20 June 2011

Making things.

I've been very busy with making stuff lately, which is why I haven't been reading much or listening to much, and therefore haven't been posting much (because I really have very little else to talk about). a

However, I will say, in my defense, that I have been tasked with costuming a production of Much Ado About Nothing, which is being put on by the school at which I work. It's kind of vaguely nineteenth-century in flavor, which means that I have been making some seriously awesome cut-away jackets (mod'd from thrift-store ones) and spent the better part of this afternoon making a skirt out of an old linen sheet. So far, so awesome, and it looks set to be a blast. Hopefully, pictures will follow.

Also being made are two doilies, a pair of socks and a pair of fingerless mitts. Yes, doilies. I was born old.

I've also been making a story in longhand in a little notebook. It's a kind of sequel to the second story I ever published, which was called "The Black Desert" and appeared in the fourth (and, sadly, final) issue of a small magazine called The Open Vein (which may tell you what kind of a story it was). Being Orthodox, the idea of angels as both good and terribly frightening beings is not much of a stretch, and this variety of angel is involved in the story I'm currently writing. There are also swims in a river, wolves, ghouls, and a desert made of glittering black sand with mysterious properties. Should be cool. (I'm currently trying to find the original short story -- perhaps I can make it available here. Is this a good or a bad idea, would you say, dear reader?)

I'm also making French boys learn English. We're doing sonnets. Fun times, fun times.

That's about all the news that's fit to bother with. Is anyone else making things? What kinds of things? I'm very curious about your projects and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

12 June 2011

Some awesome things from the internet (i.e. Linky Dinks 3)

Okay, titling a blog post that is roughly analogous to interrupting a conversation to say, "Check out this piece of lint I found in my pocket," but please, bear with me.

There are some magnificent and free entertainments out there, ladies and gentlebugs, as I'm sure you all know. But I'd like to draw the attention of whoever may be reading this blog to the existence of a few of them.

One is Mr. Micah Martin's wonderful Godhead of the Immortal Moth King. I believe I mentioned it a while back, but I'd like to talk about it at somewhat greater length here for a moment. Specifically, I would like to point out the wonderful setting Martin has created here, which combines a distinctly Middle Eastern setting with unusually interesting rules-based magic. While not as uncommon as they used to be, non-European settings for epic fantasy are still rare, and Martin's is well realized -- I can feel the heat when I read the street scenes, and it's not too much of a stretch to say that the smells can be experienced, too. The magic is also well-handled -- since it is, so far, a power not native to the people who wield it, it makes sense that it should be somewhat jarring to the wielders (see the chapters narrated by the "Crow Witch" for further details). Of course, this is leaving out the characters, who are, as I mentioned, a fascinating bunch, ranging in social status and political affiliation about as broadly as they possibly could. Although the story is just now entering its second round of viewpoints, the characters are already distinct, and the narrative voices are appropriately varied. (Also, we already have an official winner for best non-heterosexual relationship/character in fantasy. Not telling who, though -- read it yourself.) Very well done, Mr. Martin, and I can't wait to see more. Reader, begin here, and know that the every-few-days updating schedule will still seem too infrequent.

Also available for free is an EP by a band called Alpha Stasis called Escape the Machine Planet. Now, I must give a general warning:  I'm a big fan of EPs. I love listening to LPs too, don't get me wrong, but there's something very nice about EPs. They're like good short stories or novelli. They can also be a great way to explore a concept without being overwhelming. Well, Escape the Machine Planet is both a masterpiece of brevity -- three tracks, adding up to just a little over fifteen minutes -- and an epic piece of storytelling (the title kind of says it all). From the bright, spacey lead-in of "They Don't Know" to the well-controlled, well-mixed outro of "Most Powerful Android," the coherence of sound preserved by the band is excellent. The guitarwork is strong and simple without ever seeming dumb, and the beat is not lost in the production. The vocals, although they initially seem a little disengaged, end up working well with the musical style and the lyrical substance. (Also, it reminded me of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, which is a very, very good thing.) In Escape the Machine Planet, Alpha Stasis have found a way to balance the spaciness demanded by the subject matter with songs that are surprisingly tight, given their length. Also, they've giving it away. Why don't you have it yet?

Also, all you Salinger fans should check out Andrew Louth's piece on the Philokalia and The Way of the Pilgrim over at The Fortnightly Review. It's long, and a bit technical in places, but well worth reading if you want to understand just what Franny thinks she's up to in Franny and Zooey, or if you simply want to gain further knowledge of the Philokalia, its compilation and its importance.

Anyway, that's about it for the moment. There are many more awesome things out there, but those are the ones that are sticking in my head for the moment. And remember -- they're all free!

03 June 2011

All Kinds of Wrong.

My family has, for some reason, been watching piles of black-and-white movies lately. Last night, we finished off The Longest Day, which we'd started the day before (the irony isn't lost on me); before that, we watched Across the Pacific, a lesser-known Humphrey Bogart film which was... confusing, at best. However, the other night, we watched The Wrong Man.

On the surface, The Wrong Man seems like all kinds of right:  It's Hitchcock; it's '53; it's Henry Fonda and Vera Miles. What could possibly mess this up?

Well, actually, absolutely nothing. The film is technically wonderful, both in the mechanics of its storytelling and in its cinematography, to say nothing of its outstanding performances. It really is a great film; why it's not as well known as Rear Window or, indeed, Psycho -- to which it ends up bearing a hell of a lot closer resemblance -- is anyone's guess, as far as I'm concerned.

The story is that of Manny, an Italian-American musician who plays stand-up bass at a club. Manny (Fonda) has a beautiful, sweet wife (Miles) and two energetic sons, as well as a close-knit extended family (because all Italians have close-knit extended families, right?). Obviously, this doesn't last very long:  Manny is picked up for holding up a number of local stores and an insurance agency, and, due to his apparent resemblance to the criminal, is briefly arrested and put on trial. He is released on bail, and attempts to build a case with the help of a lawyer and a number of people with whom he'd been in contact over the period of time in which the hold-ups took place.

However, Manny and his wife soon discover, to their understandable consternation, that almost everyone they'd encountered at a critical time has died. And it is this coincidence that causes Manny's wife to start to lose it. She stops sleeping, blames herself for everything, and eventually hits Manny with a silver-backed hairbrush. She is institutionalized, and it seems like this story is going to take a turn for the truly messed up.

This doesn't happen. If I may be permitted a spoiler, the cops catch the actual criminal and Manny is acquitted. There was no conspiracy, no malice on the part of the officials, nothing -- just a mistaken identity. But Manny is obviously deeply unsettled by this, and his wife remains in the institution. (We are informed by a title screen before the end credits that, two years later, she was released, "completely cured," and that the family relocated to Florida. Uh... yeah.)

The thing that makes the story so unsettling is its very smallness. Unlike many of Hitchcock's other films, no one has died, there is no conspiracy, there is no real villain (unless you count the real criminal, who has about five minutes' screen time and is pretty much completely undeveloped). And yet, through the careful attention Hitchcock pays to every moment of this story, it becomes epic -- a family's struggles against and through the system that should have prevented this situation in the first place. Indeed, the observation is so close it becomes first claustrophobic, then horrific:  The scene in which Manny's wife's madness is first indicated is one of the most terrifying instances of body horror I've seen or read of in ages, and all her clothes are on and all her limbs are where they're supposed to be. It's only Hitchcock's genius for telling details, coupled with an unusual shot angle and frame, that lend a small gesture this air of real horror.

Basically, The Wrong Man is a great film. Truly, truly great. I recommend that y'all go an look for it. Now!