Friday, January 27, 2012
Because I thought it would be smart to sign up for a class Thursday nights. (Community Ed, I didn't pick the time.) But yesterday, I did this:
I have the grace of a drunken cow, am not fit, and this was my first lesson. To the point where the pose resting on my hips with my arms spread as if I had grace was such a relief. You mean I don't need to climb anything or hold any weight with my arms? I'm so there. Can I do this the rest of the night? Please, for the love of dog, don't swing the rope.
The ridiculous part?
I cannot move my arms, but I can't wait to go back and learn more.
And taking the class was a whim. I wanted to do something different and the other neat-sounding classes went close to $200, so we chose the cheap... uhmm.. affordable option for this time. Now we probably won't go back and learn glass-blowing later because I want to do more of this.
So the point of today's late and possibly useless blog post is remember to check out continuing education in your area.
We have classes through the Community College labeled Community Education. Through the University we have Leisure Courses. (You do not have to be a student at either college to sign up.) We have a ceramics studio for clay. We have bead shops that give lessons, and a few dance studios around town. Living in a college town, makes us super-lucky for learning opportunities, but I'm sure there are opportunities all over the place if you just look around. (This class advertised at the Community College, but is actually taught in one of the small towns nearby.)
You never know what you'll love until you've tried everything you can think of.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
And I just don't care.
I understand there are many facets to a good story, but if your story has zombies or aliens or dinosaurs, I want more of that. I can get family strife on Ringer. I want dino strife in the ancient past.
I wonder if TN was renewed for a second season. As it stands, it can't woo me away from Once Upon a Time, (which is slowing down a little for me) or the wonderful Downton Abbey. Sure, it's not as good as the first season, but I don't know many shows that didn't have a bit of a sophomore slump. Even with it, though, the show is gold.
Did any shows wow you then let you down this season? Is anyone else nodding off during Project Runway All Stars?
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
In fansci news, I saw the Adventures of Tintin. Many people thought this film would be about a dog, confusing it with Rin Tin Tin, who, I believe, is a German Shepherd. There is a dog in the Tintin film, but his name is Snowy, and though he is more helpful than any dog has a right to be, he is not the main character.
Tintin is called a boy reporter, but I don't think he can be much of a boy. He lives alone, he's constantly in danger, and he knows how to use a handgun like a pro. How boy can he be? The film itself doesn't have many F/SF elements to it, unless you count how many times characters are hit in the head without dying. What does seem pertinent is the motion capture technology, used mostly for F/SF films or adventure films that come quite close to unbelievable in the head-hitting department.
They've really got that stuff down. The motion in the film is so fluid, so natural looking. They've improved even on the masterpiece that was Gollum from LotR. And unlike Polar Express or other dead-eyed motion capture movies, Tintin didn't strive to make the characters as lifelike as possible. They let them be a little distorted, a little cartoon-y, noses too big or eyes too wide or small, that sort of thing. The willingness to stray from realism avoided the uncanny valley that usually lays these films low. We don't look for that spark of life in the characters' eyes because we can tell they're not trying to be real people. I wasn't creeped out once.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
"My story! It is up at Strange Horizons!
And now I don't feel bad. ^_^ I don't have much in F&SF television or movie watching lately. Last move I saw was Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It was very good, and the stunts in it actually should be considered SF, especially the magic gloves climbing the hotel sequence. That's worth the price of admission all on its own.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Monday, January 9, 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012
First, there's the highly recommended book that I read all the way to page 17. There was a prologue. I've never liked prologues unless they have a really good purpose. This one's purpose was to stick you in the middle of obscure bad thing before taking you back to the beginning with chapter one. And when I say obscure, I mean obscure.
That means telling you the main character is in danger, but not telling you what she's in danger from. "I haven't had many good days lately" and "A butterfly flaps its wings somewhere off the coast of western Africa and before you know it you've got a hurricane closing in" kind of obscure.
I was not impressed.
Then, the main character waits two weeks -- until she gets a replacement cell phone -- to check for messages she was desperate to get. She didn't call the company or use her home phone. Apparently the last words from her dead sister could wait until she got another CELL phone. Because cell phones have a special kind of magic that don't work with other phones.
Then the last message from dead sister is the same kind of obscure as the prologue. He's coming! We can't let them have it. I know what it is and we have to get it first.
If my sister reads this, she should know: leave me this kind of message when someone is going to be trying to kill us for something and I will find a way to bring you back so I can kill you myself. You start with what we need to find. Then you tell me who is trying to kill us. Then you can mutter on about whatever obscure thing you want to until the phone inexplicably cuts off. Or you could give me details. Details might help me live, but that's up to you and the last time you remember me pissing you off.
At least, the main character thinks it's cryptic too, but still.... When I start to want to rant, it's hard to get back to reading.
The next book starts with a prologue again.
Ok, I really should have read more than the back cover before buying this one. It's probably not that the book is bad, but that I don't like the writing style.
"In her hand she held her..."
"In her mind she held her..."
"Through the smoke, she saw..."
"Through the smoke, she saw..."
Yes, they used that twice. And that's all in the first two paragraphs.
It keeps going just like that. I think it's the style they call epic and I'm not a fan. So if I'd opened the book and tested out the text at all, I probably would have saved $8.
But it's one of three I stopped reading in a row so I keep going back to try again even though I know I won't get far in it.
Then the third book starts with.... You guessed it. Prologue again.
I'm starting to think I should open the book and if I see prologue I should skip it. But I like Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb's In Death series and they all start with a prologue -- from the bad guy's perspective. This third book is trying to do that.
It's not bad (the prologue, at least isn't) -- or wouldn't be if the perspective didn't shift again and again in the first few chapters. I actually made it to the first page of Chapter 6 before I gave up on this one. The straw that broke the camel's back in this one was "ready in waiting." Not lady-in-waiting. Not ready and waiting. Ready in waiting.
That's where I wondered if this one had an editor at all.
The main character (point of view character) for first chapter showed up hung-over at a crime scene. Her partner looked over the body while she stood and whimpered about too much alcohol and sore thighs suggesting she'd had an unremembered hook-up the night before. (That shows serious lack of judgement right there because if you can't remember who you did, you don't know if they spent every free moment scratching at bugs -- and you don't know what they planted either. Seeds or sickness, neither is good and both are usually worse for women then men.)
It gets worse when she wonders over to a nearby tree to think about her headache and that the investigator coming to converse with her is such an ass. Then she talks to a passer-by. Then she talks to her partner again. I don't think she did anything at all in that whole first chapter other than complain about her headache, her aching thighs, or the people who had the nerve to try to involve her in the investigation.
Then we're in someone else's head and he's thinking of some past even that might have something to do with the murder.
Then we're either in drunk-girl's head again or her partner's -- some sort of investigative team partner, not sexual. They're having a conversation about how bad an idea it is to take this job and I can't ever figure out which brain we're supposed to be seeing out of. I'm not sure it matters. Drunk-girl gets her way simply because she's too stubborn to give in.
Head-hopping again. Then ready in waiting. Then I give up. I did not hurl the book across the room, but it was a close call. Then I started to wonder if it was me, not them.
It's probably me. I'm too picky. But I think I'm going to give up on these anyway so I can move on and give a new book a chance.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Color me in love! She's such a great actress, and how cool would it be to see the Doctor as a woman? Time to stop being the companion and be the one actually driving the Tardis.
Don't get me wrong. I've loved some companions over the years. Martha Jones was my hero. But I am a wee bit tired of the woman in peril situations that Doctor Who always churns out. And is it just me, or does Amy Pond yell "Doctor!" one too many times? Did they all do that or is it something about her voice that just really registers?
If you don't know what I'm talking about, get thee to the internet or the netflix and watch some Doctor Who. Don't start with really old stuff (you'll know what I'm talking about). Just like first series Star Trek, if you didn't grow up with it, it's a little hard to swallow as an adult. These reboot seasons have been pretty brilliant, though. How much more could they be with Dame Helen at the wheel.
Please pay attention, BBC. For the love of Gallifrey, let Dame Helen in.
Monday, January 2, 2012
So what does this have to do with SF?
Well, Crystal Bridges, while not the best art museum I have ever been to, is the best art museum within 150 miles of Fort Smith, Arkansas. It is clearly the best art museum in Arkansas. And it had a lot going for it.
(1) An excellent building
(2) Beautiful surroundings -- the Boston Mountains are among my favorite landscapes, and the museum includes biking, hiking, and walking trails, plus playgrounds for kid, plus a skate park
(3) A nice cafe with very good food: healthy food available, and none of the food very toxic
(4) Medium to excellent art. I liked the modern art quite a bit, and the pop art selection, while small, was just great. The 19th century had a few really good pieces among a lot of mediocre works; the 20th century was better.
(5) There are a number of rooms, like the Walk-in Art Studio, and the Art Education room, set up for people (kids, yes, but adults are encouraged to engage as well) to mess around with art -- to paint, to learn how art is created, to see what artists do. I can't tell you how much I liked that part.
(6) All through the museum, scattered at random, are little rooms like sitting rooms, living room areas, beautiful little spaces looking out on the Boston Mountain landscape, with comfortable chairs and sofas, and tons and tons of art books and art education books, for you to sit around and rest between exhibits and read about what you've been looking at -- the books are keyed to the exhibits around you. Again, wow. What an amazing idea. And the books are at all levels: kid level, adolescent level, adult, graduate level.
(7) It's free. That means a lot in Arkansas. Unless you live here, you can't know the level of poverty many people face. Getting to the museum is going to be a hurdle of most people in the state. If they had to pay an entrance fee, even a small one, it would be a deal-breaker.
So why am I writing about this museum here? And why am I complaining?
I'm writing about it here because it's an issue world-builders (especially world-builders like me, who construction utopian/dystopian SF worlds) have to think about. Who does the art on your world? Who pays? Who owns the artists?
Art generally comes from oppression. That's a given. (We often tell our kid, who wants to be a graphic artist, that we need to start beating her more and locking her in a few closets.) Art is the language the oppressed use to speak the truth when they can speak it no other way. This is why when people say they don't like political art I just laugh at them. Holy crap. As if there were any other sort of art. (And this is why parents forbid children -- the very first oppressed class -- to lie: because what is lying, after all? It is the child's way of using the only art he has, or she has, the art of language, to fight back.)
On the other hand, once art is created, what happened to it? In some societies -- on Le Guin's Urras, for instance, and among those at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith -- the artist gives or trades the work to his friends, for small favors or work in return. (We have paintings on our wall that we got from artists we know in exchange for teaching them writing or grammar.)
But in large, capitalist societies, where the Gini Coefficient is wholly unbalanced? Well, art, like everything else, ends up the property -- exclusively -- of the obscenely wealthy. Artists end up owned by the wealthy. Artists (often) end up being controlled by the obscenely wealthy. (Since if an artist isn't saying what the wealthy want to hear or see, they won't pay for it, and if they don't pay, it doesn't get done. Think contemporary mainstream movies, publishing houses, television, music prior to the internet.)
Alice Walton, the Forbes article claimed, with her largess, makes OWS look foolish.
Well, this is not the case. True, I am glad she built Crystal Bridges, and glad she did the things she did right. I am also glad, as they point out, that she did not spend the money on jet planes or baubles instead, as she very well could have.
But, despite what Forbes claims, she did not do everything right.
Here is what she did wrong: she built her museum on the misery of others. As I walked through those beautiful rooms, as I ate a lovely salad in the sunlit cafe, as I painted with my child in the wonderful art room, it was hard for me to swallow the bitterness in the back of my throat, the knowledge that all this was possible because Alice Walton had amassed a huge fortune by thieving the wages of literally millions of women and men; by working them long hours in horrible conditions, with few or no benefits; by wearing their bodies out and then firing them when they could work no longer; by underpaying and overworking the poorest and most desperate in our society; by driving down wages at factories all over our country, and, in effect, forcing other companies to exploit their workers as well, if they wanted to sell to Wal-Mart -- as many must, in order to stay in business.
Doing this, and then building an art museum? If Alice Walton and those like her had not systematically destroyed the American economy over the past 40 years, we'd all be taking our kids to Paris and Chicago and New York. We wouldn't be so fucking poor that Crystal Bridges is the only museum we've been able to take our kid to in the past three years.
Who builds the art museums if not Alice Walton, you ask? (As Dr. Skull asked me, while we were arguing about this over our Autumn Salad and tea at lunch in the lovely cafe.)
We do. Think of the National Art Museum, in DC. Taxpayers build an art museum, or anyway they can, if they have enough money -- if the 1% haven't taken it all. Why should we be dependent on the whims of the wealthy, who might build a museum, and might buy a jet plane instead? Art is a necessity, just as education and health care are necessities; and frankly it is very unlikely that the obscenely wealthy are going to fund true art -- subversively art. (Why would they?)
The People's Art Museum must be funded by the people!
So while I did enjoy my visit to Crystal Bridges, no, I cannot support Alice Walton's endeavor 100%, and I do not believe, despite the contention of Forbes Magazine, that she makes those DFH look silly. Quite the contrary.