Monday, April 28, 2008

Manatee Madness

Sailors used to believe manatees were mermaids. 3,000 pound mermaids with very bad breath. But still cool in their own way.

I just got back from kayaking about Merritt Island with the manatees. I shared a kayak with my mother, who in her 70's is a great kayaker. My sister Kathleen and brother in law Tim shared another one, and we took the Manatee Encounter Tour. We saw at least a half dozen of the creatures, flipping and snorting about. Not to mention dolphins, sting rays, and sea birds.

Such an adventure, then off to Dixie Crossroads for fresh red rock shrimp. Yum!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Saint Augustine

We've left the Winter that Would Not End in Portland and are in Saint Augustine, Florida. I'm in shorts on the porch at Casa de Solana, a B&B in old town. Cobblestone streets and old Spanish buildings. I recommend the A1A Alehouse's Red Brick Ale. We got in late last night, and the Alehouse is all we've explored so far. So far, this town is perfect...
The excuse for the trip is my cousin Gail, who is getting married on Sunday in Daytona.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oregeon Writers Colony convention with Christopher Vogler

8 OWC Spring Convention, 2008April 11th to 13th was the time for sun, sand, and Christopher Vogler. He was the instructor for the spring convention of the Oregon Writers Colony at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. Depending on your point of view, he is a visionary who has brought Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey to inspire writers and directors everywhere, or he is the man who ruined Hollywood and can be blamed for every bad movie. I'm in the former camp, and find great value in his models, but they shouldn't be taken as cookbook recipes.

I had read his book, The Writer's Journey, years ago. In fact I used it when I designed a role playing adventure that won first prize in an international contest put on by Green Ronin. I used it when working on my first novel. But let's face it, I didn't know much about writing back then, so a refresher would be useful. I had been recommending this book to Alison, who is great on characters and setting, but was looking for direction on plot structure. So off we went.

We tried to find our copy on the way out, but no. Chaos can be good, as we got the third edition, and it's full of cool new models for writing. Catharsis (which means vomiting!), polarity, and more. Friday evening, Christopher and Alice, his wife, displayed the good taste to sit at our dinner table. Then he gave a talk about his new Manga, Ravenskull. Long into the night about a dozen of us critiqued each other's work up in the library. LONG into the night. Hearing people's stories was a great way to get to know them.

12 OWC Spring Convention, 2008Saturday Chris (first name basis now ;) lectured at the Newport Performing Arts Center. All of us from the Sylvia Beach Hotel walked over and were joined by a few dozen people who where there just for the day. He did his 12 steps of the Hero's Journey and his story archetypes. That night more critiquing, even longer into the night. I got to read the first scene from "Self Love," a short story I'm working on.

Sunday he spoke about his new ideas, some of which are in the third edition, and told us about his journey to getting published. The guy who published him is the guy who made Hardware Wars, one of my favorite shorts.

It was hard to leave, I met so many wonderful people. I typically critique with science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers, and it is good to just work with people doing all sorts of work. Non-fiction, mystery, children's literature, and more.

Then we drove home the long way, and stomach declared war on me on those twisty roads over the coastal range. Catharsis eluded me, which may be for the best.

More Pictures
of Alison & me in Newport.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Marjane Satrapi: From Persepolis to Portland

Marjane Satrapi came to talk to me (and a few thousand others, Portland Literary Arts) last night. What a monologue! For a visual artist, she can talk.
She has taken her comics (she thinks Graphic Novel sounds a bit too Lady Chatterley's Lover) Persepolis I and II and made a movie out of them, which I have yet to see. It showed in Lake Oswego for a week, and I couldn't get anyone to go with me. I hate seeing movies alone.

In any case, this solitary little woman was a first class speaker, careening from one topic to the next. Random highlights (paraphrased from memory):

  • On People: When I made my comics, I worked alone. I'm a solitary artist. When I made the movie, I had to deal with 100 people every day. For the first six months, I wanted them all to die.
  • On dictatorship: When I studied in Austria, everyone assumed I was a mullah, an extremist, and that I never bathed. When I studied in France years later, I thought they would be different, but no. I am a human, an individual. Why would you assume I represent my government? Do you represent George Bush? If everyone in Iran supported the government it would be the world's most perfect democracy. It is a dictatorship. They beat, kill, and imprison people who speak out. That's what a dictatorship is.
  • On extremism: What is the commonality between me and Iranian extremists? Nothing. What is the commonality between an American liberal and George Bush? Nothing. What is the commonality between an Iranian extremist and George Bush? Everything. They have the same language, "defeat the infidels" "defeat the axis of evil." When Iran is run by extremists it is a tragedy. When the greatest secular democracy in the world is run by an extremist, it is a danger to the entire world.
  • On not being allowed to smoke on stage: It is so stupid. The government is telling me what to do. As an adult I should be able to smoke, one, two, five cigarettes here. Joe Strummer of the Clash once said that no great work of art, no great book, no great piece of music, was ever created by a non-smoker.
  • On the French law that prohibits wearing the scarf in school: People assumed I would be jumping up and down supporting this law. I do not. I do not understand why anyone would cover themselves up that way. I hated being forced to wear those things in Iran. They say these girls are pressured to wear the scarf and that boys in their neighborhood call them whores when they do not. But guess what? Those parents will pressure those girls to stay home and marry at the age of 16. Education is what will set them free. Prohibit the scarf, and you take them out of school. Those boys calling them whores? They will still be in school. It is a stupid law.
  • When asked (Q&A from the audience) if her family still lived in Iraq: My family lives in Iran, dear. My parents are fine and they say hi to all of you.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sex, Lies, and Nazi Themed Orgies. And the Bra-Cam.

And Formula One racing.

Sometimes you see the oddest things in the news.

At least it's not over the top. OK, it is. The head of Formula One racing, Max Mosley, was filmed by a British tabloid News of the World in an S&M five-some that includes prison uniforms and yelling in German.

Max Mosley is the son of British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. Hitler was a guest at Sir Oswald's wedding.

The New York Times reported that Mosley denied it was Nazi themed sex, it was only prison themed sex, and that he had been set up by the tabloid and photographed by a bra-cam.

For some reason, Formula One sponsors would like Mr. Mosley to find new work.

Life can be so unfair.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Large Hadron Collider: Answer to the Empty Skies Problem?

The Empty Skies Problem is: If life exists elsewhere in the universe, and it naturally evolves toward intelligence, where is everyone? Why don't we get radio signals from other civilizations? If it's possible to go out to other stars and colonize other planets, why haven't we seen any evidence of this? Assuming other intelligences, some should have evolved earlier than us, and been able to cross the stars millions of years ago. Hundreds of millions. The galaxy should be thick with aliens, an interstellar Manhattan.

Yet the sky seems empty.

Now some people grumpy pants about how the Large Hadron Collider under Geneva could create a black hole. This black hole could then absorb all the matter it came in contact with. The collider, Geneva, and the Earth.

The nice thing about this theory, is that it could explain why the sky isn't full of evidence of intelligent life. Before a species becomes advanced enough to expand into space, it hits upon the idea to build a Large Hadron Collider. Thus avoiding filling the universe with annoying little space people.

Now if only I can write a story with this premise, and get it published before the Swiss destroy the Earth...

Of course this probably won't happen. But still. Maybe there is another experiment, another collider, another thing that makes it easy to destroy your own planet that intelligent species are sure to stumble across. Sure, it sounds grim, but at least it solves the empty skies problem.

I mean, you can't have everything.