Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bag - Cat = Felt

Watergate, or rather Woodward and Bernstein's reporting of it, inspired just as many people to go into journalism as Pearl Harbor did people into the army. I wasn't born yet when Nixon resigned, but the film "All The President's Men" had a big impact on me as a kid, as it did others, and so along side fantasies of being Luke Skywalker, I imagined myself a reporter fighting for the truth.

The truth turns out to be what you least expect it. Despite Woodward and Bernstein's insistence that they'd wait until Deep Throat died to reveal his identity, he - being FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt - went ahead and did it anyway. And so the answer to one of the country's mosy enduring mysteries - imagine if you could expect a true answer to who really shot Kennedy - comes out of the blue. Already the hell hounds of the past are rising up to Nixon's defense, people like Pat Buchanan and Carl Colson, both of whom declare Felt a dishonorable traitor for what he did. Colson served time in prison for his involvment in Watergate, by the way. If Felt had maintained his 'honor', Nixon - a criminal - might have remained in office. Very little would have come of Watergate, and the poisonous, insidious use of our highest office would have continued unabated. Yeah, that would have been honorable.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Congratulations Amy & Conan

Two of my best friends in the world got married yesterday out in Oregon, and though I'm sad I could not be there, I'm very, very happy for them. No two people deserve it more. Amy and Co met in Dublin when I met them, five years ago now I guess - hey, wasn't it this day in May we got there? - and everything about that summer felt meant to be. Nothing more so than Amy and Co. I don't know where I'd be without them. They've bucked me up when I've been down, read my work (the bad and the really bad) and they've always been there for me.

I love you guys a lot. Salinte.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Always Playing

It's over!!! Good lord, I guess all us geeks will have to go get real lives now.

Sugu called last night, or actually very early this morning. We caught up and talked about Star Wars (naturally) even though he won't see it until July, I think. He's about to start reading my book, all 740 pages of it. I'll let you know if he survives.

Surprising no one, I wrote a little of what will become the next book, or the third in this trilogy I'm writing. It's really sketchy and only to get down on paper some ideas of what I might want to do when I do get to writing this for real. When will that be? I don't know. I keep telling myself I need a break from novels, but I've come to realize this channel is always playing in my head. I can't seem to turn it off. I bleed like a sive with words and ideas. Being chronically ill for over five years has taught me nothing can keep me from writing, so just wanting a break probably isn't enough. I do need a breather before I launch into the grand finale, though.

I submitted my newest short story to The New Yorker today, which I think is suffcient evidence that I have a sense of humor.

Would Have Stayed In All Day

If you hadn't called. I'm glad I didn't. I'm glad you did. (Called.) Sudden Iowa thunderstorms are not to be enjoyed in solitude. Nor are Star Wars movies. I won't tell anyone you cried at the end.

Whoops.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dark Side Of The Moon

Just having the most difficult time writing this new short story. I completely dismantled it last night after discovering much of my research (into a speculative situation, but still) was no good. When I got on the right track, it meant reorganizing the whole thing. I suppose it's a good thing in the end, I think I like it more than I did before, but it was brutal. I plan on sending this one out to a variety of magazines, not just strictly sci-fi ones.

The poster children for Don't Try This At Home. As a result, the victim will be forced to wear a black leather robotic breathing suit.

The family stuff lately... just awful. The ties that bind, I guess, until they strangle you. I see a lot of people with blogs writing about very personal stuff and it seems to work for them, and I just can't bring myself to do it, no matter how much I want to. It's just too hard.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

'Revenge' Review

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING

I felt like a kid again. What more can I say. The final episode in the 'Star Wars' saga is a surreal experience for any kid of the SW generation who spent years imaging what the seminal events of this story would look like - the birth of Vader, the birth of his children, the fall of Anakin and the Republic, and the purge of the Jedi - George Lucas apparently spent all those years doing the same, because Revenge of the Sith has a cinematic confidence neither of its predecessors do. The cinematography, set design, and simply the general application of the overwhelming CGI is light-years beyond Episodes 1 and 2, leaving you to wonder at various points who this guy directing it is and what did he do with Lucas.

It opens with a tracking shot over a minute long that follows a pair of fighters into the chaos of a space battle and the film never lets up, building a kinetic forward momentum that gobbles you up and won't let you go. The performances, the writing (for the most part) and the drama all exceed what's come before. Even Ewan McGregor, the most reliable thing about the prequels, somehow manages to find new spirit in Obi Wan. Ian McDermid steals the show as the galaxy's slimiest snake. The most captivating bit of the movie for me was when he shared with Anakin the 'tragedy of Darth Plaugis' (and the origin of Darth Sidious) in which he quietly slips in the biggest shocker since "Luke, I'm your father." Listen VERY CAREFULLY to Palpatine's talk of midichlorians and his use of them. His duels with Mace Windu and Yoda are spectacular, and he alternately displays his confidence in his power and what a wimp he is - obviously he's used to letting others do the fighting for him, and it costs him. He succeeds in destroying the Jedi but is left disfigured, and his long desired apprentice even more so.

Anakin's fall is heartbreaking. At the beginning he's the Jedi hero you always imagined he was - the space battle has a vintage 'SW' / 'Raiders' adventure vibe missing in the first two films - and then suddenly, he's a murderer. By the time Obi Wan leaves him for dead, you are ready to leave him to. He's pathetic. He creates his own misery, and his lust for power supercedes his honest concern for Padme, which ultimately kills them both. The ending is perfect. Some don't like the Frankenstein bit - I love it. He is in every way the project of Darth Sidious. The intercutting of the birth of Vader and the twins is mythic stuff, and the final shot, what can I say. I'm very glad it turned out so well. There's so much to say and consider. It surpassed my expectations, which had been whittled down to virtually nothing after the previous exciting but uninspired films. Nothing can ever top the estactic feeling the original Star Wars left you with, but ROTS achieves a dramatic transcendence impossible in the other films. It validates the entire saga, and it makes a kid who won't ever grow up very, very happy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ticket To Ride

Got my ticket for Star Wars today. Only had to stand in line about half an hour with my cousin Mason, who talked me into going even though I was coughing up a lung. This will be the last time I ever wait in line for any movie, so I figured, what the hell. Here it is, the last ticket:



Neat story on why Tatooine probably exists and how planets in binary star systems are likely very common. Which is good, since I have a planet orbiting two stars in my book also.

I finished the first draft of a new short story today. I actually had the majority of it in the can, but ran into a snag at the ending and I really wanted to focus on the book. I'll let it simmer a bit before I get back to it.

Googlized

The last couple years I've come to rely on Google (and cable internet) just as much as I do the tried, true method of the library (though the weekly excursion to the old folks home, as we used to call it, can't be beat) for researching my writing. I thought it would be fun to post a sample of what I googled in the course of writing this last book, to give an idea of how valuable it is:

1939 World's Fair, cerulean, tortuosa beech, volcanic islands, military hairstyles female, trilobites, World War 2 experimental aircraft, scrub forests, senescence, famous sieges, polar conditions, submarine dry docks, cold blooded animals, dinosaurs headcrests, Kate Winslet (wait a second), black holes behavior, desalination plants, filaments, biblical references astrologers

That's just a little bit. Most of them it's very helpful, especially for me, since I'm a research as you go kind of writer. If I come across something I know nothing about and since it's 2 in the morning the library is closed, Google is always open.

Goatscape

Oh, so it's George Lucas who is responsible for the ghettoization of sci-fi. Not post-modernism or the resulting knee-jerk insularity or anything. Another whiny article about how Star Wars ruined A) the movies B) sci-fi or C) the world. They still make great movies. They still make great sci-fi movies (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, anyone?) and still make great sci-fi books, despite evil, evil Star Wars. I especially liked the bit how they're glad SW brand of sci-fi is over at long, long last, as if it were some evil tyranny akin to the Empire lording over innocent sci-fi.

I'm a SW baby (obviously), and like Lucas, I'd never accuse the novel I've just completed, or any other I've written of being sci-fi in the strictest sense. My stories take place in settings neither sci-fi nor fantasy, but fantastic perhaps. Sci-fi properly concerns itself with ideas, technology, not so much character as literary fiction (and me) normally do, but what's sci-fi? By saying this is what it is, you're doing the job of literary snobs for you.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Pour Me A Diet, You Will

The weather has swung back and forth between humid and hot and freezing cold, so naturally I'm sick as a dog again. I've become so sick of being sick I get a little too grumpy. I had planned to stand in line with some folks for Star Wars on Wednesday, but that seems doubtful.

Last night I watched the 'documentary' Alien Planet on Discovery, which was a very cool hypothetical about our first exploration of an earth like world outside our solar system. The exploration was conducted by a pair of robots, though, very cool well thought out robots that were in some way humanized by their 'faces.' I got to thinking - more than likely, the first alien life we encounter won't be encountered by us at all. It will be found by our robots, and it may even be their robots we find. What if the aliens mistook our robots for the intelligent life? A whole slew of ideas bubbled up in my head.

I also saw a million commercials for Star Wars, ranging from cell phones to Diet Pepsi. Yoda trying to mind trick someone out of their soda is cute I suppose, but he would be the first to tell you that you don't get to be 800 years old drinking that shit.

How To Survive Star Wars: First, covering the excuses.

Finally someone else notices the errie (and unintentional) way the Prequel Trilogy mirrors our present situation. Apparently, the new film brings this home. And from Ben, an article touching on something that's been in the wind a few years now, but still interesting, the rise and fall of empires.

Too many young writers take their lives, and it's happened again, this time to Tristan Egolf, who was 33.

And Waterloo got its casino. As a consequence, we make this offering to our money lusting gods.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fin

So it's done. The novel. The damage: 740 pages. Of course it's not 'done' in any real sense of the word; in fact, this is really just the beginning, but there are stages to the lives of books as there are our own, and one stage is now complete. It's a strange feeling to step back and look at something years in the making, years of thought and possibility and wonder funneled down through six months' solid work into this thing that only resembles the original idea in spirit. And it's strange to know that it will be years more yet before it is truly complete.

Did I celebrate? Did I dance a jig? Nah. I went out into the wet and cold to feed the dog. I'll have to do something though, even if it's just pouring myself a glass of Guiness. Now I'll give her a rest for a while, give my fingers a rest, and then sometime soon get cracking on a short story idea.

Oh, and go see this movie coming out next week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Iowa: You Don't Have To Go Home, But...

I wrote ten pages in chapter 31 of the book tonight to bring it up to 721 pages. Yeah. 721. I'm gonna say it will end up 735 or close to it. The last bits have been very difficult to write, very emotional and complicated. I get antsy around the ends of books. I don't know if it's fatigue or an unwillingness to let go. Tomorrow won't be any easier, as I'll be killing off a beloved character. I hope to have the book finished by next week (there's this movie coming out...)

The Corruption of Faith: Part I

The legislators of this great state left the universities with a $22 million dollar shortfall, leaving them to hike tuition again. But the next day they approved a $50 million dollar package to give themselves pay raises. Why should Iowa's young people stay here again?

Oh yeah. Because of the good fortune those casinos will bring. Not to downtown Waterloo though, no matter how desperately it needs it. Despite belly aching for years about revitalizing our downtown and hounding Vision Iowa for money to do so, our mayor stood up in front of God and everybody and said he thought the casino shouldn't go downtown, but out where they're building lots of big houses and stores to shop at because that's where the money will be the 'mostest.'

The exit signs are clearly marked, people.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Chicago Pics

And now a few pics of my short visit to Chicago and visit with Lisa:

Behold the power of Wrigley:



Me and Lisa at Wrigley:



The City In Clouds:

Indy Pics

As promised. No, I'm not done with the novel, but here they are anyway. These are pictures I took of my trip to Indy for the Star Wars Convention last month. I stayed with my friends Amy and Conan who I met in Ireland and are getting married later this month. I also stopped in Chicago to see my other Irish buddy Lisa and her fiancee Matt.

Me and Amy and Conan:



None of my pictures inside the convention center came out that well, including the ones I took of the Rock McCallum Q&A (I do have several good shots of the back some guy's head) but here are a few:

The Line:



Hasbro Action Figure Sculptor Brian Venneman's goodies:



Brian also sculpted Hasbro's latest action figure (comes with geek action):



The day I arrived there was a biblical hail storm. I'd never seen anything like it before; marble sized hail crashed down on the city for 15 minutes straight:



And one last shot of Amy and Co (and Dharma):



Chicago pics to follow.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Waiting

They're serious, folks.
When are we going to be?

Some goodies stolen from Moorish Girl:

Here I've been struggling for four years to get an agent. Poor Jill has struggled four years with one.

I've only recently started concentrating on writing short stories. I'm not very good at it yet. It requires a precision and economy you don't get while honing your novel writing skills. Roxana Robinson has my back.

And speaking of short stories (cue shameful plug), here is the cover to the JIGSAW NATION anthology due now in Spring 2006, which includes my first published story:

Monday, May 02, 2005

May Day

Got fascism? Makes you wonder. Yesterday Fox News had a segement on how Liberal 'tree huggers' were responsible for the high gas prices. Yeah. The exit signs are clearly marked, folks.

Also yesterday, in a continuing sign of the inevitable apocalypse (the first sign being the arrival of the Spears child aka His Darkness) it snowed. On May 1st. Today the low will be in the 20s. The end is seriously fucking nigh.

But don't panic. Go see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", which is really funny and a nice diversion from runaway brides and the BLAH BLAH BLAH doublespeak being shoved down our throats these days.

I promised pics of my Indy trip, but those will have to wait until I finish the book. Hopefully that will be sometime in the next two weeks. I'm up to 675 pages at the moment and on the doorstep of the end of novel mash.

I'm also preparing a new round of grad school apps, because it's time for me to move on to the next step. Like yesterday.