Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stuff I've been reading

I haven't put these on the sidebar or anything, but there are some interesting reads and blogs out there that I've been perusing lately:

The Puck Update blog - no combox, no drama; just quick links and short author's comments on all things hockey (and a few tangents). It's kind of Glenn Reynoldish, only about grown men in short pants with fewer teeth. If he had comments, I would point out something fun about his last entry: he says "The 1970's Pirates called, they want their uniform back," and the picture he used to illustrate it is clearly a 1984 Donruss card. Heh. (Poor old Johnny Ray....)

Joe Posnanski - excellent baseball (and other stuff) long-form blogger, with lively and polite commenters for the most part. He's writing a book about the 1975 Reds, too.

Dirty Harry's Place - "a conservative look at film, punk." It can get awfully political out there, hence the "conservative look" part. I see where DH is comin' from. A great deal of the creative folk out there are lefties. I'm not convinced that there should be a "right" and "left" or a "liberal" and "conservative" movie review. Hey - it doesn't matter if you make good film, right? Sure, a lot of bad films get made simply because they adhere to the template the majority of Hollywood holds; likewise, a lot of bad films get made simply because they uphold solid Christian values - sadly, none of them seem to have anything to do with strong writing, good acting, or production values.*

* I'm going to borrow a "pozterisk," as Joe Posnanski's commenters call it - I think a tale is better off with a clear moral worldview, but 1. that's not all that it has to have, it has to be a GOOD tale; and 2. that doesn't mean cookie cutter or black-and-white or "things that cannot be said or shown." For me, it means that I can't play my audience for fools: I have to "play for keeps" with mystory. Whether it's a happy or tragic ending, the choices the characters make have to be true choices THEY make, and not ones I make for them in order to get to where I want to go; or worse, where I want the audience to go. Playing fair by my story will automatically mean I play fair with anyone who reads it, but manipulating things will be noticed and resented.**

To be honest, I'm of two minds about it. I don't like politics ├╝ber alles. I don't particularly enjoy it when the whole production screeches to a halt to present The Point - if the creators are doing their job, the audience will get the point without a billboard, voiceover, and swelling soundtrack. Being a sinner, I will admit that I am far more annoyed at messages I dispute, but even those I agree with had better not take me out of the story. And agree or not, make me think, OK? Make the point an organic part of the story, and don't subvert the entire thing simply as a framing device for your Profound Theme for Important People. It's lying to your paying customers - you sucker us in with the promise of a well-told tale, and then fob off your shopworn term paper ethics on us. (As I said at DH's, I'm getting mental hypertension from all the salt I have to take while trying to just enjoy everyday life.)

DH is consciously trying to stand against people who shower heaps of praise on turkey-feather projects simply because they cater to the Correct Way of Thinking. He will drop everything to do an explicitly political post, and then drop everything else to do a pure film post - top five lists galore, open threads, etc. In the end, I haven't blogrolled him because ultimately I want a film look at film, not a liberal, conservative, or salt-water-taffy look at it, though I have blown off some frustration in his comboxes. It's just... well, I know what I'm getting into when I go there, it doesn't waylay me, but I can't live off of that alone.

(Besides, Sheila is fantastic on film from an artist's perspective.)

** Uh-oh - double Poz. I feel the need to add that I've always thought of God as more than merely a scientist or engineer, but a great artist and lover of poetry, beauty, and creativity. He invented all those things. So, a good tale has always been, to me, hand-in-glove with the mystery of free will for us. A great story is great in proportion to how closely it approaches the freedom God gives us while still "getting where He wants to go."

His story - the one in which we play our parts - is by definition "for keeps" because it carries real consequences for us and everyone around us; effects that definitely happen "live" like a stage show. We can't do the third scene of Act II over if we flub our lines or forget our motivation and sleepwalk through our role! It determines our eternal destiny as well - though there's the hope that, in His mercy, he can correct a few things post-production. And it also helps explain why te Author doesn't "make us do stuff" or magically undo our real choices. He will act Himself if He pleases, and sometimes the effects of what we do are mitigated, bu for the most part He isn't interested in ruining the story He wishes to tell for us, and to us, and through us. He is playing fair with us as we want to be played fair with in our art. We are offered that part in His creation (and thank God, we don't have to audition for the lead). To refuse that offer is, in effect, to trade our "walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage."

Rich's ComixBlog - featuring the completely awesome "Ten Doctors" webcomic. Yes, that's Ten Doctors Who. (Ten Time Lords leaping, nine K-9s rolling, eight Daleks zapping, seven companions yellng, six Tardii vanishing.... FIVE SONIC SCREWDRIVERS!) (Ba-dum BUM BUM) Just fun, well-done stuff. Even the special effects are better than some parts of the original run.

The Superest! - apparently, there's a game called "Your Team, My Team" in which someone thinks of a hero with a specific, narrowly-defined power, and someone else thinks of a hero with an ability that specifically defeats only that hero. The more specific and arcane the ability, the better - "My guy can turn into any animal" is pretty dumb; "my guy turns into a purple-throated thrush every Tuesday at 8 am" is much better. (And MY guy is a taxidermist specializing in purple-throated thrushes who only works Tuesdays, and HIS guy compulsively steals - but only the miniature glass eyeballs used in taxidermy, etc etc. And unexpected defeats are preferable to obvious ones.)

Matthew Sutter and Kevin Cornell have been playing this game for almost a year, and their creations (with the accompanying pictures) are a riot. (Thanks to Ricki for leading me to their site!)

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