06 04 13
reblogged from: still eating oranges

The significance of plot without conflict


In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.

The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

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04 10 10

Solitude Ending

My days alone with myself are coming to an end,
the twirl of time,
to twirls of thyme
are subtle tones of reason.

My passion grows with silence and absence of pretend,
I envy those,
in which it grows
no matter what the season.

My solitude forbids me to ever make amends,
I hold my breath,
for lonely death
to wash away my treason.

02 01 10

On the nature of…


I have known so for a long time now; my wardrobe, if I can even go so far to call it that, considering it is consisted mainly of worn-out, mismatched pieces of clothing, is in need of a radical makeover. Quite frankly, I should probably just throw out around eighty to ninety percent of what I have and start from scratch. Only the fact that I am a poor student (and hellishly lazy as well) keeps me from doing that. Still, I decided it was about time for a slight update, you could call it a minor rejuvenation of sorts - buying what is necessary at the moment and leaving the rest for an unspecified point in time in the future. With that thought lodged firmly in my pre-frontal lobe, after all this was just a short-term go in and get out operation, I set out to do some serious shopping. Or, rather, I thought I was.

I am not the type of person you would find in magasins de mode, browsing for long hours and intaking the supposedly glorious amount of latest fashion. Although I consider myself having some inkling of interest in what I wear - not obsessively, but there is something about the way you present yourself that is important, by which I do not mean for the sake of being accepted and lauded by your peers, but rather as a compliment to your personal aesthetic - I never fell the tug of these shoppes. Maybe it is for a reason, my subconscious secretly working hard to protect me.

At the outset I was thrilled, looking forward to this experience, thinking of all the shirts, sweaters, pants, pantaloons, jeans or other apparel I would try and supposedly add to my budding collection of garments. A few painful hours later all that I have is one extra sweater. To say that the choice of quality attire, especially considering men’s wear, is weak would be a grand understatement. I noticed a complete lack of experiment and daring design; here and there I would note a trifle of play with colors, but that was it for us guys. The best I can say is that for the most part I found what was presented to me uninspiring, boring and bland. At moments it was so bad I was actually starting to secretly eye the women’s section in hope of finding something that wouldn’t explicitly scream “transvestite!” if I put it on. Boy, if only I were female! Some of the coats, oh, so beautifully designed.

The more time I spent at the shops though, I started noticing a very disturbing quality of most of the clothing I encountered, one that for me meant a definite and immediate “no effing way.” Even though you could still find traces of style and distinctive design in some, mainly women’s attire, more often than not it was replaced by a completely different value: brand. Generic t-shirts, sweat shirts, coats and more, all adorned with logos and names, which is what seems to count nowadays, apart from how short a skirt is. In both of those we are losing out on a lot (not only fashion-wise). What exactly can you do with design when one of the most popular skirts seems to be the utterly tasteless tight-around-the-thighs strip of fabric which rarely extends further than a few centimeters below the crotch (really being a cross between a skirt and a belt) and leaves nothing to the imagination?

It is a sad reality to live in, where brand counts for more than aesthetic quality. I always hark back to the early twentieth century in terms of style, to the 1910s and 1920s, then later to the post-war era up to the mid-1960s and also to the 1970s with their disco movement. Not only were many of the designs great, but mainly you can feel a certain attitude looking at them. An eagerness to approach new design, to play around, which is certainly a trait that tends to be missing from mainstream fashion today. You could find this quality at high-profile fashion shows, I guess, but next to none of it is incorporated into the commoner’s mode.

I am currently working on a manifesto opposing the brand-driven descent into insipidness, and will be releasing it here on my blog in the unspecified future, and maybe even trying to release it to the wider public through other means (I won’t pretend I have a huge (any) base of readers here). Hopefully I’m not the only one who has had enough?

18 12 09


…Robin Hood, Fading of the Cries & Clash of the Titans.

All I wish to do just now is rant about newly released trailers I laughed at, to point to their inherent mistakes, and also to ponder about the fact how the resulting movies will probably end up being quite dull and bad.

Robin Hood' is the next epic by Ridley Scott, and frankly, according to what I saw, it seemed nothing like Robin Hood. What it rather seemed like, was 'Gladiator 2.' With rubber shields.

Did I mention the fact that Russell Crowe is playing Hood? Sure, there probably will be a few differences from ‘Gladiator,’ namely that you will see a lot of footage of creepy woods, with gnarled trees and mysterious figures lumbering in the background. And you mustn’t forget those glamorous “I just sort of fell in the lake a moment ago” archery sequences.

I wonder if the footage from the trailer will make it into the final cut and silently hope that it won’t, perhaps the trailer footage was shot separately, just for the purpose of the trailer, only a short while before the trailer was due, in the manner of the trailer for ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’ (http://www.cthulhulives.org/Whisperer/twid-blog.html post from 1 June 2009)? But wait, that trailer was good regardless.

As far as I can remember, trailers were supposed to make you want to see the full movie, but with Robin Hood, that is definitely not the feeling I got. But at least Ridley Scott can try and surprise me now. Call that a challenge.

Fading of the Cries' is a new independent movie by Brian Metcalf, the guy who previously brought us…being a visual effects supervisor on a few project. Oh, so it is a debut feature! The kind of movie you usually wish to work out well, so that you may get some offers form the big guys, be in the spotlight, finally make the epic movie you always dreamt about doing one day and so on, you know it. I wonder how good a director Metcalf will turn out to be, since he apparently cannot control the visual effects he used to supervise previously.

Is it just me or is that house (at least the top of it) CGI? Look at the way the roof breaks at the top, the unnatural contrast of the two surfaces and the hard shadow of the chimney, especially when compared to the shadows of the slight roof outcroppings. If the house isn’t CGI, it is at least very badly lit. But it doesn’t end there. Strange VFX and lighting issues run abundant in this trailer, from the plasticky people running over the hill,

through the strange blood, deformed people and converging shadows,

all the way to covering up a transition from live action to CGI when a character is morphing by blurring the scene.

Which still leaves the story unmentioned. In this case, though, I think that is a good thing, and actually a service to the movie.

Clash of the Titans' is a return to studio produced movies. As with the previous, I will be focusing on VFX, because it came as a slight shock to me what I saw. I would at least expect strong visuals in a multimillion production such as this. But it did not even have to examine the trailer in detail to spot some problems. Yes, I did watch it in HD (all of these trailers, and recommend you do too, if you want to check it all out for yourself), but I noticed the issues on the go, without having to skim trough the trailer frame by frame and in a cinema the image quality is higher than 1080p HD, so if I was able to see it here, I do not want to imagine the film quality horrors.

In both screenshots it is a breeze to identify typical 3D graphics issues; hard lighting, low-quality displacement mapping, high-specular materials with uncontrolled specular highlights and probably a shader generated texture instead of a properly detailed one. Each of those can be a problematic factor on its own, but put together it makes the CGI monsters look a lot like plastic toys.

That is it for today. Now to watch that new Alice in Wonderland trailer again.

02 12 09

On the nature of…


Who can genuinely not like them? They are a terra incognita, fresh to be explored, and cultivated. But there is one Virgin in particular that you do not ever want to touch, no matter how horny you are, how sex-deprived and desperate. It is Virgin Media. She might offer you her goods, quite willingly, although at a price - you see, a virgin, and a whore already - and try to reel you in with her goodies. There is the fibre optic cable, thus far a Virgin Media exclusive, that guarantees a stable connection so much more than the quite sketchy phone line. Plus, as an added bonus to the stability, you do not have to pay for a phone line if you do not want it. Oh, so convenient, right? Yes, right up yours.

It is mainly the men who are weak when faced by a virgin, driven by the inexplicable but seemingly natural urge to plunge their face into her beautiful lap. And so it was even with me; heeding none of the online slander I set out and put my credit card on the line: one of those, please! And one of those was supposed to be supplied to me, in approximately eleven days. Oh, the bliss that assuredly awaited me, the comfy and almost ecstatic humming of my computer as the newest episode of an unnamed television series from an unnamed television station in an unnamed country on an unnamed planet slowly made its way to my hard drive…or just the possibility to check my email. Each to his own.

I absolutely forgot we are told by ancient philosophers that life is never that simple, and though I have no idea how they knew about broadband back then, I must concur. A mere two days later I am served with the “Do-Not-Reply-To-This” type of message, wherein I am promptly informed that the time slot I chose for the installation is available no more. Also, I am given a new slot, ten days later and completely at random, devoid of any “are you going to be at home, sir?” or “what different date would suit you best?” clause. And as it turns out, no, I will not be at home at that time, and doubly no, this date does not suit me.

I get back to customer services, asking what all this means, and telling them of the problem I have with the date. No reply. As my dwindling supply of patience slowly runs out and still not a word from the depths of the internet, I march forth on a quest into the dragon’s lair - the local Virgin Media store.

My enquiries are met with blank stares or hostile sneers. These people have issues - maybe that is where Virgin Media’s name comes from, all of their employees look as if they were in desperate need of getting laid. It is explained to me that I need to call customer services, not write to them, which will of course incur a substantial fee, but do not worry, they reassure me, you can ask them to call you back.

I hate automated phone machines. By the time I get through to an operator, I had had to dial more numbers than I wish to recount, and it had taken almost ten minutes. I can vividly picture the blasphemous smile on the operator’s face as he announces that he cannot call me back, sorry. What was it you needed?

By this time, I want to cancel the service and fortunately there is a 28-day satisfaction guarantee attached to Virgin Media’s service, so I tell the operator I want to use that. As a response, he starts psychically blackmailing me. Evidently, I am a complete loser if I leave them, because a) only they provide the Awesome Fibre Optic, b) I will have to wait much much longer before I get any kind of internet c) I will have to pay a phone line, since a), d) I will have to pay buckets of money only to get the phone line installed, and e) I am just a loser, because I will lose all the benefits they offer, related to points a), b), c), and d). No wonder half the population is on anti-depressants. I say I do not care, just cancel the installation date and my service. Sure thing, is his reply, I will.

Three days later I receive a bundle in the mail - a router, modem and cables from Virgin Media. “Say hello to your bundle of tricks.” All I can say about their tricks is that they are filthy backstabbing ones. I bite the bullet, still hoping I am in the clear; they simply must have sent this bundle before I called in to cancel. No thank you, more to come. After receiving a letter confirming my direct debit I get really miffed and stride upon stride storm back to the local Virgin Media Store.

Fortunately enough, this time the shop is not full of sleazy guys with sex deficiency syndrome, but is occupied by I must say, rather intelligent people. Even though they repeat the same phrase as last time, “we are just a local shop, we cannot do anything to help you,” they at least let me use their phone and put me through directly to someone who hopefully can. Talking to that person, I find out I in fact did not cancel my service at all when I last called; how that happened and what my actual purpose for calling them was remains a mystery, perhaps forever. Luckily for me, I still have two days left out of my 28-day satisfaction guarantee. Cancel, cancel, cancel. I just hope it goes through this time.

Summarized, you do not want to go through this. Ever. Just go with an alternative, there are plenty out there, and some of them are even a better deal for your money, your nerves notwithstanding.

Myself, I found something that was just a couple pounds more; I have double the connection speed, a working phone line and I did not have to pay any fees for the line installation. Go figure. Was the installation of that service better? Not really. Seemingly it is a real pain in the arse to get broadband internet in Scotland. I am glad I have mine already. Only three months after arriving here. Sounds amazing, do you not think?

Also known as the bloody Pringle.

Also known as the bloody Pringle.

09 06 09

On the nature of…

…Snow Leopard.

This is an old post of mine ‘imported’ from VOX.

The more I think about Snow Leopard, it seems clearer that Apple is poking fun at Microsoft.

Unveiling the near final build of Snow Leopard at this year’s WWDC keynote address, Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, labeled Windows 7 as just being “another Vista.” And during the same keynote, he said that they loved Leopard so much at Apple, that for the next major release, they just decided to make Leopard better.

So, Windows 7 is just a better Windows Vista, and Snow Leopard is… just a better Leopard? What is going on here? Smelling of hypocrisy?

I don’t think so.

Apple has a rich experience when it comes down to ridiculing PC’s - its track of “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” ads is sufficient proof. Straight-out ridicule is clear and easily understood by the masses, but evidently, Apple’s funny bone has much more depth and intrigue to it. While still maintaining this mainstream joke platform, Apple is recently also reaching towards higher planes of sophistication, bringing forth satire and parody.

The fact that Windows 7 is just a Vista rehash gives Apple the freedom to play around. Apple has the Royal Flush this round, and they very well know it. With no attendant need to push out striking new OS concepts, Apple can concentrate on development for the future, and solidifying its base. At the same time, they can jest with Microsoft.

Marketing Snow Leopard as “a better Leopard,” or even leaving ‘Leopard’ in the release name is the main joke here. On the surface, Apple is mimicking Microsoft, doing as they are, and drawing the parallel themselves. The whole irony of this leaps out when you realize that under the surface, what both companies are doing is the absolute opposite of each other. Whereas Microsoft has named its next operating system Windows 7, to distinguish it from Vista, when the core of the OS remains the same, Apple chose to name their next OS release very similarly to the previous one, while going deep down to essentially rewrite the core of their OS.

Microsoft tried what it saw Apple doing previously - almost all new releases of Mac OS X brought new polish to the system from a visual point of view. But what Microsoft has yet to understand, is that underneath all that polish, each new version of Mac OS X also brought innovation. I do not remember an OS X release I would dismiss with a notion of: “who needs this stuff?” I was always baffled by their great ideas. But to a lazy eye, to one who doesn’t care about the internal working of things, each new OS X release just brought more polish. And suddenly, Microsoft is ecstatically jumping up and down, bobbing its giant multibillion head: “Me want some polish too!” And Apple is calmly stepping off the bandwagon, approving. “Sure, take all the polish you want, we will just have to do with the substantial things.”

Alas, that is not all - the joke is not complete yet. To further establish Snow Leopard as a “small insignificant major update,” Apple announces that upgrading from Leopard will cost a mere $29. Strike of genius. Here you have the unbelievably cheap OS that is named almost the same and looks almost the same as its previous major release, next to the expensive but completely cool-looking new OS with a colorful window on the cover. Which one will you want, the Speedo, or the Rolex? But what if we rephrase the question? Pick one: a $29 OS jock-full of substance and core updates, or an internally rotten piece of software that is patched up and polished on the surface, and selling only for about, say, $300?

Add the fact that Snow Leopard comes with out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, something you have to pay for premium on its native Windows PC platform. This is what I call the perfect finishing touch.

If this isn’t the best joke in computer history, I don’t know what it is - but certainly, not by the furthest stretch of the imagination can this be coincidence.