I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch


listen to my words

Nerdy Intellectual Exercise

spaces... everywhere

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This is intended to be a representation of a hierarchy of literary genres.

Big concerns? Are the Supernatural/horror and Supers genres seem valid?

So I would like some feedback on this because I’d like to do soem stuff with it. Things I missed? Disagreements? Smart remarks?

note, the final product will have interactive notes to explain things.

Favorites: Musical Acts of the 1950s

This is the first in a new series I’m starting. It may be that this series will only reach 6 articles, but it may be that I find something else to put in it.

Why six articles? Because the inspiration for this series was creating a list of my favorite 3 musical performers/musicians/songwriters/bands of each of the last 6 decades. Naturally, they focus on rock and it’s related kinds.

So, without further ado: My favorite three rock stars of the 1950s.

There are really only three to consider: Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. The 1950s was the easiest decade from which to select favorite music acts.

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is one of the earliest rock stars I ever even knew about. He was one of the artists Dad listened to. And who doesn’t know “Johnny B. Goode?”

Especially if you’ve ever seen Back to the Future

But he had others that just rock out. “Maybelline,” for one.

“Sweet Little Sixteen,” for another.

And honestly, he brought us the timeless “My Dingaling”

(yeah… that one’s not 1950s, at least that recording… I stand by my decision, however)

and one of the Best Christmas Songs Ever

(look! Reindeers! — if Chuck says it that way, I can too. Sorry, couldn’t find a performance of it)

Elvis

Elvis: THE STAMP

And... he had great hair

I admittedly overlooked Elvis Presley for a long time.

It wasn’t till the USPS released a postage stamp with his face on it that I gave him a real chance, recognizing at last how many of his songs I did know and love already.I mean, I knew I loved them, I just didn’t acknowledged that I liked so much that Elvis recorded, collectively. It was upon the release of this stamp, and the purchase of a greatest hits CD that I was finally able to admit: I loved Elvis.

So what is so great about Elvis? Other than the fact that he swung his hips and wore a leather jacket and sneered?


and the fact that even in his old age he could kick a mummy’s butt

Well, “Hound Dog,”

“Jailhouse Rock,”

and “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Pretty much ’nuff said right there.

Granted, he did “Amazing Grace” in 1970,

From the title of the album, it’s clear that they didn’t invent innuendo by 1970…

which puts it in another Decade, but since what I love of his music is MOSTLY in the 50s, and since that’s the decade I believe most people associate him with, I’m putting him here.

Buddy Holly


Wait… wrong buddy Holly…

From an early age, I was familiar with his work. I thought it was alright. I don’t think I “got” it though. Even when I was in a fit of buying 50s music and I got his greatest hits I didn’t get it. I believe there are times when I thought he was over rated on the basis of his tragic death as told in epic song.


Wait… wrong epic…

But while his music is simple, and I tend to be snooty about a lot of the virtuoso music I listen to, there’s raw art underneath the wholesome nerd-rock image Buddy Holly gave us. This is stuff at the core of so much rock to follow for the next half century and beyond. This is stuff that is iconic and still influential.

“That’ll Be the Day” (that I’ll die, not the music),

Wait… wrong… oh yeah. This one is right.

“Peggy Sue,”

What if Elvis had worn Holly’s glasses…?

“Maybe Baby,”

Couldn’t find a decent performance for this one either. Enjoy the pre-hipster nerd chic look

and “Rave On!”

But not with glow sticks or roofies! Also, yes, it’s clear the performance and the sound are not really associated with each other. Deal.

I mean, come on. You know you like every one of those, even if you won’t admit it because you’re a hipster and think you’re above it. And it’s because Holly is/was iconic. Emblematic.

jQuery’s Slice (and you didn’t even know it golfed, did you?)

Yes, it’s irritating enough that I’m going to blog about it.

Most programming languages have some version of slice() implemented in their design. The principle for the slice method/function/whatever is self explanatory: It makes a slice of a larger set of data.

HOW it’s implemented varies. It could change the original variable or set of data that you are working on. It could create NEW variable or set of data that copies that subset of the data. Conceivably, it could do both, like a cake: literally take the data out of the original set, leaving it smaller, and making a new object/variable/whatever with the subset you defined.

Every implementation I’ve seen defines the slice it makes using 1 or 2 numbers. The first number is an indication of where to start the slice, and if the second number is there, it indicates where the slice ends, (otherwise, the slice ends when the data slice ends.

Now, before we go on, I have to explain how programming languages and computers number things. If you understand 0-indexing used by most languages, skip a bit to get to my gripe. Otherwise, keep going.

In most computer/programming/scripting languages, counting starts at 0. So let’s say you have an array (an array is a group of things, more specificity in that definition varies from language to language). This array is a list of fruits. In this list we have:
Banana
Apple
Orange
Mango
Grape
Strawberry
Huckleberry
Lemon

That list is longer than we actually need, but it works. If the array has each of those stored in that order, “Banana” has an index of 0. “Apple” is 1, and so forth until we get to “Lemon” which has an index of 7. The LENGTH of the list is 8 objects. And programming languages will tell you it’s 8 objects long. But they’re going to index it 0-7. Banana is the first object, with an index of 0. Lemon is the eighth object, with an index of 7.

It’s not necessarily obvious, but there are good reasons for it which I won’t go into here.

Now, back to slice(). The first number telling you when to start is typically either a) the index number of the object (a range of 0-7 in our example) or the number of the sequence in which it appears (a range of 1-8). You have to know which one to use or you’ll get unexpected results, but once you know you just memorize it.

The second number, if it appears, can also be either the index number or the sequence number. But there’s also a third option! That “end number” might actually be a measure of how long the slice is.

So if you want to get Orange, Mango, and Grape, there are four common sense ways of expressing it.

  • Index method: fruits.slice(2,4) (because Orange is index 2, and Grape is index 4)
  • Sequence method: fruits.slice(3,5) (because Orange is third in the list and Grape is fifth)
  • Index + length method: fruits .slice(2,3) (because Orange is index 2, and you want 3 items from the list)
  • Sequence + length method: fruits.slice(3,3) (because Orange is the third item in the list, and you want 3 items from the list.

Personally, I would prefer it if they’d all just use the Index method, but I don’t get to decide these things.

But what REALLY IRRITATES me is what jQuery does with slice. It uses the index for the start item and the sequence number for the end item. So if we wanted Orange, Mango, and Grape, our expression would be fruits.slice(2,5). It uses to completely distinct numbering systems instead of just one, which makes it look like there are either 4 or 5 items in the slice, when there are only 3.

It’s not consistent, and that’s stupid. Thanks jQuery. I hate you now.

(No I don’t. Come back. Why you gotta make me hurt you, baby?)

Heroes

In 1944, during World War II, DC Comics published The Big All-American Comic Book. It was nothing particularly remarkable other than it being the first “here’s a bunch of stuff from all over what we do, and it’s all original.” This was the cover:
The cover of The All American Comic Book, December 1940, DC Comics
It’s iconic, in a way. All that golden age art. The price of 25 cents. The kid and his dog. The hero worship. It was definitely All-American.

Shortly after September Eleventh, DC Comics published two comics to raise funds for victims and workers at the crash sites. Here’s the cover for volume 2:
The cover to 9-11, Volume 2, DC Comics, 2001
It doesn’t take much to see where painter Alex Ross got his idea.

There were heroes who sacrificed their lives that day. The men and women who took control back of their plane over Pennsylvania. Men and women inside the towers who helped others get out. And of course the first responders who ran into the danger, even though it was impossible to breathe and there was no way of knowing when the next building would come down.

My senior thesis in college was about the heroes a society produces. In that sense, I spoke of the heroes in literature. Heroes, naturally, have the virtues that the society values most. When those values are in upheaval, the traditional hero is unable to accomplish heroics.

I have since written, more than once, that because of this thesis, the heroes I see honored in our pop culture disturb me. The Punisher is a cruel, vindictive, serial killer. Wolverine is an animalistic dealer in violence with little control over himself at times. We spend so much time looking at the dark side of stories and then finding fault with established role models. It makes me scared for what we’ll develop into.

I remember discussions with people after September Eleventh. Conversations full of anti-Semitic statements that grouped not only all Arabs, but all Muslims into easily derided segments. Conversations full of violent, vengeful wishes to torture those responsible. Conversations that made many ordinary people look like the dark anti-heroes put before me in pop-culture. And I was frightened more than what any terrorist could inspire in me.

But then I remember these pictures. The heroes of reality, not of literature. How these people are honored. And how, no matter what heroes they were presented with in the media, they chose saving others over their own lives. And many of them kept putting their lives at risk.

September Eleventh revealed what we are like under pressure. In the moment, There is still a shining model of heroism in humanity and Americans.

We are not supermen.

But we have those who are worthy of the awe of supermen.

I Can’t Forget

Remember, remember
The ‘leventh September
Airplanes and terror and plot.
I know of no reason
The two towers treason
Should ever be forgot.

I really hate it when people call it 9-11. “Nine-Eleven.” It sounds like the name of a convenience store. I’m not even sure why it’s so popular, other than the coincidental similarity to the emergency call number in the United States. Nine-Eleven has the ring of a sound bite, which is probably why it’s so frequently used. It’s lingo-y. Jargon-y. Insipid.

We don’t say “Seven Four” (which has a cool, CB trucker vibe to it). We don’t say Twelve-Seven either, just to cover the two most likely comparisons out of the way.

Of equal distaste is “Patriot Day.” Before September 11, 2001 I was good with the term. But it’s been co-opted by political actors and has been twisted so that “patriotic” means “people who agree with me.”

Whenever I talk about the day the world ended (if you’ll indulge a bit of dramatic hyperbole) I eschew abbreviations and euphemism. “September eleventh” is what I say. The “2001” part is unnecessary. For the last ten years, if you mentioned that date, it has been understood which day you meant.

It is an event that has occupied our national mind-set for this last decade. I don’t think I’ve had a single day of the last 3652 days where the thought of the disasters that happened hasn’t come to mind.

As a writer, I sometimes wonder if I should be ashamed that I am unable to find the words to communicate better what that day means. There’s a deep emotion that stirs whenever I consider it. Yes, there’s a deep love for my country. But that’s not it. Yes there’s a deep grief for the unnecessary death. Yes there’s anger that there are people who thought that not only was that death a good idea, but a righteous, holy idea. There’s mystification at how to make sense out of tragedy. Inspiration that there are those who can go forward. Tears of joy that there are people willing to sacrifice their lives to help others who might not even be around to appreciate it anymore.

Art Spiegelman created a 42 page biopic in graphic novel format about his reaction and explanation for that day called In the Shadow of No Towers. It’s a magnificent work, artistically interpreted and finely communicated. Nothing else I’ve read about September Eleventh is nearly so clear. Yet in all that, there are more questions left or opened than are ever answered. And his thoughts are very dense.

I can’t condense it. I can’t explain it properly even when I don’t condense it. We could speak for days, weeks, even years and not work out the meaning of that day. As a nation, we’ve tried for ten years and haven’t accomplished it yet.

When I watch movies or TV shows where something apocalyptic happens, particularly something like a nuclear detonation in a U.S. city, my mind still blocks it off. Despite the fact that I watch the events of September Eleventh unfold on my TV in real time, a part of my mind is unwilling to make the suspension of disbelief necessary to accept a story where Baltimore or Los Angeles is laid waste by weapons of mass destruction. There’s a mental block. Am I just unable to accept the reality of the world? Is it just the way I’ve dealt with not being terrified of the universe?

Because of all this, I don’t know how to react. I don’t really know how to honor. I know that there is a feeling in my heart. Some big combination of sympathy, grief, fear, admiration, love of country, and loss. I can’t begin to muddle out how much of each is in there or where it is. I have emotions in quantum states — I can identify emotions or I can identify the intensity of the emotion. I can’t do both simultaneously.

And that’s why I hate it when people say “nine-eleven.” When you wrap something as complex as the events and reactions of September 11, 2001 into a neat little phrase, you obviate all those emotions and thoughts and struggles. You minimize what happened and how significant it is. Saying “September Eleventh” is my way of acknowledging that there’s so much I don’t know about it, there’s so much I don’t understand about what I do know, and there’s so much left to feel about it.

So of course I’ll never forget. I can’t forget. I’ll never be finished processing my thoughts and feelings about it. That’s too big to forget.

Predicting or Preventing the Events of September 11, 2001

Let me tell you something about predicting.

In 1999 The Leading Edge, a science fiction and fantasy journal published by Brigham Young University, printed a (very) short story called “Y2K+5.” The premise of the story was that society collapsed due to the Y2K Bug — a hypothetical but likely glitch in older software (of primary fear was software used by the financial industry) regarding how it kept dates (using 2 digits). The concern was that when the 2-digit representation of the year rolled over from 99 to 00 it would cause a host of errors and confusion. The financial system and other infrastructure IT systems would crash and data would be lost. Societal collapse would be followed.

Everything in that premise was true. At least, the fear and potential was true. The story simply made a joke about what the world would be like 5 years after the collapse of the world as we knew it – since media attention had made The Doom all but inevitable. In reality, nothing happened.

In 1994 Tom Clancy had a book published called Debt of Honor. At the end of this book a member of a failed plot to restore primacy to a fallen empire took his revenge by crashing a passenger jet into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. He did it just before the president was to speak to the assembled joint-houses of Congress. Naturally, the president and most congresspersons died. The sequel, Executive Orders, details events that followed this act of terrorism. Another terrorist plot using bio-weapons is included, as well as near-war in two southern Asian nations.

This one didn’t come true either. But it echoes eerily for some of us.

Most of the world, even if they didn’t expect anything to happen, was aware of the potential of their world changing at midnight on January 1, 2000. But nothing happened. We were able to go back to our regular lives. We were convinced that the foretold doom was nothing.

None of us were ready for the world to change on the bright, clear morning of September 11, 2001.

On that date, terrorists, using passenger airlines as kamikaze missiles killed thousands by crashing into the two World Trade Center towers in New York City and into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Another plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when its passengers learned what was happening and heroically gave their lives to foil the terrorist plots.

In the aftermath, the terror meant to be inspired by these terrorists became real: civil rights were revoked in some of the most free countries in the world to stem unspecified potential attacks. Anthrax was used as a biological weapon. War was started with multiple Asian nations on sketchy premises. The world became a political thriller, except that there was never a neat conclusion.

So maybe somebody knew something could have changed things and nobody listened to him. It was human nature if that happened, and it wastes time and breath to try and blame people.

Because we predicted Y2K and nothing happened.

Y2K + 1 was when society as we knew it died.

Capitalizing on Emphasis

So my friend Chris and I were talking. And because we are Nerds we got to trying to label some literary terms. This is the sort of thing for which I keep a copy of The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms at my desk. Irritatingly, it’s the opposite approach for which the book was designed — which is all alphabetic with no index. So give me a term and I can look it up. But it’s a bit harder to look for a term based on the function that term has.

The stickler term was when you capitalize a phrase to create a proper noun. Usually this is done for emphasis, and even more often this emphasis is used at least a little ironically, to point out Pomposity or Overthinking the Issue. A. A. Milne did it a lot in Winnie the Pooh stories.

Now, to be clear, there are some terms we looked up that are similar but which Are Not Accurate:

Metonymy is where you use a phrase describing an aspect of something as a replacement for the something itself. Ie, it’s like saying “by the sweat of your brow” to tell Adam he needs to start working hard if he wants to survive.
My sister, who is a scientist Master of Poetry (meaning she has her master’s degree, in poetry composition) wants to insist that this is personification. However, I could say The Holocaust was a Very Bad Thing and I don’t think there’s much comparing to a person there at all. Though I suppose a person (let’s continue the trend and say it’s Hitler) could also be a Very Bad Thing.
One list of terms I saw called this simply “emphasis.” This smacks of weaksauce to me, however, and I refuse to accept that there isn’t a more specific term for this literary device.
Note that this is not the same thing as labeling Pooh as The Bear of Very Little Brain (which is antonomasia – using a descriptive label in place of an actual name). It is however, exemplified by “My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”
We also decided that it wasn’t as simple as denomination (giving a Proper Name to an object) or its ilk.
Sobriquet (a given nickname, as opposed to a pseudonym which is a chosen nickname) was also suggested, but I shot it down because capitalized term or phrase can also be literal. The sentence often makes sense without the emphasis or tone lended by capitalization.
I thought I was on track when I found Archetype Name. However, that refers to the person, place, or thing which is thought to have lent his/her/its name to proper name category, like The Fisher King.

So in the end I came up short. Instead, I started coming up with new names. I considered metonymic personification but rejected it for much the same reasons that I rejected its component terms. However, emphatic archetyping settled with me better. Though perhaps I’ll leave it as simply archetyping.

So literary nerd friends, I Call Upon You to help me find this name. Tell me what this literary stylistic device is supposed to be called. Or, if I’m right and there really is no specific term for it already extant, lets do some neologistic work.

After all, this is really Important Stuff.

Pitches

Here are some rough “pitches” for the novels I have in mind to write — possibly for next month’s NaNoWriMo.

These are not intented to be true sales pitches for an agent or an editor. They’d be horrible at that. However, I have tried for that flavor, in order to prevent too many spoilers.

I do have more ideas than this. However, all ten of these ideas have rough plot outlines so I know where they go and how they get there.

Read them, and then vote in the poll (sidebar below the tag cloud) to let me know which one I should work on first!

The Heir of Ungrith
A princess is married to the cursed king of a neighboring land because her parents expect him to die soon and they hope to annex his lands. They didn’t expect her to fall in love and fight for him.
When Aldess married the Cursed King of Venklatag she expected the short time he had left to live to be unpleasant but endurable. She didn’t expect him to treat her with love and respect. She knew that her parents were scheming an manipulative, but she didn’t expect them to attack her husband. Now, amid assassination attempts and dark magic she is offered a chance to break the Faerie King’s curse, bring life back to Venklatag at the cost of her soul.
(this has been written once, but is in desperate need of a major rewrite)

S.N.E.A.K.S.
A contract firm that tests and advises about security (and performs the occasional assassination) is hired to recover a magical artifact and uncovers a plot to destroy the realm.
Vrath (a former gladiator), Frost (a sorcerer and a scoundrel), Dink (a mechanical man), and Linella (part cat, part girl, all sneaky) fail their rookie mission for S.N.E.A.K.S., but manage to prove their potential, and rise to become the most effective team in the company. As they do, they begin to put together clues involving a deadly cult, a terrible plague, usurpation of the throne, and the death of their employers.

Orkbusters, Inc
Hired for a simple smash and grab, Herb and his team of experts slip into information that pits them against a necromancer with delusions of destiny.
Herb doesn’t like helping people – it’s an activity that inherently complicates things and shoulders him with the heaviest burden – responsibility. Thus it’s more than a little irritating when a job – a successful job with few hitches, even – forces him to vie with an evil sorcerer for the role to fulfill a prophecy he doesn’t even believe in. But when the alternative is the end of the world as he knows it, what choice does he have?

Bloody Waters
Captain Isadora took Smee into her care, and onto her pirate ship, knowing more of his dark secret than he did. Now that the death cult has found him, dark secrets come out in the open or the whole crew dies.
The pirates who crew Isadora’s ship give their loyalty because she’s the best – they enjoy freedom and booty without fear. THat loyalty is tested when they accidentally revive a cult bent on using First Mate Smee to awaken a dark god. On the run from magic that controls the wind and sea, Isadora, Smee, and their closest friends try to hold the crew together, find answers, and discover a way to remove the cult’s interest in Smee.

The Fallen
An angel shut out of heaven, a dryad with wanderlust, a heretic samurai, and an excommunicated priest journey together to find the secret of the angel’s past, perhaps finding redemption for themselves along to the way.
Shia al’Matar once held a position of glory in the heavenly courts of … some god or other. His identity is among the many things she can’t remember when she wakes alone in a dark forest, and the companions she finds seem as eager to help her as they are helpless to do so. Sinister clues hinting at a diabolical pact start appearing, and the only path that lies before her grows increasingly dangerous. Yet the pain of her past and the peril ahead seem the only choices to avoid they damnation and death they seem to promise.

The Dark Blade
An ignorant and blundering farm boy is selected by an unknown deity to be his representative. But after being banished and then trained as a knight, his encounter with divinity seems imagination, until he returns home and the mission is unavoidable.
No one ever thought Peks was born to destiny, least of all Peks. The messenger from a god told him different, but Peks isn’t even sure he didn’t imagine that, especially when he is banished. Even when picked to squire for the Imperial Knights his incompetence seemed to give lie to that promise. But when he flees to escape murder charges and finds himself in his childhood home, he is compelled to answer mysteries he didn’t even know of. And the resolutions to those mysteries, wrapped up in the history of the village and his own family, force a confrontation with his anonymous god.

Star Destined
Denied his birthright, a warrior goes into self-imposed exile, finding a new life with a foreign emperor. When his former countrymen threaten war, he seems to be the only one who can negotiate peace — if he’s not killed first.
The son of the greatest warrior and defender of their people ever, it was expected that Hans would take up the legendary Axe of Stars and lead the people to even greater heights. Treachery from his uncle changes that path, however, and Hans left his home to seek a new life. He found that life and fulfillment fighting for the Emperor in the Imperial Knights. Peace does’t last however. Hans’s uncle forms a confederation and began raiding the empire — planning outright invasion. The emperor sends Hans to face the destiny he thought he escaped — challenge his uncle for the throne and change his peoples history forever.

The Grey Knight
Left for dead, he struggled for survival, eventually rising to great heights. His brother retuns, however, to finish the job that was decreed by his religious master — punish and kill the heretic.
He woke up one day with no recollection of why he was there or where he came from, only a firm conviction of chivalry. He pledges himself to the only man he sees who upholds those ideals, and is dubbed The Grey Knight. The Grey Knight does have a past however, and even without a memory of it, he could not escape it. When his brother and sister come with seductive words and violent promises, The Grey Knights doubts himself. Can he become the honorable man he thought he was? And can he do it without dying at the hands of his siblings?

Zombies!
The zombie apocalypse ravaged the world like a horrible disease. But in their struggles to survive, two individuals learn the frightening reality of what the plague really is, and may be the only two capable of saving the world.
Shanna and Joel make an odd couple, but the zombie apocalypse forces some strange bedfellows. Shanna’s survival skills and and Joel’s technical expertise help them survive and prosper, until the remnants of the U.S. Army come to call. Narrowly escaping imprisonment, torture, and death (all while avoiding infection), they inadvertantly learn the true source of the end of the world, finding a narrow chance to make sure it isn’t the end after all. If only they can survive the two greatest forces on earth bent on their elimination.

Jack and Diane
Opposites in every way, two teenagers are given amazing abilities — and all the dangers and problems that come with them. A secret plot and the expectations of responsibility threaten to take their freedom, if not their lives.
Jaq and Diane hate each other. So it’s all the more frustrating when they gain super powers but can only use them if they stay near each other. Their shouting and fights are matched only by the violence and manipulation that besets them from every side. From their self-appointed arch-nemesis to an evil super villainess, and even the much lauded Commander Paragon, everyone has an idea of what the mismatched teens should do, whether they like it or not. Tired, miserable, and hurt, they hatch a daring plan to earn their freedom and possibly do some good in the process.

Meeting Notes week of 20100913

Honestly this is less doodling and more ranting and insane screaming of ideas.

If you disagree with my littel mini-essay on punk. I don’t care.

rant and rave

Team Meeting week of 20100906

This week marked the worst, yet most hilarious, double entendre that my boss ever said. I have little else to say about that, because I certainly don’t want to talk about why I would play Tic-Tac-Toe against myself.

LIEBE MEINE MEETING NOTES

Team Meeting, week of 20100802

Some weeks my distraction from the banality that is my life in general and a work meeting in specific becomes thematic. Instead of doodling, this week I did movie quotes. I’m certain that a number of them are off, but since I don’t have any reference… well, you get what you pay for. And it’s free. So without further ado:

more ... not doodly goodness

Team Meeting, week of 20100726

This week was less doodly. It also appears more like there were actual issues concerning me. I took notes! The crossed out items are tasks I completed before I scanned this.

Someone had left something about the F9 key on a keyboard written on a whiteboard in the room. Instead of drawing, for the most part, I did some free association. Enjoy.

Clever girl...

Team Meeting, week of 20100719

Look, I don’t have fun at work. Team meetings are a particular waste of time. They are, minimum, an hour long, and usually only about 10 minutes has anything to do with me.

Thing is, that’s how it is for EVERYONE in the meeting.

So instead of just being bored, I doodle (yet remain bored). Here’s one:

behold their glory

for this one, I tried to be professional. I printed out the appointment agenda from Outlook and brought it to the meeting. At first my doodles were limited to decorating the page (see the scribble and some boxlike images. I actually took some notes on the things about me. This eventually grew to reacting to the page I was writing on and a couple of reactions to things said in the meeting. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

And well, eventually, anything that popped into my head started showing up. Like the hoagie with a face. More or less, I’m just gonna leave it like this, I think.

Post in the comments whether I should annotate these notes.

White-Washing

In The Android’s Dream There is a minor but important character, named Sam, who’s gender is never identified. There are several readers, myself included, who were under the impression that there is a single passage where the masculine pronoun is used to refer to Sam. Since Sam is in a relationship with a less minor character named Harry McClellan (who is clearly identified as male), Sam’s gender could mean something about Harry. Is Harry gay?

In the end it doesn’t matter. Dream‘s author, John Scalzi, realized this and after writing an entire scene without once identifying Sam’s gender, he stopped and thought, “‘Hmmm, that’s interesting, I wonder what sex Sam is,’ and then I thought ‘Hey, I wonder if I can pull off not saying what sex Sam is all the way through the book’.” (This is all according to Scalzi’s blog, I’m not making his reactions up).

I bring this up because of the last thing Scalzi writes in that blog entry: “And then, when you’ve settled the question of ‘What Sex is Sam Berlant?’ to your personal satisfaction, you can ask yourself another question about The Android’s Dream: What color is its hero, Harry Creek?”

Good question. He never describes it. Yet no one even talks about it until Scalzi points it out to you.

Because his skin color is irrelevant.

There’s not issues of racism within the human species. There’s no cultural information important to character or plot or setting. It’s a non-issue.

So we come to what’s brought this up. There’s a lot of complaints going around the Internet (and by “around the Internet” i mean “my friends on Twitter” — I’m too insular to look further than that) about the “white-washing” (ie, the portrayal of characters of varying ethnicities with white actors) of The Last Airbender.

I’ve never watched Avatar, cartoon or movie. So I don’t know how egregious a crime this is.

I will say this. I assume, most of the time, that a character in an anime is Japanese until I’m given reason otherwise. They aren’t big on accurate portrayal of racial characteristics. Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach has orange hair. It’s not just a visual convention, they refer to the color in dialog in the anime. But he’s clearly Japanese. So when someone wants to make a character with big eyes and blue hair, and someone adapts it for the screen and chooses a white actor. Are they really doing much to change the work?

I argue no, with certain obvious exceptions. If the ethnicity of the character comes into play, as a character driving factor, or an element of the plot, or a flavor for the setting. You are making changes to the main work just by changing the skin color of the actor you use, whether you are doing it on purpose or not.

But such is not the case every time it happens. Shakespeare is performed constantly with different colored actors in various roles. Most of the time it doesn’t matter. If you get a white guy to play Othello, on the other hand, you’ve got a play that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

My favorite case in point is Ursula LeGuin. She complained noisily when Sci-Fi made a movie of Wizard of Earthsea using a white actor in the lead role. In the Earthsea books, it’s a stated fact that most of the characters have dark skin. LeGuin takes umbrage and claims they make thematic changes to the story by this decision.

But she’s wrong.

Yes, she describes her characters with dark skin. But that’s where it ends. It’s a standard fantasy setting, plus islands. It has no overtones of Polynesian culture or plot. It has no themes of any other race either. In fact, they build castles, which is not something islanders I’ve heard of have ever done. Sure, there were fortresses built in the Caribbean, but they were built by white Europeans.

So what, exactly, is the damage done if a producer chooses a white actor to play Ged?

None, really.

So let me break it down. Am I claiming that “white washing” is a non issue? No. Far from it. The term itself bothers me on many levels for the implications it has. White Washing is especially bad when it is used to eliminate cultural information to make it more marketable. If you’re saying that about a producer, you should be careful. Accusing someone of intentional racism is a serious charge.

But is every time they change a skin color a case of rewriting a work and participating in the suppression of minorities? I don’t think so.

Day 2: You Are Not an Accident

Because I am, apparently, a cynical person, I have to always first mention the specific things that distracted me. Don’t worry, I’ll leave aside things I’ve mentioned before.

It seems that Warren is advocating a bit of predestination here. Did God plan every choice I’ll make? And if so, do I really have any choices? And if not, then why does it matter if I’m obedient? This sort of question bothers me because it gets at the core of justice, mercy, and identity. If I don’t have freedom to choose, then how can God be just if I “choose” not to follow him and he punishes me for it? There’s a fine line Warren approaches here, and his lack of subtlety worries me that he teaches the wrong part.

Not that I’m advocating any lack of omniscience in God. He certainly knows what choices we will make, because he does know us better than we know ourselves. He did plan our identities. He planned our spirits and planned the bodies we would inhabit. He knew what our capabilities would be and planned to put us in situations that would best teach us and let us use those abilities to further his work.

Again delving into my own religion and not general Christian beliefs, I believe in a pre-earth life. God created our spirits and we lived with Him for a time before we were sent to live in our physical bodies. In that time, He chose some of us as prophets, as leaders, and so on. How detailed was this foreordination? I’m not sure. It was not something forced upon us, but a calling, and it is something we could then and still now can reject by our choices. If we choose not to follow Christ, then we lose the privilege of the blessings he set before us.

When I was 18 I received a patriarchal blessing. (Don’t worry, I’ll bring this all back again). A patriarch in the LDS church is a priesthood holder set apart to give blessings of instruction and insight. These blessings are much like those given by Adam to his seed, or by Isaac to Jacob, or by Jacob (Israel) to his sons. Anyway, in mind I was told that God knew me in the pre-earth life, and that He “observed my humility and diligence.”

It’s ok, you can laugh now. Knowing me you know that I am neither humble nor particularly diligent.

I had a discussion once with a mission companion. He was struggling with obeying the rules strictly. He said “that’s just not me.” And that’s when it all came clear to me. Maybe I wasn’t living life in a particularly humble or diligent manner. But God knows me better than I know myself. Inside, my spirit, my core, I had a humble nature. I just have lived on Earth in a way to bury it.

God knows what we’re capable of, and He has set us so that our strengths, and even our weaknesses, can be used for His work.

So the point of the chapter is that we’re not an accident. God knew, planned on, in fact, the adverse circumstances we would be in. Out sorrows and disadvantages are not punishments. They are the things God knew would be able to pull our best selves out.

So:

Point to Ponder: I am not an Accident.
My compulsive tendencies, my ADHD, these are not curses. These are the things God gave to test and try me. And given those traits, which God planned in me, I am suited for the purposes he has for me. I’m not unwanted, no matter how the world around me makes me feel. In fact, I am needed.

Verse to Remember: Isaiah 44:2 (KJV version): “Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb.”
God planned me before I was even born. Before I was even conceived in fact.

Question to Consider: I know that God uniquely created me. What arezas of my personality, background, and phsyical appearance am I struggling to accept?
Well, as I mentioned before, I have personality disorders: Depression, ADHD, compulsive tendencies. These are not just things that I’ve developed, they are a part of my genetic makeup. Do thy cause unhappiness? Sometimes. But part of the plan God has is learning to cope with these things, or even use them. I have become largely at peace with a lot of them, at least in terms of how I think of myself. I still struggle with adjusting my life to live with them appropriately.