the simsian review

Jun 05

The Next Step Towards International Community

I’m a social progressive, in a big way.  The measure of our character and our progress is by the way we treat the lowliest among us.  I am also a big soccer fan, and more so every year.  If you’ve been following the news out of Brazil over the past weeks and, in truth, even over the past several years, you might see how these two facts come steadily and painfully into conflict.

I don’t wish to pretend some great insight or even knowledge regarding the instigation of these protests, but I watch from a distance with great interest and I’m very much behind what the protestors, urban and indigenous, as they call out the government for lacking public services, food, education, and the like.  Here’s an abbreviated list of grievances from protestors:

This is by no means a simple issue, nor is it directly tied to the upcoming World Cup.  Rather, these are a complex collection of social issues so insipient to Brazilians and expats that protests over the past several years have taken place in cities all over the globe.  At issue here are massive governmental grievances which have not been addressed and have in fact been severely exacerbated by Brazil’s bid for the 2014 Cup and the massive amounts of money that go into such buildups and executions.  I mean, the FIFA governing body asked for eight stadiums, a huge feat.  Brazil responded with twelve, several of which were still under construction a week ago.

Just as there are no simple explanations for all that ails Brazil, there is no simple fix.  It was recently pointed out to me that, despite being a very happy person, I’m not terribly positive.  I’m hypercritical about almost everything, including the things that I love (if you read my blog, maybe you have similarly noticed).  I don’t particularly want to change that in every part of my life, but it might be good to curb it in some.

So, lacking sufficient knowledge or experience to allow me to say much more than I support the Brazilian protestors or list off everything their government is doing wrong—an effort that would surely show my ignorance in its entirety—I’d prefer instead to offer a suggestion to the world.  This suggestion is every bit in support of those in Brazil, as well as all who have been hurt, inconvenienced, and even criminally mistreated in Sochi, Russia and Beijing, and—actually, I can’t begin to list the cities.  The problem is huge.  Thus, my suggestion.

This is Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.  It is among the newly constructed stadiums and was built on the site of a demolished older stadium (thank goodness for that).  It is my contention that this should have been built on international land.

This is an abandoned volleyball court in Beijing, build for the 2008 Olympics and subsequently left to rot.  It should have been maintained on land administered by the top nations involved in the Olympics.

One more.  This training pool, built for the 2004 Athens Olympics, should been clean, maintained, and a site for future swimmers to prepare.  This is in Athens, Greece, less than three hours from the originating site of the greatest games in antiquity.

What’s more, all of these images are of venues meant for use in just the last decade.  Were we to go back half a century, it just gets worse.

It is criminal that these facilities should be built and allowed to crumble.  It is disgusting that people are routed from their homes and untold billions are spent to make these enormous buildings so that they might be chained up and forgotten in a year’s time.  To be sure, there are so many good things that could be done with these facilities after their initial use.  And further, sometimes they aren’t left to rot.  The Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was built and opened for the 1950 World Cup and it was renovated in preparation for the 2014 Cup starting next Thursday (I am just incredibly excited about this).  But more often, sports facilities that could be maintained for future use or open to public use or refitted for alternate use are instead allowed to crumble for more reasons than I could begin to list.

One of the first arguments to come to mind in rebuttal to my suggestion is that the massive amount of money put into the preparations for these games is an investment.  Thousands of jobs are created, not to mention a great deal of creativity and ingenuity.  These spectacles create tourist attractions and bring in loads of international money and attention to boot.  To every one of these points, I say bollocks.  Thousands of jobs are created, sure.  And those jobs last at maximum a few years until the games—whatever they may be—have finished.  Then what?  Maybe the facility is maintained and some jobs remain.  Most go with the dodo.

Creativity and Ingenuity?  Are you kidding?  In the current mode, thousands compete to design and build these structures.  In the spirit of international cooperation and competition, the very essence of great, world spanning games, you have millions vying to bring glory on themselves, their countries, and indeed the games themselves.

Tourist attractions?  HA!  The amount of money that goes into the bids for and construction of these games is enormous and comes from taxes.  Disproportionately, the people called upon to pay for these games see little or diminishing return on their “investment.”  It is fleeting at best, non-existent more often.

The upkeep on structures built to last and meant for the world would be enormous, creating far more jobs.  It would build the very international cooperation that games of these kind, these immense world-spanning games, are meant to create.

It is not an easy thing to do.  I’m not claiming it would be.  We have to find the land, and it obviously can’t go on the only international landmass remaining the world.  Brrr.  It would have to come from an existing nation, which would of course be a difficult challenge.  They must be compensated without undue advantage going to that government.  It would undoubtedly be a difficult situation to manage with so many opportunities for bribery, corruption, and collusion.  Such are the risks in the current system.  At least the end goal in this new, more international world is a greater connectedness to those we challenge on the field and in the water and on the sand.

I present this challenge not because it is easy but because it is worthwhile.  I’m sure I’m by no means the first to have thought along these lines and I would not be in the least surprised to find that the UN had already entertained similar ideas.  Ok.  Let’s entertain them again.  I think this is worthwhile.  Maybe we have multiple sites around the world, all built in cooperation between participating countries, all belonging to humankind rather than any on government.  This is something we can do, something that we can look on objectively as the Other and see a reason for faith in and respect for humanity.  And along the way, we can watch some damn fine sport.

Let’s get building.

Some of my references:

Jun 02

Beerlollies

Beer: Oh God yes.

Lollipops: Meh. Not really my speed.

Beerlollies: Well, yeah.  Of course.

But not quite.

image

Gizmodo posted about Lollyphile's beer lollipop offerings (and a 50% off deal) last month and I couldn't pass them up.  Truth be told, I couldn't even pretend to think about it.  The idea was just too good.  A beer for the office.

I opted for the six pack, which includes 2 IPA, 2 Stout, and 2 Lager, and they came in about a week later.  I’ve been “enjoying” them slowly.  Now for some impressions.

image

(I got a little overzealous with the stout and almost forgot my picture)

  1. I had the IPA first, as I tend towards hoptastic beers and those of the Belgian persuasion.  Unfortunately, my first impression was that is tastes too much like a tootsie pop, not enough like a hoppy glass of wonderful.  It’s gotta be the corn syrup.
  2. Days later, I found the stout to be very much the same.  Oversweet and missing the lower notes any stout should have.  Some of the residual sweetness had a bit in common with what you get after a clean malt finish, but I found I ate this one faster looking to keep that finish on the tongue.  It may in fact just be a similar profile with sweeter stouts that creates this impression.
  3. Last and definitely least, the lager.  There seemed here to be some vague apple notes, but this may be because it is the least distinctly flavored and thus the sweetest of the three.  To be honest, I only ate half a put this one away.
  4. Having finished all three, I can say that I ate them in order of preference, because what flavor there was diminished in each successive flavor.  The majority of the taste was uniform across the three, but the 10 percent belonging to something approximating beer was only as relatively strong as the lollies namesake.

So, a big bust over all, I’m sad to say.  Initially, my lady eschewed the IPA altogether, but after I found it to be as lolli-sweet and utterly lacking in any bitterness, I gave her half the 6-pack.  Inveterate sweet-lover and non-beer snob she is, she’s enjoyed them more than I did.

That said, if you’ve a powerful sweettooth and an interest, Lollyphile has a lot on offer.  Sriracha Bacon, some wines, breast milk if that’s your kink.  Have fun.

Side note: I’m not quite sure why, but Lollyphile uses some not so subtle lady sex to push some of their wares.  So there’s that, I suppose.

(Impression Pics)

[video]

May 30

Score! Carte postale de notentirely dans le sud de la France.
Merci beaucoup! Tres jolie!

Score! Carte postale de notentirely dans le sud de la France.

Merci beaucoup! Tres jolie!

May 28

Reading out of Order

I wanted to share some thoughts on Octavia E. Butler’s Mind of My Mind upon finishing that novel and realizing that I’d chosen the wrong order of books to read.

Read More

May 27

[video]

May 25

SFF180 Editorial | AMAZONOPOLY

May 23

The Fault in Our Stars - Few Faults Indeed - Early Screener “Review”

I’ve probably mentioned previously that I really like John Green, both for Nerdfighteria and for his fiction.  Last night, I had the opportunity—thanks to my excellent girlfriend—to attend an early screener of The Fault in our Stars, the adaptation of Green’s latest and most popular book to date with the author and the film’s director, Josh Boone at the Alamo Drafthouse.

I had no idea this showing was coming and when Chelsea got us the RSVP (note: not a reservations; many had to be turned back despite using two auditoriums) I didn’t realize that the preview was so far ahead of the full release.  Things got exciting quickly.

Truth be told, seeing the film early and for free was the bigger draw for me.  Something about Green’s web presence makes him (1) very accessible and (2) very human.  Even so, the Q&A after the film was nice as were a few little treats I’ll sprinkle in from here.

Note: If you wish to avoid minor spoilers, do not continue.  However, if you’re familiar with the synopsis (YA romance between two teens with cancer) I probably won’t give too much away.

2nd note: This isn’t going to be a review so much as an adaptation comparison (like I did with Catching Fire) and some stray observations.

In the week leading to the preview, I was what I’d call frivolously excited.  Chelsea was so sweet to get us tickets the moment a friend alerted her to the screening, and I was quite touched, but it wasn’t any kind of directed excitement …

… until just before showtime.  Seated in the theater, surrounded by a crowd that loved the book, the opportunity to see it early and with great big fans was quite meaningful.  I knew there wouldn’t be many dry eyes in the room and it was nice to know that most if not all around me were constantly anticipating—as was I—the next tear-jerking moment.

Green and Josh Boone did a pre-showing hello, and as you can expect with all celebrity personalities, he was less polished and fast-paced IRL than he is online.  However, the Q&A revealed this to be nerves.  He knows the movie is good, he knows how blessed he has been in the adaptations, but he is still so nervous about disappointing his fans.

Just as with the book, TFIOS the film elicits laughter and tears in the first ten minutes.  Just that kind of story.  Be ready.

Early scenes are great proof that the movie will be true to the book.  The support group in the literal heart of Jesus gets little screen time but is so perfectly delivered by Mike Birbiglia and a group of actual teenage cancer survivors that nothing at all is lost.  And the Issac thrashing/Augustus & Hazel gushing scene (see how I didn’t give anything away there) was as though cast right out of my readerly head.  Perfection, and Boone at Q&A said that scene made him nervous, like it might not come off filmed as written.

It was a constant struggle for me to stay in the moment with the story and not think ahead to the tragedies to come, and thus I felt I was often on the verge of tears, even in lighter moments.

As we drew in on Amsterdam, the first of a series of surprises from the filmmaker or Forever Fest of Alamo Drafthouse (I’m not sure which) were delivered to our table. (My apologies, phones were confiscated at the door.)

First, we are all given sparkling grape juice to toast with the couple over dinner.  Then we were given our own tiny version of the Chef’s Choice, a fried ball that I’m 99% sure contained risotto.

Of course, readers know not all is well in Amsterdam and Willam Defoe made a perfect Peter Van Houten.  Likewise, Ansel Elgort had one of many very impressive scenes in the little face off here.

But nevermind that.  It’s a necessary stone on the couple’s path.  The Anne Frank house scene was powerfully done, so much so that just as I was routing for the story to come, I couldn’t help but connect Anne’s plight to the spectre over Hazel and Gus and feel brokenhearted once again for the resilient, beautiful little girl who passed away just shy of the date of camp liberation.  As this is something Green seemed to work very hard on in the novel, I was so glad the film captured it.

The egg scene was perfect (more on this in a bit) and Gus’ delivery of their justification was pitch-perfect.

NOTE: Additional spoiler alerts, this is the closest I will get to “ruining” the story.

I did have a moment in the film where I thought they might be sanitizing Gus’ illness.  The scene at the gas station is poignant and hard to watch, but the one in Gus’ house with his family about was unfortunately cut.  I hope to see it in the extended edition, but who knows?

There was something so comforting, so powerful, about hearing the room around you sobbing at the story they’ve shared and come to so love.  If there were any consistently dry eyes in the room, I assure you they were few and far between.

After the film, the Q&A wasn’t particularly astounding.  There were the obligatory questions as well as the inappropriate and asinine, but really this has been the case at almost author Q&A I’ve ever attended.  Nerdfighteria asks the same questions as everyone else.  Still, there were moments when the story became real for the novelist and director once again and at least once when I wondered if Green might lose composure.

With the livestream over, Green signed some books outside and took some photos next to:

Our very own car to egg.  I was a bit conflicted about this, but Chelsea and I took part nonetheless.

TFIOS was a near-perfect, meticulous adaptation of one of the best and most tragic love stories I have ever read.  If you’re a fan of the book or even moderately intrigued by the premise (Green does a fan-freaking-tastic job of showing cancer patients as people rather than heroes), you really should head out to see the film.

The Fault in Our Stars, featuring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort hits theaters everywhere June 6th.

May 21

Lessons Learned in My First Year as a Novelist

On June 2nd, 2012, I took two significant and disparate career steps at once.  It was my first day back in a full-time, salaried IT job and I began my first novel.  It was no unambitious day (oh litotes).

The day came after spending eight months as an admin, underutilized and bored every day at work, about two writing fiction again after a long hiatus.  But that, dear readers, is well-trod ground and we needn’t go over it again.

(You know, I say I started my first novel, but I did make a meager attempt at a first novel when I was 14.  My buddy let me hear no end about how I’d written Final Destination but given how many sequels that garbage spawned, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.)

(On 2nd, 3rd, and 4th thought, yeah it was.  I’m glad that computer lost the file.)

Yesterday morning, thirteen days shy of the one year anniversary of starting my novel writing “career,” I finished my second.  To be clear, when I say finished, I mean I finished the initial draft.  Books one and two in the trilogy still need so very many hours of work before I likely shelve them as a writing exercise, but that is not the point of this post.  With the completion of the second novel’s first draft, I have committed roughly 250,000 unedited words to The Suzerainty, plus some 15K words on short or non-fiction pieces and whatever I’ve written here.  I’m fairly proud of that output.

It seems a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned, realized, or had confirmed in my first (near) year writing novels.

To that last point, I made no plan for what I wanted to work on today and already I regret it.  I no longer like a day off from writing.  That could just be me.  I appreciate discipline and like my routine, but to some extent I think everyone does and, as with many things, once you blow past your barrier, writing every day is not just possible, not just easy, it’s necessary.  As for me, I think I’ll comb my buffer, trim the fat, fluff the intrigue, and play with some short fiction for a little bit.  And there are always short stories that need attention.

May 16

http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=WBx4vhB5-aQ&u=/watch?v=zSWdZVtXT7E&feature=share -

New sf, New Nolan, New Space Opera, HOORAY