Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The End of Food, OR, Did You See It Coming?

"I don't see why we shame food when it's so important. Digestion is the center of life! Once upon a time men hunted wild meat all day, women dug roots all day, and they loved each other for every bit of it. It was all social. Teens were begging to get involved.

"We pay a premium for pesticide-free kale and grass-fed beef. And to prepare it? Last night I went into the kitchen to thank the chef, and she was flattered. And when I tipped our waiter thirty percent, he could have kissed me. From harvesting to preparing to delivering it to the table, it's all glamorous and everyone's grateful, but two hours later I offer a teenager fifty bucks to wipe my ass, and they sent me to jail! The whole culture is mixed messages, man."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Great Master Gry

It took the boys three seasons to find Great Master Gry. He’d gone reclusive in the modern wilderness: slums. It would have been easier to track of the man on a mountain top or distant island. In a sea of scrawny, old foreigners, with names in another alphabet, he was almost invisible.

That was on purpose. Gry refused to train them, even when they offered him their entire trust funds. They sent him ten newly-sewn suits, and ten handmaids, and ten immaculate meals from the master chefs of the metropolis. He left their gifts unworn, unsullied, and uneaten. The boys found their food rotting in the alley, supped upon by stray imps and tentacle monsters.

They did not give up easily. They accosted him every time he stepped outside – for the bathroom, for the mail, for his morning walk or sunset meal. He only ate once a day, and refused anything but the smallest container of unprocessed rice, and he refused conversation when they took supper alongside him, spurning their money.

On the third sunset, while he was out at his meal, they bribed the landlord and broke into his apartment. Gry returned home to find no cracks in his ceiling, no vermin in his walls, and for the first time in twenty-one seasons, that his single light fixture actually turned on. They’d left it on. He sat up with the light on all night long, though he did not invite the boys in.

The next morning, though, he invited them outside. The Great Master would begin their training just as soon as they donned more practical clothing.

The first lesson was of Stamina. The boys would pick up every piece of trash in the adjacent street, which stretched for four kilometers. No newsprint, turd or broken bowl could be left behind, and they had only two hours to collect all of it. Being boys of unfairly fair youth, they managed it, even if they collapsed at the end.

They thought it unfair until the next day, when they were assigned the next street over, and only an hour and a half. Every consecutive day drew another street of waste.

After four days of the exhausting work, Great Master Gry added a second lesson: Perception. The police of the city were needlessly abusive to many parties, running them out or collecting extortion from shops. The boys were not allowed lunch until each could find at least one police-servant who had broken the code of conduct and reported them all back to Gry. In a week, he increased their assignment to three a-piece. In three weeks, they found it much harder to find such police-servants, much as the police-servants found it quite difficult to retaliate against the children of the rich.

Every day they had their lesson in Stamina and Perception. They chaffed to learn exotic fighting styles, of the Charred Fist and the Unknown Walking. Yet as quickly as they could clear a street of refuse, Gry said they were not ready. He introduced the third lesson: Agility. It seemed that serpents and rats infected with tentacalia had beset the slum in recent seasons, and were often snatching babies or otherwise tearing up tenement ceilings. The only way to combat them was to scale the very structures they tormented.

Building upon their existing stamina and cleverness, the boys had to dispatch a dozen tentacled fiends per afternoon, and doing so meant either flying along scaffolds or swinging from ropes. Often Gry took his sunset meal on the sidewalk while watching the boys in their spectacular fights with the tentacle monsters. He was seldom alone; they drew great crowds of the poor, who could always use a little more entertainment.

Gry was the only one not enjoying the spectacle. He had to make up a fourth exercise for them before they got too good. Eventually the boys would realize what you already have, and they would be quite angry about it. Perhaps some mysticism about Patience? He hoped that would take, or if it didn’t, that they finished cleaning up the slums before killing him.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: “You can kill someone with a needle?” -Lian Hearn’s Kaede in Across the Nightingale Floor

-Drive it into the throat or jugular. Surely everyone thinks of that one.

-Drive the needle through the ear canal and into the brain.

-Puncture the balloon the target is riding in and let target plummet to the earth.

-Puncture a perfectly normal balloon behind them (pending heart condition).

-Puncture inhaler and instigate anything (pending asthma).

-Dip into poison. Poke.

-Trick the target into swallowing the needle. It hardly needs to make it that far, but it passes into the bowels you could get a high-score.

-Trick the target into joining you for a lovely meal on the upper floor of the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. Push the target off the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington.

-Affix the needle to a slender rod and shoot it at the target from a bow.

-Place the needle in an appropriately-sized blowgun and shoot it at the target.

-Throw it:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Vampire Hunter Hunters, OR, I Won't Sparkle

"I can cross the bridge into town no matter how hard the river runs. The garlic growing in your garden means nothing, and I can enter your apartment unbidden.

"I won’t show up on security cameras because I’ve hacked them. You may see me in the mirror just before it happens. The holy water you keep in the dresser doesn’t matter. Your grandmother’s crucifix can’t hurt me unless you overhand it into my head, and I’m not going to let you do that.

"I don’t have an insatiable thirst for your blood. This is just a job to me, one of many The Council has hired us lowly humans to carry out. We’re just so good at killing each other, and their reasons are no worse than ours. When I’m done I’ll drive into the sunrise, well paid and unafraid. I won’t sparkle."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly blog hop hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. My book for this week is Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor, an Asian-influenced Fantasy novel about two young people caught in a destructive feud between noble houses. This quote comes from Page 4.

"I told myself they
had run away:

My mother had taken
my sisters to the
safety of the forest.

I would go
and find them
just as soon as
I had found out

who was screaming."

It's a simple novel which I've just finished reviewing. It's heavy in foreign tropes, and wouldn't be a bad introduction to Japanese Fantasy, even though Hearn is Australian.

Everyone is welcome to Teaser Tuesday. The rules are as simple as:
• Grab your current book
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Avoid spoilers! Don't give too much away or you'll ruin it for the very people you're suggesting it to.
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

Monday, April 30, 2012

Voting with Your Wallet

“Vote with your wallet” is a common free market refrain. Allegedly you’ll let the company know you support a product by paying for it. If you dislike Wal-Mart’s treatment of employees and engagements with sweatshops, you don’t buy anything there. And if you like that organic grocery on the corner, then you buy everything you can there in encouragement. There’s are flourishing e-communities of consumers who only buy self-published indy books for just these reasons.

But economic moralizing like this forces your message to be simple. In the last week, I’ve been wondering about the lack of nuance in “voting with your wallet,” thanks primarily to The Secret World of Arriety.

The Secret World of Arriety is a Japanese film by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki's an incredibly lauded and popular director, responsible for Spirited Away, Ponyo and Howl's Moving Castle. The Walt Disney Company bought the rights to distribute his movie in the U.S., like they do with all of his stuff. Before you grumble about the evils of Disney, recognize they paid to widely release a foreign 2D cartoon in our theatres. A wide release for any foreign film is hard; The Artist had to be a heavyweight Oscar contender just to get billionaires to consider distribution, and that was from Europe. When you compound that Arriety is an Asian movie, the chances of it otherwise showing up at the multiplex are alarmingly small.

Now let’s grumble about Disney. They removed the original Japanese voice track from The Secret World of Arriety, and recorded a fresh lip-synched English voice track. This is typically called “dubbing,” and is the alternative to subtitling a film. U.S. audiences notoriously dislike reading subtitles while watching a movie and are more likely to turn out in larger numbers if it’s dubbed instead of subbed.

Purists, particularly the kind of film fan who wants to experience something closest to the director’s original intent, were naturally unhappy with the change. Now all those voices Studio Ghibli had honed and coached were out in favor of Tobe McGuire and Amy Poehler. Instantly you got people buying foreign DVD’s, torrenting subtitled copies, and the argument, “Vote with your wallet.” In this case, that meant not paying for a movie that was presented in such a form.

But it’s not so easy to vote with my wallet here. Refusing to paying to see this movie does not send the message that I dislike dubbing. It’s a lost ticket sale on a foreign film, so the message they get is, “Another white guy won’t pay for foreign films. Let’s do Transformers 4.”

There’s no nuance in this protest. There is only the money a corporation can make off distributing movies I deeply wish would flourish in American markets. Friends, what do you do here?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Corruption Vs. Incompetence

“These reformists. These ninnies! ‘I’d rather have an incompetent governor than a corrupt one.’ My God, I’d rather have an entire corrupt senate than an incompetent governor. The incompetent leader can’t do anything right no matter how much money you give him. For a corrupt senator all you’ve got to do is find out what he wants and then bribe him. Boom. End result: the legislation we want happens. They’re otherwise the same. Neither the incompetent jackass nor the corrupt jackass knows how to do his job better than you. But if you give the incompetent jackass a hundred thousand dollars for his re-election campaign? If you break some kneecaps so the environmental lobby shuts up? If you kidnap his daughter? He still can’t convince anyone else on the Green Committee to vote ‘No,’ because he’s incompetent. And then what do you do? You’ve got to kill a little girl, because she’ll talk, and who wants to do that? Incompetent people, that’s who.”
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