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Gigantic mirth and gigantic melancholy.

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Drinky
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Clint Harris

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June 16th, 2014

Okay, I get that I was supposed to have my mind blown.  Lots of people are just ecstatic about the season ending.

I'm a little pissed off.

It played out a little hollow, I thought. Here's why:

Tyrion didn't tell Jaime the he was the one who killed Joffrey, like he did in the books.  The entire bit about Tyrion being married once, then having his heart ripped out and stomped on when he learned she was paid to pretend to be his wife and Tywin's knights spent all day raping the poor woman within earshot of Tyrion, THEN Jaime confesses when he springs Tyrion from the Black Cells that Tyrion's wife was just some commoner who actually did love him and Tywin made the whole thing up to be cruel, and Jaime had to go along with it; because Jaime.  Tyrion then spouts off to his brother about how he was actually the one who murdered Joffrey, creating more conflict and effectively burning bridges with the Lannisters and his only ally.

Also absent was Tyrion's comment about knowing for sure whether or not Tywin Lannister shits gold.

Let's go to the North, where all sorts of crap abounds.  In the books, there was no near meeting at Craster's Keep between the captive Stark kids and the Reeds and Hodor with Jon Snow.  There was no return to Craster's to kill the hell out of the deserters of the Watch.  What there was was a mysterious ranger who rides a Great Elk, called Cold Hands, who is more than likely a wight.  He takes Sam and Gilly to the Nightfort tunnel and then escorts Bran, Rickon, and the Reeds up to the far north where they find the Three Eyed Raven.

Instead, we get some lame near miss stuff (George already covered the near miss stuff when Jon broke loose from the wildlings. You are just beating a dead mule, HBO) with Bran practically instigating Jon Snow's escape and Ygritte's betrayal.  Some cannibal Thenns.  And NO kick ass sentient zombie rangers.  We get dropped into the middle of Book 5, with Coldhands being cut completely out, no exposition on what the direwolves just happen to be eating (wights, if you must know), and then Jojen Reed gets snuffed by his own sister when skeletons start popping up out of the ground like random monster encounters in an N64 Zelda game.  Hell, Jojen isn't even dead by the end of book 5.  Did the show writers just kill him because they figured once Bran melds with a tree, nobody has to concern themselves with how the actor can practically grow a mustache?  They can cover all that up with prosthetics?

Also absent at the tree is Lord Bloodraven.  Brynden Rivers, a bastard born Targaryen who is at least 150 years old. A man who is the Three Eyed Raven, as well as a dude stuck in a tree.  In the books, he used to be the Hand of the King, back in the days when Maester Aemon was Jon Snow's age and next in line for the throne.  He had one red eye because his brother cut the other one out during a battle in which half the Targaryens were trying to take the throne for themselves.  Later, he got sent to the Wall (along with Maester Aemon) and became Lord Commander for awhile.  Need I point out he had ONE RED EYE.  He was an albino.  So, the guy we see in the tree is just basically discount Dumbledore, has two eyes (neither of which is red).  Hell, in the books, he has tree branches growing out of his empty eye socket.  I can understand how budget constraints might prevent a CGI elk for a zombie to ride, but seriously, how hard would it be to glue a rubber tree root to a guy's face?

Brienne fighting the Hound?  Okay.  Sure, I guess it worked for the show, but it completely makes A Feast for Crows irrelevant to the series.  In that book, Brienne goes searching for Arya, hearing the the Hound might have her.  She hears someone with his helmet is raiding in the Riverlands, and winds up at a monestary where the monks where cowls.  She hears about how the Hound came to the monastery with a bad leg wound and dies in their care.  There's a really big monk with a vow of silence she notices in the place who may or may not have bad burns on his face, but the head Septon assures her that no one there is called Sandor Cleagane.  The Hound is Dead.

wink

Instead, we get the Hound White-Fanging Arya into mercy killing him.  It doesn't take.  Besides, the White Fang moment should have been when Tyrion tells Jaime he killed Joffrey.  And they needed to include this bit, somehow:

For once, his father did what Tyrion asked him. The proof was the sudden stench, as his bowels loosened in the moment of death.Well, he was in the right place for it, Tyrion thought. But the stink that filled the privy gave ample evidence that the oft-repeated jape about his father was just another lie.

Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.

They got the bit right where Arya heads off for Braavos, but what is Brienne supposed to do now?  There's no Hound to track, there's barely a reason for her to be in the show.  Sansa, Bran, and hell even Stannis has pretty much reached the end of their plotlines so far.  There isn't much for most of them to do that isn't Book Five stuff now.  Which makes me worry that next season will be a lot of filler just to eke out 8 episodes.  Or maybe like book 4, it will be a crap-ton of sitting around in Mereen, waiting for Dany to do anything.  Maybe vamping out Sansa some more and turning her into the Sandsnake of the North, or watching Tyrion get drunk on a boat.  They could do some great things with the Night's Watch, or even Ramsay Snow and Theon's further descent into madness.  Plus, there is the matter of Griff and Griff Jr., the Cat of the Canals (which could be a season in and of itself), Septa Lemore, but after season 5 is done, they will have reached the end of the line as far as source material goes.  I think they are just going to drag it out for two seasons (which is fine by me) but they are going to pad the hell out of it with a bunch of crap that doesn't matter, while cutting important bits that do.

October 11th, 2013

When I write

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Recently I took a different tack and got out of my comfort zone for reading.  Or maybe I got back into my comfort zone.  When I read fiction, I have a hard time staying awake.  It will take a very long time for me to read a book of fiction since I have to keep waking myself up after a few pages to continue on.  It's not necessarily that I am bored, but maybe it has something to do with a dream state that the mental imagery puts me into.  Sometimes I continue the dream as though I'm reading.  Only to be a little disappointed to find out that the book didn't continue where my dream state left off.

So, I do better reading non-fiction sometimes.  Maybe it's because there is little imagery, or even because of a remnant of my old college days where I would devour history books for reports in an all-night frenzy of last minute term paper writing.  It's the difference between drifting on a flat lake in a canoe or hitting the rapids on a whitewater river.

I read Ray Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing" which I picked up at the university used book sale for a quarter.  I like Bradbury's writing normally, but getting to read about his process was a treat.  He attacks writing with such exuberance and optimism.  He really just dives into any project, whether it's fiction or an article, with this keyed up level of inspiration.  I liked seeing how he would just soak up the world around him and tell his stories based on what his subconscious could muster.  The only things that bother me about Ray is how quickly these stories of his have lost their relevance.  He was born in a time where kids would travel in packs and run sticks along picket fences with sticks and sneak out to play marbles instead of huffing glue.  It was a more innocent time, yet uncorrupted by Hitler, a Cold War, nuclear energy, or the totalitarian world of the Nanny State that takes our freedoms for our own good.  It was a world in which Civil War veterans were still roaming the earth in their long white beards and the Great War was supposed to be the last of them.  Good Riddance!

His characters dance off the page in a whirlwind of naivete, and creak and groan with their antiquity in the form of youth that encapsulates a world now lost to us.  I can't fault Ray's vision.  It's a romanticized version of a world that still had child labor, a Great Depression, and people dying of influenza.  It's a world Ray remembers, not the one he was living in.  But those stories of his...he really hit the nerve of what the story was.  He had a process in which love and not ink was beaten onto the page from that ribbon with every strike of the key.   He wrote stories because he had them trapped inside and needed to let them out.  Like wild birds fluttering and pecking for the sunlight.

Ray talks about forgetting about things like writing to impress, copying the style of others, and just writing to enjoy the experience.  If someone doesn't like your story, somebody else will.  Don't write with the intent of getting rich or impressing someone.  The story is yours to tell.  So tell it!

Michael Chabon's book, which I'm also reading, Maps and Legends is a different writer with a different take on things. Chabon talks about how writers are entertainers, which to me means that he's writing with someone else in mind.  The audience.  He's writing to impress.  He's writing to sell.  He lacks the artistry of Bradbury, but his prose, weirdly enough, is more academic.  He has a style that lacks the downhome storytelling of an old Master.  It's a clinical discussion amongst colleagues instead of a yarn told to friends.

Both writers drop names like crazy.  They expound on how many books they have read.  The influences they carry with them in their writers' hearts.  Like walking into a home and having the grand tour which includes all the fine prints and signed copies of first editions nestled into the shelves with the tschochkes and framed pictures of the kids at t-ball camp.  To a guy that falls asleep while reading, I just glossed over these after awhile.  Great Mike.  Swell, Ray.  You guys read.  A lot.  You don't have kids swarming your ankles all day or a full time job that you have to clock into.  I get that you can read and that's part of your livelihood.  I can't.  So forgive my rolling eyes.  I stand on the shoulders of idiots since I usually catch the movie or miniseries because I don't have the kind of life that affords me the ability to carve through Proust or Melville like you guys do.  I usually settle for the Spielberg or Ivory Coast production of the written work.  Or hell, Alan Smithee, even.  I get the filtered, distilled, and cut for commercial breaks versions.  Written by writers who might have glanced at the footnotes and then forced through the machine of a director's "vision" who probably never read the book either.

It's like hearing a Beethoven symphony played on a telecaster by a guy who watched the movie Beethoven because he likes St. Bernards.  What I do lack in my reading background, I make up for in life experience.  This is where I liked Ray's style more than Chabon's.  Ray's world seems like it grows more organically form memories and fantasy.  Chabon's seem more like ideas planted in a greenhouse of academia, seeds spliced from MFA concepts and writing as lifestyle.  Chabon writes with his discourse community in mind.  Ray writes because his head might explode if he doesn't.  We just get to see the result.

The only bummer is that, as I have discovered in my own writing, that personal experience can only carry you so far.  Bradbury's concepts begin to recycle pretty quickly.  The carnival.  Mars.  The importance of books.  Nostalgia.  The picket fenced small town where there are no factories on the horizon (he has omitted them) and boys run wild like packs of wolves.  I have my own roots in a small town, laced with much more cynicism.  Isolation.  Depression.  Loss.  And all of that.  The older I get the more I find myself referring to my childhood experiences.  I haven't had the adventures lately to give me better stories.  But when I write, I write because I want to tell these stories.  If you enjoy them, awesome, but it's more important to write them because I love telling these stories.  I love the feel of the chill of a predawn morning where the silhouettes of the mountains stretched out across the valley floor and disappeared into the western horizon.  Where a snowstorm could mean living without milk, bread, or eggs for several days.  A town where you were more like a dysfunctional family than you were neighbors.  A town that once you leave, you are as much an outsider as any tourist passing through on his Goldwing.

That's what I carry with me.  A town where the world ended just at the other side of the horizon and we lived oblivious to the rules and mores of the outside world. A town which programmed itself to fail in nearly every endeavor because success meant joining the Outside.  It's a place that crawls its way into nearly everything I write.  In some capacity.  I wish I had more to give, but for now, I don't.  Other life experiences are there, but my early life dominates.  When I write, I think "I've got to tell everyone about this!" because it was awesome.  I don't keep secrets when I write.  It's all there.  If you know me, you see my life right there.  Decorated with dragons and sword play and sleeping gods and dank tunnels that thread their ways into the bones of the world.

I share Bradbury's need to shout the stories at people, to jump on that landmine and spend the rest of the day picking up the pieces, but I lack the work ethic.  Unlike Chabon I'm not a professional.  I make my living on fulfilling someone else's dream, which makes my writing a hobby.  I don't write like a professional.  My writing is the weeds that push their way into the cracks of the pavement that cover my life.  They are ugly, and tenacious enough to have survived this long, but they keep growing.  I don't know if they are pretty enough weeds for others to enjoy, but they are mine.  And Ray is right.  I can't write with the expectation of becoming rich and famous.  I can't agree with Chabon that I'm here to entertain either.  If people are entertained, so be it, but I'm not going to write with the intent of making people happy either.  I might make some people happy, but it's not a job.  I couldn't care less about Customer Satisfaction.  I'm a hobby farmer and harvester of weeds!

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October 1st, 2013

I love the Avengers.  It's a unique experience to have a show that spun off from a Movie universe and work very well.  It's not the Planet of the Apes, Logan's Run, Swamp Thing, or even Highlander. No, this is like an extension of the movies, with many of the actors from the actual movie playing an integral role in the series.  Usually when you go from Movie to small screen, everything gets dumber, smaller, chintzier.  Characters are played by actors who sorta look like their movie counterparts or they go in a parallel vein (such as Duncan McLeod, Connor McLeod's also-immortal cousin who has the exact same backstory but better hair), or just a pale immitation (Logan's run and its cardboard sets and not-at-all-the-same-actors cast).

Or Swamp Thing, which the series was better than both movies, but there's only so much you can do with a guy in a waterlogged plant suit in a swamp.  Yay.  Swampy grows some orchids out of his hands and cures teh cancers.  Dick Durrock did a lot of standing in the swamp in that show.  I guess it's because the costume weighed about 200 lbs.

Don't get me started on the Beastmaster series.  Bleccch.

But this has Agent Hill and Agent Phil Coulson! And they make references to the movies! And Samuel L. Motherf*cking Jackson is supposed to make a cameo!  And it has Joss Whedon at the controls!! And production value!!!  I like it.  It's a long way from "Mutant X" which used to be on the WB station.  And was obviously a knockoff of X-Men.  And sucked.

Breaking Bad ended.  So that happened.  I missed out on the majority of the second and third seasons, but still loved the show.  It ended perfectly.  Probably the best ending for a TV series yet.  Or at least the most appropriate way to end it.  I hope it set the bar for TV for years to come.  Maybe M*A*S*H had a more memorable ending.  I don't know.  I always thought Alan Alda was a terrible Hawkeye Pierce.  Speaking of movies that became TV shows...

Yes.  MASH was a movie first.  A very good movie.  You should see it. Elliot Gould, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall.  Just brilliant.  And it puts the Theme song to the show (Suicide is Painless) in a whole other hilairious light.  It wasn't preachy like the series.  And Hotlips was actually kinda hot.

Sleepy Hollow, Once Upon A Time, and other shows in this vein are just guilty pleasures.  If you don't expect substance or good writing, you won't be disappointed.  No, seriously don't.  From the Halloween costume warehouse wardrobes to the godawful storytelling, really don't expect anything out of these shows.

Hell on Wheels is just about done, and with a lackluster season like this, I don't think Cullen Bohannon is coming back.  But the Walking Dead will be back again.  Which is a good thing. Though I gotta be honest, I'm a little sick of the zombies.  But at least the writing is pretty good.

August 27th, 2013

Into the Wild

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So, they recently found the body of a young man in the Seattle area who left his home in Arizona and apparently wanted to drop off the radar like Christopher McCandless from Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild.

In case you haven't heard of Into the Wild, no it's not a Broadway show about Little Red Riding Hood.  It's about a college student, Christopher McCandless, who decided the world was just too crowded and decided to take himself out of it.  He did this by driving into the desert, ditching all of his money, his car, and most other worldly possessions and then just kind of tramping his way around North America.  He wound up in Alaska, where apparently he turned his aesthetic hermit powers up to eleven and finally checked out after dying of malnutrition in the Alaskan outback.

I think his last words were, "Henry David Thoreau is a little bitch."

I used to like what this kid was all about.  Hell, I even romanticized what it would be like to do what this guy did.  Just disappear and live on the fringe, having adventures.  Being a slave to no one.  Not having to deal with people or civilization or any of it.  Just being out there by myself.  But you see, I got to the end of Krakauer's book and realized something.  McCandless pretty much committed slow suicide.  He was in over his head, knew he was in over his head, and kept at it anyway.  Doing really, really stupid things to just expedite his own death.  McCandless, I believe, got hooked on the thrill of surviving and ultimately, he OD'ed.  He starved to death in an abandoned school bus.  Our lesson from this?  People need people, dammit.  McCandless is only known because he failed so miserably at his attempt to do...whatever the hell it was that he was trying to do.

He got to be famous by example. Much like the captain of the Exon Valdez. We got to see him fail.  Gradually diminish into a emaciated skeleton of a man who was finally consumed by the solitude he sought after for so long.

And this kid recently, according to the press, thought that was awesome.

Kind of missing the point, wasn't he?  Sorta like just reading the first half of Crime and Punishment and thinking what an awesome idea it is to murder your landlady.  Or watching the first hour and ten minutes of Grizzly Man and wanting to move to Alaska to film bears.  What can we get from all of this?  Alaska is incredibly dangerous.  People have problems.  That's two echoes from our primordial past if I ever hear them.

So, just a "More You Know" PSA here, when your kid idolizes someone who completely failed at life, you might want to show them some examples of people who are famous for being awesome.  Like Ernest Shackleton.  Or Theodore Roosevelt.

August 20th, 2013

Recently, I stopped and visited a bookstore, like an actual bookstore, for the first time in probably six months.  What I discovered not only irritated the hell out of me, but sorta put me in a terrible mood of "If this is how they are running things, they deserve whatever it is they have coming."

Let's rewind to the year 1998.  For three months, I was a bookseller at a Bricks & Mortars Booksellers.  Back in those days, going to bookstores late in the evening was what I loved to do, and landing that job was something I thought I would really enjoy.  And I would have been right, except on the other side of the cash/wrap desk, it's all just retail.  Finnicky POS equipment (point of sale, not the other POS--yet it still applies), customers tossing their gold cards at you and not even noticing when you accidentally rang the same book through the scanner three times, because they wouldn't stop piling things on the counter.  And back then, there was the Oprah crowd.  Every Tuesday, Oprah would prop up some book on her show and suburbanite soccer moms would come in to the store in droves, trying to find a copy of White Oleander or some abomination Wally Lamb wrote. The books would fly off the shelf in minutes and that look of desperation would creep into their faces because we didn't have what the HiveOprahMind had commanded them to read.

Don't get me wrong, Oprah had a huge impact on getting people to read again.  I have to give her credit.

Lately, other factors, often inexplicable, have gotten people to read again.  From Harry Potter at the beginning of the century, to the bevy of Vampire novels and then the subsequent BDSM for Beginners trilogies that came out (interestingly enough as fanfic of vampire novels), people have been reading a lot.  Even more than the notorious "Star Report" of the 90s.  If they want to read about oral sex, they don't have to let their imaginations run wild from presidential inquest transcripts.  It's probably in a mainstream book, in all its glory.  Just the other day, in fact, my 11 year old son and I were in the waiting room of the allergist. He points to the lady sitting across from us as her three toddler age children run amok and he says "That is SICK!"

Turns out he took umbrage at her reading "50 Shades of Gray" in the waiting room at the allergist.  I refrained from judgement at the time.

Anyway, the bookstore.  Books and Store, once a mighty and proud establishment, where you could almost find any book you ever wanted.  And enjoy a Starbucks in the cafe while you pawed through it.  I had worked at another one just long enough to see it for what it was.  No longer a home to characters and knowledge, it was the exact same thing as a GAP or Dillards, with hundreds of thousands of pounds of product and overhead on the shelf.  Books instead of clothes.  I quit after a few months because I still loved books, and this job, in spite of employee discounts, was making me like books less.  Plus, if you have never worked retail, let me explain something.  As an employee, you learn that there are two kinds of people.  Customers and workers.  According to the business model, customers are all childish idiots and workers are just drones who exist to do whatever Corporate tells them to do.  Corporate isn't even a person or people.  Corporate is basically a Force, much in the same way that Pacific island dwellers might view an active volcano as their god.  Every once in awhile, you have to make sacrifices and someone gets tossed in.  I left before it was my turn.  Swing Shifts happen, and they do suck.  As do weekends, but those happen to people who don't work in retail.

So, my trip to the bookstore today reminded me of what I hated about working at the bookstore, as well as what I loathe about the publishing industry in general.  Not so long ago, we had two different categories: fiction and non-fiction.  Times were simpler back then.

Today I went in and what had already been fragmented in the Genre world of fiction (a product of publishers and booksellers, in case you didn't already know), was broken down even further.  Now, instead of fiction being literature, genre (horror, Sci-fi, fantasy, romance) it was further delineated into TEEN horror, TEEN paranormal romance, TEEN and Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, and then a plethora of other sub-genres, including product-based books, such as D&D books, Warhammer, XBox inspired titles, AND "teen and young adult" varieties of these.

I must have walked through the stacks four or five times and started the alphabet over half a dozen times with each pass.  It's ridiculous.  Not to mention alienating.  You see, like the woman reading "50 Shades of Gray" sometimes I like to read a book without having to justify or explain my reasons for doing so.  She had the cover bent back so nobody could glean the dirty thoughts of light bondage and relationship trauma from the reflection of her eyes.  I often do the same on some genre books.  And I hate to say this, but as a reader, I'm not yet secure enough to read YA in public.  YA tells some great stories, don't get me wrong, but sometimes a 38 year old man reading a "kids" book gets you on a Megan's Law list in some people's opinion.

Or worse yet, an adult perusing the YA aisles gets that whole "If that man offers you candy or puppies from his van, run children!" looks.  You know, because an old bastard like me should be relegated to High Litrachoor or the James Patterson/Sue Grafton section.  And yes, they have a section for each.

Bookstores have become so specialized that they really limit ones exposure to what is out there to read.  People get into the habit of staying in their lines.  They teach us that in Kindergarten with coloring projects.  We get a cookie if we stay put.  Most of our adult lives are about staying put.  We find a job and stay there.  We find a house and stay there.  Brand of soda/beer/car.  Sit.  Stay.  Good.  So it's no wonder that Bartles & Nobless Oblige are getting their asses handed to them by Amazon, who not only tosses everything into one pot but suggests all sorts of other shit you hadn't even considered buying. "The latest bestseller AND a trampoline?  Yes, please."

Instead B&N has told kids "THis is what you are supposed to read.  Come over to this section once the suffix 'teen stops being part of your age."  Which is great and all, until these kids have mentally graduated past teen witches/vampires/zombies/chosen ones into other genres, or subgenres, or books about other things.  But, by then, they are probably already either in college and no longer reading for fun, or skipped higher ed and are now too busy with work/family/addiciton to read anything.  BUt at least they got that one section at the bookstore taken care of.  They say this in much the same way that a cart pony says "Boy, thanks for these blinders!  Off to the glue factory for me!"

Because once you are stuck in a rut, by the time you realize you were in one, there's a good chance it's too late.

Barnes and Noble?  You are in a rut.  Just putting that out there for you.

Until then, your readers, the Customers, are going to run out of their category and be too timid to leave it, or completely unaware that other books are out there for them.

And just sayin', try making Bookselling your business. Your employees ought to know about books.  They should know that a new release of a book available ONLY online is a missed sale when I have $15 in my pocket and I want to buy something.

August 14th, 2013

So, today, I was looking at videos for straight/safety razors.  THis is a hobby of mine, as I have been using a straight razor almost exclusively for about two years now.  The experience is very relaxing (until you cut yourself, and then you are scrambling for sulfa, a tournequette, or the styptic pen, depending on how bad you nicked yourself).  And you only have to pay for stuff once.  The last time I bought cartridges for my disposable razor, it was over $9.  For like 3 of the friggin' things.  I had two razors; one I bought in college at an antique store for around $35 with a colloid handle, and the other I inherited from my great-grandfather years before.  A few years ago, I got a honing stone and strop from Jess for my birthday.  Because I was stupid when I was 17, I punched a hole in the wall of my mom's kitchen and used Po-po's razor to cut a swath of wallpaper out of my closet, which I matched up to the paper in her kitchen and glued it all back in place.  She found out what I had done about five years later.  Unfortunately, it nicked the blade of my Comfort 100, and I really didn't consider it shaveworthy when I started using the razors.  So it sat in my drawer, unused.

About six months ago, I got tired of the colloid handle blade getting dull and basically just pulling the hair out by the roots.  No matter how much I honed it, it never seemed to be sharp enough.  In a fit of determination, I went to town on Po-po's old Comfort 100, and other than the nick in the blade, I realized it was already, even in its pathetic condition, already sharper than that German steel blade.  I've used it ever since with great success.

ANyway, I was looking a videos to "hone" my technique and saw in the side thingy this thumbnail called ASMR Shave and Haircut. I clicked on it.  This is the weirdest thing.  See, apparently there are a whole lot of videos out there where someone us just whispering, or pretending to do somewhat mundane things.  According to what I've read on the subject, the whole thing is supposed to stimulate your sensory reactions and give you chills, relax you, or supposedly even give you a pseudo-sexual reflex.  Honestly, I think there is something to this.  Watching a few of these videos, I did get the chills all through my scalp and oddly enough, my face.  I actually felt relaxed and happy.  I don't know what that is all about, but it's frigging cool.

It is weird too, because it reminds me of the same feeling you get when you get your hair cut and you feel very relaxed, pampered, and all the attention is focused on you and your comfort.  You don't even get that kind of reaction from therapy, at least I don't anyway, because all that is is an hour of complaining to someone about your life.  It reminds me of quiet, intimate (not to be confused with sexy-timez) moments with someone, where you talked quietly, and you could almost feel their whispers in your chest.  When I worked tech support back in my single days, I actually had a few instances where a woman with a nice voice had called in and by the end of the call, we had both dropped the volume and tone of our voices until it reached this level.  It was hypnotic, almost competitive. And dare I say hot.  Almost to the level of needing to go out and smoke a cigarette.  But that was a little bit different.

But this shit is just crazy. I don't know if people are fetishizing it, or if it's just truly just relaxing.  Stimulating A-waves and the like.  I mean there's no sexy-talk, no skin, most of it is really mundane stuff like pretend hair-cutting, ear cleaning, or playing with a bowl of snow in comfy gloves.  Is this the level our society has reached?  Have we been so inundated with the raunchy, graphic stuff, that wholesome things are all we have left to stimulate our pleasure sensors?  Have our libidos rubbed that part of our minds raw and now we need something like someone whispering about how nice your teeth are going to look after the flouride treatment makes us happy?  It's not even sexual, yet it is sensual to a degree, in the truest sense of the word.  Maybe it's just the tone, the lack of jarring ringtones or screaming toddlers or doors opening and closing, the harsh blast of the HVAC system, or the drone of people nattering away in endless meetings. Sounds that are calming, like warm water running out of a tap. Raindrops on the roof.  The wind in the trees.  The snip of scissors.  The staccato of a young voice whispering to just you that takes you someplace else.  Dare I say, almost like the days when you liked someone and you whispered on the phone for hours so your parents couldn't eavesdrop.  Yet exciting and soothing all  Like those mornings when you woke up at a relatives house and all the adults were talking in another room, telling stories, watching a show on TV.  The clink of coffee spoons in mugs.  The low sizzle of a pan of bacon.  Footie jammies.

Or maybe it's just me. Some weird shit though.  An hour of listening to someone just ramble on with a whisper about nothing in particular and I can just feel my brain go slack. Maybe a little drool before I black out. What witchery is this?

August 12th, 2013

I have gotten a bunch of agent/publisher rejections on my novel, Song of the Cinder.  The reason for most is "it was interesting and the writing was great, but had too many weird elements for us to market" etc. etc.  I've gotten too many of these to think it's just a platitude.

Honestly, I wrote it weird, because I love Weird.

But I'm losing hope that any publisher would want to touch it because of sales/marketing logistics.

So, I was thinking of going the Kindle Direct Publishing route.  What can anyone suggest/warn me about this? I'm a little leery of what the rights entail and what that could mean for my book in the future.

Help?

August 9th, 2013

Writing Updatery

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Drinky
Wrote 1500 words today.

Got some good stuff down about the flux between those in the know with magic and those who have been inculcated to avoid it.  Also, introduced two characters again and worked the age differences that make this Important.  Drust and Wrad with added backstory!

Got a girl in a trance talking to shadows.  A boy who sees in the Spirit World.  His dad who is possessed by his dead wife.  And the arrival of the Poisoner, Drust.  I'm excited about this scene!

Also, on IM, discussing the correlation with Mia Sara's character in Legend and how it relates to Blake's Songs of Innocence/Songs of Experience.
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August 7th, 2013

I came across this on Facebook today.  I wish I knew where it originated from, because I think they deserve the credit for basically summing it all up.

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This.  A thousand times this.  Now, off to get some stuff done and then maybe write something.
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August 6th, 2013

I actually got to finish a book last night.  I read Hugh Howey's book Wool and it only took me six weeks!

What? You may wonder.  Does Clint have a learning disability?  Yes.  Yes, I do.  It's called Life.  Three kids, a house to help run, a full time job, writing when I can, and all the things that go with it leave me very little time for things like reading.  Reading usually translates into sleeping.  My life is like the army, you grab whatever sleep you can, when you can.  Which means that I usually read only about half an hour a day, in two fifteen minute chunks.  That is if I don't work through breaks or fall asleep.

The book was great.  A little slow at first and too reminiscent of a few stories I've read before. A lot of which could have been some early Philip K. Dick sci-fi, but eventually shifts from the world-building of the Silo to the character-scape of the story.  Living in a underground bunker/arcology figuratively and literally gives the characters depth.  The further away from the surface, the more rooted in the earth they become, and the lower in their caste structure they are.  Which, like any caste, tends to mean that the people who actually run everything and do the work are at the bottom.  In this case, the deep depths of the Silo are reserved for those who mine the metals, drill the oil, fix the machines, and keep the power going.  It's the IT department that stands head and shoulders above the rest, using up the majority of these resources for god-knows-what.  In Howey's characters, you get a sense of claustrophobia and comfort all at once.  The deeper things go, the safer the characters seem to feel, as though the surrounding earth is like a mother's warm embrace.  At the top, with the observation screens, the ruined outside world is a painful reminder of everything humanity has destroyed in its folly.  Those no one seems to even comprehend that people once lived outside the silo.  The toxic landscape is downright frightening, especially since it is used as a method of capital punishment.  People are sent outside to clean, and they never come back.

Howey kills off some POV characters pretty early on too, so then you have to reinvest yourself in an entirely new protagonist after the first 1/4 of the book. Which was a pretty risky move, but hey, he self-published this as a serial and then a big publisher realized that an established fan base probably meant that it would sell once they put everything together.  As a business model, you'd think that sort of thing would catch on, right?  I mean I still don't understand why it's up to publishers, editors, and even agents to "discover" these writers.  Howey wasn't doing too bad on his own.  Maybe he's the exception to the rule.  Or maybe, just maybe, like water, fans will find a way through.  Maybe the model HAS to change because now that bricks and mortar bookstores are on their way out, it's a silly little thing like STORY that actually gets people reading.  And not just flashy book covers or junkets or Oprah.

It's good to see that creative, engaging books are still being written, without the pretense or the made-for-miniseries feel that dominates books these days.  The book is paced much like The Hunger Games, and I only use the comparison because the story is fairly simple, accessible, and not hard to find yourself lost in the world of the silo, with familiar faces and even the taboos of things-that-will-get-you-sent-to-cleaning.  Unlike the Hunger Games, the world-building is very solid, and comes off as having volumes of backstory that never made it to the page; unlike the Collins books where the world is nearly identical to ours except when it furthers the plot and bears no explanation on how things are possible. (I had a problem with how omnipotent the games arenas were, as well as the use of really only two fleshed out genetically modified critters: the trackerjackers and the mockingjays. Or any random encounter monstrosity the DM/Author decided to roll up when the pacing got slow).

The Silo is very well thought out, right down to the lack of elevators for 151 levels.  The most unfortunate thing about the book, however is the title.  Other than what the cleaning pads are made of for those sent out to die in the acid rain, "wool" doesn't really even cover the concept of the book.  But I guess it was an alternative to "Silo" which would have just made people think it was about farming or missiles (if they were kids of the Cold War like me).  Or maybe it's a figurative wool, as in what is being pulled over the silo inhabitants' eyes.

Since no one in that world even realizes that the surface ever contained life, the farming references are likely just vestiges of an old language that people continue to use without giving it much thought. From a writerly perspective, the world-building, the editing, the story, and most of the characters were solid, fleshed-out, and engaging.  Only one character did I not like, when we were supposed to, and that was the quasi-love-interest.  He just seemed kind of spoiled and immature, and extremely self-interested with puppy-love and other hyphenated-things being his main motivation.  I'm going to say this: dude was downright stalkery.  Less a Mr. Right and more a Mr. Right-Now.  He was that person many of us probably had a crush on in High School (male or female, because this is a universal theme here), who seemed mysterious and dark, but just turned out to be a petulant loner who listened to the Smiths on their walkman too much.

So, why with the comparison to YA books?  This is obviously a serious, adulty type story, right?  It is, but not adult in a way that is gratuitous.  In the silo, you won't find heaving or throbbing stuff.  That was a nice change.  Pretty much everybody wears overalls, literally the un-sexiest article of clothing ever invented. Next to the speedsuit.  The language, the situations, even the violence are appropriate, and since population control is a key element, the lack of sex throughout the book is an interesting element of the worldbuilding.  It also represents oppression and an omnipresent factor of guilt that controls the inhabitants of the silo, as all relationships are strictly controlled in a lottery system.  Other than the language and some violence, this story could be YA, but it also has grit and pathos that is absent in a lot of young adult writing, and unfortunately is now absent in most adult books as well.  This sort of story is like the ones you could read when you wanted to read a novel.  Not when you wanted a cocktail of sex and ultraviolence.  And not when you wanted the condescension of YA.

Before you throw things at me, please know that I have the utmost respect for YA and its authors.  But as an adult, I think I can take the adult themes.  But also as an adult, I'd like to be able to read a novel without having to read about someone being molested during a heroin binge.  If you want to get your freak on, that's great.  Go crazy.  But it's good to read something that doesn't toss it in just because adult books require ALL adult themes.  In over abundance.

Which is ironic considering the protags of Wool, in that world, are pretty morally bankrupt.  They are anachronisms, more suited to our world and values than the confines of a fallout shelter built to last thousands of years.

It's a very cool read.
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