Saturday, July 25, 2015

Odd Quotes

You know what’s really, powerfully sexy? A sense of humor. A taste for adventure. A healthy glow. Hips to grab on to. Openness. Confidence. Humility. Appetite. Intuition. Smart-ass comebacks. Presence. A quick wit. Dirty jokes told by an innocent-looking lady. A storyteller. A genius.  A woman who realizes how beautiful she is, but isn't arrogant about it.
~ The internet

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Quick Book Review - Loving Day

As I've said, I've been catching up on my reading. A few things I've read before, to refresh my memory and perhaps take away a different perspective on the material, a few new items to expand my focus of the world around me. To that end, I, some books from brother. One of them was called Loving Day, in part derived from the Loving v. Virigina case that ended the prohibition on interracial marriage. It was okay, which for a book my brother gave me is a pretty damn good review.

As I've mentioned before, my brother and I have different tastes in literature. In his readings he's looking for subtext and nuance and metaphor. In the stuff I read, I actually like for things to happen. I'll admit that a lot of the books I read are HeroWorks - i.e., there is a hero, this is him and you know he's going to win. The creativity comes in the how. This differs from Literature in which we start with the PTS - Person Telling the Story. They may or may not win, let's just see how this goes. This book was kind of a hybrid, a little of this and little of that. There were long passages extolling the protagonist's thoughts, interpretations and concepts, telling HIS story,  but things also actually happened, people went places and did things. Contrary to popular belief, I don't need explosions, gun battles or a chase scene to occur, but I tend to need more than talking heads.

This story, Loving Day, revolves around Warren Duffy, the product of a interracial marriage, who has just gotten out of an interracial marriage coming home to Philadelphia to his dead father's final property renovation project. A hop, skip and jump later he also finds out he's a father, the product of an interracial tryst in his youth that has produced an interracial child. You may or may not have gotten the idea that "interracial" is an ongoing theme for the book. It's subtle, but it's there. 

Using that as a backdrop, the story quickly becomes, well, almost a little to true to life, sliding from issues of sudden fatherhood, dating, the need for acceptance, love in the modern era with sides of class issues, teenage angst, unfulfilled life expectations and even a little art critique thrown in. And ghosts. It's funny, it's thoughtful, and at times even a little poignant. Everything in the story seems to come at you at once, none of it fitting together quite right which makes it all the more readable. But, although the story touches some real world in its themes, it lives in an insulated little reality of its own. 

Don't get me wrong, some of it was predictable. A few things, at least to me, popped out as obvious future occurrences and so it just became a matter of waiting for them to happen. A few others came out of left, just like life. But he also went places, talked to people and tried to accomplish things. So he told a story, but it was an interesting story. A few of the supporting characters seemed less than fleshed out, almost stand ins to project the protagonist's feelings onto. A few others a little too mystical, seemingly unaffected by the world around them. Although these maybe products of the limited scope chosen by the author to convey the tale. Ah, stylistic choices.

I found it a good read. It did not end up where I thought it would, but it got to where it probably needed to be. Worth the few hours I took to digest it, and certainly worth the pages it was printed on.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bloom County Returns...kinda.

Ramblings Post #294
The thing I miss about being a kid is not paying bills. Currently, bills are the focus of my existence, and even at what I hope, expect, and am working towards for my future, bills will be at best a minor but constant reminder of my ordinary qualities. You know, eating, sleeping, the occasional milkshake. But that aside, I like most people miss things that I think ended too soon. Like Napster. Or shows like Profit.  Or that milkshake. 
Image from
I have a copy of Billy and the Boingers - Bootleg.

Or had. I'm not sure where it is now, but I'm fairly certain I did not throw it out. I threw out books once and it felt awful. So I've still got it around here somewhere. But I know that I can put my hands on copies of Classics of Western Literature and Bloom County Babylon in like two minutes.

That's right kiddies, Bloom County is back. The highly political and completely silly daily strip that was last seen being sold to a Donald Trump inhabiting the body of a dead former rockstar/televangelist cat has returned. I'm not counting Outland, which I kinda liked but didn't feel grounded, or Opus which seemed more like a TV spin-off of a former great that had lost a little something. I needed the real thing, and now its back. Well, it's back on Facebook, but it's back. 

For the uninitiated, this is South Park before there was a South Park, and it's comeback is on par with a return of Calvin and Hobbes. Well, maybe not quite on par. Real, real close though. Bloom County is subversive reading. It's entertaining, sometimes scarily satirical, but really funny. From it's odd ball take on politics, religion, plastic surgery, feminism and anything else that popped into it's creator's head, reading it made you feel like you had the inside track or just a plain better understanding of the world around you.

My fear for this situation is that this will tarnish the memory, that the author won't be able to adapt the characters to the NOW, or worse, that I won't get it anymore. That I've outgrown what was. Because nothing hurts quite like realizing you can't go back, not even in your mind. Because you can't go back. I know, I did the math. Right now, it's only on Facebook, and if we only get a hundred or so strips I'll be happy.

Barkeep. A round of tequila. It's what Bill would have done. Ack! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Quick Book Review - Ready Player One

I've had some time off for the first time in a minute, so I've been catching up on my reading, among other activities. I also restarted Grand Theft Auto V, but only because my original restart after not playing for ten months got sidetracked, so I started over starting over. But that's not what we're talking about here, my reading is. I've gotten a couple of books from my brother, wandered down the aisle of my local used bookstore and paid more for shipping than for the actual book on Amazon. In any case, although its a few years old, I'd heard a lot about Ready Player One, so I grabbed a used copy and settled in.

I should have been thrilled at this book. I've been into comics and video games since forever, probably qualified as a actual nerd in my youth and I can say truthfully this story didn't just wallow in nerd lore, it bathed in it. To excess. And then turned it into a weird Tron variant. And maybe because of that, the whole thing failed to gel for me.

 I understand the impetus of the story - after he dies, a famous Steve Jobs-esque character (one who actually coded) creates a global treasure hunt with the prize being his vast fortune. This premise, with the clues all focused on this billionaire's own obsession with the eighties made the main character's  focus, and that of the other "players" make some sense. But the weak framing quickly turned the story into a Clive Cussler derivative, in that you know the main character is going to win out in the end, you just don't know how yet. There was never really any doubt now that I think back about it.

It's clear what he was going for - the underdog to hero trope - but the execution is so poorly done, so blatant that you're almost rushing to the next part to see if anything interesting happens. Further there is no real character development, the antagonists are straight from central casting,  the main character has a decided lack of scope in what he relates, there is no real world building outside the virtual environment and the obstacles pop up like Star Trek story points i.e., the only reason they mention X at the start of this chapter is so you'll know why they used X at the end. It's a series of tropes, cliches and shortcomings molded into a totality using nerdy details to hide story holes.  

I read it all the way through in about three days, but it was a fairly good read and I can appreciate it for what it was. I've read too much and for too long and I realize a story doesn't have to be a masterpiece to be enjoyable. And it was enjoyable. I however, wouldn't put it on my suggested reading list.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Something just feels off

Ramblings Post #293
I like movies. I like them so much I actually read the scripts when given a chance. I like them funny, dramatic, action and artsy and all in between. I am not a big fan however, of  re-envisioning something for the big screen. Or to a lesser extent, the remake. Which is odd, because there are two or three films that given enough cash and time I would love to shoot over and tell the story properly. Don't get me started on that last Star Trek thing, oooh, boy, so many changes. Oh, but I digress.

I wasn't crazy about the idea of a Ghostbusters remake to start with. Wait, I'm sorry, reboot. It's a movie from my childhood that holds special memories, and as it's sequel showed, it was really kind of a once in a lifetime lighting in a bottle sort of thing. Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis. But you know Hollywood. Built in audience, nostalgia factor, creative bankruptcy, all that sort of thing.

Then they announced they wanted the remake to have all female ghostbusters. I get the whole women being locked out of certain types of lead roles for the a large part of the history of cinema, so there is a concerted effort to attempt to balance the scales. It makes sense. I mean, and I know it's coming at some point, why not remake the classic Casablanca as a lesbian love story, the Hangover with just the women or maybe re-envision Beverly Hills Cop with a black female lead? I even liked the talent they chose, as Kristen Wiig is funny and Melissa McCarthy can be hysterical. So give it a chance I said, despite it being a stabbing your childhood in the heart with a stake, give it a chance. It might be good.

Then I saw this picture.

I got a bad feeling about this.

Remember when the last Star Trek movie where to add gravitas they tried to recreate Spock's death scene from Wrath of Khan, the movie they swear they weren't trying to imitate, only got cute and tried to switch it around to Kirk and forgetting that we had no history with this version of Kirk and he and Spock had no background so it was empty gesture and that even a dullard would realize that killing the lead actor in the second picture of an obvious trilogy didn't make any sense so you knew he was coming back? That feeling.

Because this picture - with Ecto1 the old-style ambulance instead of newer one, similar uniforms, the Egon glasses and a person who I am hoping isn't called Wanda Zedmore, looks like they're trying too hard. All the same elements will be there, apparently, sadly, but will they realize they have different actors? I know that the effects will be better, but having just watched a remake last week, will the story be the same? Feel the same? Will they force their lines to mirror those of the originals at crucial spots? In endeavors like this, balancing on that fine line between hewing too close to the original as to be a waste of film and veering so far that you should have just changed the name for clarity's sake is an extremely hard thing to do. And this picture doesn't put my mind at ease that my childhood is in good hands.

I'm not saying all remakes are bad. I enjoyed the remake of um, wait, give me a minute, I know there is at least one. Um, tip of my tongue, just a second...

Barkeep, some gin, I need so thinking alcohol.    

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Old South loses more ground

This is a political post. 

Today I am very proud to say that it is a great day in South Carolina,” Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday moments before she signed Senate Bill 897 to officially lower the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse. The flag will be moved to a new "appropriate display.”

Crowds gather to watch flag come down - Columbia SC
(Japace/ Instagram)
Two things.

First, Wow. I did not expect that to happen so fast. I'm from SC originally, so I figured this a for a bitter fight that would last months. I listened to the arguments made for keeping the flag up, and the "I remember playing with the sword of my great grandfather" is, to put it properly, weak sauce.  Taking it off the state house grounds doesn't ban it, it just means that the grounds of the building that is supposed to represent all of South Carolina's citizens isn't marred by the battle flag a rebel army who would have like to see half of those citizens still in chains. Those who want to honor it still can, but don't make those who don't want to have to.

Second, what is an appropriate display? Because for years, on TOP of the statehouse was deemed appropriate and then after taking off the top of the building was done, keeping on the grounds was deemed appropriate. So what's appropriate?

Oh, and personally, I don't think it should have gotten an honor guard. A janitor with a mop and bucket should have come out around midnight and took it down with no ceremony, folded up and left it in the speaker's office or in a bag outside the governor's office. I understand that the display might have been a sop to those upset that they lost the fight here, but still.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

An Economic Ambush is lurking.

This is a political post. 

For the past week, because I listen to public radio, I've been kept abreast of the goings on in the Euro-zone and the efforts to keep Greece from forgetting to put the check in the mail. Actually, Greece has already said the check ain't in the mail and it wasn't planning on putting one there anytime soon, but that's really a horrible metaphor. And while all this sideshow has been going on, the concern for the Euro and surrounding circus of debtors, the real issue is happening on the other side of the globe and promises to change the game.

Let me put it to you in these terms: It is probable that Greece failing it's loans and subsequently leaving the Euro-zone would actually make the Euro-zone stronger, as it would no longer have the drag of a country stuck in the economic doldrums holding it back. Greece going bust could be a good thing. Conversely, no one in their right mind thinks China's economy crashing could be a good thing.

The Chinese stock market, one of the largest in the world, has lost between 25 and 30% of it's value in the last month, so much that a almost 700 firms have suspended trading of their own stocks to preserve their value. Further contributing to the problems, earlier in the month a number of positions in the Chinese market were taken with the assumption that Greece and the Euro-zone would find common ground. And we know how that's turning out. The term market correction is increasingly starting to sound silly.

Now, supposedly the Chinese market is cumulatively still up for the year, and it supposedly makes up less than 20% of the GDP of the country. Ours economy by comparison is about 100% Wall Street invested, which is strange but oh thank god for removal of Glass-Steagall, which on an interesting side note should be back in another 15 years or so. Theoretically a bursting bubble shouldn't have the same effect it had here in 2007. But, in this case, the Chinese markets are really an extension of the Chinese government and its fiscal policy, essentially a working model of the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory people who hate the government swear by, so this does not bode well short term.  The efforts so far to stem the tide such as tying the hands of major stockholders and giving everyone free lines of credit have been either woefully inadequate or an attempt to fight fire with gasoline. We won't even speak on the long term.

So what does that mean to us, and by us I mean the people of the United States?

Well, now here's where it get's tricky. China is a huge trading partner with America, you know, iPhones and stuff, and if there economy were to collapse, well, let's just say the you might want to dust off your old Nokia just in case. A collapse would also drive down demand for oil, which might mean cheap gas again for us here. I can't even imagine the political fallout. Or maybe the Chinese government will prop the whole thing back up, because who wouldn't want a replica of Moscow and the Kremlin just a short drive from the re-creation of Paris that is relatively empty. But that blatant a shoring up of their market might have an inverse effect as as well. Nobody really knows.

But I do know this, and  I'm going to put it gently, the market HATES guessing about the future. Which market? ALL of them.

I potential problems lie in China. So why are we so focused on Europe?


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

At My Writing Desk

Ramblings Post #292
This blog, after coming off a break, came back a little more political than I like it. But I had a few things to say and waiting wouldn't have made them any better, so I took a moment and did what needed to be done. Now, for something a little lighter. My writing prospects are looking up a little as ideas are starting to percolate and I thought I would bring you kids up to speed. And maybe even update my website. If I can remember the password. What was first pet's name?  

So I'm working on this story, right?

To keep it simple, I'm writing bits and pieces of it in Windows notepad, so I don't get bogged down and can just get the parts out that keep popping into my head. A blurb here. A paragraph there. Sometimes two or three pages at a time once I've copied it over. I've tried writing it in other formats, but then I immediately want to go to editing mode, so that what shows up there is the final product. This when I KNOW it's going to need even more editing later, but I can't help myself.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. When are you not working on a story? You know what would be different? Finishing one of these epics you keep going on about! You're a starter, not a finisher. You need to buckle down and write something and finish it. Not an treatment, not just see it all in your head but work out all the details and put them down on paper. How about it?

All that out of your system? Good, because I'm working on this story, right? It's huge, epic, lots of world building and character development, figuring out protagonists and antagonists and...

Um, okay, see, what had happened was....

That first part was from a post last year when I was working on, let's call it story A. Then I went on Reddit and joining writing prompts, and what started as a blurb, is now ANOTHER story, which is story B, that I just can't stop writing. It's not that great, but it's just flowing right now. Now, story B is kinda science-fictiony as well, but more grounded, and involves a mix of government, politics and conspiracies and secret agencies and other stuff I'm just throwing at the word processor to see what happens. I even have the whole thing mapped out. Well, most of it. I have a calender with dates and actions up through what I guess is seventy five percent of it. 

So like two stories. I might not finish.

I have recently realized that I have this problem, where I get an idea and just start writing...and then the story just kinda stalls after a while. I once wrote a hundred and seventy five pages, and realized that for some reason I was still introducing characters in the second half of the book. Okay, Skipper and the Doc weren't really main characters, but as I writing out their dialogue it struck me that they only existed to get one of the protagonists from one place to another in the story. They didn't really need to exist or have back stories. It seemed like such a waste, as they were shaping up to be good characters. And that story, Bohemian Cooker, I've also never really figured out where the story was ultimately going. So it sits, and I'm thinking about picking it back up if I ever finish these.

Now I have both of them mapped out. Story A completely, although new little pieces and ideas just keep bubbling up in my head, on my back brain. Story B I try to work on every day. Well, not more than two days off. It's coming along.  

I'm a writer. Even if it's only just for me. I feel like I must create.

Barkeep. I need whatever Hemingway drank. No, Faulkner. No, wait, Ralph Ellison. His beverage. I need some inspiration.