Friday, February 03, 2006

Well I'm That Kid In The Corner, All Fucked Up and I Wanna So I'm Gonna


Remember these gorgeous pictures of an abandoned Japanese amusement park? If that's your thing, you might want to check out the LJ communities Urban Decay and Rural Ruin. There are some amazing images there. One of my fave photogs who posts there has a photo-journal at Decaying Echoes, and has just posted some amazing photos. The interesting thing about these communities is that often the pictures are of places that are closed to the public, so the photogs don't like to reveal the locations. Which just adds to the air of mystery, which suits me fine. Of course, there are some known locations, like this Japanese ghost town built upon a coal-rich reef--the photos are pretty amazing. If that doesn't feed your inner Ballard, you may need to seek help.

(Apparently, looking at the above, "amazing" is my adjective for the day. Sheesh.)

Y'all should subscribe to Giant. OK, after the first three issues (which featured Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and famous novelist Ethan Hawke) they must have decided that men don't sell magazines and they started putting so-called "hotties" on the cover, but it's not Maxim, honestly. (OK, the so-called blog is kind of gross, but really! They're not like that!) They've had huge features on "Office Space" and "The Big Lebowski" (they love the Coen brothers), they have great taste in music, and they actually talk about books. They feature a character actor in every issue. Beneath the glossy OMG-Denise-Richards-is-hot veneer they've adopted there's still a geeky but insecure guy hanging out there. Make him feel wanted.

In other photography news, bone cathedral. And here.

After due consideration, my good friend the Doctor informs me that Moreau Industries will be moving its operations offshore. Seems the President doesn't approve . . .

Started watching the new BSG. It might be good if not for this Baltar guy and his phantom mannequin. I doubt I'll make it through the first season at this rate.

That's it for now. School has made me boring.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Some Real Headlines (UPDATED)

Elephant News, International:

Last week thirteen Asian nations met to discuss the survival of the Asian elephant. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), "Just over five percent of the original Asian elephant habitat remains today, and its population has declined over the past half century to an estimated 30,000-50,000 animals in the wild." Speaking of conservation challenges, here's a thoughtful editorial about the challenge of elephant/human coexistence in Zambia. In Zimbabwe, meanwhile, a call for culls.

In news that is not news, elephants respect big, old females. There's more to the study, but sheesh.

The first pair of Hawthorn elephants have arrived at Hohenwald. Meanwhile, the National Zoo last week put down a 40-year-old elephant named Toni, saying she was arthritic. This after Joyce Poole (one of my heroes) decried the poor conditions in which Toni was kept. In response to the death, PETA has appealed to them to shut down the elephant exhibit and send the three remaining Asian elephants to Hohenwald or the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California. The sad history of elephants in Scranton, PA; illustrative of the ways in which we love nature to death? In WTF news, a man in Grand Forks makes paper products out of elephant poop. Nope, not kidding. He has a website. He sells journals, even. Don't think I'm not tempted.

Festivities in Assam as the annual elephant festival opens. Only days before in Panaja, however, a meeting on ways to handle the elephant "menace."

Kenya News: The drought, again. The UN WFP (World Food Program) believes it could affect 2.5 million people by the end of February. There is concern that conditions are exacerbating tribal conflicts. In head-scratchy news, a New Zealand dog food manufacturer offered to send 42 tons of dog food to starving Kenyans. (From the article: "She was originally quoted . . . as saying she wanted to send dog biscuits but when she heard how many people needed food aid, decided to send the [freeze-dried Raw Dry Nourish] powder.") The Kenyan government has declined the offer.

Government officials aren't coming through this unblemished, however. Four regional officials have been suspended for mismanagement of aid. In addition, reports are that ministers have been blowing state money on luxury SUVs, and that government hiring practices are based on tribalism. That may be only the tip of a multi-million dollar iceberg, though. (AN UPDATE: Finance Minister David Mwiraria has resigned, pleading his innocence. What's going on? It looks as though government contracts may have gone to a phantom corporation which laundered the cash and passed it on to officials involved; since the money came largely from British donors, they're actually upset this time.) Thanks to such reports of corruption, the World Bank has delayed $260 million in loans to Kenya until corruption concerns are allayed.

Kenya's building regulations are being questioned after a building collapse last Monday left fifteen dead. Shoddy workmanship is being blamed. Elsewhere, Kenyan police burned the homes of 300 squatters in the Eburru forest of the Rift Valley. The concern is that human habitation there will contaminate water sources, although there is always the question of other, political motives. Speaking of which, was the murder of Joan Root connected to the plight of Lake Naivasha?

China has launched its first radio station outside its own territory, on Kenyan soil. More concern over the Amboseli handover; can the water supply there support both animals and humans? Also, 40 organizations have written an open letter to President Kibaki, calling on him to stop a deal to export wildlife to Thailand. Elsewhere in the country, the Grevy's zebra is falling prey to anthrax in alarming numbers; it's serious enough, and their numbers are already low enough, that there is fear of extinction.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Wrote the News Today In a Tent Outside the Midway Rides

Headlines I'd like to see; an occassional feature:


Monday, January 30, 2006

One Old Brown Shoe Falls In Slow Motion

Warning: long, rambling writer-porn ahead. Skip if that bores you.

Back in October I blogged some first lines; of the five works quoted there, one has sold, one I'm sending around, one needs some careful revising, one (the novel) is waiting for summer (at least), and one has been kicking my ass for the past two months.

This doesn't happen to me very often. Usually I know when a story is ready to be worked on and when it's not. But this one's been shifting under me since the beginning. Originally I thought I had it all clear in my head, and it would be a 2000-word piece that I could write in a couple of days. Right now it's at about 6000 words, and it's not quite finished. In the beginning I'd add a scene or a few lines in between doing homework or working on other, more pressing stories, not to mention the novel. And every time I came back to it I found it had elaborated upon itself, forged new connections that I hadn't expected, taken a new shape. It was exciting. But so, so frustrating. Trying to match the conception to the execution--sometimes the simple mechanics, the equivalent of getting a character across the room--has been making me crazy.

It's complicated still further by the way I write. I almost never start anything knowing how it's going to end. Sometimes I outline a bit as I go along, particularly with something long (like a novel--although with those, too, I started out not knowing how they would end). But if I start out with a specific idea of what's going to happen, all the urgency of telling myself the story evaporates, and writing becomes a chore. (I don't think I could ever sell a book based on a proposal.)

With this story, there are so many different threads moving through it (and I wish I could tell you more about it, I really do, because I'm excited about it; but I'm superstitious that way) that the struggle right now is finding a way to weave them back together in a way that satisfies. Not that there won't be loose (or frayed) ends, but that everything signifies in some way, right down to the kitchen sink. The things I don't want to lose have to justify their existence in the end, or they'll have to be cut in the revision.

So I took some advice and spent part of the weekend not writing. (I believe Meghan's exact words were: "I think you need a hobby besides writing.") Friday I messed with the guitar and watched a movie; Saturday I cleaned my room top to bottom. (It took all day. I have a lot of damn books.) Yesterday, I went to Letizia's, did my reading for class, and then did a diagram of the story. Nothing fancy, just a lot of names and arrows. I figured out which intersections were still needed for the story to pay off, and where they should happen. And now, I think I've got the damned thing figured out. I want to finish the draft tomorrow, and polish it on the weekend.

I suppose the only reason I post this is that it's amazing to me how this process changes, over time and from story to story. I wonder how many other folks have this experience. Sometimes I start from titles, sometimes from images, sometimes from first lines. Sometimes I write longhand, sometimes my drafts are completely typed, sometimes I do a bit of both. Sometimes a story takes two days to write, sometimes months. There's no consistency to it, and routines that work for one story do nothing for another. And yet as frustrating as this can be, there's nothing more satisfying that I've found. I know that some folks find books on writing useful; I never have. The best way to learn, for me, has been reading stories, and writing them.

I'll throw the question out there; do you have a set process? Do you know the ending before you start writing? Do you tell yourself the story before you write it?