For the most part I hate my WFC entry. The inconsistent "style." The overly-cutesy and obvious names. That I ran out of both time and words. That having been said, I liked the concept.
The title was tacked on at the end; the reference should be obvious.
In circles [...] fraud.
I wrote the the WFC entry a couple hours before the "deadline" (as interpreted from my time zone). Earlier in the day I went to a bookstore and saw a math-biography book about someone (possibly Russian or similar), and while I remember few details from the first paragraph, it more or less parallels my first paragraph. Or rather, the reverse.
This, however [...] culture.
Stolen from / inspired by Before Sunrise but of course unrelated.
"A man walks into a bar [...] Brain food."
Paraphrased from a random episode of Dead Like Me that I came across on the Sci-Fi channel. I had never seen the show before. It was enjoyable. The scene in a restaurant in that show is more entertaining than what I wrote, so go watch it instead.
And, of course, the obvious but not very meaningful zombie reference.
"Hello [...] between Rome and the barbarians."
Meaningless chit-chat, which the characters note, but which is no excuse for including it. I did not edit anything out because I had no time to edit. In terms of content it borrows superficially from a talk on video surveillance and the panopticon that I attended last December. The issue for these characters is that in contrast to times past, when they could disappear and reappear (which they would have to do from time to time) with few worries, the possibility of interconnected video and biometric databases could make the present and future problematic for them.
"You're looking [...] red meat."
Obvious and mostly meaningless vampire reference.
Skip the next part.
The ceiling plaster [...] bulbs.
Taken and altered from a photo posted on HuSi, perhaps by stark.
Against [...] vegetables.
In one of the museums of Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie, a 17th-century Dutch still life resides, and the rotting fruit and swarming flies can be observed. It's one of those typical vanitas-inspired paintings. Across the room the non-rotten precursor hangs.
Morning [...] bodies.
Just pointless "description."
"There is no going back [...] via the back door.
Just adapted from Kleist's "About the Marionette Theater."
"I've decided to have a child [...] change my mind.
Adapted from a recent-but-not-too-recent series of Hole entries. Plus a little channeling of mns.
"Then the unexpected [...] wish to describe."
Partially a twist on those Hole entries, partially just plot device, but basically the motivation of Renee's later actions -- not, as some seemed to feel, some desire to die because her life had been too long.
Skip the next part.
"And your first memory?" [...]
On the one hand just conversation, but it ties into the last bit of this section, or rather, is the point of it. Birth they do not recall, but their "resurrections" or such they do, but only as re-awakenings; then we have the end of the "story" and Renee's chance to observe/experience her own birth.
"Ever since we learned to fly" [...]
Just a thought from my flight across the Atlantic a few weeks back. During some turbulence we passed through deep pillars of white puffiness that seemed to go all the way down to the ocean. The fascinating thing about such clouds, as everyone knows, is that they are made up of very little "water," so are not nearly as puffy or substantial as they look.
"Is that why [...] as well [...] the black swelling"
Last spring I read Connie Willis' Dooms Day Book, so the Black Death was on my mind, and I decided to make Todd partially responsible for it. He denies responsibility for the London fire -- I had been thinking of Neal Stephenson that day. I almost paraphrased sections from The Farmer and Death, a fascinating early-modern dialogue and meditation. This also relates to their previous Vienna meeting as well as Venice, etc., since it also ties into her name, so I tied her to the fall of Istanbul and the transfer/transmission of scholars and texts westward.
"We always did [...] again had tears."
It is clear that some deaths or injuries were suicide attempts on Renee's part, but given the times in which she lived quite a few were mere accidents or even crimes. Try to go to the New World? -- oops, your boat sank. Oops, your house burned down. Oops, you did it again. That's centuries for you. I originally imagined them as from the High Middle Ages, so less than 1000 years old. Of course in the age of explosives and anesthetics painless deaths were an option, if death is what Renee wanted, but clearly she has no real interest in dying, perhaps due to conviction, perhaps because she is afraid or still has a survival instinct, or perhaps because she finds life interesting. That does not matter for the story told here.
They fall back [...] follows the first.
Just another recap of my transatlantic a few weeks back.
And just a bunch of pointless "exposition" sentences of sorts in the whole section -- extremely wasteful of words.
Skip the next part.
In San Francisco [...] isn't it?"
Another obvious naming convention. It establishes the characters' relative ages, but that's it. I do not know why I chose SF (perhaps because I wanted to add Half-Moon Bay) -- I later wanted to change it for some reason, for I wanted a later section to be set elsewhere -- probably Cairo on the Mississippi.
"If we had not [...] down the line."
I left out technobabble relating to the nature of whatever had altered these characters, though I would go for something virus-esque, since pop-sci-fi loves "retroviruses" these days, but because it would only be technobabble, I left it out. Genetic mutation would also work, except since Todd and Renee had a past together the chances of both having the same (rare) condition and coming from the same place/period is slim, unless they are closely related (twins would work).
"My flesh rots [...] undeath"
Her condition is essentially set by this point, though the particular types of "undeath," if we wish to call them that, that affect the three characters are never made explicitly the same for each or intended to be identical to one of the "standard forms" in fiction/movies/games. The passage itself was inspired by a chapter or text by Herta Müller that I skimmed in 1997.
Tied to the nature of her so-called "undeath" is a state of hyper-life -- her cells are (too) resistant to parasites and necrosis as well as programmed cell death. Reversing or eliminating telomere shortening is perhaps necessary to extending human life beyond a certain point; the matter of undifferentiated stem cells relates to cell and organ regeneration -- something humans generally cannot do (except in the liver) in contrast to many other animals, including a large number of vertebrates.
With Joshua [...]
Things get too rushed here -- I was running out of time. I had to do minor edits, such as insert Todd's tinkering on the plane or alter his description in the paragraph so as to make him "useful" at this point.
It's not all biochemical [...] plaques
I am reminded of Alzheimer's.
Nudes fill [...]
I have always found the Galatea & Pygmalion idea interesting, so I would interpret Joshua's creative work at least a little bit in that light, which is curiously fitting for him.
The next section seems to have been particularly unpopular.
For all his [...] remake her human
On the one hand this makes explicit that in some sense she is not human (likely a "genetic" or "physiological" one), but I was more interested in the "re" of "remake" (since we were talking not about birth, but rebirth).
"The mind matters [...]
Just Todd's plan -- again, I reduced the technobabble to "wires, electrodes, and circuitry." If I had had more time to condense things (I would not want to make it longer) I would have added a technobabble-ish passage on theories of mind and structural vs. biochemical models. It would have been crap anyway, so I'm glad I left it out.
Joshua's friend is another stupidly named and intentioned figure, but I decided to be consistent with the pretentiousness. I added more more obvious allegorical-but-not-allegorical reference just to complete the pattern, especially since I was interested in the "birth" aspect at this point.
As for Paris, I guess that was just a Before Sunset passage. My first weekend back in Idaho I had to sit through a baby shower; the woman having the child had been having contractions at those intervals, but was not due until Sept. 12.
The end ...
Anyway, in terms of reception, I must admit that as soon as I read ana's comment I almost felt like vomiting. Highlander was not intended, and in fact, while I enjoy the first movie in a kitschy, poorly-produced, cult-movie sort of way, I cannot stand 1) the other movies, 2) the TV show, 3) the extended "mythology" or 4) the fans. Sorry.
If you want Highlander fan-fic, I instead recommend the early issues of X-Force (early 90s?) -- Sam Guthrie (Cannonball) was given the extra characteristic of belonging to a group of super-mutant "Externals" or such, who were 1) immortal, but 2) whose immortality appeared after dying (the first time), and 3) could only be killed through beheading or such. That plot thread and "characterization" was dropped by later writers.
As for what was intended ... well, very little. This was the short-notice-alteration of another story that would have had the same two main characters involved in a slightly more Dead Again meets The Fountain recast as antagonism rather than love story sort of conflict or cat-and-mouse game -- Death and Rebirth going through death and rebirth through the ages. I had no story at all for them, except for one hunting the other or similar, which was no story at all.
I did intend the naming-references, vampire, zombie, and religious references, and technobabble, though in each case they were not the point/topic, which is to say, it was not meant as a literal vampire/zombie/resurrection story, nor as an allegory of death and rebirth or of Christ, and it was not about the technology of life extension, viruses, or mental modeling. I would say the relevant Hole entries provided my "plot" -- a reversal of the given situation from the Hole, in which the woman who did not want a child in that situation did want one here, and she had to overcome/alter her biological situation to do so. In that regard, it is the anti-Kleist, for instead of trying to re-discover grace and paradise after the fall from grace, she had to give up (accidental) immortality and become human again in order to have a child.
If I had it to do again I would scrap the first paragraph or such, since it was really just an homage to a different text that had no relation to this "story." The passages that I liked were the beginning of the second section as well as Renee's revulsion regarding her own body. These (the 2nd and 4th sections) were meant to be somewhat parallel, as evidenced by the interest in bodies, as well as the biological and botanical interests.
I would keep the overall plot structure, which is classical in nature (intro, rising, turning point, falling, denouement) as well as the layered "reveals," even though they are not that subtle (e.g. a description of Todd's reputation and behavior, the reasons for which make sense later). There was no particular reason for writing it all in the present tense, but since I rarely do so, I figured I'd cast it in that form.
Regarding proposed changes, I would change much of the language and wording. The dialogue was intentionally stilted, for that's how I saw these characters, caught in a lifeless hyper-life, but that is no excuse for unnecessary verbosity at some points.
All-in-all, I preferred my last WFC entry, which received about the same amount of time/effort on my part and which came out better, I think (insofar as it was "tighter").
... didn't go to bed until 3:30 in the morning -- packing.
... won a game of chess vs. the computer in 18 moves. I must have had it on the easiest level -- it was the first game I have played in years. I almost packed my chess book, but instead left it in Meridian; there are so many books, but they will just be a distraction these next few months, when I have to focus on my dissertation and teaching. I do, however, have plenty of entertainment.
... got through a hundred pages of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell while at the airport and in the plane. I brought a Neal Stephenson volume along, I have 18 boxes in J&C's attic, and I brought my DVDs with me, so I have about 100 movies available -- so just because I left a dozen or two books in Idaho (not counting the hundreds boxed up in the garage) and several hundred movies, does not mean that I do not have "digital distractions" available.
... packed last night, transferred data from the Compaq to the new external drive -- comics and some TV episodes, as well as a little music.
... got up between 8:30 and 9am, checked my email, and then showered. My father and I went to Meridian via Overland after picking up my ties at the Eagle/Overland intersection; got our ears lowered -- it is pleasant to have short(er) hair again, although I am still "shedding" --; and then went down Franklin, Cloverdale, and Emerald in order to pick up mochas at the Idaho Coffee Company. The women there know father by name -- one of those regulars. Everywhere he goes with me he says, "[Name], this is my (oldest) son, [BlueOregon]," or a variation thereof. At the coffee place, at his work, when the neighbor comes over, etc. I've been introduced many times in the last two weeks.
From there we worked our way toward the mall, caught the Connector and freeway, and drove to Broadway and then Busters. It was just before 11am, so we finished our coffees and waited for my step-mother. Lunch was held outside. The waitress qualified as cute -- blonde, a short skirt almost like shorts, and friendly -- but had almost no hips. I would almost call having the body of a boy with sliced grapefruit attached to one's chest a style, trend, or fashion statement. I went for a reuben and a starawberry lemonade -- tasty and pleasant lunch. Thereafter we drove together to the airport and checked in; my luggage was too heavy so I had to pay a $50 fee, but it was better than mailing myself the stuff. We said our good-byes; I went through security with no problems and waited a while at the gate. They just boarded us all at once after first class. Seat 21F, which was toward the back. Stupid window seat. A "handsome" woman sat along the aisle and a guy in his 20s took the middle seat -- he wore one of those velcrotm iPod holders on his right upper arm.
The woman on the aisle tapped away at her Blackberry, as did the guy to my left in the Minneapolis waiting area; I had never seen one "live" before. The first was a quick flight -- a 2pm departure, scheduled for a 5:46 arrival, but a 5:25 touch down. We arrived at F3, and my next flight was at F6, and this was the first time I did not have to change concourses or such at this airport.
On the way to Madison I have 19F. The flight is overbooked so attempting to change my seat is futile. It is only a one-hour flight.
Last night my step-mother took us to the new Basque restaurant in Boise on 6th street south of The Reef and across the street from the Basque cultural center. The restaurant upstairs was full; the bar downstairs was sparsely populated. It featured a resident tipsy guy with ex-hippy-hair, grey and tied back in a mini-pony-tail. I ordered the IPA, as we were waiting for said step-mother, and tipsy-guy said, "Good choice. It's excellent." He was right -- perfectly crisp and bitter. I say "tipsy" because of the tone of his voice that I noted when he offered fashion advice to one of the waitresses, a tallish, full-figured blonde showing leg and wearing black bulky pumps/heels over pink ankle socks. He was right about the shoes: the place has stairs, and those sorts of heels/pumps are awkward; the shoes were fine on their own, and would look best with slacks, but with the ankle socks they weren't great. Plus, she was tall enough that she did not need heels to make herself look taller, and her legs were not so chunky as to require the slimming effect.
The step-mother arrived, ordered a wine, and another another waitress, with whom we reserved our table, a blonde, whose round and friendly face nevertheless suggested something disfigured despite the lack of any blemishes and presence of symmetry, showed us upstairs to our table.
The food exceeded my already high expectations. The bread was of the hard-crust variety and made for dipping, the soup was a homemade chicken noodle with great broth and generous vegetables, and the salads were sprinkled with a creamy non-ranch dressing that I couldn't quite place. I ordered the roasted duck legs, the daily special, and it was the most luscious fowl I had eaten in recent memory. Lamb shank and cod completed the table. Another IPA graced my stomach, but no dessert.
It was a cool and breezy but not too chill evening.
I drove home with my step-mother and then the packing continued.
I won another match.
I arrived in Madison at 8:10, went to baggage claim, stood around with a hundred other people, and eventually I saw my luggage arrive. After collecting the two, heavy pieces I went to wait for J at 8:29, but it took her until closer to 8:40 to get there. We said our hellos, loaded the suitcases, and started off for downtown Madison. At 8:55 we pulled into the hostel and unloaded my bags.
A young-looking undergrad worked the desk; I didn't catch her name. She has been working here since May, but before then the office had been renovated, and now sports a "bar" type reception area rather than a single low office desk. After checking in I hauled my bags up the stairs, down the hall, and then down some stairs to get to room 4, which has 5 beds (two 2-bed bunks and a single), a desk lamp, kitchen counter, and its own, spacious bath. It gets enough light via various windows but also has a ceiling light. The kitchen cupboards contain blankets.
I plugged in the laptop to recharge, found no open wireless networks, relaxed a bit, and at 9:22 walked "to town." At 9:29 I was on the square, approaching State Street. Parts of said street are under construction and closed off to traffic -- the more things change, the more they stay the same, as some might say. The "Civic Center" area looks good, though, and now sports the new art museum, about which G.G., from whom I rented my Berlin apartment, told me several times. Now it is the other corner under work, next to the Orpheum. The building where Radio Shack used to be along with Stillwaters is empty and awaiting something new -- Cosi is "coming soon."
I considered places to eat a bit -- Pizza di Roma, Parthenon, coffee and pastry at Fair Trade ... Next to Paul's Books there is a UW Credit Union branch. It appears they have torn out University Square in the last week. Scanner Dan was in place near Paul's. The streets were lively enough but not full. Plenty of undergrads roamed, mostly freshman getting acquainted with the city. I walked across the mall to the Union. It was 9:46. Inside I went and there was a line for ice cream. I picked up paper copies of The Onion and Isthmus, walked toward the Rathskeller to see if food was being served, and returned to the entrance to leave.
Standing near the email terminals I saw L, A, and K, so I said hi, and we chatted for while about Madison, about abroad. A got the study abroad program management job in Salzburg for some college and is leaving this Saturday. K follows her a few weeks later and has an extension to her teaching assistantship in Austria. L is teaching 101 -- not 101 and 204 as the teaching assignment email listed -- and the Comp. Lit. department is being dissolved, as several sources have told me, but I didn't talk about that or H with L & Co. Eventually L had to bike home due to an early morning teaching meeting.
I walked down Langdon to Henry with A&K, and we turned down Henry to Gilman, where we went our separate ways. I went to 4-Star to look around, and then to Pizza di Roma for a slice and glass of water. I flipped through the two papers. A mother and college-entering-daughter came in, ordered, and as the mother was getting napkins the daughter lost both slices on the floor ... they just slid off the plate and down her clothes, covering her in sauce and grease.
I walked home along State Street and then the south side of the square. The Irish pub was well-populated, and a gang of yellow-clad security thugs stood outside the Majestic.
Outside the hostel a guy was finishing up a cigarette. We came in together, he introduced himself as Jeff, and explained that he is in town with friends whose daughter is starting as a freshman. They are from a town neighboring Oakland and Berkeley, though Jeff is originally from Pittsburgh, and did his MA in New York. We chatted about Madison, the girl entering school here, who is on the rowing team and supposedly loves Latin, about California and road trips, and about local beers. Jeff seemed a bit tipsy, as if he had been drinking for part of the day and that explained his friendliness, but upon later reflection I realized why I hadn't seen a cigarette pack.
Eventually we parted ways, I returned to my room, got ready for bed, and slept. It felt good.
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