Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Popularity. . . 

I was going to post my shameful confession today, but I felt it needed some prefacing. So here goes.

A lot of people, including family, friends and SW fanboys, seem to think that I'm contrary on general principle. When a new movie comes out, and I see it and then mention how bad it was, they say, "Oh, Mastadge, you hate everything." Not really, no. I just don't like the crap that I don't like, and unfortunately that constitutes about 98% of what Hollywood produces these days. When there is a movie I like, I'm just as vocal in its support.

However, in addition to being thought generally contrary, people seem to think that if a think achieves popular success, I'll automatically assume it's bad. Often, that's true. The general theory is that if a thing is accessible to such a huge number of people, it's probably pandering to the LCD and not of a whole lot of interest to me. A case in point is [i]The Da Vinci Code[/i], which (and I hope you can forgive me if you love it) I've tried to read because it's been recommended to me so many times, but just can't bring myself to get through. The writing is so basic and simple, the premise so banal, and the characters so without character . . . it seems to me like the kind of book a person reads because either (a) everyone else is reading it and it's therefore cool to read it, or because (b) it presents its idea so basically that the most ignorant, average person can grasp them and it makes people feel smart to understand a book. Of course, I could be completely wrong. Yes, I usually avoid the books on the bestseller lists, because experience has taught me that I won't find much to like in most of them. On the other hand, I didn't hate [i]Titanic[/i]. It's not a favorite of mine, but I don't mind it, either. So there's a nip in the bud of the claims that I dislike a thing simply because of its popularity. Another is my ongoing love of SW.

But it gets to the point where it's intrusive. For example, when I read a Harry Potter novel, and try to discuss it with someone, and in that discussion point out the faults I see, more often than not my concerns'll be dismissed on the grounds of, "Oh, Mastadge, you just don't like it because it's popular. Quit the nitpicking." But I'm only doing what I do for any book: praising what I like about it, and criticizing what I don't. If I think a thing's crap, I'll say so. If I have a problem with a thing, I'll say so. I know what I like, and I know what I don't like. I don't hate movies just because "everyone else likes them." I hate them because their bad, and I hate it when the particularly bad ones do particularly well, because it annoys me when so many people display such bad taste. (I myself am certainly guilty of liking some crap, but at least I'm (usually) aware that it's crap even as I enjoy it.)

But I'm getting off-topic. What I'm trying to say is: I don't condemn things (solely) for being popular. And, for the most part, I won't condemn a thing unless I've given it a try first. I may be critical and sick of all the crap and sick of all the people who love all the crap, but I'm vocal about it because I love the forms. I love books and movies. I don't "hate everything." Just so you know.

And with that out of the way, I'm prepared in the next couple of days to make my shameful confession.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Need some inspiration? 

If so, check out Vera Nazarian's new inspirational blog. Seriously, the woman never ceases to amaze me. And her books are good, too. So read them.

Coming tomorrow: my shameful confession.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Requiescat In Pace 

I forgot to mention it last night, but legendary film composer Jerry Goldsmith passed away yesterday. He was 75, he'd been fighting cancer for quite a while, and apparently he went quietly in his sleep. I'll admit that he's never been one of my favorite film scorers, but his Masada March is one of my favorite film cues ever -- and written for a TV movie to boot -- and "Raisuli Attacks" from The Wind and the Lion is brilliant. I'd like to quote a couple reviews about this piece alone. First, this one:
I'm not sure a more exciting, thrilling, pulse-pounding piece of music has ever been written for a film. Strings and winds play around each other before a magnificent trumpet solo (how the player kept his breath for so long - who will ever know?), a thrilling blast of the main theme and then a few bars of the rapturous love theme. Stunning stuff, brilliantly played.
Then, this one:
By far the main highlight of the album (and one of the highlights of Goldsmith's career), this barbaric action cue utilizes both the horn call and a new melody, which sounds absolutely impossible to play. He begins with a peaceful statement of the horn call, before turning it completely tribal and pagan. A percussion section leads into the introduction of a blazingly fast ostinato, on top of which the new action theme is based. This unimagineably quick sixteenth-note theme has the accents on all the off-beats, and tied notes at all the (seemingly) wrong places. Then, Jerry Goldsmith and the studio orchestra accomplish the impossible - the TRUMPETS get it. Yes, and it sounds completely professional, with no errors whatsoever. What's more, he harmonizes it into 2 parts, making it all the more difficult to synchonize. The ostinato returns, as well as the off-beat clanging from "Horsemen," then the strings get that sixteenth-note melody again. The climax of the action is an exciting, glorious, loud, bombastic, and virtuoso, (and a lot of other adjectives) playing of the main theme ON TOP OF the Presto battle melody. Finally, the cue ends with another statement of his love theme. Truly not to be missed.
Yes, I love that cue. Could listen to it fifty times in a row and not get sick of it. And that march I mentioned from Masada is just about the most catchy piece of music I've ever heard. Anyway, Goldsmith was incredibly prolific, often incredibly good (especially given some of the projects he'd take; he created first rate scores for a number of terrible movies), and by all accounts a great guy. He will be missed.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

KJA speaks. . . 

So, I was reading the latest issue of The Internet Review of Science Fiction when I came across the following quote from bestselling writer Kevin J. Anderson:
Most of the people I've encountered who scorn 'media tie-in' books have never read them. I'll hold up my Jedi Academy books or the Dune prequels against any of my original novels. I put in my best work, no matter what.
You can read the rest of what he has to say here.  Anyway, I got to thinking, Gee, that's interesting.  But KJA seems to be singing to a different tune these days.  So I went digging for that old quote, and indeed I found it.  Several years ago, this same Kevin J. Anderson wrote:
But I also started writing these Star Wars books, which I view as flipping burgers writing.  You have to make a living, whether it's flipping hamburgers at McDonald's or working for an insurance office or something.  And I would rather be making my living by writing than by working in a store someplace....I can write an X-Files book in 2 months or less, for more than my entire year's salary (as a tech writer at Lawrence Livermore Lab), and end up writing whatever else I want for ten months.
Gee, I'm thinking, that's quite a discrepancy.  And then I remembered there's a reason I'm glad this man doesn't write Star Wars novels anymore.  There's a reason why I neither buy nor read any of his books.  There's a reason why Frank Herbert's corpse had, at last check, hit 7468 rpm.  There's no discrepancy at all.  He clearly views all his writing as "flipping burgers writing."  He spends two months on an X-Files novel, and then in the next ten craps out five more novels just as bad, only with no franchise connection.  So, no discrepancy between the old quote and the new whatsoever.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Look! A dead bird! 

Walked Caleb again tonight; again, found a bird in the road.  Same kind of bird, same size as the last.  Only this one had been run over by a car.  I hope this isn't some kind of omen. . .


Finally got my wisdom teeth out today.  Don't know why everyone comes out with horror stories about how terrible it is, because for me it was quick and painless.  Two of them took about three seconds each to come out; one of them he really had to twist around for a while; the last one hadn't come up yet so required some drilling.  Still and all, it was painless, and took significantly less than an hour.  During the process, I was having a conversation with the doctor, or as much of one as you can have with novocaine in your jaw and implements in your mouth.  Not, I've been home for six hours and there's still no pain; the only problem has been my gag reflex kicking in every once in a while when I stick new gauze in my mouth.  So, if you haven't had 'em out yet: don't worry.  It's not bad at all.  Not pleasant, especially the sounds, but not bad.
I found a bird when I was walking Caleb this morning.  Baby bird, not a neonate but still immature, probably fresh out of the nest.  'twas lying in the road.  I picked it up; Caleb decided it was a treat and kept trying to get at my hand.  Anyway, I didn't have time to take it to the bird place before my appointment, so we decided mom would take it while I was in with the doctor.  But they wouldn't let my mom leave while I was with the doctor, and by the time I was out, the bird had died.
I miss friends.

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