In which 2009 is Welcomed, Albeit in a Sort of Back-Handed Way.

I should probably post something. I mean, hey, it's 2009 now! That's one more than 2008. You know what, let's kick it off like this: fuck 2008.

That's all the looking back I really want to do, but it's going to live in my head for a while, this past year, so, really, thinking a pat summation will bury it is hopelessly optimistic. Maybe 2008 was good for you, I don't know. Maybe it was filled with remarkable memories and thrilling encounters. For me, 2008 will go down as a year of regret, pain and doubt, unsalvageable to the very bitter end. There are things I lost last year that I probably won't ever get back, losses engineered by something dark and weak inside of me and the machinations of an unjust universe. It's been a year of paying deep for past mistakes. It left me very tired, and very adrift.

So fuck 2008. I'm glad it's gone. Let us move on, into this new era of prosperity and hope, and frigid winters, and global economic crises, and the disinterest of an apathetic world!

In something wrought by an ironic trickster god, my new year, in which Everything's Going To Go My Way, has mostly been agonising. That's not totally true - in it's two-and-a-half weeks, the year's been pretty solid, except for this monster cold I've had and the open wound on my back. There isn't really a story, there, about that last one, but basically there's a hole in my back that gets packed with a sterile gauze strip every day to ensure it heals properly. It is, to put it very, very mildly, uncomfortable. But it is a passing, physical misery, rather than a deep, soul-crushing one, so I count it as a win.

I'm sure I had something substantial and specific to talk about, but I'm only able to come up with tiny, fleeting things. So that's what you're going to get. Hey. At least it's free.

It turns out my sister writes some wicked good fan fiction. I didn't know this, as she is like a spy. You can check her stuff out here.

I've been reading Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth. It's about rival gangs of werewolves in L.A., written like a Raymond Chandler graphic novel. It is also an epic poem. I mean, that right there sounds like about the worst pitch you could make for a first book. But Barlow makes it work, and makes it work very well - Sharp Teeth is tightly written, moves to a quick beat, and jumps between the banal and the beautiful with a gymnast's ease. It has all the grit and glamour of the best noir and the mythology of the best genre work, grounded in a knowing, familiar language that, nonetheless, is able to transcend its trappings.

It's worth pointing out that it's not even really poetry - there isn't a rhythm, and, while it could be shoehorned into the nebulous definition of "free verse," it's really just a matter of formatting. Line breaks where appropriate. But that serves to demonstrate the way a writer can dictate the way a reader moves through a book, a form of authorial control. If the book looked like prose, it might very well have felt weighty or confusing. But, because it moves like poetry, it allows Barlow and his readers a freedom to shift perspective and to engage in flights of fancy and language that nearly separate from the story at hand, but never really leave the book's orbit.

I recommend it, I guess, is the bottom line.

I can't stop listening to "The Rake's Song" by The Decemberists. It's the first off their not-yet-released new album The Hazards of Love (which, apparently, will be a rock opera featuring something like six vocalists, each voicing different characters). It's infectious and energetic and locked into a pounding percussion that marks the start of a stylistic departure for the band. And it's dark in the way only The Decemberists seem to be able to manage, sneaking child murder into a pop song. You can get it as a free download from their site.

I was debating about applying to Clarion this year. I was wait-listed last year, (which was nice, actually - I would've killed to be there, but at least it was an almost instead of a not-at-all) and I'm not really familiar with any of the instructors this year (Holly Black's the only name I immediately recognized, and I haven't read any of her stuff). But then Gaiman put up a post about how you should go to Clarion regardless of who the instructors are because it's Clarion, and this might be my last year to try it (at least for a few years) and fuck it, I'll find the money, so here I go again, I guess. I only mention it, really, because I figure there might be someone reading this who'd be interested, as well. Check out the site, if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

I made the mistake of starting a game in Fallout 3 a few days ago, and it has taken an eagle's grip on my mind. It combines several things that I've been craving - post-apocalyptica, a '50s aesthetic, and an expansive RPG world. Plus, I get to shoot at things in cinematic slow-motion. Why do anything else?

I stumbled on this article from the Guardian FilmBlog about why The Sopranos and The Wire haven't had a bigger influence on film in the past few years (I'd argue in part that the people really being influenced by the shows might not have made their way into the game, but, then, what do I know?). It's a good read, and it underlines something I've been thinking about television over the past few years. I was, at one point, as I've mentioned before, ready to give up on television - the one show I was regularly following, Angel, had been cancelled, and I was willing to dive headfirst into books and movies and forget the small screen. But then there came the rise of DVD box sets and the so-called golden age of American TV drama, and now I probably watch too many TV shows to bear mentioning.

The thing, though, that shows like The Sopranos and The Wire demonstrate, is that television can do things that no other medium can do, and that's tell big, complex stories. Movies, for all their grandeur and huge budgets and giant press and staff and et cetera, are still rarely more than two hours long. The biggest undertaking that I can think of, as a single narrative, is the LotR trilogy, and that just cracks ten hours, in the extended versions. The Wire clocks it at around 60 hours. The Sopranos is longer.

This is more or less what the aforementioned article's about, but it's worth mentioning again - the scope of television shows allow for more nuance and characterization, more mythology and world-building, than any movie is capable of achieving. It's not a matter of quality, as "no medium is inherently better than any other," (which is, I think, a Michael Chabon quote) it's simply a matter of scale. Shows like The Wire make a case for television on an artistic level, and that's some defining shit. These are the shows we'll look back on and say, they changed the game. They gave us proof that TV's something real, something worth it.

(On an only tangentially related note, I finally watched the Tarantino-directed episodes of CSI, a show which I've watched but kind of hate, and I really enjoyed them. Mike, I think you had something to say about them at some point, but I don't remember what it was.)

And, finally, this is the coolest article you'll read about suicide, Porsche, and hacking the financial system.

"The heart is a bloody thing."
- Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth

In which the Author Attempts (possibly in vain) to Tear a Games Journalist to Shreds.

I'm here again to talk about video games, but this time as a furious reactionary rather than, I dunno, some guy in a basement. I'm hoping, however, that some of the five of you that still read this journal will find interest here, because it's about Final Fantasy, and I know you've played Final Fantasy. Don't fucking lie about it.

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(Wow, that was much, much longer than I expected it to be. But y'know what? Fuck it. That felt good. It's been too long since I sat down and tore something apart. Let's do this again.)

In which the Law is a Big Blunt Instrument.

Neil Gaiman's got a great credo up on his blog on why defending freedom of speech sometimes means defending the indefensible, and why that's an important thing:
You ask, What makes it worth defending? and the only answer I can give is this: Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you're going to have to stand up for stuff you don't believe is worth defending, even stuff you find actively distasteful, because laws are big blunt instruments that do not differentiate between what you like and what you don't, because prosecutors are humans and bear grudges and fight for re-election, because one person's obscenity is another person's art.

Because then, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost.
You should really read the whole thing.

In which Two Things are Discussed at Length.

The thing with me and The Office was that I knew I'd probably enjoy it. Everyone kept telling me I would, what I'd seen I'd liked, the cast looked great. I'm not a sitcom guy, usually, which is part of why I wasn't watching it, and it's not that there's anything particularly wrong with the sitcom format, (although, as Clay Shirky explains, sitcoms are the gin of the 20th century) it's that I'd been soured on it by years of shows that trotted out the same tired premises in the same tired ways. Yeah, I'd seen Arrested Development, but that had been dashed on the rocks like a tender baby seal.

The main reason, though, that I wasn't watching The Office was because nobody would fucking shut up about it.

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* * * * *

I saw Quantum of Solace last night.

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"Another girl
with her finger on the world
singing to you what you wanna hear."
- Another Way to Die, Jack White & Alicia Keys


In which *shakes head*

You've probably heard about this. As the Hater points out, it's not funny. It's mostly sad, for everyone involved.

I was thinking about it, though, specifically about the aide or aides who took the call, and I wonder - with the GOP scrambling for whatever they can get, this close to the election, what kind of environment must these aides be in? And what kind of blame gets thrown around, after the fact? Palin's spokesperson wisely brushed the whole thing off, but imagine being the kid who took that call. Imagine how much must be happening that close to a Vice Presidential candidate who's been such a fucking, like, liability. I'd guess it'd be pretty fucking easy to get a random call and make the assumption that someone, somewhere had screened it already and it was legit.

That prank call isn't even worth the sad, slow head shake if it means some poor kid lost their job over it.

In which Porn is Referenced, but Not How You'd Think.

I finished Gears of War last night, and I had some thoughts about it that will not interest you, unless you're interested in Gears of War. I know most of my recent posts ("recent" here being a relative term - the past few months are very recent when considered in geologic time) have had very specific targets, and I apologize. Some day, I will write a wide-reaching post that will bring you all up to speed on my life, and also prove and disprove the existence of God. It'll have something about chocolate, too, or bunnies, I don't know. A post for all peoples.

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In which We Speak in Maths.

An equation, demonstrating the problem with the film Max Payne (which, I should point out in advance, I haven't seen).

The Max Payne Movie = Max Payne the Video Game - the fun part where you're playing it + Mark Whalberg + Director John Moore + Winged Norse horsemen or something

Max Payne the Video Game = (The Matrix - anything resembling intelligence, philosophy, or originality + 8(bullet time)) + (film noir - intelligence - wit - intelligence again) + the fun part where you're playing it

Mark Whalberg = x(good), where x is determined by whether or not he is the star. If he's in a supporting role with a good cast, x is positive. If he's the star, x is very negative. Here, x is negative, oh, let's say 1000.

Director John Moore = one of those hyper slick music-video-style action directors - originality + he's the guy who did The Omen remake + seriously, Winged Norse horsemen?

Winged Norse horsemen = what the fuck.

This has been this week's edition of "Greg Hasn't Done Math in, like Six Years."

"You shine like the steel of my knife."
- Red Moon, The Walkmen