Friday Link

Buffy vs. Edward. Funny, and pretty good video editing work too.

The Pleasure of Writing

An old quote from my archives. I don’t even know who Hari Kunzru is, but he sums up my thoughts on the matter perfectly:

I get great pleasure from writing, but not always, or even usually. Writing a novel is largely an exercise in psychological discipline – trying to balance your project on your chin while negotiating a minefield of depression and freak-out. Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way, there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you’ve nailed that particular sentence and are surely destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of clichés that no sane human could read without vomiting. But when you’re in the zone, spinning words like plates, there’s a deep sense of satisfaction and, yes, enjoyment…

Violins is not the Answer

I happened to see this in my spam folder today:

In a study posted in August, Brandeis University financial experts Kathryn Graddy and also Philip Margolis demonstrate how, in the duration from 2007 to 2012, uncommon violins were viewed as a superb alternate investment.
While that table has some of the highest-priced violins shown, it is most absolutely not the great 10 sales!

Well.

First: uncommon violins as an investment strategy. Quite honestly, this had never occurred to me before now; but I confess, the idea has a certain logic. You buy some violins, they go up in value (presumably?), you sell them. Just like stocks, right?

Except that you need to be a violin expert so that you can tell which violins to buy, how much to pay, when to sell them, how much to sell them for, and how to care for them while you have them. And you probably need a lot of money, because uncommon violins ain’t cheap (presumably?).

So maybe this opportunity isn’t for me. But let’s think.

Who created this spam? Someone who (1) has a lot of expensive violins to unload, (2) is shady enough to resort to spam, and (3) is tech-savvy enough to create spam in the first place. Can you…can you imagine such a person? The sleazy, corrupt, high-tech black market violin dealer? Do they sign into chat rooms as StringSeller239, stroking their curly mustache, chortling softly, reeking of gin? Are they married? Do they maintain a facade of legitimacy for the coppers? Do their children know about their WordPress-comment-based musical underground empire of sin?

Just as crucially, who’s the target audience? Rich but naive investors, swindled into questionable violin schemes by the tawdry allure of quick riches and sweet sonatas? Reclusive millionaires with a sophisticated knowledge of instrument markets, who have somehow never considered buying or selling, but are convinced by a two-paragraph comment on an unrelated blog post? Functionally illiterate computer users with money to burn and an itchy click finger?

Do you think this advertisement – and I use the word loosely – do you think it resulted in even a single successful transaction? Did this misshapen, desultory missive cause even a single dollar to change hands? Do amoral Internet dreams really come true?

Alas, we will never know. Such is the bittersweet mystery of life.

I should probably get outside today.

Postmortem: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I had heard good things about Buffy. I knew it was created by Joss Whedon, the same guy who did Firefly and The Avengers, both of which I loved. And I noticed it was on Netflix. So I asked my wife – want to give it a whirl?

Sure, why not. Goofy title, strange premise, but we like weird stuff. Could be okay.

Then we blinked, and somehow, months had passed. We emerged dizzy and dazed from the living room. We had binge-watched all seven seasons. 144 episodes. Zero regrets.

Simply put, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen.

Saying that Buffy is about vampires and demons is like saying that Star Trek is about technology and aliens. It’s technically true, but it completely misses the point. The monsters in Buffy are lenses for exploring humanity. And explore it does.

How do I love this show? Let me count the ways:

  • It’s funny. No, I mean really funny. It’s got puns. (“We thought you were a myth!” “Well, you were myth-taken.”) It’s got British snark. (“Look at her shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to, she’d wear cats strapped to her feet.”) It’s got sarcasm – lots and lots of sarcasm. Buffy is funnier than most shows that describe themselves as “comedy.”
  • It has great characters. This is the heart of the show. How the writers convinced me to care this much about a group of fictional people, I really don’t know, but it worked. Which leads to my next point…
  • It will rip your heart out. Buffy deals with sacrifice. Depression. Unrequited love. Growing up. Betrayal. And death: not the comic book kind, but real, honest, brutal, unflinching death. There are times Buffy is genuinely hard to watch, in the best possible way.
  • It has great dialogue. Well, great writing in general, actually. But I guess I’ve sorta implied that already.
  • It has great acting. I’m overusing “great,” I know, but it’s true. Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) and James Marsters (Spike) are real standouts in this department, though the entire cast is good. Some of my favorite scenes in the series don’t even have any dialogue – their faces say it all.
  • Rocket launcher. Why? Because they can.

Okay, you get the picture. Brian and Buffy, sitting in a tree, etc. So what are my criticisms?

  • The first season is a little rough. Low budget, cheesy effects, slow pace, and the writing hadn’t really hit its stride yet. Only twelve episodes, though, and even some of those are quite good.
  • The series finale. Most fans seem to like it. I thought it was extremely disappointing and deeply, deeply stupid. Sad for such a good show to end on a low note.
  • The occasional dud. Among so many quality episodes, the bad ones stand out all the more. “Beer Bad,” “The Killer In Me,” I’m looking at you.
  • Hit-and-miss special effects. And the earlier in the series you are, the more likely it is to be “miss.” Computer-generated graphics in the 90s? Best not to talk about it.

If you want even more analysis, try Critically Touched, which has an in-depth critical review of every single episode and season. Excellent stuff.

I’ve rambled enough. Your turn. Any thoughts?

Wherein Nothing is Actually Said

My brain is empty today. That happens a lot, actually. It’s not that I don’t want to write a blog post (or start a conversation, or write a story). It’s just that there’s nothing going on upstairs. And not for lack of trying. I’ve probably been sitting here for twenty minutes struggling to come up with an idea.

It’s snowing like crazy outside. Autumn, autumn, autumn, then BOOM, it’s winter. I suppose I could write something about that, but what? “Hey, look at that snow. That is some snow out there, I tell you what.” See? I’ve now exhausted the full extent of my analysis RE: the snow.

Now I’m writing about having nothing to write about and I still can’t think of anything. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Metaphorically speaking.

I don’t have any barrels.

So.

Um.

Let’s try this again tomorrow, shall we?

Friday Link

Man I hadn’t read any Dinosaur Comics in months and months, but this one is pretty sweet.

See you on Monday hopefully!

Silhouettes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A picture I took back in 2010. Big Bend National Park in Texas.