Finished the Dark Tower.

Hmmm.

Like almost all the Dark Tower books, I find myself unsure if I loved it or hated it, but since I read the thing until nearly 2 AM, despite James’s feeble protests, it was certainly gripping.

The world, as always, was the great thing–fantasy western sci-fi post-apocalyptic, mixed with the casual assured disregard that I really wish more fantasy writers would learn. (I’ve ranted before, and probably will again–when a fantasy writer writes a book, 99 times out of 100, the wolves are wolves/telepathic/were/magic/whatever and exist in the kingdom of Whatsit since time immemorial, and have this relationship with the wolves on the other side of the hill, and eat this, and have this response to travelers, and if you wanted to, you could roll up their stats in ten minutes or identify which book on Wicca their philosophy of eco-stewardship derives from. When horror writers write fantasy–and that 1 out of 100 shot of the fantasy writers–the Wolf is the Big Bad Wolf, the ur-Wolf, the only Wolf that ever lived or ever needed to live, and you’re Little Red Riding Hood wearing a pork-chop necklace.)

Oddly enough, I found myself very sympathetic to King himself, both the bits that appear in the books and the bits in the forewards and afterwards scattered throughout the series. Maybe everybody feels this, or maybe it’s a peculiar curse of creative types, but what came through–the terror of someone who realized that he might not finish the series, the guilt towards the fans who kept demanding more when he didn’t know what else to say, and the almost apologetic tone scattered throughout–they aren’t going to like this, they aren’t going to be happy I did *spoiler*, believe me, I never saw that one coming either, but I couldn’t not do it, the art is in charge, not me–are all things that I can identify with, albeit on a far reduced scale, being half King’s age and having maybe a millionth of his fan base.

SPOILERDOM
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I have the last book of the Dark Tower series in my hot little hands. Expect nothing from me for the hours until I have finished.

The funny thing is that I know it’ll probably be a little disappointing. I’m sure it’ll be good, mind you, I’ll even give reasonably good odds on great, but there is simply no way that the last book of a seven book epic spanning god knows how many years can live up to my expectations. (And I’ve only been reading them for two years–some people have waited thirty.) Particularly not quasi-horror. Sooner or later, you have to show the monster, and nothing is ever as scary as the build-up.* But that doesn’t really matter–the important thing is that this is the end of the road, and I’ll enjoy it. Even if it’s total crap from beginning to end, I’ll devour it like some kind of literary scatophage. Because…well…we’ve come this far.

*With the possible exception of the thing in “Alien” and only the first one.

I am grumpy.

I have PMS. And my last painting was a swing and a miss–no glaring flaws (which I could fix!) but simply not doin’ it for me, the lightning bug instead of the lightning, as Twain would say. Which sucks, because Yak Fairies was a great idea. Have to revisit it at some point, maybe, but this one isn’t working for me. And I am forcing myself not to sketch, because forcing art is bad, and turning out forced schlock will only dig the hole deeper. The Muse is willing to work hard for the money, but flogging her for your own amusement when she’s not in the mood is a good way to get a foot up your ass.

I know this won’t last, of course. I am inherently cheerful. (Thankfully, my friends don’t seem to hold this against me.) My natural ebulliance will surface, either once certain biological floodgates loosen, or once I get a good painting idea, which will happen tomorrow or the next day, weekend at the outside. Like the bright side of death and taxes, the ideas are certain to come–sooner or later I’ll spot a rogue grapefruit breaking from the herd, and be off again. Which is comforting, but still does not really assuage the grumpiness. Not unlike a really long slog through calf-deep snow, the fact that you’ll eventually get home to a toasty apartment, take your shoes off, flop on the couch, and have some hot tea, is nice to know, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you’ve still got a mile of snow to slog.*

Oh, well.

*You can tell that I lived in Minnesota for four years without owning a car, can’t you?

And now, as promised, the crow with fireworks!

I’m not sure of much in life, and it seems occasionally like I get less sure all the time. However, I still cling to at least one deeply held conviction–namely that if crows could use matches, we’d all be in a world of hurt.

http://yerf.com/vernursu/fireworkscrow.jpg

I’ve been experimenting for awhile with ways to paint birds. See, birds are tough. Mammals, I have kind’ve a style in the cute-and-occasionally-horrible genre into which much of my recent work falls–it’s my STYYYYLE, man!(Joke! Joke!)–but I do kind’ve have a bit of a style that’s developed, so you get the teeny black eyes and the overbite and the pudge and so forth. Y’know. They can wear clothes, or not, and they’re pretty animalish. But birds…erf. Have a hard time stylizing birds, probably because I don’t draw many of them. And maybe ‘cos I’m not comfortable with them. I love watching the ones who come to my feeder, but I am still fundamentally a mammal, and I have a mild fear of those pointy little beaks, and an equally deep fear that if I ever have to handle a bird, its fragile avian skeleton will simply dissolve in my hands like wet toilet paper. Why this should affect how I draw them, I dunno. But anyway, I’ve been working on this sort of version of birds with round little bodies and the beaks coming off the body with only a minimal suggestion of head, and the little black eyes, and whatnot, to get the sort of stripped-down simplicity required for cute, while retaining enough to get expression. (That’s another problem–beaks don’t smile.) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, so I keep fiddling with it–I may scrap it entirely and go for something more realistic, or I may finally work out something that I’m happy wish. We’ll see.

It’s noxiously cute, but in my defense, the deer mice totally started it, the adorable little wretches.
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/10781300/

Next up, the crow with firecrackers!

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was pure, unadulterated pulp. Pulp, pulp, pulp.

It rocked.

Best use of Art Deco and giant robots since Starship Titantic.

If you insist on saying things like “Hey, that’d never WORK,” this is definitely not the movie for you, being gloriously absurd, but a whole lotta fun anyway.

And another thing…

Banned Books Weeks is next week.

I am not a fan of banning books that do not, for example, contain detailed instructions on how to make methamphetimines in the basement. (I’m not actually for banning those, either, but I can at least understand why you wouldn’t want ’em in the school library.) Like, I’d assume, the vast majority of my readership, I am deeply opposed to banning books. There’s something really…patronizing about trying to ban books. We can make a case for evil, too, but definitely patronizing. And that really chafes my hide.

Also, y’know, the usual–you don’t do anybody any favors by trying to hide information from them. Banning books because they describe racism, for example, does not prevent racism, it just makes people ignorant about its existence. It’s the ultimate head-in-the-sand game.

But you all know that already, and I’m just preachin’ to the choir.

And so, as seen around LJ, the top 100 banned books of the last decade!

http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm

Some of these baffle me utterly. I mean, sure. Anything with gay stuff is gonna be controversial. I may not approve of people trying to ban it, but I can see why they would. Same for all the adult sex manuals. And “Huck Finn” may be a great American classic, but I can see it being a problem among people who fail to see Twain’s terribly humane handling of the whole issue because they’re blinded by the vernacular. (And hell, they’ve been trying to ban that one for years.) And Catcher in the Rye is practically a shoo-in.

Some of these, though…”The Night Kitchen”? I LOVED that book! I had it memorized as a small child! “James and the Giant Peach”? I mean, I’ll buy that Roald Dahl is inherently somewhat subversive, but I don’t recall much sex and death in that one. “A Light in the Attic”? “Where’s Waldo”? “Julie of the Wolves”? (Someone said that one’s banned because there’s menstruation. Um. HUH? Do they think this is something that girls won’t do if they don’t read about it? Whazzup with that?)