Thursday, May 05, 2005

No big grand literary musings today, sorry. I know you’re heartbroken.

If you’re in the mob and you have a little ED problem, who do you go to? A crooked doctor, that’s who.

It’s been gay scandal after gay scandal. First you have Guckert/Gannon, White House correspondent-slash-call boy, then Spongebob, and now the mayor of Spokane. This story also has parallels with the Michael Jackson trial, in that the main concern isn’t Mayor James West’s sexual orientation, but the accusations that he molested two boys during his tenure as a Scout Leader in the 70s. There’s a technical difference between a pederast and a homosexual, but in many people’s minds the two are related. Obviously, not every gay man is a child molester, just as every straight man isn’t an abuser of girls, but the stigma remains. Mayor West is feeling that sting now. I have to say I was amused by his response to questions about why he goes to looking for man-love. ““I can’t tell you why I go there, to tell you the truth ... curiosity, confused, whatever, I don’t know.” No, you’re gay!

Speaking of gay, federally-supported discrimination against gay people continues! Sure the FDA has their reasons, cloaked under the guise of “public health,” but let’s be honest. Disqualifying potential sperm donors solely because of their sexual orientation is flat out discrimination, not to mention homophobic nonsense. Here’s some interesting statistics: In the United States, black Americans are only 13 percent of the population, but account for half of all new HIV infections. From 2000-2003, the rates for black females were 19 times the rates for white females. In 2004, for every four women diagnosed with HIV, nearly three were black. With that in mind, what do you think would happen if the FDA recommended that black men should be barred from sperm donation? Heads would roll.

Today, I was taking the trash out to the alley and I heard this disembodied voice. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” a man was saying. A few houses down, I saw a man swaying drunkenly on his knees, holding one hand up in apology. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t reach the bathroom.” Apparently in his world, this gives him license to piss on my neighbor’s garage. Oh the strange things you see in the alley. It doesn’t help that I live less than two blocks from Colfax, the longest street in America and the main drag for Denver’s homeless, prostitutes, and all around lowlifes. One time, I found a crude lean-to shelter made out of an old shower curtain, a bush, and my back fence. I hope the bastard who slept there froze his ass off all night. It’s not hard to understand why people like this have no respect for private property. They have no private property. Nothing in the world belongs to them, so they take the attitude that everything belongs to them. If they want to sleep in your alley, snuggled up to your fence, it’s okay. It’s not like they’re in bed with you or crashed on the couch, right? And pissing on your garage? Hell, man, they had to go! It’s like watering the grass anyway, who cares? Soon as it rains, it’s gone. Yeah, right. They should get a place of their own and see how they feel when someone pisses on their garage.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Episodic story-telling, a form of story-telling that I’ve become interested in recently, the kind you usually see on TV shows or in mystery novels. There’s a “big” story which encompasses all of the episodes, and then there are several “little” stories that form the plot of a single episode. One of the greatest things about this kind of story telling is the familiarity which you feel towards the characters. If you watch any episode of Married With Children, you will notice that every time Al Bundy walks into a room, the studio audience goes nuts. And that’s just when he walks in. Doesn’t even have to say a word. That kind of reaction you don’t get from characters in a contained beginning-middle-end story.

Because of this familiarity and other advantages of the format, character really benefits from this type of storytelling. Plot doesn’t necessarily get the short end of the stick, but it does become somewhat less important. It’s still there, and still must be there for the concept to remain a “story,” but it’s more of a cumulative effect, the sum of its parts. It’s almost as if there are two different stories (the best series juggle many more than two) going on at the same time, what I’ll call the “big” story and the “little” story.

The “little” story would be represented by a single episode, its plot contained with a beginning middle and end. To use a universally recognizable example, The Empire Strikes Back would be an example of this. It’s a single episode, thematically self-contained, connected to a larger story but for the most part, standing on its own. The “big” story, of course, would be the larger story of Star Wars.

I use Star Wars as an example, because unlike most cinematic series, this one actually has a “little” story and a “big” story. Most Hollywood sequels are rehashes, adding something, turning up the volume, but really making no attempt to craft a “big” story that spans the whole series. This effort by George Lucas and his team is probably one of the contributing factors to the whole Star Wars phenomenon. The story telling approach has already been used to spawn other film “franchises.” The Matrix movies, the X-Men movies, Spider-man, the Bourne films, all have a “big” story running through them. The style is used because it works, and when used with skill, it works really well.

On a mere practical level, it also allows its creator to keep working during the whole creative process. George Lucas has almost spent thirty years churning out the Star Wars movies. John D. MacDonald found a framework for his colorful Travis McGee novels. Raymond Chandler spent years writing in the voice of Phillip Marlowe. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels come out every two years or so and keep getting better and better.

As a writer, I’ve become very interested in the serial format, for the reasons I’ve already mentioned as well as many others, so I have been thinking about a series, creating characters and their arcs, coming up with “big” plots (mainly) and “little” plots, making esoteric scribbles in my notebook. I’ll have more at a later date, but this is what I can tell you now. It will be a series of mystery novels featuring a hard-boiled PI character named Max Beatty. He talks tough and fights rough, a man who operates in the grayer areas of ethics and morality, and despite it all seems to do the right thing. You know the kind of character.

But you don’t know Max. Not yet anyway.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Nuggets lost again. San Antonio outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted the boys in blue in a 126-115 overtime victory. This makes the series 3-1 in favor of the Spurs. The Nugs would have to come out with a Red Sox like performance to get out of this one alive. I don’t think they’ll do it, and word at the watercooler is the same.

Here’s an interesting story from Florida. A 13 year old seeking legal clearance to get an abortion. Yikes. In my view, this case is plenty of reason why abortion should remain legal. Kids that young shouldn’t be having sex, but they sure as hell shouldn’t be having babies, either.

Can a crappy band survive in the marketplace without the promotional tools and deep pockets of their record company? Apparently, even the crappy band doesn’t think so.

From a Sirius Satellite Radio interview with Tony Iommi: “"BLACK SABBATH used to jam with LED ZEPPELIN all the time. We'd be trying to rehearse and they'd come interrupt us. I've got some tapes floating around the house." What the hell, Tony? I want to hear em!

Here’s an interesting piece on evolution. Refreshing in that there’s lots of speculation of how mankind will evolve in the future, but definitely no doubt whatsoever that it will. And I absolutely love this interview. Neil DeGrasse Tyson knows what he’s talking about and puts it together nicely. I think he says more eloquently what I was trying to say in yesterday’s post. Choice quote:

“What were the consequences in the mid-1800s of saying you didn’t believe Darwin? There weren’t any, really. But today, with biotech companies, there is no understanding of biology without the theory of evolution. And so if you say, ‘I don’t believe the theory of evolution, I think we were all specially created,’ you must understand the consequences of it to your own employability."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fareed Zakaria review Tom Friedman’s new book. Choice nuggets for those who cringe at the mere mention of Friedman’s name: “The metaphor of a flat world, used by Friedman to describe the next phase of globalization, is ingenious.” (Italics mine.) Imagine my relief to learn I’m not the only one who appreciates Friedman’s metaphors. And this, too: “In one of Friedman's classic anecdote-as-explanation shticks, he recounts that one of his best friends is an illustrator…” Anecdotes as explanation? Sounds a bit familiar if you troll through the comments on some earlier posts.

Some folks in the Springs aren’t too happy with Focus on the Family. I hate protesters, but in this case I like their cause.

Finally! Months of uncertainty and national headlines, the fucking war is over. Qwest lost. Verizon sucks. You hear a lot of talk of the interior of the country being “fly-over” country, like we’re not really here except for the scenery the jet-set sees out of their window seats. Verizon, based mostly in the populous east, has that attitude and it will probably cost them dearly in coming years. I hope it does, the fuckers.

Scopes II. Where’s Clarence Darrow when you need him? Actually, I doubt he would do much good because in order to settle this silly debate, he’d have to go into a long dissertation on the difference between mythos and logos, and somehow explain to the Kansas Board of Education that the biblical telling of the world’s creation was mythos. To apply the creation myths in the bible too literally is absolutely absurd in the face of modern scientific thinking. About the only useful thing one can glean from the biblical stories is that the Creator provided the spark that set everything rolling. Now who or what the Creator is, I don’t know. The human mind feels a compulsion to plug the holes in its understanding of the universe with the epoxy of imagination, and this was especially true in antiquity. Countless gods and goddesses of all color, shape, and specialty have served mankind throughout human history, helping our feeble minds comprehend the complex world around us. In a diverse assortment of ancient cultures throughout the globe, the mystery of the sun inspired many deities, as well as the attendant myths and rituals. These creative ideologies derived from sun worship have, over time, given way to more scientifically verified explanations of why that glowing orb appears in the sky, moving as if by some invisible hand. These days, no one insists that we sacrifice the slaves to entice the sun to rise in the morning. It isn’t practical, because it will have absolutely no effect on solar behavior and instead result in someone getting hurt. When religion loses its practicality, it declines until eventually it disappears. Those insisting that the book of Genesis is the basis of scientific fact are much like these sun-worshipping heathens. Their understanding of the world has been made obsolete by modern science, and yet they stubbornly cling to their mythology, refusing to allow their minds to come to a greater understanding of the mysteries of existence. After all, isn’t that what religion is for?