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Echoes and Mirrors » art

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Late Inspiration

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Seven or so years ago, before I went to college, I began writing an awful, sad attempt at a novel. (I posted it to my MySpace blog, if you need any clarification on how much of an amateur I was.)

A few of my friends, in real life, pestered me for years about finishing it. I think I managed to get three or four chapters completed before I realized it wasn’t going anywhere (and, looking back, was basically bleakness porn).

Today, while driving to work, I thought about it and suddenly knew where it could go.

I’m not about to start writing it again, but I did scribble the idea down for later. And I’m damn glad that it didn’t come to me then, as I may have actually kept on with it instead of devoting my energy to better projects.

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“The Imaginative Poverty of the Middle Classes”

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

“We are reverting to the civilization of luggage, and historians of the future will note how the middle classes accreted possessions without taking root in the earth, and may find in this the secret of their imaginative poverty.”

There are dozens of gloriously snide but intelligent passages like this in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End. I never quite think of myself as one who enjoys pre-Modernist writing, but I’ll be damned if it’s not sharp as hell at times. This narrator doesn’t care about judging the fuck out of people, which is tremendous, but the wit with which it is done? Remarkable.

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Vexed

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

From Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch:

“Are you vexed with me?” Family language: vexed. A word Andy had used when we were children.

Seems like a bit of Lampshade Hanging used to make you ignore that word — vexed — rather than for a particular detail or plot point (some of which require a pretty solid suspension of disbelief in this novel). It’s almost as if Tartt was adamant she would use this word and would justify it any way she could. It’s an indulgence, and one that I think works.

I say good on her for it, too. That line made me chuckle as much as it did strike me as an interesting use of trope.

What may be most interesting to me about it, though, is the fact that a line like this would get ripped up in a workshop. Not that a workshop doesn’t have its value (a tremendous amount of it, in fact) but the notion of a workshop is necessarily attuned to find and destroy things like this, despite how clever it is. It is designed to destroy indulgences, especially of the linguistic variety.

I would never give up my workshop experiences (and would welcome more) but it holds true that the best lessons about writing happen outside of the classroom, and always will. Mostly, they happen while reading.

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I can’t get this out of my head

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

“First Time” by Jason Shinder

I was a virgin but I knew the messy sexual hunger of the word ah.

It was like two wires crossing that never should. It was like
   the invention
of sound for the deaf. Through my brother’s great, slightly open,
   bedroom door

I saw two heads bobbing for apples on the pillow, their mouths in the
   shape of ah,

the wet crystals of each breath falling on their faces. I heard that final
   ah they made—
the room ripped apart, the wild, injured noise of a wounded dog.

Hellow, little brother, my brother said. I hope we weren’t too loud,
   the girl said.

I couldn’t speak; the wind drifting through me as if through a cow’s
   skull in the desert.
I watched their fingers sift through each other’s hair again, pulling at
   the roots

of everything that had come before, and everything that would come after.

The girl had this way of murmuring, narrating in the dark. I pushed
   the door
further open. Ah that’s good, she moaned. Now you.

This is from Jason Shinder’s Stupid Hope. Admittedly, I don’t read nearly enough poetry as I ought and I’m struggling with the fact that this poem has been knocking around my head for three months now, poking itself into my thoughts on a fairly regular basis. What is going on in these lines is shaking me in two ways: first, it is so insightful and human but still masculine without being macho; and second, that I will never be able to put together a single coherent string of words that can do this.

It makes me never want to write a poem again —or maybe, more precisely, that I will never need to with this having been written— and, at the same time, want to write every poem I even briefly consider. I’m pretty sure this is what we’re supposed to be doing with poetry.

There is nothing wrong with creating something intimidating when it’s so wonderfully done.

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This is the future of art

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Subtlety is more important than anything else, ever.

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I’m glad I don’t have cable anymore

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

If only so that I won’t be constantly pissed at SyFy. What used to be, in my youth, a go-to for Science Fiction programming has been replaced with bullshit camp, paranormal reality, a cooking show and wrestling. The only redeeming show they still have is Being Human, which will remain successful (and good) for the same reasons SGU failed.

I waited to post this until I finished up watching the second and last season of Stargate Universe. Ever since the Battlestar Galactica reboot ended, the channel hasn’t had much to stand on for really great sci-fi content. Caprica and Stargate Universe were the last two really great shows they had. And they have stood by their decision not to renew either show by citing ratings. It’s a specious argument, at best:

Another lie recently told by Syfy is that for SGU to continue it would need 2.5 to 3 times as many viewers as it currently has.

That means SGU would need to hover around 3 million viewers to survive. This is absurd to suggest when Syfy dramas like Sanctuary and Haven have been renewed averaging around 1.5-1.75 million viewers. Eureka hasn’t even been averaging 2.5 million viewers.

I’ll never believe that it was purely a numbers game, so much as they want us to believe it.

No, I blame this on the fans. Well, on SyFy’s audience, anyway.

Warehouse 13 is not a particularly great show. Neither is Eureka. Haven and Sanctuary are even worse. But they’re still around.

What’s the difference between the shows that stayed, with lower ratings, and the shows that got canceled? Depth. SGU was tonally dark and at times disturbing. It was dramatic and had a series-long plot arc, not just season-long plot arcs. No single episode can stand alone. Compared to the other shows, of which almost any episode (not counting the rare two or three part episode) can be enjoyed all by itself, without any prior knowledge of the show.

Star Trek was like that: there was no long story in it. Once in a while, a reference from a previous episode would pop up, but that was essentially novelty. And there was a little bit of character development throughout, but if you look at the characters in episode one and in the last episode, they’re basically the same.

Closer to home, SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis followed that pattern, essentially. They did setup slightly longer plot arcs, but the characters never changed. They were heroes on day one, and they ended as heroes. They had, essentially, no major flaws to speak of. The characters on SGU did. I wish I could find a link to it now, but a comment I read was that they had no appealing virtues. They fought with each other, made morally dubious decisions, were sometimes petty. They were pretty real. But they grew as characters throughout the shows run.

The characters on the previous SG shows never failed to accomplish their mission, even when things were absolutely hopeless. And they’d do it in 42 minutes. The characters on SGU often failed and one even had to be euthanized (and not in a pleasant way). They were fuckups, but they managed.

It was a lot like the wonderful dynamic on LOST and Battlestar Galactica. It was clear that the show was meant to be as separate from the previous franchise shows as it could be. Honestly, if they could have done it without it being a SG franchise at all, I think it would have been even better.

Which is why SyFy is full of shit. They’re pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s the SyFy fans that are assholes. They like the shows with pristine, morally-upright and, so to speak, perfect heroes as the protagonists. Neither Caprica nor SGU could deliver that. It’s just not the way they were; they relied on the flaws. They were character-driven shows. The rest are driven by whatever can make a dazzling bad guy for one episode, or a half-season arc. I am talking about the same channel that killed Farscape before it’s time, so it really shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Train your audiences to be lazy, and they’ll be lazy. Then they’ll reject shows like SGU and Caprica, proving that you were right to give them Marcel’s Fucking Quantum Fucking Kitchen instead.

Here’s a prime example of the asshole SyFy fan whose opinion matters more than people who like real content:

I wasn’t shocked at all, quite the opposite. SyFy, ruined the SG series with SGU. SGU consisted of a bunch of soap opera drama that most of us simply weren’t interested in. Not to mention the “stones” with “lovers quarrels” and even sexual contact were completely absurd. I could go on and on about how absolutely retarded that show is, but canceling it proves what so many of us said from the start. What was really funny is that they tried to contain the damage at gateworld by censoring complaining posts and even suspending complaining user accounts. We all told them that wouldn’t work either! All they had to do was fire their writers’ and get back some of their old direction. Instead they abandoned their known fan base and tried to force feed us that crap. HA HA HA HA HA HA! I personally canceled SyFy LAST YEAR in protest.
Moral of the story?
If your existing franchise is working, leave it alone.
If your entire fan base starts rumbling about changes you’ve made, LISTEN.
If your show starts dealing with raping people that are not “IN” their bodies. You should probably re-think was the hell you are doing..

They alienated their fanbase? Sure, but I don’t think it’s too big of a deal when that fanbase is a bunch of dicks like this. What’s funny is that he thinks that the SG franchise pre-SGU was working. It was a miserable situation, at best. There is a response to this that pretty much sums up how I feel about it:

first off you’re a moron, and an idiot, probably why sgu didn’t appeal to you, you want boobs, guns, and explosions. sgu was broadcast as a drama, not a action show, it was heralded as a drama, something completely different from previous stargate series.Stargate universe isn’t a show where you always know the good guys from the badguys, and that the good guys always always prevail miraculously.And always have english speaking alians. sgu is a deeper and far more realistic show centered around each characters, you end up with a attachment to every person on sgu.and the alians are actually strange and alian. both sg1 and sga were entertaining series, for kids, as well as adults, but sgu is the much darker adult version of the stargate universe. and as Joshua said, “Not to mention the “stones” with “lovers quarrels” and even sexual contact were completely absurd.” when i can speak from experience, months away from family, and friends can and will lead up to love affairs, and even just “sex friends” and being confined within a preset amount of space when such thing happen can also lead to “lovers quarrels” sgu was a much more down to earth and gritty stargate series, i for one loved it, and i am a fan, i actually watched the movie back a little while after it came out, and ended up watching sg-1 and sg-a back to back when i was in Iraq.

all in all, stargate universe was the adult version of stargate, and because they ended up without the shallow idiots who make up the fanbase, as their basis for deciding either the show is a success or not, is the reason why it’s being canceled, it has nothing to do with the quality of the show, but rather the quality (or should i say quantity) of the viewer base. thank you, you shallow retards who only enjoy breasts, bangs, and bombshells, enjoy the wrestling, and bullshit unreality show that will overrun the channel, all because sgu wasn’t breast and explosions.

You sir, win. I’m glad to know that at least some people feel the same way about the state of televised Science Fiction that I do. But given SyFy’s recent actions, apparently we’re in the minority. More people want the shlock.

There’s a more detailed rundown of the whole cancellation debacle here. It’s worth reading and pretty frustrating. But the big take-away is here:

Other than BSG: Blood & Chrome, which has not yet been granted a full series order, Syfy has announced no such “traditional” science fiction shows on its development slate. Perhaps the closest would be Sherwood, produced by the team behind Sanctuary and described as a sort of Robin Hood meets Firefly. So far that one is just an idea, however, and hasn’t been given the go-ahead to cast and film a pilot.

SyFy’s audience might want scripted shows, but they don’t want anything too cerebral. They don’t want drama. They want action and boobs. (Well, I like those things too, but get real.) They want infallible heroes. That’s where the problem is, but SyFy will give that too them. SyFy would have canceled LOST if it had been their show (thankfully ABC was a little smarter than that). They’re appealing to the mental midgets, to the child-like capacities of their shithead viewers and they’re doing Science Fiction a grave disservice. It’s probably better that they rebranded their name away from Sci-Fi, because that is no longer what they do all that well. Also, would it kill SyFy to actually hire a goddamned military advisor and buy decent, matching uniforms for the soldiers in their monster of the week movies? Fuck SyFy. I have no use for poorly written, over CGI’d, intellectually-vacant bullshit. I’ve seen Vin Diesel movies with more brains and better acting in them.

Being Human will do well because it is expected to be a drama and it has a fresh fanbase that wants that. But it already diverged from the BBC show and in a bad way. It’s still a good show, but why is it that a show about vampires and warewolves can have character driven drama while a show about space-travel can’t? Because the fans are mostly idiots.

I’m way off into drunken ranting land, but here’s the recap: SGU was too dark, too smart, and too fucking deep for the audience SyFy wants. It scared them. It was edgier than most anything they’ve done in a long, long time – even more so than Being Human is – and it was uncomfortable for the fucking retards that want wrestling on Friday nights.

There, fuck you, SyFy. I don’t have cable and I won’t watch your bullshit.

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I have no words…

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee from David Lynch on Vimeo.

Because I’m laughing too hard.

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You tell me what’s wrong with this picture

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

(img pops)

That’s some serious anatomy. Way to go.

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They’re Not Artists, They’re Professionals In An Industry

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Where Have All the Mailers Gone? | The New York Observer.

Alas: The practice of fiction is no longer a vocation. It has become a profession, and professions are not characterized by creative mischief. Artistic vocations are about embracing more and more of the world with your will; professions are insular affairs that are all about the profession. The carefulness, the cautiousness, the professionalism that keeps contemporary fiction from being meaningful to the most intellectually engaged people is also what is stifling any kind of response to The New Yorker. After all, kick against The New Yorker‘s conventional taste and you might tread on some powerful person’s overlapping interest. You might anger Nicole Aragi, fiction super-agent. You might alienate a New Yorker editor! Literary triumph in Manhattan is now defined by publishing one or two pieces in The New Yorker each year. That is too narrow a definition of literary triumph.

Writing isn’t art, it’s an industry. An industry that makes Twilight and Harry Potter and… some other stuff. Profitable stuff!

While I loathe the self-publishing and POD elements that sprung up in the publishing world, I can see how they’re necessary to combat the make-the-New Yorker-happy mentality. But those people will probably never reach any real notoriety. Hell, most people who go the traditional publishing route still don’t. But it’s almost universally true that if one does, one is professional about it. And that sucks.

Could the very idea of “being professional” kill America? Maybe I’m biased from my experiences with “military professionalism”, which meant always putting up the illusion that everything is good. It was all about polishing turds. Didn’t matter what you had in your hand as long as somebody could see their reflection in it.

However, professionalism is necessary because it sets standards of courtesy and etiquette. The problem is that it can overshadow the work and its quirks and nuances are so complex that the only way to avoid catastrophic mistakes is money (one could argue that those with money simply move into a different rule set).

For about a million reasons, fiction has now become a museum-piece genre most of whose practitioners are more like cripplingly self-conscious curators or theoreticians than writers. For better or for worse, the greatest storytellers of our time are the nonfiction writers. The proof? No one would dare rank them, presume to categorize them by age or exploit them as a marketing tool. Their writing is too relevant and alive.

Fiction is not dead, sir. The business of selling real, heart-felt literary art in the grand arena of the major publishing houses may be dying, but fiction itself is not. There are more people writing simply for the sake of writing than ever, and they don’t care about professional rules or, consequently, about making money off it.

Trying to view books as a commodity is not right. Because one books sells more than another doesn’t really say much about its quality. Just because a non-fiction book  requires less critical thought to extract the hidden social observations than a novel does not make it more relevant. Sadly, the easier-to-read book is more likely to sell these days.

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Burning Goat 2009

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Swedish Christmas straw goat burns again:

STOCKHOLM – A giant straw goat was burned down yet again early Wednesday in a Swedish city where torching it has become a Christmas tradition, to the dismay of local leaders.

Every year I see this article, it brings joy to my heart. Why can’t the city just understand that their tradition is to burn the straw goat, not to build and look upon a straw goat? They ought to make it an endorsed event. Over the last 50 years, almost half of their goats have been burned or otherwise destroyed. Just accept it – people want to see it burn.

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