Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Life At A Distance

It’s been a minute huh? I guess because I haven’t had anything that I’ve really wanted to talk about. Even though my life is pretty much a ball of shit right now I’m actually not depressed…so I guess I can be thankful for that. Just give it a little while, I’ll be back to my sad self in no time.

Community service fucking sucks. 40 hrs for a sunburn. I dug trenches, cleaned culverts, raked leaves, mowed an entire estate with a push mower, made a gravel road…etc. Pain in the fucking ass.

I went to court for my DUI and started my job on the same day 4/20. Great day huh? I not only lost my license, I was told I can’t drink…but hey, at least I started a new job where I actually have the money to go out again! Woohoo! Oh wait, the only way I can go out is if I get a ride…and then I can’t drink. So who wants to go to a bar with me, where I can’t drink, but I also can’t DD you home if you decide to drink? Anyone? Anyone? Fuck. On the plus side I have money building up. Which I can use to complete my tattoos, put aside for school (which I think I may e-mail tomorrow to see the steps I have to take to get back in in the fall), pay off this nice DUI debt, and possibly save up to get a house (this is a BIG maybe). Not to mention the counseling I’ve been required to take.

The job however, is something I don’t want to do. I basically went back to my old job…as a cook. So I lost my job when the restaurant closed, thinking I would find a career that I would actually enjoy doing, only to find nothing and have to go back to what I was doing. Balls. At least I have money coming in though. As we all know, money not only buys you happiness, it also makes the world go round.

For some reason today I remembered what it was like being a kid. Being able to get of the bus and trash the neighborhood. Not having a care in the world because mommy and daddy would take care of everything. If I wanted to go to the movies money was placed in my hand (I might have had to mow the yard). Then again, the only thing I cared about then was just hanging out with my friends. We didn’t go to bars. We didn’t go to clubs. It didn’t cost us anything to chill on a fucking street corner all afternoon until it was time to go home…and we were fine with that. We were fine with our street corner (even if the owner of the property that the street corner resided on wasn‘t). We were cool with staring at the cars as they passed by. Content with passing the time discussing the girls in school we wished we could sleep with but were never given the time of day. Talking about baseball (or football depending on the time of year). We could pass the time telling stories that were 90% fictional but wished were true. Talking about music as if we actually knew what the hell we were talking about. Discussing the movie we saw the night before that almost had full frontal nudity. If we felt adventurous it was time to wrap or egg a house, hop on our bicycles and head for the park a mile away…a quick trip to the local coffee shop. Not a care in the goddamn world (except fucking that illusive popular girl, or worrying about grades).

Why did that have to change? Why are we expected to grow up? Why is life all about job, money, possessions…what happened to living? Why is it that we are basically required to devote our entire life to something that really doesn’t matter? Stupid questions I guess…but I just wonder what happened to the days where people grew their own food, built their own house…lived…for themselves and not to sustain other people.

Which got me thinking. I always wanted to take a trip across Europe when I graduated from college. If I go back (which is looking almost guaranteed…what else am I going to do?) I think I may change that graduation trip. I was remembering earlier reading travel logs in several of my English classes and I had an epiphany. I’m thinking of road tripping across the country. Yeah, I’ve been to most of the states but I mean actually road tripping…not just driving straight through them. Hitting the big cities and spending more time along the smaller ones. The goal will be to write a blog, I suppose on this one, that chronicles my journey. At the end of it I’ll write a book about it. What I really want to do is see how the perspectives of this country has changed. Particularly through the eyes of a 30 something. Now granted, if I do this next year, I’ll only be 29...but that’s a small problem right? I suppose I can interview people in each state, both the big cities and the smaller ones for their perspective/ideas. From East Coast to West Coast and back to East. Even if I don’t interview anyone I’m a good enough people watcher, plus I can see different styles, etc.

Who knows…maybe even hit Canada a little. I guess I really just want to see how our country actually runs. If geography actually matters at all. If there is anyone out there like me.

Anyone wanna join me?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

#18 Nightfall

I actually read Nightfall before I read Virtual Control but I wanted to step away from it for a little while. I wanted to step away from it because I knew this is supposed to be written by two of the greatest science fiction writers. Surely a conglomeration like that should be epic. Right? As it says in the back of the book “Isaac Asimov is the author of more than four hundred and fifty books…Robert Silverberg has written more than seventy science fiction novels…in addition to several hundred stories…Like Dr. Asimov, he is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including three Hugos and five Nebulas.” That’s some pedigree right there, am I right? So, as I was saying, I decided to step back and see if I could obtain a new perspective on the book. To see if maybe my opinion would change after some time away from it. While my opinion hasn’t completely evolved to the opposite of what it was I can appreciate the book for what it accomplished. I suppose I should also mention that the novel came about from a story written by Asimov.

The book follows, in essence, a small group of people. Beenay, a young and brilliant astronomer. Sheerin, the fat psychologist who is an expert in “darkness” and rides through the “Tunnel of Mystery.” Theremon, a top notch reporter that always finishes what he starts. Athor the godfather of astronomy and creator of “The Theory of Universal Gravitation.” Siferra a female archaeologist who uncovers the destroyed cities at the Hill of Thombo. Raissta, Beenay’s “contract-mate.” Folimun, leader of the Apostles of Flame. Each one of these people also have a number at the end of their name. The whole goddamn book I was trying to figure out why until near the end when it is states that the numbers are their “family code.” Basically their last name.

Now I realize some of those things make no sense to you and I likely won’t explain them all. Nightfall takes place on a planet called Kalgash. The planet has 6 suns in constant rotation and never experiences a moment without light (cough…Pitch Black). Once however, every two thousand and some odd years, only one sun is in the sky and that sun is eclipsed by another planet. Thus…darkness. In essence the novel is about what happens as they come to this discovery, and what happens after night.

That’s what you have to understand. Coming from a planet that has never seen darkness they have no concept of “stars.” This gets referred to several times in the book and it generally terrifies people. Especially after Beenay proposes that these stars may in fact be other suns that are far away. I didn’t give anything away there, trust me, the story is rather simple. As I states Sheerin is a psychologist who studies the effects of darkness on people. He comes to the conclusion that should darkness happen everyone on the planet would flip the fuck out. Siferra finds an ancient civilianization that provides the proof that this blackness occurs and that society is wiped out by fires. These fires are set by the inhabitants of the planet out of fear, when darkness happens. Thus…they destroy themselves. Along the way is a group called the Apostles of Flame, they are the religious group that proclaims this apocalypse long before science is able to prove it. Here is where the story really lies.

I think the main intent of this novel is an overall look at religion. The Apostles of Flame (obviously a religious sect) constantly refer to a book that they call the “Book of Revelations.” For the coming of the apocalypse they create what they call the sanctuary, which is, in essence, an ark (2012). When Beenay proposes the notion of the stars being suns and those suns having their own system of planets the question arises of other intelligent life. Naturally we hear the same arguments we have. Including the one that another planet would need oxygen for anything to survive and evolve, in the case of Nightfall they argue that they need light in order to survive. Every person has what is essentially a night light that they call a “God Light.” The overall notion is that religion is necessary for society to prevail but that the established religion must also be challenged through science. Folimun claims to be the voice for the head of the religion but that head doesn’t actually exist (Equilibrium). The end of the book follows a path of that can be adhered to the “circle of life.” People separate into tribes, the weak are eliminated, people pair off to procreate. In fact, right after the darkness four people have sex right off the bat. Two of the main characters, Theremon and Siferra, travel down the abandoned highway, fight off bandits (including cannibals), and make a great pilgrimage only to come to an even greater realization (The Road).

“They’ll burn whatever they can get. They’ve got to have light. They’ve got to burn something, and wood won’t be handy, not on city streets. So they’ll burn whatever is nearest. A pile of newspapers? Why not? What about the newsstands that the papers on sale are stacked up in? Burn them too! Burn clothing. Burn books. Burn roof-shingles. Burn anything. The people will have their light-and every center of habitation goes up in flames! There is the end of the world you used to live in.“
Why I hate it? It makes no sense. The “Tunnel of Mystery” is created to test people’s endurance to darkness. The theme park ride keeps the person in total darkness for 15 minutes. Now one of the biggest problems for people is that they can’t handle the darkness, they’re not prepared for it, that’s why they start the fire. What did they use to create this tunnel. Do they not have lights? They have computers (no monitor glow?), cars (no hazard lights?), and laser guns, but no lights? Where’s the logic there? In fact they have all of this advanced technology and yet when the darkness comes the best they can do is create what are essentially oil lamps that are considered, “Very modern. Very impressive.” They allude to lights but simply state that these will go out when the generators go out. Bah! That to me simply makes no sense, therefore the story makes no sense. A two thousand year old society with telescopes, cameras, computers, cars, and friggin laser beams but no indoor lights? Nice. Also…everyone has mass amounts of tiring dialogue. Someone should tell writers that most people do not speak for five minutes without interruption during a normal conversation.

I like the story for the writers ability to look into the future when it came to technology at the time. I liked it for its originality and potential, I liked it for its look into mass hysteria. I hated the overall outcome. Now, I will tell you that this book has one of the greatest lines I’ve ever read: “Athor was awesome and he knew it.”

Friday, April 2, 2010

#17 Virtual Control

So my dad tosses me this book.
Dad: “Read this. A guy I work with kept trying to get me to buy it and I refused so much that he finally just gave it to me for free. It’s his book, he wrote it, I think he did one of them self publishing things too.”
Me: “What’s it about?”
Dad: “I don’t know. Like one of those fast paced thrillers that combines technology.”
Me: “Sounds like it could be promising. Is it any good?”
Dad: “I don’t know I never read it.”
Me: “You’ve never read it? How long have you had it?”
Dad: “Like two years.”
Me: “This dude gave you his book and you haven’t read it in two years?”
Dad: “Yep.”
Me: “You’re a dick. When I publish my first book I’m totally not giving you a copy.”
Dad: “Whatever. Let me know how it is.”

The back jacket for Virtual Control by Richard Taylor, says the dude has spent the last fifteen years writing, editing, and publishing books on computer programming languages. I’m just wondering if he ever took a creative writing class or if he just assumed that, because he’d been writing computer books for so long, he could just jump into fiction writing. I feel bad that I’m about to tear this guy a new sphincter. I really do. Because if it ever comes down to me having to publish something on my own I really hope someone just doesn’t tear it apart for the sake of tearing it apart. Of course…I’m an asshole. One of the reviews on Amazon by a Richard Glassford reads as thus: The book is primarily a thriller, with plenty of suspense & action, and has some SF overtones with the mind control gadgetry. The characters are solid, and the pace is such that I found it difficult to put down once I got going. A delightful read, particularly with the characters involved. The characterizations seem a bit pulp-like at times, which I definitely enjoyed, being a fan of the pulps. I…really don’t know what book that dude read.

The plot is thus. There’s a cult, called the Full Realization Church, created by two dudes named JC and Ivan that basically uses some computer headgear called CAM to drug and mind control you (and actually attempts to convince you that mind control is something new that‘s never been used before). Now the original intent of this device is to make you feel GOOD (seriously every time it comes across it is in all caps). Like life is grand and you can get through anything. Not bad right? Well then those two guys decide to start using that mind control to their advantage, eventually going so far as to kill the President. Now, that’s where the story really loses you. Why would they want to kill the President? To put the VP in charge…who they’ve already brainwashed. But the whole reason why this other group called the Christian Fundamentalist Alliance, lead by Pastor Carnes, wants the VP as President is so they can get a law passed that taxes any religion with fewer than 1000 people. Makes no fucking sense! Anyways the other characters that line out the story are Danielle (a hottie who joins the FRC), her brother Kyle (an independent programmer and DJ), Sharyn (a Secret Service agent), and Roy (the dude who wants to assassinate the President). The story might not have actually been that bad if he got rid of the CFA and just focused on the FRC. Having them both in there is a pointless cluster fuck.

Let me begin by saying that the dialogue is atrocious. Horrible. Totally unbelievable. Whether he goes from short little “cute” conversations to diatribes. Which gets overwhelming when every character has several preachy page worth blocks of dialogue. Seriously, every single character preaches at you at some point. I won’t give you a sample of one of those, I’ll spare you. Instead…
“No. Honest.” He was horribly embarrassed. “It’s just that I know a dish that I think you’ll like that you probably haven’t had. It’s not even on the menu, but they made it for me here last week and it was great.” Say that with a Tony the Tiger voice. I imagined him turning and winking at the camera with a huge smile on his face and a thumbs up. Or this gem:
“I’m pretty sure I did it right. I took brand new Q-tips from a previously unopened package, collected some of the contact gel on one and sealed it in this brand new plastic bag.” Does anyone talk like that?

I guess my next complaint goes to the characters themselves. The dude up there who said The characters are solid must have issues. Danielle is a 23 year old divorced college sophmore who was in a life of drinking and drugging until she found the FRC. From there on she loses any “life” she had and suddenly becomes a pretty face meant for men to drool over. Of course, the way she seems to pine over men doesn’t help much either. Then you have Roy, a former Special Forces guy who works in the White House but really just listens to way too much Christian radio. Sharyn is the gorgeous Secret Service agent who would totally talk to the DJ at a party where she’s watching the VP and then totally go out on a date with him. Kyle is said DJ who was also in the Air Force who seems to be the perfect fucking guy (but daddy was an alcoholic!). Pastor Carnes is your typical Christian nut who thinks that all the founding fathers were Christian, and that the country is going to shit because we’re losing the Christians principles that keep us together. JC is your normal run of the mill bad guy who looks and talks pretty while Ivan is the geekie techno sidekick who does whatever he says. Notice something there? Typical, Normal, Unbelievable.

Let’s continue with unbelievable. Sometimes it’s what actually going on in the novel while other times it’s just the writing itself. Multiple grammar errors aside.
He held it [the business card Sharyn gave Kyle with her number on it]and imagined he could feel her essence emanating from the ink that had been in the pen that had been in her hand as she’d written it.” Yeah…that’s not creepy at all.

Just then Ben came around the corner, put his arms around them both and said, “Oh great, group hug. I love group hugs.” The two women maneuvered their arms around him and pulled him well into their embrace. They all stood there, hugging and rocking back and forth, not saying anything, for close to two minutes.” Do people even group hug anymore. In a serious context I mean.

This doesn’t include illegal wire tapping by a civilian that is totally looked over as being alright. I haven’t mentioned the guy getting shot in the chest by a rifle and flying two feet backwards. There’s the three page description of a flashlight gun. The fact that 6 Roy’s work in the White House. That Sharyn and Kyle become boyfriend and girlfriend inside of 14 days and are “missing each other” after less than a month. You know what…I’ll just close with some more little golden points for you. Know that I thought this book was terrible. On the plus side you can buy it used off Amazon for $1.

"He turned the pot on then turned and leaned back against the counter." That’s a lot of turning.

“"That meant he'd first had to figure out the resolution of the headset so he could determine the length of each scan line and the number of lines that formed a single screen image. it was a good thing that it was a standard non-interlaced resolution."

"He pulled her in closer and her pert breasts impaled his chest. She felt his tongue begin an exploration of her soft full lips. She answered by insinuating her hips against his, undulating side-to-side. His hands slid, following the curve of her spine until they discovered her buttocks; his grip tightened as he helped her grind into his strength." I’m totally going to start calling my dick “The Strength.” By the way, the first time that Sharyn and Kyle are going to have sex Danielle calls him on the phone. Naturally he stops, they talk on the phone, then he spends 30 minutes searching the web for shit about the Full Realiziation Church, before returning to Sharyn. Now I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure Sharyn wouldn’t have been there that long. In fact, considering she’s a woman who is a fucking Secret Service agent, I don’t think Kyle stood a goddamn chance period.