Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Nov 30, 2005


Several people have recommended that I watch this show, which airs on Fox at 9pm EST Tuesday evenings. I hadn’t bothered until recently for two reasons, the first being that I didn’t cohabitate with a television until just recently, and the second being that I really detest television. Not the medium per se, but the fact that television shows are so universally bad; I almost never watch one without wondering later why I wasted the time.

I was repeatedly assured, however, that House was a good show, though, so I finally caved and watched it (last week and this week) with a friend of mine. I was not impressed.

The problem is that I didn’t like any of the characters at all. None of them were people I’d want to know in real life, so the various events of the plot ceased to have any significance. I usually find that I prefer a secondary character to the main one in television shows; since House revolves so much around, well, House, none of the secondary characters demonstrated enough personality in the episodes I watched to really interest me.

House himself exemplifies a philosophical error/personality trait that I utterly despise whenever I encounter it; the idea that, because you know more than other people, you also know better than they do. Hence you are justified in lying to them, manipulating them, treating them like a child, or telling them what they “ought” to do, all of which is not just foolish but evil.

The fact is that in doing any of these things you are launching a full-scale assault on the other person’s independence. Even if you are correct in your evaluation of the benefits that they would enjoy, no benefit can exist unless they know it. Why? Because in order to enjoy a benefit you have to accept it. In order to be good, something has to come to you through good means. You can’t achieve even your own good through vice, what sort of twisted rationale makes you think you can achieve someone else’s that way?

My dislike for this kind of activity, even in minor, supposedly “harmless” forms is so strong as to approach outright hatred; my own independence was hard-won and remains somewhat fragile to this day.

I’m certainly not going to turn to a demonstration of its destroyers for entertainment.

Liquor License

I heard on the radio today that some wine companies are considering bottling their product in six-pack, single-serving, screw-top plastic containers for the convenience of those that don’t want to open an entire bottle, or, worse, contend with a cork. I don’t think I approve of this idea.

It’s not that it’s “tacky” or the plastic may affect the flavor. My concern is that this indicates a lack of respect and a change in the purpose of the wine.

Alcohol in any form can be a dangerous substance, it can rob you of your ability to exercise your judgment and act appropriately. Taken too lightly it can even make you sick or kill you. Its consumption demands that you respect the nature of the creature with which you are dealing so that you control it and not the other way around.

When you contend with something constantly--no matter how dangerous it is--you very easily come to take it for granted and become lax in your precautions. You require some sort of existential check, an enforced pause to focus your mind on the situation at hand and bring into your conscious awareness all the aspects of the situation. The name for this check is ceremony.

The importance of ceremony is recognized in many areas. For instance, physicians in the operating room are pausing several minutes between prep and actually beginning an operation to collect their thoughts and be certain that nothing is missing or wrong. It is not, as the harried are tempted to believe, a completely dispensable part of life.

Numerous ceremonies surround alcohol consumption, from the very minor to the extremely elaborate. Anything from needing to find the bottle opener to open a beer to a lengthy conversation with a sommelier in a restaurant can serve the purpose of ceremony and provide a necessary check. Even the difficulty of opening a box of wine can suffice, although I do think that wine boxes are tacky and should be avoided for that reason.

That’s not to say that ceremonies are somehow intrinsically beneficial and should be attached to every activity. A ceremony attached to an unimportant event and repeated for the sake of appearances degenerates into a ritual and ceases to serve any purpose. The performance becomes automatic, the mind detaches from its significance, and laxity resumes. This is why I don’t disapprove as strongly of cans of beer.

Wine is, in my mind, in a different category, for the reason that it’s essentially impossible to enjoy it in large quantities. Its flavor is subtle and requires attention to appreciate. So, I don’t see any purpose in destroying its meaning by treating it like a soft drink.

Nov 29, 2005

Movin' On Up

I'm pleased to announce that I finally got a promotion at the Tissue Bank where I work. Soon I will no longer be a lowly Data Entry Clerk, but will be a prestigious Processing Technician.

Apart from the raise, I will be learning more about my profession, with the possibility for future advancement through the ranks. A good deal all around.

Nov 28, 2005

Gus Fuss

One of the three (count 'em!) blogs that I read every day linked to me, so observing proper blog etiquette requires that I also link to him, so here he is, ladies and gentlemen: Gus Van Horn.

Gus is much more of a political blogger than yours truly (not to mention a LOT more prolific) so our two blogs don't overlap much. I was kind of surprised when he linked to me!

Go check it out and tell him I sent you.

Thank You for That Image

Today I got the “Dayton Extra” newsletter from the City of Dayton with this helpful and informative message:
Members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently made a presentation before the City Commission about how residents can get help paying their heating bills this winter.

Wait, it gets better.
Many Dayton residents may be eligible for the Home Energy Assistance Program(HEAP), which provides vouchers to low-income Ohioans to pay for heating costs.

So, if I can’t pay my heating bills this winter, the City of Dayton will send me a HEAP of PUCO.

Now that’s what I call an incentive.

On a (Somewhat) Related Note

Apparently the federal government has decided I’m a dangerous subversive. Or, at least that’s what seems to be indicating in his (her?) massive bulk emailings that for some reason keep winding up in my inbox.

Clearly my patriotism and deep belief in the principle of Rule of Law has triggered some kind of warning in the bowels of the FBI’s electronic surveillance machinery and forced them to send me cryptic messages with attachments on them. It is a sad indication of how poorly funded our federal law enforcement really is that they have to resort to email instead of, say, kicking the door down and putting everyone in handcuffs the way they do in movies.

I’m sorry to report that the email just isn’t cutting it. First off, I don’t know the addressee personally, so I haven’t opened any of them. I don’t want to get a virus. Hence I don’t know what it is that I’m supposed to be doing wrong. So, if the FBI wants me to stop whatever it is that I’m doing they’re going to have to come and tell me personally.

Now, knowing how strapped they are for cash, I don’t want to incur any unnecessary expenses, so I will be happy to supply a small bribe in appreciation of their efforts. So, the first FBI agent that shows up at my house (and can prove it), keeping in mind that a polite knock or ring on the doorbell will more than suffice to get me to open the door, will receive a coupon for LaRosa’s pizza, Jiffy Lube oil change, or whatever happens to be lying there on the table. Hey, you send me junk mail, you get junk mail. What goes around comes around.

No, I’m not going to supply my address. You’re the FBI, figure it out yourself. Sheesh.

P.S. I can also inform on many more dangerous subversives, namely the people that keep sending me the Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie video. At least, I think that’s what they’re sending me, I don’t open their emails either.

Night Watch

After finishing Les Miserables I was inspired to go back and re-read this book by Terry Pratchett. While not my favorite (largely because it rehashes setting elements that were already silly in Thief of Time) it is one of the more philosophical and hence very enjoyable.

In Night Watch, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork (sic) city watch is propelled back through time by a magical accident to relive one of the formative experiences of his youth from a different perspective: the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road.

As in Les Miserables, there is a vile, oppressive government; there are riots, barricades, and fighting in the streets. People die, perhaps unnecessarily, almost certainly stupidly, for their ideals. It’s a revolution after all.

There the similarities end. Pratchett, in my mind, does a much better job than Victor Hugo in portraying the motivations and character of his revolutionaries. Instead of the young, visionary and zealous Enjolras leading the defense, there is the middle-aged, cynical, practical Vimes, who is fighting, in his own words, for a hard-boiled egg. He believes this is a more reasonable short-term goal than Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

Such an outlook might make it appear that Vimes is a vicious pragmatist with no philosophy whatsoever. In comparison to Enjolras, whose only accomplishment was the production of corpses, it is Vimes who is the real man of ideas, ideas formed from a lifetime of watching people and forming conclusions, instead of, as he complains, deciding “this is how people ought to be, how can we change them?”

Well worth the read, or re-read, in my case.

Nov 21, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I went to see this movie over the weekend, and I must say I'm disappointed; the more I think about it the more firm I am in this evaluation.

A friend of mine warned me ahead of time that the movie left out a great deal of the book. In fact, this was only to be expected, as this book has probably the greatest number of vital plot details of any in the series to date. It's unreasonable to expect that a movie could possibly manage to cover everything. What did disappoint me was the selectivity of the director in what was kept and what was cut. Add in a few wrong notes and errors, and the movie was not nearly as enjoyable as I'd hoped.

Oh . . . if you've read this far and haven't managed to figure out that this post is going to contain spoilers, you've now been formally warned so no whining. Before I begin criticizing, know that I enjoyed the movie very much, as well.

Some changes I would have made:

1. One of the major parts of the series is Harry's relationship with the Dursleys, and they were not in the novel at all. Harry should ALWAYS begin at the Dursleys' house.

2. The plot significance of the Quidditch World Cup was almost obliterated from the novel . . . and that's where most of the development for later plot events takes place! I would have recommended leaving it in virtually untouched and instead cutting another, later event completely out: the Yule Ball.

Why that particular event? Because its primary purpose is not to advance the plot but to provide additional characterization of Harry et all, especially their fumbling first steps into the world of romance. In a book, characterization of this kind is vitally important; without it the characters seem like two-dimensional abstractions, not like real people. In a movie, however, it is not necessary, because characterization is conveyed swiftly and with much greater eloquence by the actors via their tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, etc. It is unnecessary and unwise to devote entire scenes to it.

3. The scene with Sirius in the fire was unnecessary and should have been cut; it was clearly an opportunity for some peculiar special effects and nothing else. Sirius's continuing involvement with the story could have been conveyed much better in brief, appropriate comments.

4. The director screwed himself regarding continuuity with later movies because he did not introduce Bellatrix Lestrange at the trial. Neville Longbottom's parents were also mentioned so cursorily that it was almost unnoticeable. The result of this was that the evil, not only of Lord Voldemort, but of his followers was severely diminished. In addition, it was never mentioned that Olympe Maxime is a half-giant, which also plays into later plot developments.

5. Albus Dumbledore behaved completely out of character in this movie, looking more like a worried, temperamental old man (pinning Harry against a table and yelling at him! Sitting on the floor and hugging his knees helplessly!) and not at all like the powerful, intelligent, wise, restrained person he is in the books. His summing-up talk with Harry at the end of the movie was wretched. He mentions a few isolated facts with nothing to connect them, and he doesn't explain what Priori Incantatem is and why it occured. If you hadn't read the book, you would be completely lost at that point.

6. Harry always suspects that Severus Snape is somehow involved in any wrongdoings going on . . . this was not mentioned in the movie. In fact, Snape came off as rather a reasonable type in the movie, and a thoroughly sympathetic character! Snape is not supposed to be a sympathetic character!

7. There was no indication whatsoever that Crouch was under the Imperius curse. Professor Moody's demonstration of the three curses is important in the book because all three are used at some point in the story. It was also not apparent that Krum was under the Imperius curse. So the idea of the three unforgiveable curses fell a little flat.

8. This one might seem like a nitpick, but it irrtated me terribly: Wormtail recites the recipe for returning Voldemort to the flesh incorrectly at the end. That little chant in the "Blood, Flesh, and Bones" chapter was very evocative and should have been done properly.

9. Voldemort himself was a disappointment. His eyes are supposed to be red. Given, I think they did the overall face pretty well, but his voice was not high pitched the way it is supposed to be.

10. The ENTIRE NEXT BOOK is based on something that was ommitted COMPLETELY: Dumbledore's speech to Cornelius Fudge about "The Parting of the Ways." That was a VERY important plot point and should not have been left out under ANY circumstances.

Well, that's enough of that. Like I said, I don't pan the movie, but I don't think it was particularly good, either. I do hope they turn this trend around with the next one, otherwise I'm not going to see any more of them. The books are lovely, I don't want them ruined by memories of lousy movies.


No, this has nothing to do with the Bible, I simply wanted to explain my disappearance from blogging over the weekend. I spent the time usefully carrying all my material possessions down three flights of stairs, loading them into various modes of transportation, and driving them to my friend Adam’s house, where I then unloaded them.

Adam did most of the hard work, carrying the furniture and so forth. I tried to help, but I think I was more in the way than anything. When he carried the dresser downstairs a homeless (I believe, I didn’t ask) man approached and offered to assist us. He introduced himself, he seemed friendly and willing to help, not to mention sober, so we let him help us with the heavy furniture and the move went a lot more quickly than it would have otherwise. I detest panhandlers but if someone wants to work I have no problem paying for the service, so I gave him ten dollars.

Adam told me later that he wasn’t too worried. He’s been studying European martial arts, including various types of wrestling and German-style long sword. While he really wasn’t looking forward to the idea of testing these new skills out, if push came to shove he was confident in his ability to handle the situation.

They actually made me sit by the truck while they brought the furniture down because a rather suspicious man was walking up and down the street watching our efforts. The consensus was that he was waiting for us to bring down something worth stealing. There’s a good chance that he was another urban outdoorsman.

I couldn’t help but notice that one of these men was black, and the other was white. (It was pretty obvious.) Guess which was which. Now, if I were a liberal, I’d sneeringly expect people to guess that the helpful gentleman was the white one—he was not—and deliver a diatribe about racism and prejudice, etc. Being an Objectivist, I would be honestly surprised that anyone could presume to draw some sort of broad generalization of any kind from this particular happenstance. In fact, if there are any other Objectivists reading this, I imagine they were a little surprised that I even bothered to mention it. Well, I was illustrating a point, but just not the one you thought.

The truck was another novel experience for me. (You thought this was going to be a short entry, didn't you? Along the lines of "I moved it was hard my back hurts ow ow", huh? WELL YOU WERE WRONG!!!) Unusually for me I did not have a panic attack when confronted with the rental (especially the rental agreement), even though I went to the wrong place and they didn't have my reservation. Then I had to drive the truck, which was even more interesting, since the largest vehicle I've ever driven was a Jeep Grande Cherokee, an experience which terminated abruptly when I misjudged both how fast I was going and the weight of the SUV, causing me to stop in the middle of an intersection instead of before it as is more traditional. I was like 17, these things happen. My dad made me turn the driver's seat over to him, though.

But it was not so difficult to drive. And I didn't hit anything. Other than that, there were just some irritating issues with getting my computer set up again. Fortunately, Adam works in IT so I just made him do it. Oh, and it was hard work and now my back hurts. Ow. Ow.

Nov 18, 2005

Holiday Greetings Form Letter for the Busy and Destitute

I know the holidays can be a hectic time, especially for hardworking folks like myself, so in order to help alleviate the strain on those who have neither the time to write a completely original greeting for everyone that they know nor the money to purchase a meaningful gift, I offer this form letter.

Dear [Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Friend, Co-worker],

I thought of you today and recalled with fondness all the wonderful times we have spent together, especially that day when [insert cute and/or embarrassing memory here, or, optionally, invent one to see if your acquaintance is experiencing memory loss]. I wish I had more time to spend with you so that we could do that again!

In token of my affection for the many people that fill my life with joy, I decided to get everyone a special gift this year; an iPod Mini. Unfortunately, due to the precarious state of my finances I was not able to afford enough of them for everyone. In fact, I was only able to obtain a single iPod. In the interests of fairness I have decided to divide the parts of the iPod up between you. While I realize that part of an iPod may not be if immediate use to you, it is my hope that I will be able to gradually save up the money to purchase more parts and thus, eventually, gift everyone with the complete iPod that they so richly deserve.

In order to save on postage and to prevent the parts from being damaged by disassembly, I have decided that I will make space in my desk to store all the iPod parts until I can send out the completed units. Until then, here is a photograph of your 1/[number of people receiving this letter]th of an iPod.


Happy Holidays!


[Your name]

P.S. If you’re still trying to decide what to get me, I would dearly love to have 1/[number of people receiving this letter]th of an iPod, which you now own. In fact, you wouldn’t even need to go shopping or buy stamps!

(It occurs to me that I seem to recall seeing a joke similar to this somewhere, but I entreat you to remember that to be completely true to type, lame humor should also lack originality, in which case this fits the bill perfectly.)

Nov 17, 2005

The Hack

I was recently involved in a discussion on where I claimed an author (David Eddings, to be precise) was a hack. Thinking back I realized that I never did define the term, making it rather difficult for anyone to decide whether they agreed with me or not.

Hack is a shortened version of the word hackneyed, meaning “lacking originality or freshness”. With such a broad definition some concrete examples can come in handy to help narrow the field.

You are a hack if you . . .

. . . find it necessary to re-tell the same story from the perspective of a different character, regardless of whether or not you have included “new” flourishes. Guilty parties: David Eddings, Piers Anthony

. . . start writing a series without knowing how many books it will eventually contain when you are finished, or change the number several times. Guilty parties: Robert Jordan, Anne McCaffery

. . . write books in cooperation with other authors. Guilty Parties: Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, David Drake, David Weber, John Ringo . . . actually a LOT of authors do this. If you’re to busy to finish the book yourself it’s a sign that you probably need to reevaluate your career. Worse are those famous authors who lend their “name” to a relative newcomer so that person can get published, and the newbies that accept this kind of “help”.

. . . write books that use a setting, plot, or characters created by another person. Guilty Parties: R.A. Salvatore and many others. While it might help you get a book in print, it also means that no one will ever mistake you for a serious writer afterwards. In fact, this is a great way to get yourself pigeonholed into a genre.

. . . re-use the same plot. Guilty parties: David Eddings, Robin McKinley

. . . have four (or fewer) character archetypes: “good” male, “good” female, “bad” male, “bad” female. Guilty parties: Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan

. . . re-use the same “cast” of characters. (I.e. The Male Hero, The Female Hero, The Antagonist, The Disabled Person Who Has Useful Traits, The Young Thief With the Heart of Gold, etc.) Guilty parties: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, David Eddings

. . . write “spin-off” stories that are not a part of a series but occur in the same popular “universe” as your series, especially if the main characters in these spin-offs are secondary or minor characters in the series. Or, you allow other people to write said spin-offs. Guilty parties: Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Anne McCaffery, Keith Laumer

. . . have had at least one book published every year since you became popular. Guilty parties: Terry Pratchett, Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony

. . . write parodies. Guilty parties: Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, Eric Flint

. . . write anything that is considered archetypical of a genre. You’re excused if you start a new popular genre, but only if you write something outside said genre. Guilty parties: Danielle Steele, Louis L’Amour, John Grisham, Ian Fleming

The list is by no means exhaustive, but I think I’ve covered the basics. It’s not an indictment of these authors. I read novels by hacks all the time, just like I go see silly movies. Why? Because I get the enjoyment of reading without the taxing mental effort of working my way through a really heavy novel. It’s what I read when I’m ill or mentally exhausted, instead of watching television.

Really, I think even a truly awful formulaic book is better than television.

Nov 13, 2005

Table Manners

I had a novel dining experience today and it got me thinking about eating as well as reminding me of a complaint I once read. It seems this European gentleman was appalled by the way that Americans eat, hunching over their food and (often) planting their elbows on the table. He likened this posture, not surprisingly, to pigs eating at a trough. He couldn't imagine why the Americans sat that way.

Well, the explanation is simple. Americans eat messy food. If you try to eat, say, a cheeseburger with everything while sitting up straight you'll end up with ketchup, mustard, and who knows what else all down your front. Better to appear crude than to wear your lunch for the rest of the day.

I'm not much of a fan of what might be considered "delicate" food. Often it is dry, boring, unappetizing, or simply doesn't fill my stomach very well. However, today when I was trying to eat Thai Lettuce Wraps at Nothing but Noodles (and failing until I figured out the trick to it) I formulated several tips for making robust food easier to eat delicately. Robust things done delicately is, to me, the pure essence of class and culture.

So, the tips:

1. Drain everything completely. Drippy food must be eaten "holding over", and at best will coat your hands and require copious napkins. You can rinse cooked meat with hot water to assist in this, it gets rid of the excess fat as well.

2. Bite-size things when possible. Biting into food compresses it and can cause drips, squirts, etc. When you're eating something that is dipped into sauce this also forces the dreaded "double-dip" which is somewhat uncouth. Only with food that has good internal integrity (soft breads, thick spreads, soft cheese, thick vegetables) can you avoid this. And remember that the food is three-dimensional, so it should be bite-sized in length, width, and height.

3. Go light on the condiments. Most condiments stick better to your hands than to the food. A light drizzle is preferred to a thorough soaking.

4. For finger food, make sure a holdable part of it isn't sticky. Don't glaze the entire donut. For wings, it might be better to have a small cup of dippable sauce instead of pre-coating them. Serve the oysters in the half-shell. Provide toothpicks, little forks, etc.

Follow these simple guidelines and you can have more elegant table manners.

Last tip: how to eat thai lettuce wraps.

These were served to me as a bowl with three little piles of meat, red peppers, and carrots, a cup of peanut sauce, and a plate of large iceburg lettuce leaves. Now, fresh iceburg lettuce is very crisp, which means that it doesn't wrap especially well. After a few aborted attempts, I tore the lettuce up into little bite-sized squares and put a dab of meat, vegetables, and sauce in the middle of each one, then snapped it up quickly and neatly. Thereafter I was no longer forced to use one napkin per bite, and people stopped staring at me for I was no longer making loud crunching, slurping, and grunting noises like the aformentioned pig.

Nov 12, 2005

Why I am a Gamer

I was going to post yesterday (no, really I was), but I got distracted by an urgent game of Dungeon Lords, and it was so late by the time I finished that I couldn't manage anything other than to go to bed. Today, I'm running a Mutants and Masterminds game at seven.

I've come under a fair bit of criticism over the years for being an avid gamer as it's a "life replacement" activity, so I thought I'd address the reasons why I have this hobby.

Personally, I think the reasons why anyone games are largely psychological. For me, it was the fact that as a young child it was something I could do purely for my own pleasure. Being creative, intuitive, and intelligent, I was also fairly good at it. My successes elicited approval from the people I found valuable. So, to me, it's a very positive experience, very fun, and I'm more than willing to put up with the occasional snags and reefs that prevent me from enjoying it all the time.

Isn't this why anyone likes to do something? So why is it that gaming enjoys such a bad reputation?

One of the things I've had quoted at me was Ayn Rand's "Open Letter to Boris Spasky" (reprinted in Philosophy: Who Needs It) where she explains that playing games (particularly chess) can act as a replacement for success in reality. The important fact, though, is that while this can be true it is not caused by the game, but by the individuals involved in it.

For me, games have always been a way to escape from the things in my life that were unreal to me; various bitter frustrations usually engendered by my inability to fight irrational people and escape from their influence. All games were a way for me to push the boundaries of the tiny world I was trapped in and discover, in a sense, the real world waiting outside, the one where I can actually act, work, succeed, and enjoy.

An escape, in other words, not from reality, but to it.

Nov 10, 2005

Punching the Pavement

It appears I've found a solution to my roach problem! As with everything else in my life, it is so bizarre that it just begs to be explained.

The simple explanation: my ex-boyfriend suggested I move back in with him. Unfortunately, this explanation somewhat demands that people ask me: "Have you lost your mind?" or, from people that don't know me that well: "So you're getting back together?"

So, the long explanation: my ex and I get along fine together . . . as friends. The romantic relationship thing didn't work out, so we split up. Is it so difficult to imagine a polite and genteel breakup? Since he can use some extra money, he invited me to rent a room in his house. He knows I'm not going to kill him in his sleep or bury the neighbors in the backyard. He also knows I have a steady job so I can afford the rent. I know he's a nice guy and pretty quiet most of the time. At worst, he'll want me to play computer games over the LAN with him.

It's going to be funny explaining to the various people who send me mail that I'm moving again . . . to the address I had just a little while ago.

The Saga Begins

I've had a lot of interest from my online friends over the past two days about my progress with the book I've been writing. Well, I've stopped writing it. Actually, what has happened is that I got completely bogged down in the book I was writing before (Working Title: Epic) and I realized that I'm just not in a position where I can deal with the enormous scope I had planned. I'd like to be able to do justice to the idea.

So, instead I've put aside my notes for that novel and I'm working on another. It's going quite well; I have the list of characters fleshed out, the plot outlined (apart from a few small details that I can tell will need fleshing out) and an actual title, Ratbreed, not just a working one. In fact, I've got preliminary ideas for 2 sequels, to be titled Dog Law and Cat . . . um . . . something. That's a ways in advance, so I can come up with a title for the third one later, like, when I actually know what it will be about.

I've heard that all writers work differently. Ninety percent of the time my idea for a book begins with a character. I think this is largely because of my history as a role-playing gamer. It's so easy for me to, in Ayn Rand's words, concretize a character, whether it be a hero, a villain, or just some mediocrity, because I have a lot of practice in doing it. When I think of a character, I know from just a few descriptive words what they look like, how they speak, what clothes they'll wear, what gestures they'll make, etc. Sometimes I will sit down and sketch them in order to have a physical record so that I won't forget my previous thoughts in the jumbled rush of inspirations that always hits when I start a project.

My ideas for the plot always start with a scene, some image so immediate and clear I can almost reach out and grab it. Usually I have no idea how this scene connects with my characters; the fun part is getting the two to fit together in a way that is so seamless you could never imagine them being apart. Generally, though, this "fun" part is also the most difficult and frustrating of the writing process.

Titles are a thing I know many authors struggle with, but for me they are effortless. Usually I have a title for the book before I even know what the plot is going to be! I think this happens because I like words. Not particular passages in books, but actual individual words. Some words have such strong sensory connotations for me that hearing them has an instantaneous impact; it's an automatization of the context where those words are most often used. I've found that it means I can almost always pluck out the essential thread tying everything together and give it a name, just on the strength of it "sounding good".

I owe a lot of my understanding of how the writing process works to Ayn Rand's The Art of Fiction. With her invaluable assistance I may actually be able to realize my goal of becoming a novelist. Oh, Tore Boeckman deserves some credit for that book, too. Thank you, Tore!

Nov 9, 2005

La Cucaracha

The Management is spraying my apartment building for roaches. Again. Which means that I have to take everything out of my cabinets and put it on my couch and kitchen table where presumably it will not prevent the roaches from getting properly sprayed.

For a while there, the roaches were in abeyance, and I had spiders. Now apparently they've eaten the spiders and are back in force. I know my attempts to squish them into submission have been largely in vain.

My immediate personal goal is to get a better job so I can move into a single-occupancy apartment, i.e. one without numerous horrible tiny brown housemates. Ick. Until then I get to enjoy breathing what I suspect are poisonous fumes.

Well, you can't have everything.

I am a FanGirl

I don't spend much time reading newspapers because I don't like to dig through endless reams of facts in order to detect broad ideological trends. Luckily for me, there's The Intellectual Activist, where Robert Tracinski does most of the legwork for me.

Much as I love Mr. Tracinski's adroit commentary, I really read TIA Daily for Jack Wakeland's occasional essays and articles in The War Department. An unabashed and unforgiving hawk with substantial knowledge of matters military, Mr. Wakeland has been unfailing in following the war in Iraq and putting it into historical perspective.

It doesn't hurt that he's an engineer and pistol instructor, either! While I was still participating on TIA Forum I had a few opportunities to "talk" with Mr. Wakeland, and I enjoyed the experience tremendously.

So, before anyone else claims the title, I'm announcing I'm Mr. Wakeland's #1 FanGirl. If he happens to read this, I hope he also has a good sense of humor.

Nov 8, 2005

My Car vs. Rationality

My life has occasional episodes of bizarre perversity where nothing happens in quite the way I've come to expect. Today was another one of those episodes, this one involving my car.

I have a '98 Mercury Tracer, which is quite probably the most universally average car that has ever existed. It's not really old, but neither is it new. It's reasonably reliable, but occasionally it has upsets when it needs repairs, which are neither cheap nor fiendishly expensive. It's not especially fast, nor especially efficient. It goes. That's about all you can say for it.

On the 29th of last month I took it in for repairs and, yes, it was more expensive than I really wanted while not being more than I could possibly afford. Again, average.

Then disaster struck! My car started making noises. In particular, the brakes were clacking and the engine noise was quite loud and obnoxious. In a storm of righteous indignation I returned to the garage where I expounded upon my misfortune.

Well, they checked it out and apparently nothing was wrong, so I trundled my way sheepishly out of their establishment. However, the engine noise, at least, remains, leaving me to guess that it is supposed to sound like that.

I can only conclude from this experience that my car, contrary to all sense, is quieter when it is broken.

Les Miserables

This is an interesting time to be reading this book by Victor Hugo. Apart from its heroic characters and interestingly twisty plot, Les Miserables is full of social commentary that centers around France, and most notably, Paris.

To an American, that is to say, me, Hugo's Franco-centric view of European (and even global) politics seems strange beyond belief. Hasn't it been decades since France was a real power-player on the global scale? It's useful to recall that there was once a time when Paris was the center, not necessarily of politics, progress, and thought, but of fashion.

In literary terms, England and America drove the theme of the past two centuries, socialism (from Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany) provided the plot (a plot is conflict, after all), and France provided the style, driving not so much the shape of events, but the shape of their portrayal.

So why is this an interesting time to be reading Les Miserables? Why, precisely because of that social commentary. Paris today is overwhelmed by riots very similar to the 1830-1832 uprising in Victor Hugo's book. Its population of young people--gamin and revolutionaries in Hugo's book, government-supported indigents today--are much the same. Hugo's revolutionaries fought against the stagnant leftovers of the monarchy in the name of socialism, and these modern youths are striking out against . . . what?

Here is where the case differs. The modern Parisian "revolutionaries" appear to have no ideology. They battle against a nameless stagnation whose source they do not know, in the name of an ideal they do not comprehend. If I could give words to them, the stagnation they are fighting is France's long night of socialism, multiculturalism, surrender. In dread, though, I realize that the name of what many of them seem to be fighting for is Islam. The Caliphate.

The Monarchy.

Paris, and with her France, seems to be swinging from one night to another. In the chaos of the in-between years a bit of freedom creeps in, and, like a shot of adrenaline, lends legitimacy to the "new" theories, sustaining them for a while and making it seem as though this revolution might have been right. Always they eventually fail. In a sense, this is good . . . even if these current, unlikely revolutionaries are partially successful, another revolution will come along to displace them shortly. It is also bad: a permanent, institutionalized civil war is not something anyone wants to hope for, least of all as an improvement!

Paris! Look at where you have been! Monarchy doesn't work. Socialism doesn't work. It's time to try something new. To stop swallowing your own tail like an Oroborus that goes 'round and 'round without ever getting anywhere.

Nov 7, 2005



My name is Jennifer, although here I will simply be Literatrix, the literate lady.

An aspiring fiction novelist, I have decided to start my own blog in order to write about two things that I've noticed no one else seems to have the time for any more: reading for recreation, and writing for pleasure. My posts will contain my thoughts on what I read from whatever source. I may even post some samples of my fiction for the enjoyment of anyone that might happen to read this blog.

An Objectivist, I will also post my theoretical ideas about philosophy, particularly esthetics as this is the branch that most personally interests me. I do not intend to argue philosophy with anyone, simply to post my ideas. If discussion of Objectivism is your desire, I invite you to visit, a forum about Objectivism, where you will receive satisfaction.

A role-playing gamer, I may also include occasional snippets of gaming-related information. This is freely available for anyone to use, however please respect my intellect by attributing the source if you do so.

Farewell for now, and the best of hopes that you gain some benefit from my writings.