Thursday, December 24, 2015

So, I got around to watching the new Star Wars picture yesterday.  And... eh.  Not terrible, not great, a passable spectacle with some lovely set-pieces and decent action sequences.  It was too busy, too long, and the script didn't make a lot of sense, carried along on a stream of dream-logic by which characters appeared when they needed to appear and possessed knowledge when they needed to supply that knowledge.  The settings often felt... hermetic, insular, cramped.

One of the great aspects of the original movie was the vast, empty vistas of the various locations, especially Tunisia and Guatamala.   The original Star Wars was a journey through a haunted unknown world, and we felt small and vulnerable before the trackless world outside Luke's sandy work-shed.  At times the new picture approaches that sense of horizontal vertigo, that this great ghostly potential might suck you right out of your seat into the beautiful void.

But the director and the editors are in too much of a hurry to let the space between things breathe. They clearly wanted the picture to be *both* A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back at the same time, in the same story.  But both movies inhabited their running-times totally, with no real space in between that could be clipped and trimmed to interweave them together the way they are in The Force Awakens. There are about three sub-plots too many in the picture, and it comes across like a wrestling-match in a telephone booth.

Almost all modern pictures are in too damn much of a hurry, afraid of silence, afraid of stillness.  They forget that motion only has impact in the midst of stillness.

Still, at least it wasn't the prequel trilogy, and they've beaten the demon CGI into submission.

BTW, is it just me, or does JJ Abrams' entire film career consist of cinematic fan-fic?  Super-8, Star Trek, The Force Awakens - they all play like a clever, technically proficient fanboy making peculiar off-tone stories out of beloved but somewhat out-of-character toys.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made"

Sunday, October 11, 2015

So... The Martian is a really, really good adaptation.  The novel was easily the best hard SF book I've read this year, and the movie caught pretty much every aspect of the book without coming off as talky, poisoned-by-CGI or in any way superficial.  After getting past the weirdness of Chiwetel Ejiofor being cast as an Indian-American NASA higher-up, and snickering about how Mackenzie Davis is going to be stuck playing techno-punk pixies until she's fifty, I was OK with the cast.  Coming into the movie, I was concerned about my cordial dislike for Matt Damon causing problems, but he disappeared into the role, and barely looked like himself for most of the film.

I see Drew Goddard wrote the script, and he did a brilliant job of adaptation, because I didn't spot a fleck of him or his Whedon-stable influence in the movie: being that transparent is a real skill.  They excised some of the novel's set-piece disasters, but if they had tried to film all of that, it would have added another half-hour to the length, and probably overwhelmed the audience.   It was *just enough*.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Hoofbeats on the shingle of
The naked shore, the ocean of
Faith drawn back and exposing
The bare stone and sharp-edged
Not quite smoothed rocks and
Nothing like the soft sands of
Sweeter southern climes their
Beating waves wearing down the
Doubts and fears of harsher
Shores salt-stained and sere
Dead salt-marsh stalks jutting
Up over poisoned slopes at
War with its waters and the
Unforgiving sogged soil

The sixteen piston-head
Shoe-strikes thundering across
Hard-pebbled beaches not
Worthy of the name, the
Tide of prophesy driven forth
By that vexed nightmare
Awakened from a stony sleep
By a rocking cradle and the
Hand of a rough beast, her
Hour come round at last
Not to slouch, nor to roar
Nor to bathe in the blood
Of the sinners and the saints
Nor any horror of a dreaming
Asiatic visionary, poisoned by
Essene imaginings and Greek
Linguistics and the
Apocalyptic aspirations of
Those who would see the
Curtain rung down on the
Last ding-dong doom bell
On the last guttering spark
Of the last rock beneath
The last gloaming red-hued
Sputtering star

Nor, rather, the fantasies of
Union and wonder and utopian
Lion and lamb and loving
Kindness dancing together in
Febrile orgiastic impossibilities
The predator and the prey
Together in a kind-hearted
Eternity of denial of their
Essential selves as if
Truth pitted against truth
Breeds forth anything but
Chimerae and monsters and
Ravening bestial conflicting
Desires drenched in the
Worst sort of zero-sum
Devouring red-toothed nature.

What beasts are these, then
Trotting glad-hooved towards
Bethlehem to be born?
Paradox and pity
Delight and dismay
The beasts that shouted
At the frozen heart of
A world that could not
Find it in its bitter
veins to believe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thus the merciless Will of Melchior -
Fallen Puritan,
Man of Faith
Man of Science,
Scriptural scholar
Polymath, reader, translator
Parser of faded texts and
Pursuer of that which
Without age
Without time
Without fade
Without faecal
Foundering, faltering, failing
Retains its shape and its
Purpose in this and past
Ages and those to come
That which moments and
Men hath no purchase -
Laid out his implacable
And iron purpose:

"That which the Truth can destroy
Ought, should, and shall be
Wiped out, expunged, extirpated
Taken by Time lifeless to
The lime-pit and the potter's field
Its dross washed into the gutter of
The rest of the filth of the
Mayfly world that wafts before
Our traitor eyes like the rising
Mists of a false and gloaming
Morning that, lit by a lying
Counterfeit orb, its spark having
Spilt, is swallowed once again by
The vast and lifeless abyssal dark."

Melchior was a branding-iron
And his heavy, red-hot mind
Tore through the wisps of
Whimsy and ignited the
Tissue-paper wrappings of
Theological well-wishings
And lit alight the airy
Understandings in every
Word of every book he
Chased the God of his
Fathers and the Truth of
His self-willing into which
He would forge the
Testimony of revelation
In all the books of his
Exploring, arguing
Questioning age
Hot-hammered upon the
Predestinate anvil of his
Unyielding implacable
Towering self-regard
And refusal to bend
His human Reason before
The excuse of the Leviathan
The example of the Adversary
The admonition of Job.

Melchior's last will and
Testament, its terms to be
Taken from its compositional
pulp, and printed upon a
Rare and terrible parchment
A vellum scraped from the
Expired flesh of his
Cooling corpse, the words
Of his hot heart painted
Palimpsest upon the hide
That held within it such
Spark that would not
Spare any tinder that
Flame might flash alight
Burn, burn all that
Fire might catch fire
Until every spider-web
gives up its snares
Until every cob-web fails
Rotted by time and
Torn by the
Turning of the truth.

This, the book in your
Human hand, hot from the
Heat of your beating
Heart, is the key-stone
Of a great and terrible
Temple to the Truth his
Fortune and Faith hath
Been pledged and placed
Dedicant, a vast Library
The ritual reliquary of
Inquisition and inquiry
Without guard, without limits
Without fear of heresy or
Any fire but that lit by
The flame of providence
An edifice built as a
Lighting-rod for the
True and eternal revelation of
That eventual bolt from the Blue.

Thus the echoing
Thundering beat of
Melchior's last Will and
Testament which has been
Placed here at the heart
Of the pyre of his dreams
Of God the Eternal
That Prodigal Father
For whom our hearts await
Like the fattened calf for
The celebratory feast-fire.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cerisuo pernices
Aoi horoborous
That which in
The grey matter
Sparks incorrect
False knowledge
False understandings
That alcoholic fire which
Burning through gut
And mind
And liver
Ruins all reason
And faith and
Common sensical
Coherent cohesive
Now to now to
Now broken by the
Burning of the
Prophesy of the
Ring of fire to
Come, consuming all
Promise of the
Grace free-given
Burnt bridles with
The parasdisical
Promised by the
Divine made man
Ruined by that wash
Blue-tinted and
Complex biochemical
Blue Ruin that
Ruins all your hopes
Of the kingdom


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Linneus sang of a single
Complete description of the
And zoological
And mycological
Unity of the infinite world
Described by their
Deistical completist
Dream of the single
Lockean definition of
God in his epistimological
Reductionist essence of
That mechanical world
Physical and chemical
And biological and
The world in every ranked
And serried definition of
God in his every varied
Evidence of the doctrine
Displayed by his evidence
Diplayed in each and
Every evidentiary mark
And declension of the
Infinite variance of this
Our multipludinous
And infinitely various
Descriptors of the
Physicality of our
Non-scientific and non-
Descriptive world as it
Is in its undescribable
And variable infinititude
Of many-hued complexity
Created by the perfidious
And perplexing
Angels of his viciously
Refusal to be pinned
Beneath the assumptions of
Those who would
Prove their faith before
Evidence unescapeable
Before the Throne.
We are ourselves in history
We are ourselves in eternity
What can be the difference
Ourselves being who we are
ourselves being what we are
Physicality holding the souls of
Morality holding the flesh of
In flesh our lives being held
In soul the physicality suspended
The mind seeing the world through
The soul feeling God through
Each facing itself and the
Infinite in mirrored equivalence
And yet holding itself in itself
And still, being, ourselves,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A very welcome antidote to recent discourse that only manages to heroically "discover" women writers in SF by erasing (or, to be more fair, being ignorant of) all who went before, sigh. It has been rather startling to me to find myself having sometimes entered the age of erasure, in some conversations. I have generational-competition bio-social theories about this.

Lois McMaster Bujold, talking about a review of an anthology of very-early female-authored SF.  It doesn't sound like the sort of thing I'd find interesting - little SF from that era retains my interest - but I do find her irritation with today's gender warriors erasing previous generations of prominent women SF authors to bolster their persecution complexes interesting.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


3 oz. Beefeater's 24 gin
3 oz. V8 Fruit Medley
3 oz. Diet Mountain Dew

Let it gravity stir by pouring and then leaving it sit for five minutes.

I call it a "Slender Billy" after William II, one-time Prince of Orange and eventually King of the Netherlands, wounded as a lieutenant-general on the Allied side at the Battle of Waterloo.

This is the first mixed drink I've figured out which works with gin other than a gimlet.  I can't stand martinis, gin-and-tonics, and most other gin-based cocktails, so at least it gives me a reason to bother with gin on my booze shelf other than... completeness.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

People writing "Paratime", time-travel and multiverse stories, kindly keep these basic points of logic in mind:

1) You do not exist in a world that diverges from your own world prior to your conception.

2) It is increasingly unlikely that someone with your name will have been born as the divergence-point approaches the conception of your respective parents.

3) Divergence doesn't change the laws of physics, unless the divergence *is* the difference in the laws of physics/magic/whatever the hell your superhero justificatory hand-waving calls itself.

4) As always, you're allowed one point of divergence.  No cheating and invoking multiple divergences, excepting only the appearance of your characters in the parallel world.

5) Point 4 goes out the window if you've included Paratime Police or Paratime Imperialists in your world-setting, but try to keep it consistent, people!

I'd beg for politically/economically/militarily realistic world-shifts (no, making the US revert to isolationism after WWII does *not* get you your shiny-green peaceful utopia, you commie-symp jackass!  It gets you Not This August in spades!) but I have to recognize that commie-symp writers gotta commie-symp.  But thanks for waving your sign wildly enough I know when to nope out of the story, you schmuck!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Alcohol marks the lines
Distilled morality determined
By edges and titrations and
The percentages of everyday
Intoxication deduced by
Proofs and procedures and
That which determines drunkeness
By the lawbook distinctions which
Divides the good law abiding
Tipplers from those who guzzle
Without limits and considerations
And Saturday Nights set aside
From Sunday early mornings and
Good standing in ones own
Baptist first service standing
Proving ones salvation by
The ability to stand in the
Face of a raving monstrous
Hangover in the face of the
Lord however willing to
Justify those who can stand with
The saved on a Sunday morn.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Huh.  There was a big mocking to-do last winter when San Francisco's beloved Borderlands bookstore encountered the city's dung-brained minimum-wage increase and the owners' budget keeled over and died.  Much mockery of the liberal-leftist urban economic mindset, all right-thinking libertarians had a field day.

Then this happened.  I'm not sure whether to characterize it as social media meets "other people's money", or the continuing revival of the early-modern patronage system, but bunches of butthurt SF SF&fantasy fans kicked in a lot of money to float the cost of the increased wages for a year.  The owners of Borderlands managed to find a way to monetize urbanite nerdcore cultural status-anxiety by turning their store into a sort of open-doors social club.  I don't know how deep the money-well is for this sort of thing, or whether it will only work for "landmark" cases, and all the marginal outfits which either aren't "club-able" or can't swing the necessary publicity will fall by the wayside, but I have to wonder if this is the gateway to that glittering technocratic neo-Victorianism that Neal Stephenson was on about in The Diamond Age.  We'll see if they eventually pull up the draw-bridges and exclude the wrong sort from dirtying their nice new high-tone clubs.  I rather suspect that the doormen will be theoretically oriented towards ideological outliers, but in practice will tend towards keeping out the smelly street-trash.

Friday, February 20, 2015

On The Thesis that All Art is Political

A child of the future told me
His professor a prophet to sing
A song of militancy for thee
Art the ideologue's sole thing
Bound in uniform to forever be
Her long dark locks wrapped
With a length of barbed-wire
An officer's cap her only hat
Severe Marianne at the barricade
her only stance the banner held
High and straining forever forward
Above a blur of faceless men to lead.

All art political!  
And that
Which cannot
Be parsed
By this slogan
Or that cant
Kitsch! and
Thus a figure
Of derision
And dispute.

And so the party walls off
The faithful behind a fence
Of dogma and defenses
Raised against phantasms
Of unregimented minds
Bandits of book and bell
Wreckers in their hidden souls
Never laid bare before the
Altars of the proscenium
That enclosed ritual stage
Of the people's theatre
The democratic arts!

There is a certain breed of
Man, sabre on his belt
Who cannot look upon
Well-plowed acres of
Spring-green fields of hay
Without seeing in his
Mind the fields of fire
The lines of advance and
The cover inherent in a 
Cool dark wood across
Nodding heads of grain.

Thus the organizer and
Party militant gazes upon
The cultured and popular
Arts, and sees nothing but
Fields of battle to be 
Conquered and paced off
Fortified against the next
Tribal faith to come
And seize that which has
Been taken for the 
Party of the Faithful
Or revolutionary Red Front.

You!  With your gift of 
Song to raise above
The congregation ingathered
To stand before the
Familial altar of your
Gods as they might be!
Were you born to sing
Hymns of praise and beauty
Or to bawl out a battle-march?

You!  Whose pen is sharp
And swift and all things
Clever and clear and 
Deft in the design
Is your pen a tool to find
Whimsy and the truth
Entwined in God's design?
Or is it a dagger to be drawn
Against or in service to
The devils of your day?

C.M. Hagmaier

The irony here is that I'm the most political, or at least, ideological combative, of would-be poets.  I like to think that it's a defensive formation, but...