Saturday, June 18, 2011

Super 8

As we were leaving the theater after watching Super 8, the wide range of reactions to it became readily apparent. Most of us liked it, and a few of us adored it; I was one of the latter. Some, however, called it the worst kind of sentimental schlock, Spielberg with a JJ Abrams monster grafted on.

I could not disagree more.

As I said, I adored it, and I think it earned every bit of sentiment it displayed. In fact, I think JJ Abrams was working at three very different levels throughout the film, only two of which were immediately obvious.

To understand my thinking, it helps to listen to this TED talk he gave.

The first and most obvious level at which Abrams was working was indeed the sentimental one that some people hated. Super 8 is a coming of age story with aliens, Abrams' own E.T., but without the divorce focus. His canvas is broader than that earlier film's, but of course quite some time has passed since E.T., and Abrams is working in the world that has seen that movie.

The second level was also obvious but very important: the autobiographical. The young filmmaker in Super 8 has the type of camera Abrams had when he was roughly at that same age and is also obsessed with film.

If you stop here, you can still greatly enjoy the movie, but if you hate sentiment or you can't stand young teenage boys, then Super 8 will not work for you, and you'll be tempted to write it off.

Which brings me to the third level at which Abrams was working. The opening of the train car that contains the alien appears to be the unleashing of the contents of the mystery box, but it's not. It's just the opening of one mystery box.

In Super 8, Abrams is confronting a great many of life's biggest, most intriguing mystery boxes: death, love, sex (only obliquely), the Other, creativity, and, of course, the notion of mystery itself. He's inviting us to tackle them with him, and he's suggesting that the best way to appreciate them is via our young selves, via the barely teenage versions of us that have yet to be hurt by a lover who leaves or turned bitter by a bad job or a failed relationship. He's telling us that a certain purity of heart and innocence is appropriate for such explorations, that to truly dig deep into the greatest of mysteries we must use our hearts at least as much as our minds.

That is what JJ Abrams is really doing in Super 8. The fact that you don't even have to notice those moves to enjoy the film and his great skill at telling a story that works on all three levels, make Super 8 a movie that will do huge box office and go on to become a classic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do good and have a good time:
a local showing of Serenity

Each year, the Raleigh Browncoats, a group of fans of the fine film, Serenity, screen the movie and raffle items to raise money for charity. In this act they join similar groups around the country. This year's showing is Sunday, June 26, and I'll be there. In fact, I've signed on as one of the sponsors of the event and will be tossing into the raffle pot a small collection of stuff: a personally autographed copy of the hardback edition of Children No More, plus t-shirts from all three comedy shows.

You can read more about the event here. I have not attended any of the previous showings, so it's certainly possible that the screening will trip my "too much fannishness" meter, but I know I will enjoy seeing the film again on the big screen, so how wrong can I go? I also am happy to help raise money for the charities: Equality Now and Kids Need to Read.

If you live in this area and tickets are still available--when I last checked, they were going fast--I encourage you to join me and a lot of my friends at this worthy event. You can see a good movie, have a good time, and do some good in the world.

Pretty sweet for a Sunday evening.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quick thoughts on Tuesday night's Barnes & Noble gig

(all photos courtesy of Gina)

When you're on a panel, it's often difficult to assess your audience's honest reaction, so I can say only that it seems to me that Tuesday night's Barnes & Noble event went well. (Of course, I'd prefer they spell my name correctly, but I'm willing to trade that for having a lot of my books on hand, which the store did.)

This is the fourth year we've done this event, so it now operates on a predictable pattern. We introduce ourselves and say what we write. One of our gracious hosts asks the audience for questions. No one offers any. The host asks a question. We each answer it. The audience warms up and start asking questions, and then we're off.

Tonight's queries addressed such topics as genre boundaries, the effects of ebooks on writers, writing processes, and so on. Not all of our answers were the same, but on balance they were generally more similar than different.

After the Q&A period, folks bought books and had us sign them.

In this photo, the signing has just begun--a moment that is easy to spot because it's the one time when Dave does not have the most people waiting on him.

Afterward, a group of us, mostly family, headed across the parking lot for dinner.

They've already asked us back for next year, and I expect we'll probably be there. As long as the others are game, I am.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ask Dr. Efficient, the Love Guru:
Dr. Efficient Answers All, #3

Warning: The following is an adult entry. If you are underage or simply do not want to read about sex-related topics, stop now.

All opinions are those of Dr. Efficient.

Welcome to the third installment of Dr. Efficient's guest column. When last we saw him, he was headed to a Couples in Crisis seminar where he was the guest lecturer and lead counselor. Fortunately, we managed to catch him long enough to download these answers to reader questions.

As usual, all the questions came from U.S. women who chose to remain anonymous.

Why is porn such a rush??

Why don't you tell me, since you're clearly the porndog here?

This question is really three questions with different answers: First, why do people like sex? Second, why is a visual representation of sex (sometimes) an acceptable substitute for the real thing? And third, why are you taking so long in the bathroom? What are you doing in there?

The answer to the first question is recursive: You like sex because your parents did. That is the nature of natural selection, which has been ruthlessly selecting for creatures that are born to bone for about half a billion years now. Make no mistake: the gene pool is a shark tank. There have been lots of creatures born over the last 500 million years that didn't like to have sex. They died. They didn't have offspring. They didn't pass on their genes. And so, in Darwinian terms, their lives were irrelevant. Those creatures did not contribute in any way to your genetic make-up. You, dear writer, are the inheritor of five million centuries of genes that loved to fuck.

Is it any wonder that you think of sex more than anything else, all day, every day? Is it any wonder that you're thinking about it right now!?

Humans are willing to substitute porn for sex when sex isn't available because humans are visual animals. More of your brain is dedicated to processing visual input than any other sense. Other species would probably prefer the smell of sex, but humans, voyeurs that we are, like to watch.

Note that the visual substitution of porn for sex is similar to the even more common visual substitution of violence for the real thing. Humans have spent most of the last 200,000 years hunting daily for food and engaging in constant tribal warfare over scarce resources. Today, most people don't hunt or fight, but on some level we still crave danger and killing. We scratch that itch by watching horror movies and action movies or by playing video games. To satisfy our desire for love, we have romances. To satisfy our compulsion for sex, we have porn.

Take away all popular entertainment designed to stimulate those evolved biological urges, and all you're left with is C-SPAN. And you're not watching C-SPAN in the bathroom, are you?
Why do most men have the ultimate dream of having sex with more than one woman at a time? Preferably twins. Preferably twin cheerleaders. Preferably twin cheerleaders that are built like Pamela Anderson?


When asked about their favorite sexual fantasy, why do most men suggest a menage a trois (with two women and one man, not two men and one woman)?
Why wouldn't they? This is basic math. One slice of cake: Good. Two slices of cake: Better!

Men will prefer to have sex with two women at once because a man can do so and get both women pregnant. A woman having sex with two men will only get pregnant once, and neither man is likely to expend a lot of effort on child care since neither can be confident that the infant is his. Men don't think about getting women pregnant, they just think about fucking. They think about fucking because, as I mentioned earlier, their forefathers did a bang-up job of getting women pregnant.

Here's how the evolutionary impact of all this works:

My father is a devoted husband. He married one woman and has lived with her all his life. He's had two children. My sister, also married once, has had three children of her own.

Mohammed Bin Laden had ten or eleven wives, and somewhere around fifty-four children. His seventeenth son, Osama, had six wives. He fathered between twenty and twenty-six children before the Navy SEALS ensured he wouldn't be having any more.

And so, within a couple of generations, there's at least seven times as much of Mohammed Bin Laden's DNA out there as of my dad's. If Osama's siblings have all fucked as freely as he has, there's a hundred times as much of Mohammed Bin Laden's DNA out there. Now imagine what a million years of that kind of natural selection does to the human race. Is it any wonder that men like to spread the joy--or at least the joy juice?
I would like Dr. Efficient to explain to me how this beautiful girl doesn’t have a boyfriend.
She doesn't have a boyfriend for the same reasons that Wonder Woman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer don't have boyfriends: Partly because men are intimidated by strong women, but mostly because fictional characters don't get dates.

"Debbie" is a creation of wannabe Internet funnywoman Cara Hartmann, who's also created this video, in which she discovers that the effects filters on her shitty webcam let her make fun of conjoined twins, and this lame fake news story in which she discovers that Internet stock photography lets her make fun of Stephen Hawking. At least in her "eHarmony Video Bio" she's moved on from making fun of the physically disabled to merely making fun of the mentally retarded.

I think we can all agree that retards are fair game.

As long as you keep sending in questions, Dr. Efficient will return soon! Email your queries to me or send them via the Contact page on my site.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Decemberists

Black clouds filled the sky Saturday night, and the weather radar screamed red from all the phones, but we were not to be deterred, so off we went to see the Decemberists at the Raleigh Amphitheater.

When we arrived, plastic still covered all the instruments, and the show's fate was uncertain. After about half an hour of delay, however, the roadies uncovered a few of the instrument clusters and the opening act, Best Coast, hit the stage. They didn't win me completely, but they were just good enough that I am going to give their music a try. Here's a video so you can do the same.

As their show proceeded, the rain began to fall, first small drops and then a steady drizzle. The drizzle continued long enough that I began to worry that the powers that be would cancel the show. Fortunately, the rain never turned into a full storm, and the showgivers kept it running.

The Decemberists hit the stage in a burst of indie energy and delivered over an hour and a half (counting the two encores) of excellent and highly varied music. I've really only known their Hazards of Love album, but now I clearly need to listen to their many other albums (and have ordered them all).

I loved a lot of what I heard. So you can sample their music, here are three I chose at random from YouTube that I enjoyed. I hope you do, too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

If you're not busy Tuesday night (June 14)

In what has become something of a tradition, tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 14, I will join several other local SF writers in a group Q&A/signing session at 7:00 p.m. at the Cary Barnes & Noble. If you're not doing anything else then, drop by, chat with us, maybe buy a few books, and have a good time.

Our group started at four but now has grown to five: David Drake, Kelly Gay, James Maxey, Lisa Shearin, and I. The range of the fiction we write is fairly broad, but it all falls somewhere in the greater SF/fantasy realm.

Past discussions have ventured over a broad array of topics, including literary themes, writing processes, violence in fiction, and of course a significant number of fun but silly questions. Plus, there's always the chance that Dave (or occasionally I) will burst into an obscenity while holding a microphone in a busy suburban bookstore!

If you're not busy, come on by.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

UFC 131: How we fared

In a first, Kyle and I agreed on all the choices for last night's fights, so all I can do is report how we collectively did--and where we made smaller calls correctly.

As always, we'll start with the undercard fights, which I didn't get to see but Kyle did, thanks to the UFC putting them on Facebook and YouTube.

Darren Elkins vs. Michihiro Omigawa

I can't comment on this fight other than to say that from what I've read it sounds like quite a battle. In the end, Elkins won a decision--and started Kyle and me at 0-1.

Aaron Rosa vs. Joey Beltran

We both chose Rosa via decision in an ugly war. We got the ugly war, with color commentator Joe Rogan correctly observing that at times these guys were human rock 'em, sock 'em robots. In the end, though, The Mexicutioner wore down Rosa and hit him with enough ground-and-pound shots that the ref stopped the fight. Beltran's TKO victory gave us a dismal 0-2 start.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young

Another fight I didn't see, but one we called right. Poirier ground out a decision, which makes Kyle more right than I was, because I expected a TKO. Still, we don't grade at that fine a level, so we both notch one correct call and move to 1-2.

Nick Ring vs. James Head

Though I also didn't get to see this match, from what I read it sounds like we were completely wrong about it. The descriptions have Ring as largely dominating the fight, aside from going wobbly for a bit in round one, until he slapped on a rear naked choke in the third round. We move to a pitiful 1-3.

Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Mike Massenzio

We both expected Soszynski to win against an over-matched Massenzio, and that is indeed what happened. What's surprising, though, is that Massenzio lasted all three rounds and lost the decision. Even though he lost, the fact that he took the fight on six days notice and put on a pure-gut show might earn him a chance at another UFC fight. Might.

In any case, we inch closer to .500 as we move to 2-3.

From here on, I did get to watch the fights, the first two on Spike TV, and the remaining five on the PPV event.

Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt

We both called for Weidman to dominate, and dominate he did, ultimately winning just before the first round ended with a standing guillotine choke. Bongfeldt gave it his best, and he even hurt Weidman briefly, but he was out of his league.

We're now 3-3!

Yves Edwards vs. Sam Stout

What we got right: Stout won.

Each of us, though, assumed the fight would last multiple rounds, and it did not. Instead, after Edwards connected with a nice hit to Stout's head, Stout counter-punched and knocked out Edwards in textbook fashion. When Rogan was interviewing Stout, Edwards was still on the ground.

We move to 4-3, finally more correct calls than misses!

Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha

Vagner Rocha proved he was a very tough man and absorbed a lot of punishment, but he was never in this PPV opener. Cerrone dominated him for three rounds and won--with the unanimous decision I predicted. After the fight, Cerrone criticized himself for playing it safe and fighting not to lose, a somewhat accurate comment that is sure to displease both his coach, Greg Jackson, and UFC President Dana White. Still, he notched the victory, and we hit 5-3.

Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz

For most of the first round, I was sure we were going to lose this one, because Demian Maia's striking looked the best I've ever seen it. Maia controlled that round, and Munoz looked shocked at how well Maia was doing.

The rest of the fight was Munoz's, and he won the decision victory. We were at 6-3, and I was feeling good about the rest of our calls.

Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman

So much for that feeling. I don't know what Einemo was doing with the Golden Glory team, but he sure wasn't learning to defend against knee strikes. Einemo's much vaunted submission skills also weren't much in evidence, because when he took down Herman, Herman escaped fairly easily. Meanwhile, Einemo was gassing, and Herman was smiling. Before round two ended, Herman had the TKO victory, and we dropped to 6-4.

Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes

Florian looked good, real good, and the weight cut did not seem to affect his stamina at all. Though he punished Nunes, he could never finish the guy. Still, his performance was enough for him to win the decision and take us to 7-4.

Though I expect Florian will now get the title shot he wants, I'm not at all certain he can take Jose Aldo. It is, though, a fight I very much want to see.

Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin

With less than a minute to go in the first round, after having hit Shane Carwin over and over and over with powerful pistoning fists, with Carwin turtled on the ground, his face a bloody mess, Junior dos Santos looked at referee Herb Dean and clearly hoped the man would stop the fight. Dean did not, and in defense of his decision it did appear that Carwin was making token attempts to defend himself.

For the next two rounds, Carwin occasionally would get in a punch, but basically dos Santos danced around and hit him with jab after jab after jab. I got the sense that dos Santos didn't really want to hurt Carwin any more.

Carwin showed tremendous heart, but he was never in this fight. Junior dos Santos will next face Cain Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight title in another fight I want to see.

Kyle and I finish a respectable but not inspired 8-4. I'd love one day to call every fight correctly, but this was not that day.


Blog Archive