Thursday, October 23, 2014

Seek the Original: Forrest Gump

I wrote this a long time ago but didn't post it because I was afraid of coming across as too negative. As an author, I don't think it's wise to be too critical, since I live in a glass house after all. Now... I'm tired of not doing things. Refraining from action is not progress. Action is progress! So here's action!

97.03% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

Forrest Gump
by Winston Groom

A retarded (sorry, mentally challenged) man tells his life story. Life has taken him on a wild ride, and though he can't speak clearly and his mind doesn't work quite like you and me's, he done lived a good life.

You see, he's a huge kid. Over six feet, 200 pounds, and only a teenager. Well, one day he's walking down the street and somebody sees him and recruits him to play football for his high school. This starts him on the course of his entire life.

He doesn't understand plays and strategies, nor can he even catch the ball, but he can run. He can run very well, and nobody can get in his way. It's enough to make him a valuable player.

He gets to go to college playing football for them. He discovers he can do the complex physics equations that the professors took years to learn. He is labeled an idiot savant: super intelligent in a small number of areas, and yet, with an IQ of 75, barely able to spell his own name.

He learns to play the harmonica as soon as he picks one up, surpassing his friend, Bubba, who has been practicing for so long. When the game goes bust, he has to drop out of college and the Army snatches him up and ships him to Vietnam.

Using his football running skills, he pulls several wounded soldiers from harm's way. He is wounded in combat, sent to a hospital, picks up ping pong and excels at it instantly. He is discharged, meets president Johnson for a medal of honor, and then he is recruited to play table tennis professionally, representing the USA in a tournament in China. He saves Mao Zedong's life, gets lost in the city, and plays in the tournament. He doesn't even know who wins or loses by the time he goes home. He wanders up north where he meets up with Jenny, a hippie girl, whom he has known since grade school. His harmonica playing gets him noticed, and he ends up in a band with her.

Jenny persuades him to throw his medal away as an act of protest against the war. He accidentally injures an important man, and is sent to an asylum. Up until now, his adventures have been believable. It's here, after the medal-throwing incident, that things take a turn for the downright ridiculous.

His talent for complex math lands him a spot at NASA in lieu of a prison sentence. Forrest is sent into space along with an abrasive female astronaut and a nasty orangutan. They crash somewhere in New Guinea, where they are taken in by a tribe of cannibals, one of whom went to Yale and became a chess player. They have to plant cotton for the cannibals for four long years.

From here on out, the book lost me. Every review on the cover says this is a hilarious satire, but I can't figure out what it's satirizing.

Over and over, Forrest is "discovered," and someone else takes him for a ride, and at everything Forrest does, he succeeds. Everyone else around him--the educated, the sane, the qualified normal people--fail in whatever they do, and here's this idiot with no plan, no direction, succeeding at everything and not even trying. That's supposed to be funny, and I think it would have worked if not for the 4-year detour with the cannibals. That one just went too far, and the rest of the book builds on those events, so I can't pretend it never happened.

After some more misadventures, he ends up making a name for himself arm wrestling at a bar. Someone hears of his talent and recruits him for pro-wrestling, and he becomes a star!

He leaves wrestling, and is discovered to be a great chess player! He happens to meet a former grandmaster and whips his ass at a game. The guy then sponsors Forrest's entry into a real chess tournament!

I'm supposed to find this funny, absurd and endearing, but instead I found it irritating. Forrest isn't even on board with any of this stuff. Other people approach him, recognize his talent and say he's perfect for this, or a natural at that. They offer to bring him into ping pong, or pro-wrestling, or tournament chess, or running for senate. None of it is Forrest's idea. He's just there, doesn't know what he's doing or why, but he sure is good at everything that comes his way.

We should all be so lucky to be "discovered." We should all be so lucky to succeed at everything without even trying, like the shrimping business he starts that becomes a multi-million-dollar industry overnight ('cause apparently nobody else in Louisiana farms shrimp). We should all be so lucky for life to come to us instead of making us find it.

When Forrest finally makes a decision for himself, instead of letting someone else tell him he should do this or that, his life falls into place. But even that's not enough because he gets bored of it, walks away, lives on the streets like a bum, figures out how to play keyboard and becomes a one-man-band!

What is the point? What is this satirizing? What's so funny? I was on board until chapter 12. Really, I was, but after that point it becomes too ridiculous for its own good, and not even in a funny way. If there is a joke, I missed it.

I do like how the idiot of the story seems to be the normal person, and all the normal people are made the fools for it, but I don't think the book draws enough attention to that. Perhaps Macbeth was right. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, symbolizing nothing. That seems to be Gump's life all right. I don't think it's all that funny, and if it had something to say, I missed it.

compare that to

Forrest Gump (1994)
starring Tom Hanks

Taking every adventure of Forrest Gump that works and leaving out the ones that don't, adding in a few new ones.

As a kid, Forrest is in leg braces. He meets Elvis Presley, where he dances along with Elvis' guitar playing. Then Elvis starts dancing just like Forrest did.

He's good at running, and coach recognizes this and recruits him. He plays football through high school and college, gets a degree for it and meets president Kennedy, shakes his hand and shares a joke.

Then he's shipped off to Vietnam, picks up table tennis, meets president Johnson, shows him his war wound and is recruited for the team to play against the Chinese. Forrest is discharged, buys a boat and starts a shrimping business in honor of Bubba, his shrimp-obsessed Army friend who was killed in the war.

It's actually much better than the book. Forrest's misadventures are more down to earth. There's no being shot into space, no living with cannibals, no wrestling, no Hollywood gig, no chess championship, no reunion with the orangutan that flew into space with him and keeping him as a pet for years. In the book, Forrest has so many adventures, and they follow such a predictable pattern and become so ridiculous that he becomes a cartoon character. Omitting these adventures improves the story greatly because now, in the movie, Forrest becomes a real person who could conceivably have gone through life this way.

The movie also explains why Forrest's shrimp business takes off: a hurricane destroys everyone else's business but Forrest's. Bad news for the local economy, good news for him, who is able to rush in and dominate the industry. (Symbolic of America after WWII? ...nah)

Jenny returns, leaves him, and Forrest decides to go jogging. He has no reason to stop, so he just keeps running because why not? He runs around the country for three years. This sounds like something Forrest would have done, and for just that simple reason. It's a hell of a lot more believable than him getting recruited for a chess tournament and a Hollywood movie at the same time. Forrest is a real person in the movie, and the audience can identify with him and his trip through American history. I don't know what he's supposed to be in the book.

In the movie, Dan is Forrest's lieutenant, and he's wounded in battle. Forrest pulls him out of the jungle and saves his life, but he loses both of his legs. In the book, Forrest doesn't meet him until he gets to the hospital. They become friends, but they didn't serve together.

Dan becomes a down-and-out bum in both versions of the story, but I actually like the book's take on why he becomes depressed. The Dan in the book thought he had life figured out. He had an academic philosophy for how life works, and he thought he was living by it until Vietnam happened to him. Now his life's philosophy is in shambles and he doesn't know what to do or where to go.

The movie uses this idea, but now Dan is convinced he's destined to die a hero in the war, and Forrest ruined his plan. It's a weaker reason, but his and Forrest's relationship is much stronger in the movie than it is in the book, more than making up for the slightly less sophisticated reason for Dan to be so depressed. Digitally removing his legs in every scene he's in is incredibly well done. Creepy, too.

Incorporating Forrest Gump into these archival reels is a nice touch. It's very convincing, though you can tell something just ain't quite right. The lips synch up with the voice, but something is still off... They go by so fast you don't have time to question them, so they're amusing for the couple seconds they're on screen and then we move on.

Subtle special effects, detailed sets and costumes and lots of archival footage recreate every era of American history in recent memory. Forrest feels like a real person who somehow made his way through all of it. He may be an idiot, but things turned out all right.

Now that his adventures are more grounded in reality; now that Forrest isn't ridiculously good at absolutely everything; now that he doesn't get shot into space and become a chess champion, his life story is amazing to watch. Its message is a little unclear, but it's more than the book, which had nothing at all.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Interesting pictures

It's official: my childhood is officially RETRO. I owned every one of those toys except the sock monkey. I loved my tinker toys, though the new ones are all plastic. No wood :-(

Guilmon, save me from the Y2K Bug!

At the office.

Father and daughter.


Comfortable dogs.

The Rain Outside.


Watching you write.

A visitor.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Last Haul complete, 300K words

It's done. Third draft complete as best as I can, thirteen months after I began it. I still worry about the visuals during the final confrontation, but there's always time to fix that up if necessary.

Three books.

One story.


My eyes hurt so much.

My oldest idea is finished. It's about 300,000 words--my second project of such length.

Nobody is going to publish this, not until I prove myself with something shorter. My trip to ConText confirmed it.

So please read my shorter works and enjoy them so I can publish the big stuff :-)

No more big stuff. Everything I do in the foreseeable future will be small. Short. Sweet. Something that won't take up so much energy.

I think I am finally tired. Making my oldest, biggest idea real took a lot of work. Someday it will pay off. Someday everyone will know it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Huvek Playlist

The Huvek playlist

North Point - Mike Oldfield

Juchu - DVA

Taurus II - Mike Oldfield

Kursk - Loscil

Mute - Loscil

What it is without what made it move - Gears of the Apparatus

Lake Orchard - Loscil

One inch above the surface of the ocean - Gears of the Apparatus

Conflict/Compromise/Repeat - Gears of the Apparatus

Casanova - Floex

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Future Prediction update: Playstation Now

An update to my original Future Prediction.

I read an article in Game Informer about Playstation Now. (The article is not online, it's in the magazine. Issue 258 page 15.)

On a very basic level, games are played on a remote server and the video signal is sent to your console. At the same time, your controller inputs are beamed back to the source.

This is possible for games now, so it's only a matter of time before all programs are like this. We will reach a point where we won't own anything, but all programs, music, movies, etc., will stream from central servers. No piracy because no one will download anything. Maybe we'll reach the point where hard drives will not exist on home computers. It will be framed as "convenience," but do not be fooled. Once the things we buy--once our information!--is no longer in our hands, our lives will not be in our hands.

Based on some of the reviews out there (1 | 2) people are looking forward to this. Once the problems with controller lag and pricing are resolved, it could be an industry changer.

I'm afraid.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Huvek - chapter 2, teaser

(back to ch 1, part 3)


Loy opened his eyes. His lungs were empty, and his chest felt like it was caving in. He gasped. His lungs expanded, as if for the first time in his life. The pain burned off the fog in his mind and he sat up, coughing and gasping, holding his throat with one hand and his chest with the other.

He was butt naked on a cold, metallic floor. He coughed and wheezed for over a minute. Feeling returned to his extremities. His vision cleared up. He noticed the walls were metal as well. Brushed metal, non-reflective, no seams anywhere.

Gradually his lungs became used to expanding and contracting. His heart settled into a stable rhythm again. Loy calmed down. He turned his head and looked around.

Against the wall to his right was a small bed. Mattress, box spring and frame with a blanket. Twin sized, he guessed. He looked to his left. There was a small nozzle sticking out of the wall. A showerhead. Beneath it were a few tiny holes recessed into the otherwise perfectly smooth metal for drainage. Just behind the showerhead, in the corner, was a small lavatory.

Loy slowly rose to his feet. He felt weak as a newborn kitten, and couldn't gather the energy to stand up straight. He stood hunched, still holding his chest with one hand, and turned. The room was five meters across. Perfectly smooth except for the shower area. Eerily clean. A five-meter, metallic box with rounded corners.

No entrance. Loy turned around in place, nearly tripping over his own feet, and confirmed it. There was no door or window. He couldn't even see an air vent. The entire room was solid, clean metal. The only soft thing in here was the bed.

Loy had turned in four complete circles, and now stopped, facing the foot of the bed. He lifted his foot and took a step towards it, suddenly feeling exactly how weak he was. He couldn't seem to remember how to put one foot in front of the other, so he lifted one foot and dragged the other behind him.

Something in the corner moved.

Loy just now noticed there was something large crouched in the corner. He stumbled to a halt and followed it with his eyes as it rose to full height.

It had green and blue scales. It stood about two heads taller than Loy, and was twice as wide. Its claws were as long as Loy's entire hand, and it stood on digitigrade feet that seemed to balance on claws just as long. It was as naked as Loy, allowing him to see every line on its hulking frame.

A kesvek.

Loy stumbled backwards a step, waving his arms around for balance. The reptile in the corner loomed, eyeing him. Its tongue flicked in and out a dozen times.

Distantly, Loy thought he should scream, or attack, or run and hide. He also thought the kesvek would coil up and leap on him, tear his chest open without hesitation. But instead, he only stood there. They glared at each other.

Loy felt this strange sense of calm. His heart didn't race at the sight of his enemy. His blood didn't boil. He only looked at him, and in the absence of rage, he felt curiosity.

"Who are you?" Loy said.

check out the whole novel on Amazon

More about me on the website.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Huvek - chapter 1, part 3

back to part 2

Loy and two others dropped from the wall and bolted into the city. He glanced to the sides at his fellow soldiers. Private Axer on his left. Corporal Harni on his right. He didn't know these two very well, but they were human, which made them family. They ran down the streets, taking turn after turn from one street to another, knowing it didn't matter if they stayed out of sight. The kesvek could smell them. They knew exactly where they were, how fast they were running, and that they were running for their lives.

Loy heard crashing footsteps turn a corner behind them. He stole a quick glance back. The three kesvek charged down the street like rampaging dinosaurs. He'd heard soliders use that analogy before. A typical kesvek was only about half a meter taller than a human, so the expression had nothing to do with physical size.

Loy felt like a little mouse scurrying away from a trio of T-Rexes. Deep throaty growls and snarls gained on them. Loy picked up the pace, fully aware the armor that should save his life was now weighing him down, but he dared not ditch it to pick up speed now.

Loy felt heavy footsteps slamming closer and closer to him. A kesvek warrior caught up from behind and ran Harni through the chest with his claws. He disappeared from Loy's side. Axer turned white. Loy's blood froze as he heard the kesvek tearing Harni's body apart through his armor.

A few seconds later, Axer's skull exploded as another warrior's claws speared it from behind. Loy didn't look back, but changed direction just in time to avoid the claws of the third warrior, which chopped empty air instead. Loy turned the corner and booked down the open street, hoping to be in sight of a human soldier with ammo.

Before him was an avenue with twenty kesvek in it. Loy's heart stopped, but his legs kept moving. The lizards saw the lone solider running towards them and turned to face him, claws out and tongues flicking the air. Suddenly Loy's body caught up to his mind. He skidded to a stop, reached to his side and grabbed his knife. It was the last desperate act of a soldier.

The kesvek behind Loy shouted something to the others. The Kesvek language was almost unpronounceable to humans, but Loy had learned it like everyone did in basic training. Loy could only make out the word clash.

The other warriors halted and watched. Loy turned and faced the reptiles chasing him. Two of the kesvek had blood on their claws. The third had none, and he was the one who had claimed Loy.

Loy heard no radio chatter. Not even the commander. They were dead. Just like that the reptiles had destroyed everyone. They never took prisoners. Civilian, military--didn't matter. The Kesvek killed them all just the same, except for the children. They left the young to starve to death.

Loy was pumped full of rage. His childhood fantasies of making these people pay for what they'd done came back to him. Now, with nothing to lose, he faced the lizard that claimed him and held his knife up.

The kesvek flicked his tongue around. It was long enough to reach down to mid-chest. He was smelling Loy from a distance. The warrior removed his armor, let it drop to the asphalt, and stood before Loy naked. Loy had no way of knowing if his attacker was male or female, as their genitals were hidden inside the body The sight of it filled Loy with disgust and he charged the lizard, screaming.

When he was less than a pace away from the scaly monster, Loy reached out with the knife, shoved it into the lizard's belly and continued his charge, beyond his opponent.

At the same time, the lizard's hand reached out to the side and the claws raked across Loy's abdomen as he tried to run by. His armor plates burst apart, his uniform turned to ribbons, and his skin opened up. The claws penetrated to his ribs, pulling a few of them free. They sank deeper and deeper, finally scratching the lower spine and exiting the body. Loy leaned into the wound and teetered over. He fell on his arm and rolled four times before resting on his back. He couldn't feel his legs. The damn lizard had pierced his spine with only a glancing scrape!

The lizard stood over him. He leaned down, tongue dangling over Loy's face. Loy swatted it away with one arm, clenched his other fist shut and punched the lizard across the snout. His knuckles shattered. The kesvek's body was solid as stone. Loy screamed, channeled the pain into rage, wound up with the other hand and threw another punch at the kesvek's snout. His hand connected with solid scale, bone and muscle, and broke. The kesvek didn't even flinch.

Loy dropped his arms to his sides and screamed at the lizard. He wanted to make him suffer, make him pay for what his people had done to mankind, but he couldn't even hurt him.

The lizard's tongue flicked over Loy's face. He muttered something in their language, but Loy couldn't make it out. The warrior raised his claws and plunged them into Loy's chest. It pierced his armor and his skin. His ribs snapped like toothpicks in the kesvek's grip, and the lizard wasn't even putting effort into it. He could break Loy's body just brushing up against him it seemed.

Loy's heart stopped. The warrior withdrew, flicked his tongue over Loy again, and got up. Loy lay still, blood gushing out in torrents. He couldn't move. He wanted to move away from the pain, but nothing responded.

Blood. Lots of blood.

The kesvek were walking away. Loy thought they'd eat him, or drink his fluids, or take a trophy. He'd heard they did that often. Maybe he wasn't worth it. Maybe they were pressed for time. Maybe some of his battalion survived and were going back to their supply cache. Sooner or later, the Kesvek would fall. They had occupied this planet for more than standard year. It was on the leading edge of human/kesvek territory and mankind wanted it back. They would not let the kesvek advance any further. Loy lay alone as life drained from him.

He had an amusing thought as his vision flickered. For thousands of years man wanted to know if he was alone in the universe. Then, forty-six years ago they found life. Intelligent life. Idealists heralded it as the greatest day in human history--bigger than the discovery of faster-than-light space travel--greater than teleportation--more important than the construction of the first artificial planet--more far-reaching than man's success in terraforming and colonizing other star systems.

But all it wanted to do was kill them.

Forty-six years of constant war. Humans settled on a planet, the Kesvek would land and take it. There never were survivors except for the children, and a few stragglers who managed to wiggle between the dead bodies and take word of the invasion to other colonies.

Loy grew up listening to these stories. He heard recorded pleas for help played back again and again. One of them he’d had to memorize, the immortalized testimony of Don Traversa, who escaped the invasion of Apparatus 8 on an FTL and delivered the first distress message to neighboring colonies. It was the first time a colony had been invaded, and the first of thousands of conflicts.

Loy's vision flickered. He saw his wife, Emma. His daughter, Jill...

Loy had served his mandatory term in the military, and then reenlisted voluntarily to keep them safe. To drive the reptiles back where they came from so they could never hurt anyone again.

Loy knew when he reenlisted what he was up against. Every kid grew up learning about their enemy, and ever since he heard about the atrocities they committed on mankind's colonies in other star systems, Loy wanted to do something about it. His mandatory service began when he was ninteen standard years old.

Loy was proud of what he had accomplished since then. They may have lost this city, but Loy helped win dozens of others. He himself had been there for the retaking of colonies on Kreno 3, Taurus 2 and many others.

So many planets. So many battles. So much death. But he drove the Kesvek back. He killed thousands of reptiles. He made a difference. Someday someone would find his dogtag and know he died defending mankind.

His wife was prepared for this, and so was Jill. They'd know he died for them, but more importantly he killed for them. When she was younger, he always told his daughter he was out killing monsters. It was the truth. He killed more monsters in his life than he ever thought existed, and it made him feel good to know that he kept them from harming her. Loy was happy knowing he made a difference. His eyes closed.

"I'm coming, Father. Jesus forgive my sins... I'm ready..."

His mind faded in and out. His body went numb. He had no regrets.

more on the website