Saturday, March 26, 2005

So: I'm bored. . . 

You know, when it comes up that you listen to classical music, there are three main reactions:

1) The amused smirk. You know, the one that means, Oh, you listen to that stuff. Pfft. Loser. Try some real music sometime, you pretentious jackass.
2) The vague, "Oh, that's nice," but I have nothing more to say about that. Let's change the subject reaction.
3) (least commonly) Some flicker of actual interest.

If the conversation progresses and turns to which composers are your favorites, and if, like me, it happens to be Beethoven, there are two main reactions:

1) The person will nod sagely. This indicates that, musically, he or she is probably a layman, and is deeply impressed and relieved that he/she has indeed heard of that particular composer and might even be able to hum some of his music.
2) The person will lose interest. The fact that your favorite composer is Beethoven indicates to this person that you're no true musical enthusiast, because everyone's heard of Beethoven.

To the second type, I say: Bugger off. If you want, yes, I can name obscure composers old and new. I probably have some favorites even you haven't heard of. I can probably name favorite and least favorite recordings of various pieces of music. But you know what? I love Beethoven; the guy's immensely popular for a reason.

Of course, it's even worse if you mention that you also listen to film scores: then, everyone feels perfectly happy to turn on the condescending attitude, because everyone knows that that's not real music. Condescending turdmonkeys. To paraphrase Sturgeon: Sure, ninety percent of film scores are crud. Ninety percent of everything is crud. To summarily dismiss them is like saying that whomever grows tomatoes is no true gardener because they're easy to grow and also very tasty. To grow tomatoes is to cheat yourself out of any possibility of being taken seriously as a gardener or farmer. The same goes for people who simply won't accept that comics can be serious Literature.

I'm spending the next week in Franklin, WV building houses for Habitat for Humanity. It should be an interesting experience. A friend of a friend who went down last week says it was an absolutely fantastic trip, which is good, but . . . I was raised among people who do things right. Whether it was electric work, plumbing, painting, carpentry, whatever -- they took however long it took to get the job right. Sometimes it took a frustratingly long time and was surprisingly expensive, but the end results were almost invariably beautiful, and guaranteed to last, barring a catastrophe such as a fire or a freak DE tornado, longer than I'll live. My understanding is that organizations such as H4H don't work that way: the goal is efficiency, speed even if at the expense of quality, and I'm not sure how I feel about working that way.

I got to play today, all too briefly, with a dog. A Golden Retriever who, the story has it, made a flying ingress through Kamarra's window. . .

Anyway, seeing as I'm bored, it's time for some book talk:

A few days ago, I finished Richard Morgan's fourth novel, Woken Furies. It's his third novel about character Takeshi Kovacs; to his credit, each novel has been significantly different to the others, rather than following the standard method of rehashing the same story over and over. The first, Altered Carbon, was a hyperviolent, hyperenergetic noir sci-fi novel; the second, Broken Angels, a war novel. This third novel, the longest by probably 25k words, returns Kovacs to his homeworld and, while it still has plenty o' sex and violence, is also the most personal of the three, delving more into Kovacs' character and what makes him tick, as opposed to, in the previous novels, how he deals with and reacts to more external circumstances. A central conceit in these novels is that, at this far-future time, humans are virtually immortal by way of a "cortical stack," basically a hard drive where the person's consciousness or, for lack of a better word, soul is stored. So when your body ("sleeve") dies, the stack can be inserted in a new one. For those who can afford it, this can be a clone of your original body; for soldiers, there are special enhanced combat-ready sleeves. Of course, the new body's biology affects your personality; if you're a man and sleeved in a woman's body, you can expect to see the world a little differently; if you're sleeved in a body addicted to a certain substance, or biologically attracted to a certain person, things can get interesting. This third book also plays with the practical and moral problems that might arise should, say, a person's stack be copied and sleeved while the original is still alive. . . Woken Furies is a fun read, not as good as Altered Carbon, but better than Broken Angels and MUCH better than Market Forces.

Additionally, Morgan has scripted a six-issue comic, Black Widow: Homecoming, which Entertainment Weekly just reviewed: "The most refreshing part of writer Richard K. Morgan's take on ex-spy Natasha Romanova isn't the terrific art by comics titan Bill Siekiewics (Elektra: Assassin). No, it's that there's not a costume in sight. This is a book about a very deadly girl on the run, hunting for the reason why she's on a hitman's list and evading a past she thought she left behind. Smarter, funnier, and sexier than it has any right to be--the folks at Marvel would do well to stretch themselves like this more often. B+" He's currently writing a new six-part Black Widow story, as well as two novels: Land Fit for Heroes, a noir fantasy that he describes as a revisionist sword-and-sorcery tale, with "a bleak lack of moral compass - Lord of the Rings, it ain’t gonna be"; and Normal Parameters, "set about a hundred years in the future, when Mars [some of it apparently takes place on the Peruvian altiplano] has been colonized and genetic licensing is the issue of the day." Here's hoping Morgan can keep writing on the level of Altered Carbon and Woken Furies and can refrain from giving us another Market Forces.

Also, and I meant to post about this several weeks ago, Dan Simmons has given some clues as to the potential subject of his next novel after Ilium/Olympos. The fourth Joe Kurtz novel, Hard Day Dying, has been scrapped; Simmons' new novel promises to take place in the arctic (he'd have preferred Antarctica; "Why change poles, you ask? Simple. I would like a dangerous predator-adversary in my possible novel – a killer other than cold, starvation, exhaustion, scurvy, dehydration, madness, botulism, poor planning, and lead poisoning, although these certainly did for more than a few polar explorers – but try as I might, I couldn’t convince my editor and agent that a suspense novel with a giant, mutant, carnivorous penguin was a logical viability."); he tells you a couple things you probably didn't know about polar bears, as well as providing several amusing anecdotes he's picked up in his research, including:
That Robert Falcon Scott – renowned for his class-consciousness, stuffiness, and lack of a sense of humor – when once asked by one of his men why his bathroom breaks outside the pyramid tent at –50 degrees took longer than the other men’s breaks, replied, “Well, you see, the truth of it is that it’s hard to get two inches of business out of six inches of clothing.”

That when the captain puts on a boxing match on deck at 70 below zero to raise crew morale, the match has to be called because the two boxers can’t find each other in the cloud of their own breath.
For more, check out Simmons' message. Also, if you're interested in the subject, I highly recommend Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, which I read more than five years ago (five years, a month and two weeks, but who's counting?) and still remember quite vividly. Terrific book. And I can't wait for the new Simmons, because he's a consistantly fantastic novelist.

Another couple of books worth keeping an eye on: Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which is supposed to come out later this year but may not arrive until 2006. This novel is, according to a Locus interview, "set in an alternate-historical timeline where there's no Israel, and in World War II the United States allowed a lot of Jewish refugees into the Alaskan Territories to settle, so they started this Yiddish-speaking territory." I know nothing more about it, but Chabon's a good writer and more importantly a champion of certain literary causes, so I'll definitely check it out when it arrives. Also, Alex Irvine's The Narrows:
It's a phantasmagorical vision of Detroit during World War II, when Motown was the Arsenal of Democracy, the industrial powerhouse upon which Allied hopes in the war depended. Jared Cleaves works in a secret government project known as Building G--but the people who work there call it the Frankenline. With the guidance of a rabbi smuggled out of Eastern Europe, they build golems and send them off to Europe. Nazis both foreign and domestic take an interest, and then there's the problem of the Nain Rouge, or Red Dwarf, a figure out of Detroit folklore who appears when the city is about to suffer a catastrophe. During the weeks leading up to the monstrous Detroit race riots of June 1943, Jared finds himself confronting the legacy of seeing the Dwarf when he was a boy...and what is it out there at Willow Run?
I love this sort of Tim Powers-esque "secret history" genre to which Irvine seems to be partial; hopefully his talents have grown to match his ambitions for this novel, as they weren't quite up to his previous book.

Tempus Fugit 

Don't you hate that annoying, pretentious sort of person who throws around little Latin or other foreign phrases? Even worse are those who turn them into little multilingual puns: Tempus Fugitive, or Tempest Fugit, or anything like that. . .
It is a pity you do not like me beautiful book. As a genius, I do not expect to be readily understood but you may be surprised to know that my book is a definite milestone in literature, completely revolutionizes the English novel and puts the shallow pedestrian English writers in their place. . . .
- Flann O'Brien, "To Ethel Mannin," 14 July 1939
I woke up yesterday in a great mood, and I can't say why. I didn't get as much sleep as I'd have liked, and what sleep I did get fitful, punctuated by increasingly bizzare and often unpleasant dreams. The very first was a sort of waking dream before I even fell asleep, in which a bunch of fruit flies I imagined swarming around my left hand transmogrified into bees, which was not quite as disagreeable as might be imagined, presumably because bees simply don't bother me all that much, but was also not an entirely optimal situation. The rest of the night I was waking and half-waking every half-hour or so. Then, when I finally woke up for real, the room smelled of certain substances with which it has never been infused -- certain substances that might help explain the oddity of the dreams -- which was momentarily disconcerting. A glance out the window revealed a dull damp morning, and a glance at the clock revealed just how little sleep I'd had. Nevertheless, I got up feeling great. Go figure. It could have something to do with the fact that whatever ailment had been bothering me for a week seems to have gone. . . Every day, better'n the last.

Through the middle of the day, things took a bit of a downward turn, as Craig went home for the day and I was sitting around here, doing a little work but generally bored out of my mind. But I wandered down the hall, hung out with Liz and Katherine for a bit, and then the three of us went to the Sego Café, had some wine (or, in Liz's case, a beer), then went out to dinner. Far preferable to sitting in my room and then going to the commons alone, let me tell you. In fact, it was a very pleasant evening, and it had been too long since I'd spent any time with Liz. I need to remember to spend time with friends more often and be a solitary hermit more infrequently.

Last night, I slept for nearly ten hours, which is the longest I've slept in a very long time. No waking up in the night, either, so far as I can remember. Woke up today feeling very fine, not in quite as great a mood as yesterday, but certainly more refreshed. I really should do some work, but I'm more in the mood to go and spend an extended amount of time outside, so we'll see how the work situation unfolds. Especially because the library's not open, and I've the feeling that I won't get much work done in the room today.

I usually prefer to work in my room, and go to the library only when I'm too tired to stay awake in my room, or when I'm too distracted by toys to actually focus on my work. I think, in fact, that I've spent more time in the library this semester than ever before. But I rather dislike our library. Its temperature controls tend to keep it either too warm or too cold, and there are lots of rattly things that tend to distract from the work at hand. Plus people constantly coming and going, and people-watching is ever more interesting than doing most schoolwork.

I miss my dogs. I can't tell you how tempting it is to blow off this Habitat business and go home to play with Caleb. Actually, I can: not all that tempting at all. I'm really looking forward to Habitat, and think it will be a fantastic experience. Nevertheless, I'd love the opportunity to head home. One trait that runs in Caleb's family is red splotches. His famous uncle Fame (see the doggy genealogy) has quite a bit of the red; Caleb has only one tiny little patch of it, down on his leg, and every time I see it I think he's been chewing and gotten some blood on his fur. Gets me every time.

[the following three paragraphs were written yesterday]

I don't know all that much about the IMF. I've never to date actually read about the IMF and the World Bank per se; most of what I've gleaned comes from references in books about other things. But the impression I get, from my reading about Africa, boils down to a situation similar to this: Let's say I buy a slave. Work him literally half to death, and make a fortune on his labor. But laws change, and suddenly he's not a slave anymore. He's a free man. But, wait! I say. This man has no money to build a home of his own, to go anywhere else, so I'll make him an offer: He can continue to work for me, at a wage. Of course, he already owes me more than he'll ever be able to make for the shed I built him to sleep in, for the food I've fed him in all his years of servitude, for the clothes and tools I've provided him to wear . . . he can't pay that off, but I'll bet he can maybe keep up with my interest payments! And if he can't -- well, I'm rich, so I'll loan him whatever he needs to keep up with interest payments and to stay alive and working toward his freedom -- but on the condition that he invest whatever money I loan him the way I tell him to. And if those investments I enforce go bad . . . well, he still owes me for the loan, but if he really needs it, I can lend him some more. After all, that work he's doing for me . . . well, it's making me really filthy rich. . .

I just don't understand the pathological pursuit of money and power at the price of millions of people across several continents literally starving to death because they're born into a debt often created by the colonialists who came in and enslaved them in the first place . . . I don't understand how, in a country built on such slogans as "no taxation without representation," we can basically allow a bunch of banking firms to run governments of developing nations from half a world away. . . The more I read, the more it sickens me.

Someone remind to create a living will, because I don't ever want to be stuck in this Terri Schiavo situation. I don't want people fighting over whether to pull the plug on me; I don't want to be brain-dead and bed-ridden for fifteen years. If I'm ever in such a condition: please, just end it. Which is not to say that I necessarily think the courts are right not to allow the feeding tube to be reinserted. I don't have enough information to make a decision. Some people say she's unresponsive with no hope of recovery; others insist that she is responsive and could, with proper therapy, recover somewhat. Her husband, fifteen years down the line, says she said she'd have wanted to die in such a situation. I'm tempted to say that it's right to let her die: she entrusted herself to her husband when she married him, so presumably he'd know what her will might have been in this case, and since I myself would rather die than live like that, it's easy to imagine other people feeling the same way, which is a dangerous way to think, I guess. I think I'm a little too tired to give this the examination it deserves, though.

Have you ever noticed that when a situation's serious, your inhibitions tend to vanish? It's fair to say, I think, that I'm a very self-conscious person who values his privacy and dislikes calling attention to himself or, worse, being the center of attention. These are conditions that frequently make it very difficult to do some basic things such as dancing, running in public . . . or talking while in groups of people. But there seems to be a built in override switch somewhere, because whenever it's important: a matter of life or death, or even danger or death, those instincts switch right off. Someone's drowning, it doesn't matter how many people see your ungraceful, ungaingly sprint to the water to get to her; someone's bleeding, you take care of it, no matter how timid you usually are; someone falls off the boat, you make some noise about it no matter how quiet you prefer to be.

Question of the [period until I think of another question]: do you remember the first time you saved a person's life?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

One of my finals has been pushed back until after spring break, along with the attendant paper, so for this week I have only to worry about the three exams on Thursday. Going to try to finish the paper for Friday or Saturday, because I'm going to be building houses in West Virginia next week, and the week school resumes I've that last exam, plus two more papers, plus a whole lot of reading I'm supposed to get done. So basically I'm just plugging away right now, and also procrastinating in the name of plugging away. I've also been sick since Sunday, though I don't think anyone's noticed, and since I'm not debilitated and I haven't let it slow me down, I guess it doesn't count and I can still claim that I don't get sick.

I'm thinking of trying to get Dr. Cody to read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, because I think he'd get a kick out of it, if he can handle sequential art . . . I know some people just don't "get" the format. By the way, he made a comment today in class which, had I not already held him in very high esteem, would have boosted him into that level -- a comment about the purpose of education, that I think it would do very well for most of the rest of the world's teachers to hear. His class was also quite amusing today as, since there's a midterm coming up, probably ten people who haven't been there in six weeks (he doesn't take attendance) showed up.

And if you're interested in securing an elitist bastards unite t-shirt for yourself, just click here. It's definitely one of my favorite shirts . . . a lot of fun to wear.

Now, back to the books.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Anyone remember that rant I promised a few months ago about Sudan? Well, it's not forgotten, but it's not going to posted here as a rant, either. It's growing into a book, and it's not just Sudan but spreading to encompass most of Africa. For every book I read about that part of the world, I'm directed to a whole stack more, and each piece of the picture appalls me even more than the last.

In the meantime, I've got something like three midterm exams and two papers due this week, and I'm feeling very unproductive. Saturday I plowed through my work, but all I asked of myself yesterday was to get done 65 pages of reading for Islam and it took me all. Day. Long. To do it. And it's not even like I was doing much else to consume the time; in the morning I read the first couple chapters of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but that's it. Speaking of which, over Friday and Saturday I finally got around to reading Marvels and Kingdom Come. Marvels in particular was very good, but Alex Ross's artwork was simply stunning. As if I needed to tell you that. I'm more than halfway through Woken Furies, but didn't have time to read any of it this weekend; perhaps I'll finish it this week. And it looks like I'll have enough work to do over next week that probably the next fiction I'll get to is Matt Stover's Revenge of the Sith. Anyone know when Steven Sherrill's next book is coming out?

Yesterday, I finally saw the deer again. They're usually all over the place, especially in winter, and I'd usually see them at least daily this time of year, but since I left in December I hadn't seen any. But I saw them, at a distance, yesterday. I also saw a shooting star. You'd think that, seeing more than fifty of the things a month, and knowing what they are, I'd get used to them, come to consider them mundane. You'd think wrong. Every single time I see one -- especially one that lasts more than a second -- I can't help think how damned cool they are.

On Friday night, I watched Darren Aronofsky's Pi. Not as good or as powerful as Requiem for a Dream, but it's a very effective thriller combining mathematics, Kabbalism, the stock market and more into a film about a character toeing the line (what line?) between genius and madness. Compelling filmmaking; Aronofsky is definitely a director to keep an eye on.

Last time I got a haircut (No, I don't cut my own hair. Shut up.) the girl washing my hair was standing such that her hip was against my shoulder. I realized at the time that those few minutes of unwitting contiguity constituted the longest sustained contact I've ever had with another human being.

More to come, but for now: lunch. Take care, everyone.

Friday, March 18, 2005


So, I finally did it. I subjected myself to Alien vs. Predator. But I didn't pay for it -- oh, no. I held firm to my conviction not to send PWS Anderson a single cent. Instead, I borrowed it from a friend -- and considering that she let me, I find myself seriously considering whether she can still be considered a friend*.

There was a time when a new Alien movie was something to look forward to. These films have always come from promising new directors, each one leaving his own distinct stamp on the saga. In 1979 Ridley Scott gave us what is still one of the most suspenseful, atmospheric sci-fi thrillers you're likely to find, complete with a breakout performance from Sigourney Weaver and a creepy score from Jerry Goldsmith in Alien. Seven years later, pre-King of the World James Cameron, fresh off the success of The Terminator, directed the best sci-fi action movie ever, Aliens, with an energetic, militaristic score from James Horner. The following year, John McTiernan, who would a year later, for better or worse (mostly worse) redefine the action movie with Die Hard, gave us Predator, the best of the crop of 80s macho man action movies, helped along by a rhythmic score from Alan Silvestri. Predator 2 sucked the big one, but was by a hack director whose only other directorial credit I can think of was A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 or some such. Then came Alien3 from stylish director David Fincher who went on to direct Se7en and Fight Club, which would have been great had the studio not interfered with the project to the point that he's completely disowned it. Finally came Alien Resurrection from Jean-Pierre Jeunet of the wonderful The City of Lost Children and Amélie. It sucked, and everyone assumed that it had gotten the same treatment from the studio as its predecessor until Jeunet came out and said the movie was exactly as he'd intended it -- that he'd not even tried to make a Jeunet film, but had instead made a by-the-numbers studio pictures, as Fox wanted.

Ever since Predator 2, when an alien skull was seen aboard the Predator ship, fans have been clamoring for AVP. It has since been made into a series of successful comic books from Dark Horse, and a series of successful video games. Finally, the movie got greenlighted, and two of Foxes most successful, beloved properties were handed over, naturally, to perhaps the worst popular director alive, incompetent talentless hack Paul W.S. Anderson, whose directorial resumé contains such glorious screen gems as Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil. The movie makes no sense in the context of the other Alien films, it makes no sense in any historical context, and even on its own terms, it's nonsensical. There are no characters worth caring about, no engaging action sequences, and not a single interesting shot in the entire film. It's also mind boggling to me how the creature effects were worse in the 90s than in the 80s, and are even worse now.

The movie opens with Charles Bishop Weyland (whose company is presumably the same as the infamous Weyland-Yutani of the Alien films, and in whose likeness the android Bishop was created -- they're played by the same actor, and both characters do the spread-finger trick) finding, via his satellite over the antarctic, evidence of a pyramid a half-mile under the ice, apparently combining elements of Aztec, Egyptian and Cambodian architecture. Wanting to claim salvage rights, he assembles a team to send in, including Lex, who we know is tough and competent because she's seen answering her cell-phone while scaling a sheer ice-cliff alone, and later knows what "P.S.R." stands for; a chemical engineer whose sole character development consists of the fact that he's got two kids; an archaeologist whose most interesting find to date is, apparently, a pepsi bottlecap found in an excavation he'd thought was of a burial site; and a bunch of other characters whose purpose on the mission are unclear but whose purpose in the movie are quite obvious, including a dorky glasses-wearing type, a tough-looking thin woman with short blond hair, and some rugged-looking guys.

They get to antarctica, where they walk around with lots of skin exposed and where we never see a single plume of condensed breath when they're talking and breathing. It seems that the pyramid is a half-mile under a whaling station that was abandoned a hundred years previously. Of course, there's no snow or ice over the station -- it looks like it was abandoned yesterday. They descend to the pyramid by means of a hole in the ice conveniently bored by the Predator ship in orbit. There they find a "combination lock" that, when set to the current date, reveals some predator weapons. Picking up the weapons activates a mechanism by which, because the Aztecs use a "metric system" which "operates in multiples of ten," they reason that the pyramid will reconfigure itself every ten minutes. During the course of these reconfigurations, the team gets split up. Some of them are immediately attacked by facehuggers, supplied by an alien queen who had been frozen, presumably, for a century, but who is electrically shocked back to life. In a departure from the previous films, the entire implantation/incubation/gestation period for the aliens now seems to be a whole 35 seconds or so, except when it's convenient for the film to make it last longer, so soon there are aliens running around killing people, and predators running around trying to retrieve their weapons from the humans. Meanwhile, an hour into the movie, Lex and the archaeologist find some hieroglyphs and we learn that it's "all starting to make sense." You see, "thousands of years ago," apparently during the time before Antarctica was frozen over, when it was inhabited by the "first civilization," humans worshipped predators as gods -- it would seem that pyramids were really docking stations for predator ships. Every hundred years, the predators would come, infect the humans with aliens, and have a hunt for the purpose of training new warriors. If the warriors lost the hunt, they employed the bomb first seen in the Predator movie and wipe out everything else with them -- "a whole civilization wiped out overnight".

At this point of the film, you know that you're not going to hear any interesting dialogue or meet any interesting characters, but perhaps you've been hoping that the price of admission will be justified by the scenes where the predators and aliens actually fight. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Whereas before, the predators moved with a grace quite unexpected given their size, now they move like wrestlers, and the aliens move like . . . well, like guys in suits, at best, and often not even that interestingly. And when they fight . . . well, you've seen it in the previews. Picture a predator picking up an alien by the tail, and swinging it around and around, its head smashing through rock pillars. Imagine an alien and a predator rolling around, tangling on the ground, while the camera cuts quickly from angle to angle and shakes a lot in a fruitless attempt to disguise the clumsiness of the scene. Yeah, it's that bad.

Soon, all that's left is Lex and one of the predators, running around. We get the inevitable outrunning the giant fireball scene -- the only stupider, more implausible example of which I've scene has been in The Mummy Returns, when a character outruns the sunrise, staying just a few inches ahead of the line between light and dark. Here, our characters outrun what is, in effect, a nuclear explosion. And then there's the fight with the alien queen, who manages to be a whole lot less intimidating and realistic than she was in Aliens. And finally, with one last "twist" that you saw coming 45 minutes earlier and that's quite stupidly handled, the movie finally ends, and you realize that you've only been in front of your television for an hour and a half, when you would have sworn that it's been at least three times that.

I don't think there's a single redeeming factor in this movie, a single thing to make it worth watching. Without a doubt, the worst movie I've seen this year.

*Just kidding! I love you, Kamarra!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 94% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.
My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 72% on Beginner
You scored higher than 74% on Intermediate
You scored higher than 89% on Advanced
You scored higher than 99% on Expert
Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on Ok Cupid


This morning, she smiled.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Beasts 

So, I picked up my first Guy Gavriel Kay book, The Lions of Al-Rassan. I hope it's as good as everyone says. Meanwhile, though, I've just started Woken Furies and am finding it difficult to put down long enough to read my schoolbooks.

But more excitingly, I've got pictures of some of my beasts:

Caleb and Scout. I love my dogs. Especially the big one.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Barf Soda 

A while ago, my sister told me of some newfangled thing call Diet Vanilla Cherry Dr Pepper. "Sounds gross," I said. She assured me that while the sound of it was dubious, it was in fact a very delectable beverage and should I ever chance to come upon it, I should take the opportunity to do myself the favor of guzzling some. Now, I don't drink much soda at all, nor any other caffeinated or carbonated beverage, but I've heard this soda recommended to me several times, so when I happened to see a bottle, I bought it. Took a sip. Sweet it was, but without distinctive flavor, and in fact rather untasty. But I thought, mayhap there's a lingering delicious aftertaste, or maybe this is an acquired taste. So I finished the bottle. No such luck. It tasted to me like a saccharinized version of that awful vomit aftertaste. I recommend not poisoning your body with this vile substance.

I've noticed over the past few months that I've often been jumping topics with no transition between paragraphs. That's because these blog posts are not essays but collections of accumulated thoughts, and it's probably not going to change.

Recently, many people have been getting sick. My roommate's been sick, all of my siblings have been sick, but the most interesting sick people are the profs. One of my professors has had a lingering bad cold since the beginning of the term. Last week he came in, told me that he'd been to the doctor, and in fact had not a cold but pneumonia. The doctor didn't know whether it was bacterial or viral, but gave him antibiotics and told him he wasn't contagious. I thought it was amusing that the teacher had been coming in to class for a month with pneumonia. (And speaking of teachers, check out this very amusing little musical.) Another prof who's been sick is my Islam professor. Last class he was losing his voice, and about halfway through had lost it completely -- he was forcing air out of his mouth, but was getting no help it seemed from his vocal cords. It was looking like he was going to have to end class . . . but he was going over some common phrases, and when he said la ilaha illa llah, his voice suddenly came back in full. Of course, he's a smart and amusing guy, went on about how it was a miracle, how God had given him his voice back, and so forth. Coincidence? An example of fortuitous timing? Or something more? You be the judge.
"She knew he possessed a quality few males do. It was an instinctive thing that most of the men who had it didn't even know was there. Yet it was the most formidable part of their arsenal: They made you feel totally comfortable when you were together with them. On the street, in bed, having lunch, having sex, having a laugh, a walk or whatever-- it didn't matter. You breathed normally with them. You didn't feel any need to put on airs or puff out your chest or pretend to be someone you weren't. Yes, this fellow wanted to be in your pants, but he also wanted to be in your head and hang around together sharing the day. You felt that whenever you were with him. You were certain that you were exactly where he wanted to be at that moment. The things you said or did genuinely interested him."
- Jonathan Carroll, Glass Soup
I watched a couple movies this weekend. I finally saw Team America: World Police, which was at once a fantastic send-up of your average Bruckheimer brainless action flick and a satire aimed at the American perception (through media-colored glasses) of terrorism. There were a few scenes that didn't work (particularly one involving vomit) but walking out of the movie my cheeks hurt from so much laughing. Very funny stuff, I thought. The other movie I watched was really only half a movie: the second half of Kill Bill. Very entertaining movie, I thought. Taken as a whole, Kill Bill is a wonderful pastiche in both senses of the word, and I can't wait until they get around to releasing the promised nice edition so that I can finally own it.

Currently I'm reading Flann O'Brien's wonderful At Swim-Two-Birds, which is, I think, the first example of Irish literature since Dracula that I've actually liked. Is there anyone else who doesn't care for Joyce and Beckett at all? Or is it blasphemy to admit that?

There's one girl I see around campus every so often. Tiny girl, very slender, the type of person whose hand you'd almost be afraid to shake for fear of breaking her. She's also very attractive, but for one thing: she always looks pissed off. Now, I don't know anything about her; I've never heard her speak. Maybe that's just the way she looks. But to me it seems that her face is perpetually set in a Fuck-Off-or-at-least-Don't-Fuck-With-Me scowl/glare that's very off-putting. I've never seen a softer expression there; never seen a smile. It just strikes me as a little odd, is all.

And that's all I've got for the moment, as I have to get back to work.

Friday, March 11, 2005

No good deed. . . 

Last night, I took a walk. This is nothing new; I walk nearly every night. But last night, I came across a trio of sophomores who'd manage to get their week-old Jeep Soccer Mom Car stuck in the snow, and offered my help. Of course, they had no shovels, salt, chains, rope -- nothing at all useful. So after we spent over an hour digging with our hands, pushing and pulling the car and getting it nowhere, one of them had the wonderful idea to call a friend who had a real Jeep to come up and pull the car out. Even once he got up there, it took another hour of digging, pushing and towing to get the stupid car out of the snow. So by the time I got back it was closing on one o'clock in the morning, and it took me another hour to thaw out. Of course, by that time I was coughing pretty nastily, and it was too late to make a telephone call I'd been planning on making last night.

This morning I awoke with an awful headache, and generally felt like crap all around. And I've got some business to attend to that promises to be somewhat unpleasant. And I've got a ton of work to do this weekend.

Yeah. So. G'day, everyone.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Perchance to Dream 

I finished Michael Jasper's debut collection, Gunning for the Buddha. I enjoyed it quite a bit. The stories were relatively bite sized, most only a dozen pages long or so, and were fun and easy enough to read that they were ideal mental palate cleansers between coursework. I wouldn't call Jasper's fiction great, though it's got potential, but it's certainly quite good and, as I said -- a lot of fun. He's very good at finding the appropriate voice for a story, and at integrating Important Themes into his stories without turning them into Heavy, Too Serious To Be Fun affairs. If you'd like a taste of his fiction, head on over to his free "blog novel," Dead Man's Rope. The first two parts -- approximately eighty pages -- are available to download as printable .pdfs. What can be better than free fiction by a talented author? Go check it out.

I've also, over the past week or so, watched Troy. But before I discuss the movie, I want to spend a few minutes on its director. I just don't understand what happened to Wolfgang Petersen. He made Das Boot, the greatest submarine movie ever and one of the most tense, realistic and best war movies of all time. Then he made The NeverEnding Story which, despite the special effects limitations and corny music of the eighties, was a fantastic fantasy film, an instant classic, proving that he could provide excitement and the good old sensawunda. Then he got to work on Enemy Mine, the first half of which is some of my favorite science fiction cinema ever. Wonderful film. Then, about halfway through, it's as though he simply lost his directorial skills. The second half of Enemy Mine was crap, and his career since then has been a chain of mediocrity. If only the Wolfgang Petersen of Das Boot, The NeverEnding Story, and the first half of Enemy Mine had directed Troy, rather than the Wolfgang Petersen of Air Force One, Outbreak, and The Perfect Storm.

The first thing you have to do when watching Troy is to rid yourself of the notion that it has much to do with The Iliad. If you can do this . . . well, it's still a pretty bad movie, but at least the changes from the text won't make you want to put pins through your eardrums and claw your eyeballs out. Seriously, they didn't even pronounce Menelaus' name right. Pfft. But if you can, for almost three hours, put Homer's poem out of your mind, you might be able to enjoy this movie some. It's odd, really. This movie is a very odd amalgam of good and bad. It has some great actors, and it has some of the worst actors I've ever seen. It has some interminable sequences, and some awesome sequences. The production values are outstanding, but the movies charged with too many modern sensibilities. Brad Pitt . . . the man is practically his own special effect. Eric Bana does well as Hector. A cadaverous Peter O'Toole does a good turn as Priam. The ugly old men playing the Greek kings at least look the part. And then there's Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, who is not only in a league with Denise Richards and Bridget Moynahan in terms of acting ability, but also looks far more like a porn starlet than a classic beauty. Seriously, if you can't find a competent actress, at least find someone attractive for the role. Plus a dreadfully miscast Orlando Bloom as Paris. The script is not particularly engaging or memorable, and it's particularly entertaining seeing Hector and later Paris ignored time and again every time they suggest the proper course of action. Also, the movie just kind of leaves you hanging regarding the fate of some of the main characters. Are we supposed to assume that Paris and Briseis are killed, and the filmmakers are trying to spare us that unpleasantness? Who knows? But on the whole this is quite a mediocre, boring film that occasionally sinks to awfulness, and cocasionally rises to something worth watching.

The biggest disservice they did this film was ditching Gabriel Yared's score. Yared spent a year writing one of the best film scores I've ever heard. Then, less than a month before the movie came out, his score was ditched by an idiot exec, and James Horner came in to write the replacement. He was obviously on autopilot, as this score sounds pretty much like every epic score he's written since 1992 -- Legends of the Fall, Titanic, Braveheart, and so forth. It's just too passive and familiar for this film. Yared's score, on the other hand, is one of those rare beauties that can elevate an otherwise unimpressive film to the next level. I challenge you to pull out your bootleg copy of Yared's score, mute your copy of Troy, sync one of the tracks -- say, D-Day Battle or The Sacking of Troy -- to the appropriate sequence in the film, watch it with Yared's score instead of Horner's, and honestly tell me you think they made a wise move pulling Yared off the project. With Yared's score, Troy might actually have breached three stars, but as it is, I'd give it **¼ out of *****.

I'm still reading Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment. It's a typically wonderful novel from Joyce, who's one of my favorite novelists, but I haven't had that much time to read for pleasure lately, and what I have had has gone to Jasper's stories. I'm hoping to finish this book soon, though, because my copy of Richard Morgan's Woken Furies is on its way, and I can't wait to dive into that one. His debut novel Altered Carbon was absolutely fantastic, its sequel, Broken Angels, was good but not great, and his third novel, not in the series, was quite a disappointment. But it's looking like his return to the universe of Altered Carbon will approach the greatness of that book, so I'm excited. (Apparently Morgan's Black Widow miniseries also did well enough that he's writing another one, starting in July, which is good news because the guy writes a mean, tight comic.) Also just out is Paul Witcover's sophomore novel, Tumbling After, which I'm having shipped home, so won't get to read until June. (It seems appropriate to me to read it at the beach, as it's set on a Delaware beach in spitting distance of my family's cottage.) Witcover's first novel, Waking Beauty, was one of the very best SFF novels of the nineties, and early word has it that Tumbling After won't be a letdown.

I'm filling out my AmeriCorps application. Of course, the printable .pdf was in blue, so printed on a black and white print it's all a light gray, which seems pretty poor planning of their part. I only need two recommendations, and I'm sure I'll go to a professor for one of them, but I'm trying to think of another. I haven't been at The Bird Place much for the past couple years, so I'd feel a little awkward going in and asking if someone there would be willing to recommend me, even though I spent several years volunteering hundreds of hours there and was a volunteer intern for a summer. Here at school, what extracurricular life I have doesn't generally involve authority figures whom I could turn to for a recommendation. I know several skilled people who could probably recommend me, but I know them more as friends than as peoples with whom I've worked much.

Last semester, one of my classes was 1.5 hours at a time when most classes were only an hour, so two thirds of the way through every class the rest of the rooms on that hall emptied, signalling two us that we had another half hour to go. In one of the classes across the hall was an extraordinarily attractive girl, and starting about three weeks into the term it became a routine, almost a ritual, simply to watch her pass by. She's pale, with intelligent dark eyes and impeccable taste in clothes. The eyes are what originally caught my attention. Their darkness flashing by in the something less than a second it took her to pass our doorway. Eventually I think she noticed. Occasionally she'd look in, make momentary eye contact as she passed by. Very occasionally she'd turn the other way out of her classroom and leave by a different exit, in which case I saw nothing more than the reflection of her back. Even more occasionally she wouldn't be in class. I was so accustomed to this little game that I was actually disappointed when she wasn't there, almost as if she wasn't holding up her end of some imaginary bargain. This story doesn't really go anywhere. It's just that of all the little things that come and go and change each semester, I think that that little ritual's the one I miss most, and I find that odd.

Lastly, does anyone know anything about Michael A. Stackpole's collection Perchance to Dream and Other Stories? Coming April 15 from Five Star, this book collects 16 or 17 stories spanning Stackpole's twenty-year career; the official blurb is:
A New York Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction novels, Michael A. Stackpole is well-known as the author of award-winning books and stories in gaming and media universes like Star Wars® and BattleTech®. His fantasy novels, especially those in his acclaimed DragonCrown War cycle, have made him an acknowledged master in that field. Perchance to Dream and Other Stories collects many of his short stories for the first time. The title story is drawn from the DragonCrown War and is seen for the first time here. The other stories run the gamut from fantasy to science fiction, humor to horror and even to poetry. The work collected here spans twenty years of writing and includes a little known story set in his Talion fantasy universe.
I assume the Talion story is the one that is -- or used to be -- available on his website. Anyway, I haven't found any reviews of this book except by Harriet Klausner, and while I like Stackpole okay, I don't know if his short fiction interests me enough to invest $26 in a book from a publisher about the quality of whose work I know nothing. . .

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Constanteen - "I'm a real piece of work, chief. Ask anyone." 

"My name's John Constantine. I'm not the nicest bloke you've ever met. But I do me best."
So, I saw Constanteen last night. It was . . . quite a movie. The movie opened with an unattributed quotation pertaining to a trivial plot device, followed by a caption: "The Spear of Destiny has been missing since World War II." Already I'm ready to leave Constanteen; I'd much rather see Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny and learn just what that relic was doing during WWII, and how it ended up lost. But no -- we cut to Mexico, of all places, where some guy immediately finds the Spear. You'd think if the thing were on this side of the world, it would be either in the USA, or in South America - Argentina or somewhere. But in any event, our guy finds the Spear, and we quickly learn that it's made him indestructible -- and, apparently, very massive -- when a car wraps itself around him while he stands there unhurt. Later, we see this man walking through a herd of cattle. The cows drop dead around him and start decaying. We later wonder why, when he arrives in big American cities, the people don't start dropping dead around him. Are cows more susceptible to his evilness than humans?
"Failure is when you tumble, frightened and alone, into a sea of confusion. It's when you struggle to survive, refusing to be lost in the detrius. It's when you catch a glimpse of daylight above, and struggle towards it. Only to be swallowed by a shark." -- John Constantine
From there we're introduced to Rachel Weisz's character, a cop named Angela Dodson. Throughout the movie we wait for the fact that she's a cop to have some relevance, but it never does -- except that she gets to let people like Constanteen mess around in crime scenes. She's a Catholic, too.
MRS. POTTER: How are we supposed to worship alongside these-- these perverts?! These practitioners of the Black Arts? This is BLASPHEMY!
RICK THE VIC: Mrs. Potter, that's what the Church of the Blesssed Reconcilliation is all about. How can we expect the dear lord to welcome his fallen angel back into the fold, to love the unlovable-- if we ourselves turn our satanic bretheren away from our door? Please, Mrs. Potter. In the name of universal peace, share your hymnbook with Lord Gorgamoth Scumflagon.
Finally, we meet Constanteen. ("...Introducing in the left corner, the Baron Of Bullshit, The Sultan Of Scam...weighing a few pounds more than he probably should...Johhhhhhn Constantine.") Here's a man with terminal lung cancer. He's frequently doubled over, coughing up blood, got the consumption. But that doesn't slow him down when he needs to run and fight, no sir. Because we all know you can just turn your lung cancer off when you need to move fast! We're introduced to him exorcising a demon from a little girl. You see, thanks to a certain unforgivable sin in his past, Constanteen knows that he's condemned to Hell when he dies (we're told that his is the one soul Satan himself would come up to collect), and he's trying to win God's good graces by sending demons back to hell. (Constantine would like to chime in: "I don't fuckin' care about God's will.") You'd think someone so well versed in various theologies would know there are better ways. But there's something strange about this particular exorcism -- the demon isn't just posessing the girl, it's trying to come into our world through her ("That's impossible, John. We're finger puppets to them, not doorways!"). This despite that angels and demons aren't capable of entering our plane, although there apparently are "half-breeds" around us that can help bring out the best or worst in us. How these half-breeds came to be if the fullbloods can't be here is left unanswered.
DEMON: "Aiiiieeee! Constantine! Your father sucks the flaking cocks of lepers in the lowest circle of Hell!"
JOHN: "Does he swallow?"
DEMON: "Eh?"
JOHN: "Just wondering if he swallowed. That'd be horrible."
Soon, we learn that Angela's sister has committed suicide by throwing herself off the roof of the mental institute at which she's an inmate. But Angela knows her sister was a devout Catholic, and would never commit suicide, so she turns to Constanteen for help figuring out what's going on. When he realizes the forces of Hell are after her, he agrees. We see him somehow demolishing a bunch of demons by lighting a rag he's wrapped around his fist. This like much else in the film, is inexplicable.
ghant: It works, Constantine. There's power in this. Real Power.
John: There's power in the national grid too, But you wouldn't stick your finger in the fucking wall socket.
Along the way, we're introduced to some cool things, like a wand that shoots Dragon's Flame. We keep waiting for Constanteen to use that. We wait in vain. Why introduce something like that and not use it? We're also introduced to some completely ludicrous things, like the "holy shotgun," which is awesome in its stupidity. We meet the archangel Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton. We learn that water is the "universal conduit," and that by sticking his feet in a bucket of water, Constanteen can transport himself to Hell.
"Are you Constantine?"
"You're a prick."
"Me secret's out, then."
Along the way, Keanu Reeves struggles valiantly to act, and Rachel Weisz struggles equally valiantly to provide the movie some grace and dignity, but she really doesn't have much to work with. Shia LeBoeuf's character is almost as useless (and almost exactly the same) as it was in I, Robot. And when you finally learn the Who and Why of things at the end, you'll be almost as disappointed as you were when you got the same revelations back in I, Robot. Like I, Robot, this is a very pretty, generally not-too-offensively entertaining movie that's also very stupid, dull, and nonsensical.
"One day, God gets bored and ... BOOM! Nothing compares to that emptiness in your gut when the smoke settles, and you're the land man standing, eh?"
All the while, you're wondering whatever happened to Constantine. Constanteen doesn't do anything but react to circumstances. He's kind of a mildly offensive jerk, but that's it. Constantine . . . he's a complete asshole, and he does things his way. He acts, doesn't just react. I think I give it **½ out of ***** -- and that much only for some interesting visuals and some inspired casting choices (Keanu Reeves notwithstanding). I think this movie and its relationship to the comic can best be summed up as follows:

There's one more thing I should mention: the score. Brian Tyler scored this movie. His score was a massive, ferocious horror score. Then a WB exec, probably the same one who decided to take Gabriel Yared off Troy, decided the score wasn't right. Brought in Media Ventures talentless hack Klaus Badelt to "fix" the score with his synthesized cellos and other assorted electronica. So now we have a generally boring, passive, repetitive score instead of the monster this movie should have had. Blugh.

Now, I threw together a list of movies coming out in '05. Here it is:

MirrorMask (Dave McKean) - Written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Dave McKean, produced by Jim Henson? You bet I'm there. Ellen Datlow described it as "Dave McKean's artwork come to life," and she loved it but was worried about its commercial viability. Nevertheless, very excited about this one. This has already gotten a limited release, but when the heck is it coming to national theatres?

March 11 - Hostage (Florent Emilio Siri) - Looks pretty terrible to me, and the director is a video game director. Count me out.

March 11 - Robots (Chris Wedge & Carlos Saldanha) - The makers of Ice Age bring you another stinker.

March 18 - Steamboy (Katsuhiro Ôtomo) - Don't know much about it.

April 1 - Sin City (Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller) - Don't care much for Miller; don't care much for Rodriguez. Somehow very excited about this movie.

April 8 - Sahara (Brett Eisner) - Looks awful. Count me out.

April 29 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (James McTeigue) - I was very worried, but the trailers are pretty amusing. I'm cautiously optimistic here.

May 6 - Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott) - Can you say Gladiator 2? Still, it looks interesting. I'm cautiously optimistic about this one.

May 19 - Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (George Lucas) - Do I really need to talk about this one here?

June - Manderlay (Lars von Trier) - Who knows when this'll come out in the USA, but it's coming out in June over in Europe. Lars von Trier is a genius, every one of his films so far has been great. Bryce Dallas Howard takes over Nicole Kidman's role from Dogville in this story about slavery.

June 10 - The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D (Robert Rodriguez) - This movie will suck. A lot.

June 17 - Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan) - I didn't care for Memento but the trailers for this one are okay. I'll allow myself to be cautiously optimistic.

June 29 - War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg) - Yeah. This one doesn't look promising. I mean, it'll look great, I'm sure, but it doesn't look very satisfying to me.

July 8 - Fantastic Four (Tim Story) - A crappy director, and the trailers are awful. Why must they make me hate them so?

July 15 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton) - The trailer for this one annoyed the heck out of me, and I don't see why it had to be remade. I'll see it probably, because it's Burton, but I'm not expecting much.

July 22 - The Island (Michael Bay) - Steven Spielberg produced Michael Bay sci-fi thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson? It may suck, but it'll suck with style. I'll see it.

July 29 - The Brothers Grimm (Terry Gilliam) - IMDB summary: "Will and Jake Grimm are travelling con-artists who encounter a genuine fairy-tale curse which requires genuine courage instead of their usual bogus exorcisms." It's Gilliam. 'nuff said. I'm excited.

July 29 - Stealth (Rob Cohen) - This is the guy who directed The Fast and the Furious. 'nuff said.

July 29 - Sky High (Mike Mitchell) - Eh.

July 29 - Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe) - Don't know much about it.

August 5 - Doom (Andrzej Bartkowiak) - Yeah. This'll suck.

August 5 - 3001 (Mike Judge) - From the director of Beavis & Butthead . . .

August 12 - Domino (Tony Scott) - Don't care for Tony Scott at all, and Richard Kelly seems like an idiot who managed by accident to make Donnie Darko great but tried to fix that with the director's cut, but this biopic of Domino Harvey could prove interesting.

August 19 - Zu Warriors (Hark Tsui) - Could be interesting

August - The Great Raid (John Dahl) - World War II POWs. Don't know much about this one.

September 15 - Tideland (Terry Gilliam) - That's right, two Gilliam movies in one year! Tideland will, I'm quite sure, kick Brothers Grimm's butt.

September 16 - A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater) - Linklater's an interesting director who's done some great stuff, but somewhat uneven; this looks like their finally going to give us a PKD movie that's not just stupid shoot-'em-up. Two strikes against it: Linklater's intellectual pretensions and Keanu Reeves' involvement. Still, I'm excited.

September 22 - Aeon Flux (Karyn Kusama) - Don't know much about it.

September 23 - Corpse Bride (Tim Burton & Mike Johnson) - Definitely looking forward to this one. Hopefully optimistic. I hope it's as good as Nightmare Before Christmas.

September 30 - Serenity (Joss Whedon) - Very excited about this movie. Loved Firefly. Love Joss.

September 30 - A History of Violence (David Cronenberg) - Cronenberg's interesting. I'm curious about this movie.

Fall - Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro) - del Toro's brief description: "Pan´s labyrinth is the story of a young girl that travels with her mother and adoptive father to a rural area up North in Spain, 1944. After Franco´s victory. The girl lives in an imaginary world of her own creation and faces the real world with much chagrin. Post-war Fascist repression is at its height in rural Spain and the girl must come to terms with that through a fable of her own." While I enjoyed Hellboy, del Toro's definitely at his best with a smaller budget and out of Hollywood, as evidenced by his great Cronos and The Devil's Backbone, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

October 7 - The Wallace and Gromit Movie: Curse of the Wererabbit (Steve Box and Nick Park) - Count me in!

October 28 - The Legend of Zorro (Martin Campbell) - I thought Mask of Zorro was a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to this one.

Q4 - The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky) - The genius behind Pi and Requiem for a Dream brings us a sci-fi drama spanning more than a thousand years and starring Rachel Weizs?! Hell yeah! EXCITED FOR THIS ONE, FOLKS!

November 4 - V for Vendetta (James McTeigue) - Umm. What's the track record for Alan Moore films? 0 for 4 now?

November 9 - The New World (Terrence Malick) - The Thin Red Line was great, so I'm quite excited indeed about this movie about John Smith and the clash between Native Americans and the British in the 17th century.

November 11 - Jarhead (Sam Mendes) - Let's see if Mendes can recover from his sophomore slump and give us another great film.

November 18 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell) - None of the Potter films so far has been particularly interesting, and Cuaron's a much more interesting director than Newell, so I'm not expecting much from this one. Though I am looking forward to Patrick Doyle's score.

December 9 - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson) - The director of the Shrek movies brings us this adaptation of C.S. Lewis. I'm excited about this one, but I'm also prepared to be burned. Cautiously optimistic, I'll say.

December 9 - Underworld: Evolution (Len Wiseman) - The first Underworld was a risibly awful piece of trash whose sole redeeming quality was lots of Kate Beckinsale in skintight apparel. I'll not be watch the sequel.

December 14 - King Kong (Peter Jackson) - Yeah. Not looking forward to this one, either, though if the trailers look good I may change my mind.

December 31 - A Sound of Thunder (Peter Hyams) - A consistantly mediocre director takes on this Bradbury tale. No good can come of this.

Southland Tales (Richard Kelly) - Can lightning strike twice for the Donnie Darko director? I doubt it, but we'll see.

Zwartboek (Paul Verhoeven) - This was supposed to be out in '05 but I think for health reasons it was delayed: "Zwartboek tells the story of the Jewish singer Rachel. She escapes a massacre by the Germans while trying to flee to the south of Holland. In the autumn of 1944 she joins the Dutch resistance movement under the codename "Ellis". To achieve her goals in the resistance she paints her hair blonde and seduces a German officer. But in the end the resistance movement gets betrayed from someone from within. Only after the liberation in 1945 Rachel succeeds (after being charged as a double-spy first) in exposing the evil genius and revenges herself forcefully." Hopefully with this we'll get back wonderful genius Verhoeven from before his Hollywood suckitude started.

Coraline (Henry Sellick) - A movie in the style and from the director of Nightmare Before Christmas, from the Neil Gaiman story?! I'm so there!

Untitled (Aaron Allston) - Allston's writing and directing an ultra-low-budget horror flick. Can't wait!

May 2006 - Arthur and the Minimoys (Luc Besson) - An animated film from Besson? I'm interested. . .

June 30 2006 - Superman Returns (Brian Singer) - Will he be able to do as well by Superman as he did by X-men? We'll see. . .

July 7 2006 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski) - Will this be as much fun as the original? I doubt it, but we'll see.

2006 - Marie-Antoinette (Sofia Coppola) - Kirsten Dunst as Marie-Antoinette? Heh. I'll believe it when I see it. But I'll give it a chance, as I liked Lost in Translation quite a bit.

2006 - John Carter of Mars (Kerry Conran) - The guy behind craptacular Sky Captain sets about ruining ERB. Too bad Rodriguez had to drop this project, because it would have been ideal for his particular talents.

May 4 2007 - Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi) - Can't wait!

2007 - Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis) - Zemeckis film based on Neil Gaiman's adaptation of Beowulf!? Hell yeah!

2007 - The Lions of Al-Rassan (Edward Zwick) - The Last Samurai tackles Guy Gavriel Kay's novel? Cool.

So, list of movies I care to see in 2005:

Sin City
Kingdom of Heaven
The Brothers Grimm
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit
The Fountain
The New World
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

And the list of movies that I'll probably care to see depending on the reviews:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Batman Begins
The Island
A Scanner Darkly
Corpse Bride
Pan's Labyrinth
The Legend of Zorro

Thursday, March 03, 2005


I don't have time for a real update right now, but I do have a couple links. First, here's one of the reasons I love Peter David:
The easy answer for divorce is the same answer for gay marriage: ban it. Make it illegal. You want a divorce? Not in our country, Sunny Jim. Save the children. Save the family. Ban divorce.
For the rest, click here.

And on a related note, this bill would ban abortions of 'gay' fetuses.

Next, go witness Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt interviewing each other and be amused.

Finally, because I was talking about this at lunch, see what John Ostrander has to say about Social Security. And here's what Matt Stover had to say about it back in July:
Social Security is in no danger of going broke, if we can only stop our fucking Congress from sticking its fingers into the pot. This whole "Ponzi scheme" line of horseshit was invented by the Reaganistas as an excuse to privatize Social Security to prop up the NYSE. As long as the Social Security funds are left where they are, and not used as a bottomless purse to fund, oh, say, the occupation of Iraq, there is no danger it will collapse. Even with our current deficits, Social Security is fully funded until 2040. I'd say 35 years is enough time to fix any further problems that might arise. And Social Security is NOT a retirement scheme. Retirement funds are the individual responsibility of all Americans. Social Security is a safety net, intended to ensure that we don't have people in the United States (by reason of age or physical disablity) starving to death.
Oh, and the cover for Jonathan Carroll's Glass Soup has finally been released:

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


In Firefox my blog looks fine, but in IE for some reason, the sidebar has recently started being pushed down below the main text. Is anyone else having this problem? Does anyone know how I might go about resolving it?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?