Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm a Winnah! (Redux)

It is done, yet it is not finished.

What could lead to such near incoherence? Why the end of National Novel Writing Month, that's what! For the second year in a row, I've hit the magic 50,000 word month and thus I'm a NaNoWriMo winner twice over!

After a month's worth of work, I've pooted forth 50,202 words. That's the good news. The bad news is that, unlike last year, I'm nowhere near finished with this book. Last year's Plausible Reliability finished up at about 73,600 words, so I was two-thirds of the way through after NaNo. The Water Road is, at best, about halfway finished, and that depends largely on whether I try to wedge one character's story into it or leave it out for a separate novella. Miles to go before I sleep and all that.

Thanks again to everybody who has offered a kind word or encouragement along the way. Hopefully, this one won't end up in a heap on the kitchen table once editing time comes along!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Make Baseball Interesting

I'm not a fan of the national pastime, but maybe that's because I've been doing it wrong. Like engaging with it sober (via Concurring Opinions):

I've heard worse excuses to embed some echolyn, while I'm at it:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can't Argue With That

For the most part, the fortune cookies I get when I eat Chinese food actually make some kind of sense. Not so yesterday's lunch chaser:

Now go to it!
It's ready to be prick.
Add to that the fact that my Chinese word of the day on the other side was "disease" and I'm not sure what they were trying to tell me. Maybe that I should have ordered off the Chinese, rather than Japanese, side of the menu?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh Noes!

She's gone rogue, but now Sarah Palin is . . .

. . . going Moog! Run for the hills!

Shamelessly lifted from here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Breaker’s Gone

English actor Edward Woodward, most well known in the States for his Golden Globe winning role in the TV series The Equalizer, has died in a British hospital.

Though prolific on stage and both screens (small and big), he only really got to be the main attraction in films twice. Once was in the cult classic The Wicker Man (the first one, obviously) and in one of my favorite films of all time, Breaker Morant. I’ve gone on about Breaker before, so I won’t do it again. Suffice to say, it’s a bummer he’s no longer with us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to Make Some Lists

I just realized that we're coming to an end of a decade, as the "aughts" will finish up when the New Year rolls around in January. Not surprisingly, we're starting to see "best of" lists for the decade. The Times of London is already up with its 100 best films of the decade, while The Onion's AV Club has started a project to nail down the decades best . . . well, everything.

In that spirit and in line with (and in addition to) my tradition "My Year In . . ." posts, I'll have a pair of posts about what you "aught" to have heard or seen in the past ten years. I'll limit it to the top ten albums and movies of the decade, that I've actually seen and heard, of course. Get your nominations and politicking in now!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Annoyance and Art

When it comes to fictional characters, main characters at least, most audiences want them to be likable. They want to empathize with the hero battling evil or the underdog overcoming huge odds. At the very least, we don't want the main character to be an annoying dipshit.

Not that annoying dipshits can't be entertaining. John Cleese has made a living annoying other people for a living. He even made an instructional video, How To Annoy People, along the way. Of course, that's in laugh out loud farcical situations.

And we love annoying dipshits who get their comeuppance. Think of the title character of Voltaire's (and later Bernstein's) Candide, who is indoctrinated in the worldview that this is the best of all possible worlds. It takes scrapes with the Lisbon earthquake, and auto-de-fe, and other horrors to shake his perception. But at least he comes around in the end.

But what about a character who starts out annoying, stays that way throughout the picture, and doesn't have a change of heart in the end? If the idea intrigues you, may I recommend Mike Leigh's film Happy-Go-Lucky. It'll mess with your mind.

Happy-Go-Lucky is the story of Poppy, a 30 year old with the sunny disposition of a pre-angst tween. She is precisely the kind of person that would annoy the hell out of me in real life. Relentelessly positive, quick to toss off of non-sequitor to answer a question, and never (well, almost) thrown off stride by what life throws at her, whether it be a bicycle thief, a racist conspiracy theorist driving instructor, or a babbling homeless man. She seems impervious to the real world and all the troubling things that go with it.

So I hated the movie, right? Poppy never learns her lesson, never straightens up and starts to act like the adult she is. What could be more aggravating, right?

Except it isn't. As the film progresses, we see that Poppy is actually a very admirable character. She has deep connections with those around her, from her roommate of a decade to her family and coworkers. She has a job, an important one, that she does well. Her coworkers seem to respect her, at least. Rather than being oblivious to the shitty bits of the world around her, she just refuses to let then ruin her good mood. She's actually kind of impressive, in her own way.

The bottom line is this - Mike Leigh took a character who is clearly annoying and managed to make me admire her. I still didn't care for her, in the end, but I had sufficient respect for her to let her live her life on her own terms. If nothing else, that's a hell of an artistic accomplishment, but what else would you expect from Leigh?

After all, her way of dealing with the world didn't harm anybody else, so what the fuck? I'll just cross the street if I see her bopping down the sidewalk.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Twenty Years Ago . . .

A great day indeed.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Do They Have Super Duper Precedent?

Legal briefs on the whole are dry, dull, boring affairs. Trust me - I write them for a living. It can be tempting to try and enliven things with a joke or a pop culture reference, but you have to tread carefully. If the audience either doesn't get the joke or is insulted at its very existence, you're better off dry, dull, and boring. And if you drop a pop culture reference, you might just find yourself on the receiving end of something like this:

Defendant further contends that his behavior could be construed as innocent ‘girl watching,’ citing Frank Loesser's immortal number ‘Standing on the Corner’ from Most Happy Fella (1956) (‘Brother, you can't go to jail for what you're thinking/Or for the “Ooooh” look in your eye.’). Research indicates, however, that Mr. Loesser's thoughts on the innocence of ‘girl watching’ have been limited, if not directly overruled, by more recent Broadway musicals. See, e.g., Stephen Sondheim, ‘Pretty Lady,’ Pacific Overtures (1976), and accompanying scene.
US v. Kaplansky, 42 F.3d 320, 327, fn. 1 (6th Cir. 1994)(en banc).

See, I never even learned the precedential hierarchy of Broadway shows in law school. I wonder how they'd fare compared to a Peter Hammil lyric (which I did deploy in a law school paper once)?

Stumbled across this one at work today and just had to share.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Kindred Spirit

One of my pet peeves, although one I don't go off on much here because I don't carry a camera around with me all the time, is the abuse so many people heap upon quotation marks. Hardly seems like a day goes by where some store sign or announcement completely mangles the poor things.

Thankfully, I've found somebody else who is keeping an archive of this abuse, The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. On first blush, my personal favorite is this one, a sign I've seen at a restaurant in the Pittsburgh area:

I'm not keen on the idea of sushi to start off with, but "sushi"? Sounds dicey.

Check the link above for more grammatical foolishness.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Freedom is Slavery!

Turns out Big Brother was right. At least that's what the church up the street from me says. Who knew?

At least Big Brother was pithier.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Programming Note

November is National Novel Writing Month. As I mentioned last week, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo again, for the third year running. Of course, that means posts here at the Ranch will be few and far between. However, if the progression of my past efforts means anything, I might have something decent when all is said and done this year.

My project in 2007, The Year of Living Magically, cratered a little past halfway and thus fell well short of the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo. Still, it was an important learning experience and I find myself drawn back to that story every now and then with an eye towards redoing it from a fresh perspective. We'll see.

In 2008 I was a winner! All that means it that I hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of November. However, by December I actually had a finished first draft, so I was seriously pumped. Unfortunately, Plausible Reliability is stuck in editing hell and I've lost some enthusiasm for the project. I still have a great deal of enthusiasm for the underlying West Virginia legend that animated it, however, the saga of the Flatwoods Monster. For more on that, see this excellent diary of at Kos (of all places), part of a regular series on UFO lore. It even includes a magazine article that quotes my grandfather, who was mayor of nearby Sutton and publisher of one of the county's newspapers, as well as an article he later wrote for one of the Charleston papers.

This year's project is tentatively titled The Water Road, a title I've lifted shamelessly from last year's Thieves Kitchen album of the same name. It's also the name of the defining geographic feature of the fictional land in which the story takes place. Since it's not set on Earth, doesn't involve humans, and I make no attempts to claim it's scientifically plausible, it's technically "fantasy." But there's no magic (sorry, honey) and it's got little in common with Tolkein and his ilk. Think of it more like a history of another world.

Here's the "back of the book blurb" I've come up with for it:

What begins with a murder, ends with a revolution.

The Land is divided by the Water Road. To the north, an alliance of nations clings together against the marauding nomadic tribes of the southern mountains. That fragile alliance, The Triumvirate, has held for more than one hundred years, bringing peace to the north. But one woman, torn between the two worlds, will discover the secret of how that peace has been earned. The spark she strikes will changes her life, and the Land, forever.
Unlike my earlier projects, which were pretty off the cuff, I've spent time over the past few months fleshing out this world and its inhabitants. I even have a map.

Wish me luck and I'll see y'all on the other side!