28 October 2011

This just in: Sutter hates c**ts

my new favorite game? TWEET & GOOGLE. i tweet something, wait 5 minutes, then google the tweet to see how many cunts turned it into a story.
- Kurt Sutter, a few minutes ago on Twitter

The above passage is why, if ever the appropriate people lose their minds, Kurt Sutter *needs* to be the mastermind behind a film/tv adaptation of Warren Ellis's "Transmetropolitan." If you've ever seen Sutter's FX series "Sons of Anarchy," and read "Transmet," you understand. If you've missed either, or god forbid both, you need to fix that. Promptly.

10 September 2011

"Left Hand of Darkness" Part One

So, as I mentioned the other day on my facebook status, I've been trying to read some of the classic female sci-fi writers. I started with Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness."

I have mixed feelings about the book. Like a lot of speculative fiction writers of the 60s and 70s, Le Guin freely invented words and names for her alien civilization. I've always found a large invented vocabulary a little distracting. It's a problem I've always had with certain classics of the genre.

It's beautifully written, though, and the main character manages the opposite of Louis Wu (from Niven's "Ringworld") - he becomes more and more interesting as the novel progresses.

Here's a beautiful passage from the book. The main character has been taken by the local secret police, along with a couple of dozen others.

"There was kindness. I and certain others, an old man and one with a bad cough, were recognized as being least resistant to the cold, and each night we were at the center of the group, the entity of twenty-five, where it was warmest. We did not struggle for the warm place, we simply were in it each night. It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give."

I have GOT to make a poster of this. Also, I wonder if the big emotional speech from "V for Vendetta," the movie*, was intentionally swiped from the above passage.

Anyway, I'll be posting more when I'm done, I'm sure.

* I really don't remember if any version of that scene even exists in the comic. Been a very long time since I read it.

07 September 2011

Defending the Indefensible

Piers Anthony was one of my favorite writers when I was in high school. I read a few of his Xanth novels, set in an extremely magical version of Florida (Anthony's home state and mine.) I read the Apprentice Adept series, most of Incarnations of Immortality (always had a hard time finding "Wielding a Red Sword" and "Being a Green Mother," for some reason, and I clearly remember having "grown out" of Anthony before the final book, "...And Eternity" came out.) There were a few stand-alone books - I specifically remember the sci-fi semi-porn "Ghost," and I may have read a few others from his many series over the years.

Anthony is very much a love-him-or-hate-him kind of writer. His fans love his lousy puns (can't blame them) and his haters deride his "juvenile" writing style and his repetitious characters.

I would guess a majority of speculative fiction fans around my age have read at least a few Anthony books, probably just because there are SO DAMN MANY. Last I checked his bibliography, he had over 80 titles (almost thirty of which were in the Xanth universe.) This may explain why his characters can blur together.

Poking around a little on the Internet, it looks like his non-fans who are willing to admit they've read any of his work will admit to one or more of a short list of his titles: "Spell for Chameleon," the first Xanth novel, "With a Tangled Skein," a book from the Incarnations of Immortality series, or "On a Pale Horse," the first of the Incarnations books. Almost universally, they try to restore their "cred" by saying the writing was "pretty bad" but that the story was good, or the concepts were. (The people who admit to reading "Spell for Chameleon" but who aren't fans bring up wretched puns.)

There's also a lot of talk about the sexism that's rampant in Anthony's books. It's been a long time since I read "Spell for Chameleon," or any other Xanth novel, but they get brought up a LOT when people start talking sexism in Anthony. I wonder how many of these people have read "Incarnations" recently. Particularly "On a Pale Horse," the one it's "socially acceptable" to have liked, even as a kid.

First, a quick note about "Split Infinity." I thought it was a very tightly plotted little story. But in the first few pages, I started to wonder just what Anthony was saying about women. The first prominent female in that one is a sex robot who has been programmed to fall in love with and protect Stile, the main character. There's some interesting philosophy in there about how he treats her. The next major female character is Stile's mount, a unicorn... who not only does he have to break to ride (fair enough, she's a wild horse, sort of,) but who he gets to sleep with because she changes into a girl at night. A girl who literally barely speaks for herself, and mostly seems to be there to move Stile from place to place and give him something to screw at night. The Lady Blue, the main love interest for the rest of the series, is more acceptable. In a way, I kind of felt like Anthony was trying to work through something with his treatment of women in this book. But of course, they're all super-hot and have giant boobs. At least Blue has an agenda of her own that she's perfectly capable of carrying out.

Okay, back to "On a Pale Horse," that "good" Piers Anthony book. I got through three chapters last night, somehow.

In the first chapter, the two female characters have to be rescued - the ghost girl from a living mugger (what the muppety fuck? What's he going to do, kill her?) and the live girl from her own bad driving. Yes, that's right. Her own bad driving, a trait which the lead character tells us is universal among women. Danica Patrick must scare Anthony senseless. And for the record, both the rescued damsels would be "duly grateful."

The second chapter, we get another couple of women. One is the Incarnation of Fate, in her aspect as Lachesis. She's middle-aged and therefore (to the main character) unattractive, which may be why she's allowed to be competent and intelligent. The other is an old lady from down the hall who really isn't there for much.

The third chapter, though, is the real peach. It ends with a woman attempting suicide because her husband just left her for a younger woman (it happens, sure, but it's still kind of a crappy message.) It's the football game that's really bad.

The teams are in some sort of all-women's league, and the team names are the Ewes and the Does (I guess we're lucky neither team was the Crimson Tide.) The players are all hugely endowed (Anthony certainly seems to be a major-league breast man) but otherwise only sort of attractive, since they're kind of burly. The field they play on is marked in feet, rather than yards. It may be a full-sized field (the hundred and fifty foot line is referenced in there) but it sounds like the plays only have to work a third as well as boys' plays would. And to top this off, these burly chicks, who make their money playing a sort of magically-assisted full contact game of football, prefer to fight by pulling each others' hair. I am not - and god help me could not - make this up.

Not everything has to be "Buffy." Women's issues don't even have to be discussed. But nearly killing off a woman because she's a bad driver? Then those grotesque football players? And all this is without bringing up the sketchy morality that seems to be in play in the Incarnations universe.

I remembered "On a Pale Horse" fondly, but I really didn't remember this crap. I wonder if any of the people who are willing to defend it while decrying the sexism of Xanth have read it recently.

29 August 2011

Shades of Ray

Well, I watched it for the cast. We got Zach Levi (TV's Chuck, a show Mel and I love,) Bonnie Somerville (from the ill-fated and brief Kitchen Confidential, another favorite show,) Sarah Shahi (hommina hommina ho-boy,) Gerry Bednob (the loud Indian dude from 40 Year Old Virgin,) and Fran Kranz (from another favorite short-lived TV show, Dollhouse.)

The setup is Ray (Levi) is a half-Pakistani, half-white guy in L.A. The movie starts with him proposing to his very white girlfriend, Noel (Somerville.) She "has to think about it." You get the impression her folks aren't happy about her other-than-whitebread boyfriend. She's taking a vacation with them and will be trying to sell them on Ray.

Shortly after she leaves Ray hanging, Ray comes home to find his Dad on his doorstep. His folks are in the midst of a rough patch, as it turns out. Dad claims it's because he married a white woman, and decides to take charge of Ray's love life, introducing him to a friend of a friend of an acquaintance's lovely daughter, Sana (Shahi.)

Sana and Ray hit it off immediately, this being a romantic comedy. Ray is trying to maintain some distance, as he's convinced himself he's in love with Noel. Finally, one night, Sana shows up at Ray's workplace, a cheesy airline-themed bar. She's drunk and horny and pulls Ray into the bathroom. To his credit, he tells her he's engaged before anything can happen. As he's leaving the bathroom, he runs into (of course) Noel, home early to surprise him.

I'll leave off the description there. I've done enough spoiling already. Not that it's really possible to spoil "Shades of Ray." The writing is fine, but the structure is definitely familiar ground.

There is some really good writing around the subject of race, though. Ray is barely comfortable with his mixed ethnicity. His father is hardly comfortable with the fact that he married a white woman, and his son is planning to do the same. Sana and her family (her folks are also a mixed couple) are the only people that seem to be at all comfortable in their own skins.

Overall, it's a reasonably entertaining ninety minutes. Levi is very good. Fran Kranz is fun as the largely unnecessary best friend. Shahi plays her part well, but is so beautiful it's occasionally distracting. There's not really a bum in the cast - I'm pretty sure Noel is meant to be a little unlikeable.

I gave it four stars on Netflix, which might be a little generous.

03 August 2011

Anniversary Uke Complete!

Well, the bad news is I didn't really use the included instructions and barely turned on the damn DVD that cost an extra $20. The good news is it seemed to come out just fine. In all actuality I would rather have just had a plain old blueprint along with the instructions. It's a little ridiculous that the kit doesn't have an actual diagram of the finished product with dimensions and such.

It's a little (see how small it is in my hand?) soprano ukulele. The finish is another simple oil application, which I like more and more every time I use one. It's super easy and produces reasonably handsome results.

I don't think I'd do another soprano unless I can source pre-bent sides somewhere (of course, neither of the suppliers I know does pre-bent uke sides outside of this Stew Mac kit.) I'd be totally willing to try a tenor, though. So if you know someone who might like a hand-made ukulele for Christmas or other special occasions, please let me know. I do have some ideas that might even be kind of cool.