A glimpse

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Another post at Broken Circles, wherein I start, realize it is late, and leave off with an idea half-finished. I know, such a tease.

“I wasn’t talking about the reader; I was referencing the writer. The narrative anxiety is his (or hers, or its). Dr. Bradley sees it as more basal, more Maslow-ian, and yes, while that is part of the narrative and the motivation within the narrative, it’s not part of the writer’s anxiety.”

I’ve got to break these up. My brain only works in half-hour segments any more. 🙂

Oh, and an addendum

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I finish up the Broken Circles post, and realize that Fields of the Nephilim’s “Straight Into the Light” is playing on the headphones. I don’t even realize its presence any more. It just sends me into the zone. It is, as always, ever-present when I poke at that thin veil between me and the Universe.

I will fly again
I will fly again
All our days are numbers
We bare the face of men
The rain, the skies are changing
But I will fly again
Look up, look down
Look up, look down
Look up, look down
Look up
Look straight into the light
{you and I will fly again}
{you and I again}
Look down
Is it the face we know?
Or something beyond the soul?
We served this world like angels
Been burned both night and day
Now we turn with eyes blazing
Well its time for us to go
Look straight into the light
Look straight into the light
You and I will fly again {you and I will fly again}
You and I again {you and I again}

I’m just sayin’. You can’t poke at the Universe without it poking back. It’s part of Being Awake.

Should All Broken Circles Be Mended?

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“If the New Weird argued that magic had a place in urban, modern, settings, then we ask you consider why do we still insist on calling it “magic.” Why do we lash ourselves to any of the language used in the last three hundred years to describe the “un”-human? Yes, “faery” and “vampire” and “lycanthropy” are useful tools because they give our audience something familiar, something to which they can cling as they are thrown into the textual sea, but these words are also boat anchors that will drag you down. We are children of the 21st century. We are hurtling towards “trans-” and “post-” in our humanity. Why is our language, our fantastic literature, not already there? Why is it not showing us the way? Urging us ever on?”

I’m part of the group who is blogging over at Broken Circles, where we are attempting to (initially) come to some sort of consensus about what it is that we’re doing with our words. From there, we will, I dunno, scamper off into the hills and put it all into action.

The above is pulled from my first post. Click over and join in. Poke holes in my arguments. That should be fun. And check out the rest of the discussion that Jonathan Wood, Paul Jessup, and others have been engaging in.

Capsule Reviews: two DVDs, one book, one GN

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Some quickie reviews on media that has passed through our filters recently.

Balls of Fury (DVD): When you have kids, you quickly realize that, some nights, films that cling to the Water Balloons To The Crotch style of comedy are perfectly acceptable fare. Balls of Fury makes no claims otherwise. Plus one star for the balls out premise. Minus one star for being both too short and too long (not enough ping pong hilarity, too much . . . it’s not even “story” . . . so yeah, whatever it is, it doesn’t go anywhere). Plus one star for Christopher Walken. Plus one more star for putting him in faux geisha costumes. Minus one star for wasting Jason Scott Lee and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Minus one star for making us wait until the end credits to see the best parts (the Def Leppard singalong and bloopers). Let’s see, doing the math . . . carry the one . . . ah: zero stars.

Casshern (DVD): Briefly, for those who have recently agreed that Bioshock offers oodles research material, Casshern is a must see. Filled with all manner of digital backgrounds, CGI work, and wire fu, this film is total eye candy. Part giant robot story, part chambara epic, part Soviet propaganda-style military alternate history, part family tragedy, part live-action anime, Casshern waits until the last five minutes to sucker punch you. I’ve seen it twice in the last month, and the subtly of its thematic thrust is very, very good. Five stars.

Halting State, by Charlie Stross (novel): Yes, it’s a heist book, and the gimmick is that the bank is a virtual entity within a MMORG. Yes, it’s set near-future and Charlie lays it on heavily with both the geek references and the geek toys. It’s also told in the second person–for each of its three protagonists. It’s an homage to the whole history of online games (Zork, anyone?), and it should be a complete train wreck. But it’s not; quite the opposite, actually. It’s damn near invisible. The writer in me gives it five stars; the reader takes one away due to an ending that fails to outshine some of the material earlier in the book.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill (GN): My comic book store guy did not like this. In fact, when I mentioned it to him, I touched off a bit of a rant. Now, I understand his point of view, but it’s just . . . well, it comes down to this: Alan Moore fucked his audience by putting in too many words. The buggery being that “too many words” was not the sort of funny picture book that LoEG was previously, and that standard set, Moore went off the rails badly with The Black Dossier and, well, that sort of thing is inexcusable. Having finished the The Black Dossier earlier today (and subsequently finding all the pieces of my head and putting them back together after having it exploded in fine fashion), I have to say that my comic book guy is sort of an idiot. Which is too bad, because I like him and I like his store. But he’s wrong.

For many reasons, but the two biggies are: (1) It’s an Alan Moore book. What the fuck did you think he was going to do? (2) It’s a series where the heroes of fiction are recast as a Victorian superhero team, and the whole of our fantastical literature is being raided as grist for Moore’s febrile story-telling. The Black Dossier simply takes the next step and includes actual material (heretofore hidden and other “undiscovered”) from several centuries that support Moore’s alternate world-view. Moore offers a lost Shakespeare play, a Wooster & Jeeves story, a mashup pulp fiction dime novel by Kerouac and Joyce (yeah, that’s where my head exploded), a rewrite of Crowley’s history concerning The Book of the Law, and Oh My God! Is that not enough? No? How about a 3-D ending that requires reading Dr. Seuss style (with one eye shut) in order to see all the clever.

Too many words? Jesus, people. This is a landmark piece that synthesizes literature and pulp, fantasy and history. And the ending? It’s . . . well, it’s Moore. I thought Watchman was staggering in its deconstruction of the superhero genre, From Hell mind-boggling in its attention to detail, and the previous LoEG books to be incredible. This just tops all of them.

Jess Nevins: Dude, they were totally gunning for you on this one. You should get a special dispensation from the Queen of England for doing the annotations.

The Backassward Way of Process

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I’ve been wrestling hard with INSTRUMENT over the last few weeks. I know the story I want to tell; I’ve just been having a bitch of a time figuring out how to get into it. And then I realized that voice that has been working best for this milieu is not the voice of the main character. This realization cemented the fact I’ve been avoiding: my main character–as I’ve been considering him–is just the wrong guy.

So, out with the old, and finding something new. A tagline for another story surfaced from the old idea file, hooked itself onto the main character, and suddenly I realized that RABBITS FOOT would be a much more suitable introduction to this world and these players.

Maybe it’s just background that I play through and then keep to myself as I go back to INSTRUMENT, better armed to get into the book. But I realize that the hook into INSTRUMENT works much better if you’re party to RABBITS FOOT in its entirety.

This is my process. Instead of figuring out the beginning of a book that has been dogging me for five years, I back-burner it entirely to write the prequel. I’m still not sure if this is avoidance behavior or clever redirection of a nut that my brain isn’t ready to crack. Somewhere along the line I stumble to the fact that GEARS is the book that follows RABBITS FOOT and INSTRUMENT. And I know what the city is called by its denizens, so I can finally ditch “Empire City.” It’s an old friend, but it needed to go as it no longer fit the world.

During the 1500 word blitz to the end of Chapter One today, I hit a spot where a bit character (Burke) informed me he was a secondary character of some importance (thereby giving me a huge way in to the history of the world), and the main character (Mistral) did a little thing that told me he was ready to play with others.

Excellent. Blockage removed. Flow is on. Now to Chapter Two, which opens with a severed hand in a sink. But, first, my favorite bit from today behind the cut.

Something Resembling a Top Ten List for 2007

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We’re still in the process of shifting gears over here (including some pretty serious distractions): dumping the head space used for “The Heart of the Rail,” which did manage to get out the door in time (and a nod to Eric Griffith for the title, thank you sir!); finding the last good copy of “Blackmail boxes,” the editing of which I do need to stop putting off; finishing off the last code push for the not-so-secret Secret Project; and deciding if I really want to write INSTRUMENT or RABBIT FOOT.

Not to mention settling on which order those last two occur in.

So, while I thrash about, clearing things up, I offer you this. My favorite records from last year (as reported to Igloo):

Ulver :: Shadow of the Sun (Jester Records): Calling this “ambient metal” is somewhat of a disservice to both ambient and metal, but I’m at a loss to how else to quantify this record. It is a thousand miles away from their black metal beginnings, but in the wake of recent releases like Perdition City and Silencing the Singing, it’s a natural evolution. A haze of melancholy and fading heat energy, Shadow of the Sun is rife with glitch, classical atmospherics, and stanzas of banal lyrics that Garm’s delivery transforms into emotionally loaded introspection. It shouldn’t touch me as deeply as it does, but somehow I can’t stop listening to it.

Aaron Spectre :: Lost Tracks (Ad Noiseam): Alan Lockett says it best. A surprisingly gentle record from the man who mashed thrash and drum ‘n’ bass into one of my favorite records from 2006.

Detritus :: Fractured (Ad Noiseam): Another record from Ad Noiseam, who on the whole always produces a consistently excellent catalog. Fractured leaps out of this already excellent release list with a stellar piece of cinematic soundtracking. The sort of record that should make David Arnold very nervous about the producers of the next James Bond swapping his tired orchestrations for David Dando-Moore’s phenomenal Strings ‘n’ Beats. God, wouldn’t that just blow the doors off the whole genre of movie soundtracks?

Nine Inch Nails :: Year Zero & Y34rz3r0r3m1x3d (Nothing): After With Teeth, I had given up on Trent Reznor, but he managed to ditch all the things I hated about that record, rediscover the energy that made The Downward Spiral a blast of ferocious energy, and damage the whole thing with a layer of digital glitch and effects that is just amazing (the arrival of the “Great Destroyer” nearly makes up for With Teeth all by itself). Y34rz3r0r3m1x3d is one of those extremely rare remix records that manages to be a completely different experience, yet isn’t filled with a bunch of tracks that make you miss the originals (Saul Williams’ remix of “Hyperpower!,” for example, should have sucked for burying the great drum track beneath vocals, but Williams’ caustic and inflammatory delivery transforms the track into a revolutionary call to arms).

Tonikom :: Epcoh (Hymen Records): A number of my favorite labels held their ground this year, putting out records that, while they certainly weren’t embarrassing, weren’t interesting enough for me to hold my attention. However, Tonikom’s debut on Hymen, Epoch, caught my ear every time a track from it surfaced on my daily play list. Marrying the best parts of Contagious Organism’s soundscape work with the rhythmic noise aesthetic the label is known for, Tonikom managed to make the whole sound seem fresh again.

Tetsu Inoue :: Inland (FAX): The best release from FAX last year. Once upon a time, FAX was all a growing boy needed as far as electronic music (and the hefty release schedule helped). Now, it seems like a boutique label for Namlook’s noodling, which makes Inland all that more of a surprise and a treat.

Amon Tobin :: Foley Room (Ninja Tune): Tobin’s complex programming combined with a dramatic sense of cinematic overdub. As a headphone record, it turns whatever mundane task you are doing into a high-stakes thriller. Nothing better for cleaning out the sock drawer, or re-arranging the kitchen utensils, or waiting for a terminally late bus.

Kiln :: Dusker (Ghostly International): For some reason, I’ve been confusing Kiln with Aeroc in my head (I know, these days it’s hard to not confuse a couple of artists once a week or so), and had put off listening to Kiln (again, not sure why? I like Aeroc’s Viscous Solid well enough). So, eventually, I get around to Dusker and have been thoroughly enjoying their glitchy shoegazing pop music.

Young Gods :: Super Ready/Fragmente ( ): The Young Gods wandered off my radar for a few years and burned their way back onto my regular playlist with the blistering Super Ready/Fragmente. Not as “funky” as Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero, but noisy with that same sense of industrialized energy (think an Italian roadster compared to the jacked-up NIN pimp wagon). More guitar too, which is never a bad thing.

Omnimotion :: “Embrace” (from Midnight Soul Dive) (Aleph-Zero): Omnimotion’s full-length was good, but six months later, I can’t recall many of the individual tracks. But “Embrace,” his contribution to the latest compilation from Israel’s downtempo/world fusion label, still transports me to a different headspace every time I hear it. Aleph-Zero has embraced the digital distribution models, so you should buy one less overpriced cup of coffee today, and go get this track instead.

And five records I still need to track down.

DeepChord :: Presents EchoSpace: The Coldest Season (Modern Love): I’ve been more of a reader than a producer of content at Igloo this past year, and reviews like Robbie Geoghegan’s on DeepChord :: Presents EchoSpace get me very excited about listening to music again. Why does my local record store not have a single copy of this? Bastards.

Rapoon :: Time Frost (Glacial Movements): Storey’s work in the last few years has seemed to be in a repeating pattern, but conceptually he’s gone into the wilderness with this record, and I’m intrigued. It helps that I have a weakness for soundtracks of glacial terrain. I don’t know why; I just accept it.

Ontayso :: 24-hours (U-Cover). Even if I could afford each hour (19 euros each!), I’ve missed my chance for this one. Twenty-four discs, each one an hour long, that detail a day in the life of Ontayso, from soundscapes to ambient textures to god-knows what (though Paul Lloyd does a nice job covering enough of them that I’m even more sick that I missed out). Maybe the rest of us will get lucky and U-Cover will do a digital version of these records. Please?

David Sylvian :: Naoshima (Samadhisound): A piece of environmental music that, as the press release states, isn’t really complete until it is heard in situ at the town of Honmura. As it is more and more impossible (without really good headphones) to listen to ambient music without having to consider where and when you are listening to a record, this sort of spacial requirement for the full “aural” effect of a record is fascinating to me. Naturally, I’ll be listening to it while riding a train on a different continent entirely, but well, that’s what the transportive magic of music is all about, isn’t it?

Stars of the Lid :: And Their Refienment of the Decline (Kranky): Which I have somewhere, but God knows where it is in the stacks and piles and random chaos that is my office. 2007 was that sort of year, and it probably wouldn’t hurt me to find this record, put it on, and do nothing for its entire playing time. At least once.

Draft Finished

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Finished a draft of the train story today. Hid out from the world and banged on it until it was done. so, 4K of words for me today. I’m going to go off and see if I can’t be seduced by a crappy movie and the blinking lights on the front of an XBox 360.

Any of y’all that want to be first readers, let me know. I’ll need comments by Sunday, though. Got that deadline looming.

Reason #1334 For Switching Back to Mac

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I sold my old HP laptop last night. It had been sitting around under my desk for the last six months, getting in the way, and while I loved this husky monster of a machine, it’s just too unwieldy to haul around on the train. So, craiglist and gone. The guy who was buying it asked me why I was letting go of the machine and I said, “I’ve gone back to Macs.” He made that face and shrugged, giving off the “what a moron” vibe. A couple minutes later, I mention Vista and he goes off on a long tear about what a piece of shit that OS is.

Dude, I know. Why do you think I went back to the elegance of the Mac?

Speaking of elegance, Mac Heist is doing their yearly package deal. $50 gets you 11 sweet little apps (it was ten earlier today; between when I got the package and got home, they added one, and I still got it as part of the deal). There’s a robust little graphic app, an accounting app, an alarm clock, a sexy little iTunes album art app/mp3 player, a task manager, a CSS editor, and a few others.

$50.00. For ALL OF THEM.

And, 25% of that goes to charity. You can pick from several or split it among the whole list.

Not only are you not going to see this sort of deal on the PC side of the fence, probably half of them wouldn’t work for shit with Vista. I’m just saying . . .

Wishing Makes It So

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Back in 2004, a buddy of mine brought a daruma back for me from his recent trip to Japan. I dutifully made a wish, and colored in an eye.

A couple of nights ago, I gathered some friends, made a toast, and colored in his other eye with a black Sharpie.

There. Done. That wish came true.