Thursday, August 31, 2006

Free books

Google is now making available a large number of books for download. In some cases you get a chapter preview, in other cases, like Anthony Trollope's Can You Forgive Her?, you get the whole enchilada. I would think this is a win for authors and publishers. Yes, people will download books, like the Trollope, when you could pay for it at the store. On the other hand, who is going to read a 500 page novel in PDF? Not this guy. This strikes me as a means to get a quick taste of a book to help decide whether or not to buy. It should also help reduce those massive expenses for books that face college and grad students.

You can find all sorts of things, like this really old (1827) candy cookbook, a history of embalming, and the essential book on US-Ukranian military relations.

People are strange

Ladies, are you you trying to get that bookworm's attention, but you just can't seem to make him (or her!) notice. Well get your heart's desire's attention with Paperback Book perfume. Here is the description: Sweet and slightly musty, like an old, dog-earred paperback. Ooo, hold me back! Candy addict has a number of other peculiar choices like caramel and Play-doh (in case your love target has a thing for pre-school teachers.) Check the full list, sadly no Krispy Kreme or Spudnut dougnut option.

(thanks hlk) Did you know there is such a thing as the World Beard Championship? Don't plan on entering next year's competiton at Brighton until you consider the competition which includes:

The crowd favorite and star of the evening was Elmar Weisser of the Swabian Beard Club, who whose hirsute representation of the Brandenburg Gate earned him first place in the freestyle full beard category.

Book jackets

I've always found book jacket author photos to be amusing. Sometimes they can put me off as in China Mieville's I-am-immensely-important look. Chuck Klosterman explains the background for each of his, quite different, looks on his book jackets. Even if you have no idea who this person is, you will get a chuckle.

I can't throw a ball around here without hitting a jackass

(via drudge) There is some movie, meant to critique the War on Terror, that involves the real life Bush 43 getting shot. If you want to critique the War on Terror (which by the way is a term no longer in use) there is so very much you can do, as Tom Ricks has done admirably in Fiasco, for example. Whatever thoughtful explorations this movie brings up will be drownded in the jackass decision to have a sitting President killed. Once again, we see why the Republicans win, it's because the left is stupid.

Words were passed, a shotgun blast

Wow, check out this blogfight. Apparently Harlan Ellison (known as that guy to some in the sf world, or so it seems) groped Connie Willis on stage at an awards show for science fiction. For those not in the know, this is the sci-fi equivalent of Cormac McCarthy feeling up Marilynne Robinson.

Anyway, this online battle began when this blogger guy accused various Internet and sf personalities including Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi. Said personalities responded, in the latter case multiple times and with vitriol.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Space, I believe in space

Fans of the glory years of the space program can rejoice. NASA is going back to big rockets with capsules. The capsule will be Orion and the rocket will the large Ares 1 and the giant Ares 5. They even sound like retro-60s Atomic Age programs. Interesting notes from the article, the last shuttle flight will be in 2010, and the first Orion launch, with humans, will be in 2014. So will we be relying on the Russians until then? Also, NASA back on the moon by 2020 and then onto Mars. Then we can debate which sci-fi novel comes closest to getting the first Mars societies down. I'm psyched my kids will be teens or near teens when all this gets going. It could be very exciting for them. Start the excitement with the Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland disc. You may have to rent it, as it is out of print.

Oh the guilt

Portland Food and Drink has a lengthy roundup of Portland doughnut offerings. The author finds Voodoo doughnut to be mostly buzz talk and Krispy Kreme to be too clean and coroporate looking. Coming from the southland I associate K Kreme with slighly shady shops that have really really good glazed donuts. As she notes the non-glazed are a bad idea. She is a little hard on Voodoo I think. If you go to Voodoo , you have to go as over the top as possible. This means you are going to climb the sugar escalation ladder. I like the mango tango, which has "mango" jelly inside, white frosting on the outside and a thick dusting of orange tang. It also has the caloric punch (and nutritional value) of a visit to McDonalds.

And that is my general problem with all donuts. They aren't that good, especially when you consider how many calories they have. Not unlike reading a really trashy book, I think afterwards, now why did I do that? I make an exception for the Bismark/Boston creme donut, which I do in fact love for all of its custardy gooey wonder. Back east these goes by Boston creme while out here in Portland, they tend to be called Bismark. See here to learn about the debate on whether to make the Boston creme the official donut of Massachusetts, as well as other doughnut trivia. This review of PDX doughnut shops reveals the secret of Dunkin Donut's success in the last line of the article.

Sadly, the custard joy of the Bismark is the only custard love in our house. I once made a cherry clafouti, which my wife declared to be one of her least favorite desserts ever. This is too bad as the clafouti is awesome and you should make one right now.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Oh dear lord

If there is anything male nerds want it is to combine nekkid ladies with their nerd activities. Sadly this is all too difficult to do. Back in the 80s, a company called Mystique put out a series of naughty games for the Atari 2600. While the graphics were on the poor side, they manage to have some risque subject matter, such as

In Burning Desire, you play a nude man hovering over on a helicopter trying to save a woman from getting consumed by flames while you dodge stones being thrown at you by cannibals. You ejaculate to put out the fire and then have the woman latch onto your penis and air her to safety. In Jungle Fever, the roles are reversed and you play a woman who lactates the fire out.

Oh that's good

Oh this is classic. You have probably heard/seen this, but Kyra Phillips is going to have ISSUES at the next family gathering.

When that big head cracks

James Ellroy writing in the Virginia Quarterly Review, discusses the Black Dahlia as a book and a movie. If you have read My Dark Places, you know that like the Dahlia, Ellroy's mother was murdered in an unsolved crime. The article is just the thing for your likely unslaked Ellroy Jones. He starts off writing like a normal person, but then we get to this:

She met a man. She met him that Saturday night or knew him from before. She was drunk. She said “Yes” or “No” or “Maybe” or some encoded combination. She said “No” finally. He raped her and killed her. It was June 22, 1958.

Serious stuff from a serious guy. The article will give you a sense of why he is so whacked out and why nearly all his books include loose women who turn out to either victims or heroes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Their so-called leaders speak

Blogging is the new black for the world's (authoritarian) leaders. First Iran, now Libya. See Muammar breaking down FIFA's problems for us. Are you there God? It's me, Tripp. Please make Katherine Harris start blogging, we need her wise words on a daily basis, and I know she will give you a listen.

Reminds me of the joke (or is it...) Live Journal of Kim Jong Il.

Mindless drifter on the road

Moonlight Hotel is a book that will have great appeal to a small section of readers with limited appeal to most. Brilliant, eh? I've just described most books. Anyway, the ideal reader for the book is someone who likes satire, written non-satirically, who has an interest in American foreign policy and is willing to give the author a pass on character development.

The book is set in a fictional nation that may be in Africa or Asia, but is a backwater. The local US military rep starts a war and when it goes sour, he skedaddles, leaving a small group of Westerners in the Moonlight hotel, who watch the captial get pulverized. The book is a critique of American policy in a number of ways, but it boils down to an attack on the hubris, incompetence, and hand-washing that seems to come up with alarming regularity. Now you know and I know that foreign policy is a damn tricky business with trade-offs and no-win situations a-plenty. Still there is reason to be critical. Anderson uses a competent Britsh diplomat as a foil to show the wacky ways of the USA.

Despite being a satire, the author avoids the satirical voice of people like Christopher Buckley. All well and good given the serious nature of the story. The one exception is the military rep who speaks the amusing dialect of English heard around the NCR (national capital region). The CYA factor is high with these folks.

The big downside that will hold many of you back is the character development. It's pretty weak to non-existent. There is back story to everyone, but its not that compelling. If the people don't really work, a lot of the detail shines. Anderson is a reporter and he takes advantage of his experience in war reporting. For example, he explains what happens when an artillery shells explodes in a city. He goes on to explain how stringers work with news agencies. All interesting stuff, but most likely to appeal to those who love international politics, not the general reader of fiction.

Ultramega OK

I watched the remake of Manchurian Candidate last night. I would say that ,unless you are real political thriller junkie, you should give it a pass. Instead go out and rent the Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor. Now those are some political thrillers.

Why not that great? First, it's not different enough from the original. Oh, it has it's twists and turns, but not enough. Second, the script is like a loony left complaint list. Not only do we have a powerful corporation (a barely disguised Carlyle Group) but we get every shibboleth of the fevered dreams of the left too: ineffective media (funny how both the righties and lefties hate the media), touch screen voting controlled by eeeevvviilll corporations, government defense contractors, depleted uranium (one of the biggest jokes of all) and many more. It got a little tedious. SPOILER ALERT, Isn't a major global corporation planning a coup enough? Did you really have to throw in all that additional crap? It read like a little kid getting the radio for ten minutes and trying to say everything he could because it was his only chance.

Now, I finished the movie, and as a lover of political thrillers I was reasonably entertained, but that was due to Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington, both of whom were great. So if you fit the description go it, otherwise rent the first one or one of the dark 70s films mentioned above

What he said

In a review of Edward Jones' new short story collection, Jonathan Yardley eloquently captures what I dislike about modern American letters, and at the same time makes me want this collection.

...he is one of the few contemporary American writers of literary fiction who is more interested in the world around him than he is in himself, with the happy result that he has much to tell us about ourselves and how we live now.

He has this to say about Jones' first collection:

Lost in the City turned out to be one of those exceptionally rare books -- in my 40-year reviewing career, there have been perhaps a dozen -- that come from nowhere to leave one astonished and delighted.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Italian bakery treats in Portland

With the death of Criollo, I am now wandering Portland in search of bakery goodness. I was listening to NPR and heard a story about sfogliatelle, a pastry made somewhat famous by the Sopranos. Listen to the story, it will have searching for Italian bakeries pronto. So I looked up and found DiPrima Dolci, over in North Portland. With the sfogiatelle and my fave cookie of all, the amareti, as possible rewards we (the kids and I). Of course no sfogiatelle on hand, and since the word is well nigh impossible to say, I couldn't ask for it. They did have a good amareti (not quite dense enough to be great) and the kids loved the Italian flag cookies (dyed almond cake dipped in choc.) So it was well worth it. I think I am going to have to upload the NPR story onto the Ipod so I can try to phonetically memorize it just before I re-enter the bakery.

If you know where I might find sfogiatelle in PDX, please do tell.

"Steyn", you know, like "stain"

I wish I could take credit for tracking this one down, but Glenn Greenwald is on the case (as usual). From the inimitable Mark Steyn's Telegraph column of May 4, 2003:

This war is over. The only question now is whether a new provisional government is installed before the BBC and The New York Times have finished running their exhaustive series on What Went Wrong with the Pentagon's Failed War Plan. . .On the other hand, everything that has taken place is strictly local, freelance, improvised. Many commanders have done nothing: they're the ones I wrote about, the ones so paralysed by the silence from HQ that they're not even capable of showing the initiative to surrender; they're just waiting for the orders that never come.Others have figured the jig's up, discarded their uniforms and returned to their families. Some guys have gone loco, piling into pick-ups and driving themselves into the path of the infidels' tanks. A relatively small number have gone in for guerrilla tactics in the southern cities. . . .It takes two to quagmire. In Vietnam, America had an enemy that enjoyed significant popular support and effective supply lines. Neither is true in Iraq. Isolated atrocities will continue to happen in the days ahead, as dwindling numbers of the more depraved Ba'athists confront the totality of their irrelevance. But these are the death throes: the regime was decapitated two weeks ago, and what we've witnessed is the last random thrashing of the snake's body.By the time you read this, Tariq Aziz and the last five Ba'athists in Baghdad may be holed up in Fisk's Ba'athroom, and he'll be hailing the genius of their plan to lure the Americans to their doom by leaving his loo rolls on the stairwell for the Marines to slip on.But, for everyone other than media naysayers, it's the Anglo-Aussie-American side who are the geniuses. Rumsfeld's view that one shouldn't do it with once-a-decade force, but with a lighter, faster touch has been vindicated, with interesting implications for other members of the axis of evil and its reserve league.

The New Right reminds me of my two year old playing with his toys - when they break, he goes to find new ones.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Another from the Post

Another book on the WaPo fall list is Max Boot's War Made New. He is exploring the topic of military revolution or how innovations in technology and changes in society can change the war is fought. I imagine he will be popularizing/building upon the work of Geoffery Parker and William McNeill who have written seminal works on the subject. Boot is controversial for saying there is a revolution now, as seen in the rapid overthrow of the Taliban. Others like Stephen Biddle say nope. Boot is an engaging writer so I expect to like the book if not necessarily agree with many of its conclusions.

The study of military history is heavily Euro-centric, which has been fine until recently as the West was always winning. Andrew Bacevich argues that an Islamic way of war is arising that can defeat the technological focus of Western armies.

Fill your Amazon wish list now..

The Washington Post has a review of Fall books for your anticipatory pleasure. Among the forthcoming delights:

Dan Simmons The Terror. Man, oh man, oh man, am I psyched for this. First Dan Simmons can really write and he can tell a great story. He has great base material, in this case the real life disappearance of the Terror and Erebus. These two ships left England in the 1850s to try and find the Northwest passage. The ships disappeared north of Canada. Some corpses were later found but the deaths remain a mystery (read more here.) Simmons takes this interesting story and add some sort of horrible Arctic beastie come to get the poor adventurers. Oooo, I am excited, excited, excited. Here is the first chapter if you are desperate.

Margaret Atwood: Moral Disorder and other stories. A set of linked stories involving a 20th century Canadian family. Not much to go one, but I've really liked her recent work, so I have no reason to doubt this one.

Robert Harris: Imperium. Harris goes back to the well of ancient Rome following the improbably good Pompeii. Why improbable? Anyone who reads books (in English) knows what happened at Pompeii, so its great he managed to make it so tense and exciting. This one is about Cicero and the decadent late Republic period.

Thomas Mullen: Last Town on Earth. Hmmm, this is a maybe as it is first novel, but the subject is interesting. A small Pac NW town closes off the outside world to avoid the 1918 Spanish flu. Then it gets in. Like I said, maybe.

William Boyd: Restless. Another maybe. Boyd wrote one of my favorite novels ever (Any Human Heart) and had written a number of Graham Greene-esque novels of Western follies in the Third World. Here Boyd crosses a bit into Furst territory with a modern woman learning her aunt was a minor figure in the spy world of the 1930s. Could be good.

Murder in Amsterdam: Ian Buruma. This one will have the chattering classes talking overtime. It concerns the murder of Theo Van Gogh, who made a movie that criticized Islam. So someone killed him for it. The book explores whether a hyper-tolerant nation (Holland) can live with an intolerant subculture (militant Islam) that is willing to use violence. As I said, should get people talking.

There is lots more on the list, I just picked some that jumped out at me.

Get your download finger ready

This kind person has posted quite a few of the Sub Pop Singles Club, um, singles. There really is something here for everyone. Flaming Lips, Nirvana, Death Cab, Modest Mouse. Have fun.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I can't stand those useless fools

I'm all for free speech and letting dangerous ideas out for discussion and all that. But there is a class of books I want banned, or at least hidden behind a curtain where the kiddies can't see them. It's the sort of book that refers to "The Right" or "The Left" or "Conservatives" or "Liberals" and how they are plotting against all right thinking people. The subtitle is something like "How (the people I hate) are going to make-my-daughter-give-head-to-illegal-Mexican-immigrants- who-have-AIDS or how they plan-to-tattoo-the-Bible-under-my-eyelids-and-take- away-my-kind-herb. Stupid, stupid crap that fills the bookshelves nearly everywhere you go. This isn't even Politics for Dummies, it's Stupid Ideas for Jackasses.

Among the worst of the worst is the Politically Incorrect series from Regnery. First of all, saying "politically incorrect" is a jackass move, since that term is so 1992. As you can tell by looking at the titles of the books, the subtitle of the series should be "I wish it were 1750 when I could have slaves, beat my women, and use a book written by desert nomads to determine how the world works." Just dig this:

The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM™) to Science busts myths, reveals hidden agendas, and lets you in on some of the little-known secrets about what'’s really going on in science. If you'’re tired of being hoodwinked by liberals who use science to justify all sorts of misbehavior, you need The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM™) to Science.

Note the copyright. Jackasses.

The PI guide to American history turns out to have been written by a guy who actively pines for the return of the CSA!!!! Max Boot, full kickin' neoconservative has a delightful taketown of this expensive roll of toilet paper in the (conservative) Weekly Standard. Read all of it.

Tension builds in Afghanistan

Here is a rather good looking book about Afghanistan after the Taliban. The author is speaking at the Georgetown SSP (my grad program) in the next few weeks. If you are in DC you should take a look. The book takes a macro policy oriented approach as opposed to the micro approach taken in the brilliant Places in Between. For a great book on the Taliban I recommend Taliban by Ahmed Rashid. It's out of date, but it still worth reading.

Some music for your morning

I don't keep up with the sensation-mad British music press, but over there apparently Be Your Own Pet has gotten some buzz. I ran into them today and I enjoyed October, First Account (link to song on page.) Here is a video for another song if you want to check them out visually. The lead singer. It's garage pop with a lead singer that sounds like Karen O by way of Gwen Stefani.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Save yourself your eight dollars

Since I never get to go the movies, I have to watch my trailers online. The perils of parenting

The trailer for Little Children has a disturbing feel that I, for one, did not find to exist in the book, which is a more light hearted look at suburban discontentment and adultery. And porn addiction. I rather liked the book, but I think you need kids to "get it." I hope the trailer is over-emphasizing the dark element.

This movie looks skeery. Mayhap Friedken can pull out another horror winner. Before you scoff, consider Ronin. That movie rocked.

And what to do with two dark tales of post-war LA evil? Watch both? On DVD at least.

I believe in space

Suzanne Nossel ruminates on why the downgrading of Pluto is sad. Like her I lament the shift of the Air and Space museum from cutting edge representation to history museum. The kids still love it though.


The other day, I was talking movies with my uncle. I mentioned I enjoyed Hotel Rwanda to which he replied "That movie sucks." As I was thinking, does my uncle harbor pro-Hutu Power sympathies, he added "Go see Sometimes in April, now that's a movie." I'd be a fool not to follow up on that recommendation.

The two movies are quite different. Sometimes is to Hotel as Schindler's List is to Shoah. Both Schindler's and Hotel provide a glimmer of hope in pitch black darkness. Sometimes in April, like Shoah, focuses on the survivors and the participants and how they deal with it. The story is set in 1994 and 2004. In 1994, the main character dithers about sending his family out of Kigali and (as we learn in the first few moments) they die for it. What's worse, his brother played some sort of role in it. In 2004, his brother is on trial for his role and he agrees to go see him.

The details are excellent. Right after the first night of attacks, the scene flashes to DC where instead of Rwanda the news is talking about the death of Kurt Cobain. In the first scene we have a (presumably Hutu girl) scoff at a shy (presumably Tutsi) girl who wants to know more about the atrocities. Most of the kids have uniforms but they shy girl does not, setting her apart. Maybe this is a message that the minority Tutsi are still set apart in 2004.

The movie has a much greater focus on the scale of evil than Hotel. Crazed murderers attack a Catholic girl's school. Machete gangs surround terrified refugees, corpses are piled in trucks, it's all there to see.

The West's role gets a bigger emphasis in a few ways. The US, petrified of getting into another Mogadishu, dithers. That was bad. What is worse is that the French (and Belgians?) are shown helping the leaders of the genocide. And the blue hats look pretty worthless. To be fair, they are peacekeepers, not peacemakers. But still.

There are lots of questions raised by the movie, such as how can you live your life if you survived? How can you live with your neighbors? What should the US have done(less easy I think than most people think)?

I've got a bad feeling about this

Laura Rozen (guesting at Washington Monthly) asks if the bomb Iran marketing campaign is kicking into high gear. The report from the House committee is probably a bad sign. If you scoff at the idea that the idea will "sold" to the public, take a look at Cobra 2, or Fiasco to see how the idea of the war with Iraq was slowly leaked into the public mindset. If you find all that military detail numbing, just skip the chapters that lack a political DC focus.

If you want a simple explanation of why bombing Iran could really screw us in Iraq, read this.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When you're old, when you're old

Michael Dirda made an interesting argument on his weekly Washington Post discussion. In response to a (presumably middle-aged) reader complaining about the quality of today's fiction he said:

I doubt it's getting worse. Fiction is a genre geared to the young; nonfiction to the middle aged. Not that there's not a lot of overlap. Young people are interested in extreme emotions, especially those surrounding love; older people look for understanding and solace. I try to read a certain amount of contemporary fiction, but don't feel particularly in touch with a lot of its subject matter. Which is why style matters so much to me. A witty or winning style will carry me through the most inane subject matter. Witness my passion for the fiction of Ronald Firbank or the Lucia novels of E.F. Benson.

So here he asserts that young people are interested in how to live perhaps, while older people are looking for ways to deal with living. My problem with current fiction is the solipsistic nature of it. I want to see people interacting and acting as a society. I also think that non-fiction is best for understanding, but you needn't be old (sorry, older) for that. Both fiction and non-fiction serve as escapism (or can) but that might fall under his use of solace. But it is interesting to think that people read for different reasons and that age may be a critical variable.

Push her and she will resist

Adherents of Gaia theory will greet this news of the roving gangs of cat-napping racoons with great trepidation. Could it be the beginning of Mother Earth's vengeance on her clever children? Will she turn Cronus? The German eco-thriller The Swarm presents the ocean populations rebelling against man by sinking ships and causing all sort of ruckus. No doubt he was inspired by the Onion's terrifying view of dolphin evolution.

In the short term, how will we defend against the wily racoon?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Foreign policy

This is going to give cg the jibblies, but Walter Russell Mead has a Foreign Affairs piece (fully available online) where he details the effects of religion on American foreign policy. Rather than freak out, he advises skeptics to consider the strong emphasis evangelicals put on social justice and the prospects for a more humanitarian orientation to foreign policy. I continue to believe that Mead's Special Providence is the single best volume for understanding American foreign policy. His argument that the intermixing of four separate schools of thought/interest is what results in policy will not appeal to the wild-eyed among you, but everyone else will find much of value.

In the same issue of Foreign Affairs, John Mueller writes a piece that claims to explain why the USA has not seen another attack within its borders.

Kids these days

Brack sent along this high-larious review of kids getting their famous parents in trouble with their online hijinks. Underage drinking, sex stories and creating racist student groups is all part of the public fun. This makes for way more awkwardness than finding pot or porn in the kids room.

What you say?

I have apparently been pronouncing Coetzee wrong this whole time. See this post on proper pronunciation of author's names.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The most annoying thing I have read all day

Here is an irritating article called "Why Booksellers are Going Belly Up," but should be called "Why Californians are Whiny Little Bitches." There is a lot to hate here, the pretension that Berkeley is the intellectual center of the country (DC, Boston, NYC trump that place any day of the week.) Then there are sentences like these:

Telegraph, Telegraph, Telegraph. It means a million things to a million people. Ask any soul who's hung out there within the past four decades and you'll get a different answer.

Ask any soul who has hung out there in the last 15 and you will hear....dirty hippies.

Finally the WORST part is that the author notes that book sales are INCREASING, but says that isn't real, because some bookstores have closed in the Bay Area. People complain about Americans only paying attention to America, but I want to complain about Bay Area people who think the only place that matters is the Bay Area.

This show's not the one you want, babe

Thinking about going to the Dylan show? Better read this Post article first. The title "Dylan, Wheezin' in the wind" should give you a hint to the thesis. If that isn't enough, how about "more like Cookie Monster with a head cold?" Anyone read the auto bio? What are the best books for getting up to speed on this guy? I was listening to American Roots on NPR and that made we want to read some Elvis bios, so why not toss on Dylan too.

Tonight we're gonna party like its 1939

Rules of the Game often makes top ten movies of all time lists, but it has taken me awhile to see it. I've not seen a lot of French film (although Wages of Fear is one of my all time faves), but now in particular, with Congress dropping "freedom" for "french" on fries and toast, now seems the ideal time to thank Lafayette again.

The movie is really quite good and if it seems familiar, it is because Gosford Park is an homage to this movie. The plot centers on a holiday retreat to an aristocrat's summer home. The aristocrats try to manage spouses and lovers, sometimes consoling their own spouse's lover when things go awry. The servant class also has its dalliances but they must contend with managing the house and maintaining order while the madness upstairs continues. It is not obvious to us in our time, but the movie is a critique of upper class who throw parties with follies while the German Army flexes its muscles (the movie was made shortly before the war). Politics is never mentioned, but it is the subtext. You don't have to look at the movie that way to enjoy it. You can just read it as mockery of human relationships, which is does quite well.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mostly bad news

Here is some grim reading. Dan Byman and Ken Pollack (both affiliated with my alma mater and the former is also the director of my grad program) have a long article on why the civil war in Iraq is even worse news than you think. Fortunately they have some ideas to make it better.

Belgravia Dispatch has a longish one on just what we should do in Iraq. He goes over a number of options.

This Ralph Peters piece also describes the Mid-East as a steaming pile of doom. It's not that great but he gets giant bonus points for quoting Lovecraft.

If all that is just bringing you down, read about Google developing a healthier version of the delightful It's It, just for the Google campus.

I'm getting back, into getting back into listening to some Silver Jews

So I had a lot of praise for Tanglewood Numbers last year, but as I usually do, I overplayed it and had to put it aside for awhile. On a long drive back and forth from Clackamas Lake (a body of water, which at best, merits the term pond) I gave it another listen. It's delightful to my ears again, I am happy to say. This time I paid more attention to the song Farmer's Hotel, a song about being stuck in Goshen, NY. I think Mr. Berman is under the influence of Mr. Lovecraft as evidenced by these lyrics:

I thanked the old codger, and in my role as the lodger,
I headed upstairs for to sleep.
there was no air of slumber, the doors they had no numbers
which room was intended for me?

the passage kept on going like the carpet was flowing
towards that thing at the end of the hall.
my own eyes had adjusted.
my account can be trusted,
cause I know that I saw what I saw.

I heard animal noises and tangled up voices
chanting more and of rumors of more.
there's no natural law that can explain what I saw
spread out on that straw-covered floor.

You the odd details that presage the nastiness. And as in Lovecraft, the nastiness cannot be fully described as it would return teller to lunacy and threaten the very sanity of the hearer. So instead Berman later warns us just to stay away. Now Berman is no Hetfield, I don't expect an ode to Cthulhu any time soon. But it is interesting to see that the crazy New Englander continues his (dark?) influence to this day.

And when I heard this song, I drank more

On the evil cover front we have members of Coldplay and Oasis wounding "Stop Me If Think You've Heard this One Before." Yes, we still have the intricate lyrics (a shy bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder) but we lack the urgency of Morrissey and the cascading guitars of the original. And the cover video lacks the Moz impersonators and bleak post-industrial British landscape of this original vid.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Some good fiction

I've hit a lucky streak with fiction lately and thought I would follow Tripp's "favorite books" post with a few recent highlights. I received multiple copies of Jeffrey's Ford's Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque for Christmas a few years back (one of the perils of telling everyone you just want books) and unfortunately it did not merit multiple reads. Good but not great, Charbuque sets out with a great premise and backstory but Ford can't quite bring it home (although any novel featuring a trip to the "turdologist" can't be all bad). His follow-up, The Girl in the Glass, more than redeems him. Set in 1920s Long Island, the story involves an aging con artist and his two confederates as they scam rich folks with phony seances. Everything goes swimmingly until the con sees a real ghost during one of his put-ons. The story takes off from there. Fans of The Alienist will love this one.

Jonathan Carroll's Outside the Dog Museum is his usual strong work, although I'm beginning to wonder if he can do more than write variations on the same story. Very well done, thought-provoking, extremely enjoyable stories, but all shades of the same color nonetheless. I think I will put him aside for a bit.

Two others, Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Atwood's Oryx and Crake, need little introduction but I will say they are every bit as good as advertised. I have to disagree with Mel's dim view of Ishiguro - I can't think of another writer who builds so carefully and precisely to the pay-off in his books, and in such varied settings. I guess I figure most anyone can tell a decent story. It is the writers who control their stories and their readers who really impress me.

Some books I won't be reading the fall

I personally found House of Leaves to be pretty annoying. Large portions of the story took place in footnotes, the story used wild font and even word placement changes. And it was really, really long-winded. The author has a new book that promises to be even more of "challenging," which is marketer speak for "annoying." Get this, we get the story from two narrators, one is told from the front of the book and one is told from the back. Both with crazy font changes. Read the Kirkus review and then look at the pages provided by Amazon. I'm not opposed to crazy narrative structures, I think Use of Weapons did it really well, but this seems to be complication for the sake of complication. Who has time for that?

Nelson Demille has a new one about nuclear terrorism coming out. I used to like him, back in the Gipper days, but now his recent books seem really long and ungood.

It makes me sad to think of how many good sci fi books are not on store shelves because the SEVEN Dune prequels are. Here is number 7.

Everything about you

Have some time to kill? Take a look at Something waffles Your Band Sucks. There are plenty of stories and I can guarantee (if you like music popular among the gem-Y/gem X set) it is going to mock some bands you like. And mock them in a viciously funny manner. You will find yourself laughing along until your five band is compared to a syphilitic transvestite. Or some such.

To get a sense of tone, here is a bit from Radiohead sucks

We all have a favorite band. I won't tell you what mine is, because even if you'd heard of them, which you haven't, you couldn't even begin to understand them. I like my favorite band because they're great. However, you like your favorite band because the hot girl at the record store likes them. You like them because that cool friend of yours with the black-framed glasses and the emotionally damaged girl on his arm. Who knows, maybe you’re pathetic enough to like them because the goddamned Internet likes them.

Hee hee hee, haw haw haw

Julian Sanchez imagines George Bush's diaries regarding Camus and other French writers, whom he is apparently reading. In a related (just because Sanchez is an editor for Reason) piece Cathy Young contemplates this question, "Is the West to Civil in War," and includes this very amusing sub-title "Dr. Strangepod contemplates the WOT's mineshaft gap"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Support your library

Now that my kids are so old (one is in kindergarden and the other two are preschoolers) we have left behind toddler story time. This was a favorite activity of ours and lots of other people apparently. Take a look at this Washington Post story about a departing story teller who is a rock star to his fans. Here is how one mom feels.

"Seriously, I just about cried when I got the e-mail that Mr. Tony was leaving," Medefind said. "Honestly, I haven't even tried to explain to my daughter that he'll be gone. I have no idea how I'm going to manage that."

Those without kids may mock and scoff, but it's true, when you find a good one, you keep going back. When we were in No. VA, you had to sign up for story times although you could hang out in hopes a space might be free. Portland has moved to a similar system to keep the kid flow under control.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

There can be only one

I was thinking the other day that You Tube should have the funniest South Park of all, and it does. Scott Tenorman Must Die is given in all its glory. Some know this one as the one with Radiohead, but their appearance is not what should attract you. Instead it is the slow build to giant laugh out loud. There are spoilers aplenty out there, so avoid those and just watch it.

Circle be unbroken

This feels like we (as in the Gen Xers) are becoming boomers. For Metallica has become lullabies. (thanks NBK)

A few of my favorite things

One complaint I have about book, movie and music reviews is that all reviewers have taste and other biases. So if your first principals differ greatly, even a rave review may not indicate that you should read the book. As a guide to ground my own perspectives on good books, I present four of my all time favorites and why I like them.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: I like books that can tread the line between literature and entertainment, and this one does it wonderfully. The mix of humor and pathos is just right. There is one moment, regarding a characters reaction to the outbreak of war and his subsequent circumstance, that had me laughing out loud. My only complaint is that the ending is a bit overlong and I didn’t totally believe how the characters behaved in the post-War period.

Atonement: Yes, yes, the ending is controversial, but I very much like first person narratives that tell a story about an interesting shared history, as opposed to the solipsistic first person approach that until recently has had a strangle hold on middle to high brow fiction. And the ending has such emotional heft that any charges of cheating should be put aside.

Sweet Shop Owner: Now that I am older and have kids, the books about families and familial relationships hit me much harder. This short novel tells of a day in the life of a candy store owner as he considers his relationship with his wife and child. As you might guess, they aren’t going too well. I love the books that make you question your behavior towards others and strive to be better. For me, this was one of those.

American Tabloid: What with all these weepy books, I need a book with manly men engaging in manly acts of derring do. Seriously, I like my political books. And I like them to be as bleak, cynical and gigantic as possible. Also well-written with an excellent grasp of the English language as opposed to a easy cut and paste to movie script format. Nobody does bleak, cynical and gigantic like James Ellroy did in the LA Quartet and in this one. And man can he write, when he isn’t trying to go all Joycian. My fixation is peculiar as I generally eschew cynicism in my views on politics and policy. When it comes to non-fiction, I hate cynicism. Strange.

Note that these are favorite books but not necessarily my favorite authors. I continue to go back to people like Iris Murdoch, Anthony Trollope, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, William Boyd and others. With them I believe any book will most likely be a good one.

Hey! You got your candy in my book

Joanna has a post about Charles Bukowski and how he survived on Pay Day Bars. She then asks about personal favorite interactions of candy and literature. I went with the English candy torture test in Gravity's Rainbow. So awesome.

I am sad to admit I have never read any Bukowski despite many recommendations to do so. Must fix that.

Trouble brewing

Sometimes co-blogger Steve emailed this Mid-East Gap, or the non-functioning part of the world. Anyway, its a quick way to practice your skills and to see why attacking Iran is a challenge to say the least.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We're not talking Pier One

It's not just the Japanese that can do subtle, slow and creepy horror. Way back in year 73, the British put out The Wicker Man. This one involves a British policeman who visits an isolated island to investigate a girl's disappearance. The local folk adhere to the old ways and our hero slowly realizes that things are a bit odd on the island. Watch this one soon, as there is a remake with Nic Cage coming, which means the ending will likely be known to one and all soon. Neil LaBute is directing which makes me cautiously optimistic. The movie has been moved to coastal Maine, where I can believe some form of lost culture exists. Here is the trailer for the new one. Like I said, get on Netflix, the library or the vid store before it is too late!

Thanks for playing

Just as the Scientologists colonized Hollywood, they once tried to seize the book world. I speak of course about the wierd Battlefield Earth books. When I was 13, I enjoyed the first book. I gave a pass to the next nine though. I guess I got the word that they were bizarre rants against L Ron Hubbard's foes. Read the reviews of this one for example. If you were a habitue of bookstores in the early 90s, you probably saw stacks and stacks of the hardcovers in the remainder aisles. I guess even the Scientologists couldn't buy all of them. I think Hubbard was trying to generate the same rabid enthusiasm as Ayn Rand did for her political tracts. Unfortunately for Hubbard I guess his fans were less into reading.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Wonkette has two nice bits on Sen George Allen's recent comments about an opponent's campaign worker.

Go Navy.

What people will be reading

The CS Monitor asked some book buyers (2 from the big chains, and two major independents) what they are reading now. Nothing all that surprising (1776, James Patterson, Devil Wears Prada, yeah, yeah, yeah) although the Borders guy mentions a book about Mary Magdalene and notes that people who like the Da Vinci Code will like it. This is code for two things. This is the book they hope will make them lots of money and drive lots of traffic at the stores. It will also be the book you cannot escape no matter where you go. I probably will pass at it bears some similarities with one of my all time most hated books.

On my own personal reading front, I disregarded my general advice to toss aside a book that isn't working and I am nearly finished with Cold is the Grave. While it isn't the best book ever, I won't have that post-fast food "Why did I do that" feeling. More a nice meal at the neighborhood place.

Fun for a few

If you are fond of google maps, you will like this. You get a little plane and fly it over a google (satellite) map of various cities. (via the Corner)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A joke or no?

The President of Iran has a blog. Be sure to take a look at the poll in the upper left corner. (via War and Piece)

Reading quandary

OK, I won't glorify this to the level of quandary, but what to do when your books seem vaguely dissatisfying and yet you don't what to give up? I started Cold as the Grave, by the excellent Peter Robinson, but it feels a bit flat at the moment. I also read the first few pages of Moonlight Hotel, a satire of American policy in the mid-east. Just to ensure that I spread myself thin, I am also reading the Zanzibar Chest, which is great, and Friendly Fire which concerns Anti-Americanism and what to do about it. Anyway, if I put down the Robinson, I doubt I will ever pick it up again. I could probably re-start Moonlight down the road some time. Something is holding me back on that despite the fact that the Egyptologist beckons. Oh well, muddle through and all that.

It probably doesn't help that I am racing through Sopranos Season 5 either. I find it amusing how different Paul Shulze's character is on Sopranos (Father Phil) than on 24 (Ryan Chappelle).

Taking the mountain through strategy

The bike culture is pretty serious here in Portland, including moving by bicycle. I saw one of these the other day, it was quite something. I still submit DC was a better place for cycling for exercise as it has a much more extensive rails to trails system. Commuting into DC on the other hand is a dangerous idea while it is fairly easy in Portland. The PDX bike culture can be a little over the top. For example, this article cites a "bike-punk band" and then imagines a car free city. Sounds interesting, but like all other potentially interesting ideas, it will hurt as many people as it helps. Ok, that's not true, some people will be hurt and others will helped. Both right and left in the USA tend to dislike people telling them what to do. So if you want better bike access or fewer cars, then you need to construct a system of positive and negative incentives to get it. Takes more work, but will be more effective in the long run.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bad idea

Via this Reason Hit and Run article I learn that there are German Army re-enactors in the USA. And not the Wehrmacht or some other morally near-neutral thing, but the SS 10th Armored Division. The website claims they are non-political, but this dude seems to enjoy playacting as world's most evil people.

Now, some of you may want to make note of Americans re-enacting Civil War battles. Not so fast. That is Americans re-enacting American history, so there is that. Also, neither army (USA or CSA) was particularly known for atrocities, unlike the SS which specialized in such things. Also, as any reader of Confederates in the Attic can tell you, the re-enactors seem to be jolly sorts.

I rather like the Stalinist war music on the Soviet re-enactor page.

Walking with kids in Oregon

I took the little ones around Sauvie Island today and found a great new hike thanks to the Best Hikes with Children in Central and Western Oregon. The book is a handy resource. Not only does it select hikes based on distance and difficulty, but also on the time to which you get a reward (waterfall, view, dip in pond, etc). We visited a trail with blackberry bushes along the length, oak groves and then a beautiful lakeside rock beach with views of mountains. Quite nice. The book sent us to Todd Lake when we were in Bend, that was one of the prettiest spots I have yet seen in Oregon. And it is all the more amazing that Todd Lake is only about an hour from Smith Rock, which looks like it could be in Utah.

It's the end of all time

Tyler Cowen describes a book that sounds great on first blush but then he throws a spanner in the works.

That is from Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. This recent book is the best integration of archaeology and economics I have seen; it is also a first-rate economic history in its own right, as well as a history of pottery. Highly recommended for those who think they might like it.

History of pottery? I suppose a large portion of archaeology is just that, but it killed a bit of my buzz. And that last sentence becomes all the more dangerous because of it. To be sure, the piece he snips out looks good, so maybe I will give it as shot.

Friday, August 11, 2006


CG sent this joke video on marketing indie rock bands. It gave me the chuckles.

Yet another way to waste some time

Ok it's better than most.

Are you reading the Washington Post discussions? They really are a wonder, short blasts of goodness on a variety of topics including music, politics and of course, books. Here is Rory Stewart on the subject of the Places In Between and his newer Iraq book which I have on hold at the library.

Dana Priest, the national security correspondent for the Post, does a weekly Q&A and I like this bit from a reader responding to the claims that the Admin somehow scheduled the terror arrests to distract from Lamont's victory in Conn.

Rockville, Md.: Wag the wag?

I suppose people have to address an event on the level of their interest and capacity, but I am getting tired of all the paranoid conclusions. If the President were that well organized, do they think we would be in the problems we are in?

Dana Priest: I agree.

Too many critics want the Admin to simultaneously be super-genius Machiavellians and also the Keystone cops.

Careful steps are what you take

The New York Times called Rory Stewart's The Places in Between a masterpiece. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it's an amazing book. Stewart walked (with one very short car ride) between Herat and Kabul, in winter, right after the fall of the Taliban. That alone makes for an interesting read as Stewart interacts with different ethnic groups, political parties and people along the way. We see how those that supported the Taliban fare today as well as those that fought the Russians and the Taliban.

I read the Publishers Weekly review on Amazon and had an opposite reaction to that person. The reviewer disliked Stewart's understated emotional distance and his intense interest in the lost past of Afghanistan. I found that merely relating the traumatic experiences was far more effective than some mawkish or macho me-fest would be. The reviewer wanted to know more about Stewart as a person. I think that might be nice, but really I wanted to know what it is like to walk across a war ravaged country.

The reviewer also takes Stewart to task for seemingly putting the maintenance of Afghanistan's past over the needs of its current residents. I can't really see that. He harshly criticizes some villagers who pillage a potentially priceless archaeological site. This seems right, destroying something like that for some short term, non-sustainable economic gain should be condemned. I doubt the reviewer would support the looting of Iraq's museums as a model.

I should also point out that in addition to his understated flavor in writing, he takes great care in capturing the feel of each village he visits. These people and places are different and he helps us see that. He creates doubt that such a thing as an Afghan identity really exists. Perhaps the highest praise, that I, as an ADD reader, can give is that I took this one quite slowly not wanting to waste any of it. There's a lot more to mention from this one, so I will probably come back to it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Barbarism begins at home

Here's an interesting book about Iranian domestic politics. Sounds oxymoronic, does it? Well, too often countries are viewed as monolithic. While states do have long term behavior that can be indentified, domestic politics plays a role in foreign policy as well. Graham Allison investigated the Cuban Missile Crisis in this light and created whole new fields of investigation. Does that sound dreadful? Well it's a bit like a mental plate of unseasoned tofu and bok choy, immensely good for you, but not terribly exicting. Anyway, the point is to think about or at least try to understand the potential domestic motivations for foreign action. Every one has heard about scapegoating, the distraction of the domestic discontented by attacking a foreign enemy, but there is more and books like Allison's and hopefully Takeyh's help you understand that.


Joanna has a piece on Walnettos a deligthful, and cheap, candy. I agree with two of her key points. Namely, the caramel is quite good for a bulk candy and the walnuts, which normally turn me off, somehow work here. Beaumont Market carried them for awhile, but as Joanna notes, they are elusive here in PDX.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I've heard of this, I think, but my friend Kyle sent me to it. It's the reviews of milk on Amazon. Sadly the subversive Family Circus reviews have been largely purged although the spirit appears to live on here.


Yes I have a bad habit of placing holds on all the cool new books at the library. No biggie, right? It's not like you pay for them. Not so fast, because you do pay in time. I read library books first as they have an expiration date, while my sad lonely books in my book pile await their turn. OK, they are just sad since each book has about 249 friends to keep them company. So, the lesson is, only place holds on books I really want to read, rather than give in to my Pavlovian response to the latest and (and often, not that) greatest.

Here's two new one I will likely save for later. Powell's has a review of the latest Cormac McCarthy which is set in a post apocalyptic America. The review doesn't make me that excited and I really wasn't fond of No Country For Old Men, so unless some one tells me it rocks, I will probably pass.

Dennis Lehane has a new one. Psych, it's really a short story collection of mostly previously released material. Short story collections are like B-side collections. The rabid fans have most of the stuff already. The casual fans probably aren't that interested, so interest is limited to those who are strongly attracted to the author, but not so strong as to hunt down every last bit of output. I think they kick these out, when an author is a long time between books, so we fans don't get too mad or drift away.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Back to the front

I'm reading Fiasco by Tom Ricks. I've read piles of books, articles and stories on Iraq, but I keep going back. Part of it is the sheer importance ofthe war. Part of it is the need to smack myself a few times for ever believing that this war was a good idea (I did, and man was I wrong.) Anyway, check out what fellow Hoya Greg Djerejian says about the Administration and the book.

Just when you think your capacity to be surprised by some blunder or mishap committed by this Administration has reached some sad apex--so that your ability to get dumbfounded anew has just plain maxed out--you are left sadly awestruck by the sheer scale of the bollixing yet again.

And it's all that good. I won't spoil the enjoyment of reading his cold, cold rage. Serioulsy take the time to read it. And then go buy Fiasco.

Back from the grave

Just the other day I was driving in Bend and heard a Gin Blossoms song. I thought, what ever happened to those dudes? Well they just put out a new one. From the review it sounds like it is a general mid to late 90s sound. I wonder how it will play. And who is next to return from the dead?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Saw something go wrong today

I just completed Die Trying by Lee Child, the second of his Jack Reacher novels. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. It's not as good as the Killing Floor. Ok, now the good news, it's better than nearly every other thriller you can find. This one reads like the first half of a season of 24. It has plenty of intense action, government intrigue, nasty (and I mean nasty) bad guys and a crazy hero with the name of Jack. As we all know (if you haven't watched 24, I IMPLORE you to rectify this error immediately) about halfway through each season in 24, we learn what we thought was going on was totally off and something else is happening. The same isn't true here, we get one story, but its a damn good one. Jack helps a woman out of a door and the two of them are kidnapped off the streets of Chicago. As the woman is FBI, the gov gets involved immediately. And things get crazy. It's awesome.

Child is excellent in the spareness of his prose. There are few if any wasted words. He is a bit like Conan Doyle in showing his main characters incredible observation skills, but this is forgiven as his thought processes on how he may or may not kick someone's ass are so interesting.

I'll be loaded like a freight train

No doubt my well read readers saw the article in the Times about the return of rose (sorry can't find the accented e in blogger) wine. Come the eff on dudes, what gives? Has everyone gone completely lame? Has nostalgia culture overwhelmed decision making processes?

I know what you're thinking. Don't I see you drinking a few PBRs like all the other PDX jackasses? I guess if I was a real hep cat I would have moved on to Iron City or some other beverage redolent of indie cred. Whatever, PBR is good and rose wine is ass. That is all there is to it. That wine is the stuff we used to throw into the penalty glass for egregious party fouls. OK, we really tossed in some Night Train or Wild Irish Rose or whatever hyperpotent panhandler wine my man was selling down at 7-11. But you get me.

Come December, the cool kids will be drinking some Boone's Farm and I will be catching up to lovin' some rose.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I wish I was a little bit taller

One of the fun things about having kids is reading books with them. We've had a number of successes including Winnie the Pooh and Babe. We have also have a surprising failure in Stuart Little. Our oldest thought it was OK, but we just thought it was wierd. Stuart is a bit of supercillious ass. Hardly the sort of thing on which kids should model their own behavior. And the story has no real ending, he bolts from the house to find the missing bird, doesn't find her and stays on the road.

Ok, I can hear the complaints already. Why does the story have to end? This isn't some pomo English class discussion group, this is a kids's book. It has to have an understandable narrative arc. And many will be aghast that I think the hero has to be admirable, at least in some way. When it comes to kid's books, I am aligned with William Bennett and Marlo Thomas (to pick two people far, far apart on the ideological scale.) They both advocate for some amount of didacticism in children's lit, and I agree. Kids need acculturation in societal norms and values somewhere and with the decline of religion and school's abdication in these areas, parents have to step up. I'm not advocating that ALL lit has to do this, but there should be a decent helping. And any negative behavior has to be balanced with context.

So, Stuart Little is not the type I want my kids to follow. Perhaps it is all a metaphor for the challenges of being short, but I am still not too keen.

Why good books take longer to read

Joe Queenan is a hit or miss for me, but I think he is just right on reading here:

I used to think that I kept stopping and starting books because I could never find the right one. Untrue. All these books are the right one. It’s the fact that all these books are generally so good that makes me stop reading them, as I am in no hurry to finish; the bad ones I whip through in a few hours. The problem is, there are just too many good books. Reading is like being in a candy shop, or the Frick: Just because you love the Rembrandts and the Van Dycks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tempted by the Titians and Bellinis.

Yes, I find that I as I get to the close of a mediocre book I pick up speed and burn through it so I can put it down, while a good history will take a long, long time to finish.

Book addicts will find the whole article worth reading.

You make my heart sing

Wonder why James Ellroy has been silent for so many years?

I drove down for frequent visits. I hid from my marriage and hung out with friends. I rocked behind L.A. ambivalence. I love you, I hate you, I need you. Please come here and now go away.

Destiny is often denial pushed to the breaking point. My dope use escalated. I OD'd three times in summer '03. I took myself back to that rooftop terror. I fed off of it and learned from it and prayed to it. I went into a rehab program in August. I've been sober ever since.

Check the whole article which is like a love letter to LA. (via Grumpy Old Bookman)


There is a new biography out about James Tiptree or as she was truly named, Alice Sheldon. Tiptree was a famed sci-fi writer who one praise in scifi for understanding women, unlike nearly every other scifi writer. Not too different from today really. The review points out that she was interesting for more reason than that.

After a failed venture in chicken farming, Alice Sheldon spent three years interpreting photos for the CIA. (Ting remained a high-ranking CIA officer until his retirement.) She went back to college, getting her bachelor's degree and, in 1965, a doctorate in psychology from George Washington University. Not wanting to teach, Sheldon decided to try writing science fiction.

That is a different path.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thanks a lot friends*

Two highly trusted book-recommeding friends have just consumed all of Mo Hayder's ouevre. Now I tried one before, but found it the most gory thing I have read in years. Despite my liking violent books, I am a notorious candy ass weak stomached pussy when it comes to these things. Looks like I will have to pick them up again. One of her recent books concerns the Rape of Nanking. If you can stand stories of monstrous atrocities, then you might want to read Iris Chang's book on the subject. It's quite good.

Harris sends word that Chad Vader episode 2 is out. Also the entire Domesday Book is now online. Yes the entire Domesday book, although I don't think I am going to be perusing it. I don't need to check up on my ancestors in the 11th century. That said this is a fabulous step forward for internet research. I imagine hordes of grad students are heaving sighs of relief.

*Not meant in the ironic Ian MacKaye way.

A miner for a book of gold

Often times when I stop by the science fiction section of the bookstore I have to sigh. I feel as if I have read all the good ones. In truth, I am simply befuddled by the generally awful covers of sci-fi books. Here are a couple lists of "overlooked" books in sci-fi. I have a read one of the 40, so that bodes well. Unless they all suck.

As a matter of fact, I don't resist at all

Just back from Bend. So much more family friendly than I remember. So very much to do, hiking, kayaking, cycling, star gazing, you name it. With all that activity, you need some refreshment. Sure we hit Deschutes, but we also needed some ice cream. We visited Goody's. It's more of a candy spot than an ice cream place, so they were advertising Chocolate-opoly. I expected all kinds of candy fun. What choc would get Boardwalk? Valrhona? Dagoba? Some hyper-expensive French bar? Which company would know the ignominy of being Baltic? Some drug store brand that sells foil wrapped chocolate in little football shapes? The kind you really shouldn't eat because it sucks, but for some reason you still do?

All these thoughts were for nought, as it they have generic terms for each of the spaces. Towards the bottom we have "Carob- Tiny Little Brown Lies" and "White Chocolate - Why? Dammit, Why?" or something like that. I think the top one is Death By Chocolate or some such, which would be cool if that wasn't a popular dessert name at many a chain restaurant. To compare it to 80s videos, I was hoping to get this, when I got this.

Truth be told, I think Monopoly is a tedious game no matter what you name the properties, so I am not exactly the target.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Please don't take a picture

We are out in Bend, OR enjoying the 75 degree weather, so I am away from the computer. Hence the light blogging. Anyway, I just saw Bad Day at Black Rock. This is one I admire more than I like I would say. I admired the technique but thrillers have moved so far forward it seems more like a historical artifact. I did like the use of giant southwestern vistas, the early (1954) tough guy Lee Marvin and the excellent use of pacing. Other parts seemed stale. This felt like an early class in a seminar in thrillers that would have led to Hitchcock. If you like the old school stuff then maybe you would get more out of it than I did. I should mention the attitude to the Japanese seemed considerably more liberal than I would have anticipated, but we were new allies at that point.