Friday, August 30, 2013

Batfleck Meditations


Last Friday I wrote an article explaining why Ben Affleck would not be a good Batman. In retrospect maybe my words were hasty. Many other enraged fans since the announcement last week have cooled their jets, but have they done so for the right reasons? My ire was staved because it was explained to me that Bruce Wayne works so well as an alter ego because he is the one you least expect to be Batman. I agree the same could be argued for Ben Affleck. I would never suspect him.

It's true that the writing of any film is enough to make or break a script. Naturally I think that's why the Christopher Nolan Batman films were so great. Them again David Goyer also wrote Ghost Rider which is a piece of dog shit. Perhaps it is an exception to the rule? 

I think the projected exploits of DC's film universe are ambitious, but the universe to unfold I find troubling. The idea behind the Nolan films was that the idea of a costumed vigilante was in vogue. This trend is continuing for the run of the DC cinema universe. Marvel goes the opposite route. Superheroes there, at least in concept, readily exist. Ironically the cards have switched hands. Marvel has always been the universe where ordinary folks are impressed into hard super labor for the sake of others. Now, people can't get enough of it! Man of Steel has initiated a trend of reluctant super heroes and I am not sure what to make of it. Time will tell I suppose.

Let us be thankful for what we can get, for now. I'm waiting for the day when DC fans will rise up and revolt in reaponce to giving Superman a beard. Oh wait... That already happened.


You complacent bastards.



SW

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 3

The following is my new short story series entitled "Laufey's Treasure." It is an action adventure series featuring minor characters from my upcoming novel in their own lighthearted journey. I hope you enjoy, it and be sure to catch my previous short story featured in the same universe called "The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson." 

Chapter 3

As the day progressed, Laufey collected his followers for the journey, Amma and Ragna in tow. Anke was difficult to persuade, for he was known among the village children to be stubborn and cold like his father. He had his weaknesses however like anyone else, and Laufey exploited them with his wit. Usually it began as a game. He would bait him with a simple question and counter with a proposition when Anke gave in. The triplets were easier. He had spent the whole afternoon at thier home arguing why the journey would be no fun without them while Amma and Ragna stood outside the threshold of the dwelling, occasionally sticking their heads in to see where everything was. Kaun had come out as the leader of their group, despite the fact that they were all of the same age. Kaupi and Keli stood behind him nodding in sync with their brother.

It was Geira however that he was dreading.

Geira, daughter of the town carpenter, had a reputation among the children as being rather odd. Coincidentally she was Amma's sister, though it was uncommon for others to realize this because they were so different. Amma's bright and cheery demeanor was starkly contrasted by her younger sister's dark and contemplative nature. Having to be around her would be the only drawback to having Amma's hand. Like it or not, her skills would be useful in the times ahead. When they went to retrieve her at the apprentice workshop down the road from the fishery, he whispered this coveted fact to himself. She would be useful, and it would be worth it.

He wasn't surprised then to see the girl appear from behind the door, peeking through the crack suspiciously, covered in sawdust and wearing a scowl. Behind him he heard his sister stifle a laugh, but he dared not turn around and give her the pleasure.

"What is it? Someone better be dead..."

Laufey cocked his head to the side, smirking.

"Hello yourself beautiful," Laufey said. He knew how uncomfortable it made her feel. "I need to talk to you about something."

"No." Her response was curt and concise, then she shut the door on him. Turning around Laufey saw the two girls wave and smile at him. Amma was just being nice. Ragna made him growl. Two knocks on the door allowed him to summon Geira once more, only this time the youthful carpenter opened the door the entire way revealing to him that she was in her underwear. Laufey immediately turned around, his heart lurching. Amma saw what happened as well, but frowned.

"Oh, that's definitely something father would be pleased about. Put some clothes on before you cause a scandal." Laufey couldn't tell if the scolding voice had any effect. He did not want a scandal either.

"What does he want," Laufey heard Geira say from behind, "I'm making art."

"We are going on an adventure sister! Come on! It'll be fun." Next to Amma, Ragna stared back at Laufey smirking. She shook her head in disbelief looking away, trying not to laugh, while Amma stepped forward. "I promise it will be fun. I didn't want to go unless you did. Sigmundur's boys and Anke are coming too!"

Laufey heard a long sigh escape the carpenter. He heard Geira put down the tools in her hand.

"I think what you mean, is that you need me to come. You want to go to Mt. Foot don't you?"

"We want to go over Mt. Foot, to be exact," Laufey confessed.

"To Gaun..." Geira paused again, likely processing the information. "The grownups don't know do they?"

"Well..." Amma struggled to reply, looking down at the ground, until Ragna stepped forward, her arms out.

"My idiot brother actually found a map," she began, despite Laufey's sour face. "It's gold. He wasn't lying. We really want you to come Geira. Amma would feel more comfortable if you came with."

Laufey heard no response. The door closed behind him and a few moments later opened up again. Geira walked past him briskly, fully clothed, snatching the construct map that was wrapped around his belt.

"Hey!" Laufey shouted. "Give that back."

"Hush," she said.

The three women stood around the map accessing it's functions. After a few minutes and some hushed words between the three of them, Giera turned around, and tossed the map back to Laufey. He took it, relieved, and stuffed it down his tunic hastily.

"Thanks," he said begrudgingly.

"Whatever this is," she began, waving a stern finger at him, "it's pre-war and possibly dangerous. The first sign of trouble, we turn back."

Laufey nodded, his pride injured. Geira was only 13, a year younger than him, but acted like an adult. There was no cause for it other than her intelligence. She thought she was better than the whole village, that's what he thought. She had took some others on an outing once before. One of the children got lost, and was found dead a couple days later. She took it to heart and it changed her, or so he heard.

"I will have to propose the trip as a camping outing," she continued. "Give me a few days, then we'll go."

"Fine by me," Laufey said coldly, turning away from her.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Academic Theory: The Wrap-up

At the beginning of this unit I suggested that learning philosophy and religious tenets would be invaluable for the practice of writing. Going back I reviewed some of the stuff that I offered up and I am satisfied with the list. There are plenty of other religions and philosophies out there. The Greeks alone have structured most of our dramas and novels still. I am inclined to stay on this unit a little longer but I would rather pause at a height rather than continue uninspired. I've decided to compile all out lessons however so here is what we  have looked at for your convenience:


Eastern Religions and Philosophies: 

Western Philosophies and Tropes:
The emphasis I have placed on this series should not go unnoticed because we are thinking, feeling organisms. We have a variety of beliefs and predispositions that instigate our writing quips and methodology. Many will approach what they write and not ask the question, "Why?" to their own folly. It's important to possess that self reflection and conceive what inspires us to move and act in our writing. I'm Christian, and the fact that I am vastly influences my writing and my works as a whole. Understanding who we are better allows us to understand what we bring to the table. Be sensitive to these issues, or research on your own the traditions that inspire you and you will be surprised to see what you can come up with. As usual, I am always available for questions. Comment below to continue the discussion some more! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

3 Reasons Why Ben Affleck Would Not be a Good Batman

My head exploded last night upon finding out that Mr. Affleck would be playing Batman. This morning, as I stir from my uneasy slumbers, I am picking up the pieces, still.

Let me begin by saying that I actually really like Ben Affleck. He holds that small spot in my heart between Will Ferrell and Mark Ruffalo, and I am quite content to keep him there. While I am sure there are thousands of articles just like this being put up online at this very moment, I still want to weight in. Here it goes...


1. Ben Affleck is not Bruce Wayne.

Let me clarify. I know well that Mr. Affleck is not one and the same with the caped crusader but Batman's most unsupported characteristic thus far in all things motion multimedia is his duality. I just don't think Ben Affleck has the personality of the character. Bruce Wayne as he appears in the DCU has transcended his original identity. He is in a position where the Batman has molded his experiences more than his own. Character's like Batmite substantiate this internal existential conflict of interest. Bruce Wayne effectively doesn't exist now that he has donned the cowl. Kevin Conroy's response to this dynamic is a Batman "playing" Bruce Wayne, and it successfully creates this obfuscating portrait of a man hiding. Just like Superman playing Clark Kent, Batman plays Wayne, and it works. Affleck I don't believe has the charisma to pull this off. I'm sure there is an "acting" method that can bring Affleck to that position of crisis, that the Batman experiences daily, but I've never seen him in a role that is more complicated than just a prototype protagonist. People need to take comic book characters seriously and understand that they have layers. I don't think you need a better actor than Affleck to play Batman, just one that has experiences playing characters with dynamic moods and beats.


2.  Ben Affleck is too pretty. 

This is tricky, but it needs to be addressed. As we all know, comic book heroes are hyper-idealized in their conceptualization. Women have huge knockers, and men have muscle groups that even the most disciplined of body builders couldn't manifest. There is this paradigm of perfection that permeates the picturesque world that is DC. Batman is one of the exceptions. Paired with a film Noir atmosphere, the Batman has an innate detective grit about the character. Most Noir can be described as moody and troubling. Every character is questionable or visibly uncomfortable with who they are. Batman succeeds this aspect, driving it further along with a profound anger. The third Nolan Batman, The Dark Knight Rises beautifully captured this dichotomous relationship between subterfuge and deep seated anger. Wayne is, and always will be, the angry foster child. Affleck is too "pretty" for roles like these. He doesn't have the face or personality for it. Matt Damon pulled it off in Good Will Hunting, but even then it requires a brooding visage for the Batman role. Bruce Wayne, as Alex Ross depicts him, embodies that debonair, 40's kind of sophistication, but it's certainly not lighthearted. It's moderated, calculated, and severe.

3.  Ben Affleck is not Anonymous. 

My favorite quality of the Watchmen movie was that, considering the talent available in Hollywood at the time, Synder used mostly unknowns to constitute the leading cast of the film. It helped to reinforce the normalcy of the characters, that they were just human beings who tried to put on masks and do things in the name of justice. Whether they did so successfully or unsuccessfully is then the question that arises, but it's their non-AAA status that backs the legitimacy of this question. Mr. Affleck is too well known to take on the Batman. Not only that, he's not a character actor. It was balsy of Snyder to use Henry Cavill as Superman in the last film, but it worked. This is because the audience didn't walk in with any expectations. Michael Shannon was even better, because not only is he a phenomenal character actor, he's unknown enough to bring a freshness to the character. As Patton Oswalt jokingly pointed out on Twitter last night, I'm going to be at the edge of my seat waiting for Batman to lurch into a New Jersey accent while he's choking out a hoodlum in the slums of Gotham.


And there you have it!

These, again, are just some thoughts. I think Ben Affleck is a good, well-rounded actor, but I don't think he will make a good Batman. Will I be surprised? Maybe. Who knows? As long as he doesn't sound like a 80 year old hooker that smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day I suppose I will walk out satisfied. Until then I will just say this...

Warner Bros, dub Ben Affleck with Kevin Conroy's voice. For the love of God! You will ruin this movie if you don't.



SW

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 2

The following is my new short story series entitled "Laufey's Treasure." It is an action adventure series featuring minor characters from my upcoming novel in their own lighthearted journey. I hope you enjoy, it and be sure to catch my previous short story featured in the same universe called "The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson." 

Chapter 2

The map was certainly vintage, something that had arrived in a market stall unnoticed. Laufey was lucky enough to find it at the corner of a stand, locked in it's enclosure. So he bought it. He was proud of his ability to negotiate for junk. He would place money on the table where the junk had been and wander off into the crowds. He didn't think it was stealing, no. That would be if he never paid the stall keeper. 

Amma gazed in wonder, watching the construct unfold. She was easily impressed though. Ragna on the other hand mulled over it intensely, seeking verification of it's authenticity. She frowned, flipping the map over and gave it back to Laufey decisively. 

"That's no map," she said bleakly, "its a depot manifest. The map part is just a sketch of the interior."

"See?" She added. "Aren't you glad I check these things first, Amma?"

"No, wait!" Laufey said, scrambling to snatch it from Ragna. "You didn't look at it right!"

Rolling her eyes, Ragna handed it over.

"Why do you come to me with stuff like this, huh?"

Laufey frowned. He did so because she didn't see the obvious. It was right there in front of her. He opened the secret enclosure that he discovered on the map a week earlier, a small hatch the size of his thumbnail and activated the circuit. 

"How about this then?" He said. Suddenly they saw, and even Ragna could not help but cover her mouth in awe. 

A second, larger construct materialized in front of the construct, distorted with interference. It was a late addition to the program, so the bugs had yet to be smoothed out. Now hundreds of years old, the construct displayed an ancient site, a hidden manifest showing a cache of gold in the mountains. 

"It's a bunker, from the time before." Ragna said reaching for the construct to interface with it. Laufey snatched it away from her, his face scrunched up with distrust. 

"No way!" He said. "You didn't believe me before. No treasure for you."

"What!? I'm telling mom about this, and dad too. Just watch me!" Ragna attempted to pass over her brother but was pushed back, Laufey shoving her in the face. 

As they fought, Amma moved forwards, bending down to look at the faded construct. She was much taller than the both of them, but she didn't think much of it. Laufey did though. She was a head taller than him and it made him uncomfortable because of it.

"This is in all the way in Gaun," she mused aloud, tapping the construct with her nail." Hearing this Laufey and Ragna stopped and turning their heads.

Perhaps it wasn't the thought of the treasure being in Gaun (something that Laufey had not yet realized) that frightened him, it was the people that resided over the hill. There on the charred mountain an evil people dwelt and he knew that none were supposed to go there. His parents, along with the others went to great lengths to hide it, but he knew well where the cursed settlement was. All one had to do was follow the fires. 

"So it's in Gaun," Laufey said, "what of it? Are you two afraid of a little adventure?"

Amma turned her face to the ground. 

"My dad doesn't want me out in the clearings where there are no people. He's warned about me of the evil that can happen there..."

"Yeah, I'm not about to risk getting raped for your treasure," Ragna added. 

"What if we went over Mount Foot? We've been up there tons of times! Why not go there?" Laufey looked at Ragna and Amma intensely. "Gaun is right over the hill." 

Ragna looked the other way, refusing to say one thing or another. Amma's eyes did brighten up however.

"Well, what if we get more to come with us?" She volunteered. "Geira could come! Or Anke. Or Sigmundur's boys."

Laufey struggled not to laugh. Geira was the last person he wanted to ask. She was always so serious. Sigmundur's triplets he didn't care much for either. Treasure split three ways instead of eight sounded much better to him. But as he saw Amma's face brighten up, he knew he couldn't say no. It was his only chance. 

"Fine," said rubbing his hands together, "lets round them up."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reflecting On What We've Learned

So it's been a few weeks that we have been doing the Academic Theory series. I've found it a challenge if I can be honest. These are huge themes that we are working with, and distilling them down threatens the integrity of the belief as well as the underlying philosophies that can be used in writing. Yet, beyond all reason I have managed. I decided then, after covering Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, that it would be a good time to change gears. Academic Theory will continue, but for today I would like to address the nature of philosophy in writing, specifically its integration.

Integrating philosophical notions into a text can appear as preachy, which is never good. It's a big problem with most television shows, where the writer will inject into the pilot or episode a broad spectrum of themes that are controversial. Fox's House and Family Guy are both big offenders. There is a required subtlety when writing a narrative that approaches beliefs and philosophies which these shows, among many others, fail to exercise. One reason why discretion is important lies in the fact that the average audience is more intelligent than what we often assume them to be. Blasting a slew of demographics with hot botton themes is nothing more than a pull for ratings. Good writing, I think, is closer to shows like Comedy Central's South Park or Cartoon Network's The Boondocks, where issues and themes are integrated in character actions and quirks. The Cartman character on South Park is representative of upper middle class Americans with critical attitudes towards anything "non-American." Homer from The Simpsons embodies the attributes of the lazy, uncultured American that abdicates social and ethical responsibility. Each of these characters establish a variety of philosophies that are subtle with their actions and behaviors. When Homer goes to Moe's Tavern, the symbolism of the unconscious doping of Americans to avoid conflict and responsibility emerges. Cartman's attitude, which is self-absorbed, entitled, and racist, lampoons the rich upper middle class America that takes action against the poor, rather than assisting them, thereby engendering a service society built on the backs of the lower classes.

When writing, a character needs to speak less with words and show more with actions the aspects of the philosophy that you want to discuss. Certain philosophies will be harder to discuss than others, obviously. Class stratification can be discussed by placing a protagonist or antagonist into a situation where the reality of such social gaps become apparent. If the character walks into a nice restaurant, attention can be drawn to the exhaustion in the wait staff, subtle clues of their unkempt hair, dirt on their face, etc. You don't have to write a story set in a dystopian future to get class stratification across as a literary theme. It's possible to show it in a variety of contexts. The more subtle, the better the writing. Now if you were to discuss something like abortion, that would be much more challenging. Abortion is salient in our culture as an issue. It garners a lot of attention and focus for its divisive stances. To deal with this subject in writing, symbolism plays a larger role. Abortion could be discussed in the context of another issue, so while the book may appear to discuss deforestation, the language would hint at abortion being the issue at hand. It depends on what the story aims to ultimately achieve, but take these things into consideration when building a plot.

Lastly, I will say that I have attempted to write using my methods of subtlety in all my Academic Theory blogs thus far. If you take a look at the concluding narratives, take the opportunity to see how I adapted specific worldviews into the narrative. I think you will be surprised at my approach. I tried to associate characters with object or hobbies that could invoke the philosophy's core tenets and beliefs. Take a look at them for yourself and ask why I used the images that I did and consider how to employ such images.





SW

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cause for Celebration

The book is done!

Yes, in the wee hours of this morning I finished my 4 year long writing project that began as a short story in my science fiction class back at UCSB. I'm very excited now to move on to the whole design phase, and hopefully when all is said and done I'll be sending you all a link to it where it can be purchased on the Amazon Kindle store. Keep your eyes peeled for it!

Writing a book teaches you a lot. It's not just another story. Maybe that's where people often get mistaken. Books in the hands of the uninitiated become billboards or cutouts, and people need to realize that there are ligaments, muscles, and organs that hold a book all together. When I started the project I was working off an agenda, trying to coerce my audience into feeling something. Since then the project has become more personal, a story about an American experience with spirituality, namely Christianity. Some would say that the project has an evangelical bent to it. Though it comes off that way, once you read the book you'll understand that its less of a proposition and more of a painting. The topical exposition moves the reader through a labyrinth of beliefs and worldviews that construct a sensory-social experience. Most of the conversations in the book are based off of my experiences so in some ways it's autobiographical. At the end, the protagonist asks, "why?" The reader too must confront this as well, so hopefully I did a good job. If not, I'm sure someone will let me know.

Once everything is complete however, once it's all copyrighted and such, I will reveal the title and "book-jacket" summary.

If I ask myself what I learned most about the process, I would probably respond that I got to know what I refer to as the "point of distance." The point of distance is a lot like the point of view. We all have a particular way we see the world, and these points of view enter into the things we get our hands on. I think the knee jerk reaction is to integrate these points of view with the characters we write, so in a way the characters just become various avatars of our personalities. The point of distance is when we distance our will from the will of character, which means that when a character does something it becomes out of our hands. If a character swears, they swear. If they die, then they die. It all goes out of your hands and into theirs. Things will surprise you actually. You'll write something and pause, thinking to yourself, "wow, did he actually just say that?" It's kind of cool.

Anyways, just something to think about.



SW


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 1

The following is my new short story series entitled "Laufey's Treasure." It is an action adventure series featuring minor characters from my upcoming novel in their own lighthearted journey. I hope you enjoy, it and be sure to catch my previous short story featured in the same universe called "The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson." 

Chapter 1

Laufey called himself a king, but he was only 15. His father would chide him on this, but everyone knew of his mischief. Since a young child he searched for treasure, climbed Mount Foot and fought the pretend dragons that roamed the caves lining the mountains, and he liked it that way. Though his village was large, the people knew him well, including the shepherd, Sigmundur. Of all the people, only his stories were better than Laufeys'.

One day Laufey was walking up the road from the waters minding his own business when he saw out of the corner of his eye his sister talking with Amma. They had grown up together, the two of them. Laufey secretly liked Amma, but he would never tell. He was thankful however, that his sister, Ragna, was close to her. It meant that he could always see her come down from her father's house every morning to tend to the animals down the road. 


"Sounds like a loser to me," Ragna said lazily, "maybe try talking him out of it." 

"Oh, well," Amma replied in a delicate voice, "I would just hate to hurt his feelings."

"You're funeral."

Laufey stealthily edged himself off the road, hiding behind a house. There was a twinkle in his eyes, one of debonair quality. At least he imagined himself to have such a way about him. He gathered that the two talked about a new boy in town, an outsider from Sol. He was a runaway, now reformed. He was garish to Laufey, always talking and never shutting up. "People ought not to be like that," he told Anke once while sitting on a Muskox. Anke shrugged noncommittally leaning back on the pen and staring up at the sky and said forthright, "girls are gross, who needs them?"

Since then he had stopped going to Anke for advice. 


"BOO!" Laufey shouted, having lept out from the side of the house when Ragna and Amma passed. Instinctively Ragna screamed and booted Laufey in the stomach. 

"Oh, god..." He doubled over holding his side.

"Jesus Christ! Don't sneak up on me like that!" she said, looking rather cross. 

"Is he alright?" Amma said in a concerned voice, leaning down to pick him up. Ragna however stopped her, and stood her back up. 

"No," she said sternly, "he'll be fine. What are you up to Laufey?"

Laufey clicked his tongue and pulled himself together.

"I am hunting some new treasure, if you must know. And to think I was about to show you."

Amma's brightened up, clapping her hands together in excitement.

"Ooo! I love adventures."

"Nu-uh." Ragna admonished, shaking her head. "I know where this is going."

"Oh please," Laufey pouted. "You would ruin my fun."

"And how would this be different from any other time you claimed to have found treasure?" Ragna looked to Amma agreeably, but Amma's focus was elsewhere: a patch of flowers at the side of the road. Clearing her throat, Ragna grabbed Amma's arm and began to turn around.

"Nope. Not fooling me again you are."

Laufey smiled. He was expecting this, so he pulled out the map.

"Then what does this look like?" He said smugly. Both Amma and Ragna turned around, dumbfounded, their gaze focused on the shimmering construct. 

"Okay," Ragna admitted. "You have my attention."


To Be Continued



SW

Monday, August 12, 2013

Academic Theory: Taoism

There are many forms of Taoism, ancient and modern. Historically, the identity of the religion has been fluid, and has been integrated with Confucianism and Buddhism for it's similarity in doctrine. There are still, however, attributes of Taoism that bear originality, and distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from other belief systems on the Asian continent. Taoism is actually a religion, unlike Buddhism, which is purely philosophical, and ascribes a particular outlook on the nature of the material universe. There are 4 key ethics of Taoism: Tao and Te, Wu-Wei, Naturalness, and the Three Treasures. for the sake of simplicity I will be addressing the concept of Wu-Wei with is the most unique principal Taoism has to offer.

Water is an element closely tied to Taoism, which emphasizes a holistic flow to the universe, everything suspended in balance ineffable action. Water is shapeless, stateless, and, seemingly unremarkable, water can achieve great acts of geological change. Water may be fluid but it will still carve out a mountain. The practitioner, through meditation, attempts to diminish the will to a point of atrophy, in which the practitioner ceases all willful action. The goal of Wu-Wei is to achieve Ming, an equivalent state to enlightenment where the practitioner now can work in tandem with the flow of the universe and be in complete harmony with all matter and forces. If Buddhism seeks a product of sublime consciousness, Taoism seeks a state of universal harmony with the material universe.

As far as how Taoism could be integrated with literature, there are actually several books written by Ursula K. Le Guin that do just that. The Lathe of Heaven, is the most notable work in which she achieves this synergy of western literary tropes with eastern philosophy, dealing primarily with achieving effortless action through diminishing the will. In her work the "will" is analogized with George Orr's dreaming powers that can alter reality. A sleep researching named William Haber that is assigned to Orr, tries to achieve for himself ideal realities (ie. a world with out racism, a world without hunger, etc) rooted in his willful yearnings that ultimately bring about mass disaster for all of earth's inhabitants. The book's statement then, effectively, is that to force one's will over the world, rather than submitting to the flow of the universe, only brings about chaos.

The best way to utilize Taoism is to consider it's universal applications. A lot of spiritual practices of Asia to a westerner can come off as "explicitly eastern" given that westerners are confined to a mindset grounded by individualism. Many Asia religions also invoke groupism which is foreign to individual minded westerners. Taoism however is different because it underscores a universal praxis that doesn't culturally isolate itself. Therefore, in application with literature, it is easier to digest. To use Taoism in literature then, one must focus on cultivating a trope that emphasizes the principal of Wu-Wei and harmonious action. To give you an idea of what I mean, I will conclude of this example:

"How do you flip them? When do you know?" Mykon said, peering over Pappouli's shoulders. 
"It takes years to know, little one. Shh! There is an art for these things." 
I have watched my grandfather make crepes since I was a little. Even though I am getting older, and wiser myself, he still fascinates me with his quirks. When our family came to New York, he was the first Greek man to open a successful restaurant in the burrows. My father opened his own restaurants shortly after, but it was never as successful as Pappouli's. Even when he was interviewed on the morning news about the opening of his fourth restaurant he had this to say: 
"Food is delicate, and flashes before your eyes. But it enters our bodies all the same. It is a compliment to me if my grandchildren eat quickly, because it shows me that they have no hesitation. I have the same philosophy with customers. They eat because eating is natural. I make food that is natural for eating. They forget that they are there to eat, when they eat my food. It satisfies all their expectations." 
He is such an enigma, I'll never understand. I still love to watch him cook, especially now that he is older. There are few people left who cook like him. 
"Mykon, look here. I know this part of the grittle is hot, so it will burn my crepes. Ah, but here, yes. This place will work fine. There must be a balance between heat and the ingredients you use. Cheese will not melt if it is too cold and the battle will over cook if it is too hot. Balance Mykon! remember that." 
"How do you know all this, Pappouli? I'm always so fascinated by your methods." 
"Bah! Methods? I do not do "methods." Cooking is cooking. There are no recipes or ingredients. Cooking is in the soul. It will come out whether you like it or not, and the more you complicate things, the worse you will be at it."


SW


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Making of A Comic

I just started reformatting an entire script. It sounds as difficult as one can imagine. Sixty pages... it makes me cringe whenever I think about it.

These are sundry things though. Writers in comparison to the artists and their work being put into the comic often get a bad rap. It's true that to draw one needs a certain level of dedication and focus to get through the day, that goes without saying. I think what needs to be clarified however is what writers actually do. In order to write a comic a writer needs to create a conceptual universe to work in, effectively relate that to the artist, and then come up with motivations. While creating a universe, a couple characters, an interesting concept is relatively easy, it's the glue of storytelling that holds it all together. I don't think one can lean that skill, I think that on a deeper level, there an innate talent for story telling that will either make or break an author.

Sometime I get cynical when I see books like Harry Potter and think to myself, "God, this is all bullshit! Who writes this stuff? Why do people actually buy it?" I have to hold myself back though and think about this. J.K. Rowling started out actually writing a story. She created a conceptual universe that someone could live in and populated it with characters that were consistent with that place. Even though the characters were overtly archetypal, and the main character was a block of wood with eyes painted on it, the story still worked. Writers are responsible for much more than you'd imagine. Though, an artist gets some benefit of the doubt because the painting will always have the lasting impact over the written word.

In other news,

In developing my yet to be named web comic, the artists that I've come into partnership with are both phenomenal. I think each of them has particular strengths and weaknesses. My friend Phil is not as good as the other artist that I've begun courting, but conceptually, Phil has a talent for really creative ideas that I think are unique. The other artist's name is Jean-Carlo Triado, and I feel rather blessed to have met him. The guy's portfolio is incredible, and he's willing to stick it out to try and make this project a winner. If our relationship pans out then this project would be in a really good position. The process of integrating both a life long friend and newcomer was a daunting prospect, given that I want to hold onto both, but there are so many nuances to making a comic that I think we'll all be in good shape. As far as the roles in comics there's the person who pencils the art, or does the line work (whatever you want to call it), and then there's the inker and colorist. I still don't know what the difference is, so shame on me. Afterwards the letterer creates the presentation. So all that considered if you have only one artist working on the project it becomes a massive workload that just destroys a person. Most artists, especially pencilers get burned out after five or six issues just because it is so difficult to keep up. Hopefully I can keep it going myself. People don't seem to understand how emotionally exhausting writing is...

I had a weird dream though that I was in a proto-Lord of the Rings movie last night. We were walking through the forest, which was a composite of my memory of Norway and a jungle, beside a contingent of disgraced soldiers repurposed into making trees walk through an intricate arrangements of pulleys (like puppets). We climbed up this steep cavern and found a large mausoleum-like room. In that room was a story that could be told by peeling away layers of drop down panels and images all talking about Odin and the last king of Gondor. I tried to remember some of the script but I lost it. That's the last time I drink Belgian beer before going to bed I guess.



SW

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson (Part 10)

"What's the worst that could happen..." It wasn't a question, but more of a statement.

As I hung upside down in the team's locker room, the conversation was coming back. I could hear grunts behind me, dull blows being exchanged. There were many involved though. At least one of them was Lief. As I spun slowly, I arched my back to twist myself into view. When I tried to something grabbed me on the back tightly and suddenly I was flying.

I came to once more. Lief was there, standing over me covered in blood and dirt. Underneath me were three large, muscular bruisers, the kinds that wear tight pants and black shirts in front of the discotheques. Seeing that I was aware he squatted down and cut open my bonds. Moving felt like a novelty, but I was free.

"Wha... Oh shit... my head." It was all I could manage.

"I don't think we can stay here any longer," Lief said, turning his face away, alert and ready. "I definitely think they want to kill us."

"No kidding..." Again, all I could manage.

"I was not expecting Sophia to be a collector," he said again, pulling me up from the floor. "She's on her way no doubt. We need to hurry."

"Doing all right then? Do you need time to process?" I said sarcastically.

"Oh shut up."

During the meeting I gathered that Sophia was one of those strong types, the kind of woman who wasn't to be trifled with. We had come in she was there, expecting us. The conversation was very business like, something that should of tipped me off. I should have caught what Lief did not. He was too blinded by the reunion to notice that she was probing him for info of what exactly she could harvest, asking him whether or not he possessed a healing factor or a bionic brain. Lief was only happy to answer any questions she had for him. After all, what are long lost great great great, and so on, grandbrothers for?

He being the physical one, picked me up to carry me as we ran back towards the gate. Holding me like an infant, he looked torn up inside, a great pain swelling like an open sore. I felt sorry for him, in certain respects. My siblings were more or less fabricated, but I could imagine well the betrayal he felt. Ahead of us a troupe of guards we waiting, but Leif leaped into them, striking with his legs and knocking them all out cold.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Panting, he glanced down at me in his arms and charged another group of thugs.

"Maybe after we have escaped this death trap," he suggested gasping for air.

"Let us not forget that she was indeed your flesh and blood," I added boldly. Leif looked down at me, frowning.

"I have not forgotten, not at all."

The exit was near as we passed through the antechamber of the stadium, lined with marble busts of former players and champions. Lief's speed was the only reason for our progress, and I was thankful for it; yet I could not quite help but feel robbed by the experience of not being able to see the statues closely. Many of the players were famous for their campaigns. I likened the experience to running wild through a museum.

"So what do we do now, kemosabe?"

"We get the hell... what? What is kemosabe?"

"I heard it once. It's just, oh... Never mind that."

I gather it would have been odd to witness myself and Lief bolting out of the city the way we did, but it was fast enough for me. Lucky for us, we did not need to be scanned to leave the city, but I could still sense that it would be the last time I would enter Lyon for at least a hundred years. I did it once before in the Isles, where a bio arms dealer had a price on my head. I had to wait 60 years for him to die before I could go back and get my tools, which I buried in the country before I left.

Lief set me down on the road side and looked at me hard. digging into his pocket he took out a large bag and tossed it to me. Inside was a large bar of platinum, easily worth three times as much as what I was originally promised.

"So this is it?" I said, turning back to look at the city. "It feels premature, don't you think?"

Lief heaved a sigh and kicked a rock in frustration. Rubbing his eyes, I could tell the man was worse for wear.

"We didn't find her, but my curiosity is satisfied. Take the money, you earned it. There's no more reason to do this."

I couldn't believe what he was saying. He was giving up.

"But why not continue? Clearly we get along alright. Your sister is still to be found. There is still time."

Lief's eyes met mine. They were wide with surprise, but slowly settled into understanding.

"Well then," he said, "I guess it's your move."


THE END



SW

Monday, August 5, 2013

Academic Theory: Buddhism

Naturally, because we discussed Hinduism last week, it would stand that this week we cover Buddhism's role in literature and philosophy. Tenets of Buddhism are more common in literature today because (while it is still multifaceted and incredibly diverse and complicated), unlike Hinduism, Buddhism is less enmeshed with an ethnicity or cultural identity. As it stands, Buddhism is more philosophy than religion, and is a splinter sect of Hinduism that rejects the divine and certain aspects of the godly hierarchy that cause issues with class disparity. The origin of Gautama Buddha, is the story of a young prince who is hidden away from all suffering as a rich and privileged person, and is slowly exposed to the sufferings of the proletariat. Interpreted under Marxist criticism Buddhism becomes a  populist religious movement that rejects the class structure of the former Hindu overlords. That's just an interpretation however, so take it for what it is.

Buddhism is an atheistic religion, and while there are variants like Pure Land Buddhism that suggest some form of extraplanar afterlife, Buddhism primarily escapes the notion of reincarnation, and a continual cycle of existence. The pursuit of Buddhism leads to an annihilation of the pleasures of the self, laid out in the Four Noble Truths:

  1. Understanding the reality of suffering.
  2. Understanding where the suffering comes from.
  3. Understanding that once the root of suffering is determined, that it can be removed.  
  4. Escaping suffering completely, and finding the path to Nirvana.

Buddhism is a very threatening spirituality to Westerners. I say this not to suggest that there is something wrong about it's teachings. I gather this conclusion by watching how Westerners adapt Buddhism to serve them, almost as if it was justifying their quirks and lifestyles. In a region of the world where food is scarce and death is common, it would make sense for Buddhism to espouse a philosophy of dealing with suffering. Here in America (or any western nation for that matter), we do not suffer, so Buddhism reduces to this pseudo spiritual pleasure trip.

Now I get into this not because I have an ax to grind but to show you that there is a lot of potential for Buddhism in literature. It can be a serious assessment of pain and how to deal with it in the real world, or it can be a sarcastic lens through which to view the Western world's denial of pain that they so often deal with. Here's an example of how I would integrate Buddhist philosophy into a narrative:
A boy awakes to rubble. There are no sounds in his mind, as he sees them scream. The center beam, broken and split like a fallen tree, has been felled by the shifting earth. Blood pools around him, the life force of thousands raining down from above. Covered in their hopes and dreams, explosions bleed through the silence and he has returned. He searches for a way out, but sees no door. His eyes are closed, stung by acrid fumes flooding the death chamber. His hands on the walls, wet with fluid, feel for a portal to safety. Behind him a man lies paralyzed, shouting into his smart phone. He is arguing, blinded by egotism. He is crushed and the boy no longer looks back. A rogue stone trips him, but he picks himself up. He finds a severed hand, but continues on. And when he finds the door he opens it, and is enveloped by light. The earth is far below him, and he is trapped, but his suffering has ended. He will end it once and for all. Let myself embrace the earth that made me, he thinks, I have found peace in the storm. 
And he jumps.
I want you all to consider how this short narrative condenses some of the major themes of Buddhism. If you want, feel free to comment bellow what you think and we can discuss it there.



SW




Friday, August 2, 2013

Achieving Faliure

Since a young child I have played video games.

I think about that, watching the evolution of systems pan out and wonder to myself where all the time went? It's the world we live in I suppose. We are always besting ourselves; that, or remaking classics.

It wasn't until this week that I thought about "achievements." For those unfamiliar with the concept, an "achievement" is a badge or recognition of completion pertaining to a particular facet of a game. For example, were I to play a game that involves making checkpoints during a continual onslaught of enemies, my ability to do so would me measured and gauged by an "achievement." For killing twelve micromen/street hooligans/meta-brawlers I receive an achievement called "dirty dozen" or something quippy like that.

The philosophy of an achievement has always been puzzling to me. I still think of the video game market as a male dominated world. That's not being sexist mind you, simply an observation. What I find more fascinating however, is contemplating why this is so. Men like to do things, generally. This can be anything. It's frat kid syndrome. If you drink "x" amount of booze, you will gain "y" amount of favor and reputation. Getting more serious, the male's penchant for achieving merges from petty favor gathering to things like supporting a family or running a business. Underneath all of this though is the same old song: unlock 3 children, earn "Three of a Kind," complete first year of business, earn "Year One," and so on.

Maybe the reason why I was so possessed of this idea was because I recently picked up Counterstrike: GO on the Steam Sale last month and finally got a chance to play. On the chat I mentioned that I had been invited to the CS: Beta about 9 years ago. "You've been around since beta and you're 0-5?" someone said over the open mic. When I replied that my having a wife left me preoccupied with other duties, the nameless gentleman scoffed and I signed off, bored.

Video games then present an interesting opportunity for males: Challenge without consequence. What I mean by this is simple. Men desire on a basic level to challenge themselves. Much of this desire pans out in life through starting a family or a business, or simply making a niche for themselves. Video games offer a unique alternative. If you play Super Mario 3, beginning with 3 lives and die before the end of World 1, nothing has been lost. You are still alive with a life intact, free to do anything. If you were possessed to continue on, ultimately to complete the game and win, a rush of endorphins would surge your blood and cry out a song of victory. Yet, seeing through this facade, it would appear that it is a false victory. Beat the game, and you are still you, sitting alone in a bachelor den ten feet below the earth. I've always gravitated towards games for their story element. I play to hear a tale. When the tale finishes, I leave and go elsewhere with my arcane knowledge. According to GameTrailers.com, there are armies of those who wish to max out a game's achievements, some games being manufactured for the express purpose of achieving achievements. It all sounds so tedious.

Now that I'm twenty-five I understand that games are an escape from real challenge. I don't say this disparagingly, not at all. I love games! I reserve the right, however, to be mature enough to recognize when I live my days a digital lie. A game will fade in time, as countless others have passed on in memory, but a lifetime won't. A family, a legacy, will not escape our attention so easily, and neither will one be so victorious. Sometimes it takes a risk to know just what it means to be alive.



SW