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Month: August 2007

Commuting to college…

I’m commuting to college this semester… started this Monday. I’m only taking four courses this semester and I was able to schedule them so that I only have to go to school on Mondays and Wednesdays. Walking around campus knowing you don’t have to stay there all month, or even all day, makes the place feel much more… “free”. It’s awesome. I’m not trapped!

So, if you are considering commuting to college, even though it may annoy your family, it is much much better than being stuck in a dorm.

Ah…

Bad weather!

Last night I was happily working on my computer. I had heard earlier on the radio that a severe thunderstorm was on its way. The sky looked fine to me, so what did I care? Then, a couple hours later… zzzzt. My computer flickers and restarts and I lose most of what I’m working. Two seconds later thunder crashes in the distant mountains. (Okay, actually there are no mountains near here, and the thunder wasn’t distant.) So I shut my computer down and sadly call it a night. How am I supposed to get any work done if these stupid thunderstorms keep coming? I only blog this becuse I just heard thunder rumble in the distant mountains and if it gets closer my computer’s power will get farther away (because I’ll unplug it). I was relieved when the power flickered and restarted my computer yesterday that it didn’t wipe its memory or blow it up.

Tomorrow is the first day of college and I’m commuting from home, woohoo!

Oh, and please don’t believe wrong things about the Coriolis force.

The Name of the Wind review!

Finally, here’s my humble little review of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. Just my opinions of course; it’s much easier to be a critic than a book author, and I’m not sure why anyone would care too much anyway.

I’ll start off with what I didn’t like about the book: everything. Just kidding! I just wanted to see your reaction, you should’ve seen the look on your face. To be honest, I thought the main character, Kvothe, was arrogant. *gasp* (Picky, picky, picky.) I think if I were to meet him in person he might want to lecture me on how much I don’t understand him. He is quite fond of mentioning how much he doubts others can understand such-and-such… for example:

Asking to hold a musician’s instrument is roughly similar to asking to kiss a man’s wife. Nonmusicians don’t understand. -Page 219

If you cannot understand why I couldn’t bring myself to tell them this, then I doubt you have ever been truly poor. -Page 340

If you have never been desperately poor, I doubt you can understand the relief I felt. -Page 407

“Listen, I’ve had an exceptionally irritating couple of days, my head hurts in ways you don’t have the full wit to understand, and I have a friend who might be in trouble.” -Page 590

I laid my lute case down beside the bench and absentmindedly flipped open the lid, thinking my lute might enjoy the feeling of a little sun on its strings. If you aren’t a musician, I don’t expect you to understand. -Page 602

If you have never been deep underground, I doubt you can understand what it is like. -Page 644

“What you don’t understand,” I explained to Simmon one afternoon as we sat under the pennant pole, “is that men fall for Denna all the time.” -Page 652

If you have never read this book, I doubt you can understand what I feel. But seriously, saying that you doubt someone can understand something is a bit worthless. If you truly believe it, then don’t try to describe what you want. This sense I get from Kvothe is why he seems a bit arrogant… assuming that I can’t understand him. Okay, he’s not really talking to me, he’s technically talking to some other characters in the book, but all the same it’s not a quality I like to see in other people, doubting I can understand them if I’m not poor or a musician… just describe what you want and be done with it! Doubting I can understand something gains nothing, except to proclaim your own arrogance! I’m being picky of course.

Ah, you say, what about this?

“Why can’t it be described?” I asked. “If you understand a thing, you can describe it.”

“Can you describe all the things you understand?” he looked sideways at me.

“Of course.”

Elodin pointed down the street. “What color is that boy’s shirt?”

“Blue.”

“What do you mean by blue? Describe it.”

I struggled for a moment, failed…

-Page 617

That’s some nice dialogue, but it’s not what I was talking about. My point was not that Kvothe should’ve described everything, my point was that saying something like this is worthless: “The shirt was blue. If are blind, I doubt you can understand. Blind people don’t understand.” Just say the shirt was blue, and leave it at that.

And this annoys me:

“Some of these young men from the court come in, fanning their faces and moaning about the latest tragedy. But their feet are so pink and soft. You know they’ve never walked anywhere on their own. You know they’ve never really been hurt.”

-A shoe seller, page 207

Arrogant shoe seller, assuming to know what other people have been through! Seriously, I find it quite horribly arrogant when people claim that others have never felt pain. Physical pain, it may be true, but emotional pain is far far worse and everyone feels it, it’s part of being human. It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person in the world or a poor homeless guy with hunger pains. It’s true, some people whine more than others, and it’s tempting to say to them “oh, give me a break, you don’t know real pain!” but that’s just as whiny. Of course, this is a minor character in the book talking, so he can be wrong all he wants, but there are people in real life who talk like this. And just because someone is happy rather than sad doesn’t mean his life is “easier”. So please never assume that someone else doesn’t suffer, just because he’s rich and his feet are pink. Even a shoe seller doesn’t know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

(You can see why this blog is called “Blather”.)

And to be really picky:

“No, I do not envy her her life. Nor do I judge her.” -Page 473

I’m just not sure that’s correct grammar… is it? Her her?

Here’s some more arrogance:

Small towns, rural inns, those places didn’t know good entertainment from bad. Your fellow performers did. -Page 106

How can one not know good entertainment? Isn’t the determining factor whether or not it’s entertaining? Is there anybody out there who can not sense whether or not they’re entertained? Picky picky me…

Now for some less picky criticism… the book overall didn’t have enough central conflict for me. After the main character’s family is killed, Kvothe just kind of struggles to survive without any big goal. I didn’t get a sense of any big driving force in the book, nothing that would keep me reading if I didn’t have the predetermined drive to finish everything I read whether or not I want to. (Being a wannabe writer myself, I can learn quite a lot from fiction I don’t necessarily like, as long as it’s in my kind of genre, like fantasy.) Throughout the novel, there was little at stake for Kvothe. His only real drive is his natural interest in the Chandrian, which itself seems rather subsidiary to his interest in learning the name of the wind and in a certain girl.

But I suppose something is just strange with me since most reviews I have seen have been much more favorable…

And now for what I did like: I am not a big fan of poetry, but this book has the best poetry I have seen in a fantasy book (not that I’ve seen that much). It is far superior to Tolkien’s lame attempts. This is good, because at one part in the novel Kvothe ridicules another character’s attempt at poetry in a very humorous way… “I know limping verse when I hear it,” I said. “But this isn’t even limping. A limp has rhythm. This is more like someone falling down a set of stairs. Uneven stairs. With a midden at the bottom.”

I also very much liked Mr. Rothfuss metaphors (which makes me wonder why Kvothe has to say things about not understanding so often, when he at least has Rothfuss’s talent for metaphors to go with). For example:

Go out in the early days of winter, after the first cold snap of the season. Find a pool of water with a sheet of ice across the top, still fresh and new and clear as glass. Near the shore the ice will hold you. Slide out farther. Farther. Eventually you’ll find the place where the surface just barely bears your weight. There you will feel what I felt. The ice splinters under your feet. Look down and you can see the white cracks darting through the ice like mad, elaborate spiderwebs. It is perfecly silent, but you can feel the sudden sharp vibrations through the bottoms of your feet.

This is what happened when Denna smiled at me.

Mmmmm, delicious writing in my opinion, no? Isn’t that better than saying “If you have never had Denna smile at you, then I doubt you can understand,” though Kvothe was probably thinking it.

Overall, I’ll definitely have to read the next books in this trilogy, and perhaps even everything else Rothfuss ends up writing, but I do hope things improve story-drive wise, and it would be nice if Kvothe stopped seeming so arrogant, but that is unlikely to change since it is now part of his character… but it’s really hard to read a book when you feel like arguing with the main character, ya know?

You can check out Rothfuss’s blog here. He is a witty blogger, I actually prefer reading his blog rather than his book… *gasp*

Well, that’s that! Now I can return the book to the library… (*gasp* I didn’t even pay for the book!!)

Blagh… and books!

Long weekend with limited Internet access… I felt so… disconnected.

However, my family and I once again went to that big used bookstore and bought bunches of books. I bought Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide and Children of the Mind, so I now have all eight books of the two quartets (and I’ve read half of them… still need to start Speaker for the Dead). I also bought two short story collections edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois called A.I.s and Beyond Flesh. (I searched forever for a collection that might include Mimsy Were the Borogoves, but alas, my search was fruitless.) I bought T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn. (I love the idea of writing an epic symphonic suite for those books!) I got Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. Lastly, and non-fictionally, I got Aaron Copland’s What to Listen for in Music, which is at least refreshing. He sometimes says things I completely agree with, and other times I just want to knock his head for his choice of words. I guess it’s written more for listeners than composers, but I’m sure I’ll learn something when he starts talking about the musical forms/structures.

Oh, I also got the DVD of The Prestige, which I enjoyed in theaters and haven’t seen since (though I did read the book over Christmas break). I look forward to watching it again.

I finished reading The Name of the Wind, so hopefully I’ll put up a small review of it here tomorrow. I’m now reading Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is fun so far, I love his style. (This is the first book I’ve read of his.) I could probably never write in such a style, but I love reading it, it just flows quite poetically. And it seems pretty unique to me. I can easily imagine some lesser writer trying to mimic the style but losing too much meaning. It’ll probably be a much shorter read than The Name of the Wind, which took me forever to get through.

Well, I gotta go to bed, I have much work to do tomorrow.

Hamster hideout…

I guess this won’t be a “daily” blog again for a while…

Pulled out our living room sofa today to find a small pile of dog food and a wee little nest made from scrap pieces of frabric and paper crayon wrappings. My sister’s hamster, which died a few months ago, had escaped for a few days and it looks like its hideout had been under the living room sofa. It’s hard to imagine the creature scurrying around at night somehow getting into the dog’s bowl and shoving dog food in its cheeks… anyway, it made a mess on the carpet.

Mimsy were the borogoves…

I missed a day again! It was storming quite a bit yesterday, so I had to keep my computer off… gotta keep all my precious data safe.

I saw The Last Mimzy the other night. Firstly, I must say that the 1943 short story Mimsy Were the Borogoves is just about my favorite short story of all time (not that I’ve read that many). The story’s got everything I love: humor, psychological ideas to ponder, and a sort of surprise twist ending. (By the way, I first heard about the story in a Martin Gardner book, probably because of the Lewis Carroll link? Martin Gardner’s the man!) Unfortunately the film introduced a bunch of pointless plot points (I guess they had to expand the story somehow, but I could’ve done better) and the ending was corny. But it did have some things that I liked, mainly the point about the children seeing the toys differently than the adults and learning from them so that they don’t become trapped in the “adult” way of thinking (though I’m not sure the point came across as well as it did in the short story… it needed someone saying “X logic and Y logic!”). (By the way, that psychological fact about the neural connections slowing and the brain becoming more specialized sort of makes me angry, you know? I want learn more easily… but not be too dumb at the same time.) I’d give the film 6 out of 10 stars. (Geez, that’s the number I seem to give most movies these days… “I like it some, but not too much.”)

After seeing the movie, I pulled out my August edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction, for I remembered Kathi Maio had a review of the film in it, which I didn’t want to read until I had made my own judgments. (Check it out here.) At first I thought her review would be too picky when she writes about the change in spelling of “Mimsy”, but then she says she was pleasantly surprised which made me think she liked the movie more than I did, but in the end, I think I agree with all of the points she made (although I don’t think A History of Violence was “interesting and intelligent” … it was horrible! Horrible, I say!) but she didn’t say as much about the portrayal of the psychological aspect of seeing the world differently and learning differently. For me, that seemed to be the heart of the short story, but was only a plot element in the film. I was happy to see that it was a plot element in the first place, but I wish that aspect had been more focused on, there’s so much potential there for a movie… and the talking to spiders and telekinesis were just… erm… stupid. They weren’t in the short story, were they?

Ok, enough blather. If you’re a science fiction fan, the movie’s worth a try, you might like it more than I did, but you must find that 1943 short story and read it. It’s a classic work of genius.

Opus 40

I started writing what will be my 40th piece of music tonight (not counting reorchestrations of Christmas tunes and not-so-good pieces). I’m not sure what I’ll call it, but probably something with the word “Battle” in it… which of course means you know it’s gonna be a good one. I’ve got this awesome triumphant/dangerous melody that I just can’t wait to orchestrate, it keeps playing over and over again in my head. Oh… it’s so beautiful…

lulu.com is cool!

Today I got my self-published book (The Game of Gynwig, Part 1) in the mail from lulu.com. Of course I’m not planning to do anything serious with it, I’m not trying to market this self-published book, I just published it for the fun of seeing it in book form, as I already said in an earlier blog post. It’s really cool. I love how… book-ish it is. Everyone should write something and self-publish it just for fun, and lulu’s prices are great, I paid just about the same price I would if this were a normal book. (Well, just a few dollars more I suppose. Still, it’s quite a deal!)

Anyway, I want to read through the book, which includes the first twelve chapters, to refresh my memory on all I’ve written so far since I keep changing the outline of what is yet to be written. In book form, the errors are much easier to notice as well. I sure made a lot of typos…

100th Blather

Here’s my 100th post to this blog… quite a lot of blathering being done by me. And so today I’d like to blather about changing the world. Don’t just sit there! Get up and do something, go change the world with ideas and stuff. Do your part to make the world a better place. I’m doing my part by telling you to do yours.

Now on to something more important. Movies. At Quicktime.com I caught a glimpse of the Beowulf trailer. At first I thought it was live action and thought “huh, I thought this was supposed to be computer animated.” It is… wow, it looks quite real. Pretty amazing, they actually have live actors playing animated roles that look like themselves. The graphics are amazing. It almost looks like a cut-scene from an RPG computer game… which is just cool. Woohoo! Can’t wait to see it. Hope it has some swashbuckling music.

Now to something even more important. Just kidding, there is nothing more important. Bye.

The Trio Video…

As promised (well, not really promised):

It’s a Saturday, I hardly ever get anything interesting done on weekends anymore. However, I do have an idea for a podcast… I’m thinking about registering the domain for it. Also, all those notes I had about the plot for my musical… well… I think I might’ve thrown them out when I cleaned my room… and I don’t think I ever typed ’em up. So I’ll probably have to replan it if I ever actually start working on it.