Monday, June 30, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 7: Show Off

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 7: Show Off
            Malakite watched as Pasgard lumbered over to the parasols the tea house had laid out over part of the dock.  The cafe had opened a section of the dock so that the patrons could dip their feet into the flowing water of the Color Line.  Tiny river fish would nibble off the callous of feet, making them smooth and tender.
            All around the tottering black man people became aware of him, we was from a very distant place and that made some of them prickly.  Pasgard had seen worse starting attitudes, "Come young ones to see the wonders of an old fool who wishes to show you the little bits of fun I learned when I was not much older then you."
            Pasgard's finger moved like he was signally hidden instrumentalists and distant haunting music began to play, like a distant fair ground.  "This is spooky," said someone getting up to leave.
            "Fear not young man," said Pasgard, pointing to the little fish.  "I seek only to pass on a little something that was passed on to me."  The instruments that previously seemed distant grew closer.  While adults all around felt nervous, the children looked amazed.
            "See the little fish," said Pasgard, with a wave of his hand the nibbling fish started to emanate blues and yellows.  Swimming in big sweeping patterns, a ring, a figure 8, 3 wavy lines, then a spiral.  Each change prompted by the wave of Pasgard's hand.
            From under the parasols the light of the midday sun seemed very distant.  The little fish glowed and sparkled, moving faster thru the water like shooting stars.
            "When I was just a young man," said Pasgard.  "A wizard did this show, though he used a flock of humming birds.  I like the little fish.  They move in patterns good."
            By then even the previously nervous parents were taken in, as this little area of the tea house was turning into a surreal bubble of night sky in the middle of the day, but with an eerie hum of invisible strings, a beat of distant drums, and some deep feeling of having been made free.
            Bit by bit the lights and sounds faded, the fish stopped glowing and swimming in patterns, and all of the children were smiling ear to ear.  The parents and other adults were dazzled.  There was one left over, a little girl with ragged hair, freckled face, a smile missing many baby teeth, simple clots, and no parent.  "How?" she asked.
            "Little one," said Pasgard, his eyes tearing up.  "Oh that I could be young enough to teach you such things.  I have done this show before, and seen so many smiles, and always there is one left who asks how."
            "Why are you crying?" the little girl asked, suddenly so nervous for the wizard.

            "I'm sorry little one," said Pasgard.  "My time as a teacher is passed," there was a coin in his hand that he was making spin.  "I have taught so many before you, and this would be all I needed for me to try again, but I just don't have the time left.  I'm sorry because I can already tell, you be a great wizard." He then fumbled the coin.  She tried to catch it, missed, and chased it to the edge of the water, she smiled, turned, and frowned.  The old wizard was gone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 6: Passage

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 6: Passage
            The Color Line River was frequented by three types of sailing craft.  The first group were called free rafters, those who owned there own boat delivering small amounts of materials, salvaging, fishing, and piracy (the last one was mostly limited to the Black Marsh as the river made escape from various law enforcement agents nearly impossible without the cover of foliage, and the southern fork which was more lawless).
            Small companies were the next group, these were groups of ships own by LLC's, or limited liability companies.  Essentially these were two or more boats that were owned by men and women who worked on land and had crews that were paid wages plus a share of the profits from whatever job the company committed to.  The advantage to being part of the collective owners was owning a small share in each boat.  Meaning if one boat sank they all lost a small amount, and whenever one did a job they all profited a small amount, rather than the Free rafters who would lose or gain everything on the gamble of a single ship.  The Maunder Empire is responsible for the protection of these craft and the trade interests they control, which brings up the last group.
            Group three is the Maunder Imperial Freshwater Navy.  Very fast boats whose tactics were to pull along side ships, lash on, and deploy numerous marines to take control of the ship.  Small fleets, or flotillas of these were deployed to the Black Marsh area to combat piracy, but were almost never seen on the Southern fork.  LLC's whose job it is to employ seasoned marines for security on those ships who are not in the regularly patrolled areas of the river exist, but are not expected to protect anyone who is not flying their standard.  Unless a free rafter or shipping LLC was flying a banner that meant they were already under contract with a particular marine company, if a pirate were to attack a shipment the marines would more often allow the pirates to simply pay them a cut of the looted vessel (or turn over living sailors to be impressed into mercenary service) rather than act to protect the victimized ship.
            There is a colloquial joke that the Red Clay portion of the river is caused by all the blood spilled just up stream by Bloody Field's raiders who have managed to capture a small ship run aground by passing too close to the shore.
            Orchard Town is up stream from most everything except the scantly populated mountains, and they shipped boatloads of excess harvest everywhere else.  It never seemed like the town was poor for passage elsewhere, at least to those who could pay as much as the number of apple bushels they took the place of.  Coming back was always odd though.  Going against the current required people to row, sails to be full, and the hold to not be stuffed with goods, so the only trade coming back was usually very high craft items from the larger city of Bone, which was home to far more craftsmen, who could make clockwork, lock work, musical instruments, books, softer clothing, bedding, art, lots and lots of shovels (the tool makers guild was subsidized because of a law too old to contextualize and too ingrained to ever repeal), and exotic animals or spices from the rest of the empire (very expensive and rarely fresh because it is always the material that didn't manage to sell in Bone itself and since the trade of it was controlled by the Empire you couldn't get it anywhere else without paying a smugglers' price).
            Malachite knew all of this, having traded with Orchard Town small but regular amounts in the past (coming back from Solace, his parties would stop off in Orchard Town for the last leg of the trip to be made down the river, shipping materials the south route with escort and the sending them back with pepper and beef for the trouble as payment, Hasenburg's ancient credit was taken as sacrosanct).  But since Malachite did not want to go home he found a much harder time negotiating, carrying two extra people instead of food was seen as more and more costly with each free rafter he talked to.  LLC's under contract to deliver quotas of material were already laying off extra rowers they had used to get to Orchard, and the mercenaries were small in number and only looking to head south to guard a bigger shipment.
            Malachite was already failing the first task he had been given by the wizard... But was keeping that fact from Pasgard as best he could.  "They are loading nothing but Cider, but it isn't spiced yet and the sweet air will make us sick in a day."  "I have worked with them, they charge too much to move cows, I can only imagine what they would milk us for."  "The crew was very rude to me."  "Boat has a worm eaten stern and the captain would not listen to my warning about it.  I wouldn't set foot on deck."  "The only women on board have brown teeth."  "No pillows in the bunks."  The man had more excuses than any lay about could dream up.
            Adding to this was shipping their equipment.  Pasgard had a cart loaded with bits'n bobs, and presumably a lot of physical money, paper slips and promises from the Caliphate would not have been the wise currency to bring on a trip like this.  Malachite would need his armor, greatsword, abus gun (which he never got enough chances to use, but relished those times he did, always a good opening to any battle), and while he had no attachment to the horse he owned he hated shopping for them when he needed one, forget the cost of boats, horses were damn expensive.  "I never got a squire."
            "What?" asked Pasgard.
            "A young man to help me with my equipment and clothing," he said.  "I was one for a while.  That was part of the trade missions I did."
            "I was something similar when I was young," said Pasgard.  "The Caliphate used to recruit or force young men into civil service, as sort of high ranking slave.  One of my brothers was taken when I was very little after my father had disappeared in the waste one day.  They told my mother that part of the money they gave her each week to help us live without my father meant that they needed her sons to serve the Caliph."
            "When did you get taken?" asked Malachite
            "I was still to young to know my age," said Pasgard, wistfully.  "They came to take my other brother, and they would have, but my mother cut off one of his fingers so he couldn't hold a sword properly."
            "Gods," said Malachite wincing.  "She could bear to see you go?  Was it so bad?"
            "From this side of it," said Pasgard.  "Looking back thru time.  No, it was not so bad.  My mother did not know what the service really was."
            "She just couldn't bear to see you go?" asked Malachite, feeling genuinely sorry for the old man, but also very curious.
            "She did not fear for us that way," said Pasgard.  "She had taken our father's disappearance well, always hoping he would one day walk out of the desert with palms filled with jewels, and a wagon full of silk.  She even pictured my brother coming back.
            "No, she was afraid of not knowing us if we came back.  They would force you to learn and practice the state religion," said Pasgard.  "Normally they just charged a tax on those who followed some other faith, it was to fund the upkeep of their temples, my family worshiped a number of gods and paid the tax.  But when taken you were made to follow the state's faith and then sent to fight for it.  My first brother died fighting beyond the desert."
            "You have all your fingers," said Malachite.  "Did they take your brother's lost finger as a protest and just not bother you again?"
            "They beheaded my mother for trying to stop the recruiters from doing their work," said Pasgard, as Malachite drew breath thru his teeth, his heart feeling heavy.  "They took me and the rest of my brothers to a training camp for boys destined to be soldiers, my brother with the missing finger was made... manager?  Not sure the equal word in your words.
            "My sisters were betrothed to a number of family's, and are house sold to pay their dowries,"  He paused.  "I don't remember the name of the goddess my mother wanted us to worship.
            "For the next few years I cleaned the guard houses, sharpened swords, and learned my prayers," Pasgard frowned.  "When I was old enough they sent me to the Eastern most Oasis and told me my job, I was to guard the pass.  That is what I use as my name when traveling.  Pass.  Guard.  Pasgard."
            "That is not your real name?"
            "I have never met someone out of the Caliphate that could say my real name," said Pasgard smirking.  "There is no letter for one of the sounds in it."
            Malachite was boggled from the sad story, and was just grasping to make the subject lighter somehow.  "How?  That is so odd to me."
            "Are you named after a gem?"
            "Yes," said Malachite, talking faster.  "But, West of the Caliphate people name their children after objects all of the time.  Why not just use the literal translation of your real name if you are going to go by something else."
            "My name means 'Messenger of God'," said the wizard.
            "Okay, I can see how that would sound pretentious," said Malachite.
            "Pray?  Ten?  What?" Pasgard looked confused, and his little book was out again.
            Malachite took a second to discern his question.  "Oh, 'pretentious'.  It means acting better or more important than who you are."
            Pasgard started chuckling, "I can imagine you hearing that word a lot."

            Malachite started laughing to too.  "Yeah, sometimes people I meet have to ask me for a good word to call me.  That one I go to a lot," said the swordsman.  "Go to that tea house to relax while waiting," he pointed to a corner restaurant.  "Read thru your little book a bit.  I will find us a ship eventually," even if I have to do something I loath.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Some Netflix Reviews

Four Movies I watched on Netflix this weekend while playing video games.
I ranked them chronologically.
(I also watched 13 episodes of "Sword Art Online" which is a strangely engaging).
            Three of these movies (all but "Monsters") came from recommendations from a critic I enjoy called Cecil Trachenburg, who has a show called "Good Bad Flicks" on the Agony Booth.  He tends to suggest movies that flopped in the box office or are relegated to the ghetto of genre fiction (lot of horror, sci-fi, and some fantasy).  Watch him.

"Strange Days" (1995)
            High concept science fiction about the idea of downloading other people's memories and experiencing things, like romance, lust, murder, or even the death of the person whose memories you are feeling.  This is also the "future" (2000) as envisioned by 1994, so HOLY COW RACISM.
            I feel like people should watch this movie because it is a really cool concept, it doesn't pull punches with violence or sex, it is engaging.  Problem is the super-super political bent that has nothing to do with the premise.  There are two plots that end up crashing into each other in a silly way, a murderer who forces his victims to watch their own murder thru his eyes with a live stream of his actions as he does them (AWESOME) the other has to do with finding the memories of a girl who saw police murder a very prominent rapper/community-organizer... and the potential resulting riots that might come of those memories going public (RODNEY KING, TOOKIE WILLIAMS, and TUPAC SHAKUR all in one).
            This movie has an interesting main character, a lot of cool tricks with mirrors and first person perspective, and a really good premise.... Crazy person plot.  there is also a mystery with enough real actors to make you wonder at who is doing stuff.  If they had focused on either the racial politics or the murder mystery the movie would have been infinitely better.  It is much like many movies nowadays in that it is two movies shoved together.
Awful poster.  Just fucking awful.

"Gattaca" (1997)
            This is a high concept science fiction movie about a world in which genetic engineering has allowed people to proof their children against genetic defects like color blindness, baldness, and heart defects, this also has the byproduct of making children "better" than their non-tailored counterparts, kids whose parents did not like mucking with their child's DNA.  This follows a guy who is trying to get into a space program and since he is not genetically engineered he is near sighted and has a heart defect, so he has to steal someone else's identity.
            This movie is interesting, there is a murder, it has a lot of commentary on society and how it likes to tamper with people... But it has a fundamental flaw with the premise.  The main character should not be an astronaut, he has a heart defect, that would DQ people from terrestrial jobs, let alone going into space where everyone depends on the person next to them to keep them safe.  He is putting others in danger for the sake of his pride.
            There is also a super-Orwell premise in this universe.  Much like Googling an employee to make sure they haven't been in the news for burglary, this movie makes DNA sequencing look like an ultra routine procedure that is required just to enter the building of the space program.  They also over emphasize certain things, like all of the people who are not engineered are relegated to janitors because of discrimination, but that only makes sense to a point.  I can understand not letting the heart defect guy going into space, but he is still a genius with laser like mental focus, he could work as an astrophysicist on Earth.  So the idea of him working as a janitor is silly.  You have the technology to scan a person's DNA every time they enter the building like they were swiping a key card, but you don't have Rhombus?  The point of advancing technology like this is to make people do less work, not to strata people... There is also not a lot of minorities in the movie, which I guess is supposed to be a subtle thing... Maybe?  It is worth watching because it has some positive messages about putting unfair expectations on children, discrimination, and... the positive aspects of identity theft.
Bad poster, with three more faces.  Here is some fan art for comparison.
            Southern Gothic Horror.  A hospice worker goes to help take care of an elderly stroke victim and gets caught up in a Hoodoo plot to... Something.  The plot twists and twists, and the ultimate end of them story is a rather nice change of pace from my typical fair.  It is not incredibly scary, but there is a cat and mouse game, and tiny little revelations of information that add up (in my opinion they added up, I was not giving this the full dissection treatment as I was playing "Age of Empires" while watching, maybe I missed a glaring plot hole).
            I could definitely see some "spell it out" writing at certain times.  A character does something that is a twist, the protagonist says what she thinks is happening, that way the audience has a temporary, "Oh, that's what's happening".  Having the audience just watch what is happening and thinking about it would be too complicated, got to make sure the popcorn munching masses can follow along.  Though I was legitimately surprised by the end... So I would recommend it.
Slightly better poster, but with that annoying floating head looking gormless.
And you of course need an eye, can't be a horror movie without eye imagery.
"Monsters" (2010)
            Mexico is infested with Old Ones.  Monstrous Spider-Squid-Fungus that have wrecked all kinds of shit.  The US has built a wall (the largest structure ever built by man) to keep the monsters out, but has left Mexico a war zone as the military tries to keep the damn things from spreading.  That is the backdrop, the main characters are a photographer (war correspondent) tasked with retrieving and getting home with his boss' daughter.  The two of them are damaged and taking a tour of the Monster infested Mexican countryside.
            This is the movie that got its director his job making the 2014 "Godzilla".  I liked "Monsters" a lot more.  The issues with this one have more to do with budget than characters.  The two protagonists are fine, they emote well, have depth, they have a goal.  They are in a situation that is perilous.  The movie does not have the money to show a lot of monster action.
            I hated the cutaways from action in "Godzilla" because that was what I was there to see, instead the movie was cluttered with boring and meaningless humans who accomplished nothing.  This movie is about characters with the backdrop of monsters.  The monsters are not really what I am there for.  you could replace monsters with a flood, a tsunami, or a war and you would get the same story... The difference would be that the metaphor would not be a metaphor, it would just be a movie about the thing.
            The monsters in this movie (I think) are a metaphor for the drug war.  Mexico is torn apart, America builds a wall, but American intervention and conflict stirs up the monsters even more.  In that context this story (while preachy) is on point.  "Godzilla" had no such coherent undercurrent, and thus sucked more, though it had the money to do more.
            Monsters will probably bore most people to tears because (like I said) the budget is small, so there are some bad actors, there are seems showing on some special effects, a lot of the money shots are off screen.  If they had the money to show more stuff and better actors it would have been an 8.  If it had done that and not been as preachy it would have been a 10.  It might still be worth watching if you like slow burn stuff, like the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" for instance.

More dynamic poster.  Kind of "District 9" -ish, but somewhat humanized by the leads.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 5: The River

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Who wants a lesson on Imaginary geography?  The reason so many fantasy stories just have a map on the inside of the cover.

Chapter 5: The River
            "I am guessing we will take the river to Bone then?"  asked Pasgard.
            "It's the fastest way out of Orchard Town," said Malachite.  "Unless you want to wait another two days for the festival to end."
            "There will be another before too long," said Pasgard.
            "I think they have them every week," said Malachite.  "The weather here never really changes and they stagger crop plantings so that there is always some fresh crop reaching time for harvest.  Last week was pumpkins.  I think the last week was squash.  They were a little gourd heavy in my opinion."
            "So Green then Brown?" asked Pasgard.
            "Out of context that listing of colors sounds a bit unhealthy," said Malachite.  "Or that you have eaten too many berries.  Just tell them we are going to Bone.  I sure they will know how to get there."
            "I just imagine we might get cheaper travel if we take the trips in parts," said Pasgard.
            "That is wise," said Malachite.  "I'll shop around."
            The river, along which all populations sprung up in this area of the world. The Color Lines, one river that forked many times.  It was called the White in the Mountains because of falls and rapids, but as it went East it changed. Green Way was what it was called in Orchard Town, which was famed for breeding exceptionally large plums and having harvest festivals to the point of trivialization, the river did not turn green it was just used for irrigation purposes.  Then it gets its first split happens at the city of River's Fork, so named for.... Obvious reasons having to do with a lack of creativity.  That fork goes South.
            The Southern fork divides the great plains into the Painted Fields and the Bloody Fields.  The Bloody fields known for clutches of warriors and bandits who take refuge in the tiny forests that spot the map grow from seeds blown by winds centuries ago; forts with walls of mudbrick and logs hold up in the core of the little forests, no siege can get thru to them and the paths are often trapped or lined with old skulls or ribs dangling in the ivy and moss of trees.  The Maunder Empire has so far failed to project their power out into the Bloody Fields against these lawless peoples.
            The Painted Fields are named for the nomadic horse people who lived there peacefully.  Though they have had clashes with everyone at south point over the use of grazing land, horse theft, kidnapping and other crimes.  But since they prefer to hunt, forage, and trade rather than settle crimes are seen as actions as individuals rather than a people.
            The river's southern branch then reaches Hasenburg, known for cows, pepper, and a sort of frontier chivalry.  Hasenburg knows the River as the Clear Divide, referring to how it separates the grasslands.  Hasenburg is an ancient County having been under the control of various kingdoms through the ages and remaining somewhat independent during each.  They consider themselves a southern outpost of the Maunder Empire though barely interact with or solicit the larger government for assistance, preferring to work thru independent cities like Port Padre or Solace.  Hasenburg considers themselves deeply attached to the Nomads of the Painted Fields and have had numerous elders of those tribes retire to Hasenburg and many young people run off to travel with them.
            It then lakes a long turn East and gets very muddy, reaching the Town of Red Clay, so named for what they call the Red Clay River.  Ultimately this branch empties out at Port Padre, who never bothered to call it anything other than River, the only population that does not refer to it by some color.  Port Padre is the last free city of repute in the South before reaching the Confederated Kingdoms much further south.
            The main Northern fork continues East and serves as the north border of the Bloody Fields but has three forks going North: the Brown, the Black, and the Grey.  The Brown feeds up to the Maunder Sea and is the home to Bone, the Southern Capital of the Maunder Empire and the vastly populated Hinterlands that surround the city.  The Black runs into a morass called the Black Marsh (Shadow Marsh, Bone Marsh, and Maunder Marsh are also used); aside from swamp people the Marsh is populated only by animals, palmettos, and Mangroves on the coast.  The Grey goes up into Southern Maunder and marks the Eastern Boarder of the Black Marsh, it has an odd dusty look to the water and where the water of the Grey and the Marsh meet there is a clear distinction between the bodies as one has more mineral, while the other looks like tea from palmetto leaves.
            The last leg of the river which forms a rather straight line from Mountain to Sea is called the Blue Line and is the Southern boarder of South Maunder.  Dotted with villages it empties into the sea at Gold Port, whose actual name is Saulker's Rest.  Saulker's rest was named for the Captain who conquered, or accepted the surrenders of everyone along the river for the Maunder Empire.  Nobody calls Gold Port it's proper name, half because it reminds them of a Saulker's legacy of conquest on continent, the other half because nobody has conquered anything since Saulker and they feel a pang of shame that no one since then has been so great a military leader.  There is a lichen covered wall that once had Saulker's visage etched into it, but one of the marble tiles was knocked off by a runaway carriage and subsequent rains have caused others to detach.  Saulker is who named the last leg of the river the Blue Line, for the blue standard his army conquered under.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 4: Malachite

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 4: Malachite
            As a teen, Malachite had been part of trade caravans from his home city of Hasenburg, the oldest continuously held County in the region famed for pepper and steak; north across the Painted Plains, so named for the nomadic tribes that rode mottled horses and painted their faces and skin to match the pattern; and then winding thru the passes of the Bones of Giants, a mountain range filled with abandoned cliff side villages with choked out stepped planting areas the bones of a great mountain people now gone.  The ultimate destination was Solace, the free harbor.
            Solace was the only major trading city that was not under the control of the Maunder Empire, whose legions controlled the southern half of a continent hundreds of miles away, and most of the western part of this continent.  Solace was instead run by the Fingers, a syndicate of aristocrats who elected a council of five from the property owners of the city, but the rule of law was not so strong.
            The Fingers were rich, they made the city function to maintain their wealth, and they used the wealth to stay in power.  And they kept those who had the arms to change things fed and housed to a level that they felt the system worked.  Limited slavery, trade in drugs, and very few duties kept people coming into the city, kept money flowing thru the city (though the bribes one needed to utilize might have balanced that cost out).  Say what you will about the Maunder, the tax was the tax, and giving or accepting bribes meant the loss of literal fingers.  In Solace the Fingers were there to count bribes.
            But it made for a flexible market that could be worked by someone who had the mind to.  And Malachite's father wanted Malachite to have that mind.  The Dandy Knight was taken on trade mission after trade mission to hear the haggling, how to sell cows, how to buy horses, how to check purity of salt, what to smell for, what to listen for, and what people said with their eyes.  Malachite was known as a swordsman, because Malachite sold himself well as a swordsman.
            "How could I have survived as many battles as I have dressed like this if I were not amazing at what I do?"  "He told you I fought how many?  That is too many, I... Well, let me count, 1, 2, the man with the know, now that I think about it, I might have been too humble."  "You need to provide more than that, I slept on a bed of straw for three nights and have eaten nothing but meal and bacon, the way I see it whether or not your battle goes forward luxuries have been denied to me and compensation is only fair."
            And he took these things in Solace, but his penchant for haggling and self promotion took a backseat to his greatest skill, cutting his friends in on the deal.
            Malachite was a networker, keeping lists of names in his head with his own system of nicknames to keep them all straight, little rhymes to remember if they owed him favors or if he owed them, and he always kept those debts very well, and managed to pay people back by setting them up with other people who he owed favors to, always working to make everyone's interests grow to a bigger interest.  He fought, but he was always batter at getting people to fight.  And now he was being given a bottomless purse to finance as many friends as he needed to get the job done, he was going to be owed a lot of favors after this.  And in the process he would have the legitimacy of working with Pasgard the Wizard.

            And so the two of them were off, to find Pasgard's secret... Whatever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 3: Pasgard

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 3: Pasgard
            Wizards are crazy people.  No one should ever wish to be a wizard.  The life of a farmer is a far nobler profession, less fraught with catastrophe, and bound for an afterlife of frolicking with the goddess whose festivals involve horns of plenty, beer, and lots of breeding.  Wizards lives by contrast vary between the extremes of sitting in the dustiest and darkest rooms of any given keep trying to hash out what circle of hell they can put up with ultimately in order to have a modicum of success in the living world.
            In the desert region of Wind and Ghosts there is a Caliphate, a gathering of cities collectively called the Six Oasis, though that number would more accurately refer to the cities, the actual number of fertile areas never exactly cataloged.  They move.  The desert is magical, vast and featureless it is impossible to navigate without astrological equipment.  Caravans have set up camp in a tight circle, and the next morning every member awoke hundreds of feet apart from one another, the desert having moved them while they slept.  Men and women have  disappeared for days in the desert, only to wander back, emerging from the sand in nothing but rags, practically mummified, talking about how they had never seen night.
            Pasgard was a guide of the Land of Wind and Ghosts.  He had fought men with heads like those of Jackals, found the tops of stone towers buried in the waste, and had lived long enough to grow fat and rich.  He had served the Caliph himself for more than a decade, and been to lands East beyond the desert.  He had outlived all his friends.
            "Malachite," said Pasgard.  "The jewel I seek is beyond priceless to me, I am too old for the burden of being a wealthy man to keep me from securing what is truly important.  If it comes to it, I would have you captain an army of whatever sell swords you wish to secure what is mine."
            "Do you want to tell me what it is?" asked the flashy young man, more curious than greedy.  Also more wary than greedy.
            "Not unless I have to," said the wizard.  "I am hunted by those who wish to hurt me, to extinguish me."
            "Been there," said Malachite.  "But, if there is ever a time in which that information is critical, you'll tell me."
            "To save your life," said Pasgard.  "Or to secure the jewel.  I would not hesitate, I could not ask you to die for my secrets."
            "I would prefer you not to ask for me to die for common knowledge, the secrets of others, or really anything," said Malachite.  "But I understand what you want too.  I can get many talented mercenaries, I even know one wizard that might be willing to help."
            "Do all the youthful wizarding I can no longer manage?" asked Pasgard.
            "He's really not young enough for the comparison to matter, so no worries there."
            "And the others?"
            "My tailor," continued Malachite.
            "A man would admit to having dressed you like that?" asked Pasgard chuckling.
            "Well, the name he is called the Haberdasher," said Malachite.
            Pasgard's little book of words was in hand again, "Sorry, could you repeat that one?"
            "Haberdasher," said Malachite.  "It refers to someone who sells bits for clothing, like buttons or pins."
            "Do all of your friends use such long names for their titles?"
            "I doubt the Caliphate's translations of your nicknames would sound all that clear to me."
            "I thought you had been to the Caliphate?" asked Pasgard.
            "Yes," said Malachite.  "But I don't speak much of your language."
            "How many words do you know?"
            "Chorba," said Malachite.
            "Sorry," said Pasgard.  "What?"
            "Chorba," said Malachite again, now wondering if he had said it right. "I thought it was the word for soup."
            "It is," said Pasgard.  "But only in one of the six cities, it is seen as... a tribe word elsewhere.  Do you only know how to say soup."
            "I was there for a week," said Malachite.  "And everywhere had some soup going.  Also learned 'chay' and 'hookah'.  I slimmed considerable that week."
            "You only know 'soup', 'tea', and 'water pipe'?"
            "Language, aside from my own, has never been my strong suit," said Malachite.
            "I will remember that," said Pasgard.  "Anyone else?"
            "Oh, yes, that is what we were doing," said Malachite, getting back on track.  "Book Binder is what we call the wizard I mentioned.  And then there is the Trobairitz, who tends to be seen with the Haberdasher."
            " Trobairitz?" said Pasgard, book in hand once more.
            "If words are power, you consorting with me is going to make you the greatest wizard for several ages to come."
            "I'm sure."
            "It is a traveling musician."
            "And where are all these people?"
            "They are in Bone," said Malachite.  "The southern capital.  At least they were when last I saw them."
            "Then we are on the roads to Bone."

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Thoughts on "Godzilla"

Godzilla (2014)
"What a promising start to a movie that seemed to just get worse and worse."
Overall: 3/10
            This review is Spoiler-tastic.
            "Godzilla" combines the worst aspects of "Pacific Rim" and "Man of Steel".
            It is actually so close in tone, theme, and visuals to "Man of Steel" that it kind of pisses me off.  There are scenes that seem to line up, and character roles that parallel to stupefying levels.  Instead of a 20 minute opening on Krypton, we have a 20 minute opening next to a terminal nuclear reactor.  Instead of Pa Kent dying in a silly way, we have Bryan Cranston dying in an anti-climactic way (he had up till this point been the main character, and the only one acting to any measurable degree).  The role of Clark Kent is given to Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who gets no good lines, and no character traits beyond plot useful skill set, criminally wasting the actor).  Lois Lane is replaced with Elizabeth Olsen (another actor who is put to zero use, she could be cut out of the movie entirely and it would make things better.... Just like Lois Lane really).
            Dozens of military personnel firing meaninglessly at indestructible monsters replaces military personal firing at Kryptonians... Though the Kryptonians had personality, motivation, tactics, and acknowledged the presence of humans.  Then you have David Stratheirn (Admiral), RichardT. Jones (Captain), and Ken Watanabe (Scientist) taking the place of Superman's supporting cast Harry Lenix (General), Christopher Meloni (Colonel), and Richard Schiff (Scientist).  And taking the Superman's role of vaguely heroic destructive force for good(?) is Godzilla, a vaguely heroic destructive force for good(?)... I'm not kidding, the scenes of Godzilla swimming in formation with the Navy is comparable to Superman learning to fly, and the exploration of the massive caverns analogous to finding various Kryptonian ships.

Come on, this framing of a civilization in collapse before the awesome power of nature has the protagonist on the other side of the screen.
            There is a scene in which Lt Aaron Taylor Johnson torches the eggs of the monsters who Godzilla is fighting, immediately followed by the giant monster seeing her destroyed nest and sad music plays, like we are supposed to feel bad for the monster that has caused the deaths of thousands and whose brood would have killed billions... Kind of like how Zod was seen as more sympathetic once Superman blew up the Kryptonian nursery ship.  The monster then goes berserk and fights harder against Godzilla, like Zod fought harder against Superman.

"Krypton HAD IT'S CHANCE!"
Maybe we should do something about this guys?  Guys?
Though in complete Fairness, they both stole the image from "The Matrix".
            Let me shift gears and talk about how it resembles the problems with "Pacific Rim".  "Pacific Rim" is retarded as hell.  Mecha is the most stylized and preposterous thing in popular science fiction.  In real life mecha would not function because of how physics works, drones with rockets would work a hundred thousand times better and be much, much cheaper.  Its why the modern Navy flies more planes then it has Dreadnaughts and Battleships.  But that movie wears its stupidity like a badge of honor, it is about giant robots and monsters.  Once you accept that planes do nothing, they stop having planes in the movie, you don't see useless crap being useless... Unlike in "Godzilla" where the military just keeps shooting useless crap at the monsters who barely perceive it.

            "Pacific Rim" plays the goofy concept, with characters that are one note, but memorable.  You remember the Russian team with the blonde hair, that the Chinese team was triplets, that the Australians were a father son duo, the main operator wore a bow tie, and each of the scientists had either the trait of sniveling or reckless, and much like "The Avengers" a put upon Black guy was in charge and being talked down to by a criminally stupid budgetary committee.  Everyone looked different enough so that you could appreciate them, get a sense of them, and say something to the effect of, "Ah, now he's dead... That's too bad."  (Charlie Hunnam looked a bit too much like the Australian pilot, but whatever).

This is a weird part, because it is one of the few times Godzilla could easily avoid plowing thru something and he does anyway.  Normally he dives under them (ships), or is unable to move around without wrecking things (buildings).
Wait a minute... Is a 60 year old franchise lifting from a movie that came out last year?  This can't just be a random parallel creative moment.  They're identical.
            "Godzilla" is so pretentious and does not even have the good sense to hide its stupidity while being so.  For instance, the monsters emit EMP's which shut down electronics, which the movie demonstrates as causing jets to crash.... SO WHY DO THEY KEEP DEPLOYING JETS AT ALL?  All they do is drop out of the air and accomplish nothing, so just stop launching them.  "Pacific Rim" said conventional weapons were useless, so you don't see useless conventional weapons being meaninglessly hurled against the Kaiju.  Guns are shown to be meaningless in Godzilla and totally ineffective.  Thousands of M-16 rounds are fired along with numerous blasts from tanks and ships... WHY DO THEY EVEN GIVE SOLDIERS RIFLES IN THIS?  In the later part of the movie you see soldiers in vests carrying rifles while on a mission to disarm a bomb... What do they need the guns for?  The armor slows them down and does nothing else; when the 70,000 ton titan steps on you the vest won't help.
             Let me complain about something else.  In the middle of the movie Godzilla is about to attack one of the monsters in Honolulu, and it is shaping up to be awesome.  It hard cuts to a child sitting on a couch watching the fight happen on the news.  Fuck you movie.  It was such an insulting cock tease that I gestured at the screen and began laughing in the most dismissive tone I have ever heard from myself.
            Then there are issues with sound design.  Godzilla only makes noise some of the time even though he should sound like a freaking avalanche with every step.  There are multiple instances of him sneaking up on the other monsters, including when he kills the big monster at the very end of the movie.  Monster staring at human hero... and then BAM!  Godzilla-ed.  Fuck you.  The other monster does this too in the middle of the movie to a train transporting nukes.  It just appears in the darkness and the two humans hide on this bridge, like the monster is going to attack them... Which makes no sense because it never shows any interest in humans.  It does not eat humans, it eats radiation... which I am actually fine with.  Though that adds another issue that humans become meaningless to the story, the only thing humans manage to stop is a bomb they stupidly set up to kill the monsters.  Humans are irrelevant in this story, and actively hurt themselves in their own confusion.
            Music is also an issue.  Like I mentioned above the scene in which the humans manage to destroy the nest sad music plays for the monster.  I'm sorry movie, I stopped empathizing with the giant monsters an hour ago when they destroyed Vegas and that they seem to be pretty much incapable of perceiving humans as little more than insects... I don't feel sad for them.  AT ALL.  I laughed my ass off at that.  I can compare this to a Godzilla movie that already exists, "Godzilla Final Wars" which I hated at the time for its poor pacing (and that is still an issue) but Jesus did it at least have some levity.  The music in it is rock and roll as the atomic breath vaporizes lesser monsters.  There is no moody orchestral... THERE IS ONLY ROCK.
            It also has a "The Dark Knight Rises" issue with the ending, sending a multi megaton nuke out to sea on a fishing boat.  A nuke they were hoping to fire off 30 miles from the city to avoid fall out.  But it is still in the San Francisco Bay with only 2 minutes left on the timer... unless that fishing boat can go 900 miles an hour everyone who isn't dead in San Francisco is going to have cancer next week.

So is he laying on his tummy in the water here?  Cause he is so big he should not be at all underwater this close to an island.
            There are no jokes, no sense of adventure, it is a joyless, colorless slog.  There is a giant atomic dragon on screen and none of the soldiers give so much as a "HELL YEAH!"  While trying to save the city from a nuclear blast.  This actually makes me look back of "Transformers" forlornly.  In "Transformers" the soldiers fight a giant killer robot in a middle eastern village only managing to repel it with devastating levels of air support.  A great scene, made better by the soldiers having personalities, and managing to be jokey and having a sense of adventure while fighting the giant robot scorpion.  Hell even in "Man of Steel" there are jokes and upbeat tone moments: like Superman destroying a big rig, Lois escaping from Zod's ship, or the "I think he's kind of hot" comment at the end.  I can't quote a line from "Godzilla" that wasn't said with a tone of grim resolution.
            In summation, it is dumber than "Pacific Rim", more joyless than "Man of Steel", and lacks a sense of urgency or fun that leaves it boring.  I kind of hated this movie.
            I had no expectations, how did they fail to meet them?

Whatever... It was never High Art.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 2: The Peacock

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.

Chapter 2: The Peacock

            After pulling out the pin and rolling up the map, the fat wizard and the flamboyant swordsman walked out of the little bar they had been conspiring in the corner of.  It was hard on Malachite's knees watching Pasgard lumber around the building to his cart, two little children emerged from behind the shadows of boxes and barrels, running up to the wizard who gave them bits of rock candy from a bag Malachite had not seen him with before.
            Watching the children run off, Pasgard turned and sat down on the back of the cart, "care for a sweet my new friend?"
            "Just to be clear," said Malachite, taking and popping a piece into his mouth.  "Getting to Solace is the easy part, we'll need more people to navigate the city and its stupid back biting once we are there."
            "Don't you know people?" asked Pasgard.
            "In life, yes."
            "You know what I meant," said the wizard.
            "I went to Solace as a teen to sell lots and lots of cows," said Malachite.  "I did not deal with gem stones, I dealt with salt, leather, ingots--"
            "They're metal bricks," explained Malachite.
            "I have never heard this word," said Pasgard, taking out a tiny book seemingly from nowhere and writing out 'in-gauts' followed by a swirl of Oasian.  "Excuse me.  Words are power to a man like me."
            "That," said Malachite.  "That makes a good bit of sense."
            "Please, continue," said Pasgard as he was no longer writing or even holding the little book.
            "Right, ah," started Malachite thinking back.  "I learned to haggle from traders who worked in very basic goods, materials that were so common and a part of day to day life that most people don't think about them.  Most people don't think to negotiate over them either.  A single coin saved on pinches of salt or a single peppercorn slowly turns into lots of pretty things over years and years of trading.  Gemstones are flashy and I love them just like everyone loves them to sparkle, but I never bought them because I was trading cows."
            "You were a cowboy?" asked Pasgard.  "I thought your father was a count?"
            "Yes," said Malachite strumming his fingers on the stiff material that was his family crest which covered a good portion of his torso.  "And we have little copper circlets fit with bits of amber, silver rings, and flashy clothing--"
            "I can see the flashy clothing for myself," Pasgard lightly tugged at Malachite's sleeve.
            "But we were rulers of people who raised meat and corn," finished the Dandy Knight.  "It's a shame my friend, Father isn't here."
            "Your father's friend?" asked Pasgard.  "Why?"
            "Not my father's friend," said Malachite, laughing a little at how many times he had had to explain this.  "He is my friend, and he calls himself 'Father', though he never told me why."
            "Was he a man of faith?"
            "He runs a whore house these days," said Malachite.
            "Not a man of faith."
            "I am confused," said Pasgard.  "Why would he be helpful?"
            "A man in his position meets a shocking number of people who might be able to help us," said Malachite.  "But, he is a long ways away."
            After a long period of time in which an awkward impasse had been met Malachite continued.  "Point is, I can take you to Solace safely, but before that I need to get two people... Maybe a third, to help with navigating the city and its trade."
            "That sounds expensive," replied Pasgard who now had a coin he was rolling around his knuckles.
            "Look at how I dress," said Malachite.
            "A blind man could see how you dress," said Pasgard.  "Is that your way of saying you are worth it?"
            "No," said Malachite shaking his head slightly.  "What I mean to say is that you had heard of me before we met?"
            "If I fail to help you," said Malachite.  "You can tell people, and I will no longer be Malachite the Wonderful.  I will be Malachite the Cheat."
            "If it gives you any comfort," said Pasgard.  "No one but you calls you Wonderful now.  I was told to look for the Peacock."
            "Fair enough," Malachite continued.  "But I would lose that credibility if you spoke against me."
            "A nobody old sand tick like me?" said Pasgard.  "I don't think my words would carry very far."
            "I knew who you were before we spoke," said Malachite.
            "That is a boost to my ego I have not felt in a while."
            "You didn't come to me because I stood out," said Malachite.  "It's because you heard that I knew people who could help you with what you were doing.  What is the gem you are looking for really?  Slaves?"
            "If you knew me you would know it was not slaves," said Pasgard the Sand Devil, now making two coins dance across his old hands.
            "You also seem to think you are more anonymous than you are, maybe you have gone crazy and decided to enter the flesh trade in your old age."
            "I'm not that old," said Pasgard the Black Word.
            "You've got more silly nicknames than I'll ever have," said Malachite.  "You must have other friends that could help with this more if it was just a shiny trinket for a bribe.  What are you after?"
            "A legacy my new friend," said Pasgard the ex-Vizier.