Saturday, February 26, 2005
"Kaha:wi explores archetypal symbols of Iroquoian culture: the circle symbol, Woodland floral designs, images of duality and balance. The project reflects cultural concepts of Thanksgiving, sacredness of the natural world and rite ceremonies, such as the naming ceremony. The movement language for the dance incorporates traditional social dance steps: Stomp Dance, Women's Shuffle Dance, and Stick Dance. In the Women's Shuffle dance women move their feet in a way that represents the massaging of Mother Earth while keeping their upper body swaying to the music. All songs are created in an Iroquois language and are linguistically meaningful to each scene." For more information, click here.
It was truly a marvellous performance, and unlike any I've ever seen. Not suprising, I suppose: how many Iroquois dances have you seen? I know very little about dance, but this appears to have been a synthesis between traditional Iroquois and modern dance styles, and it was very sensuous, sensual, earthy and erotic. Very dramatic, very robust, and very appealing. And as ever, I'm absolutely astonished by the amount of control dancers have over their bodies. I definitely recommend seeing the performance if ever you get the chance.
I've been reading Karen Armstrong's biography of Muhammad for my Islam class, and it occurred to me: since big epic biopics seem to be in vogue right now, why hasn't anyone made one of Muhammad? It would make as good a three-hour historical epic as any, and better than most, and certainly if handled right could serve to clear up many of the popular and unflattering misconceptions about Islam regarding jihad, women, Muhammad himself -- you name it. Anyone else think it would be a good idea?
Film composer John Barry has been talking smack about contemporary film composers, whom he says "have nothing to say. They are just messing around with notes. I'm at a loss [. . .] I walk out of the cinema bewildered these days. I think, what was the producer or director thinking of to allow 45 minutes or an hour of music that doesn't mean a damn thing?" He goes on to say, "Today it's very empty. There's a whole thing of loading films up with songs - it's a commercial choice. The composers seem to ignore what's going on on screen. I look at movies; in the old days you knew what the composer was about. Today you don't - the scores are like a filler." Frankly, I think he's full of crap. For one thing, while he's done a good number of fantastic scores (The Lion in Winter, Dances With Wolves, Somewhere in Time, Out of Africa, Raise the Titance, and a bunch of James Bond movies, just to name a few), Barry has also scored more than his share of passive, forgettable scores. For another, while the past couple of years certainly haven't been terribly exciting either, there's certainly a good number of interesting young composers rising -- Marco Beltrami, Edward Shearmur, Brian Tyler, and even a couple of the Media Ventures guys are showing a little promise, not to mention fellows like John Williams, James Horner and so forth. If he's seeing films "loaded up with songs," he's obviously not seeing the sort of movies exactly known for innovative film scores. The most exciting and best film scores have always come out of the adventure films, the historical romances, the fantasies, the thrillers. And those are certainly not "loaded with songs." Eh. Oh, well. See also the interview with him here.
Oh, and before I forget -- go and watch the short film "7:35 in the Morning", available in quicktime at its website here. It's been nominated for an Oscar, but don't let that fool you -- it's actually quite amusing.
And now, I'm back to work. Take it easy, everyone.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
"Do one thing every day that scares you."I don't know if anyone was following the whole Hamilton vs. Churchill thing in the news, but it pisses me off. Hamilton College invited and paid Professor Ward Churchill to come speak. Then Hamilton found out that he had referred to the twin towers victims as "little Eichmanns." People there got pissed off. Started threatening to withhold donations to the college, stuff like that. Demanded that the invitation by rescinded. At first, the college didn't rescind the invitation. First amendment and all that. Then, two days before the speech, it was cancelled when college official started receiving warnings of violence if he were allowed to come. It was cancelled for safety's sake. BULLSHIT. It was cancelled because they didn't want him there, and the warnings offered an excuse. It was cancelled because the school was willing to put aside its ideals and its countries' ideals for the sake of convenience. If those same college officials had received warnings that there would be violence if they didn't retire from their positions immediately, you think there's a snowflake's chance in hell they'd do it? For the sake of safety? Nope. They'd make a stand, and not give in to the terrorists. But it's okay to give in to terrorism when it makes things more convenient for you, right? Sacrificing your integrity's okay, so long as you stand to gain from it immediately? I say again: Bullshit.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Not sure when the last time is I talked about what I've been reading, but here goes:
I read Peter David's Fallen Angel TPB, Saul Bellow's Ravelstein. Then the entire Garth Ennis run on Hellblazer (or as much of it's been collected, anyway -- 4 or 5 trades). Read King Leopold's Soliloquy by Mark Twain, then King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild. I read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Superman: Unconventional Warfare and Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals, both by Greg Rucka, and Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days by Brian K. Vaughan. I'm read Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas; Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent; a couple stories into Michael Jasper's Gunning for the Buddha; and Mary Gentle's Under the Penitence. I'm a couple chapters into Karen Armstrong's biography of Muhammad; and just starting Jonathan Kwitny's Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World. And I'm about seventy pages into Graham Joyce's The Limits of Enchantment. Next on the list is probably Richard A. Lupoff's Sword of the Demon.
Mary Gentle's novella was a solid read, but not great. It whetted my appetite for Ilario, which is coming in November, but it wasn't particularly mind-blowing or memorable. Consider Phlebas was Banks' second Culture novel that I read, and like The Player of Games, it was almost great, but somewise significantly flawed. Still very enjoyable. Greg Rucka is one of the few writers, along with John Ostrander and Peter David, whom I'll read "regular" superhero comics by -- Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Spectre, Martian Manhunter, Hulk, Supergirl. (This has nothing to do with elitism and everything to do with the fact that comics are expensive.) And Graham Joyce's novel is very promising so far, looks to be just as great as his last few. I love that guy's writing. You'll notice that reviews of every one of his books almost inevitably start off, "Maybe this book will finally find him the audience he deserves." Well, we can hope, because he very definitely does deserve to be a bestseller. He writes beautifully, brilliantly.
Professor Cody occasionally teaches a course called Four Great Fantasists, in which the bulk of the course is devoted to William Morris, H.G. Wells, E.R. Eddison, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Time is also spent on Borges, Dunsany, Rossetti, Ruskin, Tennyson and James Thompson. He's asked me if there're any works in particular I'd recommend he add to the course, that kind of thing. But I'll admit I'm much better read in contemporary fantasy than older stuff. I suggested that as everybody knows Tolkien and Lewis, to maybe throw in the other Inkling and give the students some Charles Williams, but frankly I'm not sure how receptive modern students would be to Williams. I've also thought maybe some Chesterton -- even today kids should get a hoot out of, say, The Man Who Was Thursday, and it wouldn't take them long to read. But -- anyone have any suggestions I might want to consider passing on to him?
In the class I'm taking with Cody now, we've too many people. A good dozen people or so don't have seats, have to sit against the back wall. In the classroom next door, which is big enough to accomodate all of us, is a class of six. But they won't switch with us, because they *need* their audio/visual setup that isn't in our room. So because every once in a while they need a projector or something, we're crammed into a room much too small. Makes sense, non?
Okay, I'm back. Had to help someone push her car out of its spot in the snow.
You know what I find a little disconcerting? People of average height or taller with short legs. The fact of the long torso doesn't faze me in the least, but it always throws me off to see a tall person on legs that look inordinately short.
I felt odd the other day; there was a blood drive on campus but because I gave two units last time, I wasn't yet eligible to give blood again. I always go to give blood when there's a blood drive. I felt as if I wasn't "doing my part" not to go.
Oh, and I begin to suspect that some quizilla things are less than accurate:
?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
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Sunday, February 20, 2005
Also, Scott is finally talking about his debut novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora:
So, ah, here's the deal. I'm under contract, rather delightfully, to Gollancz for four novels. The first of 'em, obviously, is The Lies of Locke Lamora, due out in the UK in January of 2006. Translation rights have already been sold to three other European countries; I'm not sure if I'm supposed to talk about that yet, so let's just leave the suspects unnamed for the time being.For more, click here.
[. . .]
After that, Books two and three under the contract are Red Seas Under Red Skies (definite title) and The Republic of Thieves (tentative title), being Books II and III respectively of what I hope will eventually be a seven-novel arc called The Gentleman Bastard Sequence. Sales willing...
The fourth book under the contract is a massive urban fantasy called The Conscience of the Storm, which is something I've been working on for nearly nine years now. If Conscience is any good, it's my hope that it will be the first of a triptych, continuing with The War for the Worldcity and The Winter of the White Empress.
You can add all of those books to my Most Wanted list -- and I recommend that you order a copy of Lies for yourself. Later I'll go from recommendation to insistence to, come the beginning of next year, shoving the book down your throat.
I'll probably be back later today, but for now I'm going to go enjoy this weather while it lasts.
EDIT: Just thought I'd throw on a Stover quotation:
I also . . . have to land my grizzly paw on that Unrecognized Genius mouse turd.
Shakespeare was, while he lived, THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COMMERCIAL PLAYWRIGHT OF THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD. He was Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Ingmar Friggin' Bergman rolled into one, working in the standard format of the pop theater of his time, achieving both popular and critical success, and was uniformly loathed and envied by every single one of the lesser lights of his day.
Hemingway won the NOBEL FUCKING PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. So did Kipling. So did Faulkner. LORD JIM was an international bestseller, and instantly established Conrad as one of the greatest writers of English prose. LOLITA did the same for Nabokov, though his reputation was already assured for his novels in Russian.
Tolstoy made so much money from WAR AND PEACE and ANNA KARENINA that he never bothered to write another novel -- he used the money to set up a proto-Christian commune . . .
That whole unrecognized-genius thing has more to do with
1) fine art, which is not a popular medium -- it was hard to convince people that Van Gogh was great while he was alive, for example, because only a tiny handful of idiots (like that bonehead Gauguin) ever saw his paintings, and
2) the internal mythology of second-raters and hacks of all descriptions, who continually tell us thinly disguised tales of themselves finally being recognized as brilliant long after they're gone, and
3) the academic necessities of literature departments, where degrees (and tenure!) often depend upon "discovering" -- and making a critical case for -- previously unrecognized elements in published or unpublished works, which occasionally results in otherwise inexplicable events like A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES winning the National Book Award.
Friday, February 18, 2005
This morning, I read Michael Jasper's very amusing story "Goddamn Redneck Surfer Zombies" in his new collection Gunning for the Buddha. First heard of Jasper, first read the title story of that collection, over at S1ngularity before it went defunct. I've also taken the opportunity this morning to start reading Mary Gentle's novella Under the Penitence, though I'm still curious as to how it fits into her forthcoming novel Ilario. Is it a chunk of the beginning of the novel? A prologue to the novel? If anyone knows and would care to share, I'd love to hear it. . .
Last night, I finally watched the Director's Cut of Daredevil. I'd seen the theatrical version, and thought it was unbearably awful, or maybe just unbearable offal, but I've heard so much praise of the Director's Cut -- that it's really a whole different movie! and so forth -- that I decided to give it a shot. And it just goes to show -- you can't polish a turd. Yes, the movie is now slightly better than a sharp stick in the eye. It cuts out some of the nonsense, and adds a half-hour of material that makes the movie more coherent, helps its pace and flow, and makes the fight scenes a little more brutal. But -- the acting still stinks; normal people are still running fast than bullets and making hundred-foot leaps off of rooftops; the action is still muddled; the cgi still stinks; the ending still stinks; the dialogue is still breathtakingly trite and sometimes cringe-inducingly bad; the origin story still drags on far too long; egzetera [sic]. The only things worth watching this movie for are Colin Farrell's insane performance as Bullseye, and Jennifer Garner's smile.
I also, over the past week, have watched most of the Return of the King extended edition. I still find the Sam/Gollum/Frodo scenes extremely boring, silly and repetitive, but the rest of the movie still kicks ass -- and lots of it. Sure, it has its problems, its inconsistencies . . . but it's still an outstanding cinematic achievement. I'm still pretty sure Jackson's remake of King Kong will suck, though.
Oh, and I found out how Caleb's related to Fresca: he's not. He's the grandson of Gimlet and Nala; Nala's also been bred to Napoleon, who's one of Fresca's sons. So there's no blood relation -- but gosh-darned are dogs inbread. But I already spoke about how we somehow find it acceptable to breed animals to suit our purposes and pleasures while it's somehow wrong to do the same to people a couple of weeks ago, so I'll refrain from doing so again now.
Oh, and some surprising results:
How self-confident are you?
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Glory's brother is Fame, who just won his third consecutive Best in Breed at Westminster Dog Show:
And here's Fame with his mother and Caleb's grandmother, Darcy:
Darcy's father is Gimlet:
Gimlet's father is Gambit:
One of Gimlet's sons, Cupid, is in this picture, taken fifteen years ago, the age Caleb is now:
Cupid is somehow, though I'm not quite sure of the connection, related to the first Pyrenees I owned, Fresca, whom we adopted at, I think, seven years of age:
Fresca's daugher, Princess, is the Number One Pyrenees bitch of all time:
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
"She spends three quarters of the book beating off in the most absurd ways possible. . ."Classes are good so far -- two days in. Taking a course on Islam, which should be interesting, although it's mildly discouraging to see the level of ignorance of nearly all of the students in the class. Taking a history course on American Consumer Culture, where, if there's much discussion, I should be able to get some good righteous indignation going and get into some good arguments. I'm taking The Novel II, in which we're reading Nabokov, Carter, Lem, and a bunch of others. Only read a couple of the books there, and with Prof Navarette teaching, it should be a blast. And I'm taking Supernatural Horror with Cody, which should be a breeze, and fun.
- Prof. Navarette
"I probably shouldn't tell you guys this, buy my underpants are all wet."
- Prof. Navarette
My copy of Graham Joyce's new novel, The Limits of Enchantment, came in today. I'm excited; after Matt Stover, Graham Joyce is probably my favorite novelist. Of course, given the amount of reading I've to do for my classes, who knows when I'll actually get around to reading it. But really, if you've never read any Graham Joyce, go out RIGHT NOW and pick up a copy of The Tooth Fairy. Then move on to The Facts of Life, Requiem, and Smoking Poppy. Immediately. You can thank me later.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Of course, now that I'm back here I can settle in with freakin' The Turn of the Screw. Again. Joy.
This is not satisfactory, and, in case you couldn't tell, I'm pretty cranky. Mostly, I think, because I'm -- you guessed it -- lonely. Also again. Maybe I should just go to sleep.
EDIT: Here are some pics of my dog when he turned one year old a couple months ago; he's since put on more'n twenty pounds, so he doesn't look quite the same, but I haven't had access to my webspace until now, so now is when you get them:
No captions, please. On second thought, captions, please. Anyone who makes me laugh gets a prize.
And now, off to defend my thesis.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are . . . the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.Link courtesy of Matt: Torture, American Style
- Primo Levi
All that the Devil asks is acquiescence . . . not struggle, not conflict. Acquiescence.
- Suzanne Massie
Also, since the end of the summer, Caleb's grown more than twenty pounds. And let me tell you, trying to hold more than one hundred twenty pounds of bucking panicking dog still enough that shots can be administered is an exercise in patience, a study in slime . . . it's a lot of fun. Especially when the big fella's been helping himself to treats out of the litterbox and you can smell 'em on his breath.
I've had a big rant brewing for a while now. I'm sure it'll spill out one of these days.
In the meantime, I'll keep on reading. In the fiction department, I'm on a bit of an Iain Banks kick. Currently reading Consider Phlebas, which I'm thinking I'll end up liking more than The Player of Games, which I liked quite a bit. It's not right that such good books should be so easy to read. I wish they could afford to get this guy to write a Star Wars novel. Actually, I don't. What I really wish is that he'd be more regularly published and read in the states. After I'm done this book, my next fiction'll probably by VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword, which I hope I enjoy as much as his City of Saints & Madmen -- I was a little disappointed by Veniss Underground, though I'll probably read it again one of these years.
In nonfiction, I'm still plugging along in King Leopold's Ghost, which is mostly excellent except for the occasional odd error, and I've got several others on the shelf that I'm excited about: Stiglitz's Globalization and its Discontents, Toqueville's Democracy in America, and Endless Enemies by Jonathan Kwitny, to name but a few.
Coming in August is, finally, a new Aimee Bender collection, Willful Creatures, to which I'm very much looking forward; also China Miéville's first collection, Looking for Jake; and in September is Alex Irvine's new novel, The Narrows. Irvine's debut, A Scattering of Jades, was a very fine debut; its followup, One King, One Soldier, displayed some brilliance but was ultimately a let-down. I'm hoping that The Narrows is as good as was Jades. Then, in October, comes Greg Rucka's next Queen & Country novel, Private Wars. Can't wait. Rucka's a whole lot of fun.
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
- Abraham Lincoln
The love of justice in most men is only the fear of themselves suffering by injustice.
- Françoise do la Rochefoucauld
| You scored as Gluttony. |
Seven deadly sins
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We had all of a two and a half week winter here. Now it's warm and rainy again already. Of course, my mom's car has a problem in that its alarm is not turn-offable, and she's paranoid and refuses to leave a car unlocked, so the damned alarm was being set off by the rain every five minutes or so, all night long, until I went down and unlocked it and left it unlocked, which made her not so happy this morning but at least I was able to get to sleep.
But that's not what I'm here to discuss today. I want to discuss a couple types of clothing. Shoes, for starters. You'll notice that most feet widen toward the front, but that most shoes, especially those considered nice, narrow to a point. I can understand this from an aesthetic point of view -- the streamlined, sleek look simply looks nice to us. But why in the world do we, day after day, shove our feet into shoes that literally disfigure them? Has no one noticed a paucity of foot diseases? I certainly haven't. Perhaps fewer people would grow up to have such screwed-up feet if we didn't persist in wearing shoes that are a very different shape than our feet. . . Our feet spread at the front for a good reason. Why do we deny them that?
Also, thongs. What the hell? I may not know what I'm talking about, never having worn one, but I can't imagine that they're terribly comfortable, nor particularly sanitary. Yet they're increasingly ubiquitous. I know that I seem to be in a minority of guys who don't find thongs appealing -- it looks to me too much like wearing a perpetual wedgie. (EDIT: Oddly enough, it seems Karen Traviss has been talking about the same thing. . .)
. . . and I've got to go move some furniture from my grandfather's house to my house. Take care, everyone.
EDIT: Oh yes, from Miche:
1. Reply with your name and I will write something about you.
2. I will then tell you what song(s) remind(s) me of you.
3. Next, I will tell you who you remind me of, celebrity, animated or otherwise.
4. Last, I will try to name a single word that best describes you.
5. Put this in your journal
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
You know what people should do? Tell the truth, in writing and fiction, the real sincere truth, the truth that hurts - make sure it hurts to say it - and the illusions will drop away. And life without illusions is both frightening and exhilarating.I almost got run over by a firetruck yesterday. There are no sidewalks on my street, and as I was walking Caleb, suddenly fire trucks careened around the corner and came far too close to taking us out. And as my block's not all that big, I wonder how all 5 or 6 trucks managed to fit in it. Also I wondered what they were responding to as, having just been around that block, I hadn't noticed any burning houses. . .
- John Shirley
Also, a question: should I let the beard continue to grow in, see how it looks a little more full, or should I just shave it off?
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
"Books say: She did this because. Life says she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; Life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own."
- Gustave Flaubert
| You scored as Prudence. Prudence- with you are good judgement and a sharp mind.|
The Seven Heavenly Virtues
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I'm home until February 13. Not doing a whole lot. Taking it easy. Walking the dog. Getting some reading done. Turning a few things over in my mind, examining them in frequently unpleasant and sometimes painful depth, but also without the usual self pity, which is good. Also I've grown a beard, though I'll probably shave it off before I head back to school.
Monday, February 07, 2005
2. Were you named after anyone?
Yep. First name's from my father's mother's father; middle name's from my mother's mother's father.
3. Do you wish on stars?
4. When did you last cry?
I don't remember.
5. Do you like your handwriting?
Most of the time.
6. What's your favorite lunch meat?
7. What is your birth date?
8. What is your most embarrassing CD?
I'm not embarrassed by any of them.
9. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you?
I'm not sure I want to know.
10. Are you a daredevil?
12. Do looks matter?
Matter to what? Generally, yes, appearance is important.
13. How do you release anger?
By listening to music.
14. Where is your second home?
Where is my first?
15. Do you trust others easily?
16. What was your favorite toy as a child?
A stuffed animal my grandmother made for me when I was born.
17. Which class in high school do you think was totally stupid?
There are few that weren't.
18. Do you have a journal?
Yes, but I don't often write in it.
19. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
More than I'd like to.
20. What are your nicknames?
21. Would you bungee jump?
Depends on the circumstances.
22. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
23. Do you think that you are strong?
I like to think so.
24. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
It varies day to day.
25. Shoe size?
11, maybe? I don't know.
26. Red or pink?
27. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
My social ineptitude.
28. Who do you miss most?
29. Do you want everyone to whom you send this to send it back?
30. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Grey pants; brown boots.
31. What are you listening to right now?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, John Williams.
32. Last thing you ate?
33. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Does it matter?
34. What is the weather like right now?
35. Last person you talked to on the phone?
Probably my father. I don't remember.
36. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
Depends how far away she is. Close up, eyes and hands. Far away, walking cadence.
37. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
I've seen it twice. No one sent it to me.
38. What is your ethnicity?
American, Polish, Russian.
39. Favorite drink?
40. Favorite sport?
41. Hair color?
42. Eye color?
43. Do you wear contacts?
44. Are you single?
45. Favorite food?
Changes all the time.
46. Last movie you watched?
Breaking the Waves, Lars von Trier.
47. Favorite day of the year?
Different every year.
48. Scary movies or happy endings?
Scary movies with happy endings. Or, better yet, happy movies with scary endings.
49. Summer or winter?
50. Hugs or kisses?
I'll let you know once I've gathered some empirical evidence. Don't hold your breath until then.
51. Do you have any favorite rants and, if so, what are they?
I'm not much of a ranter, but I enjoy reading those by Scott Lynch and Nick Mamatas.
52. What is your favorite dessert?
At the moment, probably crème brûlèe. Or tiramisu.
53. Who is most likely to respond?
54. Who is most likely not to respond?
Everyone who's not an answer to 53.
55. What books are you reading?
King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild; Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks
56. What's on your mouse pad?
"The beatings will continue until morale improves."
57. What did you watch last on TV?
Don't watch TV.
58. Favorite smells?
Women. Dogs, when they're dry.
59. Favorite sounds?
The sound of one hand clapping. Or the sound of laughter/crying.
60. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
61. What's the farthest you've been from home?
62. Do you have a special talent?
Do I ever.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Is there anyone else who can't even be bothered to pretend to care?
And now for ridiculous news of the day:
Colorado Teens Fined for Giving Cookies to Neighbor
Music Industry Sues 83-Year-Old Dead Woman
Chris: Good on you, mate. It's about time.
That's it for today.
Saturday, February 05, 2005
You Are From Neptune
You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.
I've just finished Ravelstein, Saul Bellow's auto/biographical novel about Allan Bloom and their friendship. It was my introduction to Bellow, but I'll certainly be reading more, because damn can that guy write. For the moment, though, on to some Mark Twain. But first, I think it's time to walk Caleb.
Oh . . . while I was working on cleaning out my grandfather's house, I found an 80+ year old Erector set. That's probably worth something, now.
Also, I've finally found, thanks to JeffV, a couple of Finnish SFF writers. Leena Krohn, author of Tainaron and Don Quixote and Other Writings, and Johanna Sinisalo, author of Troll: A Love Story.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.And now that that's out of the way, I'm going to talk a little about animals.
-- Flannery O'Connor
While I was in Vienna, I went to the zoo, and I was disgusted. Scrawny, bored looking lions and tigers -- in the snow! These animals are not meant for the snow, and they are intelligent. It's not good for them to have nothing to do and nowhere to go. The polar bears were pacing back and forth on their little strip. The giraffes were penned in a little room. But what really got to me was the orangutans. They had a male and a female in a room, and these animals looked suicidally depressed. They looked bored, they looked morose, and it was all the worse because they looked so human. Their hands, their eyes, their body language. And they were in a basically empty room, with a glass wall so a bunch of annoying jackasses could walk by and look at them and be amused. When we went to look at them, one of them, the female, brought a crate right over in front of the window, sat down on it, and sat there looking at us. Later she showed curiosity -- one of my friends had a bag, and the orangutan was curious about its contents, and indicated for her to take the contents of her bag out, one by one, and let her look at them. Then my friend wrote in her pad, and when the orangutan looked curious, she showed her the page, and the orangutan started gesturing to turn the pages, and studied each and every page. And it was all so pathetic, and so gross. These animals, on an intellectual level near human and a level of curiosity surpassing some people I know, and they're stuck in a spartan plastic room to be gawked at. It sickened me. The whole zoo sickened me. Animals are not toys, and they're not exhibitions, and they're not on this planet solely -- or at all -- for our amusement, and human arrogance and presumptuousness never fails to amaze me.
After the zoo, I went to the Lipizzaner museum. I had seen Lipizzaners perform back in the states, probably when I wasn't yet ten years old, and I was just as unimpressed then as I was now. It boggles my mind that we breed beautiful, strong, intelligent tough horses like that, and then train them to no better purpose than to amuse spectators with fancy footwork and jumps and tricks. I appreciate how hard it is to train horses to do those things, and how few horses are physically capable of it, but it just seems stupid to me.
It also interests me how most people these days would be very quick to condemn eugenics programs among humans as cruel and barbaric and immoral, and yet we expect those same programs to be employed on animals. We expect our dogs and horses and cattle -- our companions and slaves and food -- to conform to our aesthetic desires; we breed them to our own ideals, we breed them to be strong and healthy and "purebred," yet insist that doing the same to humans is wrong.
And I'm going to stop now, because I was about to embark on a rant about American eugenics programs, forced sterilization and all that, and I really don't have the energy for that right at the moment.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Okay . . . what's the deal with the appeal of hairlessness? I know that shaving various body parts has been in vogue for various sexes throughout history, but what I don't understand is why it's considered so gross for women (and increasingly men) to have body hair. Women didn't shave their armpits a century ago. It wasn't until 1915, when sleeveless clothing was coming in and the depilatory companies saw their chance, that underarm hair started being seen as "objectionable" for women. Now, eighty years later, a woman is practically a pariah if she doesn't shave her armpits. It wasn't until a little later yet, with the advent of shortskirts and miniskirts, that the shaving of legs became such a big deal in the west. It's also becoming increasingly popular for men to shave chests, backs, armpits and so forth.
And there's no reason for it. No hygienic reason, anyway. It was all just a marketing campaign. Now, I'm not going to lie to you, I tend to find shaved legs more attractive, but armpits -- is there no one else who isn't disgusted by unshaven armpits? Who even finds them, to some degree at least, sexy?
Is there no one else who likes hair?
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Mass meetings . . . amount to nothing whatever if they are mere methods of giving a sentimental but ineffective and safe outlet to the emotion of those engaged in them. Indeed they amount to less than nothing. . . . Until we put honor and duty first, and are willing to risk something in order to achieve righteousness both for ourselves and for others, we shall accomplish nothing; and we shall earn and deserve the contempt of the strong nations of mankind.When I got off the plane into the airport a few days ago, there was a television playing CNN or some such news channel. The main story was about the potential long-term effects of the tsunamis on tourism; meanwhile, the text on the little scrollbar below read something like, "20 Sudanese killed by police and 40 more injured in protest riot." I guess I'm not completely jaded yet, because I managed to find it incredible that the future of tourism for one nation was deemed more important by the broadcasters than a massacre in an area of the world that could be likened to hell on earth.
- Theodore Roosevelt, 1915
Now, before I forget, there's a new piece of Aimee Bender fiction called "Night" over at Lit Haven. It's very short; go read it. It's been something like six or seven years since Bender's published a collection, and she's quite good, so I hope she gets another one out soon.
I got very lucky with my host family in Vienna. My host was Gertrude Spitzer, who's been hosting students from my school for more than thirty years. She was so matronly, so hospitable, that I literally felt guilty. When we came down in the morning, breakfast would be laid out for us; she always cooked a fantastic dinner, which she served to us, and after which she'd clear the dishes. She wouldn't hear of us helping with the dishes, though occasionally she'd let us ladle out our own soup. She was infinitely accomodating in terms of scheduling, in terms of dietary concerns -- one of us living with her couldn't eat dairy products -- in terms of anything. When it finally snowed, I didn't let her shovel snow alone, though, although she was out there shoveling beside me.
Speaking of which, it's about time we finally got some snow. In Austria, we had beautiful warm weather for three weeks. Then, last Wednesday, two or three feet of white stuff got dumped on us. Fortunately, the non-summer finally broke at home, too, so I had snow waiting for me when I got back. Caleb loves it, and he deserves it. He has lots of fun bounding through the snow; when I walk him, he finds the deep bits, and eats the snow as he goes along, then suddenly starts jumping around and running, then continues walking along eating it. But he only eats fresh dusty snow off the top; he doesn't eat dirty, packed or shovelled snow. I love my dog.
I've got to go, but tomorrow you get orangutans, pigeons and lipizzaners.