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Showing posts from November, 2012

Boehner Bargaining

I'm getting really amused by the Republicans flailing around in the tax rate negotiations. I do not for a second think that, given the situations were reversed, Democrats would knuckle under as they prepared for a Romney administrations. So I'm not blaming the Republicans for being stubborn and poor losers, I just honestly don't think it's a good strategy.

Let's look at the facts directly.

Democrats are in the driver's seat. Obama won the election. Democrats control the Senate. Boehner lost seats in his caucus and probably only retains his speakership by virtue of the massive gerrymandering Republicans did on congressional districts around the country. After all, by two percentage points, Americans voted for a Democratic House. So in any way that is significant, the election produced a definitive and clear result. Also, let's not forget what will happen on January 1st if the President and the Speaker fail to come to an agreement. Taxes will go up on everyon…

Preliminary Activities

It's a tricky balance preparing to write for a short story.

I've veered between two extremes. On one hand I enjoy creating page after page of back story for characters even if I know they'll never actually make it into a story. I've created family trees to the third generation, elaborate maps of fictional neighborhoods and timelines spanning centuries.

On the other, I've always had the ideal that short stories just sort of happen. That a good story is a singular moment of creation stemming from some profound and mysterious process deep within the human mind. A story isn't written, it's summoned. Planning, preparation, brainstorming were all harmful to the ritual of the thing. The more I set down ahead of time the more possibilities I was closing off permanently before I even gave the story a chance to work itself into existence.

Then I decided I wanted my stories to be read by a general audience and I realized that neither the 'labor of love' or the…

The Cringe

First season Parks and Rec was amazingly bad. I'm going to start by stating it is unbelievable how quickly this show rose from the inky depths of mediocrity to being one of the best sitcoms on TV. Because the first few shows? Really bad.

Part of the reason I'm reacting so negatively to early P&R is its reliance on one of my least favorite comedy styles: cringe humor. The cringe is created by awkward social moments that go on and on and on. I'm not sure the reaction to the situation could even properly be considered comedy. Laughing simply seems the only way to expel the toxic levels of humiliation.

To be fair, not all cringe is created equal and I do like certain movies that include it. Rushmore, for example, one of my all-time favorite films, has this scene about half-way through.

The awkwardness - it burns!

But the difference is this scene is meant to advance the story, the character and the themes of the story. This is a pivotal moment when Max begins to lose the fi…

Lincoln

In a movie with as many moving parts and grand, powerful sweeps of emotion, it is difficult to sum up one's overall impressions. The only thing tougher would be creating a movie that summed up Abraham Lincoln. 



I do not for an instant think that is what Steven Speilberg's "Lincoln" has done. It does not, for all time, set down what Lincoln meant as a human being, president, or cultural touchstone. It simply tells a story. In general, that's enough for me.

Lincoln is the kind of movie that should seen a lot longer than it actually does. It's about IMPORTANT WEIGHTY HISTORICAL moments. The cast list is filled with names like Ulysseus S. Grant, and Thaddeus Stevens you probably dimly remember from high school history class. It has costumes. My wife entered the theater with a quick warning, "don't get angry at me if I fall asleep." Nary a nudge was needed. The film whips by in two and a half hours and manages somehow to encompass just about every conc…

Fregoli Delusion

Current story may involve a character suffering from Fregoli Delusion. If you haven't heard of this condition it's part of a whole class of delusional misidentification syndromes where the brain basically fails to associate a person, place or object correctly. If you look at some one you've known you're entire life and you think they are an imitation you may have a Capgras Delusion. You believe that you are already dead you may be experiencing Cotard's Delusion.

In the case of Fregoli, the believer will maintain that people he or she meets are all in fact the same person in a variety of disguises. The delusion is named after a turn-of-the-century quick change artist, Leopoldo Fregoli, who would astound audiences throughout Europe with rapid, seamless alterations of identity during the course of this stage shows. Fegoli Delusion, like the DMS's, are often caused by traumatic brain injuries, particularly those causing damage to the prefrontal lobe.

Fregoli Delusi…

Sudden Illness

I am giving thanks this year for being healthy again.

Wednesday, I finished work, came home to walk Finn and suddenly thought it would be a good idea to lie down on my couch and not get up for awhile. I hit a wall. Long story short: I went to the emergency room, got a cipro prescription and made it back home just in time for a shaking fever to confine me to bed for the next 12 hours. The thing about being suddenly and seriously ill is that your brain doesn't have time to catch up to the newly constrained situation. I'm bopping along, brain filled with the intertwined significances of relationships, work, writing, hobbies and politics when the gears of thought and cognition slow, grinding to a stop, until I'm left operating on pure reptile processes.
Ultimately, all that's left is a thin anguished whine.

sick. sick. sick. sick. sick. sick.

The combination of antibiotic and Tylenol slowly push back the tide of misery. I begin to reemerge. As a science fiction writer, I ap…

American Horror Story: I am Ann Frank Part 1 and 2

American Horror Story finally had a good episode. I was starting to get worried.
The first part of the Ann Frank two-parter was frankly worse than a disappointment. Everything that bugged me about the first few episodes: the mish-mash of characters and plot, the schlocky dialogue and the mediocre camera work was amplified in the first half of the story. Worse, having Ann Frank show up felt gratuitous at best and down-right exploitive at worst. You know what a show that already has serial killers, mutants, aliens, lunatics, ghosts and demons really needed? Yeah, sadistic Nazis. And also, the conversion therapy scene? Eew. 
But the second episode turned it around. I'll credit a lot of this to a new (to this season of AHS, anyway) director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and also the episode's cleverly anti-climatic reveal of the identity of the Bloody Face killer. If you hadn't figured out who the serial killer was by the final 15 minutes of the episode, the writers found a way to turn…

The Optimism of Peter Watts

Horror infuses the familiar with dread. Read Peter Straub, Stephen King or Algernon Blackwood, and become alarmed by the commonplace. Cars become monsters, the family dog is a killing machine and an island filled with willow trees becomes an avatar of cosmic horror.

Science Fiction, on the other hand, is about making the unfamiliar real. The best of the genre take concepts like first contact with aliens, the fusion of man and machine and time travel and make them plausible, inevitable even. Speculative fiction authors in general aspire, I would argue, to a mantle of pronogniticator, a seer of the possibilities.
So, hopefully you can see that these genre are often in opposition. They haven't always been, of course. HP Lovecraft famously mined the intersections of horror and science fiction for his Mythos stories. Tales of astronauts fighting tentacled alien creatures became so stereotypical that by the Silver Era that entire class of story was known simply as BEM (Bug-Eyed Monsters…

Confession

I like Sigur Ros.

I'm not sure how this happened.

It wasn't supposed to happen. It happened like this: I like to check out CDs from libraries during the summer. I found three CDs I wanted and I wanted to take out four. Araetis Byrjun was there so I grabbed it. I don't think I've created a single mix that doesn't include at least on Sigur Ros song since.

Sigur Ros is one of those bands I have been consciously avoiding. Something about the pretension.

Sigur Ros isn't a pretentious band, it is pretension itself. I will start, start, with the fact they recorded an entire album in Icelandic glossolalia and then invited fans to write their own interpretations of the lyrics on a blank section of the liner notes. Then consider that they released an album called Rimur where they paired up with an local fisherman to sing traditional mariner poems. They include elaborate puns in the titles of songs and albums. They play a bowed guitar with chromosome warping levels of re…

Feelings RE: Zombies

The new trailer to World War Z just came out. Have you seen it? Are you planning on watching the movie? Did you read the book?

 I have a complicated push/pull feeling about zombie horror. Zombies have a lot of potential as monsters or a focus of dread. Unlike the other archetypes: vampires, werewolves, aliens, and eldritch elder gods, zombies are unromantic, almost impossible to romanticize. Zombies are shambling (or galloping, depending on your taste) dead people. They don't seduce. They don't have an agenda. They don't have a complicated life-cycle. They form zombie hordes and eat people. You can try a few variants on this basic concept but it's basically always the same.

That's both a blessing and a curse.

As a positive, because zombies are essentially people, or at least once were people, they have a connection to past experiences. The clothing, the wounds of the zombie serve to supply some narrative about their lives before and the nature of their becoming. Al…

What color optimism?

We won. By we I mean the country of course. Having an election that produces a definitive, relatively uncontroversial result is always to be preferred over a 2000 or a, dare-I-say-it, an 1860. Obama sewed up the electoral vote with surprising speed and eventually prevailed in the popular vote. The Senate went back to Democratic control and some really despicable theocrats (Akin, Mourdock, Walsh) got the swift ticket to obscurity they so richly deserve. The House is still in Republican hands but that wasn't much of a surprise.

I found two things particularly heartening after this election. One, the trends are in favor of progressivism. More of the Obama electorate was young, single female, hispanic and/or African American than 2008. Not only was Obama able to resurrect his winning coalition he was able to expand it. That can only be a good thing. Despite Bill O'Reilly's paranoid rant last night, America doesn't suffer when more people get involved, it suffers when no on…

Castles in the Sky: Cloud Atlas

From Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail:



King of Swamp Castle: When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

Cloud Atlas has earned, I believe, a fairly unshakable reputation as a great piece of literature. In common with all great works of art it is heartfelt, complicated, courageous, and a lot of fun. The book came out in 2004, can more be said? One aspect that especially interests me, a day or so after having finished it, is its ability for whipping up truly impressive structures of vapor. This book artfully and consistently drives the home the artificiality of its narratives while simultaneously cannibalizi…

American Horror Story, Season Two, Episode Three: Nor'Easter

I'll give this to Brad Falchuk -- he has a keen sense of timing. The absorbing third episode of the American Horror Story, "Nor'Easter" is all the more effective owing to coming right on the heels of Sandy. Nature's fury seizes my imagination more tightly when the debris from an actual Superstorm still clutter my street.

I could have used for even more of the storm actually. The radio mentions it, and the central conceit of the story, that Sister Jude (the operatic Jessica Lange) wants to calm the patients at the Briarcliff Mental Institution, depends upon it. But when it actually arrived, the sound studio torrents reminded me more of the final scene of Shawshank Redemption than some actual apocalyptic storm. American Horror Story doesn't seem to be shy about 'more is better,' elsewhere. The first episode introduced the asylum, it's inmates, a creepy sadistic Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), a nymphomaniac (Chloe Svegniy), a wife-killing psycho…

Not the Darkest Time Stream

Nate Silver at the NY Times thinks the chances are three out of four that Obama wins the election. Karl Rove thinks Romney should already be moving in to the Oval Office. Somewhere in between those predictions lies my view of the truth: a close race tilting Obama's way. Romney can't win without Ohio and the polls don't look good for him there. Math doesn't favor Mitt -- that makes me cautiously optimistic.

However, let's for a moment realize that even with Silver's predictions there is a significant statistical chance that in some universe Romney will be the next president of the United States. In the infinite sea of the multiverse, assuming like Community, that such a thing exists, a large portion of future time streams will feature a Romney administration.

Would those be the Darkest Timelines?

The optimist in me says probably not. Romney is an American politician who has swum his way upwards in the mainstream of Republican politics. I think that is one of his…