Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
There's a lot to do in Mass Effect 2. You have to pick up the pieces from the first chapter, in which you halted the incursion of a machine death god, and investigate what is causing human colonies to vanish. Hopping around the galaxy in a souped-up, top-of-the-line spaceship, there are many, many planets to visit, each rich in minerals and metals, populated with different races, and teeming with storylines galore. To say that you could spend a lifetime exploring this game is an understatement. Unlike most games where this is a horrifying prospect, the incredible writers make this akin to reading a fine novel, one in which you choose your own adventure. Mass Effect 2 is fun, engaging, and blazes new trails for immersive gameplay.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
In college a buddy and I raided the library and tracked down every short story JD Salinger ever published in magazines. There was no other way to read them, and we had to read them. Salinger was our shining beacon. After xeroxing the dozen or so stories from out of Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, The New Yorker, and various other postwar periodicals, we bound them up into a treasured volume. He wrote Catcher in the Rye, our bible for haberdashery, poise, and "roller skate skinny" sisters named Weatherfield. Franny and Zooey knocked our socks off. JD Salinger guided me toward a new understanding of literature and the artist. I pray that he of the agitated and alienated soul will at last rest in peace.
The other day, poring over the handful of DVDs I own, my gal said something interesting. She commented that most of the movies were dark and heavy. This was not a quality I'd noticed, but I couldn't disagree: they tend toward the dark end of the spectrum. Grosse Point Blank might be there (best romantic comedy ever), but most of what you'll find are zombies and post-apocalypses.
Things that make you go "Hmm..."
How does this connect to my writing blog, you may well ask? Reviewing the content on Vault of Story thus far, I wonder if it isn't dissimilar from my DVDs, dark and morbid. Writing, so they say, is a process of discovery. Folks would not describe me as a morbid character. I'm gregarious to a fault, a goofy raconteur. Who's this creep oozing out of the ink?
Hmm, hmm, and double-hmm.
When I was younger, my creative output was mostly silly comic books. Maybe I got depressed and swung the other way, like an axe swing. Either that or I'm about to become very depressed now, seeing as I'm such a one-note wonder. Time will tell.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Digital ego suits my philosophy that it is better not to know what an author looks like. I prefer to let books create imagery in my head and when I see the writer's mug, it negatively impacts the experience. In this spirit, I crafted an avatar that looks nothing like me. The author has to look like something, right? For now, or until an agent tells me otherwise, I'm content to have the world think "James MacAdam" (pictured above) is a slightly creepy-looking guy who loves winged horses.
This got me thinking. Do I want to be totally separate from my digital ego? So far, I've limited my personal output (that is, what I choose to post about on zeitheist) to scattershot subjects, ranging from apocalypses to the occasional political rant. While true enough, the posts come from me, it's also true they present only a shallow portrait. Reflecting on this got me thinking about things I love.
Not to be morbid, but I thought about beloved subjects that are no longer in my life. Three particular things come up, incited more than a little by some of the great blogs I read daily: cats, music and Mom.
Cats were a big part of my life growing up. Though allergies at my house prevent us having any around, I love cats dearly. My last was a tabby named Karma. Sweet runt of the litter, Karma had the canniest expression I've ever seen, human or otherwise. Cats in general seem to be onto something. Out of all the madness in the world, they make more sense than just about anything.
Mixtapes. Making mixtapes used to the end-all, be-all of my existence. So much so, in fact, that one wall of my office is dedicated to something I call my autosonicograpy, essentially two decades' worth of my favorite music mixed with soundbites, captured sounds and conversations, and other ephemera. If you are one of those folks who thinks about the first thing you would grab in a fire, this is mine.
Seeing how many smart and funny mothers there are blogging these days, I often wonder what my own would have thought of the phenomenon. She was a woman who loved to laugh, and I don't wonder that she would get a kick out of the opportunities for expression that exist today. I can only imagine that she would have posted about her favorite things, namely purses, music and cats. Of course, knowing how much she adored being outdoors and taking long walks, the idea of Mom blogging makes me think she would laugh and call me a silly goose for even suggesting the idea.
Anyhow, these are but a few items distinct from my digital ego. Schizo as it might sound, they seem part of a different person than the one presented online. Do you experience this kind of separation, or does it seem that your offline self is reflected more completely in the digital realm?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
While we know that Mr Dead likes to spend his free time in pockets, a larger question remains: who runs Bartertown? A hive of scum, villainy and pawnshop thrift, Bartertown has solved the fuel crisis. Cultivate sufficient pig exhaust and you've got biodiesel beat. The folks down at Bartertown certainly think so. But who run the place? Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome provides the answer.
Say hello to Master Blaster. He's liked by everybody but Auntie Entity, who has the idea that she runs Bartertown. Problem is, there's only one of her. She has two enormous shoulder pads, true, but who doesn't? That hardly ranks her as the big dog. Still, she's played by Tina Turner. We know she'll end up on top.
In this third part of the saga, we have to wait for a long time for hot rods to show up. It's all camels, pigs, shoulder pads and a monkey until then. Oh, and a lot of kids living down by a green pond.
Max is exiled from Bartertown. He and Auntie Entity can't agree on who is more stylish, and off to the wasteland he goes. Fortunately a tribe of children are waiting to rescue him. They live by a nice deep pond in a chasm and are waiting for Max to fly them away to Tomorrow-Morrow Land. Really. It's more interesting than it sounds.
Amidst talk of the poxyklips, Mr Dead getting the jumps of people, highscrapers, and Tomorrow-Morrow Land, it becomes evident that this gang of adolescents has cobbled together a new mythology of the world. The stories they tell and sing and chant are culled from the cultural ashes of what came before. Neat stuff. It also gives Max the opportunity to enlighten the new generation about the whereabouts of Mr Dead, taking a siesta in his pocket.
We get to see the softer side of Max. He is forced to deal with the kids now that he doesn't have a hot rod. This gives him gray hair, but he emerges a better man. Still alone at the end, but content nevertheless that there is more to life than road trips. The saga ends on a positive beat, teaching us that not every apocalypse has to be the end of the world.
In sum: Mad Max introduced us to a post-apocalyptic world where hot rods reign supreme and Max showed himself King of the Road by proving his hot rod was hotter than yours. His leather wardrobe had yours beat from the start, mate, so it was a fixed contest.
In The Road Warrior, Max proved to have the best car (and dog) in a pinch. He might have gotten banged up a bit along the way, but it made him a better driver. Go, Max, go.
Finally, he convinced a new generation there is a better way to carry on the human race than by driving hot rods; to raise pigs, for instance, and wear less shoulder pads. Though we leave Max to an uncertain fate at the end of Thunderdome, he exits on a grace note.
I wish I were kidding.
Here's a brief summary from Wikipedia concerning corporate personhood:
In the United States, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons, in Dartmouth College v. Woodward Corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the 14th Amendment in an 1886 Supreme Court Case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394.
Some critics of corporate personhood, such as author Thom Hartmann in his book "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," claim that this was an intentional misinterpretation of the case inserted into the Court record by reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis. Bancroft Davis had previously served as president of Newburgh and New York Railway Co.
A vile distortion of the rule of law has been perpetuated by this activist ruling. Starting with the Haitian tragedy, the news lately has been one horror after another. President Obama, who was elected in no small part thanks to corporate contributions, says his administration will fight back. I hope he is more effective than the farce we've seen with financial and healthcare reform, but I'm not holding my breath. I say this not to be cynical but pragmatic: my faith in the political process went out with hanging chads and when it comes to the idea of "by the people, for the people," I can recall William Henry Harrison in 1840, when he said
I believe and I say it is true Democratic feeling, that all the measures of the government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! covers the issue:
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
It all started here in 2001, at a little site called LiveJournal. Remember those heady days, when there was no Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or Friendster? Heck, the whole blogosphere wasn't happening yet.
We've come a long way, baby.
Zeitheist now appears at Twitter, "to test your Twitter trend knowledge" -who doesn't need this? Priceless!
In my feeble mind, zeitheist always meant "stealing time." As it turns out, I was mistaken. According to an intrepid verbalist at addictionary.com, it has a far more dire (and amusing) connotation:
noun, The jerk that takes up a handicapped parking space without a tag and who is obviously not handicapped.
USAGE zeitheist means blatant disregard for the law in combination with thoughtless self-indulgence - both have become the spirit of the times.
SYNONYMS handijacker, lazy-parker, tresparker, infiltraturd, SPACE-INVADERS, Impajerk, heel on wheels, handifaker, Handi-jerk, handicrap
We have a connection to 9/11, to wit:
yes, zeitheist.... it's a heist of many hungry minds away from truth with the use of a dusty old cracker.
And... ZeitHeist The Motion Picture!
At this rate, world domination is but a few short years away. You read it here first!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
To honor the great citizen and orator, listen to Dr Martin Luther King's final speech. Truly here is a man the impact of whose vision is still being realized today. Listen and know:
Sunday, January 17, 2010
She whom you see pictured to your right is not a real person. Sally Parker is the main character in my novel, Narchitect, about which you can read much more at the brand spanking new blog I set up to market it. In preparing introduce the world to Sally, it struck me that I wanted an image to accompany her bio. Since the technology doesn't exist (yet) to snap images of characters out of novels, I had to come up with an alternate way to show what she looks like. That's when it occurred to me to create an avatar for her, and I have to say, the result is a pretty decent approximation.
Cool thing is -or eerie, depending on how you look at it -Sally resides now as a 3-D character on my desktop. She hangs out down by the toolbar with her polygon hair waving in a digital breeze. If Narchitect were a kitchen sink drama or Regency England Romance, it wouldn't make any sense to craft her appearance this way. Since it is a novel set in the 23rd century, where everybody has analog lives in a game realm, this was the logical way to go. Kind of fun, too.
There are many other characters in the book, and I enjoyed creating an avatar for Sally so much that I imagine I'll give them the same treatment. This will give me an excuse to research myriad social sites online, where 3-D avatars are de rigeur. Stop in at the Narchitect blog to see the results!
Which reminds me...
The final installment of my first serial over at Vault of Story is now up and you can read the complete tale of Danny Bates as he deals with the consequences of being late to school. Not everything is as it seems in Danny's world....
It was fun transfering the short story to the blog in sections, transcribing it from my scrawl on college-lined pages and editing on the fly. The end result needs some work, I think, and it will be a while until I commit to another lengthy tale. After all, I should be devoting all my writing time to the manuscript, not short stories! They are such a nice break, even so, that I will not neglect to continue posting regularly. Already I've a slew of miniature, "flash" fictions to offer, which you'll be able to view presently.
Word to Entrecarders: Vault of Story is now droppable!
Stop by and check it out, everybody's welcome.
Friday, January 15, 2010
This is my California posse of role-playing friends circa 1985. I spent countless hours with these gents both at and away from school. Here you see us (the top of my head is at the far left) readying to answer The Call of Cthulhu, a role-playing game of horror and suspense based on the stories of HP Lovecraft.
The game's object was to maintain a high enough sanity level to survive until the end of the module. Any time your character was confronted by some fresh horror, an encounter, let's say, with Yogg-Sothoth or Nyarlathotep or another of the gruesome Old Gods in the Lovecraft pantheon -if you ran across one of these guys, you had to roll a dice to determine if your sanity held up. A good roll meant a shock to the system. A so-so roll reduced your sanity and meant nightmares for life, but you could carry on. A bad roll was... well, bad. It meant your brain cracked. Your character might still be alive, but they were a gibbering idiot in permanent fetal position.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
This is the question posed by a character in The Matrix. He gripes that instead of taking the easy way out in life, he swallowed the red pill. No, he wasn't alluding to democrats and republicans: the red pill opens your brain to the "real world" while the blue one lets you remain plugged into the matrix.
I can relate.
There are times I wish I hadn't taken the red pill. Outside of the movies, the red pill becomes a metaphor for engaging belief in transcendent truth, orthodoxy, ethical living. I took mine growing up in the church. This laid groundwork for a life of believing. The structure of organized belief that is a church enabled me to live as a person of faith.
Like the fellow in The Matrix, I sometimes question why I didn't choose an easier way.
Another fellow by the name of Leonard Cohen, not a film character but a mystic poet very much part of the real world, has some intriguing things to say about belief:
I'm aware that I'm embraced by the absolute... I feel that the technology for experiencing the absolute has been lost, but all the great religions have this experience, this information, this data, this technology....In other words, he's saying that people can pop blue pills if that's what makes sense to them. You can't force the red pill down people's throats.
I've always wondered why religions emphasize this idea of "belief." Why should you believe in these matters? But experiencing these matters is available to all of us -experiencing the absolute is available. To be tyrannical or to be in some way oppressive about belief... I think it's not fair to ask people to believe things they don't experience.
Continuing with the intersection of spirituality and sci-fi, here's a snip from an interview with an author whose work was concerned with mystic experience as much as the technology that avails us of it. Philip K Dick had a lot of bizarre ideas, but his heart was in the right place.
When questioned about his own religious beliefs, Dick said he could best be classified as a "religious anarchist."That last bit about "divine beings" is out there, but I appreciate the thrust of what he says, that it's down to us to take responsibility for what we believe. To surrender such a vital aspect of being to outside agency is imposing a filter. Being part of organized belief is fine, but on terms that engage us directly; anything less is to compromise the reason we are alive.
"I'm totally against organized religion," he states. "I believe you have a direct relation with the divine or you have no relation with the divine. It has nothing to do with faith or dogmatic creeds. The initiative comes from the divine side. There is nothing you can do. All you can do is live an honest life, be brutally honest with yourself, and hope to become an object of interest with the divine beings."
That's the take of a red pill popper, anyhow.
I leave you with lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song, "The Window", as fine a meditation on belief as I've found:
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side
Lost in the rages of fragrance
Lost in the rags of remorse
Lost in the waves of a sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host
Gentle this soul
And come forth from the cloud of anoint
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love...
Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless the continuous stutter
Of word being made into flesh
Monday, January 11, 2010
No complaints from this department, either. It was refreshing to revisit my favorite film as a teen and discover that it has very little dialogue. What's there is sparse, economical, and goes directly to the point. There's no small talk in this vision of a dystopic future. Of course, the roaring engines of every manner of hot rod can really put the kibosh on conversation; you can barely hear yourself think, let alone carry on a meaningful exchange.
Our hero is still torn up over events in the first movie, which explains why he is so short in the tooth. Kind of unusual for the actor, when you think about it. Mel Gibson didn't become one of the leading actors of his generation (remember when he did Hamlet? Okay, bad example...) by keeping shtum. Audiences love him for being that gregarious, blue-faced guy you cheer for but want to keep your daughters away from. Seriously. Martin Riggs is the ideal prom date? I don't think so. He is great as Mad Max because of his restraint.
Max doesn't travel alone. He has Dog along to brighten up the desolate, atomic dust-choked roads. That is the resourceful pup's name: "Dog." Doesn't seem like they are on a first name basis, but it is a sight better as a name than "Gyro Captain." This second companion, when he is reluctantly made a member of Max's little trio, brings something hard to come by: dialogue. His gyro copter, telescope and pink low-top Converse are essentials for surviving in the wasteland.
Lord Humungus is a name you won't soon forget. The film's heavy sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger's twin brother. Though we can't see the Humungus one's face behind his hockey mask (The Road Warrior was made years before the first Jason movie), his physique and vaguely Teutonic accent evoke California's governator. But he is no governor, he is Lord Humungus. Other honorariums include Warrior of the Wasteland and, my favorite, Ayattolah of Rock and Rollah.
The Road Warrior is the second of three Mad Max films. I'll be watching the third and report back to you from the Hot Rod Apocalypse shortly.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Three posts in, the plot of The Truant is ripening. Check out Vault of Story for the latest exploits of Danny Bates as he sinks deeper into trouble at school for failing to turn in his homework.
Things are proceeding smoothly. My initial apprehension has faded and good things are ahead. Once there are a couple more posts, I'll register with Entrecard and the familiar yellow and black widget will appear at the sidebar. This would happen sooner but they require no less than five entries for a blog to qualify. At my current pace, this should happen no later than Thursday!
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Friday, January 08, 2010
His tears cure cancer. Too bad Chuck Norris never cries. Ever.
How does he do it, and does it involve a diet of bacon-infused gimlets?
You can find many pithy truths at The Original Chuck Norris Fact Generator. However, all appearances to the contrary, the man cannot make it on his own. Like the rest of us measly mortals, Chuck Norris needs a good solid team of Karate Kommandos to get his back.
If all of us could put aside our differences and enlist with this elite melting pot of justice, what a better world this would be.
Karate Kommandos? My car stalled on the Interstate...
Before you know it, a sumo wrestler will show up with his scuba diver sidekick and get that problem fixed. Who needs Allstate, when you've got this team on your side?
Here is an international force for good that knows no borders. They are Kommandos sans Frontières and they will save the day every time. Text your nearest Kommando liaison and watch the world's problems vanish.
Karate Kommandos, ever heard of a little place called Afghanistan?
Karate Kommandos, Vladimir Putin is taking his shirt off in front of the camera -again!
Karate Kommandos, my dog hasn't been walked all morning!
But don't settle for having them as friends: be a Karate Kommando and win.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
I fulfilled a years' long dream yesterday and watched Mad Max. Not to see the film itself, which made a huge impression in my early teens, but to hear the original performances. When Mad Max was released in the US, distributors thought the Australian accents were too thick and overdubbed all the actors with voices straight out of Super Friends. Really ridiculous voices. Mel Gibson has never sounded more like an animated monkey in his entire career.
If you've seen Mad Max, you know what a disastrous effect the overdubs have. So, it was my dream to hear the film as it was meant to be heard. In 2001 a special edition dvd was released that includes the Australian version, and only yesterday, nearly a decade later, I finally got around to watching it.
I'm not a leather fetish kind of guy, but there is plenty here for anybody who likes it. Also, there are hot rods, and how.
Mad Max is the first post-apocalyptic western. Instead of horses everybody rides a hog or a hot rod. There may not be enough food, fuel or love to go around, but when it comes to highways there is an embarrassment of riches. This is like a high-octane predecessor to Cormac McCarthy; an alternate title could have been The Roads.
Anyone with even a passing interest in hot rods (me, for instance) can feel the love. Cops roar around in MFP V-8 Interceptors with genius paint jobs. Seriously, I want to paint my car yellow and stripe it in blue, white and red -because it looks so damn awesome. Of course, if I carry it further and drive like post-apocalyptic police do, I'll be serving a life sentence at San Quentin in no time. Those suckers really tear up the landscape.
Sadly, everyone in the future seems to live on the shoulders of the highway. Parents have also lost all control of their toddlers. How else can you explain the wee ones toddling down the center of the road when it is most inconvenient? There's got to be a better time to let infants play in the road than when bandits are about with jet-powered cars. To their credit, cops and baddies alike have excellent skills and never hit a single baby. Caravans, on the other hand, are open game: we see no less than two totally demolished within the first ten minutes of Mad Max.
As for hearing it properly, I can't say there is a profound difference from what I remember. How distributors ever concluded that the accents were too thick is beyond me. It isn't like they're speaking English as a fifth language. The only plausible explanation is envy, pure and simple. Yanks have a knee-jerk opposition to anyone who speaks English with more flavor than we do.
It doesn't help when their hot rods are more yellow than ours, either.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Monday, January 04, 2010
I'm excited to finally get this blog underway. It's hard to describe what a moment this is, of culminating a long dream into reality. Though I've known since I was but a wee lad that I wanted to be a writer, only in the last few years has the desire begun to take real shape. Narchitect marks another milestone on this long road that has many more twists and turns ahead yet. I can't wait to see where they lead!
Narchitect's opening piece focuses on the truancy of Danny Bates at a school where no one is ever late. Watch for an announcement here when the first installment becomes available.