Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lovecraft



Pronounced by the creator of the mythos as Khlûl'-hloo, H.P. LOVECRAFT’s work The Cthulhu Mythos, lingers today as one of the greatest concepts in genre fiction. The combination of unreal horrors and the response of unquestioned reality of the human mind is the subject of his writing. His universe is a terrible place, where there is little hope, and humanity cannot comprehend the world that used to be normal but now is inhabited by terrible things.

Lovecraft was a person unmoved by emotional things. He considered religious views to be abjectly pitiable, that is, he saw the need for religion as coming from a source of weak minds and fear. The result of his views about belief clearly underpins his views on the structure of the universe, the cosmology of this world, and his fictional mythic universe he created. The Gods and their minions are largely above even thinking about humans, for they are considered little more than talking meat. The world in which humans live is alien to those Gods, called the Elder Gods, because of the vast knowledge and view towards the universe that those Gods have. That is, humans live in a universe where beings far more powerful exist, who do not even pay attention to humanity beyond an annoyance, and upon earth we discover them and their schemes at our own risk and detriment.

The world created by Lovecraft was stark, brutal, but also, measured in how much the human mind could describe and endure before collapsing. Some reviewers and critics considered his use of language to be filled with archaic terms, hyperbole, and unconvincing characters. But in saying/writing/asserting so, those critics miss out on the great ability of Lovecraft to create horror. Since the action mostly happens off camera, and the narrator is the reader’s eyes to the event, the language evokes antiquity, the hyperbole reflects the narrator’s inability to comprehend exactly what is happening, and the characters themselves are portrayed far better than the critics suggest because unlike most fiction, the major characters in this are neither heroic, nor victims, but observers. While there are some heroes certainly, the event of the story within such a powerful setting is the reason for the trip, it is by no means due to the characters nor the genre nor language of the writer.

Why does it succeed? I believe that Lovecraft’s horror succeeds because it doesn’t rely upon formulaic patterns, however much it uses templates, archetypes, and devices. It uses stereotypes of human races, and gender, but it does so in the context of the work being considered. Lovecraft did believe in his race’s superiority, and it would be foolish to suggest otherwise, but as part of a early twentieth century piece of literature it is neither out of place nor should it be unexpected. I’d suggest it is regrettable, but I also think it is not something that should remove greatness from the memory and view towards Lovecraft’s work and legacy of intellectual creations.

I recommend the written works of H.P. Lovecraft, the critical works of S.T. JOSHI regarding H.P. Lovecraft, and hope you can get into the quality of the work without being distracted by the baggage of it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So Say We All -- Part 4


"Blood on the Scales" (Part 2) (414)

Although it sees the end of two of the show's more important characters – Lt. Felix Gaeta was introduced in the miniseries; Tom Zarek, in episode 103 – why, precisely, would showrunner Ron Moore choose this exact moment to do a two-parter in which the Galactica crew is rent by a mutiny? There are, in fact, several reasons, and I believe they, in the aggregate, form a compelling reason why Moore would take three (including 412, which does much to set up the insurrection storyline) of the final ten episodes to tell this particular story.

* * * * *

Reality, as always, has primacy. Given the struggles and travails and sacrifices and atrocities of the past three years on the run, how would the Colonial populace react to enjoining an indefinite, perhaps even permanent, alliance with a people that have incessantly cried jihad and attempted to slaughter them all? This realist throughline was started right away in 411, with Lt. Dualla, among others, offing herself, was fed and expanded in 412, and then has its ultimate manifestation in 413/414.

That so much time has been spent on playing up the reality of the situation is actually perfectly congruent with the rest of Battlestar's narrative: from the very beginning, the writers have been asking that most magical question in the writing lexicon, what would? What would happen if there were no water (102), no fuel (110), or no food (310)? What would happen if certain emerging elements of Cylon society began questioning the moral wisdom in their overall worldview (218)? What would happen if a harried, heartbroken Colonial officer loses his leg in the course of questionable duties (407)?

Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the final, two-hour installment will have less to do with wrapping up loose story threads – Number Six's celestial nature, say, or the convoluted history of the original Cylon race – and more to do with showing what does happen to a people that have endured almost four years' worth of unending, incomprehensible sorrow.

And as The Sopranos has shown us, this can be not only the most rewarding story, but also the most engaging ending, as well.

* * * * *

Know your genre. That's what Bob McKee drills into his readers' minds in Story. Play to those expectations and narrative archetypes, whether for familiar or surprising results. Use the craft to your advantage.

Despite their occasional (and substantive) missteps along the way, this is exactly what Moore and his staff have done. Television science fiction has a very specific and precisely defined series of genres and sub-genres: the first two Star Treks are open-ended starship-based narratives; Crusade is an objective-driven starship-based story; Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 are space station-based shows. The list, actually, is nearly endless.


Battlestar Galactica fits within the (story-driven) lost-in-space sub-genre, populated with the questionable ranks of Lost in Space and Star Trek: Voyager. Most of the subdivision-specific narrative archetypes that populate this classification have already been tackled by BSG – temporarily giving up the search for a home (whether it be the crew’s original home or a new one) for colonizing a new planet or finding a sister ship that has somehow made its way out into the same nether region of uncharted space are just two examples. The mutiny of the wayward crew is another, and it is, essentially, the last story type left to tell.

* * * * *

No one will oppose Admiral Adama and President Roslin now.

Though they have consistently and systematically stonewalled the efforts of all dissenters or naysayers to question the status quo over the past three years, and though this has generated an enormous amount of ill-will on the part of Colonial society (like I’ve mentioned before, this is an excellent parallel of the Bush Administration’s opaque and headstrong ways), there is simply no chance that anyone will think to ever attempt to call the two strong-armed leaders to task again in any meaningful way – not after an attempted coup, the massacre of the Quorum, and the execution of a high-ranking military officer and political leader.

While this is an ontological bad, and stands to be a death knell for democracy, it is good for one other existential category: survival. The Galactica needs all the help it can get, especially since the loss of the Pegasus nearly a-year-and-a-half ago and the recent bloodletting of the failed insurrection, and the rebel Cylons need the protection the Colonial fleet provides, however meager it may be, even more desperately. Together, they stand a far better chance of surviving the war against the Ones, Fours, and Fives than they ever would apart.

And, now, Roslin and Adama stand a better chance of making that alliance happen, no matter the personal and moral sacrifices that may entail.

* * * * *

The last, and perhaps the most simplistic and straightforward, reason, put equally simply and straightforwardly: it’s a convenient way to set shit up.

Anders’s bullet to the back of the head, Tyrol’s discovery of a rent (if that is exactly what it is) in the Galactica’s engine room, the motivation of a shameless Baltar to question his never-failing ability to retreat – these are all easily accomplished in a remarkably short period of time by having the battlestar suffer a mutiny. While we, obviously, have no idea what these seeds will sprout, we do know that Moore has very deliberately planted them for a reason.

Here’s looking forward to the next cycle of episodes.

Things

AN ANNOUNCEMENT

LANCELOT from Diminuendo Press (an imprint of Cyberwizard Productions)

“He was the perfect knight, he was the fallen one. He rode to Arthur’s defense, he broke Arthur’s marriage apart. He was noble, kind, and great. He was selfish, foolish, and broken. Who was Lancelot du Lac? Was he a knight of virtue, or a traitor to the crown? He loved a woman, who was queen, but was he a tortured soul in love, or a brazen gigolo who would steal his best friend’s wife? This book is a collection of prose consideration of the man, poetic interpretation of the stories of Lancelot, and artistic renderings of the two very different, yet valid approaches to the story of Lancelot du Lac.”

Two poets, one writer of prose, many fine artists, gathered to create a work that is beautiful, poetic, brutally honest, and romantic about a figure from legend, Sir Lancelot du Lac. It came about at the urgings of a French poet G.F. Evrard that he and I work together. We gathered our friends, some who did the work, others who fell off project, and we produced something unique. With a prose consideration of the history of the character, two poets each writing their views of the character, in poetic form, and color and, black and white illustrations of the poems that round a project into more than poetry, more than art, but something quite different. While the initial work was hard, the real fighter here was the publisher Kelly Christiansen who managed to edit and design a work that featured people from different countries, using three or more languages, and two continents. You might see a sequel to this, if this sells well enough, so if you are interested please plan to buy this book.

A MINI RANT

Someone I know hates this hates that hates everyone because they do not comply with his sense of normal. What is normal? Is it being white? Is it being straight? Is it being like everybody else? Screw that.

You might disagree with me but I believe God obviously loves diversity because we come in different colors, different sizes, different looks, there is no cookie cutter for human labeled normal. The fact that diversity is the norm suggests that we are made different, unique, beautiful, because that is how it was intended.

And if there were the case that normal is a rule, I'd cut off my arm to be different, because who the hell wants to be the same. If people like being different just to be different, who is harmed by it? I sure am not.

Some point to chaos, and individualism as hurting the core, the masses, the unit of the family and society. Bullshit. We are able to function as a core because individuals constantly test and create new limits.

Is it wrong to be different? Sometimes there is a motive behind being different. Milton said that Satan preferred to rule over hell than serve in heaven, but I suggest it isn't about power this desire to be different and deviation from normal, it is expression of the human spirit. We need those who are different to move us.

Jean Giraud, known as the artist Moebius, one of my heroes, said in an interview that the creative people of society are its true' warriors,' for they create the intellectual debates that help society grow.

In World War II the US government interned all Japanese Americans and their parents. The policy was racist. But it was only after highly creative people such as Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and others stepped forward and illustrated the problem did Americans become moved to change.

Never accept normal as all there is. There is far more.

WORDS TO REMEMBER

“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.” Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Whoever is listening in Brazil... what's up?

By the time this is read, my point may be moot.

I'd like to start by saying that I fully intend to shoot my mouth off, without hesitation, about most things music related. Having had no formal literary training in either technique or style I may, at best, sound like a gorilla whacking a keyboard with a squeaky toy plastic hammer. Hopefully I can maintain a somewhat sensical blog while at the same time signing "i love you" to my kitten.

With that out of the way, it's time for a short introduction. My name is unimportant and I'll leave it at that. I've grown up with and have lived deeply entrenched in music. I'm not going to bother boring you with the ins and outs of my record collection nor do I plan on making you want to tear your teeth out of your head with irritating "personal top tens" lists. I do plan on at least attempting to point some of you toward the light. Yes, I'm talking about salvation. I'm here to save your rock n roll soul. Don't believe me? It's what I do, not as a living, but as a hobby. For almost ten years now I've manned one half a local radio show. It's true our on-air debonnair could be likened to that of Larry King on a bad acid trip getting his junk knocked around by Emo Phillips but the music's been good and, as always, honest.

Honest music? It's out there. It exists. It doesn't take much training to pick out an honest artist, album or song. Just pull out your CD collection and start listening. If it makes you wanna drink a 12-pack of Gennesee, shake your ass across the continental divide or just cry for a minute it's probably honest.

I'll cut it short here. Next time, when I have something better prepared, I'll leave you with some lisstening pleasure.

So Say We All -- Part 3


"The Oath" (Part 1) (413)

Let's start a running tally of the revelations these last ten episodes of BSG have had to date: in 411, we have the twin bombshells of the Thirteenth Tribe's mechanical origins and the Fifth Cylon's true identity; in 412, little Nicky's real -- or, at least, biological -- father is disclosed; in 413, we have nothing. Not one substantial reveal or twist is mustered for the entire episode.

Given its status as the opening act of a two-parter, this is more than understandable -- it is to be expected. But this is not to say that Mark Verheiden leaves us high and dry; on the contrary, he has conjured a running callback to every single one of the show's previous three seasons, eloquently and poetically weaving previous characters, story beats, and themes throughout his episode's narrative. "The Oath," then, is not just the latest development in the ongoing saga of the Colonial fleet's life on the run; like In the Beginning to Babylon 5 proper, it is an encapsulation and condensation of the show's entire history.

Here, then, is a brief litany of the episode's allusions:

  • The second season mid-season finale/premiere, "Pegasus" (210)/"Resurrection Ship, Parts I and II" (211 and 212), sees a great deal of play. A number of familiar faces make repeat appearances, most to great effect: Deck Chief Peter Larid's death is heart-wrenching (no pun intended), especially given his backstory; Gage, one of the so-called "Sunshine Boys," drips menace as he vows to have Athena raped once more; and Narcho, Lt. Gaeta's one-time would-be lover, radiates anger, discomfort, and repulsion in equal measure.
  • Likewise, "Crossroads, Parts I and II" (319 and 320), the season three finale, sees extension for a lot of its elements. Charlie Connor, a former member of the Circle in "Collaborators" (305) and last seen attempting to torture and assassinate Gaius Baltar ("He That Believeth in Me," 401), tries his song and dance on (sometime) Delegate Lee Adama, taunting the former major over his part in Baltar's trial before an insurgent marine is to put a bullet in his head. Diana "Hardball" Seelix distracts a forlorn Sam Anders with remembrances of her former affection -- and lust? -- for him while the ubiquitious rebel marines prepare to abduct him, the first time this dropped plotline is trotted out since its introduction two years ago.
  • Starbuck is given a rejuvenation, shedding her harried, wayward skin from the past half season and returning to her macho, masochistic ways from seasons past. A hardened, callous, battle-ready Kara Thrace is reunited with a gun-totting, death-defying Lee Adama, last seen when he gave up the uniform in "Crossroads." Their pairing is replete with a passionate, if hurried, kiss, bringing audiences everywhere back to "Unfinished Business" (309) and "The Eye of Jupiter" (311), while their running through a battlestar beseiged recalls "Valley of Darkness" (202).
  • Admiral Adama and President Roslin have a similar manifestation of passion, but one much more public: after what is arguably the most contenious and topsy-turvy relationship of the entire series, spanning from an adversarial beginning (miniseries) to concilitary friendship ("Home, Part 2," 207) to the long-awaited doing of the deeed ("A Disquiet Follows My Soul," 412), the two leaders of the fleet are now quite openly involved. Indeed, once the dust has settled and Gaeta and Zarek are disposed of (perhaps quite literally), this one throughline has the biggest potential fallout; if resistance to their rule was strenuous enough to lead to a highly motivated and orchestrated mutiny, what will happen once the fleet learns that all barriers between the government and military have been eroded?
  • Finally, there are several other, smaller references, ranging from Caprica Six and Colonel Tigh's baby ("Sine Qua Non," 408) to Roslin's addressing a fracturing fleet ("The Farm," 205). For my money, though, the best of these is the quite surprising and long-awaited (again, for me) return of Captain Aaron Kelly, a character first introduced in the miniseries and who went on a stint as acting XO ("Scattered," 201 to "Resistance," 204) and then would-be terrorist, killing Baltart's defense lawyers ("The Son Also Rises," 318). Of all the various insurgents' fates, I'm most interest in seeing what the writers will make of this rarely used figure.
Ultimately, these pepperings of echoes from stories past constitute much more than a (not-so-fond) stroll down memory lane, although such an act in and of itself is not inappropriate for a series nearing its end; they further the resonance of myth that Ron Moore and his writers have fashioned since the very first days of the show back in distanct 2003, closing the narrative of an (Homeric) epic tale back upon itself.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hunger

What is the point of writing if nobody reads your work? What is the point of anything if there is no response to it. A great artist can do the most perfect painting known to humanity, but if nobody sees it, or appreciates it, there is something lost.

Therefore, popularity is important even when quality should seem more an absolute, and definable. You might like something, but it doesn’t make it good, but if nobody likes something, the ability to judge its impact will leave it forgotten or ignored. An artist told me to never stop working, that hunger, depression, fatigue are all good, if it means that the work will survive and be born. But we don’t live in a society that accepts, loves, or nutures the arts. We live in a society that commodifies the arts or ignores them based upon its own needs.

Starving artist is a cliché term referring to the fact that artists and creatives in general who commit to their work rarely make money, but to become the best in what you do, you must do that. You must make a choice as a creative, to do it for the work, whatever the reward, or to do it for the reward, and if there is none move on. All of the arts are peopled by talented creatives. But there are also people who succeed because of marketing what they do to the people who will respond... An artist who does not see that money is part of their work will starve.

This is not all to say that a creative should not do one or the other, or both. It is to say, that, for the world to appreciate the work, is to redeem the effort. To buy the work is to redeem the creative artist. Support a living creative, buy their work.