Pages

Want to Make Literary History?: London 2012 Olympics

Giant Voldemort puppet looming over another giant puppet.
Blargh! I am a puppet!
Before the Opening Ceremony was broadcasted on NBC, I was given a glance of what was happening over the pond, thanks to some British people over the Internet.

So when I watched it at 7:30, after Dad switched it from Eureka on DVD, I wasn't overly surprised at what happened.

Too bad I missed the Queen (stunt-double) jumping from a plane.

But I was watching it just in time to see the nurses putting the dancing children to bed.

British Literature Extravaganza

I saw JK Rowlings read from Peter Pan an escapist description of Neverland. In front of four billion people.

And then some of English's most iconic villains came out, including Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts, Peter Pan's Captain Hook, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Rowling's own Voldemort.

All of them were vanquished by the crowd of Mary Poppins nannies. Basically, a battle between good and evil done in a few minutes.


Legacy

Still, there's something inspirational about seeing the entire sequence.

As much as many people hated the commentators NBC added on, they brought up a good point. Lots of literature's most iconic villains came from English. And it's great that the UK decided to honor books in one of the largest events in the whole world.
Imagine if, in the future, your own country decided to honor one of your own characters during their Olympic games?

https://twitter.com/chihuahuazero/status/229014859860279296

My own dream is to build a community of readers and then have my work, as a whole, find a place on more than one bookshelf for generations, or even centuries, to come. If I'm lucky, people will remember me as history, like Shakespeare, or even the Greek geniuses of old.

I bet JK Rowlings was more than flattered for her own country to put her in their annuls, and show off her creation to the international community. It wasn't like she doesn't already have a chance of having Harry Potter become a classic, but it's another acknowledgement of her contribution to the world.

It's yet another pipe dream to aim for, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. It's not like there's anything to use, except eternal obscurity.

YOUR TURN: Are you watching the Olympics? What did you think of the Opening Ceremony?


PS: Do you want to know who was missing? The Doctor!

PSS: Do you want to know what was also missing? Florence + the Machine!

yMusic: "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" by Pink

Pink has jumped onto the radio waves with her upcoming album's lead single, "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)". I'm yet to see the lyrics video, and I didn't recognize the song when my local Top 40 station played it (although the strange censoring did stand out).

The music video does the song justice.

WARNING: Strong language and some sexual references.


Some Quick Words on the Song

First of all, it has a clever title. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" sets up a suggestive tone with the first two words--and subverts it with the rest of the line. Sneaky, sneaky. We all know what "wink-wink" action it's alluding to.

As for the actual song, I'm still trying to form a proper opinion. The verses are a bit rough, but the layering and sound editing of the rest of the song are additive.

Lyrically-wise, Pink is breaking up again, and she's not regretting it. She's being more cruder than she was in "So What"--but the chorus are a bit hard to figure out the meaning of.

Try a hand at this:

Just when it couldn't get any worse, I had a s*** day,
You had a s*** day,
We had a s*** day.
I think life is too short for this,
I want back my ignorance and bliss,
I think I have enough of this, so blow me one last kiss.

The most obvious interpretation is that the final straw has led her to break each other up, so she's not going to waste any time trying to clean up.

But another meaning that's probably wrong is that she's regretting the break-up. She found that she couldn't stay around without him. So she wants back her "ignorance and bliss" and have enough of being single, so...they have make-up sex.

...What?

Let a teenage boy theorize.

Summary of Music Video

Pink plays an anti-hero who gets tangled in a love web.

She ditches the guy who stopped their kiss to answer a call. Maybe it's from another girlfriend? Makes sense.

She then goes to a second guy, who she lets him paint her Titanic-style.

Then at a party, she cheats on him and casually dances with another girl. Not a big deal is made of this, telling from their cold expressions. Combined with the Lana Del Rey's video for "Summertime Sadness", this suggests a more natural attitude to homosexuality. That's the step in the right direction, since it's neither stereotyping it or making a huge deal out of it. It's a part of life.

The second guy comes and proposes--to the other girl. You can't miss Pink's look of betrayal.

And while Pink is at the wedding scene, dressed like a widow, she pins down the scorn through her subtle shoulder swaying. At this point, my story senses said that she was going to have her revenge.

I was right. I laughed when a heart bursts above everyone and stain all their clothes red.

Interesting enough, it makes sort of a books end. Only two objects are colored in the entire video: the spilled wine, and the "blood" from the heart. It's a cool bit of symbolism.

In the end, Pink goes off with a third man, flying off to new adventures. She might not be the most sympathetic character, but that's a part of her rebellious streak.

YOUR TURN: What do you think of this music video?



Weekly Round-up: 7/27/12 (With Some Photos)

Poster reading "Passport France".
Poster!

The list for this week is a bit on the short side, but it couldn't be helped. The process that goes into compiling this has a lot of factors. One day, once I hit the sweet spot, I'll share the system I use.

But for now, enjoy this round-up. Don't forget to share this!


Oh, and scroll down for more stuff.


Writer's Update: 7/24/12 (Off in Art Land)

At this pace, it's likely I'll stop doing Writer's Updates as a Wednesday regular, due to the fact that most of the time, nothing of value comes out of it. The question is what to replace it with, if anything. It doesn't feel right leaving the middle of the week empty.

For now, let me leave you guys with the fact that I'm still dealing with school stuff for the summer (it purged me into a small place on Monday), and I'm off doing some French painting and cooking in another summer class. Cream puree, anyone? Or maybe carrot soup? I learned how to use a cutting board.

French-Inspired Artwork

Florence + the Machine-esque girl holding a rabbit and a knife in an Impressionist painting.
This is supposed to be impressionist. Guess what Florence + the Machine
song I based this off of. It's almost a give-in.


A clay grotesque gargoyle lighted by a window.
I have no idea what animal it's supposed to be.

Expect these to be on my DeviantART account soon.

Hopefully, I'll find my way with writing soon. Maybe that'll be next week--after I do my math and health stuff.

Yes, But: Complicating Scenes


You have to consult a patient at a mental institution to locate the MacGuffin. Time is ticking, and there is no way for you to seek it out yourself. Can you get the patient to tell you the location of the MacGuffin?

You travel to this institution. It’s Alcatrazic in nature. Miles from the mainland, surrounded by marsh, with only one thin road passing through a guardhouse. Getting in involved lying to the guards. After some weaseling, you are set alone in the room with the patient.

Problem is, he still blames you for getting him sent to the institution. Yet, you need your help. You beg. And then he says: Yes, not only I recognize the MacGuffin, but I can also lead you to it.

But, I need you to break me out if you want to know where is it.

The whole way home, you debate about whatever to break him out or not. Time is ticking though, so you have no choice but to ride through the marsh.

This exact situation happened in Katy Reichs’ SEIZURE.


What is "Yes, But"?

The reason I presented it in 2nd person because it contains spoilers for book one, VIRALS. But the point still stands. The phrase “Yes, but” is a powerful phrase.

I borrowed this straight from SCENE AND STRUCTURE by Jack Beckham. Basically, there are four ways to resolve the objective of a scene:

  • Yes: this is how the climax is usually resolved.
  • No: a new course of action has to be taken.
  • No and furthermore: a new course of action has to be taken and with new complications.
  • Yes, but: the objective is resolved, but with some complications.


No to "No"

SCENE AND STRUCTURE recommended using “no” a lot. However, there are so many times you can say “no” until it looks like the protagonist is getting nowhere. In most cases, “yes” either means the story or over, or it’s a drop in momentum. “No and furthermore” has the risk of killing the story outright.

So I say “yes, but” is one of the better ways to resolve the scene. Not the only way, but it’s a good way to keep the plot story while raising the stakes. In the long-run, those “buts” may turn a “yes” to a “no” or even a “no, and furthermore”. This might even affect the ending.

Example

For example (from my own work): Will Bryan find where Finn is going? Yes, Bryan finds out, but he is attacked by a spirit bear.

Or: Will Bryan keep Jeb safe from the Vexation’s attacks? Yes, Jeb is unharmed, but he escapes with the knowledge of the Manifestation.

Will Bryan prevent Finn from dying? Yes, Finn's still alive, but everything else pretty much went to hell for everyone who isn't the antagonist.

It's easy to write these kinds of situations without intending to, but if you're ever stuck with ending a scene, considering putting a twist on the conclusion.

YOUR TURN: Are there any cases of yes, but in your own story?

yMusic: "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey (Plus a "Theory")

"Kiss me hard before you go, summertime sadness.
I just wanted you to know, 'that baby you're the best'."


So goes the first lyrics of "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey. It's already been released as a single outside America, and for good reasons. It's a nostalgic lament of Lana's last night with a lover. 


One source claims the song is actually about a boyfriend who died, and this is a reflection. Regardless, the second verse describes Lana speeding down a road, not caring if she crashes. In any case, that's some grim subtext going on.

It's a downbeat yet subtly beautiful song that serves well as the second-to-last track on the album Born to Die,

Does the latest video do justice?

Weekly Round-up: 7/20/12

Monday:

Tuesday:
  • Sorry, no posts here.

Writer's Update: 7/18/12

Due to me having to deal with some school stuff (health class and math practice), I simply don't have the motivation to write something full  today. Sorry about that.

Maybe I'll test out the new Permalink feature for Blogger Saturday or Monday? No worries, the Weekly Round-up is still on.

Why Hype Aversion is a Issue

This post was inspired by this photo, from the writer of the blog Fiktshun:



See these recommendations? It's Amazon shoving both the hottest Adult and Young Adult series into this reader's face. When something like this happens, and the reader in question only buys YA, there's a problem going on.

But this brought my attention onto a related topic I thought about in the past: hype aversion.

What is Hype Aversion?

According to the Laconic page on TV Tropes, Hype Aversion is when "the more people tell you you should check it out, the less you want to."

Or basically: "Stop recommending this show/book/movie/music/video game for the umpteenth time!"

A common occurrence is when people avoid a work simply because it's popular and everyone's talking about it. On the surface, it shouldn't make sense. Why does it matter that thousands or millions love it? Does that change the work's quality at all?

In most cases, no (see "Pandering"). However, after hearing "Moves Like Jagger" for the third time in a day, I thought up two theories:


Pestering

People hate being bothered with the same thing again and again. It's that simple. Wouldn't you be annoyed if someone kept waving a sign right in your face?

Sometimes with certain stories, that might as well be the case. One person said that the average number of times it takes for someone to see a book before picking it up is seven. 

What if a person sees it seventy times? Or seven hundred?

After a while, once you get force with the obligation to check something out, you don't want to go through it. You're tired by this pestering, and you just want to get back to reading someone more obscure.

Pandering

Mainstream is controversial. On one hand, you have people that only consume media from the mainstream. On the other hand, you have people who look down on the mainstream, and refuse to associate with it too much.

This kind of hype aversion comes from the concept of lowest common denominator--the negative definition. The belief of a story "dumbed down" to "appeal" to a larger audience.

Whatever it's true or not, it's a fear that especially applies to music. You have people hating pop because "it all sounds the same". But it also applies to television shows like "Jersey Shore" which one study says can lower your intelligence.

And even books. Young Adult dystopian romances have their detractors, and for good reasons.

Basically, if a lot of people love something, some people avoid it for the fear that it had been dumbed down in order to gain that large fanbase. It's one reason why the sentence "write for one person" exists.

Conclusion

Those are only two reasons why hype aversion happens, but it's a real phenomena that many of us fall into.

Now if you excuse me, I'll consider touching the book City of Bones, despite fears that it's just another fantasy.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever avoided something just because lots of other people like it? Why?


Source Filmmaker: A Writer's Showcase

Shiny logo.
Considering I have nothing for yMusic this week, I'm taking this as an opportunity to build upon the Team Fortress 2 post from the week before and cover a program that's sabotaging my writing time: Source Filmmaker.

If you're here for yMusic, skip to the very end of the post.

What is Source Filmmaker

For those unfamiliar with it, Source Filmmaker is an movie animation program using the Source Engine. Previously, it has been used for the Meet the Team videos highlighting the nine player classes. They're of high-quality.

This professional tool had been released in open beta--for free.

Oh, and with a couple of the Meet the Team videos ready to remix.

Weekly Round-up: 7/13/12

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:


Writer's Update: 7/11/12 (Author Signings Make Me...Inspired)

Guess what reference I'm making with the title.

And guess why I'm posting this one day later. Because Source Filmmaker went into open beta, and I spent all evening fiddling with it.

Never mind that. Although nothing of interest happened last week, something did happen on Monday that might put my progress on Manifestation Files back on track.

Author's Signing

Multiple authors, in fact, and they also did a Q&A session beforehand. Oh, and don't forget the activities before that.

Basically, two and a half hours of my time put toward an entertaining use. I was more exhausted than I expected to be right after, but at least I got some work done.

Author signings help with writing. It's just the atmosphere they provide. Having your writing folder autographed by another author...well...it puts me in the right mood. And being in the right mood, especially considering I lack the work ethic needed to dispel my constant procrastination, is important to my writing.

It was fun listening to them and then talking to all four of them, even if I could have talked to them a little longer. One of the authors had a line that wrapped around the corner of the hallway.

I'll probably some of the things they said during the Q&A session, but for now: YA authors still have to deal with the stigma they have when writing within the demographic.

5 Books that I Disliked

If Tamagotchi were books, they would
out-do every novel on this list.
They gave me hallucinations.
Sorry to be negative for two weeks in a row, but I'm in that kind of mood. Mwahahahaha...

For the most part, I like most of the books that I read, at least on some level. Even if they're not mind-blowing, they're at least entertaining, and a good use of my time.

Over the years though, there'd been a few novels that I didn't enjoy. A bundle of flaws popped out, and they're easy to identify. But in any case, they;re book at the bottom of my "re-read" list, and for very, very, good reasons.

Now, in no particular order...

NOTE: This is my opinion. If I hate a book that you absolutely loved, go ahead and hate on one of the books that I love. An eye for an eye, after all.


yMusic: National Anthem by Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey's "National Anthem"


I expected Lana Del Rey's people to release "Out to the Races" as her fourth and last single. In my opinion, that's the best song on her album "Born to Die", but "National Anthem is a good choice also. Hopefully, a sixth single will be coming in a few months.

Some minor controversy (and typical YouTube flaming) sparked over this. Lana Del Rey plays the roles of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy.

Guess who plays John F. Kennedy? A$AP Rocky. Like most rappers, he's black. And this artistic liberty--along with the Instagram-esque frame containing the seven-minute mini-film, is the cause of some discussion.

For the video itself, I say it's better than the videos for "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games", and engages in a heated race against "Born to Die".

Too Close to Home

First of all, I think it's a wise choice to not use the same guy in the "Born to Die" and "Blue Jeans" video. "National Anthem" is still far from erotic territory (something I don't expect from music videos like this), but having A$AP Rocky as a black John F. Kennedy provides a great overtone for the entire video. 

Civil rights was a major issue in the '60's. And having a black Kennedy being the one shot at the end of the video adds an underlying message to it all.

And plus, I think it shows Lana at her most emotional peek, framing the expression that Jackie Kennedy has as her husband dies next to her.

Which I would say is the primary intention of this music video. Not that Kennedy is black, but Jackie's relationship with him until it is severed. As director Anthony Mandler said:

"It was always about seeing it through her eyes, seeing this kind of castle crumble in the moment, and that shot where she's coming up out of the car, and the pain in her eyes, that destruction, it's like the whole castle is crumbling around her. That's what we were going for."

"The whole castle is crumbling around her". Such an monumental feeling.

Now, I wonder what it would be like showing someone's empire crumbling around her...?

A Quick Note about Her Emotions

While Lana Del Rey has a great smile between songs (and you can see this during the middle of the video), the chanteuse persona she assumes while singing in music videos has more subtle, and sometimes diluted, emotions.

At some points of the music video, this works for her. When she lip-syncs the lyrics:

Money is the reasons
we exists.
Everyone knows that's a fact
kiss, kiss.

That blink-or-you-miss it shrug and sharpness is one of those moments where I move the playhead back to see it repeatly. It's hard to pin down, yet it exists. She's saying it knowing that it's a fact.

On the other hand, she looks washed out in "Video Games", and at certain parts of "National Anthem".

But nothing can beat that look she has near the end.

YOUR TURN: What's your thoughts on Lana Del Rey's "National Anthem?

Weekly Round-up: 7/6/12

I wished I could have included some blog posts concerning Indepedence Day, but none of them suited the purpose of this round-up.

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:



Writer's Update: Happy 4th of July

Why isn't the flag catching on fire?
Even though little happened last week in terms of writing (I know), I would like to wish you guys a Happy 4th of July!

And if you're not American: have a nice day.

Now, here's a song for you guys to listen to, despite having nothing to do with America or fireworks or BBQ.



My Problem with You: Examining a Bad Protagonist

Nice cover, but...
You would expect that in a negative review of a novella in a second-person, the reviewer would bring up the POV as one of the bad things about the book.

In my opinion, it's a complete non-factor. I'm usually not the sort of person who is bothered by such mechanics, and in this case, it's actually executed quite beautifully.

Breath-taking prose doesn't cut it when the book's protagonist falls flat.

This was the case with You by Charles Denoit

Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for ripping this book apart. I don't want to, but I don't want people modeling their protagonist off of this book's protagonist. I'm going to explain why.





Three Broken Pillars
For those who hadn't have the chance to read the book, Kyle Chase is an..."interesting" character. He's considered a hoodie, the sort of person you would see hanging with the bad crowd with little care about the painful future he's going to suffer. He's the type of person that is really smart but wastes his intelligence. He hates life.

You would think that same character would redeem himself.

He doesn't.

It killed the book for me, keeping me one step from putting it down and never picking it up again.

In a nutshell, Kyle Chase is:
  • Unsympathetic
  • Unmotivated
  • Boring

Unsympathetic:

Every protagonist has something they would die for. Problem is, Kyle doesn't have one. He's quite apathetic. It shows in the stark narrative, where he practically drifts from incident to incident. Plenty of injustices and plain old wrong things pop up, but he leans more on inaction than action.

In the couple of first person sequences throughout the book, it's clear he's the kind of person most people don't want to hang out with. He has attitude, and not of the good kind.

The closest bit of sympathy he has is his sister, who is the most sympathetic character in the entire book. She is mentioned a couple of times throughout the first half of the book, and then brought out twice.

While we pain at the fact that her teacher doesn't see her intelligence (how the school system is flawed is a major point in this novella), she is never used in a way that makes Kyle sympathetic or motivated to do anything in particular. Except cure his boredom. Which he brought down on himself.

 Unmotivated:

As an extension of the first point, it's hard to sympathize with Kyle's situation. Sure, life is hard for him, but it's partly his fault. It's explained that he let himself go on a theoretical fall back in 8th grade. If it wasn't for that, he would be at a better school, and his parents wouldn't be on his back.

In most cases, these kinds of protagonists either try to solve a problem within this hellhole, or they're clawing their way out of it, even if it means bleeding their fingers out.

Kyle? He's aiming for nothing. He has no motivation.

It's hard to relate to a character that's aiming for nothing. Sure, many people submit toward a bad life, but those are usually not desirable people. At the very least, there are people that are stuck in a bad situation but try to make good of it.

Boring:

And this relates to the first two points. One problem with Kyle is the fact that it's dull watching Kyle go through his life, if he's not aiming for something. It matches the somewhat melancholic and stark tone, but it's quite shallow.

Plus, the antagonist completely overshadows him. He's larger-than-life. At one point, I wish it was his story I was reading--except for the fact that the entire point was that he's supposed to be an enigma, with the explanation behind his motive unexplained.

Now, if a character is unsympathetic, unmotivated, and boring, why read his story? If you're the kind of person who hates 2nd person, this story can kill you.

Saving Grace:

Only the ending saved the book.

It was only when the antagonist finally pushes Kyle into a situation where he was truly trapped, and not of his own accord, when I finally wanted justice done. Regardless of what actions and inactions he had done, he didn't deserve what happens to him, and it's cathartic seeing him confront the antagonist--and then see his fatal flaw undone him in the end.

The problem with this that it took the entire book for the plot to reach such a point. It shouldn't take that long, even if it's only a novella.

You is a tragedy, with Kyle's flaw being apathy. Problem is, unlike many good tragedy, there was never a high point to compare his fall to.

What's the Point?

Not that kind of mouse!
That what I wondered after finishing the book.

A few months later, I stumbled onto MICE, which stands for Milieu (setting), Idea, Character, and Event. These are the four points a story can have. For example, Lord of the Rings is primarily Milieu. Much genre fiction like mystery novels are Event stories.

It's clear that Character is right out. Kyle isn't the point. It seems like an examination of the flawed setting (Milieu), but the point wasn't to explore it, Kyle isn't searching for an answer for a question, and the book isn't trying to prove a point (Idea), and the chain of events aren't tight enough to be an Event story.

What is it then?

What You Is:

The main problem is that You, for the most part, is very experimental.

It's primarily a literary novel, being a strange type of realistic story with an implausible antagonist. It's a novella with no chapters. And it's in the second-person.

Kyle defines all definitions of being a protagonist. The book is a slice-of-life of a dreary world.

Experimental books are very hit-or-miss. It missed with me.

It likely missed with lots of other readers.

Conclusion:

Now, this book got primarily positive reviews, but few of them account for Kyle. Yet, as a protagonist in a Young Adult world, he's a huge factor, if not the factor that can make-or-break a book.

My point I'm trying to make is: make sure we want to read the protagonist's story. Make sure there is a point behind the prose. Make us want to see the protagonist change.

And if he doesn't and end up dooming himself? Actually make the journey interesting and entertaining. Make the read worth it.

Besides, 2nd person is unconventional enough.