The domain has been registered for something over a year now, but I have finally gotten the furniture sufficiently arranged to declare it Open For Business.
My old SFF Net Web page has not yet gone anywhere, and will likely hang on for a little while yet (I need to transplant more of the filk lyrics before I turn out the lights), but I have now set up housekeeping as (at?) The Lone Penman, with a new WordPress-driven site. My last couple of LJ/DW posts are mirrored over there, and -- more importantly -- I've made a tiny beginning at the long-term project of archiving my entire book review file onto the Web.
Again, this does NOT mean that this/these journals are going away; the great majority of my new posts will likely go up in all three places. But there will likely be odds and ends that show up here and not there, or there and not here, and I will very probably keep better track of the ongoing review and lyric archiving at Lone Penman than I will on DW/LJ.
In any case, everyone's invited to wander Over There, gawk at the shiny parts, kick the tires, and point out the inevitable bugs. There may even be a virtual housewarming if I can find the SFX generator (or the pocket dimension it was left in three or four cyberspaces back....)
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/36777.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:here, there, and everywhere
- Current Mood: optimistic
- Soundtrack:"Tigger's Song"
As at least some of my readership is aware, I have been a theater junkie -- if a somewhat undernourished one -- ever since junior high school (which is to say, for a scarily long time now). I have, of course, also been an avid reader of fantasy for even longer than that. And it's been my experience that there just isn't much modern genre fiction that makes effective use of theatrical settings. There are a very few exceptions, and mystery has done somewhat better than fantasy in this regard, but even good theatrical mysteries are a trifle thin on the ground.
You may therefore imagine my cautiously optimistic delight some weeks back, when I ran across a new(ish) book at my local library promising just this: a fantasy yarn set against the backdrop of a small musical theatre company in rural Vermont. The ingredients seemed perfect -- but would they be well blended and skillfully served up?
( They would indeedCollapse )
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/36482.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:third row center
- Current Mood: pleased
- Soundtrack:"There's No Business Like Show Business"
I've seen a good deal of reaction over the last couple of days to Amazon's announcement of its "Kindle Worlds" program in which it aims to solicit and publish licensed (!) fanfiction set in a handful of franchise universes. Both the fanfic world and certain corners of the professional writing community are rising up in mutual astonishment, mostly to point out the holes in Amazon's logic.
At the same time, both the fans and the pros seem cautiously convinced that the program is actually going to work -- that is, that people are actually going to make money on the deal.
I'm not. I think the odds are against anyone -- writer, licensor, Amazon -- turning a significant profit on the venture. ( Let me explain....Collapse )
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/36194.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:far from the madding crowd
- Current Mood: thoughtful
- Soundtrack:"Reviewing the Situation" (from Oliver)
The new toy is an impressively compact little Asus Eee netbook, which turned up on one-day sale at deep discount yesterday. The local chain running the ad evidently wanted to blow out its remaining stock (such as it was); the clerk at the second store I visited said I'd scored the very last one anywhere in their regional inventory. (It's also, of course, a dinosaur of sorts, what with netbooks being rapidly supplanted by tablet devices, but for those of us who actually use our computers for wordsmithing, there's much to be said for a machine with a proper keyboard and enough disk space to actually install one's word-processor software.)
And so I join the ranks of those who can sit in a Starbuck's or a library and patter away on their magnum opuses (opi?). I say again, Wheee! And now to work....
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/35905.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:a few feet from the reference desk
- Current Mood: pleased
- Soundtrack:none (it's a library!)
What happened in Connecticut this morning -- and what happened here in the Portland area earlier this week -- is tragic, and senseless, and devastating. But it is not news that I need to see Right Now -- and the lesson I take from these events is not the one you might think.
The thing is, I think the fastest way to reduce the number and severity of these mass-shooting events is not to rewrite gun laws or reallocate mental health care resources. It's much simpler than that.
We have to stop paying attention to them.
To the extent that there's a common thread running through these events, it seems to be that their instigators were looking for attention. And in almost every such instance -- the media has given them that attention in industrial-size quantities. Which sends a message to those viewers who are potential instigators: if you do something like this, you will get all the attention you could ever want. (It generally doesn't matter that you may not be alive to revel in said attention, at least not to this specific subset of the population.)
If you're a veteran of Internet or pre-Internet online communities, you're doubtless familiar with an earlier formulation of this premise: "Do Not Feed the Energy Creature". The fastest way to defuse a flamewar or rout a troll/bully is simply not to respond. The same applies in the present context -- if we simply stop giving these events more attention than they deserve, we supply less motive to the next generation of real-world "energy creatures".
The major media outlets need to learn and assimilate this lesson -- and to stop perpetuating the life-cycle of such events as the Aurora shootings, those in Clackamas Town Center, and those today in Connecticut. Saturation coverage, especially when it consists of reporters saying "information is still developing" every five minutes for hours on end, is expensive. If we as viewers stop watching it, we can help teach that lesson; if we tell our media outlets why we've stopped, it may teach that lesson more quickly.
Let me be clear: I don't mean to suggest that there should be no news coverage of such events, especially in communities where they may occur. But the style of coverage needs to be thoughtful and careful and investigative, and the level and focus of coverage should be appropriate to the needs of those directly affected by the specific event being covered.
- Posting from:safely at home
- Current Mood: thoughtful
- Soundtrack:"Rainbow Connection"
Friday • 3 pm / Morrison
Three Thumbs Up
*John C. Bunnell, Aaron Duran, Craig Laurance Gidney
A field guide to the craft of book & film reviewing -- and to navigating the jungle of review outlets available in today's print and Web worlds).
Saturday • 2 pm / Roosevelt
We Will Call This Story..."This Story"
*Todd McCaffrey, John C. Bunnell, Linn Prentis, Nisi Shawl, K. C. Ball
Can you tell a story's content from its title? Are there good books with bad titles (and vice versa)? And how much should marketing considerations influence a choice of titles?
Saturday • 3 pm / Lincoln
The Unique Challenges of Urban Fantasy
*John C. Bunnell, A. M. Dellamonica, Craig Laurance Gidney, Dale Ivan Smith
Whether it's wizards in Walla Walla or vampires in Vancouver, how does one effectively blend classic fantasy elements with modern settings and characters? Alternately, what about examples of how not to mix magic with pop culture?
Sunday • 2 pm / Oregon
New Song Contest
John C. Bunnell, Bob Kanefsky
From what I'm told, we'll be judging entries as composed and submitted by interested attendees.
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/35429.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:Where did I put that Bat-map?
- Current Mood: rushed
- Soundtrack:the "Road Runner" theme
Let me assure the gallery: I am not leaving LJ, nor do I have any present plans to do so. That said, what I'm hearing about the latest friends-page redesign makes me think that it's time to implement a backup strategy, just in case. New entries will be posted in both places (since DW is set up to easily auto-crosspost here).
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth; feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:two places at once
- Current Mood: accomplished
First operation: mildly busy, as I might expect earlyish on a Friday evening. I enter, peruse the menu, and approach the counter to order.
The girl at the counter pulls a pen and a receipt pad (yes, an office/retail receipt pad, not a restaurant-style order pad), and explains that their computers are down, so they're taking down all the orders by hand. That's fine, I say. Then the girl supplies the kicker, sounding regretful but sincere: "and there'll be a wait of maybe half an hour, will that be all right?"
I blink, and am sufficiently boggled that my question comes out wrong. "The computer slows you down that much?"
"No," the girl explains, still sincere and apologetic, "the computer's *down*, so we don't have any way to communicate with the kitchen. When it's working, what we punch into the register goes straight back to the kitchen."
I blink again, because this operation has a semi-open kitchen -- I can see cooks in the work area behind the order counter, a mere few steps from the cash register, cooking people's dinners. And while the restaurant is far from empty, it's nowhere near full, and there's not a long line at the counter.
I consider possible responses. Should I rant angrily? No; escalating the situation isn't likely to solve the problem. Should I try to explain how
So I excuse myself politely, and go next door to the other franchise. Where I peruse the menu, order at the counter, and receive a vibro-pager; "this will go off when your order's ready; you can pick it up at the next counter down". As I finish paying for the meal, the vibro-pager goes off.
"Whoa," I say, collecting my beverage cup and strolling down to the pickup counter -- where the server is dishing up my soup as she explains that they're out of the bread they normally use for my sandwich, and tells me what she does have available. I pick an alternate, and they promise to bring the sandwich out to my table, since the vibro-pager has already done its thing. "We'll find you", the girl says. And they do, almost before I've finished arranging my soup and drink. The contrast is remarkable; at the second restaurant, everyone's communicating using *both* technology and traditional methods, and the service even when they're addressing a problem is admirably efficient.
I'm not naming either chain here; franchises can vary widely in their levels of cluefulness within a given chain, so it wouldn't be fair to either to generalize upward from my experiences. I'm just fascinated at the juxtaposition of critical clue-failure and plain common sense in the present instance.
- Posting from:home again, home again
- Current Mood: amused
- Soundtrack:"The Gods Must Be Crazy" (Leslie Fish)
Meanwhile, however, an amusing episode this afternoon, at least to me. We attended the final performance of a (very small) local theatre company's production of Amadeus this afternoon -- fairly solid, if not spectacular, with a decidedly nice turn from the actor playing Salieri. I, however, had a minor cognitive-dissonance issue with the show that my parents definitely did not share: the actor playing Mozart bore a noticeable resemblance to Neil Patrick Harris -- and specifically, to NPH in his "Dr. Horrible" incarnation. Unfortunately, it being the end of the run -- and the theatre company's season -- there doesn't appear to be a good photo online I can show you. Just trust me on this.
Now in fact, the actor playing Mozart also did credibly in the role, though the portrayal was a little broader than I might have liked (and the costume confused the issue further, being just the right sort of oddly balanced colorfulness to put one in mind of Colin Bake's Sixth Doctor). So I really can't fault the actor in the circumstances, but I have to wonder what the director and costumer were thinking....
- Posting from:home, home on the range
- Current Mood: amused
- Soundtrack:"Magic Flute"
What sparked this thought were two different reactions to Whedon's directing of the epic action sequences: one writer thought they were too fast and not focused enough, and the other thought they were just a touch too slow and too narrowly targeted. I think they're both wrong; to my mind, Whedon's action sequences -- and most especially the long battle in Manhattan that takes up most of the last third of the movie -- do exactly what they should, and that Whedon knew exactly what he was doing as he designed them.
To illustrate my point, let me cite an exchange near the end of the battle (I promise, this isn't any sort of serious spoiler). Captain America and Thor have just finished off a wave of the invading forces, and while they've acquitted themselves well, they're clearly both a bit worse for wear at this point. And then another wave of invaders swoops into view, Thor looks at Cap, and says "Ready for another round?" or words to that effect. And Cap nods -- but they're both obviously tired, and not really ready for yet another wave, and they know that barring a miracle, this may just be the end of the line. And then, of course, they wade into that next wave....
And the moment works, and works brilliantly. Why? Because we viewers have just been through the same epic battle the heroes have, and even though we're eager to get back into action, we too are emotionally (and just a little physically) tired after all we've seen, and there's only so much we can take before battle fatigue sets in. Whedon, in a ten or fifteen second exchange between these two characters, has demonstrated that he's exactly synchronized his characters' capacity for heroic action with his viewers' ability to assimilate that action. We know how drained Cap and Thor are because we're drained too; we've had the same experience in the theater that they've had in Marvelverse Manhattan.
Which is why, for me, The Avengers works better as a Big Action Movie than either of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight or Guy Ritchie's 2009 Sherlock Holmes. Both of these are, in their way, well-made movies with much good in them -- but I dislike the way their action sequences unfold; where Whedon's action serves his storytelling, both Nolan and Ritchie seem to me to superimpose Big Action Scenes on their movies in ways that get in the way of the story rather than reinforcing it. The action in Dark Knight seems largely gratuitous to me, basically designed to put roadblocks in the way of the character conflict between Batman and the Joker -- in particular, the movie needs those gratuitous action sequences so that one doesn't look too closely at the plot logic leading up to the climax. Sherlock Holmes has a somewhat different problem; the "rewind" effect Ritchie uses to illustrate Holmes' thought processes is intriguing, but the combination of that technique and the extremely fast cuts and scene shifts of that film's action scenes (both inside and outside the "rewinds") make the viewer work too hard to process them. So rather than actually getting inside Holmes' head, we more or less get to see that Holmes has Amazing Intellectual Superpowers but not much else.
By contrast, the action sequences in The Avengers work because they give viewers a viable entry point into the action, both on the macro level (as noted above) and on the individual level (see especially two of the Black Widow's scenes and two of the Hulk's). The scenes work because they're paced in a way that lets viewers experience the story side-by-side with the characters. Here, the spectacle serves the story rather than simply being flashy and, well, spectacular. Not that it isn't spectacular when it needs to be, mind, but for once in the Big Action niche we've got a movie in which the craftsmanship is well matched with the material. One can disagree with some of the film's creative choices, but for pure technical craft, I give Joss Whedon the highest possible marks.
- Posting from:the Statler-and-Waldorf box
- Current Mood: thoughtful
- Soundtrack:"Ride of the Valkyrie"