Thursday, September 26, 2013

Extra Life: 25 hour Gaming Marathon and Book Giveaway

I'm so excited about this. I'm like Jessie Spano hyped up on caffeine pills.

Here's the deal. On November 2nd October 25th, I will be playing games--computer, video, or otherwise--for 25 hours straight as part of Extra Life: a charity event featuring gamers supporting Children's Miracle Network hospitals. It's awesome. And yes it's also kinda lazy. It's a way for non-5k runners to take a stand (or a sit). But who really cares when it's helping to fund an important and deserving cause?

I will be playing to support the Children's Hospital at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital (CCCH) is the only children’s hospital in southwest Virginia, and the third largest in the Commonwealth.

CCCH is devoted exclusively to the health care needs of children and improving their quality of life. No child is ever turned away. They are the safety net for southwest Virginia's poorest children, sickest children, and children with the most specialized health care needs. More than two dozen hospitals transport their critically ill and injured children to CCCH for access to the most advanced life-saving technology and medical services available.

You want it. You NEED it.
So I'm asking for some help. It would be tremendous if you blog-reading lovelies were to donate ANY amount to mine, or anyone else's fundraising page.

Donations are tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids.

And here's the fun part: if you donate $15 or more to my page, I will mail you a free copy of Ernest Cline's awesome video game-celebrating novel, Ready Player One (check out my review here).

When you donate, just let me know in the notes/comments section of your donation that you want the novel by writing "Ready Player One," and be sure to include your email address so I can get your mailing address later. I WILL ship internationally, and buy you any non-English edition if that's what you prefer.

I'll probably be doing some form of live tweeting/blogging/vining (?) November 2nd--I'll let you know when we're closer to the date in case anyone's interested. Or you can say hi to me on Xbox live: my username is Astraea162.

So I have one more thing to ask of you....have any game suggestions? I have a pile of Xbox games to dig into, but I was thinking it'd be nice to play a somewhat socially-conscious game for the occasion. Killing zombies is fun, but doesn't exactly match the warm fuzzies of our fundraising goal. Any ideas?

Thank you guys. You're incredible and awesome and wonderful, whether you're able to donate anything or not. You READ THINGS which is more than enough for me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Internet Lovelies and other things too

I've got three quotes from the same person in this Internet Lovelies draft. That's a good indication it's ready to be purged!

But before that. I need to purge some nerdy things off my chest.

First off: I went to my first (well, first real) comic book convention this past weekend! Small Press Expo
(SPX) in Maryland. It was amazing. I got to meet so many artists and writers I admire. I also put myself into some serious debt buying up everything shiny. And oh, I could have bought so much more given the funding. Kickstarter for me to buy and review indie comics? Donate a dollar and I'll high five you in the street.

So once I finish reading and rolling around in my pile of goodies I'll make a post.

Secondly, it seems appropriate with the recent release of Grand Theft Auto 5 to remind the literary blogosphere that, no, not all vidja games are misogynistic pieces of violence-glorifying, mindless, vicarious wank-fests. A lot are, yes, but not all. Some are fucking fantastic.Some games readers would absolutely fall in love with, given the chance. And some of you now realize I've been overplaying a particular game recently and am now getting ready to promote it incessantly to an uninterested audience.

Introducing the MASS EFFECT TRILOGY! *trumpets blare*

If you're not a gamer, chances are if you've heard of Mass Effect it's due to its fans being cranky over the ending. And just to guarantee I see a few thousand hits on this post, here goes: MASS EFFECT 3 ENDING. And although it's a bit sad that the game's biggest claim to fame is its disappointing ending, it's a huge testament to exactly how much the series meant to those who played it.

It's an RPG. It's a shooter. It's an RPG shooter! But besides combining the two most popular video game genres into one package, creators BioWare made another smart move: they made the actions of the person playing the game actually mean something. The term "mass effect" doesn't just refer to the fields of energy permitting space travel in the series, but also the massive e/affect your decisions as a player will have on the narrative. And not just in one game, but in all three. Your saves are carried across between all the games, so kill someone off in the first one, and they won't be making an appearance in 2 or 3.

What else makes it great? It's a science-fiction masterpiece. It asks the tough questions, and better yet, makes you answer them. Almost like Sophie's Choice: The Videogame. Its writing isn't exactly Shakespearean, but you wouldn't know it by how much you'll fall in love with the characters. It isn't news that I'm pretty emotional--I've admitted to crying over dog food commercials. But Mass Effect 3 was the very first video game I've actually laid down on the floor bawling while playing.

 The music. It's not your standard 8-bit soundtrack. There are some really gorgeous pieces. Jack Wall and Sam Hulick did most of the composing across the trilogy, but in the third they got to collaborate with Clint Mansell. Clint Mansell, a.k.a. my favorite composer; the man behind the soundtracks to The Fountain, Moon, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, etc. The result:

The voice acting. Martin Sheen, Keith David, Seth Green, Carrie-Ann Moss...BUZZ ALDRIN. Enough said.

So if you're a science fiction fan but afraid all modern videogames involve running over hookers and zombies, or 13 year olds calling you a noob over a headset, give this a try. You'll love it. Just don't come crying to me when you reach the ending (it wasn't that bad).

Here's a trailer:

Another note: the trailer mentions a "very specific man," but you can make Commander Shephard any gender or race you like. Unfortunately marketing gurus don't like venturing outside the straight-white-male formula. Namaste.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

most reviews seem like a combination of vague/abstract/sweeping statements, lies, inaccurate chains of thought, irrelevant information, personal prejudices, blind allegiance to traditions, personal belief in one's ability to judge for others, passive insults, reluctant/qualified acceptance of talent, asskissing, exagerrated statements, reference to older authors and his/her work as template for how one can be better, unresolved psychological issues, jealously, desire for acceptance/shittalking how 'cool' the author and his/her group is, and other insecurities/pettiness.
 Sam Pink, Link

That. All of that. It's why I don't do review-reviews. If anything I write """'''""reviews."""'''""

Next week on the Thrones season finale: Ned Stark returns as a white walker, Tyrion Lannister has a wet dream and impregnates his leather jerkin, Joffrey starts ignoring his bethrothed and focuses on playing Black Ops II full time, Melisandre gives birth to a spectral Mary Tyler Moore, Theon Greyjoy is tortured for a solid twenty minutes, Cersei goes on a tragic late night QVC ordering binge, Sansa Stark gets implants and Samwell Tarly finally shows off the depth of his wizardry by proving he is the only man in the seven kingdoms able to make it through A Dance with Dragons without falling asleep more than once.

"Dick Cheney", Link 

Admiration is often irresponsible. You love those you shouldn’t, and mistreat those who love you. Until the universe at large carpets itself wall-to-wall as a therapist’s room, we’ll just have to get by being a little sick.
Jimmy Chen, Link

Buying fancy stuff with food stamps isn't fraud -- it's just something that seems unfair to people who think a government safety net should afford poor people modest food only. More broadly, the idea is that the poor should feel poor at all times until they're not poor anymore.
Arthur Delaney, Link

Great piece on the ugliness of food stamp resentment. Another thing that's great about that last segment is how easily it can be translated into other areas of social shaming. Example "the idea is that fat people should feel fat at all times until they're not fat anymore."

this idea that we must show tolerance of those who would deny basic human rights to someone due solely to sexual preference is the most backwards and blind weapon of homophobes. We do tolerate you, Orson Scott Card. We let you live and breathe and marry and divorce and rant and write and visit your loved ones in the hospital and receive benefits when your partner dies. That is tolerance. Tolerance doesn't mean agreeing with your hateful, narrow, ancient views. It means allowing you to live your life as the little worm you are without denying any of the rights that any other citizen receives. 
Meredith Borders, Link

A terrific response to Orson Scott Card's latest plea for audiences to be "tolerant" of his intolerance, in regard to the online movement pushing fans to skip seeing the Ender's Game movie. I'm all for the movement, but at the same time, don't want to put the issue into enough of a spotlight to attract conservative bloodhounds. The kind that rallied a cry to swamp Chik-fil-a with chicken-devouring Christians.

By the way. If you're looking for a nice Chik-fil-a replacement, try Zaxby's. If you're lucky enough to live near one.

Every heartbeat is a slow death rave with only one person dancing. I turn up the sound machine, whose thick murmur I mistake for robotic sentience, a sympathetic non-language coaxing me to sleep, telling me stories about a quaint distance defined by my very absence; for utter silence is when the monologue begins, the mind’s horror film without the fake blood, only the real self. I wonder how many pills it would take to wake up next to her, the nightmare ended, morning here at last.
Jimmy Chen, Link

When I expressed to my co-workers, also having salads, that one’s shredded cheddar and jack were thick paranoid grooves in a Van Gogh sky, or that a sole cherry tomato was a flaming sun, or that one’s ranch dressing was a Pollockian explosive orgasm, they looked at me with precise nausea. We stabbed our paintings with bio-degradable forks, barely getting enough protein, convinced that if we starved ourselves, our abs would eventually show, along with our ribs. This was not anorexia, but fear of love handles; or simply, fear of love. Fear that someone might not see past the costume of fat into the real us. But here, the collective first person faints, and disappears. It is only I standing, on some invented path, overlooking quiet hysteria.
Jimmy Chen, Link 

When does this all end, though? When do we stop having to remind the world about the realities of rape culture? When do we stop having to lighten up and grit our teeth as we sit through music and movies and television shows that soften everyone’s attitudes to women, their bodies, and consent?  When do women’s bodies stop being a problem? When do we stop scrutinizing how women dress and act and flirt and fuck? When do we get a justice system that adequately punishes rapists but also treats them humanely, protects them from sexual violence, and makes a genuine attempt at rehabilitation? When will I free myself from this cage I’ve trapped myself in? When will I stop feeling like the answer to these questions is never? 
Roxane Gay, Link

And not an internet lovely, but a magazine lovely:
...I wanted the thing that prevents her from publishing her grand theory not to be misogyny but her own perfectionism. I feel like that's a much more realistic character flaw. It's also something that holds women back from presenting their ideas in the world, often because they wait until it's perfect. It doesn't stop men from bring forth all kinds of half-assed and ill-formed notions, but it seems to stop women.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Mother Jones

I like Elizabeth Gilbert. Fuck you.

And one last thing. An honest trailer for World War Z, which was the straw that broke the camel's back in regard to me closing down my film adaptation blog:

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Part 1

I've been working on this mammoth for awhile. And rather than creating one epic, 20,000 word blog post, I thought it wiser to split it into sections as I read along. I'm only 443 poems into this almost unbelievable collection of 1,775. It covers all her poetry from approximately 1850 to her death in 1886.

I feel a sort of kinship with Dickinson. She seemed to be as obsessed with mortality, flowers, and em dashes as I am. Not to mention her poetry being consumed by self-doubt and an almost schizophrenic attitude towards faith--bouncing back and forth between loving devotion and outright contempt.

Her work really seems to find its footing around 1859-1862, when she would've been approaching age thirty. It also marks the beginning of the Civil War, which interestingly enough, doesn't make it's way into her writing. At least not blatantly. It'll be interesting to see if anything changes as my reading makes its way to the climax of the war in 1863, and the end of slavery/assassination of Lincoln in '65.

So I'm going to share my favorites now, keeping in mind that there is just soooooo much content to go through. I picked my favorites, which may or may not be the most well-regarded or famous. All emphasis is mine.

Prepare for morbidity and em dashes in 3...2...1....


All overgrown by cunning moss,
All interspersed with weed,
The little cage of "Currer Bell"
In quiet "Haworth" laid.

Gathered from many wanderings--
Gethsemone can tell
Thro' what transporting anguish
She reached the Asphodel!

Soft fall the sounds of Eden
Upon her puzzled ear--
Oh what an afternoon for Heaven
When "Bronte" entered there!

A favorite, obviously, because "Bronte." It's a little surreal to see one of your favorite writers exalted by another favorite writer, when they were separated by an entire ocean and opposing levels of notoriety. Charlotte was, by her death, incredibly famous as an author, while Emily's name wouldn't become notorious until well after her own death.

from #271

A hallowed thing--to drop a life
Into the purple well--
Too plummetless--that it return--

I pondered how the bliss would look--
And would it feel as big--
When I could take it in my hand--
As hovering--seen--through fog--

And then--the size of this "small" life--
The Sages--call it small--
Swelled--like Horizons--in my vest--
And I sneered--softly--"small"!

from #295

Feet, small as mine--have marched in Revolution
Firm to the Drum--
Hands--not so stout--hoisted them--in witness--
When Speech went numb--


"Morning" means "milking"--to the Farmer--
Dawn--to the Teneriffe--
Dice--to the Maid--
Morning means just Risk--to the Lover--
Just revelation--to the Beloved--

Epicures--date a Breakfast--by it--
Brides--an Apocalypse--
Worlds--a Flood--

Faint-going Lives--Their Lapse from Sighing--
Faith--The Experiment of Our Lord--

Number 300 is a favorite because it perplexes me so. Every time I read it I feel something different. I mean, "Brides--an Apocalypse--"?  Does she mean a revelation, or the ultimate destruction of something? If revelation, is it of the "the Lover" fooling around with "the Beloved"? Why are the maids playing dice? What the hell is a Teneriffe!? Who am I? Who are you!? Are you a nobody too? Hello?

from #351

I felt my life with both my hands
To see if it was there--


Of course--I prayed--
And did God Care?
He cared as much as on the Air
A Bird--had stamped her foot--
And cried "Give Me"--
My Reason--Life--
I had not had--but for Yourself--
'Twere better Charity
To leave me in the Atom's Tomb--
Merry, and Nought, and gay, and numb--
Than this smart Misery.

Remember that "outright contempt" I mentioned earlier? Yeah.

Also, for some reason I was really taken aback at the mention of the "Atom's Tomb." Mostly because I couldn't imagine anyone other than a scientist using the term "atom" 150 years ago. But according to the OED it's been in use in the English language since the 16th century. Who knew? (smart people I guess)


I had not minded--Walls--
Were Universe--one Rock--
And far I heard his silver Call
The other side the Block--

I'd tunnel--till my Groove
Pushed sudden thro' to his--
Then my face take her Recompense--
The looking in his Eyes--

But 'tis a single Hair--
A filament--a law--
A Cobweb--wove in Adamant--
A Battlement--of Straw--

A limit like the Veil
Unto the Lady's face--
But every Mesh--a Citadel--
And Dragons--in the Crease--

Love love love this poem. Everything about it. It can be interpreted in different ways, but it's major theme focuses on the insurmountable yet ethereal boundaries that separate us from satisfaction or understanding. Or from each other...which was my first interpretation of it. Of course my mind goes straight to the scandalous.

from #413

I never felt at Home--Below--
And in the Handsome Skies
I shall not feel at Home--I know--
I don't like Paradise--

Seems Dickinson was not just a Currer Bell fan, but an Ellis fan as well. Those lines could've been taken straight from Wuthering Heights. Cathy said something similar: "Heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy."

from #426

It don't sound so terrible--quite--as it did--
I run it over--"Dead", Brain, "Dead."
Put it in Latin--left of my school--
Seems it don't shriek so--under rule.

Turn it, a little--full in the face
A Trouble looks bitterest--
Shift it--just--Say "When Tomorrow comes this way--
I shall have waded down one Day."


Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail--
Assent--and you are sane--
Demur--you're straightaway dangerous--
And handled with a Chain--

from #441

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me--

This is my blog to the World
That never blogged to Me.

213 pages
7,117 pages / 20,000 page goal