Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

Time to wrap it up

But only for the year. ūüôā

So I didn’t write as much as I’d hoped to this year, which I’m sure happens to many of us. The events of real life just take precedence, and carving out time for thing is hard, especially when the rewards are more¬†intangible.

In fact I only wrote two stories, both parts of unofficial challenges at Literotica. One was called Keeping Secrets, and was inspired by the song “Written in Rock” by Rick Springfield. The other was¬†Empires of the Stars, and the challenge there was to write a story beginning with the following sentence:

Upon the table lay three items: a handkerchief, a book, and a knife.

I can’t say I was exploring any great or profound themes in the stories, but they were fun to write. In¬†Keeping Secrets a¬†man and a woman each rationalize why they are keeping something secret from¬†each other. I bet nearly all of us do this. That there is something we keep to ourselves out of fear, or fear of upsetting someone else, and so we find ways to work around it. I generally believe, as Sylvia¬†says in the story, that this is not harmful so long as the secret does no harm to the people involved, or the relationship. But sometimes, you need to share.

Empires of the Stars was just a one-off, something of a satire of the various types of tropes in erotic stories and other things. I know it confused¬†some people at first, including the gentleman who organized the contest and contacted me to make sure I hadn’t sent an incomplete draft. ūüôā However, once people got it, they seemed to like it, and so I’m grateful for that.

As always I’m hoping to do more writing in the year ahead, and so I’ll have to make a real effort to carve that time out even if it means making the dishes wait a bit.

Thanks to everyone who keeps reading,¬†I’m grateful to you too.

All the best and Happy New Year. ūüôā

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Still here

I think I set a record for not blogging, but here I am.

I am working on a story as well. I can’t tell you when it will be finished, but I have¬†signed up for NaNoWriMo¬†to give myself some incentive to get moving.¬†If you are unfamiliar with NaNo (as we say for short), I’d recommend checking it out. It’s free (although they do ask for donations if you can), and the goal is to write 50000 words during November. That’s it.

Your story does not have to be complete and can be in any genre you’d like; the idea is simply to encourage writers to write. There are forums where you can chat about writing, and you may even be able to find a local group that gets together so that you can meet face-to-face in a group.

My story is something of a werewolf¬†story but I’m aiming not to hold to some of the¬†common themes, or at least to play around with them a little. No idea how it will come out, but when I does, I hope if you read it, you enjoy it.

Writing, I have found, demands more of you than you might think.¬†It is as simple as sitting down to write your story, but that is not so simple in itself. Do I have the time? The focus? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes I’m not sure and it’s more fun to catch up on¬†Ghost in the Shell (thank you Cartoon Network!).

But I am working on it!

I also urge you to check out Yellow Silk Dreams — we’re working on new stories from new authors, and have some holiday promotions going on. Sometimes you need a quickie. ūüôā

Time to write?

I’m hoping so. Unlike a lot of parents, it seems, who fret at sending their little ones to school after the summer, I’m looking around wondering where the bus is and ready to try to take advantage of this to carve out writing time on a regular basis. Because when you don’t have that, it’s easy to get out of the writing habit and hard to get back in.

If you haven’t seen Wes Anderson’s movie¬†The Grand Budapest Hotel, I highly suggest you do, because it’s a) it is a fantastic film and b) it is in part about a writer. The opening of the film contains some observations about writing by the Writer, who is¬†never identified, and who is played by Tom Wilkinson and then by Jude Law (who has a terrific voice for voice-over narration; his voice¬†was probably the best part of¬†Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I digress) at a younger age. Wilkinson’s character notes that people think writers just come up with everything, making up characters and worlds out of thin air, when the truth is that when people find out a writer is writer, they bring the stories to him or her,¬†and if the writer listens, much of the work is done for him.

And I think this is true to a great extent. Most stories, I’ve found from talking with other authors, do not quite appear out of the blue. There is a character based on someone they know, or a situation based on one they experienced, or an edited or adapted version of a story someone told them.

But no matter the story comes to the¬†writer, the writer needs time to write it down, which is hard to come by for those of us with kids and or “real” jobs.¬†Some writers, and I envy them, can sit and write a few pages or even words when they can steal the odd moment. I find that, perhaps because I’m out of the habit of writing, I need more than that. I need time to focus, and the small bits between “Mom, when’s lunch?” and doing the laundry aren’t enough for me.

I admit, as I told my husband, that for a little bit, I’m¬†hoping to have a bit of a vacation when school starts. To¬†relax for a bit, watch a movie or show on demand (True Blood is under consideration, as is Defiance), and to quote Depeche Mode, “enjoy the silence” for a bit.

However, I do want to get back in the habit. I’m not sure what I’ll work on, as I’m torn between new material and revamping older stories, but perhaps there will be time for both.

Belated Movie Review: Pacific Rim

I¬†love this movie. I’m not quite sure I can explain why, except that it hit a chord with me, as I’m sure has happened to you with songs, books, movies, etc. Sometimes there’s no surprise, and sometimes you’re a little baffled that something hit you so strongly.

For those of you that are not big fans of science fiction, or action, or giant monsters or giant robots, you may not be so interested. This is one of the most genre of genre films I have seen. Matt Zoller Seitz at rogerebert.com gave it four stars. It is a tribute and homage to past films, and most specifically to Japanese “kaiju” movies.

Like most films I catch these days, I did not see this one in a theater, but oh how I wish I could have. This movie is about¬†big things — big monsters, and big robots, called “jaegers” (YAY-gers). So I had to make do with my flat-screen TV, but that was okay. I had a huge grin on my face, I think, for most of it when I first saw it.

A¬†synopsis of sorts, and there will likely be spoilers, but the film is from 2013, so I think if you haven’t seen it by now, you probably don’t care so much. In 2013, the first kaiju comes to¬†Earth via “The Breach,” a fissure between two tectonic plates in the Pacific Ocean. Because monsters must destroy recognizable landmarks, this first kaiju (Trespasser) destroys the Golden Gate Bridge, and a few more things down the CA coast. He is destroyed, but six months later, there is another. Then another in six more months.¬†

In one of those utopian movie moments, the world comes together to fight a common enemy, and to fight giants, we build giants — huge robots, piloted by a pair of people are mentally compatible so that when they “drift,” they can connect to both each other and the robot to operate it. This works incredibly well, and as the movie’s narrator, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) puts it, we got really good at winning.

Until things change, and Becket’s¬†jaeger is destroyed in taking out a kaiju. His brother is killed in the process, and Raleigh refuses to “jockey” anymore.

But this is a genre movie with certain clich√©s and expectations, and director Guillermo del Toro and writer Travis Beacham do not disappoint. Raleigh is the burdened veteran pressed to return to service; Chuck Hansen is the hot-shot Australian pilot who’s unimpressed with Raleigh’s story; Stacker Pentecost (how can you not love that name), played by Idris Elba, is the strong commander who cares and does what he must to complete the mission; Mako Mori (Rinko Kukichi) is the young woman who¬†wants to become a fighter after having been a victim, but is held back by Pentecost, her adoptive father, but out of love and not lack of confidence.

Yet all these characters, despite their expected existence, are individuals. You can relate to all of them to some degree, and the presence of a woman like Mako in this movie is fantastic. She is just there, and no one questions her right to be there, her intelligence, or anything else. She will rise or fall on her own merits, and that is so refreshing. There may or may not be something romantic between Mako and Raleigh (again, expected), but it is not the point. They have a job to do, and they want to do it, and that comes first. Mako is smart and resourceful; please give us more movies with characters like her, no matter the genre.

But really,¬†let’s talk about the robots, right? Come on, you know you want to. They are¬†so cool.¬†Their names —¬†Gipsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, Striker Eureka — how great is that? And they are international. When the chips are down, the four jaegers left come from various¬†countries that border the Pacific Ocean. Gipsy Danger from the US; Crimson Typhoon from China (with three arms and piloted by triplets!); Cherno Alpha from Russia (looking a bit like Gort from the original¬†The Day the Earth Stood Still); and Striker Eureka from Australia. All are brought to Hong Kong, where they are housed in the Shatterdome. Is that not excellent?

There are, of course, many fights between the robots and the monsters, and I think credit is due to del Toro for not rushing things, or cutting every half a second, so that the viewer can follow the action. We know who hit whom, or what, and where they are, and what happened. When a jaeger goes down, your heart’s in your throat; you feel for the crew and you want a last-minute miracle. When a jaeger lands a blow on a kaiju, you’re relieved.

But the science, far-fetched perhaps, is not forgotten, and two scientists figure prominently in the story as well. Geiszler and Gottlieb are an odd couple — neat v. messy, formal v. informal, etc. — but they are smart men who realize that when the world is ending, you follow the most likely path to success or at least answers and you don’t worry so much about who’s supposed to be right or wrong. Without their work, the final plan devised by Pentecost would be doomed to failure, and Pentecost respects them enough to rethink the plan.¬†

Oh there’s more. There’s the tension between Chuck and Raleigh, between Mako and Pentecost,¬†and a darkly humorous side brought in by Ron Perlman as a black-market dealer in kaiju remains. The¬†terrific final battle, underwater, and the ensuing human victory.

I like that despite all of the fighting and impending apocalypse, there is hope in this movie. I recently discovered that I’ve had my fill, for a while, of anti-heroes and people trying to get by after a civilization meltdown, be it The Walking Dead or HBO’s¬†The Leftovers. Pacific Rim gives me¬†action, and some sorrow, but an underlying hopeful note, and these days, you can’t have too many of those.

P.S. If you see or have seen the movie, check out the film’s Wiki¬†for back story, kaiju names, etc. It’s great¬†fun.

 

I am a woman, but …

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the #yesallwomen hashtag over at Twitter, and some of the good, bad, and sad things that have been tweeted on it. I’ve looked myself and as I often do with such things, I find I have mixed feelings about it.

I think it’s clear that for some reason, Elliot Rodgers, the man who stabbed and shot six people and then killed himself, was not right in the head. It is also clear, from Rodgers’ own¬†written and video manifestos, that he blamed all of his anger on women. (I’m not linking to these because you’ve probably seen them, the links are easily found elsewhere, and quite frankly, I don’t want to see or read them myself. Reading¬†about it is bad enough.)

Rodgers said, in no uncertain terms, that he felt women owed him love, sex, and adoration, and he’d had it up to here that they weren’t fulfilling their end of his self-perceived bargain. And it wasn’t just women, because he was clearly just as pissed as the men who were getting the girls that Rodgers thought he should be getting. Hence, he killed men, too.

It’s good that this is generating discussion, although I’m of the pessimistic thought that the discussion will pretty much just circle around and not get anywhere.

Anyway, one of the things about #yesallwomen that makes me feel odd is that, well, so many of the things other women have said have not happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for trouble — I am exceedingly¬†glad I have not had to deal with the shit they have, and I am sorry that they have. The funny thing is, though, that when you see all these things coupled with “#yesallwomen,” there’s a feeling akin to guilt when¬†I think, “Well, not this woman.”

Like I said, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve experienced very little outright sexual/gender discrimination that I know of. The¬†only thing that really stands out is that when I was in high school and wanted to join the A/V club, I was told by the vice principal that girls couldn’t do that. I didn’t¬†question it at the time; I went to a Catholic school and the VP was a priest. Like baseball players do not argue with the ump, I did not argue with him. Thinking about it now, I would guess the reasoning was¬†that the A/V club was all-male, and having a¬†girl there could lead to potential problems.

Now, why they wouldn’t, say, have a teacher or two there to make sure everything was okay, I don’t know. It was stupid at the time, but I had¬†other things to do, and so I dismissed it and went on to those other things. I wasn’t going to sue over it or anything like that. I would also guess that now that is not the case, but it was in the mid/late 1980s.

But¬†when I read #yesallwomen, I see the statements of reporting sexual harassment, or assault, and not being believed. Of carrying keys through your fingers as a makeshift weapon when walking alone (I’ve done this). Of having to tell a strange guy you have a boyfriend, even if you don’t, because it’s the best way to make him go away. Or worse, of being assaulted by friends or family, and not believed by same.

That has not happened to me (again, thankfully). I saw a tweet that said, roughly, ask any woman you know if she’s been sexually assaulted/molested/harassed and she’ll say yes. The first reply was¬†from a guy who said he’d¬†asked his mom and sister, who had both replied in the negative.

And perhaps that’s the problem. I will agree that women are aware and conscious of personal security in a way that most men are not — because they don’t have to be. I had a roommate for a couple of years, a guy who had just come out as gay not long before moving down my way. This was a big thing for him, coming from a smaller, conservative town. One night he was going out and I asked what I thought was a fairly innocuous question, was he intending on coming back that night. He got mad.

To be fair,¬†he wasn’t belittling my concerns. What he was mad about was¬†that he essentially had to consider someone else’s POV, and he was in a phase of basically not wanting to be answerable to anyone for what he was doing. I pointed out that I didn’t¬†care if he came back that night, aside from wanting him to be safe, I just wanted to know if I could put the chain lock on. If I’d been a guy, I doubt I would have thought about it. But I’m not a guy, and I did.

So it’s weird when I read the tweets, because although I sympathize and empathize and agree as best I can, it’s not my experience. Some of it is because, for example, I don’t and didn’t to places like bars, which seems like a place where a lot of unwanted advances happen. To a great extent,¬†I’ve probably taken myself of risky situations, but not to avoid the risk. I’m just not a bar person, but the result is the same.

And again, let me be clear — a woman should be able to go to a bar, or a restaurant, alone or with a friend, and be left alone. No means “no,” not “make an offer” or “I’ll change my mind if you keep talking.” People, men and women, need to learn to respect a person’s “No.”

I do think attitudes need to change, and that will be hard. I’d like to see an end to things like “You throw like a girl” and other¬†statements where a man is insulted by calling him a woman. It’d be nice if groups of men — teams, etc. — would stop saying things like, “Okay, ladies, let’s…” They aren’t ladies and there’s an implied disrespect thee. So stop it.

I’d like to see people of both genders stop saying (as I read on all #yesallwomen) “Why didn’t she leave?” when finding out about an abusive relationship and start asking, “Why didn’t he stop hitting her?” and “What made him think he had the right?”¬†People need to help and protect themselves, but that’s often easier said than done, and blame and responsibility need to be placed on the person perpetrating the violence and not the one who was victimized.

And that should happen when it’s #allmen, too.

 

Belated Movie Review: Robot & Frank

I will have a writing related post soon, but since I watch a lot of movies and like to muse on them, I thought I might start with “Belated Movie Reviews.” I rarely see movies when they open in theaters,¬†so¬†I hope that by reviewing older movies, I might turn you on to something you missed.

Last night I saw Robot & Frank, a sort of sweet little movie (85 mins) starring Frank Langella, James Marsden (aka Cyclops or Corny Collins), Liv Tyler (she still acts, it seems) and Susan Sarandon (yay!).

Langella’s Frank Weld is an older man, living alone, whose memory is starting to fade, or fragment.¬†Not entirely, and not necessarily on important issues, but he’s obviously declining. At first, the viewer doesn’t realize how much, as what he forgets seems relatively harmless, such as that his favorite diner in town has gone out of business. ¬†Frank also used to be a thief, a “cat burglar” as he himself puts it.

Frank fills his time by walking into town, visiting the library and flirting a bit with the librarian (Susan Sarandon). He is disappointed to learn that the library will essentially be going all-digital, a project funded by a neighbor, a young millionaire named Jake.

Frank has two children, Hunter (Marsden) and Madison (Tyler), and I have a feeling people will recognize these different relationships. Hunter drives five hours each way every weekend to check on Frank, who lives alone in a rural area. He sacrifices time with his family because he feels his dad needs him. Madison is off in Turkmenistan, communicating via erratic Skype calls, and not as familiar with Frank’s condition, but only because she is far away, not because she doesn’t care.

Hunter shows up one weekend with the Robot, because he is reaching the end of his rope in dealing with Frank — answering the same questions,¬†having the same arguments, going over the¬†same things. Hunter need something to change, both for himself and for Frank, and so brings in the Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). The Robot will care for Frank, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and perhaps most importantly, putting him on a routine in order to help his cognitive functioning.

This is something Frank obviously needs, but Hunter cannot provide (he has his own family) and Frank will not accept from another person, nor will go to the “brain center,” he informs Hunter.

Frank naturally resists at first, telling both Hunter and Madison he does not want¬†the Robot. However, Frank discovers some perks about the Robot, not the least of which is that he can teach the Robot to pick locks. This gives Frank an idea, which benefits him mentally because now he has a goal — something the Robot has said is important for Frank. (There’s a wonderful moment towards the end, when the Robot follows a previous order from Frank but in a different situation than it was issued. Who says Robots can’t have senses of humor?)

Madison suddenly shows up on Frank’s doorstep to save him from the Robot. By now Frank is not just accustomed to his companion, but needs him for a plan. However, Madison is a force to¬†be reckoned with and shuts the Robot down, much to Frank’s dismay.

There are various relationships going around here, and it’s hard to¬†say which one takes precedence, and perhaps no single one does. Frank and the Robot are at the center of it, but Frank’s relationships with Hunter and Madison and how they handle his mental decline are important as well. Madison is not ignoring it, but does not seem to see the entirety of it. Hunter is doing the best he can, but has other obligations.¬†In a moment with the Robot, Frank has to confront the kind of legacy he has left to his children, and it’s a watershed¬†moment for him, played well by Langella.

I liked the movie over all, but it felt lacking in places, mostly with Madison. It’s not clear why she is so upset about the Robot.¬†It’s at least implied that she feels it is cold for a Robot to be caring for her father, and she comes dashing home from Turkmenistan to work on a grant application and care for him, but it’s a bigger job than she realized. But why is it so awful for the Robot to do this, especially if Frank will not accept live-in care, but needs it? Is she coming home because she really wants to, or because she feels guilty? Does she think the Robot is usurping a person’s job? Why didn’t she come before — it’s clear that she and Hunter have discussed their father’s condition, so¬†she doesn’t seem in denial.

Frank’s relationships with both children are also a bit thin. We find out that he’s divorced, and that he’s spent time in jail, but¬†nothing of the impact of that is discussed aside from one line from Hunter. Yet somehow Hunter feels compelled to care for him. Did Frank make up for his mistakes?

The ending is satisfying, I think, or at least pleasing, and it doesn’t feel out of place or forced.

I’d recommend the movie with¬†the reservation that one might feel it is incomplete. But it’s worth a viewing.

 

It’s the Internet, people

I am forty-four years old and I consider myself a member of the “Transition Generation.” I remember life before computers. The first home computer I had was a TI-994A, which plugged into a television for a monitor. You could insert cartridges to play games (anyone remember Parsec? Hunt the Wumpus?), and you could practice BASIC programming. If you wanted to save your programs, you needed to hook up a cassette recorder and use that.

That was 1982-83, when I was about thirteen, and I know there are people out there today under a certain age who probably don’t know what BASIC is, or a cassette tape. They don’t know about the days of using a modem to dial up (via your landline, kids) to a BBS, and monochrome monitors and all that good stuff.

What do kids know today? They know cable modems, fiber optics, FIOS, wireless routers in the house, smart phones and all that good stuff. They know instant connection and instant communication. They are growing up in a different world, technologically.

This isn’t good or bad, either. It just is. We all grow up with technology that the preceding generations did not grow up with. Some of it puzzles them, just as some of what my kids have or will have will likely puzzle me. But for the most part, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

The World Wide Web is twenty-five years old this year, I’ve seen, and it’s brought social changes faster than probably about any time in history. It’s been easier or faster to connect with people, and you don’t even have to know them. Fads go in and out of mind in a matter of days, sometimes. But they don’t go away forever.

Because that is one thing that computers, the Internet, the Web, whatever, have changed — everything on the web is stored. You can’t delete a tweet before it’s cached somewhere and hence available to those who will make the effort. And the fact that people don’t seem to realize this baffles me.

One of my first thoughts, and even my mom’s, when Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal broke in New Jersey was: Did these people not realize email is stored? That just because it is out of your program’s trash bin¬†does not mean that it is gone forever?

Every time someone tweets something, or emails it, or posts a picture and then wonders how it spun out of control, I have to think — did you not see this possibility?

Now, of course, most of us don’t. Most of us probably — and rightly — think that we are simply too small to really garner that kind of attention, and I think that’s true. Even so, I have even checked myself when about to make Facebook posts or similar things and thought, “Will this get noticed? Will it offend someone?” And if I can’t decide, I don’t post. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So when I see some celebrity, even a lower-wattage one, make a stupid tweet/post/picture, and then be surprised at the reaction, I can’t figure it out. When Christie’s people sent emails back and forth, I thought, did they not realize someone else would see this? How could they not realize that emails sent to and from computers and servers at their place of employment would not eventually be seen?

I think it’s a mindset we haven’t yet adopted. When the only, or primary, way of contacting people far away was a letter, you could be fairly sure it remained private. Sure, it passed through various hands, but I doubt most of those hands had the opportunity or even time to open individual letters on the off-chance there was something juicy inside. Our current technology makes that easier and faster.

Kids growing up today probably won’t give this privacy issue much thought unless others point it out. When you grow up with something, you tend not to question it unless someone else does. We of the older — or shall we say, previous — generation might have something to contribute here, that privacy is valuable, and you shouldn’t give it away without a blink.

So you need to be careful what you tweet and what you post and realize that once it’s out there, you have lost control of it. If you don’t want to lose control, then keep it off the internet.

Privacy is important, but you have to proactively take steps to maintain it.

 

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