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Archive for March, 2011

Some quick background: this didn’t start out as a blog post, but rather as a simple response exercise for my nonfiction class.  We’re reading David Shields’ Reality Hunger for this class, and some of his ideas rub me the wrong way as a writer.  (Read the article linked in the first paragraph if you’d like a primer.)

 

“If the novel is dead, THEN ALL MY READERS ARE ZOMBIES.  ZOMG RUN.” –novelist, blogger, and Internet wit John Scalzi, commenting on David Sheilds’ “Long Live the Anti-Novel, Built From Scraps” article. (This comment lodged itself in my brain after reading that article several weeks ago; it seems appropriate in light of some of Shields’ opinions in Reality Hunger.)

If the novel is dead, then all those who read novels are zombies.  I read novels; therefore I am a zombie.  I write novels; therefore I am writing for zombies.  I am a zombie reader become a zombie writer, writing zombie literature for other zombies.  I shuffle along, my brain (and other various appendages) rotting as I read the dead fictitious words written, rather appropriately, on dead pieces of pulped tree.

The novel is dead, Shields writes, and he writes—or lets others write for him—about the death of the book, the death of the printed page in favor of the e-reader, the download, the digital page that is apparently so full of ever-changing life.  It looks as though he has never consulted a zombie about the death of the printed page. We zombies prefer the dead page, the smell of the paper and the ink and the binding glue, the ability to hold our place with a finger, and flip in secret to the end so we know whether or not things end happily.  We zombies agree that the e-reader, the iPad, the downloaded page all have their conveniences, but we also agree, moaning solemnly, that there is nothing quite like the actual zombie book in our slowly rotting hands.

I wonder, as my rotted fingers drag across the keys of my laptop, pounding out those dead and buried words of zombie prose for my someday zombie readers, what kind of novels Shields has been reading that he feels the need to declare all novels dead and imply that their readers are dead for even touching them.  (It’s the worst kind of zombie virus there is: we do not realize we are infected until it is too late, and some enlightened soul, clearly staggering under the burden of the news he has to give us, informs us that we have been turned into zombies.) (This enlightened soul then turns around and peddles his cure for zombieism, but by then we’re not interested.)  Has he been reading all novels?  Has he been reading what we read?  He throws out names that my zombie brain can barely process, and so I decide to throw out a few of my own: Gaiman. Pratchett.  Bradbury.  I imagine, in the part of my zombie brain that likes to gleefully indulge in fictitious fantasies, that he might be unable to understand what I am talking about.  I conclude then that he is probably only reading “literary” fiction.  We might actually be at an agreement about the dead (or undead) state of the novel, then.

And yet we disagree.  Shields writes (or records, though I assume he agrees with the words he records, otherwise he would not reproduce them): “[Isn’t] the entire publishing industry built on telling the exact same stories over and over again?  Since when is that news?  This is teen literature; it’s genre fiction.”  I unfortunately cannot abide such a blithe dismissal of the very stories I try to write (and even when I am not shambling through stories about teens, I am shambling through other realms of that horrifying “genre fiction”: sci-fi and fantasy).  We zombies know that the stories are basically the same; where we delight is in the manner of their telling.

So Shields and I will have to disagree.  I would make a more pointed argument, but I am a zombie; we aren’t much for brains, we zombies (except, of course, when we’re eating them).

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brb, ROCKING OUT

You really wouldn’t know from looking at my posts, but I love music.  My taste in music swings around wildly – I was nuts for classical orchestral music in middle school and high school, then quietly branched into movie soundtracks early in college, and of late I’ve been developing a taste for electronic music.  (I’m pretty sure my middle school self would have dismissed The Glitch Mob’s Drink the Sea as “noise”, to say nothing of Daft Punk.)

But I like music, and even though I’m not a deeply obsessive fan (I couldn’t tell you the difference between house and dubstep if my life depended on it), I like what I like.

I happen to like classic rock, which is something I blame on my parents and my chemistry professor from two years ago.  And so, in a fit of boredom, I rearranged my iTunes library by genre, scrolled down to “Rock” and picked out some of my favorite songs to rock out to.  Without further ado:

The “brb, ROCKING OUT” Playlist

1.  We Will Rock You, Queen

2.  Renegade, Styx

3.  Any Way You Want It, Journey

4.  Carry On Wayward Son, Kansas

5.  Walk of Life, Dire Straits

6. Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen

7.  Come Sail Away, Styx

8.  Separate Ways (Worlds Apart), Journey

9.  Baba O’Riley, The Who

10.  Money for Nothing, Dire Straits

11.  One Vision, Queen

12.  Sultans of Swing, Dire Straits

13.  Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey

14.  The Power of Love, Huey Lewis & The News

15. Point of Know Return, Kansas

16.  Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

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Spring Has Sprung.

A rather tired turn of phrase, but an apt one.  It’s been over 70 degrees F for the last couple of days, and it looks like temperatures are going to stay above the fifties for well over the next week.  I am, of course, delighted that the weather is finally warming up – winter was rather bitterly cold around here, especially with all the snow we got – but I am not so delighted that the air conditioning on campus hasn’t been turned on yet.

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Review: ‘Rango’

Rango is a gem of a film.  It is surreal, strange, and heartwarming.  It is a Western in the truest sense of the word, for it pays loving homage to all the Westerns of years gone by, while simultaneously capturing the atmosphere and spirit of the modern American West.  It also happens to be an animated film, and it is a triumphant example of what exactly the animation medium can do.

Johnny Depp voices the little chameleon who is the hero of our film.  He lives alone in an aquarium, and he has a penchant for the theater.  Everything changes when he falls out of the back of a jeep in the middle of the Mojave Desert, though.  He makes his way to the town of Dirt, where the Old West lives on, but is dying out due to a dwindling supply of water.  It is in Dirt that the chameleon takes on the moniker of Rango, and through his bravado and showmanship he finds himself made Sheriff of Dirt, which may be a little more than he can handle.

I honestly have very little to critique in this film.  This film is the famous effects house Industrial Light & Magic’s first feature animation attempt, and it has all of the immaculate attention to detail that one finds in their VFX.  The character designs stand out from other animated features starring animals: the characters are not overly anthropomorphized, and the realistic detail makes the film compelling to watch on a purely visual level.

The story of Rango is interesting in that it borrows any number of tropes and plots from Westerns past – the new sheriff in town, the orphaned daughter trying to save her father’s farm, the chase across the desert, and so on – but manages to put them together and reuse them in such a way that though they feel familiar, it’s a comfortable and friendly sort of familiar.  The characters are interesting enough to make the tropes seem new again, and they are furthermore bolstered by the excellent voice cast.  Every character, even the smaller ones, has a compelling life to them.  (Bill Nighy’s character only appears in the film’s last twenty minutes or so, but he gives such a gripping voice performance that it’s probably my favorite in the entire film.)

Of course, what I enjoyed most about Rango was its overall place in the animated canon.  This is an animated film that, despite being produced by Nickelodeon, is not obviously and overtly made for children.  There is smoking, drinking, and (horrors!) cursing.  The film is stuffed with film references not as a wink-and-nod to bored parents, but as loving tributes by filmmakers who loved those films.  It’s an animated film that wasn’t made for children: it was made for everybody, and, as I said at the beginning of this review, it is a stunning example of what animation is capable of as a medium rather than a constantly pigeonholed genre.

4.5/5

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Of Nerdery.

I do remember I have a blog, I swear.  School has just been very busy-making lately, particularly since I had two papers to write last week, among other things.  I’ve been on Spring Break this week, and now I’ve finally settled down to write a blog post.  I’ll try and be better about this once classes start up again, but I make no guarantees.  (The days of posting two and three times a week will probably not happen again until I’m on summer break.)

So I thought I would talk about some of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately.  SPOILER: All of these things are extremely nerdy.

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