National Towel Day

National Towel Day
*salutes Douglas Adams*

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Birth of the Big Beautiful Art Market

Why didn't I read Air Guitar last year? Or the year before that?

I'm buying this book before I get back to Sarasota.

I read this chapter will all interests intact, which is rare for me because art babble usually makes my mind go dim. I understand the writer's comparison of the art market to the early auto industry because part of my family practically worships that day and age, pining after cars long passed because the ones made today no longer have the same magic that they used to.

The art market never quite existed like it did in the mid nineties. Americans were beginning to unfold and truly stretch to fit these values they fought for because the auto industry was making it easy. Cars were icons of freedom and liberty; the very values that our forefathers fought for. Everyone wanted to own one and those that sold these vehicles knew it. Companies shifted their methods after WWII in order to prevent a loss in profits due to over-production. With careful planning and precision, they had the American people tied around their little fingers.

But the cars reflected the manner in which art was discovering its liberties as well. Just as vehicles were being customized by those who wanted to dissent from the herd, art was doing the very same. It was no longer unheard of to put together ready-mades, have them standing upon the ground rather than up against a wall. The idea of what was and wasn't art started to change, yet meanwhile, whatever could be categorized ended up succumbing to that fate with time. Once museums and universities started to accept these 'floor and drawer' arts into their catalogs, they started to gain all these definitions and descriptions that slowly ripped away the originality of making such art.

Artists aren't quitting however, and haven't started to. Just as the auto industry will still release cars until cars are no longer necessary {which is doubtful to happen any time soon}, people will keep making art whether or not they are truly being original or not. People will still be out there and they might still buy because the work/model still tickles their fancy. I can understand however, how it is that the art market definitely got a kick from the automotive industry's ascent.

And like I said before, I need to buy this book. I think I did...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't forget to bring your towel!

The Guide' has always been one of my more favorite subjects of science fiction. It provides that wonderful British humor I grew up with due to my dad's love of it. I read the book years ago, barely remembering details of all the spontaneous and improbable events that took place and in what order they happened. I had watched the newer of the two Hitchhiker's movies when it came out, still enjoying it though it possessed foreign elements not included in the story and in different order. Honestly, I don't think order matters a whole lot. After hearing the radio drama just now in its entirety, I believe every version of this story bears its own weight in gold. Douglas Adams is a fantastic writer and his story can be taken to any form while maintaining the same humorous quality.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy struck me as a cross between Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Doctor Who. It certainly bears the existential theme that the parody play mentioned had only it takes place in space and there are infinite planets, aliens, and 'stuff' we're not familiar with. Though the story could practically be jumbled in any order, the beginning remains where it stands in every telling. Arthur Dent is introduced as a rather average fellow living on a dismal and soon-to-be demolished planet, Earth. He is rescued by an old friend originally from another planet just before the Earth is destroyed. From here, the story presses on into spiraling improbability. Arthur and his friend Ford are caught in Zaphod's stolen ship, the Heart of Gold, and from there they go from one adventure to the next. When I looked the story up on the internet, keen on attempting to remember what the 'true' version was supposed to be like, it was brought to my attention that Adams actually wrote several variations as to where their journeys end up going.

The radio version was actually not all that hard to first. Then the plot sort of got lost in obscurity as questions were answered but they left me confused all the more. It wasn't a bad sort of confusion though. I sense the story is supposed to have this quality to it. After Dent was told of Earth being an organic computer, the story spiraled into madness from there. I remember the bits in the book about the restaurant at the end of the universe too, though I couldn't remember exactly what happened next. Listening to the radio drama reminded me of telling stories to your friends and making things up as you go along. Because the universe is so infinitely big and there are an infinite number of things to talk about that could be completely nonsensical at one moment and history the next, it's easy to have the audience just believe whatever you're telling them because you know more than they do about it. Arthur is the character that takes the listener and plops us into this situation. He's rather incredulous, what with the universe being a new idea and all, and just like us he has to put up with so much new and possibly ludicrous information that he takes it all like a true Englishman. This only makes the story more humorous.

I couldn't help but compare this to the movie though, because it was the most recent thing I could compare it to. The one thing I really liked about the new movie's telling of the story was the acting. When the world was just about to be blown apart, Ford was actually visibly nervous about it and Arthur was equally just as skeptical and oblivious about it. I wasn't fond of how Zaphod was portrayed in the movie however, because in both the book and the radio drama he wasn't a complete madman and idiot. He had a class about him, despite his overwhelmingly immense ego. He also struck me as a very chill kind of guy. Still, the movie did its job to condense the spiraling plot{s} into a movie-sized story that ended with a sense of closure {until at the very end the idea for a pop over to the restaurant is brought up}. It didn't have much ado with the book or radio drama after certain points, but it wasn't terrible. It still kept the spirit of The Guide.

Did the radio drama continue past what is given to us in resources? I'd hope so, since well...Doug's no more {rest in peace}. I'm picking up the book again when I finish A Clockwork Orange. I thought the radio drama was nice and because of it I'm going to be thinking with a British accent all day. Which...isn't bad.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh, my brothers

It's the wonderful week of literary speculation. I plan to read and have started A Clockwork Orange. I have seen most of the movie that I would hear so much about {and I would have wished to see the rest of it, but I didn't have the luxury}. I thought the story was coming along very well too, until I had to stop. Now I've got a hold of the text though, and text is usually better than the films, so we'll see.

I had actually seen the movie Big Fish as well, though not all that recently. I saw it around the time that it came out on DVD. I don't remember a whole lot about the story, but I remember the movie had an impact on someone I watched it with whose father was dying at the time. It was one of those stories that takes its title from a 'fisherman's tale'. A 'big fish' is the embellished part of the story in order to add something impressive in the place of something drab or mediocre. From what I can remember, the movie revolves around the tale of a man's son remembering the stories he used to tell about his past, and they were always very fantastical. The son remained generally skeptical about them but after his father died he seemed to prefer the memory of those amazing tales he told to anything else.

Anyways, I'll be updating this once I get to the middle of A Clockwork Orange because I'm far behind and I have a lot of studying to do for a couple of pending exams. I might not be able to finish this novel in time for the last day of class. I will probably skip on to the last week's subject of Bizarro fiction because it involves listening and I can work on drawings while I pay attention. This will likely be updated last then.

-Peace out

Sunday, April 18, 2010


So it's Diverse position SciFi week! Wasn't sure what it all entailed but after spending some time to read a few of the short stories on the resources site, I...still don't know. It's completely gone over my head. I suppose it entails those stories that didn't quite cut it into other genres or that take a different sort of route from traditional science fiction, but after reading Bloodchild I simply wasn't all that sure. That story, of the three I read, would be one that I would have identified as science fiction. As for I Live with You, that just seems like more of a mystery than anything else and it might cut into science fiction with some push. Then there was the story known as What I Didn't See which I would have never identified and still have trouble identifying as a science fiction story. This one is certainly more of a mystery than anything else. I'll get into each of them with more depth in a moment.

When I get a chance, I certainly want to watch all of Brother from Another Planet, simply because the first fifteen minutes we saw in class were rather intriguing, but I digress.

Alright, so first I'll go over Bloodchild. I didn't re-read it because the story was strong enough to be remembered without further provocation. It's a story about a preserve in which human families are kept, likely being farmed as hosts for an insectoid alien species, and the issue of trust and cooperation between both species. It isn't a black or white situation in my opinion. The aliens, which I believe are called the Tlic, took in the humans after a craft fleeing from oppression had crash-landed onto their planet. The Tlic were supposedly a dying race at the time, but somehow a system was established that trapped many if not all the humans on a special preserve. Here, female Tlics lay eggs in human bodies and their offspring are later ripped out of the human hosts and transferred into animal carcasses for feeding. A child, being prepared for his future as a host, witnesses the act of cutting that is normally kept from sight. It raises questions as to whether he should trust this system or revolt against it. Eventually, he accepts his role to save a sibling from the burden and puts his trust in the alien creature his family had been living with.

Come to think of it, I might be able to see what all these stories do have in common. All of them leave you thinking about life. They leave you thinking about what is right and what is wrong and the gray morality-level choices we are dealt with. In Bloodchild, would it truly be right to deny the aliens their hosts and leave the species to struggle once more? The humans /are/ being well cared for, for the most part. There is no sign of hostility from the Tlics amidst all this. T'Gatoi attempted to save Lomas and if humans are so easy to farm and control they could have just as well discarded him or left him to rot. As for human right, do they truly have a choice? Has the main character refused to be a host, would the Tlics have done away with him?

I'm sure I Live with You was supposed to remain open about who 'I' is. At first I assumed that the narrator was a ghost--a poltergeist maybe. It started to seem less so when she was well capable of charging Nora's credit card for things and interact with limitation with the living. I came away from the story seeing her as a psychological part of Nora, like an alter ego. I found this story interesting from its beginning as I attempted to determine what she truly was, but I'm settling on that. My guess is that Nora, the woman the main character is obsessively following, was leading a very boring existence. The narrator then decides to try and change all this and spice it up a little. Everything she does is in Nora's best interest, so she says. She doesn't steal, as repeated, but takes the steps necessary to accelerate Nora's life towards something less drab and dead. If anything, Nora's more of a ghost than the narrator. Maybe she is a ghost. I don't think so, but there you go. That's how automatic she is. The narrator ends up bringing some old guy over, and things seem to be going well with the narrator's help, but then she steps away for one moment and suddenly the guy's running off. The narrator simply gets fed up and leaves, wearing Nora's old clothes yet still claiming she isn't stealing anything.

Here we're dealing with the inner struggle against change. We all have been there once. Life ends up coming to a brief halt and it takes some motivation for us to change for the better. You could choose not to and remain in a static and dull safe zone or you can take your chances and perhaps end up with something better. Nora doesn't seem like the woman who would ever try to take any risks. The narrator, on the other hand, claims to be just like Nora but she wants to add spice to things. She dances to television and radio while trying to match her 'roommate' up with men.

Finally, there's What I Didn't See. Ironically enough, I didn't see how this could be science fiction. This story was more of a mystery than anything else. There were no extraterrestrials, no monsters or ghosts, no futuristic technologies, and no other such scientific non-existent things. It's a story about a woman who ventures to Africa with her husband to collect spiders with some gorilla hunters and while the main character stays behind, a friend of hers ends up disappearing and her whereabouts remain unknown. This all takes place in the jungle. Anything could have happened and any of that could have been perfectly normal. Maybe she was abducted by those cannibals. Maybe she got lost in the jungle and passed out somewhere distant. There are several dozen ways to die or get lost here. Meanwhile, the main character's husband comes back from one hunting trip completely dazed yet he reveals it was due to their killing of gorillas. That's terrible and all, but what does it have to do with science fiction? The closest I could think to get would be to assume that the lost woman became some female Tarzan and the main character's husband had to shoot a bunch aliens cleverly disguised as gorillas. The moral? Don't just shoot a bunch of gorillas or you'll be traumatized...or something. It wasn't a bad story or anything, but I didn't see why it would have been included in the science fiction genre. I could see anyone reading this story interpreting it as anything but. Maybe I missed an element somewhere. Maybe science fiction is more than just what I had mentioned above. But nothing was peculiar about this story. All that we're left with is a mystery about a disappearing woman and a hunting trip. We're given no clues to supernatural type events.

It wasn't hard to read through these stories though, and I would have given the fourth story a look if I wasn't pressed for time.

-Peace out.

History of Wonder Boy and Young Nastyman

Title's an obscure reference to an old fan-made music video I saw years ago when I first saw Akira. I know I should probably be expanding my horizons and reading/watching something new, but to be honest I forgot a lot about what happened in the movie. I saw it when I was in middle school and all I remembered was a giant flesh baby.

When the movie first started up I wasn't sure how it fit into the cyberpunk genre, but when it ended, I put some thought into analyzing it. It actually has a lot of the elements normally found in the genre. The technology doesn't seem that impressive, and that was what threw me off at first. Most of the cyberpunk I can remember reading had a lot of new technology, some impressive stuff, robots, data coming out of everyplace, drugs, and hackers. Actually, Akira features the lot to a minimal extent, but to an extent nonetheless. Kaneda, the main character, is the leader of a motorbike gang. He's not all that bright {which is nice to see for a change} but he has a lot of personality. It's clear to see why he's the leader despite his juvenile antics. The motorbikes don't hover or anything, they're not data pirates or junkies; they seem like the sort of typical gang you'd expect to find in ten years time rolling out through Tokyo. This future doesn't seem like much of a jump from ours. The people are just as clueless as they've ever been and the technology isn't a bear to try and understand from our perspective.

However, as stated before, there are more elements that attribute it to the cyberpunk genre. The setting is nearly post-Apocalyptic, though oddly enough it is firmly wedged in between both 'post' and 'pre'. The city was devastated once before the first time that Akira's power had awoken and it is just about ready throughout the movie to see yet another similar apocalypse. Most cyberpunk settings bear this trait. The world is nitty and gritty, full of violence and protest. Crime is rampant. Anarchy is in the air. Politics are corrupt. The system is shutting down. A cyberpunk world is never a pretty one. As brought up by the experiments, mankind is facing an evolutionary milestone. People are attempting to control a power they have yet to understand. In the middle of it all, we have our quaint band of misfits trying to live in their teenage wasteland that end up involved in the mess that is their world changing when one of their own is abducted.

I still think it's a stretch though. The story still seemed to focus more on people versus power rather than man and machine. There were drugs involved as well, but half of the talk was actually about medicine to help curb Tetsuo's power and the other half might have been something else that wasn't nearly as significant. Like said before, there was a government on the brink of collapse and protesters rioting in the streets. The fall of the system can be glimpsed upon when the school is focused on briefly. The children are completely out of control and the school itself is a mess. It is indeed a society where the lower classes and the hooligans can rule the streets, leaving the high and mighty to their own dirty work.

I liked this movie, but seeing it now and understanding it better, it's a memorable one at that. I couldn't see this as something in a book because I believe wordy explanations would end up distracting readers from the purpose. Akira isn't really about technology and how far it's come. In fact I think the movie made it a point to show how stunted technological evolution became after a big war, and I appreciate that. Hell, we were supposed to have hover cars now if The Jetsons were in any way legit. Akira is a movie about people. Not just 'people in the future' or 'these people' but 'you' too. Tetsuo didn't make all the best decisions and power is something one should be careful with. He wasn't quite careful with it at all.

-Peace out.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Babel 17 - the language of space terrorists.

I'm about halfway through the novel for now. I will update more soon. So far I find the storyline simple enough to follow, though every now and then there are explanations given for things that just don't make any sense. It's like the author wants us to really feel like we're in a futuristic world so he's making up all sorts of future tech and introducing concepts that I don't feel are explained well enough. I was totally lost with the whole 'circle' business when the ship was drifting. Something about the orbit moving some marbles about or whatever, but I'm sure any physics major might be able to make heads or tails of it. I don't know. I'm sure if I was there for the explanation I would have just stood there and nodded. Also, what's with the Suicide thing? Apparently, if people aren't dead of old age or of some horrible traumatic disfiguring, they can be recovered. They don't really go that far in depth about this up to the middle of the book and I think it's pretty important. I mean, that Second Navigator was dead before they picked her up. The Eyes, Ears, and Nose characters were sort of left out too. You get a broad idea of what they're good for, but it isn't explained why that job is so important, where they came from, and what they are exactly. I'm picturing that the Ear is just some faceless, noseless, blind flesh thing with huge ears...

Still reading.

And done.

Things got pretty confusing as I read along, but I was able to understand the general idea. I wasn't able to read this story in a day or anything because I haven't had the time, so I don't remember a whole lot of the details. The parts in which Rydra goes into these strange Babel-17 induced states confused me quite a bit, but after the story wrapped up I'm sure I'd understand everything better if I re-read it. I don't have the time, but the story was interesting enough for me to consider doing so.

One element that bothered me a lot, and I see this often in Science Fiction, is sudden infatuation. Rydra and the Butcher had this relationship that seemed to come out of nowhere and it bothered me a bit. Sure, she was helping him to understand the concept of 'you' and 'I'; I guess a teacher/student relationship could have lead to that? I'm not well versed on the subject. As for the other characters, like the pilot and crew, I feel like there should have been more on them in the story. They're very intriguing characters just by what we see of them. They're a more interesting group than the main character is on her own.

I did like the concept on a language that could act as a sort of mind control. I skimmed over most of the explanation, because it wasn't making a whole lot of sense or it seemed outdated, but I got the general mechanic down. It provided for an decent twist by the end of the book. You start to suspect the Captain around the middle, but she's so cautious about finding a spy that you start to second guess yourself. Then you find out it's the language that's manipulating her. The story was well put together in my opinion. It did feel like they breezed past everything a little too quickly, like the novel needed to be several chapters longer for us to really get a feel of their universe. They neglected to cover certain things like the necessity for certain crew members and such. The war could have been better explained as well as the Invaders.

I'd give this story a 7.5/10. It had a good plot, but it was too skeletal and at times it left me a little confused.

-Peace out

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jaunting sounds like an Olympic Sport

The Stars My Destination How he pulled off being a clown for a short time--I don't know. I really don't. They make him sound like one of those sorts of people that you KNOW could break your spine in half just by staring at you hard enough. Damn he's scary. He's like the physical embodiment of vengeance and fury. Lots of Deus ex Machina going on, but that's in any story these days. In most of the events that Gully should have died a horrible death, he finds a way out. I remember that escape from the Science Society or whatever, the hospital, the Commandos...he just gets really lucky. Not to mention that Burning Man flashbackwards thing.

I think my favorite character is the robot in the end...anyhow, on to a proper review:

This story was gripping at first, but after a while it became sort of painful to read. Gully, so I'll call him, starts off as an uneducated every-man of the time. There's nothing special about him {that we know of yet} except that he's got a strong will to survive despite his awareness of how often he dances with death. He ends up getting involved in a huge corporation/political blunder and suddenly he's being hunted by the very 'clan' he's hunting. Now, upon reading on the structure of 'the future' in this book and noting the date of its publication, it's quite ahead of its time. Surely the war and weapons of mass destruction were themes that were fueled by both the aftermath of the second World War and the beginnings of the Cold War. Still, upon having a system where these clans that rule the world are more like corporations {suggesting a takeover of Capitalism} and themes on teleportation, telepathy, and space colonization, it suggests the writer had a pretty vivid and well mulled over image in his mind of the twenty-fourth or twenty-somethingth century.

Anyways, the main character ends up becoming fueled solely on vengeance for having been left to drift by a passing ship. He doesn't even have education enough to want revenge taken against the people driving the ship; just the actual thoughtless steel shuttle itself, as if the ship and not the navigators decided to abandon him. Knowing this, or being lead by this, and his terrible diction, it's hard for me to believe that with less than a year of being educated in that underground hospital suddenly turned him into something formidable. It's not like he's fully refined, because he obviously has no charm or tact, but he can speak in complete sentences and he actually thinks a little before he goes and does something. Plus, his plans are not so horribly thrown together. He seems like he actually can come up with something if he's got the motivation. So I'm having trouble deciphering whether Gully's just dumb or lacked proper motivation before and is rather gifted. I take it he's the later due to his whole philosophical bout by the end of the story with a little help from that robot servant/Wall-E fellow.

I couldn't understand why he didn't develop any lasting infatuation with Jiz {I still can't think that name without laughing} and Robin. Those were two women he actually was working with. Apparently both weren't bad looking, though Jiz compared herself to an old woman he remarked that she was actually quite beautiful. No. Instead he falls for the chick whom he not only just met for a total of a few strong minutes, but he later finds was the one who sentenced him to death by drifting and is completely and utterly mad. I didn't get that. She didn't strike me as an attractive person. Even if you took the most beautiful body and slapped it on to that personality of hers, I wouldn't bite. She's so bland that I was left asking myself "what? what? REALLY GULLY?". He's obviously not the sort who's meant for romantics. He knows how to rape, so he probably gets some if he wants, but I'm afraid he doesn't even know what love is. No tact whatsoever when he blatantly admit to Robin that he was in love with Olivia, the Ice Queen from Blandsville. He should just stick to kicking butt in fast motion.

The story introduced a few cool concepts like jaunting and what it did to society, cool human enhancements, developments in society and culture, and all that fun stuff. That was actually what made up some of the more fun parts to read in my opinion. I loved the intro, how it began by describing the first trials of jaunting. I think they should have made the story about that guy. I'm sure it would have not been as epic, but it might have made more sense and it might have been just down to earth enough not to leave us bewildered by a plethora of new technology and ideas. Oh, but then we wouldn't get all the cool consequences that evolved from the masses learning of this teleportation technique. But hell, you could make the story about that as well. Gully's story...was over the top. I could understand how the events progressed, but some of his methods of escape were just...too coincidental. Like I said before, lots of Deus ex Machina. They explain the Burning Man appearances near the end of the story, and that's all fine and dandy, but the bombs just seem to always go off at just the most convenient times. I could make a long list of all the times Gully could have ended up dying and most of them I count off before the half-way point of the story. The point is, he didn't. He lived long enough to get to the moral of the story which actually doesn't seem to have all that much ado with the story itself. Don't get me wrong: 'Be an individual', 'don't be a robot', and 'a society is defined by the individuals' are great morals, but what the hell did it have to do with everything that just exploded in our face? Gully was an individual and look how many times he was nearly killed. He was a lucky bastard. And guess how many people he killed? He killed a lot of people. He's not a great example of an exemplary individual. He tries to atone by the end of the story but face it, so much happened to him that didn't seem to have nothing to do with those morals that you're not sure of yourself anymore.

It wasn't a bad story and it wasn't one of the best I've ever read. I love the setting, I love the ideas, and I love the society, but the characters and the story itself are not as well developed as I would have liked them all to be. None of the characters seemed to be very consistent and the main character was either scary as hell, stupid as hell, or confusing as hell. That's not a great character trope for your main guy unless it's a comedy you're reading instead of a serious sci-fi. I'd give it a 7/10.

-Peace out.