Friday, April 29, 2005

How to write . . . and how not to write. . . 

I'm engaged in what might by some be called an argument. The reason I say "might" is that the other guy's argument is not an argument but a whine, and it amounts to this: "You don't like this book by a writer I like, and I'm upset that you dared to say so." This, not being much of a position, is hard to refute, but since he keeps making baseless assumptions and allegations about me, and keeps putting words in my mouth, we're still at it. Ah, arguing on the internet.

Recently, a couple writers I like have posted some writing tips on their ljs. Catherynne M. Valente has posted Thirty-Two Statements About Writing, from which I copy the following:
15. Poetry and fiction are not opposites. They're more like fraternal twins who have it out on daytime talk shows every other week. And Poetry's a hair-puller. Don't feel you can only spend Christmas with one or the other--gas up the Chevelle and eat tofurkey at Poetry's house and a big greasy side of ham at Fiction's pad. You'll start to notice that they have the same nose, the same strut, the same taste in ceramic figurines...

22. Workshops are circle jerks. Or a circle of jerks. If you feel you need either of those, knock yourself out.
Meanwhile, see Nick Mamatas "describe not what good writers do, but what successful ones do":

If you start killing off your characters, make sure they think something first, to best end the chapter. "As Shirley saw the axe come down, she wondered who would take the laundry out of the washer and put it into the dryer." Like that.
And don't forget to check out Nick's How to Score with Chicks while you're at it:
5. If she dances, dance: You don't have to dance often, and you certainly don't have to dance well, but you'll dance, and you'll dance early on. Take a couple of drinks and get out there. Are you shy or worried that people will point and laugh at you because, in addition to being fat and ugly, you can't dance? Don't worry. In a way, the dancing thing comes along with a not being a loser thing: be enthusiastic in your spastic stomping and you'll do well enough, even if you look like a manatee choking on a turtle choking on a plastic six-pack yoke. Actually, most people don't dance very well, so it doesn't matter. Just enjoy the music. Don't put up a fuss before dancing either, unless you end up being presented with a corset or anything velvet to wear. Then excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, and kick your way through the drywall to escape into the next apartment, then climb out the rear window.
Changing subjects, just in case there was any doubt as to what a geek I am, I already know, if I win the $250 bookstore gift certificate, exactly what books I will be getting Barbara to order for me -- and I've even take sales tax into account. The books, in case you're interested -- and keep in mind, too, that the list changes by the hour as I remember books that I'd forgotten I want and all that sort of thing -- is:

Observatory Mansions, Edward Carey
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, Angela Carter
Burning Your Boats, Angela Carter
Arcadia, Jim Crace
Superluminal, Tony Daniel
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
When We Were Orphans, Kazua Ishiguro
Spin State, Chris Moriarty
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Bend Sinister, Vladimir Nabokov
American Pastoral, Philip Roth
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie
Demons, John Shirley
Meet Me in the Moon Room, Ray Vuckevich
A Charles Williams Reader

And that's all, for the moment. There's work to be done!

Oh, a quick question for you other geeks: Lois McMaster Bujold. Where do I start? Back at the beginning of the whole Miles Vorkosigan sequence with [i]Ethan of Athos[/i]? or the newer Curse of the Chalion thing, with Paladin of Souls and all that? Any suggestions?

EDIT: Nevermind, this appears to be a list of her published books:

Shards of Honor - 1986
Warrior’s Apprentice - 1986
Ethan of Athos - 1986
Falling Free - 1988
Brothers in Arms - 1989
Borders of Infinity (collection)
The Vor Game - 1990
Barrayar – 1991
The Spirit Ring - 1992
Mirror Dance - 1994
Cetaganda - 1995
Dreamweaver’s Dilemma (collection)
Memory - 1996
Komarr - 1998
A Civil Campaign – 1999
The Curse of Chalion - 2001
Diplomatic Immunity – 2002
Paladin of Souls – 2003
The Hallowed Hunt - 2005

with the following omnibus editions available:

Cordelia’s Honor (Shards of Honor and Barrayar)
Young Miles (Warrior’s Apprentice, “Mountains of Mourning” and The Vor Game)
Miles, Mystery & Mayhem (Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, “Labyrinth”)
Miles Errant (“Borders of Infinity”, Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance)

I'll just go in order of publication.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In which I advertise. . . 

Click this banner:

And then buy the book. Because Caitlín R. Kiernan is a writer worth your time. As, by the way, was Charles Fort, if you can dig up his random stuff.

Also, don't forget Cthulhu Senryu by Nick Mamatas:

Coming in mid-May
Pre-order your signed copy
From Wildside Press. YAY!

Only eight dollars
The Great Old Ones will consume
Your soul for less, pal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

[insert witty title here] 

I'm reading, for class, Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. It's fantastic. Must be one of the saddest stories I've ever read. Highly recommended. It's very probable that I will, in the immediate future, be reading his new novel, Never Let Me Go, which I was planning on reading eventually but which, based on the power of The Remains of the Day, got bumped pretty much to the top of the list. Also be sure to check out Rick Kleffel's interview with Ishiguro ("...the usual expectations of realism are announced to have been abandoned..."). It's so wonderful to find a new author whom you can recommend to others while wearing your elitist bastard shirt without feeling hypocritical. Back to Remains for a moment, though -- it's unfortunate that at some point I must have seen a few minutes of the movie, which stars Anthony Hopkins, because through this whole book I've had Hopkins' voice and mannerisms taking over the character I've been reading.

The big SFnal news of the past twenty-four hours must be that the Serenity trailer has gone live. Great news, and anyone who hasn't seen the show Firefly -- do yourself a favor and go rent it. Or borrow it from me. Or buy it. Being a Joss Whedon fan, I've got no real worries whatsoever about this movie -- I'm looking forward to it very much, which, as my friends can attest, is a rare occurance. More often than not I'll be talking about what crap a movie will be rather than looking forward to it. Anyway, I am a little concerned that a couple of the actors involved -- particularly Summer Glau -- don't have the screen presence for the big screen. Nevertheless, I'm sure this movie will be great fun. And I'm pleased to see that David Newman's doing the score, too. He's not exactly a Tier 1 composer, and I'm sure there would have been better choices, but he proved he's got the right stuff in Galaxy Quest, so no worries.
"The two things that matter most to me: emotional resonance and rocket launchers. Party of Five, a brilliant show, and often made me cry uncontrollably, suffered ultimately from a lack of rocket launchers."
-- Joss Whedon
You know what bugs me? People who think they know a lot more than they do, who think they're a lot smarter than they really are. My dad occasionally says ironically to my sister, "If you were half as smart as you think you are, you'd be a genius." That's what comes to mind when certain people -- and no, I'm not going to name any names -- of my acquaintance speak.

Speaking of acquaintances . . . apparently Matt spoke of me more than once at C3 -- if anyone who was there could please fill in any details, that'd be great! Thanks!

Getting back, for the moment, to movies, I made the mistake of putting on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves the other day. When I was younger, I used to love this movie. And now, I have no idea why. It's awful. I couldn't fathom why Mel Brooks saw any need to parody this movie -- it parodies itself so well. Costner has no passion and no personality as Robin Hood; Alan Rickman is entertaining enough in his scene chewing as the Sheriff, but this movie . . . it's long, and boring, and empty. It's nonsensical and clichéd. The battle scenes are not only not exciting -- they don't even make sense. Wow. How can I have loved this movie so much?

Last night I slept amply, but not well, and am now very tired and generally headachey. Most distressing, this is, as I'd intended to be chipper and energetic today in order that I might get some things done. In a rare turn of events, though, I remember my dreams from last night. In them I kissed a girl, which surprised me for two reasons: (1) I cannot recall ever having kissed anyone in a dream before, and (2) as natural as it seemed in the dream -- and it was one of those dreams from which I awoke surprised that it had not actually happened -- the identity of the girl I kissed suprised the hell out of me. She goes to Hartwick, but I guarantee you that anyone and everyone I know here at Hartwick could give me a list of the 25 girls I'm most likely to dream about kissing and that this one would not make it onto a single one of the lists. Very odd. It is seeming increasingly likely, though, that I will make it through college without having kissed a girl, about which fact my feelings change fairly frequently, but I will say that one thing it has not yet made me is happy.

And out of curiosity -- what's up with teachers who have office hours only once a week? Come on!

Interestingly enough, four years down the line I still get the same result from Vera's quiz:

Laelith, the Tilirreh of Violet - Your Tilirr Quiz Result

Which of the Lords of Rainbow do you serve?


Still my favorite of the online quizzes, too. Vera has two books coming out this year: the novella The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass, and the collection Salt of the Air, which will have an intro by Gene Wolfe.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


My quotations page is now up. There's also a link on the sidebar. It's a first draft, very basic. I'll probably pretty it up at some point, and perhaps rearrange the quotations by topic/theme instead of just a massive alphabetical list. I don't agree with all my quotations, but I do or did at one point see something worthwhile in each and every one of them.

And I think the three most quotable people in the world must have been Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and G.K. Chesterton.

Compiling quotations can be a frustrating business, sometimes. Mostly because people copy them down wrong. They put together their little pages of quotations, and misquote people from memory, so suddenly there are five thousand variations on a quote floating around, all attributed to the author. So if you happen to notice any misquotes -- or any misattributed quotations -- on my page, please, let me know so I can correct them. Thanks!


Saturday, April 23, 2005


I think I smell. Don't know why, exactly, but I've always been convinced that I'm a smelly individual. And recently, there have been enough isolated incidences of people jokingly saying I smell to get me wondering again. So I asked a few people, and it turns out that not only do I not smell bad -- I don't smell at all. Most people have a distinctive personal smell that I apparently do not have. I am an olfactory cipher.

Of course, knowing this changes things. For one, my roommate, like my friend Kathryn, hasn't a functioning sense of smell, and I've frequently joked that that's why he can stand to live with me. For another, I'd like to have an aroma, though preferably not an unpleasant one. For a third, while people say that smell is the most powerful sense in terms of memory, there is no smell that I associate with any particular event or feeling in my past, and I wonder if that has to do with my own lack of scent.

Or maybe I do smell bad, the people I asked were just being nice, and I'm thinking far too much about this. . .

Peripherally, the research on how to save millions of lives and make the world safe and sustainable for future generations and drastically reform the IMF and World Bank so that they serve others, like they're supposed to, and not just a few rich people, like they do, and all that good stuff continues, as does the One Person At A Time approach to making the world a better place. We'll see which accomplishes more in the long run. And by the long run I mean what's left of my life.

Also, last night I drank a liter of water before going to bed. Woke up this morning, and not only did I not have to urinate, but my mouth was dry and I felt dehydrated. This has never happened before. I know it's dry hereabouts, but this is ridiculous. What's going on?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Spotted Lily 

I recommend not sneezing while you're shaving, especially in such a fashion that the blade runs sideways across your face, resulting in what feels like a really nasty papercut. Can't complain too much, though -- I just nicked the top of my lip, and this is the first time I've ever cut myself shaving.

There's been a lot of e-drama these past few days. Chouinard got *pissed* and dissociated himself from what has been known as [dead cities] and now doesn't have a moniker because he took it with him. Kage left her forum over at Night Shade Books after some drama in her thread about the new Pope. Not only has that forum now lost the insights of an intelligent, witty writer but her forum is gone, along with a whole lot of interesting anecdotes and information about her books. And Jeff Ford seems to be following her lead. Ugh. Have I mentioned that I hate drama? And this Facebook thing has come around to my school. . . Plus, the list of donors to our senior class gift includes a misspelling of my name. Over the past few years, I've been Nathaniel, Bloomenfeld, and now Blumenfield. Come on, is my name really that hard to get right?

However, real life's been going well. The fine grades have continued to roll in despite my non-efforts to the contrary; I've been listening to Elliot Goldenthal's Othello ballet, which is one of the more accessible pieces of music I've heard from him; I saw Shaun of the Dead which was not only the best zombie movie of the past few years, but also funny as hell; and I'm going home in a couple weeks. Only for a day or two, granted, but still, I'll get to see my dog and other beasts. Plus the family, some of whom apparently actually miss me.

Lloyd Banks performed at our school the other day. I'm so glad they wasted at least one student's tuition to bring bad music on campus. And by bad I mean, of course, not to my taste, just in case any of my readers have yet to learn that people can speak subjectively without throwing "in my opinion" into the sentence.

Plus it's beautiful out! Spring seems to be here for real this time, folks. Pesach's here, too, so enjoy your lack of chametz for the next week or so.

I'm currently reading Anna Tambour's delightful Spotted Lily, about which Vera Nazarian has to say:
SPOTTED LILY is a remarkable novel of dark satire. It is brutal and terrifying. It is painful and beautiful. It is profound and I think it has the makings of a classic. This is far from an easy read, and it is not commercial -- it simply cannot be, not with the nature of themes it explores: god is dead and ultimate ennui.

Herein lies a peculiar, resonant, and bitter combination of Bulgakov's THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, a very adult version of Philip Pullman's HIS DARK MATERIALS, with frequent touches of Kafka and Marquez's ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.

The satire is dark and biting and yet it is the pathos of Angela that got to me, her humanism and vulnerability and the subtle nature of the fragile self and self-image hell (on earth!) she wallows in -- it broke my heart.

The novel is steeped in a succession of naturalist and surreal details -- sensual, beautiful/ugly dissonance and erotic fetish -- frequently shocking, and, in my opinion, supremely memorable. There is loss of dignity and the redemption of self, over and over; a dance.

And the Australian heart is there -- I who have never been to Australia feel that now I have; the Bush is IMPRINTED upon me. Her childhood home, the secret place her father wept... flowers placed in ordinary jam jars to bloom in small private wonder.

The journey of Angela is ultimately an amazing piece of psychological portraiture. And her deal with the Devil is merely the tip of the iceberg.

This is, to me, a work of literary significance, transcending genre boundaries -- Anna Tambour makes an amazing novel debut.
So do yourself a favor and go buy a copy, as well as a copy of her first book, the very fine collection Monterra's Deliciosa & Other Tales &.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

R1.5 says:
Thing is, people don't know how to relate any more.

People don't read books anymore; they skim them. And then wonder why they weren't affected and why people consider these books to be so great. Er, they're considered to be great by people who weren't afraid to drop their defenses and let the books work down into their hearts.

People do the same thing with music. No one listens to music anymore; they just use it as a background for their conversations.

People nowdays aren't moved by art because they are unwilling to be moved by art, they are afraid to be moved by art.

We're living, by and large, in an emotionally stunted society, full of people who are content to lead passive lives, letting life wash over them and never taking anything for their own. That's why Oliver Twist doesn't do anything for them.

The fault lies not in the prose, but in ourselves.

Monday, April 18, 2005

So, what's been happening lately? I'm glad you asked.

Over the past week, I've seen a couple movies: Sin City and Meet the Fockers. Surprisingly, the former was funnier. Fockers was mostly very unfunny in terms of the material, though a few of the actors, particularly Dustin Hoffman, managed to do well with it and it earned some laughs. Sin City, on the other hand, was a riot through and through. Noir, it is not. Nor is it edgy, gritty, or any of the other things I've seen it called. What it is is a string of adolescent male fantasies: the unstoppable tough guy mowing down everyone in his way to save and/or avenge a gorgeous, mostly naked woman. As far as that goes, it's nearly perfect: it's a technical visual masterpiece, with a fun jazzy score, and actors who, even if most of them can't act, very much look the part. It's funny because most of the lines are so unspeakably awful that you can't help laughing when they're uttered out loud, and because ideas of violence that look cool on a comic panel don't work in motion: i.e., these characters are never in danger. They jump off buildings, get hit by cars multiple times, get shot even more times, and there's more than one occasion where a grenade goes off inches from a person and sends him flying through the air, after which he gets up without a scratch. So don't expect any serious filmmaking. But if you want lots of relatively amusing violence, scantily clad women, and a dearth of anything resembling humanity, Sin City is an extraordinarily entertaining couple of hours.

What else? Well, the a cappella group Sons of Pitches performed tonight. They were a lot of fun, very good, though the performance was frontloaded and seemed to lose some energy in the second half. The highlight of the performance was their rendition of "Kiss the Girl" from Disney's The Little Mermaid. Also tonight was EQUALOGY, Inc.'s "dating violence awareness play" Four Hearts Changing, which was pretty decent, though I kept feeling déjà vu, though I'm fairly sure I hadn't seen it before.

The highlight of the immediate past, however, has been the drag ball. Pictures forthcoming, I promise, though I warn you: I was a much more hideous woman this year than last year. Though I did place second place in the Drag Queen competition; I probably would have won had I been willing to shake my ass. And I won a bra for best fake books. I still haven't managed to get the toenail polish off, though, and I keep forgetting it's there and then having double takes when I notice it. Very annoying. The highlight of that evening was probably seeing Sally in cavalier mode.

I'm very pleased to report that I got a 96% on my latest exam. Comments include "A splendid set of answers--impressive in the clarity bound down in economy" and a couple emphatic "excellent"s. I didn't think I'd done very well on this one, so I really got a pleasant surprise there.

Today, too, my copy of Wing-tsit Chan's translation of the Tao-te ching came in, which is most pleasing (thanks for the recommendation, Ryan), as is the fact that there was in the bookstore a copy of John Gardner's 1977 novel October Light, which is out of print. What asshole thought it would be a good idea to allow so many of Gardner's books to go out of print, anyway? I'm currently reading Iain M. Banks' Use of Weapons, Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve, and Ramesh Menon's rendering of The Ramayana (thanks again to Ryan for the recommendation).

It's been beautiful out lately, which is nice, except when I'm trying to walk at night. When I walk, I'm generally looking to get away from people, and when there are people already in all the places away from people, that makes trying to get away from them quite frustrating. Especially amusing is when you're walking and you see a couple who had obviously not expected to be intruded upon, lying very still and hoping not to be noticed, so you do them the courtesy of pretending you didn't see them there and either walk past them or find some excuse to turn around and leave and grant them their privacy.

Speaking of beautiful nights, there's one outside right now demanding my company, so I'll be off. Take care, everyone.

Friday, April 15, 2005


This site makes me happy and sad.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Revenge of the Ducks 

Apparently our pool was opened last week, and as ever when you open a pool, it's green and slimy and fairly gross until you clean it. And now, it's also got ducks. Yes, a pair of ducks have taken a liking to our pool. Caleb barks at him, but apparently 150 pounds of loud energetic white fluff don't intimidate ducks, because they disregard him completely. When he's inside, they come out and sun themselves on the pool deck. Every morning, they're back. Let's hope they discontinue to think of the pool as their pond once we clean it, because if they end up there with ducklings, they might get aggressive. In the meantime, it's quite amusing.

So what have I done over the past couple days? Well, I've written no fewer than three papers, for one thing. For another, I read Matt Stover's adaptation of Revenge of the Sith. How was it? Well . . . it was fantastic. Even were I not a Stover junkie I'd have loved it, because it's a damned fine piece of writing. Not without its flaws, but all of those can be attributed to the George Lucas source material -- given that that's what Matt had to work with, I'm actually surprised even he managed to make it work so powerfully. Against all odds, he turned a punk like Anakin Skywalker, a brat with so little personality he had to slaughter an entire tribe of primitives to trigger attraction in the girl he liked, into a fully realized, tragic character. Wow. I'm annoyed that there's no chance at all the movie will even begin to live up to the novel, but . . . holy crap.
This story happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.

It is a story of love and loss, brotherhood and betrayal, courage and
sacrifice and the death of dreams. It is a story of the blurred line
between our best and our worst.

It is the story of the end of an age.

A strange thing about stories--

Though this all happened so long ago and so far away that words cannot
describe the time or the distance, it is also happening right now.
Right here.

It is happening as you read these words.

This is how twenty-five millennia come to a close. Corruption and
treachery have crushed a thousand years of peace. This is not just the
end of a republic; night is falling on civilization itself.

This is the twilight of the Jedi.

The end starts now.
And then the Introduction starts. . . Now Matt just needs to hurry up and get Caine Black Knife written. . . Also, if anyone's interested, Matt's blogging his book tour: WRETCHED HIVES OF SCUM AND VILLAINY . . . AND THAT'S JUST THE HOTELS AND AIRPORTS.

Now, I've started Ramesh Menon's version of The Ramayana, the Indian epic from about 300 B.C.E. Very good so far.

So what else is new? Andrew sent me the Revenge of the Sith score. Now, I'm not musically literate enough to offer a true review, but here are my thoughts, such as they are:

Revenge of the Sith is John Williams’ best score in years. He peaked between 1977 and 1981, and though he’s had a few great scores since then, most notably Hook and Schindler’s List, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been less than impressed by most of his scores over the past few years, the Harry Potter and Star Wars scores included. Despite several magnificent cues, these scores don’t generally work for me as a whole. Revenge of the Sith is the opposite: it has few immediately memorable cues, but works extraordinarily well listened to through and through. It’s by far the darkest Star Wars score, too, brimming with tragedy, sorrow and a dark confidence. It opens with “Star Wars and Revenge of the Sith,” with the familiar main titles segueing into some meaty, brassy action music, complete with a nice rendition of the Force theme. Next is “Anakin’s Dream,” with a beautifully lamentational version of “Across the Stars.” Third is this film’s big concert cue: “Battle of the Heroes,” which could have as easily been called “Threnody for the Victims of the Sith.” It’s an absolutely massive piece, thickly orchestrated with a large choir, a more mature if less bouncy companion to “Duel of the Fates.” And it features an awesome choral rendition of the Force theme. Moving on, we have the dramatic, tragic “Anakin’s Betrayal,” and then “General Grievous,” which sounds very much like “Zam the Assassin” from Attack of the Clones. From there we move into “Palpatine’s Teachings,” which starts with a couple slow minutes, then moves into a chilling version of The Imperial March, before perverting the Force theme a bit and finally ending with some yummy Anakin sounding music. “Grievous and the Droids” is more basic action music; “Padmé’s Rumination’s” is a dark, atmospheric piece, complete with a vaguely Middle Eastern sounding “lamenting woman” and a nearly inaudible moment of “Across the Stars.” “Anakin vs. Obi-Wan” brings back “Battle of the Heroes,” and quotes substantial portions of the Luke/Vader duel in Empire Strikes Back, and is generally a pretty impressive action cue. “Anakin’s Dark Deeds” is one of the highlights of the score, full of loud and impressive choral action and dark meaty drama; “Enter Lord Vader” is more standard action/suspense music. “The Immolation Scene” is a string-laden piece, very emotional, very good; “Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious” is good, catchy action music; and then we have another highlight of the album, the tremendously emotional “The Birth of the Twins and Padmé’s Destiny,” complete with bells and choir and if this doesn’t stand as one of the most poignant cues Williams has ever written, then, well, I guess I’m wrong. Finally, we wrap up with “A New Hope and End Credits,” which is basically a compilation of cues from the saga, the lion’s share of which is a hugely triumphant version of “The Throne Room” from A New Hope. So yes, this is dark, but it’s also one of the meatiest, most dramatic and ultimately most satisfying scores John Williams has written in years. Not as good as Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but better than the other three. At least, that's my impression after one listen. It could change after a few more times through. . .

What else have I been listening to?

Elliot Goldenthal's Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio, which is, despite the not quite stellar recording job, a frankly magnificent piece of music. A large, powerful oratorio commissioned in 1993, premiering in 1995, twenty years after the official end of the Vietnam War. The second movement in particular, a scherzo, is very powerful, furious ostinatos complemented by a children's choir and poetry and boy it's a shame this CD is out of print, because everyone should hear it.

The two-CD complete score to John Debney's CutThroat Island, one of the loudest, most over-the-top, most bombastic scores ever. Your swashes are absolutely guaranteed to be buckled.

The Varese Film Classics recordings of Bernard Herrmann's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Psycho. Joel McNeely's take on Psycho is fantastic; far better than Danny Elfman's take from the remake a few years ago, and thanks to the improved sound quality since the original Herrmann recording, I think it's the best choice if you're interested in that score. John Debney's take on Sinbad is also very good, though not quite on that superlative level -- I think the tempo's a bit off occasionally, but then, it's been a long time since I've seen the movie. For an example of Herrmann's fantasy scores done correctly, check out Bruce Broughton's AMAZING recording of Jason and the Argonauts. Great stuff.

Steve Jablonsky's score for the anime Steamboy. A very fun, fast-paced escapist adventure score. About on a level, enjoyabilitywise, with Harry Gregson-Williams' wonderfully fun swashbuckler Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, except geared toward aviation rather than nautical adventure, obviously. Stylistically, think early James Horner (The Land Before Time and The Rocketeer) collaborating with Michael Kamen and his love of swirling ostinatos (which, admittedly, get a tad bit repetitive here). A definite surprise from a composer from whom I never expected better than crap.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Not much time, but I thought I'd alert anyone who cares that there's a new Jonathan Carroll story online: "The Bum Who Smelled Like a Sandwich"

Also, a loud and hearty congratulations to Bob for selling a story to Polyphony 5. You're in some damned fine company there, Bob. It's about time.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I've got some more pictures, but don't have time to crop and upload them at the moment, so they'll have to wait for another day. I have a paper to write tonight, and an exam tomorrow, which has me less than terribly excited. I did, however, have returned today the three exams I took before setting off for West Virginia. I thought I'd gotten maybe two Bs and a C; I was pleasantly surprised to get back 3 As. So that was definitely a nice morale boost at a moment when I was a wee bit stressed out about the amount of work I didn't have time to do over my "vacation."

On Sunday night I saw Finding Neverland. It had fine performances throughout; an attractive dog; a fine score (I went out and bought it the next day); and actually earned its mawkish ending. I do think it was overrated, though. It was good, occasionally very good, but I don't think it achieved greatness. The score is by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek who is, like Wocjiech Kilar and Zbigniew Preisner, a very fine Polish composer from whom many American film scorers could learn a thing or five. Kilar, a contemporary of Górecki and Penderecki, has in addition to more than a hundred film scores written much other music, including the beautiful Requiem Father Kolbe and Exodus. I hope that Kaczmarek gets more recognition in the US than his fellows, because frankly, most of the films he's scored so far have sucked, and his generally above average music has been quickly forgotten for it.

I'm now about halfway through Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan, and I hope one of you can explain to me why it's got so much acclaim. It's not particularly well-written; for a book filled with "subtle men" the author has an aggravating need to explain every little nuance, scheme and bit of wit to us, displaying an amazing disregard for his readers' intelligence; while the characters are fairly interesting, most of their dialogue is not; and the book so far is quite predictable as well. So please, one of you who think that Guy Gavriel Kay is a great writer -- explain to me what I'm missing, because I'd very much like to be able to enjoy his work. What I'm very much looking forward to reading is the new Matt Stover novel, but for some reason Amazon.com has not yet shipped my copy. And in other book news, three of Scott's books have been picked up by Bantam, so you US readers won't be forced to buy from overseas now!

Finally, I've a request. At the TFN Boards, I'm running a discussion of Classics of World Literature, in which every week I introduce a new classic (generally from before the birth of the novel as we now know it in 1719 with Robinson Crusoe), talk a bit about when it was written, by whom, its context, it content, and, when applicable, I suggest a good translation or two. So far we've done Beowulf, The Bible, and are currently discussing The Kalevala. Over the coming weeks, I plan to discuss The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Kuran, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, Paradise Lost, The Ramayana, the Tao te Ching, the Arabian Nights, the Decameron, the Oresteia, Metamorphoses, the Nibelungenlied, the Edda, the Mahabharata, Canterbury Tales, and a bunch of others -- but I'm sure that there are many I'm forgetting or have not heard of. So if you know of any books that you think might be worth discussing that you think I might overlook, please let me know. Thanks!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Well, the pictures are beginning to come in from West Virginia. The first batch are not from my mates at all but from another of the groups there that week, from Canisius. I only made it into two of their pictures. In the first, I'm sitting in the background, staring intently, it would seem, at something; the three lovely ladies in the foreground are, left to right, Kate, Annie and Courtney:

In the second, I couldn't have done a better job hiding myself if I'd tried:

Yep, that's me, hidden behind my improbably gorgeous companion there. More photographs coming soon, I hope. Those I post here'll probably be of me, though I'm sure most of you would prefer instead to see more of her, rather than yet another shot of my unphotogenic mug.

You scored as Existentialism. Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

“It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

--Jean-Paul Sartre

“It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”

--Blaise Pascal

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...





Justice (Fairness)








Strong Egoism




Divine Command


What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
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Sunday, April 03, 2005

A half-developed thought 

I'm back now from West Virginia, where I've spent the past week building houses with Habitat for Humanity. It was a fantastic trip, both on its own terms and for its timeliness. I'd been stuck in a routine at school for long enough that for about a week before the trip I was incredibly ready to go. I was anxious, skittish, nervous, unable to concentrate on my work. Pacing around my room and my hall. Acting weird even by my own standards. Not getting work done effectively. It was bad. And for the last couple days before the trip, I was thinking that I'd rather pull out, simply go home for the week, relax, play with my dog. Very glad am I that I did not. The trip was a lot of fun. The group of people from my school - 16 students and two faculty - was fantastic; definitely some of the best and most interesting that our school has to offer. The work was refreshing and rewarding. The area was beautiful. Now, back at school, I'm a little tired, but very refreshed. Also very relieved. I had had some worry, having applied to AmeriCorps and all that, that I'd go on this service trip and realize I couldn't stand this type of thing, that I hated it, and all that. No more. Now I can't wait to get into AmeriCorps and get working.

And now for the promised half-developed thought: I'm trying to piece together a story about the stupidity of martyrdom. Not that martyrdom is always stupid: there are certainly some very fine martyrs in history, and I don't think I have to name names here. And many martyrs have certainly died very tragically. But there's also a huge number of "martyrs" throughout history who have pretty much forced their oppressors to kill them, for the sake of causing trouble for their enemies and creating sympathy for themselves, and for those people I have no sympathy whatsoever. The appeal of martyrdom for many has to do, I think, with the idea of death being a "greatest sacrifice," that if you die for this belief or ideal, it shows how strongly you believe in it, how important it is, yadayada. I think in large part that's nonsense. Certainly, being a man in my own culture, I've had more than my share of macho fantasies involving me dying for such and such a cause/friend/woman/family member or to save the world or any number of other things, because dying for something proves it's important to you, and all that. I can't count the number of times I've heard in discussion that "there are certain things I'd die for." People don't seem to realize that dying is very easy and not very helpful. If all these people who, under certain conditions or circumstances, are willing to die for particular beliefs, faiths, ideals, whatever -- if all these people, instead of just being willing to die for these things, were instead willing to make the much greater and more useful sacrifice of living for them and by them, probably all the dying wouldn't be so necessary. It's very easy to go and get killed proving how important something is to you -- even when, very frequently, this is not a thing you've probably put a lot of time and energy and effort into in your life. Instead of throwing away your life in a spectacle of passion on behalf of this or that, why not try keeping yourself alive and throwing yourself into the far more difficult task of actually working on behalf of the thing?

Bah. I'm tired and I have a headache. I'll probably have more on this all later, but for now I'm going to relax a bit. If anyone has any thoughts, please share 'em!

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