Nasty Tricksey Hobbitses

This is a rant brief analysis – my opinion on the film adaptation of The Hobbit. It comes nearly a month after I saw the movie, so I’ve had time to give it some thought. I’ll also clarify that I saw this film twice; once in a standard theater (with an 11-year-old ward in toe); the second viewing was a full IMAX/3D experience with the (less than entertained) wife.

 

  • The book is jovial, lyrical, filled with exceptional songs and poems, made-up words, heartwarming animism and fairy tale prose. It’s a children’s book foremost, lighthearted and humorous, with Middle-Earth’s grander themes explored without really needing further explanation.
  • The movie is an epic adventure, consuming a mere third of the book (2 more films coming out in the next two years) with decapitatingly bloody battle scenes, weaving plotlines pulled from the appendices and archives of Tolkien’s other writings (or completely fabricated), and a mess of an action movie. It’s clearly a prequel to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, with lofty and often misinterpreted themes, endless CGI, and enough violence and noise to weigh it against any modern hollywood blockbuster.

radagast cartoonIf it sounds like I’m being harsh, maybe I am? The film has heart-lifting moments that made me smile, the simple story and underlying theme, beautiful landscapes and good acting all around; but constant, extraneous, and dire excess plagues this movie. It’s too action-oriented, too long, too garish. It’s like Saruman was retelling the story, and the amount of trash tied to the movie and franchise – everything from Hobbit-themed Denny’s meals to Gandalf on my popcorn box, all just screams with the type of consumerism and industrialism that Tolkien adamantly deplored. To see his vision commercialized and pandered like this is a hypocrisy. It could have been far worse, and I do hope to enjoy the future movies, but as someone who’s been so influenced by his writing (since grade school), it was a bit of a disappointment – and a disservice for those who may not have read the book first.

Go see it, but please enjoy it as an interpretation – rather than a faithful retelling. okay?

Appalachia Map

Here is a…rather grim (and obviously fictitious) map in which my Appalachia book will be set in. While it is an arguably bleak dystopian future, this book does have an overall vision of humanity; themes such as community, beauty, friendship and love. It is a simple and sometimes lighthearted story, focusing on a single traveler; not an over-arching geopolitical sort of thriller. The book is still in the editing phase, and I will continue to provide updates and perhaps some pages or snippets here on the ‘ole blog.

Click for larger version:

dystopian US map north America future Armageddon

Also, yes, I made this map from scratch in Photoshop, over a few evening hours last week.

Books printed

I am picking up freshly-printed All Around Bend books later this week, Huzzah!

 

I’m hoping to spend a good bit of this weekend out distributing the books around town. I think putting them online would be a good idea too. Definitely an order/eCommerce shop…but eventually an ebook version could be made, thoughts? Check out AAB over at http://allaroundbend.com

 
In addition to peddling books this weekend, I am also hosting an Adult Spelling Bee down at Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, should be fun and fairly informal (ie- there will be beer). It’ll be a hoot. Also…when I say ‘adult’, I don’t mean nastay. The event will be more like a trivia-night.

All’roundBend

Finally, All Around Bend 4th Edition is close to completion. Hoping to send it off to the printer early next week! It’ll be hitting shelves around Memorial Day if all goes well.

 

Made a number of changes, especially a revamp of the layout and formatting. Changed up fonts, header boxes, and all sorts of other styling. Not a ton was added as far as content, though some sections got heavy updates, such as breweries and events. This edition also features some guest photography, as well as updates on existing attractions and new ‘achievements’ at the end. I’ll keep posting as the sell-date approaches.

The iThneed

There’s a new cgi movie coming out soon, based on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I assume hope that it sticks close enough to the deeper message, being a story about protecting the environment, preserving nature for the next generation, discouraging excess, and so forth. Yet recently I saw a commercial for The Lorax…well actually it was a Mazda commercial; a co-branded advert for a small SUV. The commercial can be seen here (if mazda doesn’t take it down due to all the complaints) and features their vehicle driving through a happy countryside of truffula trees, with cheery music and bright colors.

Also, the Lorax totally looks like Wilford Brimley

The real fact though, is that this is a new SUV, made on a huge assembly line, from 20000 parts, all of which require fossil fuels to refine and fabricate; metal, plastic, glass, rubber. At which point, it is shipped across the country/world, and begins its decade of consuming gas at 30MPG, barrels of oil and lubricants, new tires, batteries, and not to mention the air pollution, roads and infrastructure.

 

This is what we call greenwashing, friends. The commercial even makes reference to being “Certified Truffula Tree Friendly” an “Truffala Tree Seal of Approval” and something called “SkyActive Technology”. There is no intention or nod to being sarcastic, they actually and cheerfully tout these fictitious awards with the same authority as JDPower and Motortrend.

As an adult – and with an eye for marketing –  I can recognize this blatant branding ploy.The fact that the commercial is so bright, so colorful, so cartoony, makes me wonder how kids view these sorts of commercials…whether they will see the movie and this commercial…and question things, or whether they just nod, not knowing corporations can hide truth.

 

My general disposition would be to not pay to watch the movie. The Lorax is tied into several other products as well, over 70 ‘launch partners’ as they’re called. And I certainly I have no plans of owning or recommending a Mazda. But, at what point should people, common folks like you or I, take a further step…signing a petition, participating in a boycott? Am I upset enough about this unholy Mazda/Lorax affair that I want to do anything about it?

Perhaps the fact that I wrote up this blog is a step itself 🙂

Bender

It’s official, I am moving back to Bend next month after almost half a unique year in Nebraska. One of the first things I’ve thought about doing, when I knew we were moving, was to update and release a new version of my All Around Bend guidebook. This new edition will be more of a stylistic revision, with a number of layout and design changes, as well as some updates to things like fonts and photos. I will not be changing the actual content much, nor will I be adding new attractions…mostly because I’ve not been in Bend for the last six months, haha. The books got enough content I feel, and will only require a couple weeks of fact-checking and research to make sure my attractions are still current. Aside from that, expect a book that looks great, and has the same depth as my 2011/3rd Edition. If you own a 3rd Edition already, you can pass on this one. If you haven’t picked one up? Check out some local Bend store, or my website sometime in perhaps April!

More about revisioning

This post is in regard to the other day’s post on revising/editing. One thing I’ve done for a while now, is to order single copy versions of my writing from the folks at Lulu, all throughout the writing process. It’s less than $10, and printing/shipping is quite speedy. Here’s a few reasons why I like to do this:

  •  I spend a lot of time at my computer, and any time I get the chance to just sit back in an armchair or in bed and hold a book is a welcome treat.
  •  I like writing in margins, jotting ideas, and generally not dealing with Word, commenting, scrolling, and other silliness. It’s a lot more relaxing to scratch at my words with a pen.
  • It’s nice to have a version that I can throw on the bookshelf when I’m done.
  •  Printed books can be shared with others easily. Having my wife or friend read it, or sending a draft to my parents is a nice perk. Don’t want to make anyone read 200+ pages on their computer, bleh.

quick tretise on revising

In general, editing my own writing is fairly tedious. It involves staring at the screen, scrolling through the text. Obviously, catching the spelling and grammatical typos is the easy part. Beyond that, my editing involves the actual manipulation of my words; changes to the story itself. At times, it’s simple tweaks to my character’s conversations, clarifications or re-wording something that I think might be confusing, moving sentences around; little stuff like this. On rare occasion though, it’s major. For example, the main character of every book had been ‘renamed’ at some point. Granted, this is an easy feat from a technical standpoint, just using the find/replace functionality in Word, but it brings a quote from Tolkien to mind, referring to trees and spoken by Yavanna: “But the kelvar (animals) can flee or defend themselves, whereas the olvar (plants) that grow cannot. And among these I hold trees dear. Long in the growing, swift shall they be in the felling, and unless they pay toll with fruit upon their bough little mourned in their passing.”

Tolkien is talking about trees here, how they take many years to grow but can be cut in an instant, and rarely with remorse. I feel this way about my writing sometimes as well. I make such an emotional connection to a character, to an event or situation in one of my books, then poof! I decide to make a change. A reader would’ve never knew it any other way, that a sentence, a character, an event had existed. It’s the most apparent in a recent case where I decided that a character of mine should die. It was one of those ‘re-write’ situations I mentioned earlier. I woke up one morning, spacing out as I took a shower, when it just clicked: that this specific character should die. When all was said and done, I feel any reader couldn’t have expected it any other way, yet for two years and plenty of reads and revisions on my part… the story unfolded starkly different.

In that Tolkien quote, Yavanna’s solution to protecting her trees was the creation of Ents, the tree-like creatures that guarded the forests from the axes of other races. In my analogy, I have no such protection for my characters, for my story’s continuity and original ideas. When it comes to fiction, the author is ultimately godlike in their abilities; omnipotent and able to alter both the future and history itself with the swiftness of a penstroke. Perhaps that’s why a lot of authors write fiction; they relish in the total control, the world-building aspects of it. It’s no surprise how disheartening it is for most authors to then have their work picked apart by a publisher or third-party editor. I’ve not had to deal with this reality yet, but it’ll probably be coming…

thronal games

For anyone who doesn’t know me…let me just say that I’m not a big TV watcher. We don’t have cable, I don’t have a favorite show, and I’ve probably never seen a whole run/series/season besides perhaps the Simpsons.

However, after several recommendations…as well as access to Comcast’s online on-demand service, I decided to watch the HBO series, Game of Thrones. It certainly seemed like it would be right up my alley… a fantasy medieval-themed drama, based off a very good (from what I hear) series of books that run in a similar vein to my East Realm series that I’ve been writing.

While it’s quite dark and grim, it’s got wonderful depth and very very good characters. It’s refreshing to see heroes in shades of grey, rather than good and evil. Everyone seems to have some flaw or another, and it makes me want to go back and re-write Theo, Rey, Willow or Charlie. They’re just too right, too moral. I want to make my characters a bit more rough on the edges, less wholesome and protagonistic. I of course want to go back and read Martin’s Song of ice and Fire series too…though I hear they are a bit over-detailed and drear at times.It’s been far too long since I’ve been buried in a big thick book…besides my own.

 

bunches of words

Here’s an excerpt from Appalachia, some ways into Chapter 18. I’m sure it needs context, but you’ll just have to wait for me to finish writing it to figure that out, now won’t you?!

Theo’s back ached as they turned down an overgrown lane. A small clearing opened up on the left side. Abandoned ranch-style houses sat rotting along the right, some collapsed with trees sprouting up from their ruins.

“This’ll do,” Reiley muttered as they approached the clearing. Theo thought it looked like a playground, but all the equipment had long been ripped out for scrap metal. Only concrete bollards, benches and a crumbling picnic table sat there now, slowly being devoured by gnarled vines and the encroaching woods.

There were few words shared as they began setting up camp; all three were weary and miserable from the long day’s march. It was Reiley who finally broke the silence.

“Theo, you can have your tent back tonight. It was kind letting us use it, but Willow and I are fine in our shelter.”

After some vacant retorts, Theo took her offer and began setting his tent up. While it was arguably no less bear-proof than their tarp, there was a good amount of solace to be had in a cozy tent…four walls and a floor being utmost.

“We won’t be lighting a fire tonight,” Reiley also added. She had noticed Willow beginning to unpack the food. The distant echo of gunfire was barely audible over the chatter of insects and birds. “It’s not safe. Not tonight.”

cunning-linguist

I’m hoping to begin posting a lot more writing-related content here in the next few weeks, as well as update the writing pages on this site. I’ll try to include some snippets and teasers here and there, as well as updates and assorted fun stuff.

Here’s a brief overview of what I’m passively working on:

The East Realm Series (working title): 3 books (a trilogy, if you will) that take on a somewhat fantasy-like vein, though without anything too fantastical. There’s no elves or dwarves or magic, so maybe considering it ‘alternate history’ might be a better descriptor. The level of technological advancement sets it perhaps around the middle ages or even classical. The writing style is from a narrator standpoint and while the story occasionally zooms out to the larger meta level, it usually focuses closely follows a group of four protagonists on their adventure.Currently ERS is in the editing phase.

The Yellow Dress Ladies: An immature group of clueless, naive, and bored guys join up to form a wannabe street gang in a small rural desert town. It’s a humorous romp with a loose plotline, likeable characters, and many random ‘wtf’ moments. It’s currently around a hundred pages and I write a chapter here and there every few weeks or month if the mood hits me

All Around Bend: It’s my travel guide for Central Oregon. It’s been on shelves for 3 years now. Go check it out at http://allaroundbend.com, silly.

Appalachia (working title): A post-apocalyptic adventure, following Carl as he leaves the comfort of town and his dull routine. He leaves his entire life behind him as he explores the wastelands, wilderness, and the remnants of society. It’s not too dark, but has a deeper philosophical aspects, as well as theme, setting, and characters. It follows in a similar narration style as the East Realms, that of an author (myself) who has found a journal or pieced together stories from the protagonist’s adventure and compiled the materials into a narrative. It’s currently around 200 pages and I’m likely to turn it into a series, as I’ve got more ideas and the books gettin’ quite thick.

Well, I said that I’d like to start featuring some writing here on the blog; but I’ve already written a bunch already ^. Instead, here’s some eyecandy. This is a before and after of the map that will be in the beginning of the second and third books in my East Realm Series.Really happy with how well it turned out (first one is pencil/pen on paper).