Archive | January 2015

Uncle Josh goes to the Theater

Tonight was part one of Box by Tina Connolly and Matt Haynes, produced by The Pulp Stage, a readers theater here in Portland that’s worth their salt. It is the first part of a live science fiction trilogy. Parts two and three will be presented in the next two weeks. Here is the official blurb:

Jane, a high school student, has been arrested under suspicion of a heinous crime.

In a government detention center, Jane is wired to a virtual reality program that sends her through a series of flashbacks and fantasy games, all with the intent of exposing her crime and reprocessing her mind.

The clock is ticking… can Jane find her way “out” before the program takes total control of her?

Box is set in a dystopian future where almost everything anyone does that could be considered close to fun or even basically human, is a violation of some moral code, which have been enumerated and paired with appropriate punishments based on age and severity of offense. This does not sound like a great world to live in.

The story centers around Jane (Kaia Maarja Hillier) , a high school student who is being punished and “reprogrammed.” The punishment I am sure about, the reprogramming, well, almost everything in the story is a simulated mental game, so it’s hard to discern if anything imposed on Jane is real, even the bits that are “reality”. That’s the great thing about science fiction: it can explore deep philosophical ideas and entertain at the same time. Jane is a smart kid who could break the system and is up to something. Hillier plays this perfectly, with the assuredness of a cocky teenager with all the insecurities of a teenager when the shit hits the fan.

The A.I. (Rachel Joy Erickson) represents the whole screwed up world and it’s perfection in non-humanism. Erickson plays an A.I. It is a perfect voice for an A.I. with a modicum of intelligence and grit. It is most likely lying about everything

The remaining four members of the cast play multiple roles, including Jane’s BFF Portia, potential love interest Ethan, cops, drunken mothers, “crazy” old ladies with printers (the kind of crime Cory Doctorow writes about), and vice principals.

Jane is pushed around quite a bit, and the ramp up is quite tense through the first act. It really messes with the mind. There’s a reason I put scare quotes around reality a few paragraphs back. Everything is real and potentially unreal at the same time. The only thing we can count on is Jane’s authentic reactions to everything.

I expect this to change next week.

I advice you to order tickets now. I’ve got mine, so I’m not afraid to encourage the rest of you.

(Updated to fix a formatting error.)

Uncle Josh coins a neologism

Erin McKean told us to make up new words, and tonight I have done just that.

Isting. (verb): To declare, without provocation, something as racist, sexist, ageist, or some other disparaging term, in order to sound superior.

To ist is to be, by definition, pompous without cause.

For example, the sentence “Anita Sarkeesian is really sexist because she doesn’t consider the value of the male gaze” is isting in a most egregious manner.

A less serious example is to call Dogs Playing Poker as specist (or petist) because everyone knows cats are better bluffers.

The word needs to exist and its purpose is to mock, diminish, and ultimately dismiss false outrage. Suggested usage is alliterative: Why should we waste bandwidth on another isting idiot?

[Writing] Uncle Josh goes off script

So the other day I was thinking about this plot scenes at lunch and write in the evening plan I came up with, and it’s a good production plan that I think will work for me.

Except when a run of the mill fantasy story spurs me to crank out 700 words of flash while waiting to leave for dinner.

But hey, 700 words of flash done.

Uncle Josh Thinks About “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies”

There are several joke subtitles I had thought of for this movie: The Hobbit: And You Thought Pelennor Fields Was Long… or The Hobbit: Thank Christopher Jackson Won’t Get The Silmarillion. That second one in unfair, though. Jackson’s vision for Middle Earth has been very good. He has the determination to do it right, not just to his view (which is respectful of Tolkien) but the experts’ and fans’ views. He also has the skill (and the crews with the skills) to pull it off.

I still think The Hobbit will make a good movie, a supercut of the theatrical releases that follow Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves, cutting out the background stuff that adds to the epic but makes Bilbo Baggins feel like an extra in his own movie. I am also still looking for the extended editions, which I will watch in the only way that makes sense for me to watch them now: As a mini-series. The Extended Editions of LOTR make a great six-day mini-series event.

Anyway, this movie in particular was much better than I expected. At two hours twenty-some-odd-minutes, it is tight, for a Jackson Middle Earth movie. The few times it strayed from the hobbit and the dwarves, it laid a narrative foundation for the later stories and didn’t stray. We also got to see Galadriel be a badass, and that was great. Saruman fighting was great. It was like that feeling a decade ago: Yoda Fights! I didn’t expect to see Saruman open up like that.

That is really what I enjoyed the most. The Hero moments. After all, a movie is emotional manipulation, and a movie made out of a book over 70 years old that most of the world has read makes it very hard to shock the audience at a chararcters death. We know who dies. Actually, Jackson killed fewer dwarves of the company than Tolkien. I think six or seven members of the company died in the book, and only three in the movie. And they were good deaths. They were heroic. They also helped explain the characters Jackson created.

Take Tauriel. She’s not in the books. She’s stuck with Legolas but she’s not a character we knew the last time we saw Legolas, and she falls in love with a dwarf. Tolkein made a big deal about Elves and Humans falling in love in three very powerful narrative chunks. (I think it was three, maybe only two.) Elves and Dwarves? Okay. But introducing this character and her emotional journey allows Jackson to threaten a life whose fate is uncertain. I was not sure she was going to survive for a few minutes, and those were good minutes.

Thorin, Kili, Fili? Yeah, they had to die. Thorin was spectacular, and got his farewell which was wonderful.

But earlier in the movie, too, did we see great hero moments and death scenes. Bard and his son (another Jackson creation) pulled off a great kill, and Smaug’s death was wonderful. It was beautiful.  It set up the idea that Great Deeds would be Done in this movie. And it was just this chapter’s prologue.

I’m glad we finally went to see it.

Uncle Josh looks back

2014 Felt like the Year I Slowed Down.

By blogs, even though I added two, seems quieter. My fiction sales are even less noise-making, and my submissions have really dropped off. My lifting schedule is so light that every lift is starting over on the program.

In January, to jump start my writing, I took part in a 31-day writing challenge from The Art of Manliness. Here is a quote from my first post of that series:

I also am finding myself distracted by projects that aren’t writing, and these projects drop me into the flow pretty fast. I spent six hours fiddling with some paper mechanics on one day recently, and I’ve fallen into that habit. I can trance out on something that is constant problem solving and work and pauses to let the glue dry and stay like that for hours. I know I’ve spent twelve hours straight in front of a computer and not moving at all, only stopping when I feel faint because I’m not eating.

Well, that didn’t work out. I’m zoning out more and more. The one thing that seems to have stayed alive is my personal summary: Artist searches for muse and medium. I’m still searching.

There is a lot of good stuff written in January. I may revisit it and do the program over again.

February saw me doing something I haven’t done in 25 years or so: Stand on stage and sing. After a couple of years of running the lights, I decided to participate and sang “Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak” from My Fair Lady. Stephanie played Eliza until she stormed off the set with an hilarious “Garn!”. We also sang the penultimate number: “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof. My only regret is they didn’t introduce our number with “there’s always time for one more love song.” Stephanie had been pushing me to sing it for years.

I also started lifting again. It was my first attempt of rebooting in 2014. I had a lot of reboots to my lifting.

March, according to my Journal, was all about theology and biblical realism, for which I have my own definition and it does not match what a Google search will provide.

April, according to my Journal, didn’t happen.

May saw a rant and an attempt to understand what “Orwellian” means and how it is not being used correctly, which is, oddly, Orwellian. More importantly, I woke up one morning and felt heavy. Really heavy. Unable to bend at the waist heavy. Getting up was a pain and exhausting. I am fat, and I was feeling it. So I joined Weight Watchers. I was 294# on my official start. Nobody believes me when I tell them I’m really really heavy. I’ve lost about 20# since then. It’s been slow, but my relationship with food has been a hell of a lot better.

In June we lost Jay Lake. In better news, the family reunion (biological and legal, not my old writing group) gathered in Ashland, where we saw some very good plays. They were so good I actually was inspired to write a short play, which is a first for me.

July, again, according to my Journal, didn’t happen. In the real world, my immediate boss resigned, and … well, let’s just say nothing more on that matter. I miss her quite a bit, but she ain’t coming back.

August saw the attempt to revive and force myself to work on my old Story A Day project, which I renamed to Better Writing Through Reading and moved it off LiveJournal.

September was September. I put a tick on a box marked “get older”. We lost another dear friend to another terrible disease.

October: I prepped for the elections by ignoring them, and had a happy thought about.

November. Elections. Apparently I got 3 out of 7 right. A more egotistical blogger would claim Oregon got 4 out 7 wrong. I also bailed on NaNoWriMo on the 12h or 13th, and I really hope I remember this next October.

December. We kinda felt Christmas go by. Lessons and Carols was great. It’s such a big part of our seasonal prep that the season feels done by the time we’ve rearranged the church.

Fiction Sales:

My zombie story The Bread of Like, Life, and Stuff will appear in a zombie-infested anthology from Sky Warrior Books down the road.

Live Feed, a Murdock Collins story, went live over at Pulp Corner.

I also experimented with self-publishing and released Memory of Flesh (my first sale back in–gulp–2005) and Uncle Charlie Goes Swimming.

A quiet year.

I have declared 2015 the Year of the Novella. May it find us all happier.