Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brilliant

Paprika (2006)



It's a little like The Matrix meeting Neil Gaiman's Sandman: A dream-like film about archetypes, inner-lives, and neural-interface technology. Interestingly enough this is the first anime film that I've seen where the faces of the Japanese characters look distinctly Japanese and local body language and mannerisms predominate.

Heh



Funny, but not as cool as the two-mile-long zombie rights parade last October. I am still kicking myself for not having had my camera for that one.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The rise and falll...

...of an ant colony, as eloquently depicted by a Pulitzer-winning emeritus of biology in The New Yorker.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rain and rush hour







Japan - Land of awkward emotions



Seriously, somebody needs to talk some sense into the boy.

Very engaging



I realize that I am jumping on the bandwagon in announcing that I am pleasantly surprised and that this is a thoughtful movie with a well-developed world, but the sentiments are genuine. And the surprise factor was especially strong given that I stopped following the rebooted Battlestar series not far into it. While that show began brilliantly, it quickly bogged down in simplistic analogies and high school style drama.

The Caprica movie, on the other hand, is certainly one of the most engaging works of new science fiction that I have seen in some time. It feels more balanced than the previous series with a tighter focus on philosophical issues raised by AI and robotics technology and religion while still maintaining a high-level of acting and emotion. I hope that the coming series does it justice, and I am looking forward to giving this franchise a second chance.

Heinlein's vision keeps creeping closer to reality



Of course, I'm curious what kind of operational endurance this thing has battery-wise, and if it reclaims any energy while in motion.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tying it all together

Last May I was standing in my box-strewn 1940s studio apartment and looking at the wavy fan of delicate green that is the Japanese maple outside my window, when I was seized by the conviction that the various chapters of my life were somehow beginning to converge.

This may have come from having just moved into a new neighborhood a few days earlier. At ground level Goose Hollow is leafy, mossy, and certain streets look like the nicer sections of Northern California around the Bay Area. I was born in NorCal, have my earliest memories from there, and it's where my family often vacationed when I was growing up in Nevada.

This sense of coming together almost certainly also stemmed from a friend from 2-63 Armor having contacted me a few months prior. He ended up introducing me to Facebook and and putting me in touch with all kinds of people from old platoon in Germany.

Then there is the fact that this took place the day after learning of my WotF win. For the first time in over a decade of writing, there was a major success that drew on all of the lessons learned across that time span.

Interestingly enough, there have been more of these moments since then: Intrusions of certainty that elements and experiences from separate periods are integrating into an altogether new life.

This continuation could be the result of being in school again. Or the might also come from the intensified focus on writing as well as trying to get back into reading science fiction after a nearly fifteen-year hiatus.

Scanning photo slides from my childhood into digital format is a no-brainer source, I suppose.

My academic work is certainly helping to drive this feeling of chapters coming together. Not only is it revisiting places I've been and events I took part in, but learning the history of the Pacific Northwest feels very much like tying the past into the future for me. Whenever I'm on the road or rails, I still get that sense that this is where I'm meant to be.

As far as that future goes, however, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what comes after school. It's only eight months away, after all.

Part of me wants to look for "safe" but boring work as an analyst or government office drone so that I will have financial security. Another part desires to take a significant risk and continue on academically as a means of finding employment as a historian in some capacity.

That is a chancy path as there are typically a dozen-or-more well-educated people fighting for each of those jobs.

As always writing is a priority, but even if things continue to go well it will likely take several more years before I can make a living off it. Science fiction is a poorly paid genre, and I would likely need to crank out some half-way successful fantasy novels to be well off.

Still, it's good to be riding this train of serendipity, and I'm curious where it will take me next. Right now it feels like the oftener I choose to risk, the more I am rewarded.

So, as an expression of convergence, here is my favorite Portland band in South Korea, as filmed by some enthusiastic Korean fans. It's rather cute, especially the serious if off-key singalong taking place in the second video.







(My high school chemistry and biology teacher added me as a friend on Facebook while I was working on this entry. One more level of convergence I suppose.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

North Korea's camps

A good documentary, but not the easiest thing to watch. It would be nice (and respectful!) if YouTube would remove the commercials.

More on Chinese cyberwarfare...

...from Foreign Policy.

What really bothers me about this and the activity coming out of Russia these days is the scale and the lack of restraint. So much of our our economic activity and even the functioning of our national infrastructure now depends on the internet, yet cyberspace is essentially a lawless country in the Wild West/Chicago 1920s sense.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The stray dogs of Moscow

Some of them have mastered the subway in order to move around the city, others are re-evolving back into wolves according to this Financial Times article.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On the rooftop



Punk comes to China

A good photo journalism article on China's underground urban music scene in Foreign Policy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Still a powerhouse of philosophy


The upgraded color palette is pleasing, though some of the redone urban landscape CGI scenes are a little over the top. Still, the film remains an outstanding heavy hitter when it comes to atmosphere, characters, covert intelligence operative action, and musings on emergent artificial intelligence. That and its implied connection between quantum mechanics and Buddhism.

It's, well, something like a philosophical spy thriller version of Neuromancer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Still a favorite movie...



...even if it does have it's share of Hollywood-isms. That and the filmmaker's feelings about the Reagan administration are about as subtle as a brick to the head.

Still, the themes of transcendence and reconciliation make it very worthwhile.

That and the computer keyboards all sound EXACTLY like the old Commodore64 boards. And they're the size of desks. And we still don't have indoor pools with dolphins in our homes.

*sigh*

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More ghastly news out of North Korea

Trying to comprehend 23 million people enduing this kind of deprivation is staggering.

And it’s all the more depressing giving how many people just don’t want to know about it.

I often wonder if our descendants will look back on our historical period and wonder how we managed not to pay attention to the truly massive wars and human-driven catastrophes going on in locations like the Congo and in North Korea. It’s not like there aren’t journalists and activists trying to telling us about these places.

Why do we so often fail to focus on the largest incidences of man-made human misery or death?

Sometimes such disconnects are willful.

You only need look back to the 1960s to find a time when many of the West’s academics and reformists were fawning over Chairman Mao, ten years after his economic policies had lead to the deaths of 30 – 60 million of his countrymen.

And such denials go on to this day. When I was living abroad, I knew several Western Europeans who were more than happy to claim that North Korea’s government is no more repressive than those of its neighbors.

Musical Zeitgeists

My taste in music took a turn for the brighter this past year.



I suspect that it's a combination of happy personal circumstances and a reaction to a decade of hard news. We're covering musicals from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s in my US Cultural History class, and oddly enough the songs from those shows that were on the lips and tongues of the working and middle classes during the grim years of that period tended to have titles like "Cockeyed Optimist."

Justified or not, my general feeling of hopefulness has had effects outside my playlists. The more I read of current science fiction and see what a gloomy and miserable genre it's become, the more I want to produce stories with hard-won happy endings.

Literary science fiction often dealt with difficult or even bleak situations during its heyday. The difference is that the field was not dominated by works that ended in failure or cynical outlooks. It's no coincidence that the sub-fields of written sci-fi that are currently the most optimistic--steam punk as well as movie and TV series spin-offs--are often among the best sellers within the field.

Turning back to music and brightness, bluegrass wasn't something that I was expecting to fall in love with, yet I've been very much taken in by the sound.







And of course there is the wholly strange and wonderful Portland music scene, which reflects this city's peculiar brand of cheerfulness.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010

sincerely good luck to everyone in 2010 this is the year where we figure out how the future works ~Jeph Jacques on twitter.

I do think that Mr. Jacques has it right. This is the year where we will come to grips with the changing economic, political, and technological realities that roiled this past decade.

2009



It was a good ending to a decade with a rough middle.

I got published! Not only that, but it was with a second place win in the science fiction and fantasy publishing industry's largest contest for new writers. That was so very sweet.

I went to my first convention as a neo-professional and met my peers!

I left a job that I did not like and returned to school.

I've gotten nothing by A's and B+'s since going back. Not bad for an individual who nearly flunked out of the university back in the early 90s.

I moved downtown. The apartment is beautiful and the neighborhood is gorgeous. I feel like I'm on vacation every time I step outside.

Everything I need is a 5 - 20 minute walk away.

I've lost another 13 lbs on top of the 16 pounds I shed last year.



For once I really do not have a list of New Years resolutions, so much as a set of behaviors to sustain. Hopefully this will lead to graduation and finding a decent-paying job. Also, publishing another short story ("Ashfall" goes out the door on Monday). Finally, I plan to continue revising Phase Line Escher and have it ready by the time of the WotF awards ceremony and workshop.

The only overt negative that I need to cease is spending so much time on the internet. I'll also have to break the hermitage sometime this year, but as long as school and writing are going so well there's no reason to quit. The only other serious change that I've got planned to do more traveling here in the Northwest. That got sidetracked in 2009 by the necessity of saving for school, but it can be easily remedied now with some fiscal discipline and a student job.