Sunday, February 29, 2004
Also, I still have rather a tremendous headache. In fact, it's getting worse. Probably I need some sleep. And the desire for a hug has not gone away.
Ugh. I was in such a good mood yesterday, and I feel so piss-poor today, and I really don't need this added little stress right now on top of the other stuff.
Obviously, there will not be regular or lengthy updates until my computer is fixed; until then, I hope you're all very well.
Quotation from Beethoven: "Rossini would have been a great composer if his teacher had spanked him enough on the backside."
It's also my neighbour Hans' 19th birthday anniversary.
Moving on. I should be at church right now, but I'm not. I didn't sleep well the night before last, so yesterday I was pretty lethargic and uncomfortable. However, a healthy dose of Keep Moving coupled with the pleasure of seeing and talking to friends was enough to keep me in a good mood despite this. Last night, however, I didn't sleep at all. Got in bed around 12:30, and around 6:30 I realized sleep simply wasn't going to come. And I felt terrible. I got up, and found that I was about as stiff as I've ever been; I had joints and bones and muscles I didn't even know I had snap-crackle-popping like crazy and aching too, and a tremendous headache, and every time I blinked it felt like I was sandpapering my eyes. And I couldn't fall asleep. I knew than that I wouldn't be able to maintain a good mood, or even pretend to, and knew then too that I wouldn't be going to church today. But I feel really bad about it, because Michelle apparently did not get my message. Probably I should have called, but I didn't want to wake people up before 7:00 am. I still should have made sure she knew, though. Anyway, I went out hiked up to the woods, and proceeded to stretch everything until I was no longer hearing all those disgusting cracking sounds, until my muscles and joints were about a supple as they're supposed to be. I don't know why I was so messed up this morning. I don't know if it was some bug, or something I ate, or what. I'm sure I'll be pretty sore tomorrow from all that popping this morning, but at least I'm able to move normally and without cracking. After stretching I tried meditating -- if you can get it right, a couple hours' meditation is as good as a good nights' sleep -- but I wasn't focused enough, so while I relaxed a bit and got some rest, I didn't manage to make up all those hours without sleep. So right now I'm extremely tired, somewhat sore, and have quite a headache, but at least I'm functional and working my way toward a good mood again. It helps that it's such a beautiful day. I'm hoping that if this is some sickness it's on its way out, because this is not something I need to be fighting during the schoolweek. Anyway, Michelle: I'm very sorry, especially if you waited for me.
Now, snitched from Matt Cheney's blog:
What Fiction Can Learn from Poetry
to bend at the end of the line
to give up the line for a word
to push when a word tries to shove
to try when nothing else works
to find everything in nothing
to look without wanting to find
to scour the language with want
to guess what lies outside language
to play outside when it's cold
to jumble a why to a when
to break before getting to why
to watch for what came before
to read without setting a watch
to set down all that moves up
to move when the grammar gets tough
to be tough in the face of forgetfulness
to judge each face by its shadow
to shadow the beauty of yesterdays
to speak truth to beauty
to forget about truth
to embody all that is forgotten
I want a hug. No. I mean, I do, but what I really want is to be held, which is kind of like a hug, I guess except in terms of duration. But since it's not going to happen either way, I'll just put the notion out of my head and go get some work done and cheer up some more.
Ooh. Something just popped in my back. It felt really good and really gross at the same time. This is kind of how the stiffness feels when you've got the flu, except much stiffer, and all the other flu symptoms aren't there, for which I'm very grateful.
Have a beautiful day, everyone.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
We found out at the time that our breeder had a brand new litter developing in one of her bitches. This litter, 2 boys and 2 girls, was whelped on Dec. 23, 2003. By now, we had given up hope of getting one of these pups. But the other day we got a call, and this Wednesday, Karen will be coming down to Wilmington and delivering to us Clark:
For more pictures of him, go here.
Clark is apparently pretty laid-back, as opposed to his brother Lewis, who is friskier (a quality preferred for showdogs. My family prefers the laid-back approach.) Lewis will be going to live in Australia.
For more pictures of Lewis and Clark and their sisters, Dora the Explorer and Sacajawea, go here.
We do need some help, though. These puppies' names are just names the breeders gave them so that they would have something to call them; they are not names the dogs will be stuck with for life. But we do need to come up with a name to give Clark, and any suggestions are welcome. Just for an idea of names my family's dogs have had, in my lifetime we've had a German Shepard, Oakey, short for Annie Oakley; a Golden Retriever, Champagne; another Oakey; two female Pyrenees, Fresca and Jane; one male Pyrenees, Schnug; and a German named Tilly, short for Matilda. Our cats have been Sheba, Dante, and Tibbs. Anyway, yes, any name suggestions for the pup are quite welcome.
And I'd advise you all to come down to Delaware just to see the doghouse we've built for this pup. I almost want to be a dog just to live in the thing. Yes, it's that cool.
This news kind of preempts the other thing I wanted to discus today, so that will have to wait until tomorrow or Monday.
Until then, live wonderfully, everyone!
Friday, February 27, 2004
Couple interesting links:
Anwar Shaikh takes on Globalization and the Myth of Free Trade. (pdf)
US Military creates second Earth.
Bob Weinberg on making one's living as a paperback writer, by the numbers.
In other news, I love Penny Arcade! My favorite online comic.
Waking Beauty, by Paul Witcover. "A dream . . . a fantasy . . . an illusion . . . an illumination." This book, though I didn't read it until '03, is the most original fantasy (actually sci-fi masquerading as fantasy) of the '90s: always two steps to the left of where I expected it to be. A necropolis rose, unfolding layers of corruption to reveal astonishing beauty. There are those who sneet at fantasy as the literature of the familiar, the comfortable, the safe; they have never read this wholly adult, wholly disturbing novel. READ THIS BOOK.
Stranger Things Happen, by Kelly Link. This short-story collection, the author's first, is a joy -- a very tired word, to be sure, and one often perhaps used too lightly, but that's not the case here. I've not been so moved and affected -- and, yes, inspired -- by a book for a long time. Run, don't walk, to the bookstore and get yourself a copy.
The Etched City, by K.J. Bishop. Kirsten's first novel. I've recommended it to many people and given it to others. Literary, sensual, cruel and beautiful, every page exudes a musky aroma of blood and roses: the signature, and fatal allure, of the sphinx. Marvelous. But don't take my word for it. Read the review by legendary Michael Moorcock.
Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. Richard's debut is an ultra-violent sci-fi noir sort of novel, in which death has essentially been cured, that in addition to being one of the most thrilling books I've ever read is also extremely thoughtful and well-written. Its sequel, Broken Angels, is not as good, but still very good, and is also very different. More a war novel. And from preliminary reviews of his third novel, I have little doubt it will make my top ten in 2004. Thank you Richard Morgan for writing.
The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum. The most awful book I've ever read. I literally felt like I needed a shower after reading it. I've never before cringed in pain so often during a book. And the worst of it is, it's a true story. Truth is more terrible than fiction. This book ought to be read by everyone.
Star Wars: Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover. Close your eyes and think of what a Star Wars novel might be like if it was co-written by Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway about a Jedi Master portrayed in the films by Samuel L. Jackson. It's just like that. (Or maybe I'm just a Stover junkie.)
Nowhere Near Milkwood, by Rhys Hughes. My introduction to Rhys' work, and I can honestly say I have never had so much sheer fun and enjoyment out of a novel (which, strictly speaking, this isn't. Or maybe it is. Hard to say.). One the strength of this book I've tracked down all of Rhys' other (extremely difficult to find) books, except one: Worming the Harpy and Other Bitter Pills. If any of you can get your hands on a copy of this elusive book, I will gladly reimburse you whatever the cost.
Fisher of Devils, by Steve Redwood. If you can get through the slapstick account of creation that opens the novel, you'll find this book is blessed with both an eminent readability and more than a smattering of wit and charm. The prose is free-flowing and lucid, the characterization is strong and consistent, and some of the ideas presented are, if not entirely mind-blowingly original, certainly enough to give you pause for thought. The author uses his established alternative-milieu to explore the theme of love in its many forms and manifestations. From the divine love of the creator who is unable to un-create even the most wayward of his offspring, to the pure love of Eve for all creation (and of all creation for Eve), to the obsessive, nearly destructive love of Lucifer for that same lady, to the saintly, brotherly love of St Peter for Lucifer, the being that he believes is a misguided but ultimately noble fallen angel, and the quite literally horny lust of a demoness for brave Saint George, all forms of that emotion are here. Relationships between the various characters are established in such a way as to reflect a particular facet of the concept's whole, and the manner in which they interact provides a range of contrasts that represents the many shades of being and meaning that exist between different states of that same emotion. And I love this book.
The Anvil of the World, by Kage Baker. It's Auntie Kage in top form; a near-perfect light fantasy: cinematic, witty, funny, amiable, rambling, baroque, romantic, and fun. I loved it. Funny, even when tackling complex issues. Not the deepest of novels, but great fun to read. Great fun.
The Facts of Life, by Graham Joyce. Graham is a master craftsman; each of his novels is better than the last, and his latest, set in post-WWII England, is no exception. Deceptively light, almost whimsical feeling, and yet incredibly powerful and touching.
God's Chinese Son, by Jonathan D. Spence. A non-fiction book that relates the history of the Taiping uprising led by Hong Xiuquan, a man infected by Christian missionary tracts to the point that he believed himself to be the messiah. The uprising, which Spence describes as "Revelations come to life," overthrew the Qing dynasty, left more than twenty million Chinese dead, and established Hong as a god on earth who ruled from his "Heavenly City." Yet another underpublicized holocaust. Fascinating stuff.
Okay, so that was eleven. Sue me.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
First, the reviews of Passion are beginning to come in from people whom I know, whose taste and faith I know something about, and those reviews are generally very positive. So my interest in the film, which was already high, is now much higher. I hope I'll have the opportunity to see it. Will it surpass RoboCop as my favorite Jesus movie (I'm serious here. Really. RoboCop was a metaphor for Jesus. And I love that movie.)? We shall see. . .
I'm also waiting for the sequel, Pirates of the Crucifixion (this I'm not serious about. It just sounded really funny in my head):
"How'd you get off that cross?"And when it comes out on DVD, you can order it from Amazon.com with free Super Savior Shipping, where it shows up on your doorstep 3 days after you order it. Okay. That was too much. I'll stop now before I hurt myself or really ("really" must be one of the most extraneously used words in the language) offend anyone.
"When you left me on that godforsaken piece of kindling, you forgot one thing, mate. I'm Jesus Christ!"
. . .
"Thou art Peter. . . and upon this rock I shall build my church. Savvy?"
In other news, I miss the couch. I practically lived on that inverted bed last semester, spent a great many happy hours on it and near it. And in the past two months-and-a-half, I've only been on it once. I wish I had more opportunity this term to spend on it. It is a good place to be, and the company is even better. In fact, the company is the best.
Next, this image never fails to crack me up:
Also, if anyone reads this thing, leave some comments once in a while. Let me know what you think of what I write. Or just what an asshole I am.
Have a wonderful afternoon.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Which of the Lords of Rainbow do you serve?
Vera Nazarian's Rainbow quiz is probably my favorite little online quiz that I've ever taken. This is in large part because Vera's one of my favorite people whom I've never met. She's almost preternaturally cheery, she's very insightful, and her writing is insightful, beautiful, and different. Anyway, if you have five minutes, I recommend you take her Lords of Rainbow quiz, too, because it's a lot more interesting than most such quizzes. And in addition to the pretty little graphic, you get quite a bit more analysis that . . . well, you decide how close it comes to describing you.
And then go out and read Lords of Rainbow, because it's really good.
Completely changing the subject: A plea for an atheist homeland is an interesting essay by psychologist Christopher Duva from the Arbiter Online, the student-run newspaper of Boise State, where the author pleads to live in a country "where the response to a major terrorist act is not to go around mindlessly repeating God Bless America and pasting American flags on our SUVs. . ." I agree with some of his points, disagree with a few, and find a few others trivial, but it's quite an interesting read nonetheless.
Now, this blog, being new, has a certain novelty, and it's a fun little thing, but I'm definitely (and by definitely I mean there's at least a very slim chance) going to be blogging quite a bit less from now on, because frankly, if I keep blogging two or three times a day, I'm going to continue having less time to do other things that are a lot more important.
The first is Mel Gibson's latest vanity flick, Passion of the Christ, which has finally arrived in theatres. I have not yet seen this movie, although I'm sure I will eventually. This movie is not about Jesus' teachings; rather, it is a portrayal of of the last twelve hours of his life as they almost might have been, with a few historical details changed/ignored and a few additions to and subtractions from the scriptural text. It is also, apparently, the most violent movie ever made. How do I feel about this? I'll tell you once I've seen the film. For now, read Roger Ebert's review of the movie. Whether or not you agree with him, it's worth reading -- and it's in the minority of positive reviews; it seems unfortunately very popular to bash this movie every which way without examining its purpose or merits. Also, to Colleen you listen. And to Bob. Anyway, as I said, I'm sure I'll have more to say when I've actually seen the film.
The second is Wolfgang Peterson's Troy (watch the trailer here (I like the first half of the trailer rather a lot)). This is another project I've been watching with some interest. Wolfgang Peterson's got some great movies under his belt: Das Boot, one of the great war movies of all time, The NeverEnding Story, and Enemy Mine (the first half of which is one of my favorite movies. We shall not discuss the second half right now.), to name a few. On the other hand, much of his recent output has . . . how do you say . . . sucked. At first I was a little irked about the casting of premier Hollywood prettyboy Brad Pitt as Achilles, but then I checked out the original again. "Golden Akhilleus" is clearly blond. When we do our anthropological homework, we find that the Akhaians of the Iliad were almost certainly descended from the same European "Battle-axe People" who gave us the Saxons, the Angles, and (you guessed it) the Kelts. Possibly the Picts as well, but that's a tossup, depending on who you believe. The dark-haired, olive-skinned Greeks of today are not descended from the Akhaians of Achilles' day. They're descended from the people who whipped the Akhaians' butts all the way off the peninsula. And anyway, the fact that Brad Pitt looks a bit -- shall we say, pansy? -- is actually in his favor, when you consider Akhilleus' relationship with Patroklos. . . Brad Pitt is too old, though -- Akhilleus was a teenager at the beginning of the war, and died in his twenties. And Peter O'Toole is also in the movie, which to me is a good thing. In terms of casting, what has me more worried is the silicon-enhanced actress (I hope she doesn't play Helen) in the trailer who looked like a modern day porn star, not like a Greek or Trojan lady. In the movie's favor, it seems that they're not downplaying the violence to get the PG-13, but I've also heard rumors to the effect that the gods are not going to show up in this screen version. So I'm waiting for it with baited breath. I've no doubt that it will have some cool action sequences, but will it be a good movie? I really hope so. We shall see.
That's all for now. Until later.
P.S. -- Stop recommending The Da Vinci Code to me. I promise you, all of you . . . I will read it. As soon as I'm done with the collected works of Danielle Steele.
It is no secret that I tend to walk late at night. But late-night walking is so different in the winter at any other time. For one thing, the trees are naked and the ground clothed rather than the other way around. The sounds are different: the crunches, creaks and sighs of winter are very different from the rustles, squeaks and squishes the rest of the year. The air is of a different temperature and texture. But the most interesting difference to me is the light. Without the trees blocking out the light from above, and with the whole ground covered in a huge reflective blanket, it's always easy to see in the winter, whereas often during the rest of the year, it gets very dark under cover of trees. I have good night vision, so that's usually not much of an obstacle, but what really thrills me is when it's so dark that I literally cannot see my hand when I wave it in front of my eyes. When I try to strain my vision and see the way that cannot be seen, I invariably end up stumbling, but when I just take it easy and follow the ol' instincts, I've found that I can traipse my way without mishap through the near-pitch woods. Instinct and intuition are wonderful things. A word of advice, though: it takes an idiot to go walking through the woods in the middle of the night. I recommend not doing it. Do as I say, not as I do. Thank you.
Michelle, please get your foot fixed. If you don't, I might have to start picking on you about your fingers again. Don't think I'd forgotten. Don't think I don't notice.
I don't use emoticons, by the way.
Cudney, feel better. Craig, you too.
Good morning, everyone.
Crikey. I'm nearly late for class. I knew this blog business was a bad idea.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
On Sunday night, I saw a performance of Olivier Messiaen's 1941 Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps, or Quartet for the End of Time, for piano, clarinet, violin and cello. He wrote it while he was a German POW, and first performed it for a HUGE audience. Messiaen was a Catholic -- the piece's title refers to the Angel of the Apocalypse in Revelation 10: "I saw a mighty angel descending from heaven, clad in mist, having around his head a rainbow. His face was like the sun, his feet like pillars of fire. He placed his right foot on the sea, his left foot on the earth, and standing thus on the sea and the earth he lifted his hand toward heaven and swore by Him who liveth for ever and ever, saying: 'There shall be time no longer, but at the day of the trumpet of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be consummated.'" For more information, go here. Some very interesting stuff. Messiaen, by the way, also had synesthesia, so could internally see colors when he heard sounds. Synesthesia is, as you may know, a condition in which I have some interest. I thought that the music itself was tremendous; unfortunately, the clarinet wasn't working right and kept making funny noises, much to the dismay of its player. Still, if you ever have a chance to catch this piece, it's definitely worth it. On a somewhat different note, I believe Penderecki some years ago told a French music newspaper that Messiaen and him probably were the last composers to work on big scale oratorios. With all due respect, he was wrong. I heartily recommend Elliot Goldenthal's 1996 Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratoria.
While we're on music, Thomas Newman's recent score for Angels in America came out to unanimously and overwhelmingly positive reviews, both critical and popular. I'm not much of a Newman fan, but I don't dislike his music, and based on the word of mouth, I decided to pick up the score. I was very disappointed. The music didn't offend me, but I found it boring and very unheavenly. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some.
After the Quartet, I watched Love Actually and enjoyed it a lot. I don't know if it just hit me right or if it was really that good, but I haven't laughed out loud like that in a movie theater, well, ever. In the end, it was a dumb movie with annoying contrivances and some bad writing and a director much too desperate to please his audience . . . but still very entertaining. Anyways, who cares about those bits? So there were some loose strings that I wish could have been tied up, but . . . you'll laugh, you'll cry, and there are great performances by nearly everyone. In addition to Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson does a stellar job at a man struggling with life. I also liked Rowan Atkinson's cameo. If you want to see a heart-swelling comedy, this is the one to see.
This morning, a random synapse fired and got me thinking about The Novel. The Novel as it is taught in universities is supposed to have been invented in the eighteenth century, as a function of the rise of the bourgeoisie. It's this quasi-Realist, lovestory/familystory body of texts that SFF is supposed to have budded off from, and to which it supposedly yearns to return. But, though widespread, this is an inaccurate account of the history of the novel. In fact, the novel has been around and hugely popular since ancient Greece (at least! I'm tempted to argue that the origin of the Novel dates back to the epic of Gilgamesh, around 2000 BCE. And the Monkey King cycle, though I'm unsure of the dating on that one.), right through the medieval period and the renaissance, carrying on with undimmed appeal through the modern period into today. Critics call it "the romance" by way of downplaying it, but it's the Novel. Those critics don't like calling Romance "the Novel" because as a genre it's Fantastic, marvellous (in the strict sense of those two words): a series of kinetic narratives of adventure, reversal, love and exploration. It is what we today call "SF," "Fantasy," "Magic Realism," etc. The bourgeois Jane Austen/Balzac/Henry James-style novel is itself a minor offshoot from the great trunk of the romance, and I think it had its day somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, although obviously it lingers on to some extent. One thing that bugs me about the popular critical dismissal of SFF as upper-case Literature is that it's sheer hypocrisy on another level, too. The topmost level of crime (and its stepchild, espionage) writers have long been considered part of upper-case Literature, despite the vast morass of pulpy muck on which the stand. We here in the SFF ghetto simply don't get the same respect. When somebody in our field gets Really Really Good (Kurt Vonnegut or GG Marquez) or Really Really Famous (Margaret Atwood) we have to sit through condescending lectures from critics and academics explaining how what they write "isn't really SF" or "isn't really fantasy." I'd like to be able to just say Screw'em ("Care about other people's opinions, and you will be their prisoner" -- Lao-Tzu), but the truth is, that crap grates on my nerves.
Oh, yes. You may have noticed that for my title today, I used the opening sentence of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5. It is, I think, one of the finest opening lines in the history of literature. And just as some justification for having used it here, here's an interview with the man himself: Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !!@. It's pretty old, but it's the most recent bit I've seen from Kurt Vonnegut, and I enjoyed it when I first read it. I hope you do, too.
And, finally, I want a hug. Kind of a lot, actually.
Have a beautiful evening, everyone.
The owners, that is, not the dogs -- that would be cruel. The dogs will be picked up by miniature helicopters with grapples and fitted with DogNappies.
As soon as the technology's proven (and there may be innocent casualties, but omelette, eggs etc) it will be extended to vaporize cars that emit bad music loudly and late at night. It might also be sensible, when you are approaching the royal palace, to try very hard not to look as if you are coming to knock on my door when I'm busy to try and sell me something, because frankly, zap, crackle, fzzzzzzzzzzt to them too.
Monday, February 23, 2004
It's like that old cartoon showing an editor and a writer dressed in old-fashioned Russian togs, the Kremlin onion-towers visible outside the window, and the editor is saying, "This is what we have in mind -- We'll bring out War this year and Peace as a sequel in a year or two." It is this kind of novel-splitting that simply irks the stew out of me.
Of course, this is nothing new. The Lord of the Rings is in fact one novel, split into three chunks to make it easier to publish and market. Mary Gentle's magnificent Ash: A Secret History (which, I believe, is the longest fantasy novel ever, with a word-count even higher than that of LOTR) was published in one piece in the UK, but here in the US was published as four seperate novels. And the third instalment of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy fit into a single hardcover, but was so massive it had to be split in twain for paperback purposes.
Now, it seems that authors are more and more frequently just chopping novels in half, and selling the halves as individual novels. Dan Simmons has done it twice -- with Hyperion and then Endymion -- and is in the process of doing it a third time, with his Ilium/Olympos "duology" which is not in fact a duology but a single novel. After Tad Williams' trilogy, he wrote a novel, Otherland, that it took four doorstopper volumes to publish. Now, I have nothing at all against a three thousand page novel (unless it's bad), and I have no problem with a series of books, but I do find it aggravating to pick up the newest novel by a writer I like only to find out that it is actually only half of a novel, or a quarter of one. I don't want to read a novel over the course of four years, even if there are synopses of what has gone before at the beginning of each volume. So now I don't. I wait until the entire novel has been published before reading it. And it took me four paragraphs to say that, which indicates to me that I lack exactly the sort of brevity necessary to fit a novel into one cover.
In other news, because the network here is running so slowly, my roommate was up late last night doing work, which means that I, being a light sleeper, was up late, and seeing as I haven't yet managed to sleep past seven o'clock in the morning this term, I didn't get enough sleep, and am therefore quite tired. Other than this, it's been a most satisfactory day, in which I said a minimum of stupid things (although I will admit that at least two of them were exceedingly stupid, even considering the source), and got quite a substantial amount of writing and revising done.
Have a good night, everyone.