mackknopf: (Default)
A Machiavelli quote comes to mind about it being better to be feared than loved.  Fortunately, I don't really require fear from my students (respect will do), and I am not into teaching for the adulation.  I am in it because I like to make a difference by helping people to write, argue, and express themselves better.  .

Currently, it looks like I will have about five or six students left after the rest withdraw by tonight's deadline.  Thursday is the last day to get out of English Composition with a "W," which will allow them to take another such class again.  Students will lose the money invested in paying for the course, but it is generally better than likely receiving an "F" and ruining their GPA.  At this point in the semester, I have sufficent grades and accumulated absences (which reduce grades) to advise whether passing the class with a "C" is likely. 

I've emailed people, talked to them in person, and even called to make sure they know about the deadine and their current academic status in my class.

I've written the English Composition Department head, and she fully supports me, especially since she herself failed all but nine students from a class last semester: "You're in good company for being the heir-apparent departmental meanie."  She told me to take late papers and absences seriously, and that she would back me fully.  Read more... )
mackknopf: (Celtic Cross)
 I am considering going to a talk at the downtown Birmingham Public Library next Wed. to hear a Holocaust survivor speak (while there are still living ones to listen to).  Of course, she was seven years old at the time, so I don't know what her memory is like now. But I'm interested.  Let me know if anyone in the area wants to stop by with me).  Some of my feelings on human nature were formed at an early age (along with my desire to keep a journal) when I read The Diary of Anne Frank.  Everything I've learned and observed since then has taught me that while humanity's capacity for doing good may be almost infinite, so is the ability to do evil.

Some people in modern American culture do not seem comfortable with the concept of labeling actions as "evil," or even using the softer word "wrong."  I have less trouble, which leads my mother to often charge me with wanting simple solutions to complex problems.  While I agree that in life, there are many shades of grey, there are behaviors and actions that I have little problem with labelling right or wrong.  Granted, I have more trouble with right.  For that, see the problems of unintended consequences, meddling, and the winners writing the history books.

However, the concept of evil for me is more sharply defined than Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity – famously, "I know it when I see it" (1964).  To paraphrase another quote, this time by modern fantasist and novelist Terry Pratchett (no accredited ethicist but a sharp observer of human nature), evil begins with treating people as objects and goes on from there. 

Read more... )
mackknopf: (False Gods)

First, I do know Ron Paul is running as a Republican this year.  However, he's always been a Libertarian as far as I'm concerned, and a look at his campaign platform seems to showcase many traditional Libertarian viewpoints.  Whether we need more than two parties in the United States is an issue outside the scope of my proposed essay, but I can certainly understand why he's running as a Republican.  Traditionally, we have a "winner take all" system between two political parties. Attempts at getting other parties on the ballots have traditionally been very difficult, and poorly represented by the media.

To reply to his pro-life stance and intent to repeal Roe v. Wade, I myself am pro-abortion and pro-death penalty (just call me “pro-death, at least I’m consistent).  I think we have plenty of people on the planet already, and if God really wants our population to boom even more, He will send us a sign.  (Possibly an asteroid strike on the White House.)  Also, if fetuses have souls, won’t they just go back to heaven and come back again later? 

More seriously, yes, I am pro-abortion rights.  I think it's the woman's right to choose.  Does she lose the right at some point close to term?  I'm going to stay away from that for now, as I don't see how men get much of an opinion on this matter.

Now, I can’t tell what Mr. Paul feels about the death penalty.  I favor expanding it to more acts of heinous nature (for instance, I think child rape should get an automatic speedy death sentence, if proved).  On the other hand, Mr. Paul would legalize most drugs.  I say penalties for certain drug crimes should be still present, but often greatly reduced.  I’m not into legalizing methamphetamine because I think the potential damage to society is too great.  However, I don’t see the point in locking (say) pot users up for years and years.  Treating them under the appropriate standard of “were they driving under a chemical influence?”, “Were they drunk and disorderly?” etc, seems sufficient.

He wants to repeal ObamaCare and leave it mostly up to the states.  To me, we need some version of better universal health care that passes constitutional muster, even if it’s just more regulation of the insurance and medical providers.  We need a minimum safety net for those without one, so we don’t just abandon our poor (among others).  I’m also in favor of the FDA regulating dietary supplements and alternative treatments.  Mr. Paul would give those a free pass.  Remember, arsenic is natural, but not good for you.  The FDA has problems (such as the federal preemption issue reducing the ability of state litigation to help people), but I can’t see abolishing the entire department, as he implies.

 Ron Paul wants to get rid of as many controls on business as possible, along with taking an axe to taxes.

Read more... )


mackknopf: (Mack Lawyer)

I am taking notes in my head (and on random scraps of paper, easily lost) for an essay about the Republicans' message (an easy sell of classical but simplistic "Good versus Evil"; the Democrats' current "We're the people who aren't the Republicans"; and the Libertarians' message of "get government out of our damn lives."

I think the Democrats need to come up with a stronger, unified message if they're ever going to stay relevant. I'm leaning towards a new version of the "Great Society" that President Johnson spoke of in 1964:

"And with your courage and with your compassion and your desire, we will build the Great Society. It is a Society where no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled."

This would either be a horrifying vision of a socialistic New World Order, or a spread of compassion towards "the least of these," (to quote the Bible). Viewpoints will obviously differ.

mackknopf: (Disclaimer)
Now, on to Newt Gingrich!  I woke up this morning to find major newspaper commentators comparing him to Barry Goldwater, someone who would manage to get nominated and then lose in a landslide.  Fellow conservative pundits were said to be dismayed.  I myself rejoiced.  If Newt is the best candidate the GOP can field, I think we're looking at an upcoming reelection win for Obama!

Not only does Newt have some far-out ideas, but he had his time in the sun back when I was in college at Berkeley mumble-mumble years ago, to put this in perspective.  When he had power, he shut down the federal government with power games.  By the time I was at English graduate school, he'd resigned from office, now ineffective.

I was dismayed to see him no longer just writing books, but actually back in political life, until I realized what a victory he could be handing the Democrats.  Let me see -- married three times (generally a no-no among the mainstream, at least down South), left one wife to have adultery with someone he later married, and last but not least, wanted an open marriage but got rebuffed.

Now, do I personally care about any of this marriage stuff?  Yes and no.  Generally, I think government should not get involved in marriages in the first place, but that horse has left the barn hundreds of years ago.  Way back when (for instance, Henry the Eighth in England), our modern nation-states began amassing control over the people and reducing the power of national religions.  This is not always a bad thing, especially if the monarch in charge likes your religion and/or sexual orientation and choices.  If he or she doesn't?  I could go into the list of late medieval execution devices, but you get the idea. 

Carry this into the current era, and you have a need for the gay rights movement and equal rights to marriage.  Or at least, you have a need for a difference in secular recognition of marriage and in various church's right to sanction whatever they think is holy.

In any event, while I may think that Gingrich should be able to (for instance) marry multiple wives if he wants, and then justify it to whatever version of God he's into, this is not the modern American view.  To sum up my glee, whoever actually thinks this guy is electable is out of touch with public reality.

Unfortunately, Dad pointed out that Mitt Romney would probably get the nomination, becaues the presidential election is a long way off.  Even though some Republicans would have to get over their distaste for a Mormon (in the same way a Catholic was once nomated by Democrats and later elected -- JFK), Romney comes across as a sharp, rich businessman, and a lot of people like that.  Oh well.  But Newt Gingrich as the candidate -- it could still happen!  So if you want to ensure President Obama gets reelection, urge all your Republican friends to vote for Gingrich to be nominated, and then sit back and watch the fun.
mackknopf: (Default)

Now that we’re safely underway into 2012 (and I’ve remembered to post this), it’s a good time to post just one more “Best of List.”  These were my favorite comic books, though not every actual issue came out during last year.  If you don’t read comics or don’t think they’re a legitimate art form, just skip this post.  The rest of you, read on!  

Collected works:

Ex Machina series by Brian K. Vaughan.  A "superhero" who talks to machines and becomes the mayor of New York City.

Treasure Island / writer, Roy Thomas ; based on a beloved childhood adventure story by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's a new Marvel Classics Illustrated!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (yes, even with the change in Joss Whedon’s original ending, which I’d really like to know what it was before he changed his mind.) 

Individual ongoing titles 

From Dark Horse Comics:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Nine.  Not quite sure I like the new situation, but I like the characters, so I’m still reading. 

Angel & Faith (starring, well, who do you think?) 

From DC Comics:

     I, Vampire.  By Joshua Fialkov.  The long oppressed vampires of the DC Universe decide to take their rightful place on the Earth and rise up against the mortals, including the superhumans!  The two main characters alternate points of view.  Formerly lovers, one is a “good guy” vamp trying to stop the revolutionaries, while the other is a “I enjoy being a monster” type who starts the revolution.

     Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan.  Various supernatural-based people who are very rarely called “heroes” come together to stop the end of the world.  Among others, the roster includes Zatanna, John Constantine, Deadman, and Shade the Changing Man.  Weird, screwed-up characters try to keep their various psychoses and problems under control long enough to form something resembling a team.

 When Superman can’t do the job, who do you call?  That’s right – these people.  Reading the minseries Flashpoint: Secret Seven may help understand what’s going on here, but if you’ve run across these characters in any previous incarnation, you should know what to expect.

     Demon Knights by Paul Cornell.  Someone on the Internet called this a comic to read by heavy metal music, and they were right.  Set in the Dark Ages of the DC Universe (and stop me if you've heard this plot before), seven mystical heroes and villains (including Etrigan/Jason Blood, Madame Xanadu, and Vandal Savage!) show up at a small town looking for a good beer at the local pub. 

      Unfortunately, the evil magician Mordru (and we know he's evil because of what he does to a baby -- ick!) sends his rampaging horde to the same village to pillage it for supplies.  Yes, it's the plot from Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai," but sometimes you can't beat the classics. Guess what the seven thirsty people do when their beer is threatened?  That's right -- time for a major brawl to defend the place!  I laughed repeatedly throughout reading this

Honorable mention: the Greek mythology-based fantasy horror reboot of Wonder Woman, as written by Brian Azzarello.

Read more... )
mackknopf: (Books)


Reconstructed with the help of my library checkout records and my own bookshelves.  Note: these were not actually all published in 2011.  They’re just what I read last year.  Sorry if that goes against the spirit of these lists!  Where possible, I’ve tried to include the 2011 installments of the series I read.

The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus), Book 1.  Rick Riordan. Probably helps to have read the Percy Jackson series before this, since The Lost Hero directly follows it, though the point of view characters are not exactly the same...

Ghost Story: A novel of the Dresden Files.  (Warning: read the previous books in the series first, or it will spoil you for all of them, as well as making little no sense.)

The ring of Solomon : a Bartimaeus novel / by Jonathan Stroud.  Stand-alone prequel to the Bartimaeus trilogy.  Can be read by itself.

The magician king : a novel / Lev Grossman. But read The Magicians, the first book in the trilogy, before getting to this one!

Supergods : what masked vigilantes, miraculous mutants, and a sun god from Smallville can teach us about being human / Grant Morrison.   All comic fans of Grant Morrison should own a copy!  's as much a memoir as it is an analysis of Morrison's work and his thoughts on the comic book field. I enjoyed the book for its wit, enthusiasm, and insight. I will admit though, as the NYTimes review says, that "Mr. Morrison can be a spirited writer, but he is also prone to overstatement and hyperbole."

Well, yes. That's one reason I like him.

Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman.   Short, young adult, delightful.

Deadline by Mira Grant.  Zombie apocalypse goodness, as well as a political conspiracy thriller! Read the prior book in the Newsflesh trilogy, Feed, first though.  “Alive or dead, the truth won’t rest.  Rise up while you can.”

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, whichever book in the series happened to come out this year.  Wikipedia tells me it's Rage of the Fallen, though I'm actually just about to begin that, having only lately finished Rise of the Huntress.

Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  Most excellent continuation of the Wheel of Time series, which I started when the first book came out.  I can hardly wait until the next and final book comes out!



Mack 2.0

Dec. 31st, 2011 11:51 am
mackknopf: (Mack Recent)

Frank's 2,000" TV has arrived in my apartment!  Now how I will get myself past it and out the door remains to be seen....  The relevant quote by “Weird Al” Yankovic is: “Risin' above the city, blockin' out the noonday sun, it dwarfs/ The mighty redwoods and it towers over everyone...'Frank's 2000 inch TV..."

My lawyer friend Steve got the latest and greatest flatscreen super-duper TV for his wife as an early Christmas present.  For me, he gave the old RCA flatscreen television, still several generations advanced from my old, vaccuum tube model that I’ve had for over a decade.  I plan to run Netflix to it with HDMI, because who needs to pay for a cable subscription package anymore?  Granted, I also need stuff like a new filing cabinet (Please?  Anyone out there have one that’s not ancient and battle-scarred?) and a replacement sofa, but this is considerable progress in updating my life!  Just call me “Mack 2.0.”

Here’s some context, as adapted from my Facebook posting last night when I was too sore to sleep:  Dad and me moved a lot of plywood, 2 x 4's, other assorted lumber, and two televisions across parking lots, into basements, and up and down stairs this afternoon. We followed this up with an evening family shopping trip to Highway 280. THEN we had to get the pickup truck (well, two of us did; Mom was dropped off at home) back to Metro Rental and retrieve two cars from the Homewood office.

Really, I wish yet again I'd managed to turn off the lights and set the alarms before waking up in middle of the night, wondering why I'd crawled into bed and slept with my clothes on.  I have made some "Best of 2011" lists and will be posting those soon. I'm also working on my 2012 resolutions, for the mental exercise if nothing else, and may post those as well (depending on how much I edit of the overly personal, though no doubt interesting, stuff).  How about, "I also resolve not to fall asleep at 11 p.m. in exhaustion and wake up around 3 a.m., unable to get back to sleep?" Yeah, that'll work...

Have any 2012 resolutions you want to share?

Happy New Year,


mackknopf: (Default)

I debated posting this review, because I’m afraid people are going to think there are too many bad new DC titles, and so will be put off from buying any themselves.  Hopefully I’ve found the worst by now and can spare you the disappointment.  In fairness, there are more good titles that I’ve seen than bad titles.  However, there are some which make me feel ashamed and slightly furtive about reading comics, which is not a sensation I'm accustomed to.  Let’s just say I’m glad I flipped through “Voodoo” by Ron Marz and didn’t buy it.  “I, Vampire,” on the other hand, pleasantly surprised me, and I plan to add it to my pull list at the comic store. 


When I saw the name "Ron Marz" as the author of “Voodoo,”, I didn't expect much, since he's the guy who famously had Hal Jordan slaughter the Green Lantern Corps.  This comic, however, reached new depths of bad writing and exploitative artwork. Did I mention the protagonist is a shape-changing alien stripper who takes off most of her clothes on stage for the readers, among other acts at her strip club?  That's right.  Nothing interesting there, aside from Marz’s nerve at trying to defend his book.  No, I won’t post any pictures or link to his interviews; I don’t think he deserves the attention. 

I also can't believe the book is rated "T plus" for teenagers on up, instead of "M" for Mature.  Oh, I suppose I can, having seen what gets allowed in a PG-13 movie.  "Voodoo" is a cross between softcore porn and a made-for-TV "B" movie.  This may be a sleazy new low for the 52 reboot, rivalling "Red Hood and the Outlaws." 
DC must be planning a certain percent of the releases to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the sex-starved fanboy.  Alternatively, DC has extremely poor editorial control, which I doubt. Someone had to green-light this book and authorize payroll.  It might have been a while since my last hot date, but I still know lousy comics when I see them.

“I, Vampire”

I really sunk my teeth into this (sorry, I can't help myself); it was just that much fun.  More to the point (or stake), “I, Vampire” features a horror theme with drama, violence, and my favorite rendition of the undead since possibly “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  There are legions of unrepentant monsters, led by a woman loved by the man who wants to "redeem" her.  Unfortunately, she has other plans, and they involve vampires taking over the human livestock and getting rid of those pesky superheroes!  Yes, it's a star-crossed vampire romance set in the DC universe, starring a Joss Whedon "Angel"-like character and a Dracula-esque female, with lots and lots of blood.  The writer, Joshua Fialkov, says both of them will be getting equal billing in the story.

mackknopf: (Buffy Sword)

Want to hear the scoop on the three worst comics I've read so far, not counting the Rob Liefield "Hawk and Dove" issue, which I know can't possibly be any good?  Then read on.  Warning: this review contains spoilers for "Catwoman 1," "Suicide Squad 1," and "Red Hood and the Outlaws 1," all from DC Comics and part of the New 52 reboot.  However, I consider it my duty to warn you away from these comic-book titles, so you could call this a public service.  Read on if you want to be entertained.  First, can safely say I agree with this review of “Catwoman #1.”

Relevant paragraph:

"Do I believe that Batman and Catwoman would sleep together? Sure, absolutely. But I don't buy them taking that step without knowing their respective identities. And I sure as hell don't believe that they would ever go that far in costume. Prior to the reboot, Bruce and Selina actually knew who each other were and there was at least a basis for a romance. Retconning that away makes their union here even more unlikely. Here, Winick essentially turns them into 'underwear perverts.' Oh my God, Warren Ellis was right!"

Any review that concludes with "Warren Ellis was right" is a scary thing, though the famously snarky Ellis is actually writing a very fun and pulpy six-issues of "The Secret Avengers" from Marvel that so far doesn't take itself too seriously, but is high octane adventure. 

The artwork in "Catwoman" is pretty in places and violent or action-adventure in others when appropriate to the situation. 
So the cheesecake of the lead character does not particularly bother me, but it panders to interested males and will not likely draw in a female audience.  The writing has development issues, though it aspires to begin "in media res."  The trouble with beginning in the middle with action is that at some point you have to establish what the heck is going on.  This never really happens, though we do see that Selena Kyle, Catwoman is a criminal and usually down on her luck, not exactly the sort of woman that Batman should go for.  Did I mention they’re apparently an item, or at least in heat with each other?

As far as the Batman sex goes, I'm no prude -- but it brings to mind the Alan Moore Watchman quote: "Did the costumes make it better?"  I'm not sure hot, on the spot, sex is really in keeping with the character of the Batman I’m familar with.  Maybe he’s changed in the reboot, I don’t know.  (Maybe it'll make him more relaxed and laid back, though. But then he wouldn't be Batman.)  Catwoman I know less about.  If I was a new reader, I think I wouldn't like Selena enough to see what happens next.  This title does have the most potential of the three I review, though.

Read on if you dare... )
mackknopf: (Typing Away)
I will miss R.E.M.  I've been listening to them as a group since early high school.  They only ever made one or two bad albums, in my opinion.  "Reveal," I'm looking at you.  I also didn't like their newest release all that much; it felt unfinished, not the stopping point I'd have preferred.  But as my friend Jennifer said, "They've been together 30 years.  That's longer than than most marriages."  I got to see them live in concert once, on the "Monster" tour, in California, where I saw Michael Stipe play his eulogy for Kurt Cobain, "Let Me In," on Kurt's baby blue guitar.  It was awesome and moving.

I've owned all their offical records (except for a few singles).   I'll miss the thrill of listening to a new record, but when an artist is done, they're done.  I hope they continue to have individual projects of whatever shape and sound, though, like Peter Buck playing on the new Decemberists CD.

I can't pick a single favorite album, but I've probably listened to "Automatic for the People" more than anything else than perhaps "Green."  But then there's "Life's Rich Pageant" and "Monster"... So many good memories and lyrics to choose from.  Is "You are the Everything" better than "Find the River" or "These Days"?  Who can say -- it's all great stuff.  Thanks for the music, guys.  You were one of my all-time favorites.
mackknopf: (Books)
For those who haven't heard, DC Comics recently rebooted most of its previous continuity to produce 52 new titles, each supposed to be an entry point to jump on to a new world, with many familiar heroes and a few new ones.  Superman, for instance, is just starting out as a hero and reporter in Metropolis, not yet married to Lois Lane.  He can't even fly yet, but the government and Lex Luther are trying to hunt him down!

The reboot includes some really good comics.  I'm greatly unsure that all 52 comics are going to make it a year, however, as there are some clunkers in there (no surprise, it's hard to find that much creative talent).  I'm also not sure if the setting as a whole will maintain continuity of history well.  I predict chaos in the near future, unless the editors keep an iron hand on the stories. But I could be wrong.  Also worthy of note, all comics will be available to digitally download online the same day they are released in stores.  Unfortunately, they still cost the same as the printed editions, so I'm not thrilled about that.  I'll always buy the printed edition over an electronic edition if they cost the same price!  However, it may help DC reach a wider audience.

I've already mentioned Action Comics #1, Superman's flagship title by Grant Morrison, and it starts out powerfully. I'm always interested in the theme of "What do you do with great power?"  and "How do you stay human, or what does that even mean?"  In the context of a brash young alien crusader, living as a not-so-meek reporter, we get to see how Clark takes on authority and is in turn feared by it.  The title surpasses my expectations and succeeds in part because Morrison does not engage (so far) in his favored post-modernist techniques, but sticks to a straighter, easier to read style of storytelling.

 It comes as a pleasant surprise, though, that a number of supernaturally-themed comics have appeared on the stands. Vertigo, DC Comics dark fantasy and horror imprint, is still around, but some characters have been integrated into the mainstream, which to be fair  had been done some before the reboot.  The new titles take the integration all the way, though, and showcase good entry points into the weirder elements of the DC Universe.  Yes, this does mean that John Constantine appears in two comics now: his own regular Vertigo title and in a recurring role (with different continuity) in the mainstream comics.  People should have no trouble telling them apart because in regular DC Comics, he's shown as a younger man, similar to the original Alan Moore era.

More comics worth spending money for

Read more... )
mackknopf: (My Words)
True words from attorney Amber Ladner: "Times of impact: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. 2819 dead from 115 different nations. 343 Fireman/paramedics, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority officers."

I will never forget. Except that an organization struck America, not a nation-state, I consider it like Pearl Harbor: "a day that will live in infamy." I was at the law school, just arriving for morning class, when my friend Rowena told me to come watch the televisions that morning, where a crowd had already gathered.  I called my Dad as soon as I'd taken in the news.  Soon afterwards, my Torts teacher taught her usual lesson, saying it was regrettable, but that school had to go on.  My Civil Procedure professor, however, said he couldn't teach through this, and dismissed everyone. 

My Criminal Law class was the one class I'd really wanted to go to, and the teacher threw aside the syllabus and coursebook to have a discussion section. 
My Professor, Dan Filler, said we would remember a session like this long after specific criminal law lessons had faded from our minds, and it turned out to be true for me.  We talked about the use and morality of torture in obtaining confessions, how Fox News was running any rumor it could find, and how hard it was to defend certain criminals, but that they all needed a defender for American justice to work. 

Dan, a former public defender, said he would defend Bin Laden himself if offered the job, and that is the attitude he took throughout his work -- that everyone got a proper defense.  However, he also opined that Osama would never be taken alive, a prophecy which would prove true.

I ended the day huddled around the television with friends at Celeste's apartment.  I think Celeste, Nicole, and Megan were all there with me, friends who have drifted apart now but whom I still miss.  Strange, scary times. As the anniversary has drawn closer, I've been thinking about the heroism, tragedies, and precariousness of those early times after the al-Qaeda attacks, where a small band of fanatics caused pain and terror on a mass scale.

Read more... )
mackknopf: (Mack Lawyer)

Sarah Michelle Gellar is back on television starring in a new show. I approve!  She's even co-producing. To paraphrase an interview of the actress, she says "Ringer" is film noir, with some soap opera added in. I saw "Ringer" tonight with Pat. No supernatural elements -- the demons are psychological --, but I was drawn in. "It's about demons. It's a story of redemption. It's a story of what happens when circumstances put your life in a direction you never saw and you're trying to make amends for it, but you just keep getting deeper and deeper." -- SMG

So what's the setup?  Gellar plays twin sisters, one of who takes over the role of the other, richer and more successful, in a desperate bid to escape a bad situation.  Of course, the other sister had secret problems of her own...
"Double vision, double lives, the ultimate double cross. Don’t miss an all new Ringer this Tuesday at 9/8c on The CW! Ringer Video: Watch Ringer full episodes, previews, clips, interviews and more video. Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as a woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out..."

See also this funny interview with Sarah.

I also recommend another project by a strong, creative woman, Mary Anne Mohanraj.
M.A.H. used to be managing editor of Strange Horizons (an online magazine I was an editor at for a little while) and has published many erotic, wonderful works of fiction. I recommend a look at her website.  If you want to Kickstart her new book Demimonde (look up the title's definition) and put up a few dollars (which I did), you get nice things -- like the book if the capital gets raised -- plus the joy of being a patron to some great stories!  If the funds do not get successfully raised, you are charged nothing.
Demimonde is an erotic science fiction novel-in-stories by Mary Anne Mohanraj.

mackknopf: (Mack Lawyer)

I continue with my project of reviewing and analyzing dramas I have seen, particularly on film, with an occasional dalliance into television.  I rarely watch TV for several reasons, such as cost, lack of interest and time, and the general feeling that is a barren wasteland broken only a few rare gems.  However, I did watch, once upon a time, the ABC television show known as “Lost.”  What follows is a revision of my notes from the last evening of the ultimate broadcast.  Forgive me in advance for the lateness of the review.  I hope in future critique posts to catch up to the present (eventually...). 

First, a confession.  I have not actually seen every episode of “Lost.”  I did watch a great many of them with my friend Kristin, but as the May 23, 2010, finale drew closer, I found it very hard to suspend my disbelief anymore in this work of fiction.  I did tune back in for the final episode, first reading up online for the summaries of shows I had missed.  Kris loved the ending.  However, I wanted to throw things at the television, preferably hard enough that they went through the screen and hit the actors.  But no, each actor did the best he or she could with the material given.  I really should be aiming at the writers, who apparently decided long ago that answering the questions raised didn’t matter. What was important was coming up with important-seeming questions and then dodging the answers indefinitely.  This is called “lack of payoff.” 

(If you want to keep your mind pristine and free of how it all ended, you can stop reading now.  Everyone else, carry on.)

Spoilers! I have spoilers! )
mackknopf: (Disclaimer)
I went to PlayOnCon 2011 IV yesterday, hosted at the Birmingham Marriott out on Highway 280.   I went it around 2 p.m. and only stayed about two and a half hours.  I didn't have nearly as much fun as I did last year, when it was at a hotel in Irondale.  They didn't have any tabletop games I wanted to play (it was mainly Pathfinder, a Dungeons & Dragons variant); I didn't feel like playing a boardgame in a crowded room; I didn't see any card games (last year someone roped me into a few rounds of The Great Dalmuti, which was enjoyable); and the miniature wargames (Warhammer 40K, etc) looked nifty but are not my cup of tea. 

I did think about bringing my Call of Cthulhu books, a plushie tentacled Cthulhu as a prop, and maybe a handwritten sign in the Open Gaming room  that said "Want to go insane, die, or kill your friends?  Play Call of Cthulhu!"  I probably could have gotten a decent crowd for a con game and just run one of the adventures I own, but that would have been work.  I wanted to play in a game of some sort, not have to always run, even though running is usually more fun for me.

But there was no World of Darkness, Savage Worlds, Paranoia, or really anything but the Pathfinder stuff.   There weren't even any live action games going on for background color, surprising to me.  There were some interesting and amusing costume players, particularly the girl dressed like Alice from American McGee's Alice, with blood all over her dress, and a plastic butcher knife.  I didn't quite have the nerve to ask anyone to pose for photos, but they probably wouldn't have minded (since after all they dressed to be noticed).

There were no movies being shown, and Japanese animation wasn't being viewed until later in the evening.  I saw one fiction writing panel, but it was by Mercury Retrograde Press, which looked perilously close to being a self-publishing "vanity press."  Noteably, the company doesn't pay you up front for the books they publish.  PlayOnCon needed a real writing track with some better known authors.  Also, it could use some Guests of Honor to contribute their presence (no sign of them or any real celebrities, even minor ones).
Read more... )
mackknopf: (Books)
I used to keep a poetry notebook, now sadly much neglected.  I was browsing through the pages recently.  Perhaps I'll start keeping it again, who knows?  But poetry was never my forte.  Most of the time, I wrote doggerel when I tried to rhyme, or free verse when I didn't.  Since free verse is almost like writing prose anyway, I just naturally made my way in time towards that medium, with short stories, essays, articles, and what-have-you. 

I even took a poetry writing workshop at UC Berkeley, led by Professor Ismael Reed, a fairly well-known figure in the area.  It was fun, but it did teach me what my strengths were.  Or perhaps not, since somehow I specialized in poetry while getting my English Bachelors and did a Masters in English Literature, heavy concentration on the Romantic Poets.  In retrospect, I have no idea what I was thinking.  Rhetoric or journalism classes might have been far more useful, though not as exciting in the same way.

In any event, here's a poem I wrote four years ago, followed by a later response to myself.  The original poem was itself a reply to a piece, "Dreams of a Lover," by M. A. Mohanraj, who used to edit the online magazine Strange Horizons while I was working as an articles editor.

Read more... )
mackknopf: (Mack Recent)
I first encountered Valerie Gribben at the Little Professor in Homewood, Alabama.  She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham as an undergraduate, and so word got around that she was doing a book signing for her fantasy trilogy, newly collected in hardcover.  I found her to be delightfully charming in person, and she gladly signed a copy of  The Fairytale Trilogy for a friend, [personal profile] kareila .  Valerie published her first book when she was 17, and she wrote the other two en rout to medical school.  I asked her at the time what her next literary project was, and she didn't know if she'd have time to write anything new while becoming a doctor. 

I'm glad to say that I encountered her work again in today's New York Times, where she had written an Op-Ed: "Practicing Medicine Can Be Grimm Work."  I don't know if she'll write any more book-length works anytime soon, what with her medical career, but it's good that she's still writing!  I enjoyed the article -- take a look.  It's similar in concept to what Joseph Campbell said about myths providing templates to get through life.  She says she finds herself using fairy tales and their characters to understand the patients she sees, when her textbooks won't reveal motive and why.
mackknopf: (Disclaimer)
As I recently told my friend Lisa Hicks (an oral storyteller in Birmingham whose page you should check out), It's hard to find the time to write seriously (non-legal).  I suppose most writers with day jobs have this problem.  When I'm at my best, I'm at work.  I do a little email at the office, but I try to keep it minimal.  So that leaves the evenings late at night, when I'm tired, and the weekends, when I have errands and want to see my friends and whatnot.  But I cancelled my TV since I wasn't watching it (I may get Netflix). You would think that would free up some more time, but I just do more reading books and playing on the computer.

My writing projects are:

1) Email correspondence (frequently done, but I never catch up)

2) Thank you notes and actual handwritten letters to close relatives (this is rare, but I have some and they take time)

3) Gaming-related writing, which I'm always behind on. (Updating the web page, writing player handouts, scripting scenarios for adventures, etc.)  I only have the two gaming groups, but haven't played anything since the last Vampire horror game!  Finding time to schedule with Karyn and company is difficult for the fantasy adventure game, and I've had to cancel a couple of times lately.  I've bought a few books on Ebay though, which are fun to read.  To clear shelves, I'm going to sell off a few gaming books and donate a box I've culled to the Hoover Library. There are some good quality works that they'll probably put into circulation, along with some which are just library bookstore material.

Read more... )
mackknopf: (Default)
A few weeks ago, I was at a book signing and talking shop with the other local writers.  You know, asking them questions about their methods, picking their brains on techniques, etc.  I mentioned to Debrah Goldstein, the author whose event it was, that I wanted her picture for my blog.  Of course, then she wanted to know the blog's address.  I thought she'd forget about it, but when I wrote her later to say that Dad and myself were reading her book, she wanted a copy of the picture as well as information about my web log.  I provided her with the photo, then thought for a bit.

The problem was that my journal was really meant for close friends only, not other authors and the general public. Journalling or blogging for me started as a personal memoir in 2001, the beginning of law school.  The current personal journal goes back to 2004, because I deleted the old entries in a fit of pique and the age-old artistic desire to remake oneself.  Since then, I expanded my repertoire to include commentary on writing works in progress as well as the law.  I still kept it under a pseudonym, for obvious reasons, which made it little read. But the desire to be publicly read and to receive feedback was there.

There was also no way I was going to design an actual website, lacking both the skills and really the need.  But another Dreamwidth account where I could use my real name, put the best memoir stories and reviews from my regular journal on there, that I could tell my relatives and people in general about?  That had potential.

And so, this blog, "Letters to the Earth" (the sequel) was born.  I intend to chronicle the writing and publication of at least one novel, False Gods.  Along the way, there will be: discussion on the craft of writing; reviews of books, movies, and whatnot as I develop my critical faculties; essays on sundry subjects; and the occasional political or reporting post when I just can't help myself.

Welcome.  Read my profile, click on the tags on your left to see other entries, and generally make yourself at home.  I'll be adding more back material as I go on, and of course regularly updating with new material.  Please write me, if you feel so moved.





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March 2012

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