Friday, 27 February 2009

Website Review: ConceptArt

Alright, I'm not sure how one reviews a website--is such a complex of links and pages really a single "website"?--but I'm going to give it a shot.

I'm not much of an artist any more--peruse my posts and you may find a basking polar bear I drew, and I can assure you it isn't stellar. At least, I'm better with a shutter than a pencil. Certainly my digital painting skills aren't up to professional standards. Actually, unless you count Facebook Grafitti digital painting, I've never done it. However, this does not mean that I don't appreciate veiwing good examples of digital painting, and if you want that, ConceptArt might very well be the place to go.
I spend most of my time at ConceptArt perusing the weekly contests: Character of the Week; Creature of the Week; Industrial Design of the Week; and Environment of the Week. The genre of these tends fall under Speculative Fiction, but this is not always the case. If you're a moderate nerd like myself, that genre is not such a bad thing. This is especially low-stakes, as you needn't commit as much time and emotion to looking at these pictures as you would to reading a book or watching a movie, either. So we can indulge in the somewhat stigmad genre without fear of being labelled a conoisseur of that genre. (I swear I'm not a snob; I don't ming fantasy or sci-fi. I just cannot stand bad sci fi and fantasy and since there is so much of it I am worried that any association with the genre as a whole will reflect poorly on me.)

I admit I spend very little time with Industrial Design of the Week, actually. It is not my favourite. If you like the idea of space ships and probes and mechanized devices and seeing a literal interpretation of "Hell's Bells," then this might actually be for you. I prefer narratives, though, and IDoW doesn't provide that for me as much as the others do.

Creature of the Week was where I first learned to enjoy ConceptArt. My brother introduced me to this site by spending time over the summer looking at all the creatures. These are generally fantastic; the emphasis is indeed on developing not only interesting images but also concepts for images that people will find interesting. I suppose I ought to discuss the very genre of concept art itself: concept art is the work visual artists produce when asked to represent something a movie, novel, or video game producer asks them to draw. That's a clumsy construction, so I'll give you an example. You can buy big books for Star Wars' concept art, which contains the pictures artists drew to help the film's producers visualize what they want on the screen. They say, I have this sequence where the characters navigate underwater in a boat, and we need many large carnivorous sea creatures that try to eat them. The concept artists then draw assorted creatures and refine them with the director's guidance, and then the visual effects people and the screenwriters etc. pick those they like and make them using special effects. So the idea behind CoW is that admins for ConceptArt will give a concept and the artists in the community submit pictures that match this concept. Since you have to develop ideas of new animals, it is pretty much limited to speculative fiction.

Environment of the Week is less restricted to fantasy, though this is a recurrent theme nonetheless. Sometimes the genre is said to be 'open'; the subject of the drawing may be "A Deserted Saloon," and if the genre is open the artist is free to have the saloon in the old west, in ancient China, in a fantasy kingdom of their own making, in Stephen King's Gilead, or in outer space. These can be breath-taking images, and I sometimes find them evocative: the best artists present hints of narrative or unanswered questions in their environments and I like developing stories around these. They are often like Chris Van Alsburg images.

Character of the Week is my favourite haunt. These, to me, are the most evocative of narratives and I admit that I go through these contests like catalogues, looking for characters that I want to borrow and remake as my own in my writing. Obviously I would vary them enough that I would not violate copyright--I don't want other people's characters but rather something to ignite my own. I would still likely credit the artist's avatar, though, if I did borrow the concept for a character. Only fair, right? Like the others, these can be menacing, ugly, beautiful, fantastic, or funny, but there is the added possibility of being noble, innocent, or sexy.

If such rigid, themed subjects do not appeal to you, there are also galleries of artists' work. You can go through profiles and follow links to artists' sketchbooks and blogs. The admins and the best of the best have their avatar in the banner at the top of the main page. Click on these to see some of the most professional images on ConceptArt.

Problems I have with the site include stylistic and thematic focuses I disagree with. The emphases on sexuality and violence are, uh, problematic for me. Certainly I consume lots of culture which has these two emphases; they make for most of the world's most famous and enduring narratives. But I'm sure we all know the difference between honest portrayals of sex and violence, moderate portrayals of sex and violence, and 'exploitative' portrayals of sex and violence. Some artists venture well into the latter, moving from pretty girls and implied violence through pretty and teasing girls and explicit violence to nude women and gore. There are ideological issues about the conflation of the two latter which I will not get into here, but let's just say that if this bothers you excessively then you may want to avoid these images. If this intrigues you more than anything, I suppose I'll have overhyped it by now. So I'll move on.

Overall, I find it an interesting site and have collected images from it onto my computer. I have saved most of those pictures I have found either intriguing or particularly conducive to that elusive "inspiration." I have obviously peppered them throughout this post, largely without credit. For those whose artists I have recorded, I will post the information here:
(from top to bottom)
1) Cheshire Cat by deadred (ChoW); 2) Orange Sea Leviathan by Tyranx (CoW); 3) Flying Bazaar by Corrick (EoW); 4) Huge Deep Sea Creature by duddlebug (CoW); 5) Rufus-breasted Cavediver by Dave Neale (CoW); 6) Swamp Forest Skull Island by Gaius (EoW); 7) Pirate Cove - I do not remember where I got this, but it wasn't a contest that I recall; 8) Siamese (ie Conjoined) Twins by Chate Noire (ChoW); the description asked for conjoined twins who were guides through a post-apocalyptic wasteland; they were to be part mercenary, part warrior, part shaman, part guide, or some such thing; I liked this one because it gave both a sense of their different characters but didn't have exaggerated polar opposites 9) Supervillian Self-Portrait by Villa (ChoW); the artist was to draw themselves as a supervillian; 10) Spike the Dragon Dentist by Stephen_R (ChoW); I like this one because the artist decided to use tiny dragons, not big ones; the dragons are cute; 11) this is from the profile of Matt Dixon; 12) this is Duq's interpretation of the Cheshire Cat (ChoW); obviously this contest allowed for a lot of free reign, and Duq used that to create something quite interesting; I find this image very evocative of a narrative, and I see this Cheshire Cat as a sort of freedom fighter; 13) WIPs for CHOW 139: Jiao-Long, by Adam Schumpert (ChoW); Jiao-Long was supposed to be a sentient velociraptor found in the forests of the Ming Empire and raised as a counsel to the Emporer; I like the WIPs for the narrative, again.

A List of Things

1) It has been mentioned to me that the behaviour exhibited by the nine-year-old girl in the previous post suggests that she likes me. This is both problematic and hilarious. The problematic side comes up because I need to watch my behaviour around her to insure nothing untoward happens. The hilarious side comes up when I recognize that the first girl to like me in donkey's years is in grade four. Perhaps I am confusing "hilarious" and "depressing." But it actually is funny, because this girl is one of those gossipy manipulative types and it always amuses me when they get themselves into situations that they can't make how they want it.

2) Marianne Moore has problematic and difficult poetry, but some really nice lines.

3) I have re-discovered how depressing a good Kingston rain can be.

4) I saw The Illusionist at last. It has that guy--Paul Gulliani?--who was in Shoot 'Em Up. He was such an easy character to hate in the latter movie and I thought he would be a similar jerk in the first. Well, was I wrong. I quite liked his character in The Illusionist. [Spoilers begin] Now, I am a little upset with the ideologies The Illusionist puts forth: it was shaping up to be nicely anti-materialist but then everything shifted and it was a rational-materialist piece of work after all. I suppose I ought to have expected this, and I am happy with the ending as far as narrative is concerned. [Spoilers end] I have not seen much with Jessica Biel in it before this. Actually, I may not have seen anything with her.

5) I can be an arrogant jerk sometimes. In small group last night I talked about how I wear humility as a badge: I do good things and don't seek credit for them and then am pleased with myself for not taking credit; people praise me and I act all humble (sometimes) and then they praise me for being humble; I get on my high-horse when people are self-concerned and think, Look how selfless I am, am I not awesome? I also go through periods of intense self-deprecation as well, but I am good at turning humility into pride. It doesn't help that people feed me compliments all the time.

6) This Sunday at Navs we are having our pastor come by to give us a sex talk. I made a box for anonymous questions and have typed them up and sent them to him, but he will also perhaps respond to questions that we bring up there. Pastor Mark has given a series of sermons like this already at church, which is why I thought to invite him to Navs. It developed from a situation I've gone through before: someone asks me why Christians believe that pre-marital sex is wrong and I do not know how to answer as I don't know where the theology comes from. It says no where in the Bible that it's wrong, that's for sure. (Lots of folks will tell you it is in the Bible. I would be very suspicious of their Biblical knowledge if they say this. It may be implied in the Bible, but I am fairly sure that the theology is logical deduced from some things in Paul's epistles. The Bible doesn't mention pre-marital explicitly.) This could be interesting, though my co-unofficial-leaders are worried about how some of our members might respond. Having typed up the questions, I can tell you there are some interesting ones.

7) I have other stories to tell, but I don't really feel like it now. If my Internet cooperates I may write more later.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Blog, Running and Reading, and Ale with Profs

1) I've updated my profile information somewhat. There was finally a new random question I found interesting.

2) Reading and Running today was insane. Two of the coaches for my team were absent, so it was only Sarah and I with a bunch of relatively misbehaving children. Abbey admitted to me that the best part of her day is annoying me; she doesn't really annoy me, though, as I'm too amused by her antics at this point to be annoyed. Sarah says that Abbey behaves well with her, so I'm starting to think that Abbey has transitioned from behaving poorly to behaving poorly around me. This likely bodes well, as it means that she likely behaves better when I'm not there. I can take her nonsense, so I don't mind if she misbehaves when I'm gone. Maybe she will win a prize for good behaviour after all.
On which note, my buddy Kurtis is mad at me. I didn't pick him for the prize this week. Hannah, who is quite rules-oriented, reminded me that I have to consult Sarah about who gets the prize. I didn't need this reminder as I always do consult the other coaches; I think Hannah wanted to ensure I didn't engage in favouritism when picking the winning kid. I don't care if I spend a lot of time with Kurtis--he's still not getting a prize until he's earned it, and today he was not on his best behaviour. So he got angry when I didn't pick him after all his begging, and he wouldn't talk to me. I am sure he will have forgotten about it by next week.
Overall it was a crazy week. When I did consult Sarah, she seemed to have trouble thinking of anyone who would be deserving of a prize.

3) The English Department Students' Council is hosting Ale with Profs tonight, and I shall be attending. It starts at 7:00, though I likely won't arrive exaclty on time. Also, it's not far from where I live, so no problems there. It should be fun. It does mean I have less time to work, though. I need to brush my teeth first too. I had garlicky food for supper.

I think that is all for now?

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Mousehunt video


Check out this video: It's a time-elapse of a digital painting of the Golem Mouse from Mousehunt.

Also, Blogger apparently decided I'm no longer Following any blogs. Grrr.... Now I have to re-follow everything.

EDIT: And now I am again. Odd.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

xkcd Is Delightful(ly Evil)

This would cause a furor, wouldn't it?
See the original at xkcd for the scroll-over.
Incidentally, I am not happy that my student government went and joined that Canadian Campus Alliance thing or whatever it's called. Did you know that student governments which are part of that Alliance cannot support or acknowledge pro-life groups? That's right. It seems that the CCA thinks pro-life=women-hating or abortionist-hating or something. They consider pro-life groups hate groups. I wonder how the campus will respond. How many pro-choicers who would otherwise be on the freedom-of-speech bandwagon if any other group was ignored will in this case either ignore the issue or support the CCA's decision? More than the pro-choice and freedom of speech movements will care to admit, I bet.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Figures of Speech Part II

I've given a list of assorted rhetorical figures. Now the question is, so what?

This is what:

In one of my many English classes, I learned that in Shakespearean plays the figures of speech matter. For instance, characters who use metaphors may be trying to unify while characters who use puns (paranomasia) may be trying to show how language is inherently unstable. In an essay and in response to such discussion in class, I argued that in 1 Henry IV King Henry uses metaphors as part of his endeavour to rid the kingdom of internal differences. By the same but opposite token, Falstaff uses puns, which indicate how Falstaff and the tavern community in general can internalize difference. Metaphors are a yoking exercise, where two different things are equated. Metaphors attempt to negate difference or seperate identity. Puns, on the other hand, call attention to the differences inherent in them; they are words with multiple signifieds that seperate out these signifieds. Both, after a fashion, internalize difference, but while one tries to bring the two meanings closer together (metaphor), the other tries to call attention to their dissimilarity. This fit into my arguement that the court could not survive internal conflict while the tavern actually thrived on it.
That works for the tropes fairly well, since they have to do with transfering the values of one thing onto another. You can see how metonymy could be used for things like guilt-by-association, or synecdoche by those who value things by their parts. My previous post mentioned that calling a woman "a pair of legs" is synecdoche, and this certainly works ideologically: the sort of man to call a woman by her parts is likely to think of her as an assembly of parts that he desires rather than a whole which may, in fact, come together as a person who ought to be treated like one.

I ask, does it also work for the rhetorical figures? As a writer, could I use rhetorical figures as well as tropes to hint at the various politics and philosophies that my characters embody? Let's give it a trial run and see, shall we?

For my experiment, I'm going to use asyndeton, the deliberate omission of conjuctions to create a terse, concise, memorable phrase. The Bedford gave "Veni, vidi, vici" as an example, so I too will begin with a military general as my character. As a military general of the charimatic variety, he gives many speeches which are inhabitated with examples of asyndeton: "We live, we die by the sword"; "The enemy is cruel, untrustworthy, persistent"; "That soldier who is victorious will have riches, fame, women, glory"; "The fight is here, the fight is now, the fight is ours!" We can tell by his speech that he is more interested in impact than correctness. As a tactician he is concerned with frightening his opponents and heartening his men over using more pragmatic strategies, and so he has lots of shiny armour and medals on display, uses battle-cries and drums more than stealth, and goes for valiant and fool-hardy charges. His army is a collection of units under brave and generally autonomous generals; he lumps them together and worries little about providing support or communication between them. His organization is concerned more with shepherding them together. He does not care about structuring each unit's relation to other relations.

Do you see how the use of asyndeton relates to his martial style? The commander tends to think of each part of the sentence or army as impacting on it's own, and impact is his concern. He does not think about each part's relation to the other parts, as indicated by the lack of conjunctions. I'm going to guess that transitions between paragraphs are not his strong suit. Grouping the bits together is his best attempt at organisation. This being said, impressing people is his specialty.

You could do the same with a CEO who structures the company in uncommunicative but highly trained departments. A teacher who presents each class with lots of information, zeal, and memorable paedagogy but does not put the class into any general framework over the year, prefering to allow the student to infer the connections, would likely use asyndeton. TV shows like Friends which are very episodic in nature are more like asyndetons than TV shows like Lost which have tight connections from one episode to another.

Of course (you might object) it is unlikely that people who use asyndeton actually transfer their avoidance of conjunctions over to other aspects of their lives. This is likely true. That doesn't matter too much, since we're talking about literature. All we have is language, and so we're allowed to play with that as much as we like, either reading or writing. Of course, if what we surmise from a speaker's use of figures of speech is not born out in their behaviour, we discard that line of thought, or at least see where it derailed. As an author, though, I will keep an eye out for such things. No guarantees that every rhetorical figure will be a gold mine in pith, but it seems to be something to play with.

And a metaphor in one place (King Henry IV-->attempts at unity) does not always signify the same thing as a metaphor in another (gold mine metaphor above-->the assertion that fancy is truth). But it's something to look at.

That's all I've got for the moment. I will be back later for more discussions in literary theory!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Figures of Speech Part I

We all know by this point that I am a nerd. I have accepted this; more, I have claimed this. Yet it may still come as a shock to you that I am becoming interested in figures of speech. What does it mean to employ tropes or rhetorical devices? How does one theorize their usage? What can one, or does one necessarily, communicate when using a pun that one can/does not communicate using a metaphor? How different are metaphors and metonyms? Metaphors and similes? These are all fascinating questions to me, so I will write about them. You can vote with your views and read or not read to your desire. (Actually, you can't vote at all, 'cause I'll keep writing about it. Blogging is neither capitalist nor electoral. You still don't have to read, though.)

I am getting most of my information from the Bedford Glossary of English Theory and Criticism, or some such thing. We just call it "the Bedford."

I will start with a glossary of my own, pulled and paraphrased from the Bedford (which contains far more than just rhetorical devices).

Figures of Speech: "A literary device involving unusual [how unusual? some of these seem very common to me] use of language." By this I think they mean that figures of speeches are literary devices that either do not adhere to the standard signifier-signified relationship expressed by Saussure or do not follow strictly proper or natural grammatical sequences. Anyway, the Bedford says that numerous kinds exist, but that's a given. They are traditional divided into two types, those being rhetorical figures and tropes, though there are other differentiations as well. Whether or not particular devices are figures of speech--alliteration is one--is a matter of debate.

Rhetorical Figures: figures of speech that create an unexpected effect without significantly altering the word's meanings.

Tropes: figures of speech fundamentally change the meanings of words. The primary tropes are simile, personification, metaphor, metonymy, and synecdoche. I have heard other uses or explanations of the word "tropes."

The Tropes

Metaphor: a trope that associates two distinct things; the representation of one thing by another (tenor by vehicle)-->equation, not comparison; there are two kinds, these being direct or implied. Direct metaphors use "is" or a similar being-state word or relationship. Implied metaphors do not. So, "Dave is a bear" is a direct metaphor. "Someone woke Dave up from his hibernation" is an implied metaphor (unless Dave is really an ursus americanus, in which case neither of these is a trope at all). Mixed metaphors use two very different vehicles to represent the same tenor: "He ploughed through a sea of paper work." Dead metaphors are some common and have been used so frequently that they are no longer remembered as metaphors by those who use them. For instance, "the spine of a book" is a dead metaphor.

Simile: a trope that compares two distinct things by using words such as like or as (though notably there are a few other prepositions that could work) to link the vehicle and tenor. Much is made of the distinction between the metaphor and the simile; while the simile indicates that the two concepts are alike, the metaphor says the two are identical. "Dave is as mean as a bear" is thus a simile, while "Dave is a bear" is a metaphor. A Homeric or epic simile is so elaborate and extended that the vehicle almost obscures the tenor. "The flea stood in the dog's hairs like a conquistador in the virgin Mexican forests, negotiating his way through the trees and Mayan customs to profit most from the fruits of the earth and the blood of the indigenous peoples" is a Homeric simile. I also used a dead metaphor, a zeugma, and some parallelism in there.

Personification: a trope that bestows human characteristics on anything nonhuman--an inanimate object, an animal or plant, a process, an abstraction. Prosopopoeia is a form of personification where the nonhuman figure can and does speak. What I wonder is whether prosopopoeia applies to such figures as Alex the grey parrot, who can and does speak--and possibly knows what it is he says, at least as much as a small child. And what about to chimpanzees and gorillas who use sign language?

Metonymy: a "change of name" in the Greek; a representation of one thing with another that is commonly associated with it. For instance, when a monarch (the tenor) is represented as "the crown" (the vehicle), or when the CEO is represented as "the chair," you have a metonym on your hands. Much has been made by the distinction between metaphor and metonymy, where one is comparison (Dave is like a bear in some way) and metonym (Dave is associated with the chair at the head of the table, which indicates he's the head of the company). Other people have said that since all association is arbitrary anyway, metonyms are really just a kind of metaphor, only twice-removed or something. I forget the details, but that's the drift.

Synecdoche: a trope in which the whole represents the part, or vice versa. If you call your car your "wheels" or you say a nice pair of legs walked down the street, you're employing synecdoche. You're also being a rather annoying "macho" man, and I'd prefer you stopped. It has nothing to do with your use of synecdoche, though. Synecdoche is cool. Note the difference between metonymy and synecdoche, between association and part. Do you think this is a significant difference?

Other tropes: allegory, conceit, and symbol are also tropes. I am not dealing with them right now.

The Rhetorical Figures

Amplification: the dramatic ordering of words to emphasize expansion of progression, such as "They met, kissed, and made love."

Anaphora: the exact repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of lines or sentences. "And I for Ganymede./ And I for Rosalind./ And I for no woman" in As You Like It is an example, though not a very telling one. There has been critical discussion, I am led to understand, about anaphora as a symptom of psychological disorder, pertaining to literary theory.

Antithesis: where two ideas are directly opposed, presented in a grammatically parallel way. The Bedford gave, "I long and dread to close," not to mention the famous quotation from Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I will add, "I hate you with all of my mind and want you with all of my body." (Ten bucks says that was some couple's Valentine's Day.)

Antonomasia: the regular substitution of an epithet for a proper name. If a satirical article were to consistently refer to Former President George W. Bush as "the cowboy president" instead of by his name, this would be antonomasia. It was also be cliche.

Aposiopesis: individual sentences that are left suggestively incomplete or dramatically broken off, possibly rendering the speaker speechless by emotion. A good indicator that this is being used is when you see a sentence ending with a long dash (--) or an elipsis (...). Of course, if you're in a Dickenson poem all the definitions in the world can't really help you with those dashes.

Asyndeton: the deliberate omission of conjunctions to create a terse, concise, memorable statement. This is often the name for a comma splice you don't intend to fix. Notable examples include Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici" and the famous "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman!" Both of these are also amplification.

Chiasmus: a rhetorical figure where words, sounds, concepts, or syntactic structures are reversed or repeated in reversed order. The Bedford lists a slew of them: "Fair is foul and foul is fair"; "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan"; "Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate." I'll add my own: "He was quickly convinced to drive slowly." Notice the adverb verb verb adverb structure.

Hyperbaton: also known as anastrophe; the reversal of word order to make a point, such as Churchill's infamous quotation, "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put," concerning the no-preposition-at-the-end-of-the-sentence rule.

Paralipsis: a speaker's assertion that he or she will not discuss something that he or she then goes on to discuss. This is also called something else which I can't decipher at the moment. "I don't need to tell you about the feast, so I won't discuss it's old cheeses and spicy sausages and fresh green peas and steaming buttered corn" is paralipsis. It's occultatio if it's used to conceal true motives: "Because the jury might have a weak stomach, I won't discuss the supper she gave me the night before the accident, which was boiled brussel sprouts" (sorry, readers, about the nauseating subject matter). It's occupatio when the speaker claims to be too busy to discuss what she discusses: "I have to go to class so I won't be able to tell you how Jeremy kissed Samantha in the bathroom this morning, and now Mark is upset."

Parallelism: the use of similar grammatical structure to emphasize or accentuate something. On a technical level, "The dog buried a bone, wetted a hydrant, and sniffed a tree," uses parallelism correctly, while the sentence, "The dog buried a bone, wetted a hydrant, and was smelly," is guilty of faulty parallelism (because the final verb is not active and does not have an object but rather an adjective). This is not a rhetorical figure as much as a grammatical rule. "She wanted to cuddle and he wanted the remote," is using parallelism as a rhetorical figure.

Pariphrasis: also known as pleonasm (I think); the use of elevated language, redundancy, and circumlocution, or the use of unnecessarily wordy and roundabout langage. Many dictionary entries are examples of pariphrasis. The Bedford gives "The finny tribe" for fish and Dogberry's speeches. Nixon's staff could be considered guilty of technical pariphrasis.

Pun: also known as paranomasia, but then you may already know that. A pun is a play on words capitalizing on similarity of spelling or pronunciation between words or on the multiple meanings of a single word. Falstaff's speeches are full of puns, as are children's joke books. It is strange how only the former contains humour. If I have two friends nicknamed Kat and they have an argument, you could pun and say there was a cat-fight (I recall having discussed this before, eh, Cait?).

Zeugma: a grammatical structure in which a word or phrase governs or is otherwise related to two different words of phrases, in a striking or suggestively different way. The Bedford gives these two examples: "He leaned on his lecturn and his stale jokes" and "They made cookies, plans, and love that night." How appropriate to the day after Valentine's. Sometimes this is called syllepsis when done correctly and zeugma only when erroneous. My own examples would be "He owned a copy of Warcraft III and his opponents" or "The South American country was full of red butterflies and propaganda" (where the propaganda is communist--get it, get it?).

That's all for now. I will analyze them more when I have time.

Hey, if Cait can write an essay on hugs, I can write an essay on this.


The Anthology: VI

Did I tell you we have a cover? As with last edition, it's a photo of the lake. This year's is brighter, though, with very orange light on ice that's been thrown up on the shore. It's brilliant and dramatic. If you have access to Facebook, you might want to take a look-see at Lake Effect 4, which should be both a group and an event. The cover might be up over there. I'll post it myself sooner to the date of release (March 30th, I believe). If you want to order one and haven't, tell me ASAP.

The proofs are out now. I need to go over my section soon. I like the layout. It's elegant and simple. As you may be able to tell from my blog template, I like minimalism sometimes. (For future reference and in the case that I change my template, I have pretty much the simplest white layout possible.) I quite enjoyed going through the proof, reading the introduction and everyone's 25-word biography. What I ought to do--right now, more than likely--is check for required changes and reply to the facilitator so that she can communicate those required changes to the publisher.

I have also brought home my new tape recorder. I need to practice reading for the launch, and I am going to play back my practice readings for reference. I think doing it here, where only the dog can disturb me, is more valuable than trying it in Kingston, where my housemates are neither quiet nor unintrusive.

As a result of this whole process, I am more seriously thinking about going into the publishing industry, at least for temporary work. Perhaps I ought to be visiting Editorial Anonymous more often?

Reading Week


I am now home for Reading Week. This may translate into ample posting, but it may not. I have a lot of reading to do (how appropriate) and a packing/piling/organising for an impending move. Yes, the whole family will be out to Alberta this summer instead of just my Dad, my brother, and I. Since I spend almost no time here at home, I need to start the preparation now.

I am researching schools in New Zealand, though that's piece away. My Dad just suggested last night that I look at schools in South Africa as well, so I will do this. South Africa could also be interesting. I will need to look at their indigenous people's religious systems, though, to see if they are compatible with what I might be interested in studying. So far, of the schools in New Zealand, the University of Otago seems best. This is a strange coincidence, as I have a friend planning on attending that school as well.

I have little news beyond that. At least, none that relates to this format of a post.

Later, all,

English Clergyman

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Prelude to Review: The Mist

I need to go to bed, but before I do, I'll just say that I watched The Mist. I was surprised by how good it is. I am going to write a review on it--and maybe also an essay--but until then let's just say it's an exceptionally good movie if you're not interested in a completely happy ending. Not giving anything away, so let's just say, don't watch the movie if you're, uh, emotionally squeamish.

It's just a really amazing movie. I realize it's not for everyone, but it's still very well executed.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Food Blogs

I want to highlight a few blogs here.

You'll likely have heard of A fascinating blog if you like food. However, a less well-known blog is; I discovered this one largely because I known the blogger in question from Navigators and Running and Reading. Good stuff. I am putting Fishy on my blogroll, I think.

I have posted a lot today. Goodness gracious.

Oh, and check out my bro's tutorial on stereoscopes. I want to point out that he figured it all out himself. It turns out I'm not so good at free fusing without reducing the image sizes and using rolled up papers for tubes. Well, I shall practice.

Happiness (In Scales)

Posting this is likely on the threshold of illegal, but I'll source it: I found this picture on ConceptArt by an artist whose avatar is Chuck Mate. Chuck, if you see this, let me know if you want to take it down. I'll happily remove it if you're upset.
It's just such a happy picture. I've been negative on here lately and I wanted to counterbalance it. Some time I'll write a post on the wonderfulness I've found at ConceptArt.

Intolerant Atheism

I've had this post sitting unfinished in my posts section for some time now, and I suppose I'll finally actually polish it off a bit and publish it. I was going to make a whole big essay about it, but never mind that anymore.

What bothers me about atheism as it is incarnated on the Internet is its general hypocrisy. I mean, I'd rather you weren't an atheist, but I'm not going to look down on you or like you any less if you are. What is going to make me defensive is if you start explaining why a person should be an atheist or ask me questions that presuppose an atheist framework or mock religion (any religion, actually) or suggest that religion is somehow undesirable or dangerous. What is going to make me actually angry is if you do all of this and then you suggest that religions are intolerant or closed-minded. This is a very common criticism; from what I've read on-line, it's the #2 criticism, following only "religion is irrational." The thing is, if you say any of the things I've outlines, odds are pretty good that you are acting intolerantly as well, participating in the divisiveness that you attribute to religion.

Some people take it even further, though, by publically declaring their refusal to listen. I found this quotation in the comments section of a self-described atheist blog:

"We do not need to find harmony with people who think that the world is controlled by an invisible god - we need those people to grow up."

The post advocated, or at least considered advocating, finding harmony with religious people (ie. the blog questioned the ethics of trying to suppress religious speech; as the author saw it, there is a balance between freedom of speech and protecting children from "brainwashing"). Many of the commenters thought he was being too soft.

But look at that comment. Let's say you are faced with a situation in which other people are doing something you disagree with. Do you decide that what the situation needs is for them to do something different? Do you say, "I am deciding not to do anything to remedy this situation at all in favour of expecting them to conform to my worldview"? Does that make any sense at all? Also, would you not agree that this is an exceptional arrogant, closed-minded, and discriminatory belief system?

I'm not saying this about atheism in general. I may not agree with it, but I wouldn't say atheists are always, by definition, arrogant, closed-minded, and discriminatory. It may sometimes feel that way, but it's certainly not the case. Rather, I am saying that people who express sentiments like that I quoted are being arrogant, closed-minded, etc. when they say such things. This angers me. I try not to be upset by it--unless and until they try to suppress public practices of religion--because it cannot impact my faith unless I let it. Still, though, it sucks being treated like you're subhuman, even if by anonymous strangers on the Internet.

25 Interesting Things

From the very popular Facebook note phenomenon:

"Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you."

Wow, this one is popular. Anyway, I'm doing it because it seems more interesting. I wrote it a while ago, but my Internet was done and couldn't post. So here she be.

Yeah, you don't have to do it if I've tagged you. Just saying that up front. But I'm a genre convention maniac and if the genre demands tagging 25 people, I will tag 25 people. And if you're tagged and you're wondering why, it could be because you wrote one of these and I read it.

1) I am addicted to Diet Coke. No, really. I’m sure it’s all psychological, but I am addicted nonetheless.

2) I apply critical theory to most things out of habit.

3) I generally do not expect euphoria or joy, but have become fairly content with being content.

4) I do not know whether #3 is maturity or ossification.

5) I cannot brush my teeth, wash my face, or shave if the toilet lid is up, because I’m afraid I’m going to drop something in the toilet. Also, I have to wash my hands after I put down the lid.

6) I generally use serials commas, and I truly believe that they improve clarity in writing.

7) I wanted to put down, “I find thinking of 25 interesting things about myself difficult,” but then didn’t. Also, I tend to say that I was going to say something but didn’t, thereby saying it anyway, only with a failed censorship alongside it. I also make unnecessary comments that you could have inferred anyway, like the second sentence in this entry. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth... (Notice how I refrained from pointing out that that’s an infinite regress? (I am hopelessly meta. (Have fun with this entry.)))

8) I do not download music, even though it’s legal, but I have no problem pirating security software or word processors.

9) I have difficulty eating butter or onions without being sick. This is truer of cooked onions than raw onions.

10) I find the most honest, hopeful, grounded time for artistic conception is during worship service. I stop paying attention to the lyrics and just let the stories come to me. I used to feel guilty about this, but since I've begun to remember how much authors talk about being channelled and thought that maybe that's what's happening to me. (Navs folks: recall that quiz we did last week.)

11) Dogs are awesome.

12) One of the best things about my Christmas break is that I got to hold a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach, and I don’t understand why no one else finds this cool.

13) I contemplated not including #13; if I only gave 24 explicitly stated facts (the final numbered 25 but actually coming 24th because of the omitted 13), I would still actually be giving 25 facts; the missing one would be that I am the sort of person who would omit #13. Of course, I am not that sort of person. Rather, I am the sort of person who thinks about other people’s superstitions sympathetically. Hence this entry.

14) I am being published. W00T!

15) I am fascinated by weird things; particularly, I am fascinated by people that violate standard concepts of human individuality and identity, such as conjoined twins, cyborgs, hybrids, the possessed, people with DID, tripartite gods and goddesses, and Triplicate Girl from DC Comics.

16) I enjoy elitist webcomics that presume its readers have a knowledge base that I don’t have (xkcd, Questionable Content, Penny-Arcade).

17) When reading fiction that employs dialect, I sometimes pick up the speech patterns of the characters, even when those dialects are fictional constructions of the author, do ya ken?

18) The fictional characters that move me most are those tragic villains who seem to destroy themselves as much as their enemies: Darth Vader (especially re-imagined through the prequel trilogy), the Phantom of the Opera, Captain Hook, Dr. Horrible (of the Sing-Along Blog). I am drawn to brokenness.

19) I like swamps and badlands as much as mountains and forests.

20) The one thing that prevents me from properly disciplining children I am supposed to be supervising is that I sometimes laugh when they misbehave. This has made my role as coach/friend/disciplinarian in the Running & Reading program highly ambiguous, but way more fun.

21) When I find dead fruit flies or aphids or spiders in my food, I pick them out but eat the rest anyway.

22) When I was a kid, I taught myself very patchy Latin and Greek by deducing the components of dinosaur names through cross-comparison. According to my book, “Pachycephalasaurus” means “thick-headed reptile” and “Pachyrhinosaurus” means “thick-nosed reptile”; therefore, pachy must mean thick, cephala must mean head, and rhino must mean nose (I already knew what saurus means). I went through my entire dinosaur book this way.

23) I am almost always early. I see being late as an indication that you care only about yourself. Obviously I know that's harsh, but I fail to see how it could be any other way.

24) I spend my summers working in strange conditions in Fort McMurray; last summer, I sometimes worked alongside convicts from the penal labour camp that used to be in Ft. Mac, and two summers before that I got to enjoy walking to work when it was raining ash.

25) When I am feeling afraid of heights, or am even thinking about people being high up, I get a tightening, tingling sensation in the soles of my feet.

26) Not only do I intentionally break genre conventions, but I just noticed now that a song from the Chronicles of Riddick computer game is very similar to the music of Pirates of the Caribbean. I have to wonder whether there was artist collaboration.

Saturday, 7 February 2009


I am disoriented. I know it's Saturday, but I cannot figure out the significance of that statement. I keep thinking I have commitments tonight when I don't (that's tomorrow) and that my homework is for tomorrow when it isn't (that's Monday). Maybe it's because I just spent ten hours celebrating my housemate's birthday. That feels rather like an entire Saturday.

I do need to do work. I just feel weird.

I also need to do laundry and get a ticket home.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Two Projects

Well, I am in way over my head as far as two up-coming projects are concerned.

1) For this Navs Sunday, I have to help prepare a set of questions concerning certain passages in the Bible. The purpose of the questions is to help Navigators (as in members, not the organization) learn Biblically-based methods of de-stressing. So we have a pool of about ten passages, and I'm trying to make two or three questions for each, designed to help people come to draw some sort of lesson to do with our title, "Learning to Chill 101."

The challenge here is that I've never made questions for this before. This is really how I learn best--attempt something without having any idea what I'm doing--but when you have a bunch of people hoping to learn from what you've done, it's a bit nerve-wracking. I'm not silly enough to think that I have people's eternal souls in my hands, and I'm also not silly enough to think that I have to do this alone. I'm one of five people working on this project, and we're getting together tomorrow. So the worst that could happen is that I'd look like an idiot in front of them. Well, the worst that could happen is that we all are idiots and then present our idiocy to the Navs, but I don't think that will happen. My teammates are pretty Biblically sound, I think, and I can provide whatever wild card we need (iconoclasm is something I can do).

And it's not as though I haven't gone in the deep end before. I tutored a guy from HK named Ivan for two years, spending two-three hours a week giving and grading writing assignments, explaining nuances of English, helping him toward English fluency. It was not easy, especially as I had (and have) zero training in ESL. None. Whatsoever. And, well, I don't think I was the best help he could have had, but I sure hope I made some sort of difference. Certainly I didn't go into it with fear. So why be afraid now?

And it's not as though I haven't seen these sorts of questions before. I've been in Navs for over a year now, and I'm in a Bible study group, and I've taught Sunday School, for Pete's sakes. I have done more than a few question sheets.

And it's not as though I've never written questions before. In one of my classes we have to write questions for the day's readings. I've made tests for school (and for fun, actually). Generating questions is something I do.

It's generating this sort of questions that I haven't done before. How does one lead the reader in a certain direction with one's questions while also allowing that reader to develop their own intelligent responses? Can a question be both Socratic and open? Likely not. What do we look for? What if question #2 depends on a certain answer for question #1, but we don't want question #1 to be too leading? These are my worries.

2) I am writing a story about a band. I know nothing about music. Problem? Yes?

Reasons why I have succeeded so far: the main character is filming the band, not in it, so my speaker needs no technical knowledge; I am reading a webcomic which is loosely tied to musicalness; Wikipedia; YouTube.

The latter two are by far the biggest boons. Well, the first one's a pretty big deal, too. QC comes last, I suppose.

That being said, the band is folk metal, so I can hopefully hide behind the fact that most people will know nothing about that genre. They are also a garage band, so they don't need to fit mainstream conventions of that genre. Also, one of the characters suggests that they are more "eclectic metal," so that opens up a lot of silliness. And there is no actual in-the-moment scene of their music; it's mainly in discussion or flash-back. But still. There's a problem.

The characters are growing. Oh, yes. Growing. They're becoming more real, more human, than I had anticipated, and they won't more than a single short story. They want lives. Full ones. And they want me to give them these lives. Because the story isn't about the music. The story is about art: communication, authenticity, originality, fun. It's also about life: the desire for simplicity, the desire not to think, the desire for meaning or direction, the desire to smooth out complicated interrelationships. It's also about Fort McMurray: why they are there, whether they want to be there, what they should be doing there, how they can get out. I can handle these in 14 pages, but only for one or two characters. That's all I thought I was going to do. But now the rest of the band is coming forward, growing quirks and needs and ambitions and fault lines and loves, and they want to grow lives.

I can fudge a dozen pages pulling my musical knowledge through cross-referencing Wikipedia and YouTube (search "Folk Metal" in YouTube; find a band; Wikipedia that band; link to another band; YouTube their songs; listen to a related band's songs; Wikipedia that band; link to metal subgenre--say, oriental folk metal--and find an example; YouTube that song; listen to another song by a similar bad; Wikipedia that band...). Can I fudge one-and-a-half score pages? A novel? Not likely. Not without help. Because the longer the novel, the less likely I can dodge having a music scene. I know nothing about musical performance.

Anyway readers out there play folk metal? Any pointers?

...I should go prepare those questions now...

Why "Hermetic Poetry --> Hatred" Is False

There is a fancy word for a retraction of a previous statement, but I can't remember what it is. I could look it up in my Bedford, but you, my dear readers, likely don't care one way or the other, so why bother?

After class, I have begun to realize that there may actually be analysis that you can perform on Tender Buttons. Yes, indeed. It's not easy, and it can never be exhaustive, but there you go. It is like looking through a haystack for all the pieces of hay of a certain thickness. It will be exceptionally difficult, you will never find them all, but you could find some.

I am not yet convinced that we, as readers, have not just utterly hallucinated readings. I don't mean that in the sort of paranoid way I usually feel about texts. I am often worried we take too much out of a work, and only half of that is latent attachment to the intentional fallacy. Rather, it seems to me as though any reading of this text whatsoever will be a product of our imaginations. However, the professor and other students have more than adequately shown that you can make fairly compelling forays into the text. It would be sort of like plucking the leaf off of a tree two feet into the rainforest and saying you've explored a jungle, but it's better than I thought one could do. Perhaps Stein's work is less hermetic than I thought.

That, however, isn't really redeeming at all. Even if we can scratch some sort of significance from her words, it doesn't make it any good. Really, now, her project in painful and horrible nonetheless.

What does change "true" to "false" (in the post titles) is that I must admit she has some pretty images. I like "meadowed king." That's cool. And there's a smattering of others, too.

So I still dislike what she wrote, but I'm less entirely opposed to it.

Monday, 2 February 2009

On the Frequency of the Word "Stupid"

Apparently I am using "stupid" a lot today to describe people. I apologize.

Why "Hermetic Poetry --> Hatred" Is True

Have you heard of hermetic poetry?
Don't Google it. Not yet. I will give you an example, and then you may Google it.

For my American Literature class I have to read some of "Tender Buttons" by Gertrude Stein; this consists of three poems or poetry collections, all of which fall under the genre 'hermetic poetry,' according to the back cover.

Here is an excerpt:
In the inside there is sleeping, in the outside there is reddening, in the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling. In the evening there is feeling. In feeling anything is resting, in feeling anything is mounting, in feeling there is resignation, in feeling there is recognition, in feeling there is recurrence and entirely mistaken there is pinching. All the standards have steamers and all the curtains have bed linen and all the yellow has discrimination and all the circle has circling. This makes sand (From ROASTBEEF, a section of "Food").
That is about the most coherent passage I've found in her poetry. Also witness:
Dirt and not copper makes a color darker. It makes the shape heavier and
makes no melody harder (From DIRT AND NOT COPPER, a section of "Objects").
Also, try to understand this:
A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance. Suppose an example is necessary, the plainer it is made the more reason there is for some outward recognition that there is a result. ¶ A box is made sometimes and them to see to see to it neatly and to have the holes stopped up makes it necessary to use paper (From A BOX, a section of "Objects").
Do you notice the helpful punctuation? Yeah, neither do I. Also, the plainer what is made? To what result? If you will give me some sort of syntactical coherence, could you maybe give me content? Obviously not.
And it gets so-called better. I'll try to preserve form here.


      Rub her coke.


      Black ink best wheel bale brown.
      Excellent not a hull house, not a pea soup, no bill no care, no precise no past pearl pearl goat.


      Aider, why aider why whow, whow stop touch, aider whow, aider stop the muncher, muncher munchers.
      A jack in kill her, a jack in, makes a meadowed king, makes a to let."

That's how "Objects" ends. I wanted to throw the book down the balcony (I was in the library, on the balcony) and then go set it on fire.
If you haven't guessed yet, hermetic poetry is a genre which deliberately frustrates meaning. It comes from being hermetically sealed, in that no air can enter or escape the container. In the case of poetry, you can replace "air" with meaning and "container" with text. It apparently means something to the author and only to the author, who uses symbols only he or she understands. Excellent, eh? What an artistic, creative, avante-garde waste of my time. If a text is not to some degree communicative, then it serves no purpose.

I recognize that this text is serving to make me think about the role of text. Can something constitute a text if it refuses to be communicative? It's the whole "what is art" question, but framed with particular facets of the debate in mind.

Anyway, it seems to serve like a failure of a Rorschach test. Some of it's scary, because it seems to have meaning, or non-meaning, which finally allows to glimpse inside the head of the speaker--and what I saw was disturbing:
Book was there, it was there. Book was there. Stop it, stop it, it was a cleaner, a wet cleaner and it was not where it was wet, it was not high, it was directly placed back, not back again, back it was returned, it was needless, it put a bank, a bank when, a bank care (BOOK, a section in
"Stop it, stop it" made me think of Hollywood-style Multiple Personality Disorder. Then it made me think rape. Then it made me think a schizophrenic or OCD child rocking in a corner, asking her memories to stop it. Not one of those is a particularly fun image, really. I'm now thinking the whole thing's just about a misplaced book, but that's just it. You feel crazy trying to pin this down with meaning. "Jabberwocky" asks you to construct meaning, or elaborate on what shades of meaning are visible in the text. Building a narrative there is fun. "Book" is like a trying to make sense of a funhouse, only the doors in this funhouse can't be opened from the inside and the people in there with you haven't seen the outside world in a while. It's like trying to interpret an acid trip or measure the particles in Frank the Rabbit. It makes just enough sense that you see how messed up it is, and you can't understand, and it's scary.

I know people will read meanings into all of this. But that's just it: they'll be hallucinated readings. The meaning will not be there.

My feelings toward this style of poetry is a little strong, and it needs a strong word. I dislike the concept of hatred--I can smell brimstone when I use that word--so I don't really mean that I hate hermetic poetry. Obviously it fascinates me enough that I ranted about it. But I strongly think it's stupid.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Cult of Progress Rears Its Ugly Head

Or perhaps one of its ugly heads. This might be a hydra. In fact, I betcha it is.

I have a book entitled SciFi in the Mind's Eye: Reading Science through Science Fiction, edited by Margret Grebowicz. (Uh, Chicago: Open Court, 2007, if you're interested.) In it are a series of essays about a critical reading of science fiction. I read a passage from Harvey Cormier's "Race through the Alpha Quadrant: Species and Destiny on Start Trek" (note to people I spoke to this evening: I mistakenly said it was from the ecofeminist article; that was incorrect). Here's a quotation from that passage: "This throwback to the jungle adventure comics and movies of the 1930s ends when Tasha kills Lutan's original queen, Yareena, in a ritual fight. It may be the future, but though quasi-Africans are beaming themselves through space and making medicines a galactic civilization can't produce, they are still fighting ritual hand-to-hand combats to the death" (18).

Seriously? The author equates technological progress with moral or philosophical progress? I mean, don't get me wrong: I don't think that there is such things as progress one way or another. But I think it's even more ridiculous to say that what passes for technological progress is in any way connected to what passes for moral or philosophical progress. Case in point: the European conquest of North America. Ancient Rome. Ancient Egypt. I seem to recall them committing atrocities against more peaceful and harmonious groups, who also had less technology. And as far as the advancement of pacifist values goes, I think the Amish are pretty "advanced." (I'm going to avoid tripping up on Godwin's Law here, but we all know it.)

Stupid liberalism. Stupid technologism. Stupid stupid-heads.

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