Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Intimidating education and a week flying by

Well, I'm now at the beginning of yet another year of college. Let's see, I've been in college off and on since the Fall of 2003 and I've only earned an Associate's Degree. I feel like the bottom of the failure pile, much like a garbage pile, where all the juicy essence of failure pools. I'm steeping in a pool of suck, swelling whilst I absorb so much hideous mediocrity.

Anyway, while I combat the semester and take in the joy of reading text from Old English up into Early Modern English I continue to trim and edit the story I so recently completed. So far my attempts to get opinions of the story have resulted in phone calls without return from my grandparents, useless suggestions from non-writers who I suppose feel that they are helping by telling me how they'd tell the story, and a wife who seems to be the only one impressed. Let's hope after a week or two more of working on it I can send it off and get a real editor to give a look-see.

Oh, well. I sigh as I type for sighing is the only way I feel relief throughout the day. Till next time!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A story over 4,200 words....

I am proud to confess that I have just today completed a draft of a new short story. I'm ashamed to admit thought that it is my first story greater than four thousand words. I hope that this won't be the last.

My process now that I have completed the thing will consist of a draft or two more through the editing process and then it will be off to a selection of magazines potentially willing to publish such material. My excitement is great at this prospect and my hope is that if I can find success, perhaps gain purchase on the mountainside of publishing then I can hopefully make a life writing. I can think of nothing greater to do with the rest of my time.

The story itself is a sort of macabre fantasy bordering the horrific. It deals with a writer's hope, the willingness to commit oneself to the unknown for a chance at something great, and what might lie beyond humanity's understanding of existence. I'm afraid that in the writing of this story I spent too much time absorbing the works of H.P. Lovecraft for my own good. I suppose I'll leave that for the reader to decide. Another influence, though one I'm less hesitant to credit, was the Danse Macabre of Charles Camille Saint-Saƫns. That piece easily, as I suppose it should, brought up visions of the dealings of the dead.

Here's to hope and a possible future as a writer. Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the Road

I know not how it happened or what I did indeed witness. All I know is what I experienced this night while on my way to buy supplements to what promised to be a delicious meal.

It was while I was crossing a bridge into a dark and heavily wooded section of road that I saw the thing. Now, I don't claim to know anything beyond an ordinary man's knowledge of the sciences, nor did I imbibe, especially not to excess, before I placed myself behind my vehicle's wheel. The moment and my sense's memory of that moment were pure and, in the most complete of honesty, true.

My headlights swept the road from left to right in the turn and there above a small puddle, illuminated by the weakening beam of my struggling machine was what could have been described as a man had it not the face of something so completely horrific that the recollection sends tremors through my being to cause my very soul to shiver. It had eyes, more than the standard two one would expect of a creature that transported itself in bipedal fashion. Below what I can only refer to as a cluster of seeing, peering orbs was a long and dangling series of finger-like tentacles that seemed to slither all the more at the shining of light.

Before I could stop or escape the confines of my seat belt and then my door the thing bolted off with tremendous haste and massive gate into the brush. I stood there for some time staring at its point of exit wondering if it might venture back out. It was a short while after that an officer of the law stopped to question my halted automobile. Saying nothing for fear of alarming the policeman and proving a danger to myself I explained that I was afraid I had almost hit a deer. At that he nodded and was gone.

I drove straight home neglecting the portion of a then long-forgotten meal and pondered my queer discovery all the way back. I sit here now listening to the night beyond my window with a ghost of the vision of that hideous yet intriguing thing. Do the crickets in their chirping compliment its passage through the warm and seemingly placid Summer night? I wonder.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An age undreamed of...a Tuesday at the movies

My wife stated very clearly that she had no desire to see the new Conan the Barbarian film. Bearing that in mind I waited and chose not to see it on its opening day or through the following weekend so that I could be a good husband and spend time with her. Finally, on a Tuesday morning at 11:15am my patience was rewarded as I sunk into a cozy chair in a dark, sparsely populated theater and waited to see the epic and enchanting world of Robert E. Howard translated once again through the magic of the silver screen.

Conan the Barbarian is a literary wonder that was crafted by a man, some say a mad man, in the rural areas of an early twentieth century Texas. Mr. Robert E. Howard, a tough guy, a word-smith with a typewriter set before his story teller's hand clicked out the pages which detailed the adventures of an ancient world hero as that hero fought his way through showers of blood and hordes of foes both of flesh and of magic to wear a gleaming crown upon his troubled brow. In the few years Howard wrote Conan he managed to tell a gripping tale of a barbarian who lived by his wit and sword and rose from a blood-stained pup of battle to a mighty king. He wrote about action and adventure, but in the telling of his tales he gave us a complex character that would endure the test of time to still be admired as a titan of fiction today. It is that character which attracted the ever roving eye of Hollywood which sought to tell their version of his epic on the big screen. After seeing an Austrian body builder lumber around answering to Howard's character's name in a ghost of a shadow of the world of that pulp warrior we come to the August 19, 2011 release of yet another film version of the incredible Cimmerian.

I went in to this film expecting a mish-mash of elements pulled from the comic book days of the character and the previous films (the trailers certainly weren't encouraging). What I ended up seeing was a movie that in many ways captured the spirit of Howard's work while crafting a new and unique tale. This was a Hyborian Age recreated by folks who have obviously cracked a book and read the stories, but it was also a Hyborian Age that was designed for a film version of a classic literary character. There are names and locations pulled right from the source material, but there are also new events in the world's history and major characters written solely for this screen tale. In the end the movie overall felt like a writer who understood the character and the Sword and Sorcery genre took Howard's world and told his own pulp adventure. In other words the events of this film would fit well on the pulpy pages of Weird Tales or some other wonderful adventure rag of yesterday.
The character of Conan was, in my opinion, faithfully portrayed by actor Jason Momoa and he was developed with a convincing and fair method from his boyhood in the movie's beginning to his riding off into the wild distance at the movie's end by the creative team in charge of story development. Instead of garbled, accent-tainted speech (Schwarzenegger) and a character who quested for very basic and almost meaningless reasons this film instead gave us a Conan who was dedicated, thoughtful, clever, and powerful. Momoa did a wonderful job playing a man who was born on the battlefield, lived a life on the edges of the civilized world, and traveled with a variety of peoples whose skills and trades ranged from thievery to sailing. When his Conan grinned before a blow or in response to the word's of an enemy or ally I saw a grin that went back to the mind of Robert E. Howard and off the pages of so many old adventure mags.

The quality of the story was fair. It's safe to say that this was not the best film I ever saw and certainly was not the worst. It just was. I really feel that this was nothing more than a typical attempt to write a Howard-like action film. It didn't fall apart but it did fall short of being something massive. We were indeed given bestial men, since in the Hyborian Age one could see various peoples from various stages in human evolution. We also saw mysterious and dangerous beasts, and there was even some eldritch power wielded by a Rose McGowan that reminded me of why I don't like her in anything. The only thing really missing was the occasional horror experienced by the character when he stumbled upon something beyond his common experience. This movie could have used a moment where Conan was confronted with a Lovecraftian-type entity, but maybe that's just me wishing that things were exactly as they were written.
Looking at other reviews I find that the common problems movie critics (folks who are actually paid to be picky nags, believe it or not) seem to have had are that the film is not at all like the Schwarzenegger pectoral-fests of the 80s and that the film is too gory and violent. For these folk I have but one suggestion and that is that they sit down and read a couple of the original Howard stories. Perhaps "Rogues in the House" or "The Phoenix on the Sword." Based on the words of specific critics like Roger Ebert and Mick LaSalle, I think my advice, should they be open-minded enough to heed it, would perhaps give them at least more perspective on the world and characters they witnessed from their posh screening rooms. Also, I'd be likely to just scream at them if they actually thought that holding this new version up to the 80s films was even a valid method of judging such an adaptation. Marcus Nispel was obviously trying to adapt literary fiction and not rehash or reboot an old movie franchise. I can understand how this could be difficult to grasp since a non-reboot is so not 2011, especially if you look at other titles being released this year and even into the next. The reviews I've recently read that I am referring to can be found through these links:

Every movie I see that is centered on a favorite literary or fictional character of mine gives me cause to have certain reactions. I refer to those reactions under the umbrella title of "Geek-Out Moments." In this film I found that I had several. One such moment arose when Artus, played by a cool, sea dog-type Nonso Anozie, boasted for Conan, while the pair sat amongst whores and thieves, about how he found the Cimmerian as a young thief in Zamora after he defeated the sorcerer Yara in the Tower of the Elephant. That reference both blew my mind and cemented the fact that Nispel and his creative crew were digging around in the writings of Howard. There were also moments when the cinematography seemed to emulate the beautiful yet rough artwork of Cary Nord who, along with Kurt Busiek, brought a new age to Conan comics for Darkhorse. I even had a shudder of a pre-nerdgasm when I understood from Morgan Freeman's narration that the story was taking place in the timeline of actual events in the life of Conan, shortly after his time with Belit and her crew and before he came to live among the Cossacks.
From the beginning of this movie to the end I found it to be a fun adventure tale which touched on all the basic elements of a Conan story with some alterations. It was definitely true to the spirit of the writings of Robert E. Howard. Overall I found this film's story to be just what it should be and that is entertaining.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My graphic novel collection

There's a shelf in my room that I look at often with warm eyes of fondness. It's stocked, I should say packed tight, only with my most cherished graphic novels. Gazing from left to right I can see my favorite titles beaming at me from the spines, perhaps beckoning me to pick them out. I almost always give in.

The collection that calls this shelf home consists of volumes of, in my opinion, some of the greatest comics to have ever been published. There's a hardcover collection of Dave Steven's Rocketeer, Mike Allred's Madman from the series' early Tundra days up to the end of the Darkhorse run, Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot and Mystermen, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, the newest Darkhorse series of Robert E. Howard's Conan, Eric Powell's The Goon, Ben Edlund's The Tick, Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the works of Alan Moore (V up to the most recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen publication), James O'Barr's The Crow, select DC volumes of Batman (the works of Miller, Cooke, and Mazzucchelli), Superman for All Seasons, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men, John Romita Sr's Amazing Spider-Man Visionaries volume one, Frank Miller's Daredevil Visionaries volume one, the complete Sandman series including Dream Hunters and the two Death graphic novels, David Petersen's Mouse Guard, a few volumes of Hellblazer, Craig Thompson's Blankets, and quite a few volumes of Jaime Hernandez's Love and Rockets.

Like I said, it's a full shelf. There are others in my collection that I enjoy, but the volumes listed are at the top of the list.

Time to excuse myself from writing as I dive into volume one of Mignola's Hellboy. Later!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There's a city in there!

I've had reoccurring dreams of a sort that are only such because of their setting. What happens while I'm dreaming differs from night to night, but all of the action and interaction within the world of my subconscious seems to take place within a massive city. I have feared, somewhat irrationally, that if I began to talk about my experiences and the details of this metropolis of the subconscious I might lose my nightly connection. Based on what I've witnessed there and experienced, if only through my imagination, I couldn't let that happen.

So, I shall step away from probing my dream city and instead I shall write a bit about an idea it lent me for a story. This is a tale that will take some telling and may, if I be constant and confident, become my first manuscript for a novel. If I could bring this potential novel into being and prove to myself and those who have supported me that I can indeed finish a work I would then like to dedicate my life to the telling of stories and the writing of pieces of various types.

Now to step away from this Blog and actually start piecing together my maybe novel.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Follow up to the post about neighborhood construction

Here's an image of the water we get from our faucets during a day of active construction work on our street. We see this color of water for most of the morning and afternoon.

This is the bathtub.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Loud-colored vests and monster machines...my street is no longer my own

For the last month or two our city's construction fleet has slowly crawled down our street from about two blocks away to its current working position just to the right of our front door. This pack of filthy, noise-polluting varmints, in their gaily-colored construction vests, has maintained its habit of shuffling about tearing up pavement and felling beautiful, much-needed shade trees. They seem to have no concern for the environment they've been paid to "reformat" and that has greatly troubled me.

My real concern started naturally with a worry for future parking difficulties; a concern that is incredibly valid when one lives in a neighborhood where street parking is the only parking. As time went by though my concern altered its focus to the look and feel of our street. I'd grown used to large, overhanging shade trees with concentric circles of flowers around their bases, the uneven brick of the road that seems so unusual compared to the rest of the city that it really became a treat to behold, and all the green grass that grew up out of the failing of Winter and the triumphant rise of Spring. All that now has been replaced by massive, cacophonous, yellow machines acting as glorified shovels, mounds of sandy dirt, and the previously mentioned chorus of button pushers and shovel wielders.

If the quality of the area surrounding my abode wasn't enough of a concern, my wife and I have found that as these dirt-moving, machine pilots go about the business of defacing our local nature they are also troubling the water pipes that give us our much needed drinking and bathing water. It's quite a shock to wake up in the morning to prepare coffee and find that either the pressure of the water escaping the faucet has been drastically reduced or that the water flows just fine but has now taken on an ochre or dark brown shade. Cleaning sand out of one's sink basin or bathtub after making this discovery is enough to drive me down the stairs and out the door to fly, fist-first, into the face of the nearest neon-vested loon.

Frustrations aside, I count the days till harsher weather arrives and the diesel dig buckets are stored away. It's a shame that I must neglect the beauty of a season where comfortable clothes are acceptable and instead check off the calendar hoping for three to four feet of the white stuff. Sadly they continue to crawl closer and there are so many days left till winter. I wonder how eco-terrorists sabotage bulldozers?

Till next time, dear reader(s).