Friday, August 31, 2012

Story Slam: Guilty Pleasures

I was bone tired when I told this and I think I might expand this into an essay because the story is so much larger than what's sketched out here. Anyway, latest Story Slam piece:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Everything Is Festival-Streaming

I've loved Everything is Terrible since I lucked into a live performance of their third feature, Doggie Woggies, Poochie Woochies. Their annual festival (Everything Is Festival III: The Domination) is going on right now and various events are streaming. Right now I'm watching an Evening with Joel Hodgson and am very excited that these events are streaming. Enjoy!

EDIT: Really interesting talk where, I think for the first time, he explains what made him leave MST3k, but, more interesting, explains what lay at the core of his creative process to building puppets and also his sense of regret over how the follow-up to MST3k, X-Box/TV Wheel, didn't work out. I was checking the DAP for episodes of TV Wheel, because I remember watching it from there, but they no longer host it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hellblazer, Vol. 3: The Fear Machine (New Edition)Hellblazer, Vol. 3: The Fear Machine by Jamie Delano

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Remarkably wordy, this feels more like an illustrated novella than a graphic novel or trade. There's also a touch too much deus ex machina, coincidences where Constantine and the secondary characters are either witnesses to or dragged along by the plot. Their decisions, and thus them at characters, come across as irrelevant, which is one of the downsides of Hellblazer as a series. At its best, it's the adventures of Constantine in the shadow-world of magic-infused London. However, here it's Constantine as half-capable tour guide of the magical horrors the writer and artist dream up.
And not to be relentlessly negative--I did give it three stars, nearly four. There's still a neat story at the core and, as wordy as the book is, it's well-written, so much so that I'd almost prefer reading it as a prose piece. Constantine's interiority and wondering about himself as the corrupting force and whether he can ever be redeemed, escape that corruption, or refrain from ever hurting others with it is the most compelling part of the collection. While the action picks up as that falls away, that's when the book becomes less interesting; becomes watching someone watch a story.
The biggest downside, apart from what I've noted, is the moral absoluteness of every character. The good guys are uncomplicatedly good and the bad guys are irredeemably bad. That doesn't determine anyone's fate--which would have made the book childishly obvious--but since Hellblazer involves literal deals with devils and real choices between lesser evils, these characters seem lazy and didactic. I find that when characters reveal essential information shortly after they appear and quickly die to keep from complicating the plot it's a sign that the writer knows what they want to have happen in the story, but don't know how to make it happen.
As a side note, I find it difficult to imagine reading this series issue-by-issue as it came out. This particular storyline is nine issues long with very little payoff at the end of each chapter. What is a very carefully, almost lackadaisically-paced story took nine months to tell. If nothing else, this volume is evidence of how people read comic books before the current age where being collected into a trade is assumed.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 26: Traitors of the EarthUsagi Yojimbo, Vol. 26: Traitors of the Earth by Stan Sakai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No one joins a series at volume 26 so I'll avoid contextual commentary (I'd suggest vol. 12 Grasscutter as a good introduction point--Sakai is well-skilled as a storyteller by this point and there's enough narrative to stand alone while also enticing the reader to explore earlier volumes).
This volume is composed of shorter stories, a few 2-3 page affairs from Dark Horse anthologies and 1-3 issue story arcs. There's less of the epic feel that infuses Usagi at its best, but the stories deliver the fun, adventurous side of Usagi. "Plot-driven" would be the best description of this volume with characters arriving at precisely the right moment and conclusions being obvious from the start--not due to a deficit of storytelling, but because these are stories relying upon old tropes.
Rather then being stories Sakai needed to tell to further the tale of Usagi, these are short pieces he wanted to tell. They are fun because Sakai is a master of comic storytelling, but they don't inspire further excitement in samurai stories the way other Usagi trades do.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

One Missed Day

I didn't post yesterday because I didn't try to train Aisling by putting her in her cage--she'd already destroyed it by the time I'd come home from a brunch date.

And she pulled down the curtain.

And chewed up a library book.

And gnawed on the corner of a table.

And tore the molding off the door frame.

The situation struck me as evidence of things getting worse and that I needed to pursue other options.

I'd already picked up some Benadryl to see if that would work on her since I knew I'd be spending a good part of the evening at a friend's birthday and then going to see a midnight screening of Mommy Dearest. Dosing my dog still strikes me as extreme, but if it's an issue of her potentially hurting herself versus having a sedative, I'll give her the pill.

Also, lest I come off as some fussy city-living pet dilettante, "Oh, taking care of another living thing is so inconvenient. Why can't she just be cute and make people like me for owning her?" That's not where I'm coming from. I've grown up with dogs, I take care of my dog, and I'm worried about her hurting herself while I'm at work. I'm not interested in her as a status symbol.

After seeing all that destruction, the pills were an easy choice, and a bit of an experiment. I don't know what is the root cause of her anxiety, but even my friend noticed Aisling's been different over the summer; not only in regards to this acting out, but seemingly depressed and needy in a way she wasn't before.

So there's more to the dog situation than I initially thought. There may even be a food-based allergy going on. I'm continuing with the training, but only locking her in my room with no cage at all. The cage itself seemed to be a source of stress for her--she'd start panicking as soon as I put her in--so maybe it's for the best that she destroyed it. The cage wasn't the sole problem, though. She destroyed my room once when I hadn't put her in the cage at all. Her anxiety is still the core problem and I don't know how to address that. I don't know how to help her stop feeling sad.

Friday, August 10, 2012


This was supposed to be a post about how I went skydiving today. Only instead of jumping from a plane, which, is always the best option, my group of jumpers was delayed by a passing thunderstorm and then uncooperative winds that were blowing one way at ground level and, strongly, in the opposite direction half-a-mile up. We rescheduled.

I was taking pictures here and there throughout our 3-hour wait to jump and everyone kept asking to review the photos to approve them before I posted them to Facebook. Then I told them I had quit Facebook. Which surprised them. The organizer of the trip said he thought I'd defriended him. I don't find that curious--suddenly he can't contact me on Facebook, that'd be my first assumption as well. However, he never asked me about it. Not only was I going on a trip he organized to jump out of a plane, I meet with him every week as part of a workshop group. I sit and drink with this man more often than I do with almost anyone else. Yet, because he couldn't find me on his friends list to invite me to the jump whose details I'd already confirmed, he thought I'd dropped him from my list out of some unknown spite. And he never mentioned it to me.

When I initially thought about writing this "Why I Quit Facebook" post, I wondered what I could say that was new. I thought there was nothing to add to its annoying omnipresence, how every update ends up ruining something that worked, how looking at Facebook at all just makes me depressed. The thought struck me that the only thing more common than quitting Facebook is Facebook itself. Then I had that conversation and I realized that was the very reason I quit Facebook.

via Shmitten Kitten

Facebook makes us stupid in friendship, makes us stupid in our emotional connections. The site and our use of it becomes not just an interface between friends but an actual stand-in for that friendship. Our Facebook connection becomes our real-life connection. Facebook was depressing me because I didn't hear from my friends on Facebook. They didn't comment on my posts they way they commented on each other's, I'd set up events no one would come to, and couldn't get support for any of my Story Slam appearances. On top of all that, I was constantly worried I'd see my ex commenting on a friend's post or would worry about attending an event that she was also invited to.

I'm not saying any of this isn't small, petty, and pathetic, it absolutely is. I'm arguing, though, that Facebook exacerbates this, that it makes all the small hurts sting more because it's composed purely of the small things. If no one responds to my inane comments or meme references in conversation, I'll shut up; if I call around to see if anyone wants to get together next weekend and no one's available, I'll be bummed but I'll lump it; if the people whose readings, events, and competitions I support won't reciprocate by supporting me, they're not really friends*. And if I want to avoid my ex, I can avoid going to the places she'd go. I don't need to preemptively worry about running into her at an event or getting angry over her commenting on a mutual friend's marriage announcement.

Facebook, by being composed purely of these small interactions that otherwise would have no space--and would not be missed if absent--makes them seem large and significant because they are removed from any context that shows exactly how small they are, and I needed to remind myself of the context.

So for the moment I am not on Facebook (though I am on OKCupid which raises its own issues of a web interface as a stand-in for a real relationship), but I will probably return. The ubiquity of the site is a strong case for it and the sense that I'm missing out on things, that I won't be invited--even though Facebook itself exacerbated those feelings--may eventually force my surrender. Until then, I am feeling much happier without access to the site and enjoying my time a little more. And hopefully I'll be able to talk about something more interesting than not jumping out of a plane next time.

UPDATE: Forgot to include this:

*Not to imply some need for tit-for-tat, but I support these people both because I think they're talented and because I like them. For them to constantly give me the cold shoulder when it comes to my own work says something about their opinion of me as a writer and as a person.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Back in the Archive Again

The Internet Archive, where I uploaded as many films as possible during the PD Project, is now offering torrents of material from their site.

This is a good plan for many reasons, and well overdue. Of course there have been independent torrents of material from the Archive, but those were generally packs of books or the complete music catalog of a weblabel. This development means people can download more from the Archive without stressing those servers as much.

I've gone back to all the movies I posted in the PD Project and am seeding torrents for several of them (I'll try to seed all of them eventually, but there are space limitations). I've also edited a few of the uploads--removing the nonstandard formats (the iPod and PSP versions) that probably weren't much use anyway.

I still haven't given up hope of making a midnight horror host show or MST3k thing from those movies, but, frankly, I've been wanting to do something like that just with friends on a normal weekend. Get a few people together, have some drinks and watch a bad movie. With the right kind of people that can be a very good time and I recommend you try it if you haven't.

From what I can tell, 34 of the movies I uploaded to the Archive are still there (some received copyright challenges after the adjustment of international treaties and no part of that sentence is made up). Here is the list of what I've posted with links to their individual pages:

The Amazing Transparent Man
Attack of the Giant Leeches
Attack of the Monsters
The Bat
Bloody Pit of Horror
Colossus and the Amazon Queen
Cosmos: War of the Planets
Dead Men Walk
Dementia 13
Destroy All Planets
First Spaceship on Venus
Hercules Against the Moon Men
Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon
Hercules Unchained
Horrors of Spider Island
The House on Haunted Hill
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
King of the Zombies
The Little Shop of Horrors
The Lost Jungle
Monster From a Prehistoric Plant
The Monster Maker
One Body Too Many
The Phantom Planet
The Screaming Skull
The She Beast
A Shriek in the Night
Teenagers From Outer Space
Warning From Space
The Wild Women of Wongo
Zontar the Thing From Venus

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Back in the Box

My dog is suffering from separation anxiety. What this means in technical terms is she gets upset when I leave her alone in the apartment. What it means in literal terms is she destroys anything she comes in contact with every time I leave her alone to the point where, today, she squeezed her way out of her crate, chewed up the rug in my room, knocked over a lamp and chewed on the top of it--including the light bulb.

This brings the total amount of things she's destroyed in the past month-and-a-half to
  • 2 standing lamps
  • 1 set of sheets (because of the broken light bulb on it)
  • 2 pet crate trays
  • 1 pet crate
  • 2 towels
  • 1 dog bed
  • 1 box fan
  • 1 area rug
  • 1 autographed book

Needless to say, I'm upset about that list, but I'm more concerned about her freaking out and potentially hurting herself. Here's a picture of her in the crate after destroying her dog bed:

My dog weighs about 50 lbs and her shoulders stop just before my knee. In other words, she's not small. The first time she broke out of her crate, she kicked the pan out then squeezed through the gap it left. That gap was about an inch tall.

My dog's tail is the only thing that would fit through that gap.

She stretched it out. After she escaped, the gap was 3 inches tall, the crate permanently distorted.

So now I'm trying to re-crate train her, part of which is this post. I have to reacclimate her to the crate and to the idea of me leaving. The vet suggested doing it in 15-minute intervals where I lock her in the crate and do something else. Thus the blog. I'll be updating daily while she's locked in the box.

Lest I come off as making light of locking her in a crate (words not chosen accidentally), it's a situation where I don't have any options. I've tried letting her run free in my room while I'm gone and she did all the things I mentioned. I came home from giving blood today and she hadn't only escaped the crate and destroyed the lamp, there was also the issue of the compact fluorescent bulb that had formerly been in the lamp. Her freaking out when I leave is the problem, not that she doesn't like the crate.

To end on a lighter note, here's a clip from last night Colbert Report about dogs:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Steve King's Dogfighting Defense
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