Sunday, August 25, 2013

GUEST WRITER: THE ARRIVAL OF THE TOA

(Editor's note: This one is a bit of a departure for me, in that I did not write this. This was, in fact, written by my 11-year-old son, William. I've invited other writers to guest appear on the Maztorphyl, but I'm happy to say this one is the first.

(It is a work of fan fiction, or fanfic, as it is know in the field, based on Legos' Bionicle toy universe, of which my boy is a huge fan. As a crotchety old writer, I myself shy away from fanfic, but I defy anyone who has taken up the pen and not at first tried to emulate or outright copy the works of those they admire, especially in speculative fiction. At his age, I, myself, formulated many stories centered around the continuing adventures of Randolph Carter, Elric of Melnibon√© (NOT that other one), John Carter, Sydney Carton, and so many others while sipping dandelion wine. Sadly, most of these stories never went past the confines of my brain. As for the rest, well, who knows?

(Do I think it's a great work? Sure. Am I a little biased since he is my son? Perhaps. Am I very proud of his effort? Absolutely! Will I support his pursuit of a writing profession if that's what he wants to do with his life, up to and including studying it in college like I did? Of course. Other than several obviously immoral and/or illegal professions that immediately come to mind, I'll support him in whatever he does! At the same time, however, I'll also encourage him to do what I should have done, and study it in college just as a minor or the second of a double major. The first, I will advise him, should be for a day job that will give him a career an order of magnitude better than mine turned out to be! Anyway, here ya go...)

The Arrival of the Toa
By William Nagore

On the island of Mata Nui during the sunrise,  six canisters like a meteor shower. Each one landed in a different place. One landed in the icy mountains, one landed in the sea, one landed in the volcano plains, one landed on the great stone, one landed in the trees of the Great Forrest and one landed straight in an abandoned snake tunnel. Then they all simultaneously opened with a click and twist.

Chapter One: Toa of Fire

As the Toa of Fire awoke from his sleep, he climbed out; however, he could not remember anything but his name: Tahu, Toa of Fire. As he realized this he climbed up one of the volcanoes and jumped into the lava. But then he climbed from the volcano’s lava and he was different, as if the lava had colored him orange, black and red. He also brought with him two things: the mask of shielding and a  liquid five metal sword, and said, “I am Tahu.”

Chapter Two: Toa of Water

As the Toa of Water woke up, she popped off the lid. Then, as she did, the canister flipped upside-down and she realized she was in water. All of a sudden, the canister was flooding with water. She panicked and tried to escape but she couldn’t; it was too late, she was under water. As she fell out she stopped and thought, “Hey, how come I am not drowning and I am breathing?” She realized that she was the Toa of Water and her name was Gali, and she had the mask of peace.

Chapter Three: Toa of Air
 
During Gali’s awakening, another Toa was awoken: The Toa of Air. He sliced the lid off the canister and jumped out onto a branch like a cat running from a dog. Then the canister fell to the ground along with the branch that was holding it. He then said, “Boy, that was a close one.” As he said this, he leaped and landed safely on the ground. And he thought, “Lewa is my name, and I have the mask of air.”

Chapter Four: Toa of Earth

As the fourth canister opened the next Toa popped out with a thud. He thought, “Where am I, why is it so dark, and how do I get out?” Then he surprisingly saw his hands in the dark; however, they were not hands, they were claws. He freaked out and swung his hands over and over. When he was done, he realized he had dug his way out and said, “Say, I know who I am, Onua, and I have the mask of strength.”

Chapter Five: Toa of Stone

As he woke he felt strong. Then he kicked the lid off. But when he did, the lid hit the mountains hard! Then he jumped out and an avalanche started and buried him. However, he kicked his way out, and read the lid and it said Pohatu; and he said, “that is my name.”

Chapter Six: Toa of Ice

As he woke he sliced off the lid of the canister with his sword and jumped our and said in a low voice, “It’s cold, I like it.” Then he heard the avalanche and stopped it with his sword. He said, “That was not hard,” with a grin. Then he thought, “Hey, I am Kopaka, Toa of Ice.”

# # #


(Editor's note: Like what you read? No? Well, read something else on the blog. I'll wait ... Did you like that? Great! Tell your friends! Hell, tell your enemies! Tell your family, business acquaintances, your neighbors and that guy who talks to himself at the bus stop. Especially him. Let's see what we can do to make this the biggest blog EEVVVVVVAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR! By the way, please contribute by clicking on the link above. Your financial help keeps The Maztorphyl up and running!)
 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

ECHOES IN THE DARK

I am certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that except for a proliferation of stupid and cruel baby names, Hollywood doesn’t have a creative bone left in its rotting corpus.

Now, let me be clear. You may have noticed I did not say, “Out of ideas.” There is a subtle but important difference. If I had said the latter, I would be implying that it is still on the lookout for that next great idea. Well, as far as I can see, it’s not even trying.

Case in point: according to Den of the Geek, there are as many as 111 sequels at various stages of development within its gabled, crumbling halls. That’s right, 111! Try and grasp this. In 1980, Hollywood released just 43 films altogether, only five of which were sequels. It was a great year for cinema, too, with releases of such iconic films as The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack and yes, the original Friday the 13th.

(Authors note: I picked these films as examples because—tragically—they suffered their own particularly agonizing sequel Hells in the form of horridly bad follow-ups and, in the case of FT13th, the lingering death of many sequels, each one worse than the previous.)

Think about that. Just 30 years ago, Hollywood put out less than a third of mostly original films it is now creating as sequels! Hell, in the earlier days of American cinema, sequels were almost nonexistent. Can you imagine a sequel to Metropolis or Citizen Kane? Ack! Ack! Sputter! Sputter!

Why this is happening is obvious to anyone bothering more than a transient look at the industry: greed. Yup, that Hammer of Order, that Root of All Evil, which comes so easily to an industry run by sociopath business executives and accountants, an industry so dysfunctional it uses marriages and divorces, drug abuse and its treatment, fashion ridicule and sexual orientation as part of its marketing plans.

People like the familiarity of characters they’ve already been exposed to, and are mentally and emotionally invested enough to want to share their new adventures. Hollywood knows this, and now exploits it to see just how much blood they can get by beating whatever dead horse they have on hand.

Do you think that Austin Powers would have spawned two sequels, with one the way, if studio execs didn’t want to squeeze every little ounce of marrow out of its spent bones? Come on! Except for that dialogue gag at the beginning of The Spy Who Shagged Me, it was manure!

The same could be said for Caddyshack II and Blues Brothers 2000: trash, both of them, but that didn’t stop the execs from making a few million bucks off a public hoping to relive the enjoyment they felt when they saw the originals. It’s a scam, really.

Well, now Hollywood’s sequel phenomenon has evolved. Now studios are planning multiple sequels without even bothering to wondering if the first sequel will even make it or not. The best example is James Cameron’s Avatar, or, as I like to call it, Dancing with Wolves in Spaaaaaaace!, which is now looking at three—yes, three—sequels! Whiskey tango foxtrot!

But before you say it, yes, I’ve been sucked into that sequel hole myself, many times, in fact, but I’m getting tired of the whole thing. You know, though, I guess I’d feel less strongly about sequels if the industry would just try making a good movie while using the previous film as a springboard. Far more often than not, a sequel is just a recycling of the first movie, same plot, same gags, and same cinematic approach, like what happened with The Hangover and Hangover II. Give me some slack, guys! If I’d known that I would have just watched the original again!

(Editor's note: Like what you read? No? Well, read something else on the blog. I'll wait ... Did you like that? Great! Tell your friends! Hell, tell your enemies! Tell your family, business acquaintances, your neighbors and that guy who talks to himself at the bus stop. Especially him. Let's see what we can do to make this the biggest blog EEVVVVVVAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR! By the way, please contribute by clicking on the link above. Your financial help keeps The Maztorphyl up and running!)
 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

SENATUS POPULUSQUE MARICOPUS

Okay, so, we make this big decision to move. In retrospect it was inevitable, but at the time it was a very difficult and big choice to make. After all, our families live in Tucson and Da Wife and I grew up there. Hell, I was born there! Still, we had to make the big leap.

Once the decision was made, I, like I’m sure a lot of people transitioning to a new area, conducted a little research about the area. I’d already had a fair amount of it under my belt, thanks to some freelance work I’d done in the past, but I wanted to focus on my specific area, to get as much information as I could in case I missed anything in the past.

One of the first things I found made me think I hit pay dirt. It turns out that Queen Creek, the town just north of San Tan Valley where we moved, has a very nice public library that any town of its size can be proud to have. As a writer I’m sure you can understand how this got me hot and bothered, but as a parent I also knew this would be a great place for Da Boys. In the manic whirlwind of the move we hadn’t even gotten around to building a summer reading list for the boys, and all the kids activities would have done a great job in rounding out the couple months of summer vacation until school started.

Would have. That’s right. I said, “Would have.”

As we approached the building I noted how nice it looked. Granted, I prefer classical motifs in architecture, but the library, while contemporary, didn’t seem to me to have that sterile slapped-on look like so many other new buildings. It actually gave me a vibrant, energetic feeling I found exciting. I just couldn’t wait to get inside!

Don’t get me wrong, this was no Main Branch of the New York Public Library System. I’m pretty sure the whole building could fit inside one of that library’s reading rooms. Still, especially for a town of this size it definitely was something of which to be proud. So, feeling frisky I lead Da Boys, who were feeling decidedly less so, into our first big adventure, the first stop being, of course, getting us all library cards.

That, in usual fashion, is where the bottom dropped out.

It’s time for a little local history lesson.

At some point in the recent past, San Tan Valley was actually part of Queen Creek. According to what I could find out so far, a bone of contention arose between San Tan and the rest of the town. I’m not sure if it was a series of issues or one big one, but in the end San Tan broke away from their cruel QC overlords, and to this day remains an unincorporated area in the northwestern region of Pinal County, while still technically remaining a part of the Phoenix Metro Area, at its extreme southeastern tip. It is important to note that most of the Metro Area sits in Maricopa County, for reasons that will soon become very clear.

So, the boys and I walked up to the main help desk and asked to get said cards. The librarian was all-too eager to help us, even when she found out that we lived in San Tan Valley, when she told us of the $60 annual registration fee.

That’s right. $60. Annual. As in I’d have to pay every year to go there.

Imagine this: I’m standing in a public building, financed by public funds, that should allow public access free-of-charge, in the United States of America, and I was being told I needed to fork over 60 bucks in order to enjoy any of its resources and services.

The reason, I was told, was because the Queen Creek Library was part of the Maricopa County Library District and funded by MCLP resources (ie, PUBLIC RESOURCES), and because San Tan Valley (where we live) sits inside Pinal County I had to pay the aforementioned 60 smackroos. It was free of course, but only to Maricopa County residents.

Nevermind that the Maricopa/Pinal County border is maybe five minutes south of the library, or that San Tan Valley, a bedroom community, is largely a residential area made up of thousands of people, many of whom might want access to a well-equipped library like this one.

As an incentive, the librarian told me the nearest library of its size in Pinal County was in Apache Junction, another half hour drive to the northwest. At least there I could get access free, right?

Granted, the $60 fee at Queen Creek is an annual one, so even broken down my month it only comes to about five bucks (you have to pay the entire amount up front). Still, the point I’m trying to make is, because it is a public resource, I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO PAY TO BEGIN WITH!

And I didn’t, partly because of my outrage, but also because, for the sake of full disclosure, we had just moved and had started experiencing acute post-move financial malaise, which for some reason is ongoing. In short, I didn’t have the cash. Still, even if I do it’s the principle of the thing that matters.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t blow up at her or anything. I’ve been in situations like that before and I’ve found there’s nothing more futile than trying to argue with a beaurocracy. She was even very helpful in the end. She informed us that San Tan Valley actually has its own library that, it turned out, is just a stone’s throw, almost literally, from our new house. It turned out to be very small, like two portable buildings small, but it was close to home and we wouldn’t be swindled out of any money by being there.

At the San Tan Library, I struck up a conversation with one of the other visitors while filling out the library card applications. I told her what happened and she said something very revealing. “Yeah,” she advised, “they don’t want our riffraff up there.” Huh!

Well, it may not be big, but at least I feel more honest being there than at Queen Creek. I’ll keep my money and integrity, thank you.

You know though, while I’d probably be hard pressed to find a direct causal relation, I think this brings to light a much bigger and older problem with Arizona. Time for another history lesson.

Okay, not really a lesson. More of an analogy, really. In ancient times, Rome couldn’t care less about its vassal states and provinces as long as the tax money kept rolling in. Drought? Too bad. Give us our money. Faltering economy? Too bad. Give us our money. Revolt? Too bad. Give us our money. Need help? Too bad. Help yourself and give us our money.

Well, for years Phoenix Metro has acted like Ancient Rome and the rest of the state is its empire. You see it every day. Even on the TV on, say, ABC in the mornings, it’s not Good Morning Phoenix or Tempe or Scottsdale. No, it’s Good Morning Arizona, as if the entire state is encapsulated within the confines of Maricopa County and the Valley of the Sun.

That’s why you’ve seen me call the state legislature the Maricopa County State Legislature. Because historically the only people they are going to look out for are those in the immediate area. Granted, a majority of Arizona’s population lives in the Valley of the Sun, but that’s because living almost anywhere in the rest of the state sucks. Limited job markets, struggling economies, incompetent and delusional local governments, and the like. But most of our elected state officials are too busy taking care of their own, while those few representing the rest of the state are either rendered politically impotent or apathetic to the situation.

How do they get away with rendering this state a Maricopa County-only club? I don’t know, but as we saw with the Roman Empire, Arizona has already begun to crumble in the other counties, and it’s only a matter of time before the rot infects Phoenix Metro, too. Attila the Hun, anyone?
 
(Editor's note: Like what you read? No? Well, read something else on the blog. I'll wait ... Did you like that? Great! Tell your friends! Hell, tell your enemies! Tell your family, business acquaintances, your neighbors and that guy who talks to himself at the bus stop. Especially him. Let's see what we can do to make this the biggest blog EEVVVVVVAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR! By the way, please contribute by clicking on the link above. Your financial help keeps The Maztorphyl up and running!)