Friday, December 31, 2004

The end of an era. . . 

Every year, shortly before Christmas, my grandfather would hang a big red Merry Christmas, Folks out his second-story windows -- a wooden construction that stretched the entire width of his house. In three pieces, it's a two-person job to get up, with one person leaning out the windows, and another up on a ladder. After Christmas, he'd take down the Merry Christmas and put up a big green Happy New Year that was just as wide. My grandfather was a creature of habit and tradition, and for decades this was one the the whole neighborhood enjoyed; that people would slow down as they were driving past to see. Not spectacular, but a wonderful touch nonetheless. Last night, I went over and took down the red sign and put up the green for what will probably be the last time ever. It was a little sobering.

I had a couple dreams last night, though I don't remember either of them in detail. I hope this dream remembering continues, though, because I'd like very much to be able to do the whole lucid dreaming thing, and the first step to that is being able to remember your dreams regularly.

The first from last night I remember almost nothing about, except that it involved Olga, a girl I knew in high school -- I guess one of my closer acquaintances in high school -- and I seem to recall we were in the middle of a large field in the middle of a larger wood, but were separated by a fence or a gate that was for whatever reason in the middle of the field. And that's all I remember of that one, except that maybe Andy, another kid from high school, may have been involved somehow.

The other one seemed to go on longer, but I only remember disjointed fragments of it. I was in a foreign country, with a group of people from school. I remember being on a street, then in an auditorium of some kind -- was there a speech or a presentation going on? -- then in a restaurant. I was feeling pretty lost, because I didn't know where to sit or what to do with myself, when someone I knew (I know I knew who he was in the dream, but I can't remember now) beckoned me over to his booth. I headed over there, but I was uncomfortable because I realized I'd be sitting across from Courtney (which is odd, because she doesn't make me nervous in real life. She's a freshman whom I barely know and have only spoken to once or twice. She's also one of the two most beautiful girls in the school, with one of those genuinely day-brightening smiles that there just aren't enough of in the world.) and I'd barely sat down when I noticed across the restaurant a booth that was empty but for a briefcase sitting on the table, which looked very dangerous to me for some reason. I excused myself, said I'd be right back, went over to the table, and found that on the side of the briefcase was a soda fountain. I pushed one of the buttons, even though I didn't have a cup, and then realized I had to pee. I went to the bathroom -- which seemed to occupy the whole basement of the building, and instead of bright and tiled as most bathrooms are was just dull cement (haven't I read that bathrooms are never normal in dreams?) -- and spent the next ten minutes of dreamtime pissing in various urinals and toilets and so forth before I realized that the problem was I really did have to pee quite badly, so woke up and went to the bathroom to take care of the situation. And that was the end of last night's dreaming.

I watched I, Robot. I'll say this about it: It was an entertaining, slightly above average sci-fi action flick. That is all. I think Alex Proyas is an excellent director, and while this movie was pretty, it definitely lacked the atmosphere and feeling of his previous movies. It was much more "Hollywood" than either The Crow or Dark City, which happened to be two of the best genre movies of the nineties. Also, it had as much to do with Asimov's work as the movie Conan has to do with REH's stories, which is to say: pretty much none at all. Which it knows. The credits say that the story was "suggested by" Asimov's book. So don't come in looking for an adaptation of Asimov's stories, because you won't find it. Here's what Alex Proyas had to say about it:
Many years ago a chap named Peter Rice and I where sitting in a cafe somewhere in LA discussing all our favorite science fiction stories and novels and the ones that would be cool to make into movies. Peter is a good friend and at the time was an exec at 20th Century Fox (these days he runs Searchlight) - I think this roughly coincided with when I was developing DARK CITY at Fox, before we took it to New Line. I, ROBOT was the one we kept coming back to, and though Peter tried to secure the rights they were unavailable at the time. A few years passed and Peter came to me with a really cool script called HARDWIRED, a spec written by Jeff Vintar, that read kind of like the Asimov story he never wrote. Coincidentally the rights to I, ROBOT became available and it was decided to merge the basic plot of HARDWIRED with the ideas, concepts and some of the characters of the Asimov stories - as a literal translation or combination of the 9 stories into a single movie proved unfeasible. With HARDWIRED we had the specific movie narrative the project needed. However HARDWIRED was really just a spine for our story, countless drafts were done to bring the story in line with the I, ROBOT universe and it was re-conceived as a prequel or an "early days at USR" take on Asimov.

That's the overly simplistic version. One day I'll write the book and go into more detail.
So: Take a brilliant imaginer, add a brilliant director, and end up with very okay Hollywood fare. Eh. Will Smith, surprisingly enough, worked in the movie, and the special effects were excellent, as was Beltrami's score (better than Phoenix, not as good as Hellboy), which sounded like The Terminator meets The Matrix. Unfortunately, the product placements were overdone and intrusive, especially in the first five minutes, and there were some other stupidities. I mean, come on. When a robot goes bad, its chest starts emitting red light? Gimme a break. Also, for once, there was a lot more eye candy for the women than the men, as the camera lingered several times on a very buff Will Smith in his underwear, whereas the female lead, a very plain Bridget Moynahan, didn't get any skimpy clothing or near-nudity at all. Which brings me to my biggest complaint in this movie: Bridget Moynahan. She can't act. Remember how, in Starship Troopers, Denise Richards was cast as an extremely intelligent, prodigiously talented young woman, and you simply didn't buy it because not only could she not act, but she simply looked stupid -- you know, slack mouth that doesn't quite close, vacant eyes, et cetera? And then some idiot cast her as a superscientist in a James Bond movie, and you still didn't buy it? That's how it was here. Moynahan doesn't look intelligent, she's not a good actress, and her delivery, especially of her robotic-sounding lines, simply sounds awful and ruins suspension of disbelief more than even the product placements. And I must ask: Why are male scientists and geniuses in movies so often ungroomed, slobbish, absentminded, slouches and so forth, and often mad, whereas women scientists and geniuses are never so much as frumpy, but always act like they have a metal bar running up their ass and straight up their spine, with not a hair so much as out of place? Whatever. Worth watching if you like action flicks. Good action, a few decent one-liners, great special effects, and it at least attempts to have a brain. Far better than the risible Minority Report. Mildly recommended, but watch Proyas' other movies first -- especially Dark City.

I went out and got some new underwear the other day, but accidentally bought, instead of cotton, some "microfiber" or something, and it just feels wrong. I hope I get used to it. It was especially weird when I was running with Caleb and it started sliding around and bunching in odd ways, and I was trying to circumspectly smooth it back out. . .

Speaking of Caleb, it's been a shamefully long time since I've cleaned the backyard, so today I went out to clean up the dog poops. Usually the dog's a pain in the butt, but today he made a game of it and was actually quite helpful. Once he realized what I was doing, every time I was cleaning one turd, he'd go find the next one and stand there sniffing it until I got to it, then he'd go and find another one. It certainly saved me time walking back and forth looking, and he probably also found some little ones I would've otherwise missed. So I guess that turned out as well as any poopscooping mission can.

For those of you who come here for sfnal stuff -- I apologize; I haven't been doing a whole lot of reading these past few weeks, and what I have been reading has been going fairly slowly, so I haven't had a great many recommendations or reviews or anything of the sort. Don't worry, I've not abandoned you. In fact, I've got a manuscript of Jeff VanderMeer's new novel headed my way, and I've also got reviews of Mary Gentle's 1610 and several others coming along ASAP.

By the way, I'm having trouble coming up with any New Year's Resolutions that are a) worth doing, b) challenging enough to be worth resolving to do, and c) that I'm even remotely likely to follow through on. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Mall 

I hate shopping malls. I find that being in them is a thoroughly unpleasant, unsatisfying experience. I dislike the stale quality of the air. I'm appalled by all the stuff. I know, I know. I'm a consumer. I've got an obscene number of movies and especially books. But the sheer excess in the mall is gross. All the crap. All the images of unhealthy people, loudly proclaiming: It's sexy to emaciate yourself! I dislike the impersonality of the mall. I dislike the crowds. I particularly dislike when I find myself behind particularly slow-moving people, who, though their legs appear to be moving, do not seem to advance. I get stuck behind them, and I wonder how they can possibly move so slowly without toppling over, and I wonder how rude it would be to cut through them or squeeze between them. I dislike the profusion of fast food and junk food stands, scattered between and among all the posters and manikins of those sickly-thin people. I dislike the enclosedness of it all. When it comes to shopping, there are few places I'd less rather be than the mall.

Also, does asininity know no bounds? Gang-related crime is now terrorism, with a mandatory sentence of life in prison and no parole? What nonsense is this?

And while we're on the topic of asinine nonsense, Terry Goodkind has issued a statement that must be read to be believed.

Which segues nicely into today's quotation:
"I believe the only proper response to such ponderously aggressive asininity is a persistent campaign of savage public ridicule."
- Matt Stover
Also, want to help Catherynne M. Valente get her dog to the US, send aid to the disaster victims over in Asia, and get a book out of the bargain? Clickety-click: A novel in pieces!

Out o' time right now. I'll be back later!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Runs in the family. . . 

My 2nd great-grandmother Sallie Frances Davis (08/01/1857-06/08-1944), despite that she never went to school a day in her life, loved, like me, to read. My great-aunt Bernice cannot recall anyone else around having so many books. Of course, I have different taste in literature. Her shelves of books were stocked with the Miss Minerva and the William Green Hill series, Louisa Mae Alcott, Gene Stratton Porter, Harold Bell Wright, Horatio Alger, and Zane Gray. My shelves . . . well, you'll see soon enough. Of course, her favorite pastime was not reading but crocheting, which I've never done.

Her son, my great-grandfather, Samuel Davis Haden (11/09/1878-03/14/1947), was an interesting character. But I only have time at the moment for a brief anecdote. Four of his brothers had tuberculosis, thanks originally to a consumptive revival minister who often stayed with his parents, but he stayed healthy. And he was careful to protect his family. One of his precautions was that he never kissed his wife, Mary Virginia Wash, on the mouth. Through all their children and all their years together, his fear of tuberculosis kept him from running that risk.

I'm tired today. Couldn't sleep last night, for some reason -- and for the few minutes I did manage to sleep, I had an odd dream in which I was taking final exams. Now, I don't worry too much about tests, but this was weird. There were a dozen questions I had to answer, but for some reason, while I answered the last eleven on paper, the first one I had to "write" onto a slab of soft clay, and I handed it into him, and he wiped it smooth, by accident. He allowed me the opportunity to reanswer that question, but I couldn't remember what I'd said, what I'd written, what the answer was.

Quotation of the day:
You might want to check out Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which bears the same relationship to Brown's book that Guernica has to a postcard with a frowny face and the text, "War is bad."
- Stephan Zielinski
Currently reading: Roméo Dallaire's Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sweet dreams 

Nothing like a midnight sword dance in the freezing air under a nigh-full moon to clear your head.

I don't know why I'm suddenly remembering my dreams, but last night I had a good one. I started out on a road, driving some odd velocipede/automobile hybrid that was nothing like a motorcycle, some yards behind a girl riding a strange elongated bicycle. I sped up and came alongside her, and then for some reason -- I don't remember the dialogue verbatim, if dialogue there was -- we switched vehicles. Before long, we were pedestrians, and on a beach. Actually, not on the beach, so much as on a sidewalk sort of thing overlooking a beach. The beach was covered with birds -- real birds, imaginary birds, extinct birds -- but somehow was quiet enough that we were able to speak without shouting. If we were actually speaking, and not communicating elsehow, which I cannot guarantee. For the moment, I'll assume speech. We discussed the birds for a bit, then somehow ended up back to back. We were each leaning back a little, each others' weight keeping us from falling backward, and our heads leaned back on each others' shoulder, and I know it sounds like a somewhat awkward pose, but it felt more right than anything's felt in a long time, awake or asleep. Comfortable and intimate and reassuring and warm and very, very right. This went on for a bit in comfortable silence, and then we started talking/communicating, and after a few more minutes we were facing each other again while talking, and it was still very pleasant but nowhere near as perfect as it had been. Then my mom came down the path, and told us we had to follow the beach to get to the pancakes. I don't remember moving, but suddenly we were in a kitchen, and it seemed urgent that the pancakes be done within a half hour, but the batter was doled out in cookie-sized portions on a baking sheet, waiting to be put into an oversized, overheated oven. I decided that this was inappropriate, and started making batter from scratch and looking for a skillet to make the flapjacks properly, and then the dream faded out. And then I woke up.

I must admit to some confusion about something. I was glancing through EW's end-of-year issue, and under the best fiction books of the year category, they had Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2. Now, Persepolis is Satrapi's autobiography -- so why is it listed as fiction? Is nonfiction executed in graphic form rather than prose suddenly somehow fiction? Or is this one of those deliberately fictionalized autobiographies? [EDIT: My mistake. It was listed as nonfiction; the magazine was just oddly formatted and I read it wrong.]

Finally, I must say that once again nature puts things in perspective. We bomb each other and kill a few tens or hundreds or thousands at a time. Then mother nature comes along and, whoosh, fifty thousand dead. Kind of humbling. Makes you wonder, though: if this had happened in America and not Asia, would our esteemed president have declared war on Evil Nature and also all nations to harbor thunderstorms?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Dad: "What do you want for breakfast?"
Aaron: "Cassava and yams"
Dad: ". . ." //quizzical look
Aaron: "The problem is, we have yams in the house, but no cassava."
Yes, my brother is developing an amusing sense of humor. He's also getting his braces off today. Let's hope his teeth don't come off with them.

Speaking of food, I made a delicious mushroom sauce for my pasta last night. It's amazing what a seemingly empty refrigerator can yield if you combine its meager contents right.

I've seen more movies in the last week than I usually see in six months. Since Flight of the Phoenix and A Series of Unfortunate Events, I've seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I must say that I find the rabid Wes Anderson fans just as annoying as those who bash his stuff because it's by him. For myself, I thought that the movie had some wonderful moments, some brilliant moments, some truly genius scenes, a few wonderful characters wonderfully played -- but it didn't gel. Owen Wilson's character was dreadfully dull, and this two hour movie, despite an abundance of great bits, felt like it was at least four or five hours long. It did have a couple of the most amusing firefights I've ever seen, though, and some brilliant music. Out of the three movies, Life Aquatic is the best, and I'd recommend it, but not enthusiastically.

Then, last night, I saw Sideways. After the director's terrible About Schmidt, I was a little worried, but it was very good -- definitely deserves all the hype. A little on the touchy-feely side, and it lasts literally about 30 seconds too long, but I enjoyed it very much. By far the best of the movies I've seen recently. Fantastic little movie. Recommended, quite enthusiastically. Five points if you can identify which of the two leads I'm more like.

I'm currently reading Aimee Bender's collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt. I've read three of the fifteen stories, and so far one of them didn't do much for me but the other two I've enjoyed very much. Bender's fiction reminds me very much of Kelly Link's, so I definitely recommend giving it a try. I finished Kelley Armstrong's Bitten, which, as far as that fluff genre goes, was quite entertaining and occasionally surprisingly witty, though not great, and picked up Gregory David Roberts' massive autobiographical novel Shantaram, which looks fantastic.

My sister came home last night with a tiny little three-month-old sheltie named Scout. The thing would literally fit inside Caleb's head. I'm not a big fan of shelties, and I think this was a particularly bad move since last I heard the word was: do not get another dog. Our house has enough animals as it is. This dog looks terrified, generally, and I haven't heard a peep out of it yet. We'll see how it turns out. . .

I had a dream last night that I've not had in a long time. The first half of it was exactly similar to the last time I had it. In the dream, I'm, along with a bunch of other people, a slave in our cottage at the beach. We do manual labor in the basement and back porch, then all go and shower in the front porch, and all kinds of weird conversations, plans and escape attempts occur. Where it deviated from the last time is when it turned from slavery to survival as people start disappearing, and I finally get outside the cottage only to find that it's standing alone in a wasteland, and for some reason I needed to get back to the few people still surviving, waiting for me in the cottage, but I couldn't figure out how to get back in, and then I woke up. It was a lot scarier when I was sleeping.

I'm also fucking lonely as hell right at the moment, and it's getting me quite down. Only another week at home, thank goodness.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Christmas 

Christmas, without family, without friends. Glorious. I'm going to go walk Caleb. Again.

Have a happy holiday, everyone.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve and Man Boobs 

Well, we had our traditional Finnish Christmas dinner tonight, except without most of the family. Just the nine DE people instead of the whole clan. Still, it was fairly pleasant.

I also watched Love, Actually today. It's one of the two movies in which I can stand Hugh Grant, the other being About a Boy. It's actually a surprisingly watchable movie (though without any surprises). Just a fun, feel-good romantic comedy that somehow works. And I can't for the life of me figure out why Martine McCutcheon (who played Natalie in the film) hasn't had another role since this movie.

Another couple movies I remembered I'm looking forward to in '05: Terry Gilliam's Brothers Grimm, coming in November, and Andrew Adamson's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, coming in December. For some reason, I'm not all that excited about Batman Begins, though everyone else seems to be.

I also picked up Stephan Zielinski's novel Bad Magic and Aimee Bender's books today. They all look quite entertaining.

Now, I'm going to talk a little about breasts. I've recently heard a woman remark that no man can really understand what it means to have breasts; I've also seen several guys on message boards facetiously going on about how proud they are to have "man boobs." And maybe there are some men with boobs who are proud of it. I don't know, and I can't speak for them, but only for myself, but as a guy who's had gynecomastia, I can say that there was nothing to be proud of. Breasts were the source of pretty much nothing but shame. For years, they were a reason to stay fat, and always to wear a baggy shirt, and to walk in a perpetual deep slouch. To pretend that comments from girls in your sixth-grade class about you needing a bra more than they do didn't hurt. To always, always be wearing a shirt, even while swimming or participating in sports, as though that fooled anybody. When changing was necessary, as in a phys ed class or after swimming, I'd always rush to change before other people got into the locker room, or else linger as inconspicuously as possible to change after everyone else had left. I'd wager that a large part of the reason for my current extreme self-consciousness has its roots in those breasts. And the funny thing is, until it was pointed out to me quite explicitly in eleventh grade, I was never, literally never, consciously aware that I had boobs. I was aware of my self-consciousness, but because I was fat I had always thought (or convinced myself) that my breasts were large simply for that reason. At that point, my parents recommended that I have them surgically reduced. I resisted. The whole "I am who I am; I am as I am" spiel. Eventually, though, they convinced me. That's the only time I've ever spent a night in the hospital. Of course, by that point the self-consciousness, the habit of wearing baggy, formless clothes, and the extreme slouch (which I reckon was the reason for my chronic headaches) were pretty well ingrained, as were the fattening habits. (And I am actually egotistical enough that it came as a mild surprise to me that, at the time, only one of my fellow students noticed the difference after the surgery -- or at least mentioned that he noticed a difference.) It wasn't until college that I made myself start standing up straight -- and I was so used to slouching that even that literally hurt for a bit -- and eventually lost some weight, though I'm still a little overweight. I'm not sure that I really have a point, here. I'm sure I could have handled things differently when I was younger and probably turned out very differently today. But for me, breasts were nothing to be proud of, nothing but a source of shame.


And with that, I'm going to bed. Have a happy Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy birthday! 

I think that the Take-a-penny/Leave-a-penny tray must be one of the greatest inventions in the history of humanity. But maybe that's just me.

Now I'd like to respond to a comment made by our own crossdressing Saint, who suggested in response to my last post that I "could find something beautiful about the place where you are living now. I've noticed that a lot of people have trouble with change because they are focused on what they have lost. So focused that it often blinds them to the beauty of change and all of the personal benefits that go along." I think that what I was saying was misinterpreted. When I said I missed Maine, I wasn't implying that I didn't want to be here. In fact, there's much of beauty around here -- much to recommend this place. And I find it all too easy to settle into routine. I get comfortable. I don't have trouble with change because I focus on what I've lost; I readily adapt to new situations. I have trouble before the change, but once the change is underway, I usually do fine. My anxieties almost always lay before the fact. But because I find it so easy not to do things, I make an effort at least a couple times a year to try new things -- and more often than not, I'm very glad afterward to have made the effort. I love doing things, I love experiencing new things, I love learning, I love travelling. I even love meeting new people, until a few minutes have passed and I screw up and I'm the odd one out again (until trouble starts, and then people end up listening to me, because I tend to know what I'm talking about, be fairly good at problem-solving, and am actually a fairly good leader when I have to be). I love my home (even as I dislike the loneliness more often these days attendant upon being home) -- but I also love being elsewhere. I hope that cleared things up a bit.

Now, for the bit of overheard dialogue of the day, before I forget:
"I swear, I'm telling the truth! If I'm lying, may my penis grow like Pinocchio's nose."
"Dude, if tha's the way it's gonna be, you should start lying."
Caleb's one-year birthday anniversary was today. I meant to do a big ol' retrospective, complete with a picture or two, but it was raining all day, which means the picture didn't get taken (and which also means that running with the dog was quite an enwettening experience), so I'm probably going to wait until we get some snow in the next week and write about him more then. In the meantime, feel free to wish the big fella a ??? ????? [I guess blogger doesn't recognize hebrew characters, so I'll transliterate: yom huledet].

Quotation of the day:
I don't know how many of you heard Chairman _____, as he was shaking my hand, refer to me as the "on-time Mr. Lodge." I deeply appreciate his not referring to me, as he usually does, as the "late Thomas Lodge." I've had the propensity, it seems, over the years unfortunately to get to most places late, and you know, when I die, and my obituary appears in the paper, and it refers to me as "the late Thomas Lodge," I can hear those who know me say, "What's new?"
- My grandfather, opening his 1992 commencement address at Widener University
Now, because I feel like it, I'm going to share with you a recipe:
Bistecche al Funghi

This is a pan-seared steak finished in a red wine sauce with several kinds of mushrooms and herbs. The recipe serves two.

Chop up about twelve ounces of different varieties of mushrooms. It doesn't matter so much what kind they are -- you just want a mix of different textures.

Sprinkle your steaks with rosemary, salt, and pepper.

In a skillet large enough for two steaks, heat a tablespoon each of butter and extra-virgin olive oil. Add the steaks and brown on each side.

Add another tablespoon of butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms, a clove of garlic, salt, pepper, and a pinch of marjoram. Cook about ten minutes or until the juices have evaporated.

Add half a cup of dry red wine and chopped fresh parsley. Simmer for a minute or so.

Return the steaks to the pan. Pile the mushrooms on top. Cook until the steaks are done to taste.

Serve. Eat. Rejoice.

If you have access to good quality tuna steaks, you can substitute tuna for the beef and a dry white wine for the red. It tastes just as good and satisfies certain vegetarians.

If you don't like mushrooms, I'm afraid you're beyond my help.

Otherwise, enjoy.
I've been watching the 1965 Jimmy Stewart version of The Flight of the Phoenix. It's about 40 minutes longer than the new version, with about 30 fewer minutes of special effects, which means it has an extra hour of those trivial things such as, y'know, plot and character development. Though I will say that Beltrami's score for the new one is superior.

Also, word is that Joss Whedon's looking to make a Wonder Woman movie. I like him a lot, but I think he's wrong for the assignment. I think he's a little too slapstick, generally. Wonder Woman's an Amazon princess, a servant of truth and of the earth, who has a sense of humor, sure, but also some gravitas, and word is Whedon's looking to cast Sarah Michelle Gellar or Charisma Carpenter, both of whom are entirely inappropriate for the role. Ugh. She's Greek (or Themysciran, whatever), not Californian. Um, yeah. Enough geekiness for one night. . .

Current music: Camille Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals"; Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade (which reminds me -- I'm looking for a nice edition of The Thousand Nights and a Night. Any suggestions?)
Same book as yesterday, and I'm not going to bother with the mood.

Good night, all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Unfortunate indeed. . . 

I took my little sister out to see A Series of Unfortunate Events tonight, and I must say, though I wasn't expecting much, I was quite disappointed. I haven't read the books, but the vibe I got from the movie was sort of Harry Potter meets The Princess Bride (in terms of the narration, some specific plot points, as well as the overall somewhat whimsical attitude) by way of Tim Burton. I can't really decide why I disliked the movie so much. It had some interesting visuals that, for some reason, often reminded me of the weird beauty of the Myst games. It had decent acting, though Jim Carrey was completely wrong for the role. He did his typically tremendous overacting which was, admittedly, often very amusing -- but just as wrong. The role would have been much better for someone like Alan Rickman. The music was occasionally interesting but not terribly memorable. And despite many amusing sequences, the film as a whole bored me. Somehow much less than the sum of its parts. I cannot recommend it.

Speaking of movies, there aren't a whole lot to which I'm looking forward. Off the top of my head, the only movies coming out in '05 I've any particular interest in are Sin City (a surprising choice, since I think both Robert Rodriguez and especially Frank Miller are quire overrated), Mirrormask (scripted by Neil Gaiman, directed by Dave McKean -- a no-brainer!), Serenity (I love Joss Whedon. Sue me. Oh, and word is he'll be helming a Wonder Woman movie. That could definitely be done very wrong indeed. . .), and Constantine (don't ask me why. I can't figure it out myself. But for some reason I'm actually fairly excited about it.).

Today I finished reading John Ostrander's magnificent run on The Spectre from the 90s. Great stuff. It tackles tough questions about man's relationship to God, about forgiveness and guilt and morality and religion and justice and redemption and vengeance and all that about as well as anything I've ever read, while also dealing with many other themes, particularly of problems plaguing America (homosexuality, gender discrimination, racial hatred, etc.), without much fat, filler, or padding, and all the while not forgetting either that it's the Spectre, fer cryin' out loud, so we still get epic battles and planet slinging and all that good stuff. John must be the most underrated writer in comics. I'm in awe of his storytelling capabilities.

I then started reading Kaddish for an Unborn Child [Kaddis a men nem szvületett gyermekért] by Imre Kertész. Kertész was born in 1929 and was a prisoner in Buchenwald in his youth. He published his first novel in 1975, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002. Kaddish was written in 1990, I believe, and looks quite interesting to me.

I miss Maine. Well, not really Maine so much. There's lots of beauty in Maine, and I wouldn't mind living there, but what I miss most is sailing down its coast. The hard, simple, satisfying days and nights; the openness; the necessary interdependence between people; the cold air and colder water . . . yes, I miss it. I very much enjoy sailing, rafting, hiking, gardening, all that outdoorsy type stuff. Actually, that rather surprises me. I wouldn't peg myself as that type.

Oh well. I'm tired. To bed.
"Friends, every day do something that won't compute. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. Practice resurrection."

- Wendell Berry, "The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

You had to be there. . . 

"You're an officer of the court and you're breaking the law!"
"No I'm not."
"Well, I object!"

For Hannukah I got J.G. Ballard's Complete Short Stories. 96 stories, spanning 25 years, covering nearly 1,200 pages . . . delicious.

I must admit, despite how awful King Arthur looks, I'm curious to see it. Similarly Troy. I'm a sucker for sword movies with big battles and big music. What can I say? Curiously, I've no interest whatsoever in Alexander. I don't think Colin Farrell can carry that role, I can't stand Angelina Jolie, and, not liking directors who try to tell me what to think, I don't tend to like movies by Oliver Stone, either.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Cramps and Gramps 

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I had a cramp. I was laying in bed, when I noticed a pain in my right calf. Couldn't straighten the leg. Reaching down, I discovered that my calf was knotted into a giant ball. It's been years since I've had a significant cramp, but I recalled very quickly why they're so undesirable. I kneaded it for a minute -- ineffective, really, much like kneading a frozen grapefruit -- then slowly, painstakingly, straightened the leg, then worked it for a while until it was loose and no longer felt like it would contract again.

Now I'm going to take a minute to talk about my only surviving grandparent, Henry Blumenfeld. Why? Because I feel like it. He was born March 15, 1920 in a little town called Ototoz, in northern Poland. He had eight siblings, though by the time he was born, four had moved out and started their own homes. When he was young, his family moved to Lódz. They lived a pretty good middle class life; the only problem he recalled was outrunning the kids who weren't Jewish on the way to and from school. In September of 1939, his family was moved to the Lódz Ghetto. Early in 1941, Papa was picked by the Nazis to be sent to the labor camps -- over the years, he was in quite a few of them. Pretty unpleasant, slave labor, complete with beatings. I'll spare you the details. On May 3, 1945, he was on the Cap Arcona when it was bombed by the British -- despite that it was not a warship, and was flying white flags -- and was one of the approximately 350 survivors out of the 5,000 prisoners on the ship. (Why the Titanic disaster is so popular and the Cap Arcona bombing so unknown is a complete mystery to me.) He made it out of the Black Sea and was liberated, by which point he had no idea what had happened to the rest of his family, though he suspects they were killed -- any survivor's story you hear, remember, is the exception, not the rule. He decided to come to America, and when, after two years, the American Counsel finally approved it, he did. When he got here, he knew only a few words of English, so went to night school to learn the language. Within a few weeks of arrival in America, the Joint Distribution Committee/HIAS got him a job at the Hickey-Freeman Clothing Company, in Rochester, NY, where he worked as a tailor. There he met my Bubbe, Lillian Krieger, a Russian-American Jew, in 1948. They were married three months after they met, and he moved into the house she shared with her parents, Nathan (my namesake) and Libby. After ten years working as a tailor, he started his own liquor business. He still lives in Rochester. And there endeth the history lesson (the short version).

And I'm seriously debating whether or not to pick up this beautiful limited edition of Jocasta, by Brian W. Aldiss. Damn it looks good. But -- a little pricey. But -- so pretty.

Good night, dear readers.

Current music: Trinity and Beyond, William Stromberg
Current book: Trash Sex Magic, Jennifer Stevenson
Current mood: Lonely/tired

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Phoenix Burns 

So, today I had an actual conversation with someone about witchcraft, demonology, the marine corps and, of all things, Sasquatch. Actually, I did most of the listening, smiling and nodding while the other guy did most of the talking.

There was a very obnoxious fellow on the train today. After the train had boarded but before it had departed the station, a woman got on, asked for our attention, explained that she had lost a pouch with $300, that she had two little boys she needed to get home to NC, that she was trying to raise $84 for train fare, asked if anyone could spare a dollar or two. She sounded pretty sincere to me. Anyway, the guy sitting behind me gave her a couple dollars, but did so with the comment, "It's Christmas," in a tone of voice that said he probably wouldn't have given otherwise. I thought, why do you need to justify charity? Later, after the train had departed, he went up to the front and said, "Excuse me, the stock market was down on Friday, and I'm trying save for a $3,000 plasma screen TV. If anyone could make any contributions. . ." At this point I was thinking, What an asshole. Then he commented to someone that she didn't sound like she was from NC. Now, I have family from New York that lived for more than a decade in NC, so I was figuring that her accent proved nothing, and wondering what the hell was wrong with the guy. Finally he returned to his seat in the row behind me, next to a girl about my age, and starting telling her about the clever joke he'd just made, as if she hadn't heard. She chuckled politely. I don't think there was any more conversation between them the rest of the trip. In retrospect, since it was a reserved only train and likely to be pretty full, when that girl sat behind me I should've moved back and taken the seat next to her. Then she wouldn't've ended up next to that jackass, and I wouldn't've ended up next to Mr. Cellphone-and-Laptop for a couple hours.

For Hanukah, I got a portable CD player, which pleased me, as my laptop is a rather impractical portable CD player, and I can't use it as a computer and CD player at the same time. It's a nice player, too. It's nice finally having a dedicated CD player, after years of having to use my computer for the job.

I finished The Last Good Kiss. Crumley's no Chandler, but than, no one is. Still, it's a remarkably good noir/hardboiled mystery. Enjoyed it very much. I'm not terribly well-read in that genre, so I can't really compare it to much, but I thought it was very worthwhile, a very good read. Highly recommended.

I also took my brother to see the new version of Flight of the Phoenix. I haven't seen the original Jimmy Stewart version, although to warrant a remake it must have been much better than the remake. There were no surprises; the majority of the characters got no development; there was none of the sexual tension you'd expect in a situation with a bunch of men stranded with a single, very attractive woman; Marco Beltrami's score was underwhelming; Dennis Quaid seemed bored, and his big speech was just about the least inspiring pep talk I've ever heard. Truly a stinker. If you're looking for a good Dennis Quaid movie, check out the fantastic (at least, I thought it was fantastic when I saw it five years ago) Savior, in which he portrays a mercenary in Bosnia. Very powerful movie. Or Enemy Mine, which is about half of one of my favorite science fiction movies. Or Dragonheart, which kind of sucked but at least it looked like he was having some fun in the role. But I was glad to see Miranda Otto in at least a semi-significant role. It would've been too easy for her to fade into obscurity after Lord of the Rings -- and she still might. I hope she doesn't, though.

Also, bad tidings from Kanyabayonga, DRC:
Just a week ago, Kanyabayonga was a teeming town of more than 30,000 people. On Friday afternoon, after several days of fierce clashes, Kanyabayonga was virtually abandoned, a ghost town except for some brave souls who sneaked back to check on their homes and a few dozen ragtag soldiers who had been ordered to stay behind to guard the place.
Click the link for the rest.

Now, I'm going to get some sleep.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Where are you going, where have you been. . . 

Well, I'm done with this term. All papers handed in, all final examinations complete. All that's left now is to pack and leave. So I blog. I was actually fairly impressed with the Virginia Woolf final -- the teacher actually cried at the end. I wish I'd been that into the course. . .

Last night was a good one. Craig and I were going to go out, but it seemed kind of pointless, so didn't. We watched Ed Wood, though, which was good, and had a good conversation. Sometime between one and two we went to make some ramen, bumped into Janet in the hall, and got into a conversation with her that lasted until well past five. Eventually she left to go to bed, we supped on our cold ramen, then went to bed ourselves. I was tired when I got up this morning to finish up the term, but it was worth it; I genuinely enjoyed the conversation. Actually, the other two did the majority of the talking, but that's okay. A good night.

Just for curiosity's sake, I'm going to show you all where I've been. Outside of the US, I've been to Canada, France, England, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Israel. There are certainly many more places I'd like to visit -- I'd love to get out of Europe -- but that's where I've been:

And here are the states I've been in, not counting those I've only driven through or flown over, and also not counting those I was in when I was too young to remember. I'm not going to name them, and if you're an American and cannot identify them, shame on you:

Next, because it's been a while since I posted any music, I've decided that I shall share with you what is surely the finest TV theme of all time, and what is also sure to drive your roommate absolutely up the wall: Al Hirt's "Green Hornet Theme".

And because it amused me, check out this tiny video. I apologize, but it requires Windows Media Player, I think.

And if you like gushy stuff, check out Jenn's recent account of part of the reason she loves Scott. Ahhhh. . . It made me smile, anyway. And not a smirk, either.

Until next time!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Operation Garage Sale 

Michael Stackpole's solution to the problems in Iraq: Operation Garage Sale. Read it. Seriously. Will it work? Heck if I know, but it's worth a try, eh?

The ever wonderful Small Beer Press, having recently released Sean Stewart's novel Perfect Circle, are going to be reissuing a couple of his earlier novels, Mockingbird and The Night Watch. Apparently, the latter of those is going to be revised. I can't wait to see what changes Sean makes, and definitely kudos to Small Beer -- these books shouldn't have been out of print in the first place.

Now, it's been a bad day and I'm kind of cranky, so don't trust anything I say, but: I'm bored and tired and lonely and generally very aggravated with myself. So good night, and let's hope I don't wake up this distressed tomorrow.

Three years ago I took a course called Horror in Film & Story. In that course, we were required to compose a scary story to tell around a campfire. Having no campfire, we lit a bunch of candles in a dark classroom and told 'em there instead.

Anyway, today that professor -- a physics prof, natch -- approached me and let me know that he's still teaching the course, and that he still quotes the opening of my story to the class. I must admit I was pleased to hear it.

Of course, I knew that when we told stories, most people wouldn't bother to do anything interesting. Most of them were standard ghost or haunted house stories, the kind of thing you hear a bazillion times. So I thought: why bother? And I told a comedy instead, about a six-inch tall vampire. I had the class in the palm of my hand the whole time. It's one of the very few times I've spoken to a group of people that I've really been in control of the audience. Other notable times were when I became Bar Mitzvah, and in a public speaking class, in which, after failing to get any reaction from the class at all for most of my speeches -- I'd go for humor, and no one would laugh, or I'd play it straight, and no one would care, or whatever -- I told one that literally had my classmates in tears. As it was intended to.

Alright. Final in an hour. Back to studying.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A request 

I've been reading altogether too much SFF recently, I think, and I'd like to take a break and expand my horizons a bit. If anyone who reads this would, either via e-mail or in the comments section, please recommend a list of 5-10 (or more, or fewer) books that you'd consider "must-read", or at least would highly recommend. I'm looking for nonfic, classics, mainstream fic, whatever -- just not SFF, if you please.

Thank you!

Well, the date has been set for my thesis defense: February 14, 2005, 0900. Great. I'm done it, but schedules don't work out for me to defend it for two months, which means I need to take an incomplete marking for this term.

On the other hand, it's a beautiful day. Yesterday was a little too cold -- the point where you step outside, and you can feel the mucus crystallizing in your nose as you inhale, and your ears lose true sensation all too quickly, and you need to wear a jacket because you figure it's probably not healthy exposing your skin to that wind for too long. Today, it's very comfortably cold.

In other news, I suck. Details forthcoming. Need to go pretend like I'm going to study for the time being. Take it easy, people.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A picture's worth 

And here I was thinking the French were nothing but cheese-eating surrender monkeys, when it turns out they're good for something after all. . . Frenchies, build me a bridge!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Music and books 

Sometimes, when I'm reading a book while listening for the first time to a piece of music, the two become intertwined in my head such that I can never read/listen to one without the other coming to mind. Very powerful associations, to the point where if I try to listen to that music while reading another book, it just feels wrong. Some cases in point: I first listened to Dvorak's New World Symphony while reading Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, particularly the early, "Anatomy Lesson" part of the run, and now I can't listen to that music without picture green growth. I listened to Basil Poledouris' The Touch a zillion times while reading Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort, and now I can't imagine the book without "Trouble Under Blue Skies" playing in the background. Patrick Doyle's Great Expectations arrived while I was reading Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and same deal. It's an interesting phenomenon, that type of association. They say that smell is the most powerful memory-trigger sense, but so far, in my experience, this particular thing has that beat.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

We'll watch our years go by 

This picture was taken in August 2001, immediately before college started. Sorry for its lack of clarity; it wasn't the best picture to begin with, the scanner seems to have softened it a bit, and I don't have time to fiddle with it at the moment. These are the first people I met at Hartwick. Clockwise from the left:Taking the picture was Levi, who somehow got it into his head once the school year started that my name was Fred. I never had the heart to correct him.

Quotation of the day:
In a place where there are no humans, one must strive to be human.
- Rabbi Hillel
EDIT: Later:

On my to-read list over the break:

Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer
Why the Allies Won by Richard Overy
We Did Nothing by Linda Polman
Stolen Continents by Ronald Wright
Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire


Ten books and a poem

With thanks to R1.5, here's a list of great books. Not all my favorites. Not necessarily the best. But overall a very worthy selection, I think:

All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) - Erich Maria Remarque

Perhaps the best book ever written about war.

The Bible (King James Version) (1611) - Various

The longest book on the list. Also the deepest. Great stories, intrigue, poetry, philosophy. Everything in one handy volume.

The Brothers Karamazov (1882) - Fyodor Dostoevsky (Andrew MacAndrew translation recommended)

The great Russian Novel. Don't read any introductions or blurbs. They generally blow the identity of the killer and while the mystery is secondary to the character study, the mystery is still important. Also incorporated into the book is one of the best short stories you will ever read in your life.

From Here to Eternity (1951) - James Jones

Constant gutter language, a brutally cynical look at the army, realistic approach to sex and some brutal stockade sequences make this one of the most brutally tragic books of all time. About fifty times better than the admittedly classic film.

Hamlet (1601) - William Shakespeare

Just the best play ever written. So much to say on every subject imaginable. If a more quotable work has been written, I'm unaware of it.

"THe Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915) - T.S. Eliot

Not a book, just a single poem . . . But Eliot captures the essential dilemma of humanity and the contradiction of love in this poem. "Do I dare disturb the universe?"

Man's Search for Meaning (1962) - Victor Frankl

The best book of modern philosophy, it details how exactly we deal with the tragic human existence. Make sure to get the newest edition so to also get the new Afterword, On a Tragic Optimism.

Les Miserables (1862) - Victor Hugo

A powerful and thught provoking work of redmeption, grace, forgiveness and the power of a life lived with complete selflessness. Jean Valjean remains one of my heroes. Also, the musical which is one of the best musicals ever. And Basil Poledouris' score to the film.

Mere Christianity (1952) - C.S. Lewis

The greatest Christian philosopher outside the Apostle Paul gives the best defense of Christianity I've ever read. Also recommended: Chesterton's Orthodoxy.

Pet Sematary (1983) - Stephen King

King's finest work is a towering tragedy of loss and heartache. While the unfamiliar dismiss King as a writer of horror, he is, in fact, a writer of profoundly moving tragedies. Suffice it to say that I was moved to tears no less than five times reading this book. Though, a word of warning, it is pretty darn frightening.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - Harper Lee

A beautiful and moving work on heroism, racism, parenting and, finally, just doing the right thing when all around you others are closing their eyes.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

random thoughts from a tired brain 

Quotation of the Day:
"I want to write books that are like orgasming, while simultaneously having your brains knocked out with a bowling ball, while your favorite sports team wins the most important game of the season and your boss shows up with an unexpected letter of promotion. And a raise."
- Scott Lynch
I am Really Tired™ (tired enough that that seemed clever as I was writing it). I got to sleep sometime after five; woke up a few minutes after nine. Took a long hot'n'cold shower which failed to stimulate me appreciably; when Craig awoke we went to breakfast. Though I was famished on the way up there, the food was so much less than appetizing that I ate almost nothing. Came back to my room, closed my eyes for half an hour to refresh my brain, and then started writing. First order of business was a 10-page preface to my thesis, which is about 7.5 pages right now and will not be more than 8 or so, and frankly even that's stretching it; I simply don't have that much to say about what I've learned in the process of writing this novel. I got about as far as I'm going to get on that today, then took a walk hoping to energize myself a bit, then got back here and have been brainstorming for today's paper #2. I know what I'm going to write about, but am still piecing specifics together in my head, hence the break for bloggage.

I've have been outbid on the Cthulhu candy, for which I'm grateful.

For as long as I can remember, I've been pretty ardently opposed to pre-marital sex. Which isn't entirely true. As I was growing up, I never even considered an alternative. I just assumed that people didn't have sex until they were married. I'm not sure when I realized that those who waited were in the majority, but it was surely quite late -- I was, and still am, in many ways a very naïve guy. Even then, though, for me the choice was clear: wait for marriage. That's just How It Was. Eventually, I thought about why, and reasoned out a whole variety of aesthetic and moral and health-related reasons for waiting. You've probably heard most of it before; I'll refrain from repeating it here. Over the past year or so, though, a certain suspicion has popped into mind more than once: that the real reason I "decided" to wait until marriage was that I knew I couldn't get laid if my life depended on it, and it was simply less painful and more convenient to pretend like it was by my choice. Is there truth to this, or is it just the nagging of a down-on-itself mind? I don't know. For now, my decision stands. If it ever gets to the point where I actually have a choice, I'll be interested to see which way I go.

Recently, my diet's changed a bit. Whereas for several months I've been grabbing Snickers and Peanut M&Ms when I've been hungry, for the past couple weeks I've been gravitating toward apples, bananas, oranges and pears. I guess the body knows what it wants/needs. I haven't even been craving the junk. Also haven't been craving desserts in the mess, though if they have eclairs or cream puffs I know I'll grab a couple. I've always loved eclairs, and while those they serve here aren't particularly good ones, I still like 'em.

I recently watched Brad Bird's The Iron Giant, his debut film, which he followed up with this year's The Incredibles. Thanks to a lackluster (to say the least) marketing campaign, the picture tanked at the box office. It deserved better. A very E.T. story, it's improbably charming and fun, a great flick up until the last five minutes. Are we seriously expected to believe that after that dazzling display of moments earlier, our hero couldn't have resolved that situation differently? Still, it's a family film of the variety than the entire family should enjoy, with a message, albeit a basic one: You are who you choose to be.

Over the months, I've been cataloguing my books. Idiot that I am, the list is in a document rather than a spreadsheet or database, but whatever. It's obviously incomplete -- it's got most of my SFF titles, excepting a lot of the YA stuff that is packed away, and shared world titles (WarCraft, Mars Attacks! etc) that are downstairs somewhere, and stuff like that. However, the vast majority of my classics and that kind of thing haven't made the list yet, simply because I haven't had time. Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone would be interested in me either: 1) posting the list of books I own here, incomplete thought it is, or 2) trying to convert it to html and posting a link to it as a webpage?

Other quotation of the day:
"Kissing a squid at a dinner party, making some sort of declaration and bursting into tears, while it becomes clear to everyone present that you’re actually made of wood and are being operated by a strange, doe-eyed child. That’s the stuff of life, I think."
- Steve Aylett

Friday, December 10, 2004

I'm famous! 

I got fan mail today! An excerpt:
your self-deprecating, neurotic character (whether real or merely a blog front) is reminiscent of Woody Allen at his best. Great stuff!
Also, the teaser's up for Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's kind of annoying, and doesn't fill me with hope. Plus, Gene Wilder will always be Willy Wonka to me, no matter how well Johnny Depp does, I think. Also the trailer for the upcoming Spielberg War of the Worlds, which is sure to stink.

I'm currently reading Charles Stross' The Family Trade, which I picked up because I knew it would move very quickly, and I don't have big chunks of time to wade through heavier stuff at the moment. It's amusing so far, about 70 pages in, but not great. I probably should have read The Atrocity Archives first, as from what I hear that's the best thing he's written yet. But it's at home and The Family Trade is here, so that settles that.

Amanda, who told me a few weeks ago that I have "negative charisma," told me today that I'm not shy. I'll keep that in mind the next time I've got a bunch of 5-lb dry ice-coated iron butterflies tearing apart my stomach, my throat's constricted to the point of speechlessness and I've got gallons of sweat pouring down me as I catch sight of someone I don't know well to whom I'd like to speak.

Oh, yes: Last rites among gorillas. A touching story in the Boston Globe.

And a truly awful story from Fight Club's Chuck Palahniuk: "Guts". My ass clenches in sympathy.

Now, back to work.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Blood, life and Cthulhu. . . 

I've gave blood today. Some weird new way of giving blood. Usually, they stick a needle in your arm, and the blood pumps into a bag. This thing, though, instead of taking one unit of regular blood, instead takes two units of red blood. It takes your blood into a machine, which spins it at 7000rpm or something, seperating the plasma from the red stuff. After the first unit of red cells is collected, it pumps some saline stuff back into your arm, then pumps all the separated plasma (which looks like beer (pale American beer, natch)) back, too. Of course, by that time it's no longer body temperature, and feeling colder stuff flowing back into your veins in large quantities is a disconcerting sort of feeling. My blood pressure on 05/05/04 was 112/62; on 10/13/04 was 110/70; and today was 112/74. Seems my pulse is going up. Stress, or am I falling out of shape, or is it something else?

Today one of my classmates' daughter was in class. Every class needs a toddler. She was an excellent destressor, and I just love kids. Can't wait to have a couple of my own, someday. I smiled so much my face hurt. I'm not sure whether that's nuts, or whether it's a pathetic reflection on how little I smile, but it was good. It's always great to get cookie monster and Beauty and the Beast into discussions of Country of the Pointed Furs and "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Also, Nick Mamatas got a piece of holiday chocolate shaped like Cthulhu, and he's selling it on eBay! Have you got what it takes to beat the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese's $28,000?

Because I *really* have time to waste right now. . . 

From Caitlin R. Kiernan:

1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?

Visited several countries to which I'd not been. Got drunk. Voted for president.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

No. No.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?

England, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland.

6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?

A girlfriend.

7. What dates from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

There aren't a whole lot, really. Maybe November 4, for obvious reasons.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I wrote a huge amount.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Most of that writing sucked. And I'm an asshole. And I'd say my social life counts as a failure, too.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A few little ones. Nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Not sure. Maybe my elitist bastards unite shirt. Or a book.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

"No one comes to mind. I think 2004 might have been the Year of the Asshole in the Chinese calendar. I don't know." -- Caitlin R. Kiernan

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

My own.

14. Where did most of your money go?


15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Caleb, my new dog. And a girl.

16. What song will always remind you of 2004?

Not a song, but Patrick Doyle's "Kissing in the Rain" -- probably the piece of music that got the most repeats this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

Missing the choices, somehow. Oh well. Probably about the same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Talk to people and read.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Feel sorry for myself, be afraid of talking to people, and read.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

Probably lonely.

22. Did you fall in love in 2004?

There was a crush or two.

23. How many one-night stands?


24. What was your favorite TV program?

Umm. . .Buffy & Angel. So I'm a little behind. Sue me.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Don't hate anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?

Ooh. Um . . . I don't know. I've read quite a few very good ones, though it hasn't been as good a reading year as last year. I'll probably put up a top 10 list later on.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The Skampa Quartet.

28. What did you want and get?

An awesome dog. Worming the Harpy by Rhys Hughes.

29. What did you want and not get?

A kiss.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Hrm. . .pretty lousy year for movies. . .it's a shame when the year's best are all based on comic books. . . once I see it, it will probably be The Incredibles.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I sat in the car. I turned 21.

32.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I'd like to say a girlfriend, but never having had one I don't really know.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?

Personal fashion? Mah zeh?

34. What kept you sane?

I'm sane?

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Charisma Carpenter. Not terribly attractive, but wickedly funny.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

The farce in Iraq. Situation in Sudan. Situation in Israel. Situation in Korea. Gay marriage legislation. Situation in DRC. Probably plenty more that I'm forgetting.

37. Who did you miss?

Schnug. My grandfather. Liz.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Whom did I meet? Not many new people, I think. Of them, probably Steve and Cynthia.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004:

Wherever you go, there you are.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"Don't make me use my stuff on ya, baby." 

I didn't have time today to write my angry rant about Sudan. Which is odd, because I did have time to engage in an hour-long staring contest with the telephone.

Over the past few days, I've watch Bubba Ho-tep. Not a great movie, but a very good one, about the awfulness of growing old alone. And Elvis and JFK vs a mummy in a nursing home. It could have been a hilarious but forgettable slap-stick, but in a surprising turn (and aside from the deliberately terribly cheesey special effects) it was played perfectly straight, allowing the old men what dignity they have, and ends up in a surprisingly touching fashion. Highly recommended offbeat movie, hilarious and honest. Plus Bruce Campbell is Elvis Presley. I'm no Elvis fanatic, but that casting decision was pure genius.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Mastadge revealed 

Some of you have expressed some curiosity as to what I look like. Well, I've finally got a picture uploaded. It was taken toward the end of this past summer, so I'd put on some weight, I was unshaven, and, being on a boat, my hair was pretty wind-fluffed; it's not usually quite that big. Also, it was taken from a weird angle. Plus, I'm very unphotogenic. But enough apologies. Here I am:

More work 

Nearly done the big paper. By monday, I need to have four more papers written, plus thirty more pages of my thesis rewritten, plus the rest of my thesis condensed into an outline, plus whatever else I've got to do for my classes. This is fun. No, honestly. I work better under pressure, and this weekend'll be squeaky.


Very difficult to get work done when you've got girls on the mind and books in the mail.

Books that arrived today: Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, both of which I've been intending to read and got bumped to the top of the list when Scott gave them very hearty recommendations. Roger Zelazny's This Immortal which, aside from being by Zelazny, which is enough, has gotten a resounding endorsement or three from Stover, and Jeff Smith's Bone: The One-Volume Edition, which collects all nine volumes into one 1300-page book. I've been curious about Bone for a while, and between JeffV's recommendation and the mistakenly low price I found it at a while ago, I snapped it up.

As to girls, it's really only girl. No plural. I tend only to fixate on one at a time. I'll refrain from mentioning her here, because right now, as much as the chemicals in my brain insist otherwise, and as much as I wish I had the nerve to go and get to know her better, I don't know her well enough for it to be anything more than an infatuation.

Which is all neither here nor there.

Back to work. Three more pages of this paper, and then I can get started on the next one!


I was walking back from lunch (such as it was) when I realized that the weather fit my mood rather perfectly. Grey, cold, damp, spitting rain without really raining. Kind of nasty in a beautiful sort of way.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm in rather a nasty little mood today. But at least I'm aware of it and keeping it in check. Why'd I wake up in this funk? Heck if I know. I actually got going on nine hours of sleep, half again as much as usual for me, and woke up feeling drained, with puffy eyes and no incentive to do the work I've got to get done.

And, y'know, I'm generally pretty good-humored in my self-deprecation -- I try to keep the levity level pretty high in all cases -- but I'm sick of being such a loser. Really I am. There aren't many people I honestly don't like, and I find that usually topping the list of those people is me. And I don't even know why, anymore. And I know there's no one who can do a thing about it but me, and I know that I could do a lot about it, so I'm left wondering why I don't. I know I fear failure -- do I fear excellence even more?

Mostly, as usual, I'm just very frustrated with my social ineptitude and inability to approach or talk to people.

I think I'm going to put the upcoming book list on hold for a few days, mostly because I'm sick of looking at the list over and over again for the time being.

I also think I need to get back to work, and too that I need to stop writing here before I, in my mood, write something I might wish later I had not written.

For those of you who keep track of such things, it's now sixty-three years since Pearh Harbor was bombed.

Have a wonderful day, people.

Coming tomorrow (if I have time): Hell on Earth; or, To Reign in Sudan

Monday, December 06, 2004

Not much going on today. . . 

So, yeah. Not much going on but for work. Mainly I'm updating to add to the list of upcoming books and give myself a little break. But I will share an amusing thing I heard today: "Somebody's on my screen name! What the fuck!?"

Ahh, it's the little things in life. I never thought I'd hear someone so pissed off about a screen name.

I realized today that three of my finals are on Thursday, which means my finals go from 8 until 7, which is kind of a long day of exams. Yuck.

Today's forthcoming books about which I'm excited:

Jeff VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword. Jeff is a very powerful new writer whose masterpiece to date is the magnificent City of Saints & Madmen (of which I've purchased three different editions so far -- no more, JeffV!).
Epic yet personal, Shriek: An Afterword is a tragi-comic family account covering several decades in the author's imaginary Ambergris, a city previously chronicled in the critically acclaimed City of Saints & Madmen. Narrated with flamboyant intensity by ex-society figure Janice Shriek under increasingly urgent conditions, the novel presents a vivid gallery of characters and events, including a historian obsessed with a doomed love affair and a secret that may kill or transform him; a war between rival publishing houses that threatens to change Ambergris forever; and a marginalized people known as "gray caps," armed with advanced fungal technologies, waiting underground for their chance to mold the true future of the city. This is the story of the Family Shriek, a novel of love, life, and death that adds depth and breadth to the Ambergris Cycle.
Today's other pick is Kage Baker's Children of the Company. Her fifth Company novel, The Life of the World to Come, just came out, but it's never too soon for more Kage. Kage says about Book 5 in Postscripts:
[. . .]Children of the Company, is partly what the British call a fix-up novel, in so far as it takes some of the stories -- three or four short stories which I had thrown out as little clues, little puzzle pieces ("Collect these, kids! And you can win the answer!") and sets them together in a certain context. There is also a lot of original material in the book. There are bad immortals, and Children of the Company will introduce you to them up close and personal.

Its centrepoint is the novella "Son, Observe the Time," which was Hugo-nominated. It follows the character Lewis' story arc, and the Victor the Poisoner story arc. It throws a little more light on the Alec Checkerfield mystery as well.
and at NSB Message Boards:
COTC started out as a story collection and then morphed into what my friend Rick Bowes calls a mosaic novel. Its centerpiece is the novella SON OBSERVE THE TIME, but the framework linking all the stories took on a life of its own.

Here's what you get:

A story arc explaining what the heck happened to Lewis in Ireland in the 5th century, and why the little stupid guys were after him;

A story arc about Victor the Virus, explaining why he wears those gloves; but primarily:

A story arc about the guy pulling the strings behind everything. When Immortals Go Bad...
So, the list so far:

Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (01/05)
Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment (01/05)
Paul Witcover's Tumbling After (03/05)
Richard Morgan's Woken Furies (03/05)
Tamar Yellin's The Genizah at the House of Shepher (03/05)
Matthew Stover's Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (04/05)
Steph Swainston's No Present Like Time (04/05)
Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners (05/05)
John Crowley's The Evening Land: Lord Byron's Novel (06/05)
Richard Calder's Babylon (mid '05)
Dan Simmons' Olympos (07/05)
Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania (07/05)
Jeffrey Ford's The Girl in the Glass (08/05)
Karen Traviss' The World Before (11/05)
Kage Baker's Children of the Company (12?/06)
Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (01/06)
Jeff VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword (2006)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Robust again, and working on rotund! 

You'd think that having gone 45+ hours without food, I'd be pretty cranky. You'd be wrong. My blood sugar level must've been quite low, and I was definitely pretty dehydrated, but when I went to bed around three this morning I was actually feeling pretty good. I proceeded to sleep the sleep of the just. Or the dead. Or some guy whose immune system is busy mopping up some nasty little pathogens. Anyway, it was a deep sleep, and I woke up quite refreshed. Quite sore, too. Got a heckuva workout yesterday. Now my back and arms are screaming: Whhhhyyyyyy!? Why'd you do this to us!? Nevertheless, I'm in a good mood. Woke up around nine. Now around two. Thinking about closing my eyes for about a half-hour before continuing my work, because I'm, well, tired. The last couple days have been rough on my system and deep sleep last night or no, I'm not quite at peak efficiency right at the moment.

I think the translation of Karamazov I'm going to pick up will be by Andrew McAndrew.

The scabs on my nose came off this morning.

Today's two forthcoming books:

Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. Murakami is a brilliant Japanese writer; I've spoken a bit about his absolutely wonderful novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle not long ago. Kafka is his newest novel; it actually came out in 2003, I think, but the English translation (by Jay Rubin, I assume) doesn't come out until 2005, making it eligible for this list.
With Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami gives us a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed both here and around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.

This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle–yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
The next book is Karen Traviss' The World Before. Karen Traviss burst onto the sci-fi scene in March with her great debut novel City of Pearl, which she followed up in October with not one but two novels: Crossing the Line, the sequel to City of Pearl which is just as good as the first one, and manages to ratchet up the tension and suspense quite a bit; and Republic Commando: Hard Contact, which isn't anything like as good as her other two novels, but is one of the best Star Wars novels we've seen in a long time. The World Before continues the story started in her first two novels. Just a shame I have to wait another year before it's released.

Anyway, the list so far:

Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (01/05)
Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment (01/05)
Paul Witcover's Tumbling After (03/05)
Richard Morgan's Woken Furies (03/05)
Tamar Yellin's The Genizah at the House of Shepher (03/05)
Matthew Stover's Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (04/05)
Steph Swainston's No Present Like Time (04/05)
Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners (05/05)
John Crowley's The Evening Land: Lord Byron's Novel (06/05)
Richard Calder's Babylon (mid '05)
Dan Simmons' Olympos (07/05)
Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania (07/05)
Jeffrey Ford's The Girl in the Glass (08/05)
Karen Traviss' The World Before (11/05)
Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (01/06)

Current Music: John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"
Current Reading: James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss; Cynthia Oldfield's "Effects of War on the Incidence on AIDS"
Current Mood: Determined; tired; pleased; sore

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I hate being sick. I, like my father, am naturally a very healthy, strong person. I don't get sick often -- usually when I do it lasts fewer than 24 hours, and usually I'm able just to ignore it until it goes away. I really, really hate being weak and trembly and all that. It's a pain trying to work when you have no food in you, too. I just went out and walked for a couple hours. It helped with the energy level, but the stomach's still saying, in its own nonverbal way: Put sump'n in me! I double-dare ya! Feed me, and I'll show ya a real fireworks display! It's a beautiful night out, but it's been fairly warm today, so the snow's been melting, so it's been muddy, and my boots aren't what they once were, so I slipped on some mud. First time I've fallen, I think, since freshman year (and that was a story in its own right. I had just gotten through telling my roommate that I was pretty steady on my feet and would have no problem going down the wet hill (it had been raining) when my feet went out from under me.). Also, above the t-shirt, I had on a sweatshirt and my jacket. And I wore my hat. First time it's been worn since eleven months ago in Praha -- and I wasn't wearing it then. Noreen was. I could still faintly smell her shampoo on it.

I'd better feel better tomorrow, because I made almost no progress on the Woolf paper today, and finishing that thing's my only real goal this weekend.

For Austro-German I'm reading Part I of Goethe's Faust -- a really lackluster American translation. The last translation I read was better.

One of my favorite classes has been US Gov & Politics. I took it with Prof Elder in spring term sophomore year, and time and again it was pretty much me arguing with the class. And me winning. My term paper in that class, titled The Empire Strikes Iraq and opening with an epigraph from Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger (painfully great little book by the way), earned what Prof Elder said was the first 100/A+ she'd ever given on a term paper. I wish I had time to take more polisci classes. And more history classes. And some music classes. And more physics classes. And some bio classes. And all kinds of other classes.

The next two forthcoming books:

Olympos, by Dan Simmons. The second half of his newest novel; the first half was published last year as Ilium. Dan Simmons is an awesome writer, though his more recent stuff hasn't tended to be as good as his first novels. Phases of Gravity was a beautiful, powerful little mainstream novel, and Carrion Comfort was an awesome, scary epic horror novel. Did I mention that Simmons is an awesome writer?
Intertwining Homeric themes of fate, ceremony, friendship, duty, and courage with nonstop action and SF panache, Olympos begins with Greek and Trojan heroes led by the briefly allied Achilles and Hector laying siege to the home of the gods. But the conflict soon spreads far beyond mere humankind and their ancient gods, pitting Beings with incredible powers against one another and humanity – entities with names such as Setebos, Night, Prospero, Caliban, Sycorax, and the Demogorgon – thereby threatening the existence of every living being in our solar system and beyond. A breathtaking work of high-concept science fiction, Olympos will be eagerly anticipated by fans everywhere.
Next is Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. It's his debut novel, and I already guarantee it'll be great. ("The next major discovery in fantasy literature is writing his first novel! I'm writing my first novel, too. It's got con artists, abandoned towers of alien-forged glass, sorcery, skullduggery, lies, treachery, true friendship, unrequited love, puns, several guilds of whores, and sharks!") Because Scott is even more awesome than Simmons.
They say that Locke Lamora can beat anyone in a sword fight, they say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They are wrong. Tall and thin and weak and awful with a sword Locke relies on his wit and cunning. And while he steals from the rich (why bother stealing from the poor?) what he steals goes strictly to himself and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves; the Gentleman Bastards. Locke's domain is the city of Camorr. Built of Elderglass by a race no-one remembers, it is a city of shifting canals, baroque palaces and crowded cemetaries. Home to merchants, soldiers, beggars, cripples and feral children. And to the Dons. The criminal masterminds who run the city and have the Grey Emperor in their pocket. Locke and Camorr together are one of the great creations of modern fantasy and Scott Lynch is set to be the genre's next international star. Lynch is a debut author with talent and ambition to spare but his writing also has the control and subtely of an author many books into their career. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a superb debut from a 26 year old writer.
So, the list so far:

Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment (01/05)
Paul Witcover's Tumbling After (03/05)
Richard Morgan's Woken Furies (03/05)
Tamar Yellin's The Genizah at the House of Shepher (03/05)
Matthew Stover's Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (04/05)
Steph Swainston's No Present Like Time (04/05)
Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners (05/05)
John Crowley's The Evening Land: Lord Byron's Novel (06/05)
Richard Calder's Babylon (mid '05)
Dan Simmons' Olympos (07/05)
Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania (07/05)
Jeffrey Ford's The Girl in the Glass (08/05)
Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (01/06)
"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more!
Men were decievers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore;
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you ever blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.
- Much Ado About Nothing
Anyone know if the How the Grinch Stole Christmas Whos are the same as the Horton Hears a Who Whos?

It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights. 

Well, I managed to talk to a fantastic and lovely girl whom I've been kicking myself for not having the nerve to speak to for two and a half months for more than thirty seconds without being an asshole or clamming up and going totally silent. In light of that, anything else that may or may not have happened last night seems rather insignificant. That's exciting.

I think maybe it's a little pathetic that that's exciting. Nevertheless, I can now rate last night a fantastic success despite its sundry flaws.

Today, that fifteen-page Woolf paper will be written. Oh yes. It will be written.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Senior party. . . 

Went to the Senior Cocktail Party. Kind of stunk. Too loud and crowded for my taste, plus I was afflicted with my normal extreme social anxiety and got very tense -- my roommate kept asking what I was so nervous about. The first two people I talked to there commented on the fact that I wasn't wearing a t-shirt; the next three on how they were leaving because the party sucked.

I picked up Bubba Ho-tep and The Iron Giant today. Maybe I'll watch them over finals week.

Oh, and in the good news I forgot to mention a long time ago category: Liz is coming back next semester. Yay!

The snowman cometh! 

That's right. Finally: snowing. And not before time.

Also, Rhys Hughes now has a blog. This should be interesting. . .

In an apparent attempt to make up for yesterday, I got hardly any sleep at all last night. On the other hand, I do have a Nirvana song stuck in my head -- a song that I've never actually heard properly. I only know it because I knew a couple kids obsessed enough with Nirvana that I ended up learning most of the lyrics by heart, even without knowing the tunes. One of them was Mita ("Stop trying to pronounce my last name. Crazy American. . ." "You mean my name means bed in Hebrew? Yes!"), who was probably my best friend throughout high school. He was always amusing, though he got pretty upset if you cald him Dmitri. Or Dmitrius. Even then I didn't get cold easily. Observe, during the blizzard of '96:

"Brrr. Why aren't you wearing your coat? Crazy American. . ."
"You're from Mother Russia, and you find this cold?"
"You're nuts if you don't find this cold."

Ah, high school. How I did hate you.

Speaking of Mother Russia, my cousin Courtney should be getting back to the states soon after having spent three months teaching in a Russian orphanage. Wow. I can't wait to talk to her about that.

I've also got Ode to Joy stuck in my head. Beethoven and Kurt Cobain. What a mix of lyrics. . .

Anyway, Mita was extremely intelligent. Quick to pick up languages, with a head for numbers, he also played piano and guitar, knew his way around a computer, and was strong and athletic. We always half-jokes that it was the result of good ol' Soviet breeding -- both his parents, for example, were doctors. But the kid had no common sense. He was even lazier than I was, he was vulgar if funny, and he was nice, but unpredictable. A good guy.

Oh, well. Back to work for me. But first, today's quotation:
"Indeed it is not much use to try to make the world clean . . . unless each person will try to make himself or herself clean. Change that is effectual must come from within the hearts of men; force is an ill broom to sweep anything clean with . . . In teachers lies the world's only hope. Force should be used only to keep one man from hurting another; to give teachers peace in which to teach. Both governments and Gods will forget that, though the Gods, being shrewder even in their corruption, as the less material always must be, will always know that the One is all that matters. The individual, whoever or whatever he is. For is not each of us one? Alone, trapped in his separateness? . . . But governments will think that only masses of men matter, that one individual exists only to make his image like to another, and it is then, when man, maker of governments and of man, sick of his corrupted Gods' cruelty, sets governments above them, that his hour of greatest peril will come. For then his own skills and knowledge, grown Godlike, will turn against him."
- Evangeline Walton, The Children of Llyr

EDIT: Going to throw on today's picks for most anticipated books of '05:

Richard Morgan's debut novel, Altered Carbon, was a completely asskicking far-future noir novel with a twist or ten. Great stuff. One of my favorite books. His second novel, Broken Angels, featuring the same character, Takeshi Kovacs, wasn't quite as good, but was still very good, with the added bonus that it was different rather than just more of the same. His third book, Market Forces, kinda stunk. It was chock full of macho violence, t&a, sociopolitical commentary, etc -- but also a whole lot of silliness, and it read too much like a screenplay. It was enjoyable to an extent, but really not so good. His current Black Widow comic book is fantastic. His fourth novel, Woken Furies is featuring Takeshi Kovacs again, and I'm very much looking forward to it:
Woken Furies is set on Harlan’s World, and deals with the ghosts of Kovacs’ past as well as carrying forward a number of the other peripheral themes in the first two books. In some ways it’s a return to the noir staples of Altered Carbon, it’s largely urban in focus and the military context is consigned to the back seat again. But at the same time, Woken Furies is a far more intensely personal character novel than Altered Carbon was. The mysteries that Kovacs has to deal with and the solutions he finds are bound up tightly with the more existential questions of who he thinks he is and what implications that has for his actions. The sex and violence are still there in force, but they cast far longer, grimmer shadows this time. Guess I’m getting old, huh?

Next is Steph Swainston's No Present Like Time, the follow-up to her debut novel, The Year of Our War. YOOW was a tremendous, original, funny, different novel. Great stuff.
Another year in mankind's war for survival against the insects. God is still on holiday, the Emperor still leads and his cadre of immortals are still quarreling amongst themselves. It is known that the insects are reaching the Fourlands from the Shift but now mankind just has to do something about it. And in the meantime attention shifts to new lands and a naval expedition is launched. And Jant, the Emperor's drug-addicted winged messanger is expected to join it. Just perfect for a man terrified of ships and the sea. Steph Swainston's trilogy is building to be a landmark of modern fantasy. This is a wildly imaginative, witty yet profound fantasy, peopled with bizarre yet real characters.

The list so far:

Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment (01/05)
Paul Witcover's Tumbling After (03/05)
Richard Morgan's Woken Furies (03/05)
Tamar Yellin's The Genizah at the House of Shepher (03/05)
Matthew Stover's Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (04/05)
Steph Swainston's No Present Like Time (04/05)
Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners (05/05)
John Crowley's The Evening Land: Lord Byron's Novel (06/05)
Richard Calder's Babylon (mid '05)
Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania (07/05)
Jeffrey Ford's The Girl in the Glass (08/05)

Even later EDIT: Be sure to check out Miche's "The Shepherd and the Lilies".

Thursday, December 02, 2004


I went to Carrie, Cynthia and Rachel's holiday cocktail party this evening. It was fun. I'd never been to a cocktail party before. As it turned out, I knew, at least by name, most of the people there. Not that there were that many people, but still. . . I don't really have all that much to say about it. It was pleasant. I'm glad I went.

Of course, it is a little aggravating that I'm tremendously attracted to one of the hostesses, and I think that she's absolutely beautiful -- and I durst not do anything at all about it. I sometimes suspect that I really suck at life. And by sometimes I mean often.

Right now, I've got a lot of work yet to do. Thesis work and Woolf work, mostly. I think it's a problem that we're a week from the end of term and I don't even know when Carol wants my thesis. But I've got 81 pages of final draft, shooting for 100+ over the weekend, and then 350 more rough to back it up.

I will admit to curiosity as to what the reaction would be if, when people are going on about boo-hoo it's been three/seven/ten months since I've been kissed, I were to mention that, unless they believe in reincarnation, it's been two hundred fifty-five months and forever for me.

I think I'm going to go take a walk to clear my mind before I get back to work.

Can anyone recommend any particular translation or edition of The Brothers Karamazov?

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