NaNo Update

It’s one week into my Modified NaNoWriMo stint. Have an update:

 

I just want to point out that the word count does not include today or the 700-1000 words I wrote last Friday when I didn’t have internet access.

I will not point out I only wrote about 600 words two days ago because of sheer laziness.

There is not a story from one day that has continued into another. This is nearly 7000 words of creative puffle. (Perhaps puffle is too strong of a word. There’s a possibility I will revisit one of these ideas. A very likely possibility).

I still feel accomplished. Go me.

How is your November?

NaNoWriMo!

It’s November! Meaning it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! Yaay!

NaNoWriMo is an underground event in which participants write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. Yes, that is a lot of words. It amounts to about 1,667 words in a day, which is more difficult to push out than you probably realize, especially when it’s all the same story. Trust me, you get about halfway through and your brain starts to crumble and you think strange things like “What do you mean it’s only the 15th? I’m only supposed to be halfway through now??” You get the point where December rolls around and you just sit on your couch wondering what you did with your life before NaNoWriMo.

Put this on top of Holiday shopping and you have a recipe for insanity.

This year, I’m pseudo-participating in NaNoWriMo. I’m writing something every day, but my own rules differ from the actual NaNoWriMo rules, which I think of more like guidelines. The reason I have a pseudo-NaNo is because I have a few freelancing jobs I have to give my attention to. And then there’s the whole “Someone’s gotta do the dishes and it ain’t gonna be the ghost on account of him not being corporal.” So here are my guidelines for my pseudo-NaNo:

1. Each day will require 1,000 words of creative fiction of any kind from any story. The words must be new, and they must be creative and not a journal entry.

2. If I write more than the allotted 1,000 words per day, the excess words cannot be carried over to the next day. I will have to write a new 1,000 words every day until the end of the month.

3. This exercise will cease to continue as of 1 December 2012 or until I deem otherwise beyond that date, whichever comes last.

4. The start and end dates are not final and can be modified per my whim so long as I do not skip a date within the month of November.

5. The words written must be in this document on Google Drive and cannot be in a separate word processor document unless otherwise copied and pasted into said other word processor document. This is to track my progress.

Readers: you are free to participate in my pseudo-NaNoWriMo as well! Let me know if you are in the comments. And we can keep each other motivated and going and yell at each other if we miss a day of writing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about 400 more words to write for today.

Happy Halloween!

Have a scary story ~

The Waltz

A dance with tight corsets, boned collars, tall hats, extravagant headpieces, feathers, and lots and lots of masks. All sorts of colors twirled counterclockwise along the dance floor. Some were grim—rusts and reds and browns and golds—and others were more vibrant greens and blues and pinks and silvers. It was hard to tell where bodies ended and dresses began, if masks were really faces, and if anyone could keep still for more than five seconds.

It is a marvelous ballroom. Wide and high-ceilinged with a crystal chandelier that stretches almost across the entire floor. Candles and torches lit the room, and their light both illuminated the dancers and hid them in shadow at the same time. Candlelight reflected off buttons and mirrors and polished silver and jewelry. In some faces, the light reflected diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and sometimes plain pieces of polished metal.

Intricate. Everything was intricate. Fine details were painted on every fingernail, every earring a mimicry of the chandelier above. You could see every feather bend to the breeze, every rustle of a skirt, every wrinkle in a sport coat. The dancers moved without stopping. It is a Waltz, and people whooped in time to the music and extended their arms without knocking anyone. People bow and exchange partners, but they are always dancing.

Never stopping. Always dancing.

The ladies’ feet must think it tiresome to dance so extravagantly for such a long time. But the ladies do not mind their feet, for they are caught in the dance. Gentlemen must think their legs tired for moving in time to the ladies. But they too are caught in the dance, and are not permitted to stop.

No one fears stopping–it simply does not cross anyone’s mind. Why not dance when you can dance? they must think. There is nothing but the dance. Not the punch table, which sits empty of wallflowers, nor servants with trays of champagne and hor d’oeuvres. Even the servants twirl in the Waltz as they move across the dance floor, refreshing a lady’s champagne and allowing gentlemen to nibble at the treats.

There is even a woman towards the back of the ballroom, who dances alone; a glass of champagne in one hand, the other plucking away finger food. She smiles as she eats, caught up in dance and food–two wonderful pastimes. Why should this evening come to an end when it is so delightful? she thinks. She could stand there at the edge of the dance floor, caught in the wake of the twirl of the Waltz like a branch of the Milky Way.

The orchestra never stops. No one remembers it beginning. No one remembers the famous composer who has come to conduct just for this night. He keeps waving his arms, the cellos and bass keep time, and xylophones and strings play their parts. They are the only ones not dancing, for they are the only ones not permitted to dance. If they dance, there would be no music, and there would be no point to this ball.

The dancers must always dance.

Never stopping. No breaks.

Always dancing.

Looper is About Good Parenting

It’s been a while. I’m sorry about that. Writing about hospital staffing policies takes a lot out of you.

Anyway, I saw Looper this past weekend. It was fantastic. Go see it. The theories of time travel used during the movie were ambiguous, but, as Bruce Willis said in the movie, if you’re going to talk time travel theories you’d be diagramming for hours (with straws). What I’d like to talk about is loops in society and how parenting breaks that. For the purposes of this post, “loops” is a replacement for the word “cycle.”

As always, spoilers ahead.

(c) 2012 Sony Pictures

“Time travel isn’t invented yet. But in thirty years, it will be,” says Joe, our main character. But time travel is illegal, so it’s only used by the mob, and even then they use it to kill. Send someone to the past, they die, the body is disposed of, and authorities of the future will never find who they’re looking for. A Looper is that person in the past that does the killing and the disposing of the body. They’re well paid in solid silver. However, as a Looper, you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll one day kill your future self. This is what’s called “closing the loop” and it marks your retirement as a Looper. Once you close the loop, you’re paid in multiple gold bars, and you can spend the next thirty years enjoying yourself before you’re hunted down by the mob.

Looper explores the underworld of the only big city in Kansas. Despite the occasional flash of big bucks, most of the city is overridden with vagrants and hobos. And even then, the rich don’t seem to have it much better–at least for my tastes. I’m not someone to go out partying, dripping drugs into my eyes, and falling for a stripper who doesn’t really believe your feelings for her. For the most part, our main character Joe is stuck in that lifestyle. Even after he closes the loop and moves to China, he still gets involved with the mob and crime and drugs. He breaks free with the help of his wife, who cleans him up and starts a life with him. And it’s because of her that he breaks the cycle when the mob comes a-calling. His ultimate goal: to kill The Rainmaker–the big mob boss that single-handedly takes over multiple crime syndicates. This person is so mysterious you only know that they’re maybe closing the loops because it’s rumored they watched their mother die. But you ultimately know nothing else.

Mothers. The majority of the characters in this movie will say that they hardly remember their mothers. The first instance comes with Seth when he lets his future self run because he was singing a lullaby (let’s not talk about that scene anymore). We see it again when Joe is with his dancer/prostitute/girlfriend (named Suzie) and just wants her to run her fingers through his hair, which is the only thing Joe can remember about his mother. Abe tells Joe he knew Joe’s story the moment he looked at him, orphaned and falling into the wrong crowd. The Rainmaker is rumored to have watched his mother die, as I previously noted.

And then Joe meets Sara. Sara used to live the “high life” in the big city, but then she had a child. A few years later, she lives in a farm house growing sugar cane doing her darnest to just be there for her son.

Emily Blunt as Sara hugging her son

The loops break with parents. Here is the proof.

FIRST. Old Joe gets away. We know this is not supposed to happen because immediately after we see him get away, we see how his life should have progressed. He’s SUPPOSED to kill his future self, move to China, continue his life of drugs, meet his wife, get clean, and start talking about babies. Old Joe’s Wife (she has no name on IMDB) wants a baby, and Old Joe wants to give this to her. But the mob comes, kills Old Joe’s Wife, and takes Old Joe to the time machine. That’s when Old Joe decides he wants his life to be a little different, which is how the first loop breaks.

SECOND. Sara wants to be there for her son. She sees all these people growing up without their mothers and she thinks that if someone grows up WITH their mother, then maybe they won’t turn out so bad. Which is why she’s in the country raising her son instead of the city. As it happens, the kid turns out to be this mysterious Rainmaker, and the only thing between this kid and being the God of All Crime is Sara. Except we know mothers haven’t been physically present this entire movie, so Sara’s existence hangs in the balance.

But perhaps the actual Breaker of Loops is Joe. He breaks the cycle by escaping his own death because he wants to grant his wife her one wish to be a mother. Then he breaks the bigger cycle so Sara and her son can actually have a life together. Or does he do that before he escapes his death? Let’s diagram this with straws for a few hours.

~

Discussion Question: On a scale of “nonplussed” to “lost sleep for a week,” how perturbed are you by Seth’s fate?

Major Themes in The Hunger Games

Thesis: A discussion on the interplay between war and reality TV in The Hunger Games trilogy.

The Hunger Games phenomena took off in the past few years. I don’t know about you guys, but I was a fan before Catching Fire hit the shelves. (Stephenie Meyer recommend it on her website back when I still visited from time to time. Say what you will about Ms. Meyer, she’s got some pretty good taste). What seems to be keeping it around is the themes it plays with, both in the book and the movie. Although the movie has given it a spike in mainstream interest, the books themselves have been gaining popularity on their own. The Hunger Games deals with war and politics and ethical issues and sacrifice, but I’m a bit more interested in the effects of war and the meaning of reality TV in this world–mostly because I don’t have a good answer between the connection.

I’m also intrigued by the apparent silence of Suzanne Collins in regards to The Hunger Games trilogy. She didn’t speak up as a talking head in the behind-the-scenes features of The Hunger Games movie, and I haven’t seen or heard of her talking about The Hunger Games in any public way. I’m not upset by this. If people are to explore major themes in books, it’s best if the original author doesn’t contribute their own thoughts and motivations. That way, the individual reader can absorb what they feel is the most important aspect of the story without hindrance.

As I will be talking about The Hunger Games trilogy in its entirety, you should know there are spoilers ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Effects of War

The theme of war plays with the themes of loss and death, but they’re not the same thing. A story that plays with the theme of loss will be one about a little girl dealing with the death of her father. The Hunger Games is a story about war–about a young woman thrown into an arena of death and must either kill or be killed. One of the biggest things that struck me as I got to the end of The Hunger Games, and throughout Catching Fire and Mockinjay as well, is the effect the arena had on Katniss rather than her actions inside the arena.

One of the things you have to understand is Katniss is not an active character. This isn’t to say that she is not a strong character–she definitely is–but she’s not active. If you pay attention to the wording in the books, you’ll notice that Katniss rarely takes action on her own. She’s very reactive to the things around her. She withholds her opinion of the Capitol and she only does something because she’s either told to do it or she’s prompted to do it. I reference the Tracker Jacker Incident, whereas Katniss drops a hive of tracker jackers onto the Careers. That was actually prompted by Rue, who pointed out the tracker jacker nest. In the movie she makes the motion to cut the nest; in the book it’s Katniss that makes the cutting motion as a warning to Rue. Regardless, that incident is Katniss’s reaction to Rue.

And so we have Katniss feeling the effects of war when she gets out of the arena, and, frankly, she doesn’t take it well. In the opening of Catching Fire she admits that Cinna designs her line of clothes for her, thus skirting around a hobby that would have otherwise occupied her time. And later on, in Mockinjay, she’s literally just another body in District 13 until she heads to the Capitol herself. From what I can remember, she doesn’t exert enough effort to even attempt to do anything substantial. But she is still emotionally broken from the arena, more so in Mockinjay having survived it twice by then, and that handicaps her from taking action and trying to become a bigger voice in the greater resistance movement.

We as readers feel the effects of war mostly in the death of our favorite characters. Mine surprised the crap out of me. I read to the end thinking Collins could not have killed this guy, he was Everyone’s Favorite and those are the tropes that live to see old age. Nope. There was also a Giant Explosion at the end of Mockinjay which I thought was excessive and not foreshadowed well enough. The point is, we make our connections to characters in the trilogy and we react to the things that happen to them.

Reality TV

The theme of reality TV intertwines with the theme of class differences. In fact, it is the central dividing line between the two classes: the oppressed (the Districts) and the oppressor (the Capitol). The Hunger Games is a show meant to entertain the Capitol, who does not have to contribute a Tribute every year–probably because they’re happy with the wealth harvested from the Districts and, honestly, have no passing thought on the District’s quality of life. Collins makes sure to put in Cinna’s three loyal workers to show that the people of the Capitol aren’t necessarily bad people. They are just blissfully unaware of anything outside their world.

Here is where the books draw a line with reality. We have the people who watch and enjoy reality television because it’s entertaining, us, and we have the participants of the show undergoing some heavy emotional turmoil and drama: America’s Next Top Model, Survivor, Big Brother, Project Runway, etc. The systematic murder of the Tributes in the arena is akin to kicking someone off the island. In the show, that person might as well be dead because they’re never heard from again. They leave no legacy.

Perhaps this is why children are the ones fighting to the death in The Hunger Games. Children have no time to develop a sphere of influence on their own, so if they do die in the arena, the people in their lives are able to move on. (I recognize this is a horrible thing to say). If you haven’t noticed, Katniss doesn’t think about the people she knew or grew up with that were Tributes. Yes, she references what previous Tributes have done, but she doesn’t really say anything like “Little Billy used to tease Prim all the time” or “I used to sit next to Rachel in music class. We did a duet in the second grade.”  The only character who has gone into the Hunger Games before Katniss and Peeta is Haymitch. And he’s important because he’s the mentor of the two.

As readers, we take the position of a well-to-do individual watching The Hunger Games on television. After all, we’re hanging on the edge of our seats wondering what’ll happen next just as Capitol citizens are doing the same. We root for our favorites until they die and we cheer on the victor at the end. I don’t mean to say everyone who reads The Hunger Games trilogy comes from a well-to-do lifestyle, but we are the passive reader in this story. We have no choice to be, but we are.

Realty TV of War

The final result of all this is a social critique on the separation of economic class and the war-like clash that comes between them. As you can read, this doesn’t end well. In Panem, which side of the television you are on determines your social class. And as I said in the paragraph above, we take the position of Capitol viewers when we read these books.

This is not a bad thing. As citizens of the world, we are to digest any lessons we take away from The Hunger Games and apply them to our world. We hold the power, just as the Capitol holds the power, so do something with it.

Bookshelf Update

It has been in the back of my mind for some time that I have been in a new location and have not informed the Internet about my bookshelf situation. I mean, the title of this blog is “Overcrowded Bookshelves” which suggests that I my books outnumber my shelves. Or that there is at least a limited amount of shelf space, if any.

I have here to inform you, Internet, that my bookshelves are no longer overcrowded . . . for now.

In fact, I have approximately one full shelf of empty space! It’s currently occupied by a lonesome anthology and one part of my old roommate’s wedding present, but it’s empty space nonetheless! Which means I can buy more books without worrying about their placement.

And what’s more!

There is a third bookcase in my old bedroom with my parents. So if ever shelving gets tighter than comfortable, I just need to practice some feng shui and and I’ll have room again! Easy peasy.

The current shelving situation includes: 2 bookcases, approximately 6 feet in height each, holding the entirety of my books minus three titles and all the magazines; 1 half-shelf holding the entirety of my DVD Collection and coloring books; and 1 made-for-DVDs shelf stuffed with board games and dart guns. The pile of coupons on top makes it look messier than it is.

So voila! Bookshelves no longer overcrowded, but give me a few months. On the weekends I do not venture into the Great World of Out of Town, I spend about $20 on books. Give it six months.

~

Discussion Question: How is your bookshelf situation?

And now, a joke:

Two men are sitting in a restaurant.

This is hilarious, amiright?

Anyway, the waitress asks, “What can I get you gentlemen to drink?”

The first man says, “I’d like a glass of H2O please.”

And the second man says, “I’d like a glass of H2O too, please.”

So the waitress goes and gets their drinks.

The first man drinks his water and says, “Ah. That hits the spot.”

The second man also drinks.

And dies.

Get it?

~

Discussion Question: Tell us a joke.

My Reason To Work

So you may think that you work to be a good citizen of the current civilization, to make your mark on your society, your neighborhood, and contribute to the good of all. You probably work because you enjoy what you are doing and wish to keep getting money for it. Whatever the reason, the reason why you work is your own. But, because this is my blog and I can say whatever I want on it, I will share with you the reason why I work:

To fuel my cashew addiction.

World, I, alias Morike, am addicted to cashews, and I work so I can pay $5 for every 10oz canister. A canister of cashews a day equates to seven a week, equates to $35 a week, which is about $140 a month. That is more than the combination of my internet and energy bills.

And so I take thee, salaried writing job, as my daily bread, for which I trade so I may partake of these lovely cashews.

My mouth waters just staring at them.

Discussion Question: Why do you work?

It’s Okay to like Avatar

So last semester (or last April, however you keep time these days), we had watched the live-action movie of Casshern for anime. Yes, I took a class on anime—it was kind of amazing. Anyway, one of my classmates wasn’t too pleased with it because of its extremely visual style and it (apparently) ruined the source material. She really liked the original, animated Casshern. She mentioned that liking a movie for it’s visual style is not a real reason to like something. Then someone mentioned James Cameron’s Avatar and she got a little heated. She had three main points: 1). The plot for James Cameron’s Avatar is unoriginal and kind of sucks, 2). people like it because it’s pretty and they shouldn’t because of #1, and 3). Academia won’t study it because of #1. This is my rebuttal because you think up arguments two minutes (or months) after it finishes.

Thesis: It’s okay to like Avatar. Really.

Unoriginal Plot

We all know the plot, but for those of us who don’t, have a two sentence summary:

Jake Sully goes to the distant moon Pandora sort of on a whim where he gets a new body and befriends the Native American symbols, *cough* I mean Na’vi. He goes on to lead the revolution that essentially kicks capitalism off the moon.

I can make it simpler!

Dances with Wolves in space with blue people.

So what?

When people say the plot sucks, what they’re really saying is “this plot is unoriginal.” But you know what? You can probably sum up their favorite story in less than ten words too. It’s really easy. Any English Major should be able to do it. And if you’re literate in stories, then you already know there’s only a limited selection of plots to choose from, and each of those has been done at least a thousand times before. So why the importance of originality?

The good people at Writing Excuses talked about The Problem of Originality. You can find the podcast by clicking this elegant and finely-crafted link.

Secondly, there is blatant environmentalist symbolism that entire movie. Even I will admit that it’s kind of suffocating, and it would be, but the pretty is my inhaler.

Pretty Planet is Pretty

(Note: “Pretty Moon is Pretty” is less alliterative)

I contest this girl’s argument that you shouldn’t like something for its visual appeal. (Have you seen Casshern? No? Watch it. It’s pretty and only sometimes makes sense.) In the case of Avatar, the majority of its budget went into the visuals. So if they spent so much time and money making it pretty, why the hell can’t you like it for the pretty? It’s pretty! They spent the budget on the pretty. It is a very valid reason to like it on the pretty because that is where the effort lays.

I’m hosting a supremely expensive meditation retreat to this moon. Sign up in the comments.

I realize some people out there value story over visual effects, and that’s fine, but give credit where credit is due. It’s like watching a Michael Bay film and not appreciating the explosions. You’re just not a nice person if that’s what you do.

Academia

This girl mentioned Avatar wouldn’t be studied in academia. I can name a few reasons why it would. And to give you some background, I am three credits and a declaration away from a Communication Arts major. So I know a little something about that area of academia.

Anyway, at some point, I would have said that Avatar broke some Box Office record or other, but then The Avengers happened and that all went up in smoke. But it did indeed break some sort of record. Even then, that’s not why people will study. They won’t study it for story either. There are other, better examples for that.

No, academics will study it because of the technology used to film it and for its use of 3D. Have you seen this movie in 3D? You see all the little bugs and things flit before your eyes and, I swear, you can stand up, take a step, trip over a branch, and land among some ferns. In the entire movie, there is maybe two gimmicks that throw things in your face. And even then they’re not obvious at all and, when in a 2D screen, still look awesome. This is the movie that defined how proper 3D is used.

Additionally, the majority of the action was filmed using motion capture (mocap) technology. So it’s like the actors are acting but they’re not in their actual bodies. Just think of the innovations you can do with that! Tron Legacy goes on to use it to make Jeff Bridges look young. Yeah yeah, Lord of the Rings did it first with Gollum, but Avatar defined what that technology can be used for. Or it at least gave it attention.

Finally, James Cameron is a total tech-guy. If you go to find any information about him, he’s all about the tech and the science. He created a new form of CGI with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Then he practically recreated the sinking of the Titanic. I haven’t seen it in 3D, but I wouldn’t doubt he put some serious time and effort into making that look amazing. (Y’all are free to refute this, FYI). In any case, James Cameron likes his gadgets, and I’m not about to come between a man and his gadgets.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, academia. Avatar will be studied by the students who study James Cameron’s fascination with movie technology. I think it’s quite revolutionary, myself, but someone with an actual degree in this can come refute me.

Conclusion

People of the world: it’s okay to like James Cameron’s Avatar. It’s an enjoyable movie. For me, “I enjoyed it” is a good enough reason to like something and to hell with anyone who thinks otherwise. But for those of you who enjoy a good discussion, here’s some reasons for you. Use them well.

~

Discussion Question: What is your guilty pleasure movie and why do you like it?