Monday, February 28, 2011

Art and madness

I read somewhere that people with artistic temperaments suffer from higher rates of depression and mental illness. At the moment I'm feeling rather blue myself (though that might have something to do with the gloomy weather that has descended over New York...)

Still...Van Gogh, Cobain, Robert E. Howard...the list of creative types with battalions of inner demons is a long one. Which begs the question; is a healthy imagination bad for your health?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I am number 4...and chances are that's where you'll stay....

Over the long weekend I saw I AM NUMBER FOUR, a movie that practically was written following the Joseph Campbell Guide To Writing and starring the latest pretty boy of the month along with the generic bit of blond arm candy whose names I don't remember and honestly won't even make the attempt to try...

I won't go into a long discourse about the plot because it follows the templates of the past...if you're even marginally familiar with Greek mythology you can recite it blindfolded and backwards. Nor will I bother to complain about the movies lack of originality...a condition Hollywood cured itself of back in the 90's. No, my gripe with this deliberate pile of drek is the sheer lack of effort the makers put into being derivative...if you're gonna stamp out carbon copy hero flicks for the teen market, at least try to give the appearance of effort. Accusing the of insulting our intelligence would be a waste of time (given that it debuted at number two on opening weekend, theres precious little intelligence to insult...) But some sincere fakery would be nice. As it is, you guys aren't even trying at this point...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back from the dead...

Three day weekend passing by in five seconds...

Four day week passing in in five centuries.

Work sucks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The unwisdom of age

They say age brings wisdom...but is it really just fear and old prejudice masquerading as knowledge?

Don't quit your job, be grateful you have a paycheck, let the negativity roll off your back, keep your head down, pay your dues, wait your turn, times are hard, no one gets what they want, much less what they deserve...

We are cogs waiting fir our disposal date, filling our lives with material goods bought on credit that we can't afford to fill the empty hole in our souls. Once there was a time for heroes, when men could the their date in their hands and make of it what they will, now is the time of the living dead pencil pushers drained all vitality by the soulless vampire that is modern life...god speaks but we're busy shopping for mirrors to notice, to numb to see the strings pulling our arms and legs...

I think Robert E. Howard was the first to see it...he live in a place ruined by greed and hypocrisy and escape of a sort in his mind, in s time and place that never was where there was still a place for adventure...but in the end even he couldn't escape the cruel chains of banality. His mind may have been free, but his body was still bound to this earth of tears and dust...

So much for the wisdom of age!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Achilles Choice

Here's an interesting conundrum...the hero Achilles was given a choice; a long life of obscurity or a short one of glory. Be an interesting idea for a story, fantasy draws so much else from classical mythology...still, how would anyone respond to this? The answer a man gives might be the to understanding everything about him, and the society from which he comes...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A better Dungeons and dragons movie?

Just for laughs, I took a look at the Dungeons & Dragons movie that cane out about ten years back to are if age has improved any. I can honestly say that in all fair honesty it has actually gotten worse. D&D the movie is a prime example of why the fantasy movie is so often an object of derision...not a so-bad-it's-good piece of camp, but a so bad it's a piece of drek that rightly deserves to he forgotten. I mean, a Wayans brother? Seriously? And how can Jeremy Irons sleep at night with such a hammy stinker of a performance? He's one of the best actors in the world, he could have at least tried to make an effort... It's one of the rare instances I can think of where the direct-to-DVD sequel is actually better...

That being said, if it could be done again, how should it be done so that it doesn't actually become a monumental embarrassment? Or even be, dare I say it, awesome?

Here's the trailer. Watch...and shudder at the memories...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day...ugh...

The fantasy...

And the reality...

Happy Valentines Day!

To live...

How to live a good life? Is it to spend ones existence in pursuit of material gain, only to look back with great at everything that was sacrificed along the way?

Or should one live fir creativity and beauty, for the wonders of the imagination...and quite possibly starve in the process?

A devils choice...hard to see where a balance might be struck...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cogs of Forgiveness

Friday in a New York office. Worker drones are busy at the business of the day, looking forward to the weekend. But one face is missing, a man I've spent the last three years worked across from. We've talked, we've joked, mostly we've ignored each other, though in truth I always liked the guy. Half an hour before quitting time. The boss calls us together and says that Jim (not his real name) has been 'let go' because his job like so many others is now redundant, and given thy he us a man of advancing years, it is left unspoken that the same is true of the man. Given a severance and shown the door, obsolete and gone. And despite the bosses pretty assurances to the contrary, we wonder who will be next.

Sunday in church. The priest reads from the gospel, one of the passages from Matthew about the importance of forgiveness, which expands upon in the homily afterward. And it's a fine thing, forgiveness...but here is the question; can a cog really forgive the machine that uses it until it's worn down, and throws it aside?

For make no mistake, cogs are what we are, interchangeable parts with legs, to be cast aside when no more usefulness can be extracted. Our society provides much in the way of material comfort...but is all really just a sedative, to numb us Eocene fact that we live our lives under the thumbs of others, always in danger of being crushed? The labor we perform is done for someone else's benefit. The equipment we use belongs to another. Our time, our welfare we must give over to a boss who has his or her own interests first, and will not hesitate to upend someone else's life, with the justification that it's "just business." And in return we get...what exactly? Little green pieces of paper that we are told are supposed to be valuable. Take and be grateful?

And when our use is done, when there is nothing more to be extracted and exploited, we are 'let go,' just like Jim. Just another worn-out cog for the scrapheap.

Can this be forgiven?

Should it be forgiven?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Byronic BS

To my mind, there are two traditions of literary hero in fantasy fiction (I claim no insight in anything else...) on one hand you have the standard Stanley Square-Jaw type. Typically he begins as a naive innocent farmboy type who gains in strength and righteousness as he proceeds along the heroes journey. Think Garion from the Belgariad. On the other hand, we have the Byronic hero, derived from the works and life of Lord Byrob. Wikipedia had this to say on the subject:
The Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following traits:[citation needed]

a strong sense of arrogance
high level of intelligence and perception
cunning and able to adapt
suffering from an unnamed crime
a troubled past
sophisticated and educated
self-critical and introspective
mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
struggling with integrity
power of seduction and sexual attraction
social and sexual dominance
emotional conflicts, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness[citation needed]
a distaste for social institutions and norms
being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
disrespect of rank and privilege
jaded, world-weary
self-destructive behavior

Which brings to mind the Elric from Michael Moorcock's stories, or more recently Jaime Lannister from ASOIAF. It goes without saying that in our cynical post-Boomer age, it is the latter that has the ascendancy. Characters that stand for good and righteousness all to often end up being used and abused by the jaded. Which to mind is nit always a good thing. Yes, fiction should try to display the realities of life (even in a fantastical setting) but it can also show an alternative, a place where things like truth, honor and yes, even chivalry can have the final word.

And if the good must least let it be in a way that is noble, as a rebuke if nothing else to those who see the grubbiness of the world, even an imaginary one, and believe there is nothing more.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting back to the beginning...

For any interested in the origins of fantasy in America over the last twenty years...don't look to Tolkien. Look instead to a series if book regarded at the time as little more than throwaway nonsense, the Dragonlance Chronicles. For my generation at least, they were a major wake-up to what the genre was capable of. Not bad for scheming company like TSR...and if curse Weiss and Hickman continue to eat off it to this day, living the dream we all desire...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Common annoying tropes on fantasy

The brutal knight/knight in shining armor

The magical vaguely ethnic shaman with no bad qualities

The spunky proto-feminist princess

The whore/fallen woman with a heart of gold

And last but not least the melancholy Byronic hero filled with self-loathing. It's all been done!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spider-man: Turn off the pain?

The NY Times has finally reviewed Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark (the title alone is criminal) and...well, it's not good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ian MacKaye roadmap

Following up on the last post...Ian MacKaye, the brains behind Minir Threat and Fugazi, might be considered a model for those who want to be artistic in their own way. Given that the mainstream publishing industry is following in the path of the music business...before long DIY might not be just an alternative, but a necessity...

Inspiration from classic indie?

I've been reading OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE by Michael Azerrad, and find that a lot of what the first hardcore and indie rock bands did back in the 80's could work for writers today...and unlike them we have the Internet...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kindred: The Embraced

Sometime in the late Nineties, like most gamers I got into the whole Vampire the Masquerade craze that swept through the geek underground (and overground as well.....) at the time. For a generation raised in dungeons and Dragons, exhilarated and then ultimately bored by it, White Wolf provided a welcome blast of fetid goth air, an alternative to the by-now cliched battles against orc's and dealings with haughty pointy-eared elves. To be a creature of the night...languid yet lethal, possessed of immortality yet deliciously jaded by it. To walk the streets of Gothic-Punk cities, feasting on the blood of unsuspecting mortals and facing down the darkest nightmares Beast other words, it was as far from Tolkienesque as you can get.

Eventually, like all things it soon became overplayed. Playing a monster of the night like a Vampire (or Werewolf or Mage for that matter) takes a level of maturity in players that wasn't always present in college students away from home for the first time in their lives. Far too many sessions devolved into little more than wish-fulfillment murder fantasies, not to mention more than a few acts of true imaginary depravity (you never could tell with some of those guys whether or not it was really pretend with them. And those guys were among the more clean-cut fellows in the groups...the out-and-out goths tended to be among the tamer...) But unlike Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire the Masquerade spawned an AARON SPELLING TV show. Yep, the mind that created the Mod Squad and Beverly hills 90210 (who didn't have a thing for Shannon Doherty back in the day?) Kindred: the Embraced.

Of course I saw it, anyone geek out there worth his bag of dice made the time to watch. And despite our fears, the show was awesome. They kept fairly close to the source material, close enough not to alienate the core fans, but not so close that it would drive away other viewers (here's hoping the team behind Game of Thrones can thread the same needle.) Only eight episodes were made, needless to say the show didn't catch on with a wider audience. Maybe it was ahead of its time...the Vampire craze was still a decade off, and while Buffy treaded the same general territory, it had the advantage of Joss Whedon running the show.

So maybe it was TOO inside for the average non-gamer viewer out there who didn't know the difference between a Ventrue or Brujah (that was the biggest off-point...making Brujah idealists into dockside Vampire...and what about the Malkavians? They were the most fun to play....) The show got canceled, and efforts to transfer it to Showtime ended when Mark Frankel died in moercycle accident. even so, it endures in the memory of Gen-X geeks as a cult series for those really in the know. And like most hidden video treasures, its memory endures on YouTube, where old shows live forever.

The entire run is out there, chopped up into chunks but still viewable. Watch, and if you saw it the first time take is a welcome walk down memory lane to the Clinton years, when things weren't as messed up. And if you're too young to remember, now's your chance to see an ancestor of True Blood and The Vampire Diaries.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inner worlds

It's always more beautiful in ones internal world...the drabness of reality versus the wonders created by the imagination, where every man is a hero to his fellows. Some day we'll find a way to make imaginative worlds into reality, and in the process escape reality altogether...

What would you prefer...elf queens, dragons and wonders yet to see...or sitting in a cubicle day after day under a malfunctioning fluorescent light?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Revisionist fantasy

Seeing that marquee makes me think...revisionism is a part of out tradition...the retelling of old stories in new ways adds to it, giving the characters a depth that might not have been there the first time about. Wicked (the book not the movie) was a long rumination on the nature of good and evil that put the wizard of oz through a whole new lens...aimed at adults instead of kids? And how many times has the story if king Arthur been retold?

Kinda of makes you wonder though...what will happen when the Lord of the Rings finally enters the public domain? What new interpretations will come about because of it?

Wonder-what the hell?

First a musical spiderman, now this.

When they bring Tolkien to broadway, then all hope is lost...wait, they may have actually tried that up in Canada...

I'm scared...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bohemia calling part 3...better than Nohemia

Still...despite the risks, I'll wager that a life lived for the sake of creation and expression is better than life empty and dry. Better a flawed stone than a worn out cog. The greatest artists didn't care about fame...creation alone was enough.

Bohemia calling, part two

Of course, there is a dark side to the bohemian dream...poverty, despair, severed ears and insanity... For every artist who is remembered, there are dozens of others forgotten by the world, dying in sad obscurity...

Bohemia Calling

Paris on the 1880's...Greenwich Village at the turn of the century...London in the 20's...the Lower East Side in the 80's...Seattle around the same time...

Bohemianism...'tis an ideal to aspire towards. The modern man lives a regimented life, he gets up, goes to the commute, works under the thumb of a boss who wants to extract every bit of labor for as little cost as possible. Scrimping and competing, his soul ground down to a nubbin in the never-ending chase for the next dollar, the next paycheck that is never enough, numbing the pain with more material junk that in fact ties you down ever more tightly. That is the bitter bourgeois truth of our lives. Rip away the mask and look at the hollowness...a modicum of material comfort in exchange for all the things that make life worthwhile.

But a life lived for beauty, for art, for the sheer joy of that is something truly noble. Look upon the artists of old, those bohemians who lived on their own terms...and maybe someday find the courage follow in their path. To live life on hour own terms, even down to the bitter end...

When you get down to it, we create our own reality. All we need is the ability to perceive it and the will to shape it...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sometimes jack Black is all it takes...

Sometimes all it takes is a little of the ol' jack Black magic...and everything makes sense...

A sign of our pseudo-vampiric cultural decline

The Vampire Diaries next to the Disney Store....

Yeesh...I barely know where to begin. Remember the days when vampires were monstrous creatures of the night that reveled in the carnage the caused? When they weren't overly moisturized emo bohemian tormented souls wannabes? When they actually killed people?

Although...on second thought, it makes perfect sense for them to be besides an outpost for the Empire of the Bloody Mouse? After all, there isn't a bigger vampire out there...behind the face of Mickey is a ravening beast draining the lifesblood of what passes as Western culture these days. So it could seen as a sign of respect, one predator to another...

Beowulf the manly

Interesting take on the legend of Beowulf here courtesy of the Art of Manliness:

For the men of 10th century Europe, these were words to live by. Theirs was a time before the chivalric era, where knightly romance was hardly a dream and virtue and honor had yet to be made into a formal code of conduct. These were the men of the Dark Ages, members of the many Germanic tribes that once roamed across Northern Europe. Their code was a code not of chivalry, but of raw courage, in which strength of character was the greatest, and often the only reward.


Ansel Adams would have been so proud...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This will wake you up in the morning...

Better than coffee! Or Red Bull. Or coffee and Red Bull...which I don't recommend BTW.




Hunter S. Thompson...a true philosopher for our times. And after the day I've had, a certain measure of willing insanity is starting to look attractive...

The great work continues...

First, I admit I'm writing a novel (my sixth...but this is the first that is actually good...)

Second, I'm nearing the 100,000 word mark...always an important point, since after that you really have and obligation to the gods and angels of the written word to finish what you start.

So far so good, the book I'd coming along just fine. Not looking forward to the editing process...