to the poor", Savage says "Poor people are stupid/lazy/whatever and are destroying this country with their whining". It's "We should understand the terrorists" vs. "We should kill 'em all". Often accompanied by yelling and passionate rhetoric on each side. Passionate rhetoric is compelling, it is not a rational argument. It is not a good reason to act or think a certain way.
There are a good many subjects that have an emotional component, and most have sensible arguments on both sides: gun control, Terri Schiavo, taxes, social security, and war are but a few that I can think of. Historically speaking, the left has always been the party of emotional respnse: carrying signs and screaming slogans without bothering to examine their positions realistically or making rational sense. Again, historically speaking, the right has been the party of "That's nice, but this is what will actually work". We're moving away from that, and I don't want to lose it.
On the political spectrum, I generally land pretty far right. There is exceptions to this, but every one of my political views can be backed up by a serious thought process and a realistic analysis. There are arguments opposite mine that also can be backed up, and that I enjoy arguing against.
But yelling and screaming gets no one anywhere. Railing against the opponent is fun, but it dosen't do anybody any good. The Republicans built a majority on sensible politics, and I would like to see them keep it the same way they won it.
I may have said this before, but I think of Iran as the real center of our "War on Terror", much like the USSR was the focus of the cold war. They are the financial and ideological power behind the war, everything else, like Vietnam, is a proxy war against them. Its a bit more nebulous than that, but that's the outline.Which makes this very bad news.
. One of these days, when I'm bored, I'm going to make a "I get all my news from Ace of Spades HQ" button or something. Its not really true, but that's where all my serious-news web links tend to come from, because real news bloggers bore me to freakin death. And because it would irritate some silly hippies somewhere, which is always reason enough to get me to do anything.
UPDATE: And this.
we could win, of only the other party would go away
Ace talks about how the major tenent of the Democratic party is talking to our enemies.
Which is funny, becuase they are awfully unwilling to talk to their rivals in the political arena. Instead, the preffered method of dealing with Republicans has become simply "Don't listen to them, just make them go away".
Impeach Bush. Fire Cheney. Rumsfeld, Rice, and pretty much everybody else should just resign. Block Bolton. Block Judges. They keep demanding more time to debate, but do precious little debating; instead, they prefer to grandstand and gab, demand resignations and offering only emotional tirades.
I haven't heard much yet in the way of actual arguments, or alternate ideas. Granted, this isn't an election year, and as the minority they don't have much power to push new ideas anyway. But some actual response to these people beyond "We don't like them, they should go away" would a nice change of pace.