Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#365. Survivor: One World thoughts

It's perhaps not a well-documented fact here at Scouring Monk, but I've been watching Survivor since Rich Hatch and me both agreed in the first episode that he was going to win.

My sister shares my obsession, and we've been watching previous seasons in our typical marathon sessions.  That's helped me get my groove back in trying to figure out who has the best odds to win.  That being said, Survivor: One World is now officially Troyzan and Kim's season to lose.  If they don't win, then we'll probably learn in the next few episodes who will be able to dethrone them (next week's preview suggests some of that will be attempted soon).

But I really don't think it'll work.  Again, this season of Survivor will be won by either Troyzan or Kim.  Only so often do the people who find hidden immunity idols bungle their good fortune.  These two won't pull a James.  The fact that they both have one only serves to testify the strength of their game.  Some people stumble into these things.  These two know exactly what they're doing.

#364. Blog Updates, Bluewater, Yoshimi


I've got a new poem up at Epistles from the New Fade as well as a bonus "Quarter Bin" column at Comics Reader, focusing on Robin, which I took the measure of sharing on Facebook, hoping for a little extra readership, y'know, to justify writing this kind of stuff on the Interweb when there doesn't otherwise seem much purpose without, y'know, significant readership.

But sanity is not defined by the perception of others.

I should also note that I've delivered a second comic book script to Bluewater Studios, publisher of the Wrath of the Titans comics that helped inspire the second Clash of the Titans film.  Bluewater is a company I've tried getting published with in the past, with a short story accepted in an in-limbo Legend of Isis anthology.  Thanks to financial concerns in the modern economy, a lot of things changed from the time it was accepted to the present.  Bluewater started focusing its attention on pop biographies, for one thing, to help stand out from the pack.  That's what I've been submitting to them, one on Neil Gaiman and the new one on Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.  If these get published, they might be the foot in the door I've been looking for. keeps asking me to contribute more material, but there's so little readership, or interest in what I write for them, that there's very little point to "gaining experience" with them unless I truly feel motivated.  Last year I was in a somewhat better position to go see movies and write reviews for them, but I can't justify the same thing in 2012.  So if you wanted an explanation for my lack of activity, Examiner, that's it.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Hall Bros. Entertainment on the Yoshimi manuscript.  I have to admit that I'm a little concerned that A.C. Hall has once again done a soft revolution on me, and decided against continuing commitments to his extrapersonal literary endeavors, just like what happened with Dead Letter Quarterly nearly five years ago.  When I keep reading Facebook updates about how busy and fulfilled he feels at work, and what he's doing with his own projects (and it's scary enough that 75% of all the things HBE has published is either by A.C or his brother), rather than how he's finally getting through all the Untold Tales of the Past submissions that the brothers were deluged with last fall, I can't help but wonder.  The catch this time is that he's got a contract with me that states if we don't play, he still has to pay.  I don't know if I'm just being paranoid, but this is my literary future, and I'm justified in being a little paranoid.  A lot of things have fallen apart on me.  I would really like this to not be one of them.

Yeah, we'll see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#363. Poems, Star Trek, Comics


Once again, I've got my weekly activity across the blogs...

Epistles from the New Fade continues to feature new poems daily, all attempting to elucidate my perspective of the modern world.

Fan Companion continues its look at the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager, with looks at five more episodes, including "The Killing Game" and "Vis a Vis."

Comics Reader has a new "Quarter Bin" column up, looking at more work from Jeph Loeb, Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns, as well as a review of Green Lantern #7, also from Johns.

Finally, Sigild has another "Star Trek '12" entry, this time looking at Klingons and Kahless the Unforgettable, as well as the conclusion to "Warship."

Hope something therein is worth reading!

Monday, March 26, 2012

#362. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


I'm doing the A-Z Challenge in April with movies (which may not surprise those who've visited Fan Companion).  Just thought you'd like to know, picked the line-up from my personal DVD collection, repeating the first four letters at the end of the month.

I picked up David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo today, one of the movies from the end of 2011 that I didn't get a chance to see in theaters, and the one I most regretted missing.  I think Stieg Larrson's Millennium Trilogy is one of the more important cultural touchstones of, well, the new millennium, whose impact is only beginning.  You can take your Hunger Games.  I'll take my Lisbeth Salander.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

#361. Poetry


Poets hate each other.

I don't know how else to say that.  (Please continue reading my regular entries at Epistles from the New Fade.)  The truth is, that's the only conclusion I can reach.

When I attended the University of Maine, I didn't start out as someone who was all that interested in poetry.  I had attended one year at Mercyhurst College, and started a poetry project after a field trip to Boston (which was ironic, because heading up to Eric, PA was the first time I'd left the New England area, and here I took a trip to...New England), but hadn't really considered any further association with the literary form.  Yet one thing led to another, and this English major (eventual hugely beneficial holder of a degree) and I took one poetry class, and then another, and I sort of became a member of the poetry scene on campus.  (Emphasis on "sort of.")

The New Writing Series launched on campus around this point (you can do the research on that if you'd like), and very curiously, seemed receptive to just about everyone the director of the program could reach except the two major, active poets who were actually members of the faculty.  I didn't really consider how weird that was at the time, possibly because one of them was good friends and collaborator with the director.

In hindsight, after he sorted of skirted any real effort in helping me get a foot in the door of the wider scene upon my graduation, I guess it was kind of appropriate.  When I say I was a part of the scene, and when I say "sort of," I mean that the "scene" disintegrated at the first stiff breeze.  I didn't expect that.  I thought that it was going to last longer than a season.  But it didn't.

And so that helps me reach my conclusion.  Poets don't like each other, not in the modern age, anyway.  I've been doing this blog for a long time, and have now launched five poetry blogs.  Most people don't read other people's blogs anyway, not unless they think they can somehow benefit from it.  But it's a little weird to keep running into that.  I just assumed after many years of writing poems there would be a smidgen of interest, and yet, there isn't.  And so, I conclude, with mock sincerity, that poets don't like each other.  They hate each other, in fact.

How else to put it?  There is no poetry scene because no modern poet is remotely interested in actually saying anything, or acknowledging that anyone might actually have something to say.  There has been such an extreme reaction, like rock music, to the expected and trying to do anything but (while many, many poets do exactly that) that everyone suffers when no one wants to try and reach out...

Am I being a little drastic here?  Probably.  But drastic is good.  Drastic is passion.  Poetry ought to have passion.  If it doesn't, what can possibly be the point?  Just to detail every little expected part of human experience?  Poetry ought to be about the unexpected, everything everyone knows but can't put into words.  Not just the exact way the sunlight hits the windowsill...

Okay, I'm done.  Please read my poems.  Or not.  Probably not.  But it'll still be there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#360. Free Looks at Comics


Since I started writing about comic books starting in 2006 at Paperback Reader (now definitively departed), I've had the occasional opportunity to read material I have not needed to buy.  (Among the early ones were Drew Melbourne's ArchEnemies and Night Trippers, which remains the only physical work that has been sent to me.)

Happily, I discovered that my Comics Reader blog has allowed me to continue this, which is a fair bit beyond what I expected from this venture.  Last year I was able to review Dear Creature, which I later saw stocked at Barnes & Noble, and now I've had a look at Sensory Distortion thanks to my adventures on Facebook.  Anyone who has visited Comics Reader knows that I typically read superhero comics, but I can appreciate good storytelling no matter how it's told (cheap plug for Hub City, here), and Sensory Distortion is good visual storytelling.

Did I mention how cool it is to get free looks at stuff?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

#359. Poems, Star Trek, Reading List, Comics


More new content!

New poem at Epistles from the New Fade, for those interested.  Small little nugget of a thought, in as close to what most people think of when they think of poetry as I usually get.

Thoughts on five more episodes from Star Trek: Voyager's fourth season at Fan Companion, with notables including "Mortal Coil" and "Message in a Bottle."

New "Star Trek '12" entry up at Sigild, with a look at elements from the Original Series episode "Arena" (the one with the Gorn), which featured another of those god-like species that seemed to appear in every other episode.  This story features my interpretation of the Metrons.

I've also got updates on my Reading List at Hub City, including thoughts on the book I just finished and the one I just started.

Be sure also to check out the latest "Quarter Bin" at Comics Reader, where I talk about Superman/Batman, the Challengers of the Unknown, Cerebus, and some obscure property known as Star Trek.

Monday, March 19, 2012

#358. Epistles from the New Fade


I just launched my fifth poem blog cycle, Epistles from the New Fade, continuing the web idylls I've been working on since 2007.  The concept is simple enough: to write a new poem as close to one a day as possible until I reach a hundred.  This will be the first time that I attempt each one to fit a single theme, which is the New Fade.

The New Fade, you ask?  It's a concept I've worked on for almost a decade (I've helpfully tagged in each of the previous four blogs, Terror of Knowing, We'll See, Fall In Their Place, and Modern Woe, poems that have "New Fade" in the title, though it's referenced in others as well, and obviously ones that are not publicly available, including the first one).

The idea is that we live in times that are in a constant state of flux, but the results are more a quagmire than a revelation, so that to understand it at all, and very few people do, you need to examine it in ways that might not seem obvious (but then, the critical eye is what I believe poetry is for).

Poetry itself is in a curious state.  It used to be huge.  It isn't anymore.  In many ways, poetry itself is a fascinating subject for the New Fade, since like almost everything else it's fallen victim to the strange mix of perfect socialism we enjoy that is nonetheless subject to some of the most insidious totalitarianism that history has ever known.  If you can understand that statement, you might understand the New Fade already.

But for everyone else, that's what I'll be trying to write about.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#357. Comics, Fan Companion, Star Trek '12


I've got an onslaught of material over at Comics Reader, so here's your guide:

First, a new Quarter Bin column, my regular look at older comics, this time dealing with Martian Manhunter and work from creators Jim Krueger and Mark Waid, only one of whom should wish that I was talking about comics they did with Alex Ross.

Then I've got a ton of reviews for new comics: RASL, Aquaman, Demon Knights, Quatermain, Justice League, The Twelve, Nightwing, Shinku, and The Stand, plus a look at a few preview books I got my hands on from Heroes and Dragons, but that one's on top, so if you just visit Comics Reader, already, you'll see that one just fine.

I've also got five more episodes analyses for the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager up at Fan Companion, so definitely check that out.

Finally, I've got more Star Trek at Sigild.  With the latest entry in the "Star Trek '12" project, I try to put a little perspective on one of the most sensational elements of Voyager, the Vidiians, who famously suffered the horendous Phage and attacked the crew on multiple occasions.  Perspective is what "Star Trek '12" is all about.  Hopefully that's coming across.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#356. John Carter


I've got a review of John Carter up at Examiner.  It's one of those movies I was compelled to go see even though I had no particular interest in it, and found out there was good reason: not only is it a good movie, but an incredibly intellectually relevant one, too.

The last time that happened was Source Code.  I'm sensing a pattern.

I don't mention in the review, but another good reason to see John Carter is the fact that it seems like a direct extension of the Star Wars prequels, like the next logical step in the movie-going experience, especially if you're one of those older Star Wars fans who couldn't bring yourself to like them.  There are knowing nods to Avatar and Dune, but clearly it's Star Wars, and especially the prequels, that is the most relevant experience, beyond Source Code, The Adjustment Bureau, and the Matrix trilogy.  You'll notice that with the latter films, it becomes a lot harder to find an appreciative audience the more thought is put into the story.

It's one of those movies that kind of changes everything, makes you a fan of something that has long existed but you weren't really aware of, had no idea why you should appreciate it.  I guess I'm not surprised that it's underperforming at the box office, but as I suggest in the review, I hope it finds the audience it deserves, eventually.

I also want to mention how it also brings up an interesting parallel with Superman, with the Fortress of Solitude, an element of the Man of Steel's mythology that has had an inordinate presence in the movies as compared to its overall significance in the comics.  When will a writer figure out how to make it as important to Superman and Krypton's legacy as what can be seen in John Carter?

Friday, March 09, 2012

#355. Honesty


Honesty begins in the classroom.

Unfortunately, I believe that honesty is the last thing you learn in the classroom.  I'm talking here about intellectual honesty, the stuff that's not measured by how well you do on a test, or how well you can remember specific points in a book that you are then directed to write about.  Intellectual honesty leads to critical thinking ability.  And I'm not sure how much of that we've got going on.

You can read any random movie review, and from an objective standout notice almost immediately that the thing the movie critic is reacting against is almost never the movie itself, but whatever the critic had been thinking about, irregardless of the experience they actually had watching the movie.  It's because they're reacting to elements that don't necessarily combine to the movie experience.  They harp on general observations, but cannot for the life of them tell you what a movie is actually worth.  Critical consensus has no business being so different from the typical audience reaction.

The same goes for how people read, how people write, and the disparity of good literature and good writers being shunned in favor of the easy fix, like reading is a drug.  I'm not sure that critical thinking is taken into account in this equation.  If it makes you think, then it had better have a lot of whiz bang elements, too, but it can't make you think too much!  I don't know.  That's just some of what I've been thinking...

#354. Sigild, Publishers


I just posted a new story at Sigild, my latest effort to try and do a Star Wars (the way I write Star Trek) as I think is actually worthwhile, writing from the perspective of what we know, rather than dumping irrelevant trivial adventures that don't mean anything to the powerful story we already know (because anything else, what does it matter to Star Wars that couldn't have been done in someone else's creation?).

And I've been thinking at how ridiculous an age we live in.  Reading is at such a curious phase right now.  Bookstores are struggling to remain relevant, partly because there are people who are absolutely convinced that everything digital is not only the future, but our present.  This means not only that there are people reading existing literature digitally, but that a lot of aspiring writers are writing to that market, convinced that this is their best way at exposure and success.

Except it seems to me that many of those writers are only reading other writers like them who are getting their things published (the new Internet boom, I suppose) in this manner, so that they're only reading what should at best be considered highly questionable literary material, and I don't say this to demean these writers, but at my basic experience that 99% of writers are not good writers, who write because they like writing and not because they should actually be writing.

Traditional publishers know this.  They know this so well that they've actually taken to sabotaging themselves, because they have no idea how to handle the volume of submissions they receive in a reasonable manner.  There are a great many more books published each year than there are films released.  (And that's just one reason why the average film is better than the average book, because film is the dominant medium of the storyteller in the 21st century.)  This would be fine if publishers knew how to market their products, but they don't, and critics who believe their opinions actually matter apparently don't realize that the majority of existing readers prefer the easiest possibles reads, mostly because they're the easiest possible selections.  They don't have to dig into the mass tangle of reviews that only sometimes crescendo on a single book, and even then mass audiences only really come together when someone other than a critic recommends one.

So this means that all those writers writing for the digital forum who read each other, believing that they're supporting the medium and boasting about their success are only hurting themselves and the medium they're trying to support.  The more they read mediocre work the more they write mediocre work, because they cannot differentiate between their unreasonable expectations and the best possible uses of literature.  Again, I do not advocate censuring popular literature so much as support the idea that the best of all possible worlds celebrate real merit over ambition and easy sales.

But what do I know?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

#353. Tim Sale & Jeph Loeb, Star Trek '12, Seven Thunders


Some new material up at both Comics Reader and Sigild.

The former has a new "Quarter Bin" column, exploring some thoughts on the dynamic duo of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale via some of their Marvel work together, specifically Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray, and Spider-Man: Blue.  I've written about them at the comics blog before, mostly obsessing over their forgotten first masterpiece, The Challengers of the Unknown Must Die!, so yeah, they're another recurring feature, along with my continuing thoughts on Grant Morrison, among other favorites.  I've got another five weeks of "Quarter Bin," and then I'll be spending some time on Oni's excellent Wasteland, covering each of its trade paperback collections, and also IDW's Cobra, another buried treasure of the modern comics landscape.

The latter includes a new "Star Trek '12" entry as well as the first installment of a new project, "new" in the sense that I've rarely made public material I've been working on for two decades (since middle school!), that happens to tie in with Seven Thunders, the next book I'll be writing and the one I've worked on since 1998.  You can understand that it means a great deal to me.  This particular, initial installment references "an ancient institution whose origins were shrouded in legend," among other things, which is actually a cryptic reference to the only other public material for this sci-fi epic, which I published on a previous web presence.  (If you scour the archives of Scouring Monk, you could find it!)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

#352. Star Trek Fan Companion Returns


I'm now reclaiming Fan Companion as an active member of my blog family, digging back into Star Trek.

More specifically, I'm writing some individual commentaries for episodes of seasons that readers previously indicated were more provocative from the early summaries of my franchise thoughts back in 2010 (as indicated by level of actual readership).  My whole purpose for the Fan Companion in the first place was to try and suggest that it's not as hard as some fans like to suggest to like Star Trek in all of its forms.  Some fans, for instance, suggest that Voyager, for instance, or Enterprise, or even the critically-beloved Deep Space Nine, is by definition inferior to the original series or Next Generation.  Their main ammunition was the diminishing returns in viewership from the peak of the franchise (circa 1994), which they took to prove that later shows and films just weren't as good as earlier ones.

Of course, in 2012 you could make the argument that no Star Trek was really popular until the 2009 film.  That's beside the point!

I'm simply trying to make the whole process less ambiguous.  With the new episode commentaries, I'm trying to discuss the success rate by four categories:

1) Franchise, or if you need to be a fan of Star Trek in general to enjoy it;

2) Series, or if you need to be a fan of that particular series;

3) Essential, or if you can enjoy it above and beyond specific loyalties;

4) Character, or if the episode centers on someone who helps it succeed just on that level.

An episode can win distinction with any one category, or several, or best of all, all four.  My humble opinion is that any episode that accomplishes that is worth watching whether or not you're skeptical about my opinions.

Friday, March 02, 2012

#351. Honest Feedback


I was going to write this from the perspective of employment, but I think it's a good rule of thumb for anyone.  Always, always, always welcome feedback.  Honest feedback is the first sign of an open dialogue, and I believe that open dialogue is the first rule of civil society.

I want to stress this, because I believe that feedback is the last thing that most people in authority are interested in.  They believe in their authority, and believe that authority itself is enough of a reason that they do not need to consider the role of feedback, open dialogue, in the order of things.  They believe in the concept of Darwinism, which has been bastardized as the most simple interpretation of "survival of the fittest," in that those who have the tools to influence others are the most worthy of reaping the rewards of society.

In the wild, yes, animals capable of and willing to kill other animals definitely fit that concept, "survival of the fittest."  Yet the human animal is unique, otherwise you wouldn't have the chance to read this perspective.  We have the ability to think critically, and to react to our environment in ways that do not directly reflect our basic survival.  The fact is that the true 1% is the segment of the population that produces the basic ingredients of what we eat.  The 99% is the population that needs to find other ways to make a living, because we've determined that everyone must appear to be productive.

I say, "must appear to be," because clearly most of that 99% is not needed to do anything remotely productive to eating and sleeping, the only things a living being really needs to accomplish.  Everything else is dictated by the rules of society, and most of those rules have to do with the dispensing of resources, or to be more accurate, the control of dispensation.  Those who are able to put themselves in a position of control believe that they are in the best position and should therefore be compensated accordingly.

That may be, but the fact is that they could not control if there were no one to control, and the idea of control is that there are many other people actually doing the thing than those who are standing over them expecting them to do it.

Now, is it really a smart thing to give total control to those in such a position?  My theory is that those under control should have the right to dictate the means of control.  I suppose this is where unions come from.  But what I mean is that no condition that favors those in the position of control over those who are controlled should be tolerated.  This is the basic idea of feedback.  This is, like I said, the first rule of civilized society.

If we are to consider ourselves enlightened, should we not demand equality?  Someone in the position to direct the flow of things should not, in fact, be in control.  That's not what they should be doing.  This is not to advocate chaos, but to ensure that there is a balance.

I do not blame those who benefit from inequality.  That is the structure we have all supported for millennia, whether actively or passively, even today, partly because traditionally those who are in control have had the power to dictate terms, and we still live in times where old systems live on, even if it's very difficult to admit.

It's not about a significant contribution to society.  It's about admitting that a spade is a spade.  We're all human.  When an accident happens, you don't get to survive just because you have a lot of money.  This is not, "You can't take it with you."  It's about, from an objective view, can you be respected for your decisions?

Maybe it's because it's not encouraged to consider things objectively.  Or to consider things critically.  I believe independent thought should be encouraged, celebrated.

Not told you're worthless and should just do as you're told.  If you need to resort to any definition of a threat, maybe you should consider whether you're benefiting everyone, or just your own selfish interests.

These are some of the thoughts available in honest feedback.


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