Archive for November, 2008

A few choice posts

November 30, 2008

Aagh. I’ve been feeling lousy all day — must be my yearly autumn-winter illness. Oh, believe me when I say that being a conduit to words is, despite the occasional writer’s blocks, still heaps better than being a conduit of snot and wheezes with all the associated blockages of nasal passages.

And my throat — well, I’ve been sounding like some movie trailer guy for a few days now. When I’m telling the young uns something at the university, I half expect them to answer “Man, I gotta go see that!”

Thus I’ll exert the luxury of 390 posts, and leave you a choice few of my earlier droppings, carefully chosen and polished to brown perfection —

  • Soon TV’ll be this bad (also part 2 and part 3), or so very, very bad ideas for TV commercials that it might be almost three years until you see some of these in real life.
  • First post, a short story about that annoying phenomenon with a slight tinge of wish fulfillment.
  • Liverwurst: A fairy tale, because a title that good just begs for a reading. Doesn’t it?

And, since I’m a geek of sorts, a piece of Ranma 1/2 fan fiction and a few fevered thoughts about the sooner-or-later Hobbit film(s). And, as you know, when you start pushing your own fan fiction, it’s time to go and lie down, so I’ll do just that.

Victory

November 28, 2008

nano_08_winner_viking_120x238Yay. Thursday 27th, and NaNoWriMo’08 is finished and won for me. The novel (still provisionally titled “Illuminatus’08”) turned out rather well — it had an actual plot, unlike my earlier efforts — and since this was my third year, even churning out the daily 1700 or so words wasn’t stressing.

Well, not very. Occasionally I stared at the screen until drops of blood formed on my forehead, and then I went to wipe my forehead and curse. Then I tried again.

If I had to give a few keywords for the novel, something like this would do: conspiracy nuts, jumping at shadows, smallpox, woo, Scottish fold cats, and unspeakable hamster things.

Since writing of great, old, eerie conspiracies is kind of unrealistic, I wrote instead about a clutch of conspiracy believers that plan to do something rather unspeakably horrid to “reveal the conspiracy” — unless, of course, the plucky heroine can do something to prevent it, and at the same time decide whether she’s in a twisted reality show or not, and just who (if anyone) is going to do what (if anything) and what (if anything) she can do to stop it.

This mood of suspense was heightened, I think, by the fact that most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen.

My only regret was that this novel wasn’t very funny — ah, I’ll write something monumentally silly next year. Now I have eleven months to plan for that…

But now, right now, I have to go and sleep.

Thanks… to the sun?

November 27, 2008

So, Thursday. Thanksgiving to Americans, and a different but equally pleasing day for me. Namely, in Utsjoki, the northernmost corner of this northern land of Finland, kaamos began today.

You know the sun draws an arc on the sky every day, rising from the east, setting into the west. Well, when winter comes, that arc slips to one side of the sky — here in the northern hemisphere to the southern side of the sky. As weeks pass, the arc of the sun becomes lower, shorter, until it just peeks over the southern treetops — and then, if you are north of the polar circle, you will get kaamos, the arctic night: no sun at all, no day, no light, no warmth, until the sun’s slow arc eventually stops diminishing, starts to rise again, and one day peeks over your horizon once more.

So, that began in Utsjoki, the northmost corner of Finland, today. The sun will rise there the next time in the middle of January.

I myself live south of the polar circle, where there is exactly one sunless day — the winter solstice, December 21 this year — so I can’t say goodbye to the sun, but I can enjoy the quiet, the cold, and the almost constant darkness.

It’s just my opinion that these sky mechanics and the celestial art they create are one of the most beautiful things Finland has.

(And, being a shameless self-promoter, why not read my Guide to Finland — for example, its chapter on kaamos? It has a few tips should this darkness depress and oppress you, since I know everyone doesn’t like the darkness quite as much as I do.)

The rear end of NaNoWriMo emerges

November 25, 2008

NaNoWriMo at 45 515 / 50 000 after Monday’s writing, and will most probably finish on Thursday.

Wrapping up the plot took 600 words yesterday, and after that I continued by spraying out 1400 words on various “found documents” that are tangentially related to the plot — if you ask me, these final parts naturally are and will be an essential part of the novel, but on the first day of editing they just might slough off as little shorts of their own.

Hey, this is heaploads better than writing “and ever after and ever after and ever after” for 5000 words!

One of the pieces was actually a giant repeated and repeated joke: my main character had to chase a maniac through a sales fair of various CAM woo-woo people, and I churned out some 800 words of woo advertising that, sadly, was only half made up. And if you think “Aww, repeated CAM jokes aren’t so bad” — well, this was. The ad was for a shady business selling all kinds of, erm, flavored enemas.

Including coffee-based ones and ones with intoxicating alcohol in them, which are actually real. To continue this idea of stimulants, I made up (I hope) the contraption whose effects, uh, simulate smoking for that particular orifice.

Old vices for new (back)ends!

And, trust me, even these very words are too much about the phosphorus night-visibility enema.

Still struggling with the novel’s name; have abandoned “Runosuoliliepeen tulehdus” or “Inflammation of the Poetical Appendix” because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot.

Tips for winter biking

November 24, 2008

Since it’s snowy here in Finland, I offer the relevant portion of my year-round all-good bicycling tips for your help and consideration, plus two ideas I missed, probably because I wrote the tips on a summery day.

  1. You can bicycle all year round (even in Finland) if you live in a city, but it’s not necessarily funny. (Well, it will be for those watching it.) In the countryside — well, it’s possible if you have winter skis instead of winter tires.
  2. Get winter tires. It will be slippery enough even with them. Don’t hurry with getting them off; there’s always one last morning patch of bonebreaker ice.
  3. If you hit a patch of ice, even winter tires won’t help you. Don’t brake, don’t try to steer; just roll on, quit pedaling, and hope you either stop or get over the patch. Otherwise you’ll lose all friction and fall over.
  4. Loose snow will have ice under it. To get an idea of the deviousness of this, just think of snow-covered ice as a slippery floor with a frictionless rug on it.
  5. If the level of newly fallen snow is below the bike’s axles, you can drive through it. Just give in to your anger, and channel it into the pedals until they scream and turn, white-hot and trembling.
  6. (All-new and exciting!) The worst thing is a little bit of warmth followed by a cold night. If you see frozen slush, turned to icy grooves and solid snarls, stop. Walk your bicycle past. Don’t try riding over uneven solid ice; you will fall over.
  7. (Even more newness!) Warmth means moisture; moisture gets into the bike, and when it’s cold again, it turns to ice. If the safety lock refuses to open, just lug the bike inside for a few minutes so the ice melts. Use a hairdryer to get the water out if you need to or if you’re in a hurry.

With near-paranoiac care and years of experience, my winter riding is down to a couple of near-falls a week, and I can go weeks without actually falling over.

The plot is over

November 24, 2008

Gniiiih, pop!

My NaNoWriMo novel is at 43 435 / 50 000 words, and has basically ended with the protagonist left crying cradling a baseball bat.

Now I just have to come up with 6565 words of something — most probably this is doable, since I need an epilogue of sorts to wrap up the loose ends and final bitter problems, and can fluff the ending with “press clippings” of the end’s events; and since a cabal of crazed conspiracy believers was a central plot element, a few pieces demonstrating the depth of their delusions won’t hurt, if I just carefully insert them into the early chapters.

Oh, and dagnabbit, I need a name for this alternately beautiful and butt-ugly work of mine. The provisional title of “Illuminatus’08” was fine in the beginning, but the novel very quickly veered away from the Illuminatus!-like mishmash of uncertain legends I had envisioned, and turned into a panicked chase after a maniac carrying a goodly dose of variola major, and a great deal of uncertainty about just how serious the danger was — and just who the maniac actually was.

I guess I’ll know the title when I get the last strands of the story together. There’s still a bit of uncertainty there, but once I know the beginning and the end, the name should be easy to choose.

If it ain’t, I’ll call this one “Novel 3” and let the reader puzzle over it.

Or then “When Blind Mole Rats Attack!” — that would be a nice bit of misdirection by creating false expectations.

Wait; I’ll squirrel “When Blind Mole Rats Attack! — A Tale of Blind Love and Gnawy Teeth” away for a potential subject for next year…

Snow! And joy! And maybe winter depression!

November 23, 2008

Woah. It snows outside — there’s been snow on the ground for a week or so, but now it really shows, and blows around in the wind, the first snowstorm of the season.

It’s Finland!

And, rather predictably, I’ve once again started to get hits on queries like “surviving winter in finland” and “winter depression in finland”.

If you happen to get here on one, try my Guide to Finland‘s chapter on Kaamos, or Winter Depression, on for size. And if you’re on and about for survival as in “not freezing to death”, go to buy some clothes. Lots of clothes. Layers on layers, mittens and woollen caps and sturdy boots that can grip the ice and push through the snowdrifts, for after the disappointing winter last year, it seems Finland’s Finland once again!

If you’re about for survival in Finland as in “not getting eaten by the reindeer”, relax. Reindeer aren’t carnivorous.

Not unless they’re really hungry.

(I’m hyped by this little snowblowing, because as an agonophage I get strength from the misery and grumbling of others. It’s something I learned in the army.)

Angry muttering at Lennon vs. Vatican

November 23, 2008

4th of March, 1966. John Lennon said this:

Christianity will go… It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

The results? Well, no reasoned counterarguments, not much commenting on the vein of “Er, John, I happen to disagree —“, but sheer mindless outrage, heaps of burning Beatles records on Bible Belt streets, much hand-wringing (“Evil hurtful words!”) and even a couple of Klansmen nailin’, burnin’ and outwise destroyin’ an effigy of the band an’ nailin’ their records to a cross. Mayhaps the cross was also burnt; I don’t know.

And now, just a few days ago, what I consider the greatest mis-reaction of all. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, while praising Lennon/Beatles, calls these words “the bragging of a young man wrestling with unexpected success”.

Oh, really?

Curious bragging when Lennon’s eventual apology was that he was “just saying it as a fact” and didn’t mean to offend anyone!

Not that I am a Catholic or a fan of Lennon (for I cite disgust for one, and sheer ignorance for the latter), but my first reaction to this Roman news was one of immediate “go know thyself” indignation.

Sure, Jesus had lots of fans, some of whom even attended the “concert” every Sunday and “listened to the record” on their knees next to the bed every evening. “More popular than Jesus” was, by what I know, an overstatement even in the highest height of Beatlemania if you talk of the masses, but the old carpenter of Nazareth (well, except that quite probably he wasn’t a carpenter and wasn’t from Nazareth) wasn’t as much a media figure as Lennon and the Beatles were.

And while I don’t agree with Lennon about Jesus having been “all right”, I think he was otherwise quite right when he said that even the worship of that man would with time cease. Maybe quite soon, in a couple of centuries or so. (In my opinion the man we call Jesus, if he ever existed, has disappeared so far to the mists of made-up legend and sectarian fiction that there’s no hope of ever knowing what kind of a spittle-flecked prophet of doom ever stalked the streets of Jerusalem, and how he died and where he was buried.)

There used to be a god called Zeus, a great god with many believers. Now you have to go to a museum to see his statues. There used to be a god called Odin, a great god of thunder, and a terrible god of rain, giver of rainbows, called Tlaloc; now they’re just fodder for fiction and figures in books.

One day, Christianity will go, too.

And that’s alright, because I much rather have the rock of Lennon than the bloody fiction of the Rock of Ages. As said, I don’t know much about John Lennon, but words like those above and words like those in Imagine make me think he was a good man.

So go know thyself, Vatican, in the full Biblical sense of the word “know”.

Personal genesis

November 21, 2008

Filed under bad poetry. One of my sub-Saganic fits, caused by a passing remark by Phil Plait about the star-spawned “iron in our blood and the calcium in our bones”. (The post is titled “Betelgeuse shocker”, which for some reason totally sounds like a very, very dirty sexual practice of some sort.)

I call this little artless, formless poem o’ mine “Personal genesis”, because it’s a sort of a scientific creation story. And it of course has a little atheist barb at the tail of it.

* * *

(more…)

A card for the cult

November 20, 2008

Pharyngula had a post on the God Trumps trumped up by a British magazine called the New Humanist: a set of cards representing the major religions of the world.

Since one faith was inexplicably and eldritchly lacking, hinting at sinister and unspeakable machinations among the card-letterers of that eerie, mystery-shrouded viridian isle, that cradle of ancient Roman sin, I left one additional card as a comment there; and since that idea turned out rather well, here’s the card —

* * *

CULT OF CTHULHU

Age: Meaningless. The Old Ones have always been and will always be, and once you see them you won’t worry about such trivial things as time either — there will be entirely different Things to be worried about. (?/10)

Wealth: All spent on HPL Historical Society audio dramas. The Necronomicon doesn’t seem to have a spell for wealth — well, except for a wealth of shoggoths, which won’t make your creditors happy. (1/10)

Follower dedication: Cthulhu-themed words for Christmas carols, Lolthulhu, Japanese pictures. (4/10)

Daffiest doctrine: Um, Great Cthulhu and the Other Gods are evil, cruel and vicious beings (Totally different from all other religions!), but rather than being actively malicious they just don’t care about you. They’re a bit like Microsoft, actually. (2/10)

Weapon of choice: A 1880 copy of Webster’s, with words of more than six syllables shakily underlined. A margin note says ‘I have seen the Old Ones! There is no space and no time, and it is coming through the window even as I writ—‘, followed by a drop of blood. (8/10)

Easily offended? Not at all! Those who we don’t like will be kept safe and cozy to witness the full awfulness of the Coming of the Eldritch-Gibbous Elder Gods! Then the cultists will be eaten first, and the others left to slowly perish under the pseudopod feet of the implacable Tsathoggua, Shub-Niggurath et al. (0/10)

* * *

Short note: NaNoWriMo at 35 500 / 50 000.