Entries in Personal (6)

Monday
Sep132010

Subjects

Through some cruel twist of fate, I will be having not even a brief respite from school.  It has something to do with normal colleges having short summer semesters and my fully online school having 10 week courses no matter what.  The result is that while normal college ended three weeks ago, online college is wrapping up this week.  Normal college is beginning their fall semester next week, which means my break between school consists of this weekend.  Ok, so I guess I have a brief respite. What this means for this website, though, is that once again my plans must change. My plans going unfulfilled seems to be a running theme.  I think I'll add a tag, to make it easier to find these instances for future self-loathing, and potential third-party loathing as well.  The plans I referenced pre-tangent were to bang out a bunch of posts on various topics that have intrigued me in the 10 or so weeks since I stopped updating this puppy.  Thinking, erroneously, that I would have a nice calm break between classes, this seemed like a reasonable proposition.  Since that will not be happening, it seems like I'll need to put my big boy pants on and just do school and website at the same time.

 

Here's the thing, when it comes to subscriptions, I feel like I have to use them in the billing period, or it hurts me.  I get 1 credit a month from Audible.  I pay them monthly.  If I don't use that credit that month, it's like they won.  Same thing with Squarespace.  When I don't post here, I feel like Johnny Squarespace (the founder and CEO of Squarespace, of course) is sitting in his office laughing at me.  Like he has little puppets, and he acts out little scenes.  His puppet is big and manly, mine is short and dumpy.  He says "Listen up little man, I'm not going to give you anything this month, and you're going to pay me!" To which puppet-me says "Yeah, ok", and hands over the money, which makes him start laughing all over again.  It's like that, in my head.  All the time.  God forbid I don't use two subscription services in the same month.  It's like they have a meeting, and I'm serving the tea, and then I pay them and leave.


That's all a long way of saying I have some stuff to talk about, and it will hopefully be coming with some predictable frequency in the coming weeks.  My topics include, in no particular order:

 

  • XHTML
  • Batch script to detect software versions
  • A review of the cinematic tour-de-force that is Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus
  • My thoughts on why time travel is a flawed premise for fiction of all kinds
  • Batch back up script
  • Software architecture
  • My projects page
  • Selling my Mac for a pc (well, sorta)
  • Twitter
  • Hacked car software
  • A possible new look for the site
  • Extravagant displays of soda can artistry at supermarkets
  • Rats (the cute kind, not the big nasty ones)
  • The occasional caloric perks of working in IT

 

Thursday
Jul082010

Lazy

I just realized I'm a lazy linker.  I was looking at the site, trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to change, and I noticed that I rarely link to anything.  This isn't intentional, I just don't think about it.  I'll have to try a bit harder on that in the future.  It just seems like good etiquette (not netiquette).

Tuesday
Jul062010

Unfulfilled Expectations

My plan when starting this blog was to have a place to dump my thoughts and ideas, to document my various projects, whether mundane or no, and establish myself online. Unfortunately, I do t seem to be living up to it. I want things to be polished, and that means thinking about wording and editing and that's not conducive to the brain dump format I was originally thinking about. It's frustrating, but I'm not sure how else to do it. I don't want to represent myself sloppily, but at the same time I'm not updating this blog regularly. It's a conundrum. Maybe I need to compromise a bit. We'll see. More to come

Monday
Jun282010

The Joys of Horror, part 2

A while ago I wrote a post about one of the reasons I like horror stories, and the short version is the really good ones seem almost real. Specifically, that they're affording a glimpse of how things really are that you never normally would see.

Writing that post got me thinking, and I think I'm on to something. I think that's why I enjoy David Lynch's work. Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks are perfect examples of this, where the settings couldn't be more banal, but under the surface there's depravity and horror at every turn. The idea of the otherwise normal protagonist getting sucked into this world, having the veil thrown aside as it were, is a common enough trope in horror.

I wonder if part of it is that people live strange lives. This crops up in news stories all the time, where a report of some crime is so bizarre that it becomes news worthy, or an otherwise normal story or crime report is punctuated by a few seeming non sequiturs that seem to throw the circumstances of the whole incident into question.

I think for me, this idea of people living in these strange circumstances gives the horror stories some small credence, or at least something to attach to. To me, Poe was a master at telling these types of stories, and I think that's why I enjoy his work as much as I do.

The other thing this reminded me of was a part in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I believe it's somewhere around the middle or maybe 2/3rds in. It's when Mike finally learns how to laugh. He's at the zoo, and he sees a monkey get hit by a bigger monkey, or maybe the bigger monkey takes his food away. That monkey then immediately charges over and attacks an even smaller monkey because he can't retaliate against the bigger one. Mike bursts into hysterical laughter and can't stop.

If my memory serves me, Mike sees in that act the cruelty and savagery that are inside people, and he realizes laughter is a safety mechanism, a pressure valve. I might be wrong, but I believe one of his quotes was "You have to laugh, because otherwise it's all too terrine". That image and Mike's interpretation of it really stuck with me. I think it also reinforces that idea of normal life being a facade built to hide and protect us from the darkness lurking underneath. I think good horror gives you a window to look through, lets you see what is really going on.

Of course, I don't really believe there are monsters or demons walking among us that I can't see because the veil of normal life is over my eyes, but I do believe that there is a hint of our primal ancestral beginnings in us still. Traits that helped us survive when we were huddled in caves, but damage us now. I think it's the act of exploring that darkness that I find so compelling, of letting it take strange forms. Show me some dark and horrible alternate reality so that I can enjoy the real one all the more.

Friday
Jun182010

The Joys of Horror

I was listening to Pseudopod the other day, and the host was doing the outro, and mentioned that this story evoked for him that crawling feeling that one experiences when reading good horror.  This story didn't do it for me, but I knew instantly what he was talking about. For him, the first time he experienced the feeling was as a teenager reading a horror comic where an inventor found a way to communicate with the dead, and one of them summed up death in one line.  It was the line that got him that first time. He didn't want to risk butchering it, so I don't know what it is, but I know how he felt.

For me, it was a Poe short story. I believe the title is The Facts in the Case of M. Voldemort or something similar. One of the things I love about Poe's stories is they often feature very analytical characters. From the killer in the Telltale Heart who KNEW he wasn't mad because he couldn't possibly think so clearly if he were, to the French detective of his occasional Sherlock Holmes-type stories, he usually had at least one character who valued logic and learning over mysticism. Voldemort had one of these characters as the lead. If I remember correctly, he was contacted to help conduct an experiment on the titular M. Voldemort. It turns out that Mr. Voldemort was terminally ill, with a disease that a very predictable course. They wanted to find out (possibly at the behest of Mr. Voldemort) what would happen if they hypnotized him at the time of his death.

I don't remember the specifics, but I know they succeeded, and he entered this weird state of undeath. The thing that stands out the most, and what made my skin crawl (and still does, thinking about it), was what happened to his tongue. In the story, it swells up to about the size of his mouth, and vibrates when he speaks. I know I'm not doing it justice. I don't know if it's the actual words he used, or the image it conjured, or the way the story read like a memoir, giving it an air of believability, but that image of what is for all intents and purposes a dead man with a giant tongue that vibrates to make him speak chilled me to the bone. It doesn't matter that I know it's not real. It's real and it resonates in a place I can't reason with.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I believe it's only Poe stories that can elicit this feeling from me. I remember the same feeling when Usher's house collapsed, and at the end of his novel-length story, where the sailors are in the antarctic, and are being drawn to something, and they suddenly see a giant white figure, and the story ends, leaving the group's fate up to the reader. I was really surprised when I read other people's impressions of the story that think the white figure is one of salvation. To me, their fate was as clear as if they found themselves falling off the end of the world into the maw of a dragon. But maybe that's just me.

There's something fascinating about that feeling. It's almost as if it's a peek behind the curtain, where you see how things really work, and you understand why there's a curtain to hide it. I think I'm starting to ramble, so I'll cut it off here, but it does remind me of something that I think is tangential to this topic. Maybe I'll talk about that next time.