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It's a lonely line out, and I don't want the cause, because I can't keep the cause.

Start 30ft above nothing, a platofrm in the air, and we're just going nowhere. Pan around, close in on the action, everything slows down as we watch each motion in painstaking detail. It's a narrow space, gravel ground and bound around and around and around by chain and barbed wire, hemming you in. Duck and dodge, kicking up sand, keeping your fists up in a boxing guard. Strike out and miss, leave yourself open and one good hit could take you down. But you won't let that hit land. You have to dream awake.

Cut, a control room somewhere remote from the action. Take us under now. Sitting in a cheap faux leather seat, watching the action through rows of video monitors, distant and callous judging. Watch yourself spin to the right as the blow lands, spit blood and go down.

We have to dream awake. Have to dream awake. Take us under now. Take us under now.  Violins go here, and maybe some other strings, it's all terribly meta. Am I describing or commenting on? It's hard to tell. There's a warning, a warning, warning. To everyone there comes... to everyone who found something.

It's a nostalgic sound, an old song that no one will get the reference to. Emotions played out in 6/4. Close your eyes and you're back on that field, somehere in the midlands, a thousand strangers yelling. More than a thousand, but you have no number for them that will sound poetic. Catch the ball, run, collide, fall. Only at the end do you learn you broke two ribs. For the fifty minutes til then you keep running, these chords playing in your head, in your heart, living out the underdog. It's a beautiful sound and you miss those moment.

Jump ahead, years gone by. How many? Who knows. Evening time, mid-November, vehicle slowly pulling across the river. Across the bridge. The sun went down half an hour ago, stars are rising. You cross at Waterloo, the light from the book market and the German winter festival rising behind you, spilling out across the river. It is the sound of huddling beneath a grey blanket in an empty hospital, listening to everyone in the 20th century die. You carry a lot of misery, you'll deal with it, but there's no denying it's there. Right now it doesn't matter. You exist in that brief note caught between moments. You are the chord that rides the riff. Epic instrumentation exists to make you happen.

Jump ahead, years later. You have passed through horror and out the other side. It was bad and then it got worse, but you survived. Your friends are adults now, occupying buildings, light spilling out onto the street, onto the river. They've made this city into their own shape, moulding urban wonder into personal magic. Together you pierce the idol with the sharpened neck of an electric guitar. Embrace it, live it, watch the clock tick on.

I love everyone.

But that's not accurate. There is more and less. There is always more and less, one can never cut it down enough or expand it out enough. There is always a border case, always a judgment waiting to be made. We are all full of wonder, all waiting to share it. If you do not know how amazing you are, tell me so, and I will inform you. By existing, by thinking and feeling and being, you are a thing of beauty. With every sunrise, we are a thing of joy.

There are a thousand skies, a million breaths, but we all move beneath the same sun. You are the best that there ever needs to be.
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It is just over a month until November and the start of this year's NaNoWriMo and I've just realised something: I'm going to be away for the first 6 days of November with little free time and no access to my laptop. So that's going to make things challenging. Then again, I did manage to complete it in 2008 whilst also writing 15,000 words of dissertation and working full time, so it's not impossible.

It also helps that I have a vague plot in my head already. Well, actually I have two vague plots but one of them lends itself far more to visual storytelling than purely written. I guess I need to find someone to do a webcomic with or something. 
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Sometimes conversations just get strange enough that you need to quote them on the internet. With some people that's all conversations. Here is one I felt the need to share.

Shakey Box says:
 I meant, anyone who rolls low INT will have 0 skill points.
 Or negative.

Redacted Snow says:
 "Well done, you're so dumb you're not even not a farmer, you're an actively bad farmer. You make things grow less by being around them, but you can't stop trying."

Shakey Box says:
 Yes.
 (2+INT)x3 would be very nice for a very low power level 0 character.
 All skills capped at 3.

Redacted Snow says:
 You know, when I tell people I have been discussing game concepts with you in the early hours, they panic and run away before I can even tell them what the game is.
 I tried to explain Alzheimer's: The Forgetting to Ku, but to no avail.

Shakey Box says:
 Why not?
 It seems very interesting.

Redacted Snow says:
 It's almost as if they expect this comination to produce very silly games
 We need better PR, clearly

Shakey Box says:
Yes.
 Who would represent us?
 They'd need to listen first.

Redacted Snow says:
 Who does the Old Spice ads? I'd like to hire them to handle the publicity.

Shakey Box says:
 We'd have some sort of court action or somthing...
 Parents complaining about their children.
 Or whatever.

Redacted Snow says:
 But then it turns out the children are games. And the Judge is Leo. The lawyers are Luke and a giraffe.
 The giraffe sprouts afterburners
 It blows up Saturn.
 Then people would get it

Shakey Box says:
Oh, the person who had a vagina turned into a penis is dating a man dressed as a woman.

Redacted Snow says:
 This makes perfect sense.

Shakey Box says:
 Yes.

Redacted Snow says:
 Also I feel it should perhaps be our marketing slogan. That sentence you just said, that will be the corporate motto.

Shakey Box says:
 Wonderful.
 You do realise this will only make it harder on the Old Spice team.
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 This is the first page. They won't be explained until the last page, if ever.

Big image under here )
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 Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once

I think any of the books mentioned in the various "Best book ever/today/last 12 months/with pictures of frogs on the cover" questions should of course get some sort of vague mention here. So there they are, being vaguely mentioned. Go read them.

For some new suggestions I haven't already covered, here are some suggestions:

For non-fiction, The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm. Despite what the name may sound like it's not a dodgy romantic self-help book, pick-up artist guide, or karma sutra copy. It's a look at a particular aspect of human nature that sits as a companion to Fromm's Escape from Freedom and Man for  Himself. Whilst some aspects of Fromm's world views are a bit off these days, the main ideas are interesting, and will probably make you a better person.

For fiction let's go with Mark Z Danielewski's Only Revolutions. It might possibly be a pretentious piece of wanky postmodernism, but it's an interesting and well designed piece of wanky postmodernism. It's also so thoroughly strange that it's hard to really describe all its unusual features in a concise manner, which is why you should go read it yourself.

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Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

There are lots of plot devices I dislike, but the one that most irks me and occurs with frequency in books I actually enjoy has to be Magical White Guy Out Of Water. I'm shooting particular accusatory stares in Neil Gaiman's direction here. Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, American Gods, all revolve around a similar "Here is an ordinary guy just like you, and now look, he has entered a world of strange things, and I can use his naivete to explain the wonderful world I have created to you, the reader!"

And of course Magical White Guy always turns out not to have merely stumbled into this world but also to play some pivotal role or be somehow Very Important. Because of course the locals couldn't possibly match up to his awesomeness (unless the locals are the Marquis de Carabas, of course).

And it's not just Neil Gaiman that's guilty, Mieville did it as well with Kraken, and countless trashy "Modern day guy stumbles through portal to fantasy kingdom" fantasy novels. Also Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, but those books were toss anyway, as already mentioned.

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 Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time

But... but this is just day 4 all over again, surely? I couldn't answer it then, I still can't answer it now. So instead I'm going to imagine that the question was Give an example of a book you actually thought was worse than the film and answer that.

Surely books are always better than the film adaptations though? What madness is this to suggest otherwise? Two words: Princess Bride. Some more words: The film is pretty much objectively better, and I sincerely hope Goldman never makes good on his threat to someday finish writing the sequel, Buttercup's Baby

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Okay, it's a day late (and possibly a dollar short, who knows) but here's:

Day 05 – A book or series you hate

Okay, here's one I can get a relatively clear answer on. The list of books I don't like is far shorter than the list of books that are amazing.

For a series (excluding the obvious sparkly choices), I have to go with the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, by Stephen Donaldson. Attempting to read through this series is one of the few times I've just ended up closing a book and giving up without finishing it. I'm given to understand that the unsympathetic main character is some sort of clever and intentional thing which indicates all sorts of deep and meaningful things through sheer douchebaggery. Is it also intentional that the dislikable protagonist moves through one of the most tediously written pieces of prose I've ever seen? Who knows. 

For an individual book, I have to go with The Politics of Friendship, by Jacques Derrida. I'm sure there may well be some very clever ideas contained within, but Derrida's writing style is like being smacked in the face with a brick. Also the brick is on fire and constantly screaming words in a language you don't speak. Fuck you, Derrida. 

Books?

Aug. 14th, 2010 05:35 pm
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Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever

I... I... but... there are so many. I'm just going to throw down a whole pile of stuff here instead.

Excluding things I've already mentioned, very good books and series include: Most stuff written by Simon R Green, Slow Chocolate Autopsy by Iain Sinclair, the majority of Vonnegut's books. The Blackwell's Lecture Notes range is very good, particularly the notes on Paediatrics and the notes on General Surgery, which are really well written for textbooks.

Oh god, there's just too many. This question is impossible to properly answer.

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Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months

I am torn somewhat here. On the one hand I would very much like to put forwards Kraken, by China Mieville. It is the best thing he's done since Perdido Street Station and combines many of my favoure elements in fantasy fiction. It has the London setting, which appeals to my incurable Londoner. It has museums, which appeals to my inner nerd (particularly a certain scene in the former Commonwealth Institute, as I spent a lot of my childhood there and that bit was just perfect). And it has an excellent pair of villains, very strongly reminiscent of a certain Messrs. Croup and Vandemar. The only reason I'm not definitely picking this one is that, well, I'm probably going to mention Mieville a fair bit in this list, and I wouldn't want to come off as a fanboy.

So, as an alternate I'm going to put forwards All My Friends Are Superheros by Andrew Kaufman. It's quite short, more of a novella really, but genuinely brilliant. A weird mix of romance and a comedic look at superheroes in a world where superheroes are common and not all that super. And the ending is one of very few books to make me feel all warm and fuzzy. (If it doesn't make you go "Awwwww" then I'm afraid you have no soul.

More books

Aug. 12th, 2010 01:28 pm
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Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

Oh, hmm, I'm not sure. I have no idea how much people are reading or talking about books generally. I'd hate to go and suggest something really obvious that everyone has already read and spoken about. Okay, I'll hedge my bets and pick two.

First up, Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. It's arguably his best work and manages the job of creating an interesting fantasy world that isn't reliant on the standard Tolkienesque settings and ideas.

Second up is Crooked Little Vein, by Warren Ellis. It's bizarre, and messed up, and wonderful. You know how when you like a book and you're trying to persuade other people to read it you might quote some of your favourite lines? I can't do that here because they are all my favourite lines. All of them. So yes, more people should be reading this so they can understand references to ostrich tantra and macroherpetophiles and what the secretary of state leaves in hotel rooms. 

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Okay, I shall steal this from [personal profile] nanaya because it's about books, and if there's anything I like to ramble aimlessly on about it's books. Hell yeah.

Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about
Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months
Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever
Day 05 – A book or series you hate
Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time
Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise
Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A book that disappointed you
Day 12 – A book or series of books you’ve watched more than five times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)
Day 14 – Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry
Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)
Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book
Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?

For day 1 I'm going to pick a series I wish would just end already. I'm not choosing it because it's bad though, quite the opposite. This series needs to end because it's damned good, and if the author doesn't hurry up and deliver up a conclusion before he dies then it's going to be some serious frustration for the fans. The series? A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin, of course.

Song of Ice and Fire does a wonderful job of grim and gritty low fantasy, but unfortunately also does a wonderful job of teasing the audience. The series has grown in intended length to the point where it's now expected to take 7 books to finish. The fourth book in the series got so big that it had to be split into two parts, the first of which - A Feast for Crows came out back in 2005 (5 years after the third book). There is still no confirmed release date for the second half, Dance With Dragons. And of course there's still two more books to come after that, which at this rate should see the series end some time around 2022, with the author being 73 years old. Assuming of course he doesn't just do the cruel thing and die before he finishes.

So yes, I want this series to end already. (Also, don't start reading it until it's done. It's good and you will get frustrated by the waiting.)
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"It all began with my career in mining1," he said, sipping casually from the carton of Chibuku Shake Shake2.
She nodded, frantically taking notes, trying to capture every nuance of his words. This was her big chance, the moment that would make or break her in the journalism world. A mere rookie such as her, interviewing a man like him!4 It was exhilarating. As a girl she had long dreamed6 of an event like this, but had never believed it would actually happen. She remembered the day long ago when she'd told her father of her journalistic aspirations.

It had been a warm day in late June, she'd been 12, or possibly 275, she was no longer sure. Having just seen an old 8mm home recording of a man falling down the stairs looped for 3 hours she ran into the sun lounge, bursting with excitement,
"Vater! Ich bin eine toten hunde!" she yelled, for she had not yet learned to never speak German.
"No dear, you cannot be a journalist, you must follow in the family footsteps", her father replied. His terse response shocked her, and she burst into tears9.
"Quod est demonstrandum. I use the Latin because I'm an ass," said her father.
"Voulez vous couchez avec moi. I use the French because you're an ass," she replied10, suddenly realising how to speak languages other than German. What came next was to be one of the defining moments of her life, though she didn't realise it at the time.

After the interview was complete348 and he had left she pulled her bag onto the table, fumbled through it, drew out the novel she was reading. Pulp trash, airport bookstore special, but it entertained her. She turned to the dog-eared page she'd left at and resumed reading.
'"It all began with my career in mining1," he said, sipping casually from the carton of Chibuku Shake Shake2.
She nodded, frantically taking notes, trying to capture every nuance of his words. This was her big chance, the moment that would make or break her in the journalism-'13 she put the book down, bored already. She didn't have the focus to read right now, she was too full of adrenaline. A book would have to offer her the secrets of the universe14 to hold her attention right now. What she needed was to hunt, she needed to run across the baked flats of the Masai Mara, bring down a gazelle, feel the warm blood flow. If only she didn't live in uptown New York, she thought, cursing her cosmopolitan life style. This was what she got for moving to live nearer to Bob Dylana.
Would this horror ever end, she wondered sullenly24, 25. There was really only one way to find out, she would26






1Translator's note: In the original Basque3 edition of this text an ambiguous phrase is used here which can be translated either as "career in mining" or "violent hatred of whores". This is an intentional pun, revolving around the similarity of the words for a deep cavernous mine and a hooker's genitalia. Whilst both translations are equally valid, the context suggests that the mining is the preferential form in which to render it for the English reader.27
2Chibuku Shake Shake is a popular beer in Zimbabwe sold in Tetrapak style cartons. It is so named because of the need to shake the carton before consuming. The drink is made from Sorghum and is relatively unheard of outside southern Africa, primarily due to its vileness.
3Editor's note to the third edition: This text has never been published in the Basque language16 and it is unknown what the translators of the first edition were referring to in this note, or indeed why the English edition of a text first printed in English required translators.
4It is never stated who this figure is, but contemporary critics believe it to be a veiled reference to either Martin Luther King or Immanuel Kant. See Guthrie and Tannhauser21, An Analysis of Modern Metropolitan Oligarchies for further discussion of this.
6JT: Dreams. I remember when I had dreams. The last one I had was just after I started reading this damn book. I was walking down the stairs at the back of the shop, carrying a tray of ink. The stairs were close and claustrophobic19, and I could feel something behind me. Its breath was warm and thick on the back of my neck and I broke into a run. I felt something touch me, I tripped. When I woke, I couldn't remember where I was.
527 of course being a highly sacred and mystical number amongst the Chepatwee28 tribe of Central Brasil, who were prevalent at the time.
7North American author. Suicided in September 200815
8JT:The inside cover of the book I found in the old man's house says that it's the second edition. Where did fourth edition editor's notes come from? Is it connected to the blonde from the shop?23
9Galbraith conclusively demonstrated in his 1987 biography of the author that the frail and womanly tears here are intended as a metaphor to link the protagonist to the hit song "Straight Outta Compton".
10Contemporary research has demonstrated that these lines were paraphrased from the TV show House. This is made puzzling as the original manuscript was found in a sealed clay jar excavated from site M26 of the dig at Karnak, and believed to date back to roughly 2500BC.17
11JT: I asked Cortez, he says Milton Keynes is some place in England, didn't exist in '43. I changed some of the words in the text, to make them fit. I remember when I was a prize fighter back in Thailand. I've never been to Thailand. Mother?
12Editor's note to the third editionIt is once again worth noting that this text was originally printed in English and has not been released in any other languages or ever translated.
13One of the earliest recorded examples of this style of a story threatening to become recursive and repeat inside itself can be seen in The Thousand And One Nights18, in which one of the tales Scheherazade begins to tell is the tale of The Thousand And One Nights itself.
14The secrets of the universe can in fact be found in footnote 22 of this text, courtest of the fourth edition editors.
15Reading further, it appears I have been taken over by the ghost of Mark Z Danielewski instead, however he is not actually dead yet. I do not know if this is an improvement over DFW or not.
aNote by the author: This is not intended to be confused with the popular musician of the same name.
16The Basque language, today spoken by a little over a million speakers, is notable for being a language isolate, one that has no demonstrable relation to any other known language. Further, it is the only language isolate still spoken in Europe, with both Iberian and Etruscan having gone extinct. Language isolates are far more common in the Americas, and to an extent Australasia.
17Errata: This is a printer's error in a previous edition of the book. The correct line should read "...a sealed clay jar found in a demolished house in Milton Keynes, 194311."
18 1001 Nights
20JT: Where is footnote 19? I didn't make it... or, I don't think I did. Who put it there? What did it say? I wish I'd never found this book.
21JT:I know this name, why do I know this name? Is this a part of the conspiracy? I woke up this morning and I was covered in blood. Not all of it was mine. Rang library, asked for Guthrie and Tannhauser book. Doesn't exist. What does this mean? I must move on, Vegas isn't safe anymore.
22-REDACTED-
23Editor's note to the revised fourth edition: We are always.
24No.
25Maybe.
26There is a large section missing from the original manuscript at this point, with the next surviving page believed to be from the middle of chapter 5, picking up after a dramatic explosion at the Nuremberg trials.
27Oh god, am I footnoting my own writing with fake notes? What pretentious madness is this? I have been overcome by the ghost of David Foster Wallace!7
28Editor's note to the revised fourth edition8: Historical records show no evidence of any tribe by this name existing in Brasil. Is it possible this is a mis-translation from the original German12 edition of the text, and actually refers to the Chapalee tribe of Northern Peru.
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I have a terrible habit, and I feel it's about time I confessed it here, to the internet.

It starts back in the mid-90s, during the days when nu-metal was just becoming cool and the internet was still this weird new thing that cost a fortune on your phone bill to use. Not that either of those is remotely relevant to this story, they just serve to set the scene. It's important to set the scene, you see, in order to convey the full and most subtly nuanced of meanings here. Of course, as soon as you have any sort of interpretable meaning you lose control, as the writer, over how your readership will take the piece. This has been an issue ever since Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the author, back in 1967. Now 1967 was an interesting year; its first month alone saw the release of The Doors' debut album, the first Super Bowl, and the founding of Milton Keynes. This is important, because Milton Keynes was of course to later be the home of the 2001 Ozzfest music festival, no less than 34 years after the town's founding. And as we all know, in the intervening years I was born, and would attend that very same Ozzfest in that very same Milton Keynes.

In 1967 however, people were not aware that someday all this would happen. Mostly at the time they were concerned with things like the war in Vietnam, and then with the summer of love. Twenty or so years later there would be a second "summer of love" in the British rave scene, only it wasn't really a summer as it lasted four years. It also probably didn't concern many of the original summer of love participants, as it happened in England rather than Haight-Ashbury, and in the intervening twenty years many of the original participants had probably grown up, cut their hair, and become the Establishment that they formerly railed against. That is generally the fate of any revolution, to either be thwarted, or to become what they'd fought against. Thomas Pynchon wrote about former hippies decades after, in his novel Vineland. The novel disappointed many critics, but then that is of little surprise, as that is what critics are for. If you look at the etymology of the word critic it actually comes from the Greek 'κριτής' meaning "one who is frequently disappointed for no good reason". That was a lie by the way, κριτής doesn't mean that at all, it means a person who offered reasoned jugdement, analysis, or opinion. Arguably my definition is more correct, but that's besides the point. And if you take certain points of view regarding ontology and the human perception of the world then the notion of being more or less correct is entirely irrelevant anyway.

Anyway, I digress, my terrible habit is launching into rambling disjointed paragraphs that don't lead anywhere or have any coherent theme.

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