Dickens of a Blog

(October 2008)

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October 30, 2008. Thursday.

(11:10:02 PM CDT)

Happy Halloween, sort of, and some random catching up bits

I've mostly been working. No surprise there. And reading. Ditto. Trying to get sick but seemingly winning, so that is awesome. In other words, mostly just another week in the life of Doug and Doug's.

On Tuesday, had the book circle meeting. We discussed The Road (and, lesser, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and the Book of Job. All of them are kind of rough books to discuss. I sometimes wonder why I like depressing things. Not exclusively. Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and P.G. Wodehouse are all huge favorites of mine, and a lot of stuff like Gaiman and Doctorow and et cetera is uplifting and escapist if not outright humorous and comedic. I just, you know, respect dark literature. Post-apocalyptic, horror, gore, splatterpunk, hardboiled, noir, crime fiction, and so on. I'm not exactly one of those that reads about small town murders and thinks about the killers and what they thought about and what the victims thought about. I have done that sort of thought experiment before, but it's mostly idle musing. I am, though, fascinated with the construction of crime (where else can you have people putting in more work than a 40 hour work week just to avoid the 40 hour work week?) but even more so the construction of horror. I won't really try justifying my love of zombies and dark corridors and old legends and Shub-Niggaurath, the black goat of the woods with a thousand young. IA!

Let's just say that she is the reason for the season and leave it at that.

Since I've digressed, to bring it back around, I've been wondering about nailing down books and authors that I not only like (see above) but take wholly seriously and consider as artistic as the depressing ones. That came out wrong. Let's face it, Good Omens is an immaculate book. But, and this is something of a but I don't quite believe in while writing it, if I had to choose between Good Omens or Ulysses to represent literature, well, here's to you, Leopold Bloom. I still laugh while thinking of the crazy antics of Jeeves and Wooster. I am still touched to my very soul to think about Ms. Dalloway and its poet. I couldn't say, just could not, that sad literature is better literature. Sturgeon's Law comes to mind. It just seems that when sad literature nails, desperate literature, serious literature, it nails it harder than lighter literature. More is at stake, I suppose.

Now, to wrap up a few "Halloween" goodies. First off, there have been a few new books released (both technically reprints from the UK, I believe, though the second one may have had a short run in the states back in the 80s. It was written here, at any rate, but the author was often overlooked here despite getting recognition overseas) that are good for the season. The first is a novella in a tiny book form called The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. It is a more traditional ghost story, though there isn't precisely a ghost, of the British sort, very moody and kind of preachy in places but often kind of left of center as far as action goes, with main characters acting as something of a witness. There is an old professor who has this odd, haunting painting of a carnival scene in Venice. One of the party-goers looks back at the viewer with a haunted expression. The novella is a story being told that involves a story that was told, layers of pot-of-tea and a roaring fire type tale. It is all about mood, and a sense of foreboding. It gets a thumbs up for me, and is my pick of this Halloween.

Second is Beware by Richard Laymon. The cover implies a ghost story as well, at least a poltergeist, but that is way off from what actually happens. Picture Hostel II with more sex and gunfights and you have it. It's a fun story, but sexual/violence barrier seems to tip a little too much into sexual violence, even for Laymon, and he tends to shoot for "describe it all" in a way that is actually kind of plodding. The overall story is interesting, and the backstory is exciting, but the mesh doesn't quite fit together. It feels hokier than a lot of his novels. Pick this up if you like sex, gore, and guns but probably leave off if you want something scary over tense.

And now for something different, watch this advertisement for a bank, which plays out like this tiny little movie that is kind of touching even though it is brief. Nothing to do with a bank, but higly recommended:

Si Vales, Valeo

October 29, 2008. Wednesday.

(09:50:55 AM CDT)

An Old Earther Thinks of Young Earthers and Genesis

I've been reading through Alan Weisman's indefinitely interesting The World Without Us, a thought experiment and thesis statement: "What would happen if humans went away right now?". Lots of topics from environmental changes to forest growth to speculation on how imported plants and diseases (to ecosystems, two very similar things) will have permanently changed everything. How would our houses break down? How would New York crumble? How would the glaciers return? Lots of topics. All of it is speculation, but he talks to various experts and does it in a way that is thought provoking. Even if it obvious that not everything he writes is going to be exactly how it happens, it does bring up some questions. Will metal Tonka trucks outlive stain glass windows? The important questions (by the way, haven't seen that question, yet, in the book, it just occurred to me).

While reading, I've been thinking that a fair amount of his narrative would be incompatible with the Young Earth view. He does not seem to be one of the neo-evolutionists, that holds It up to an almost mystic light, but still he is an evolutionist. He discusses successive, eons long ice ages. He talks about a slow human spread, not an immediate spread. I've not really gotten to any sort of assessment of cosmic forces on the earth, and he might not have any, but enough of his study involves assuming the Old Earth is true that some of my friends and family wouldn't be able to believe the book. As most of you know, I assume the Old Earth is true. Assume is a bad word. I accept the Old Earth as being so true that my paradigms of math, science, and more can't work without it. I can barely think about how the Young Earth would work, excepting, of course, with constant direct interference from it's own omniscient creator. I'm not talking about just evolution, by the way, but other things as well.

It wasn't until last night, though, that I thought about how different the two mindsets are. I tried thinking about a few points of Genesis, and how they strike me. If any Young Earthers want to correct me if I make a mistake, feel free, you can e-mail me or comment in the LJ version or something. The whole thing came around a quote of Nietzsche, which is along the lines of "We think we understand Greeks, but they thought the male form was the epitome of beauty, how much can we possibly understand?" and he sounds like he was making something like a joke but it does bring up a question. If my mind assumes a non-interventionist Universe that runs ever smoothly on wheels that it was "born" with, if not ever justly, then how much different must my world be than those who think the world is a puzzle being constantly solved by it's Creator?

God creates the stars about 10,000 years ago. Some of them He creates millions of miles away, billions, and some of them he creates already dead, with nothing alive but their light they cast out moments ago. These dead stars and their deep galaxies never existed, they have been nothing but echoes of electromagnetic waves from the beginning. Then, all of these stars have their light stretched and brought to the Earth. The speed of light is not a constant, seeing as most light has traveled most of the universe at a much different speed. It is consistent, overall, since now light seems to work by that rule.

God creates the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night. Except the moon doesn't rule the night. It spends as much time in the day as in the night. It is more memorable in the night, but only there half the time. However, it does illuminate a portion of the nights.

Woman is made from man. Man is made from no animal. Some Young Earthers hold that man has one less rib than woman. As a child, I was excited to learn that there is a certain chromosomal difference that fits that description. All similarities between man and animal derive from a consistent Creator. All dissimilarities between man and a potted plant come from I don't know. But woman, she is a subset of man. This is known.

Cain took a wife that had to be his sister. Or there were other people. This doesn't matter since the Flood wiped them all out, so let's not look at them.

People lived a long time. Very long time. Methuselah lived a longer time than most. Methuselah died in the Flood, or right before it. It had to be something of an anti-climax. God put a limit of 120 years on people, but not right away.

In the Flood, hundreds of animals and a half dozen humans weather a storm (yes, pun intended) so massive that it's kind will never be known again, for rainbows (and the light bending they require) were created to demonstrate this fact. Most animals do not live through the Flood. They, too, were punished for man's digressions, already regulated to an afterthought of Creation. Poor Adam, he named all of them just for them to be forgotten to Flood waters. This includes all megafauna except elephants, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos. Smaller dinosaurs did not make it, either, but the reasons behind this are dim. Maybe there was a large canopy that circled the sphere in a great sea of water. After it's collapse, and assumed evaporation, it went away, changing the environment enough to kill them off? This left large numbers of fossils, but mostly left fossils of creatures that aren't alive any more. It skipped sheep fossils for some reason.

Though God later creates specific plagues to attack specific people, God did not want to be bothered at this time. It was best to punish all of Creation at once.

After the Flood, biodiversity is at all time low. Grass and other scrub will grow back kind of quick, providing food for the sheep and similar. The meat eaters apparently held on, or made due with grass. Except, the Bible said that God gave humans the right to eat meat, now, which seems to be a precarious time to do so. We are left to conclude that animals bred fast. And diversified, for there are a lot of species all over the world that came from that boat. This is not to be confused with evolution, mind you.

I think it's the fish that makes me the most curious. The Flood wasn't salt water, or it would have wiped out the plant life of the planet and the soil wouldn't have recovered. It must have been fresh. How did the ocean going fish survive that? Maybe they didn't? Maybe all the salt needing fish now were fresh water fish at the time? Maybe God changed them to be ok with that much fresh water?

The Flood is surely the third greatest miracle of all time, behind only Creation and Jesus.

And there is Babel, where the people worked to build a tower so they can stay as one and not be scattered. It was to be tall enough to reach into Heaven, but God and they all knew that Heaven is no physical place, I assume, so it might have just been act of cheek on their part. This angers God, or something, and God scatters them for it. God does not really sound angry in the King James Version: "Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." He just sounds, um, practical. Taken literally, it suggests that everyone had their own language, and presumably people worked out enough common tongues to eventually communicate again. God does not destroy the Tower, but creates etymology instead.

Well, I guess that (a bit abruptly) concludes my thought process for this morning. It's probably more than long enough. Just a series of things that came to me.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 28, 2008. Tuesday.

(09:55:18 PM CDT)

Seven Days

In seven days, this two year campaign will come to an end. It's kind of hard to fathom, in many ways. Remember the early half-promise of Gulliani? The dark horse reckonings of Mike Huckabee? The absolute fact that Clinton was going to continue her husband's legacy? The shouts of "RON PAUL" and the bumperstickers that said his fans actually thought it was a force of inevitability that he would change the face of American politics? How about those that waited with baited breath for Fred Thompson to appear? Those that thought Kucinich had a chance? Those that wished Kucinich had a chance so we could look at his wife? The furious Mormonism debate around Romney? The fact that Edwards was somehow back in it? The huge debates of vast number where almost nothing of substance was discussed because it was simply too unweildly? The first "black house" jokes? That time that Clinton cried? Hannity and similar pundits bashing Hillary for being offended by anti-feminine speech and then 180ing when Palin got the Veep nod? The assuredness that Romney and Clinton would be veeps? The weird sense of letdown when Biden got it?

What else? Tons of things that I have forgotten.

And now, seven days. This time next week, minus some counting and possible recounting since the voting machine issue has strangely not been fixed universally, we will know what the last two years has been about. In the way of most elections, the worst has been saved for last. Except, well, I think it's too late this time around. People simply don't care. No one picked up the Obama's a Socialist chant that hadn't already decided that this past December. The people calling Palin an inbred moron were not very likely to vote for McCain to begin with. That's not quite true. I'm one of those that misses the McCain of a couple of years ago, the guy that didn't favor torture and was pro-environment in ways that mattered and didn't dilly around with wars and said if we go in, we should go in and get it done and not prolong things, and said that he wouldn't insult his fellow senators because he respected them. 2000 McCain would have probably had my vote because ultimately I'm fairly fiscally conservative even though I tend to be socially liberal (though not really in the way the Democrats have been socially liberal, more in the way of the more open minded subsect of Libertarians are socially liberal, some things the government doesn't need to bother with, neither to condone or condemn). 2006 McCain was one of my most exciting choices. 2008 McCain isn't. Things might change in this next week, but the past two months have changed the way I look at him. Oh well, c'est la vie.

I've felt a sense of sadness reading the past week's coverage. A sense of anger. Like I said to a professor friend of mine, we are no longer caring of what words mean, we just care about what they weigh. "Change we can believe in" is a stupid, empty phrase. I know what sort of changes I would want, what sort of change I believe in. Should I assume that's what change he means? Yes, I can what? Continue to be poorly represented since this system of government means that my state only has 9 electoral votes so it doesn't matter what I believe, pretty much ever, until I move to New York, where my statistical vote won't matter much do to the large liberalism, there? What don't you tell me a concise, precise, economic plan I can believe in? What don't you tell me "Yes, you can afford Grad school through an education initiative package?"

McSame? Please. Even if McCain does uphold some of Bush's policies (please, Lord, let the cronyism and signing statements die), there is no reason to believe that he will be a mere repeat and only a repeat. In fact, I would bet good money that he would NOT be a repeat. Bush didn't just copy Reagan. Johnson didn't just copy Kennedy. Etc. History has shown us that two men with very similar outlooks can handle things completely different and usually will handle things completely different.

Or this "Marxist/Stalinist" bullshit? Marx and Stalin have plenty of letters and books in the public domain or something close to it. Also look up Lenin and Trotsky and scoot through Mao. These people have been our spectres and boogiemen for years, our cultural enemies, but no matter what you say about them they were specific in what they meant and what they intended to do. Very little beating around the bush from old Vlad or Joe The Fascist. Mao didn't quibble with loose terminology. And Jesus Christ, I get nervous just remembering old Leon's bits. There are Wikipedia pages that are fairly accurate. If Obama really believed in their work and wanted to do it to America, you would know. Gotcha journalism would not be required. Remixed and heavily edited discussions about what the Supreme Court really means in a historical viewpoints would not need to be passed off as interviews about personal taxation policy. "Spreading the wealth around" is not Marxist or Stalinist. It is economic socialism, yes, even if it is a weak form, see the polices of FDR for an historical example or the polices of the UK now for a current precedent.

Just remember, if Obama was real Marxist, he would have told Joe the Plumber to rise up and overthrow the government that oppresses him. If he was a real Stalinist, he would have recommend that Joe the Plumber rob banks or do whatever it takes for the fulfillment of the dream. Obama's apparently apparent Trotskyite side seems a little milquetoast. Increase taxes? Pssh. Back in old Leon's day, they hung people from light poles with no shoes and let workers throw rocks at them and they hung their children beside them to further sap their soul. You know, before they had you assassinated down in Mexico because of a strategic political takeover.

I guess my biggest fear about this whole thing is you have two men who have been through a lot and represent two wonderfully different sides of American life and people are so caught up with trying to see who can make the other one out to be the biggest asshole, the biggest threat to America, that they might literally get one of them killed. Two family men who have done dumb things and good things. And we are going to allow the weight of words to incite violence against them?

Can I sigh now? Or should I wait until next week? I guess I'm daring to hope, and preparing to be disappointed.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 26, 2008. Sunday.

(09:00:14 PM CDT)

Catch Up Update 3 or 3: Books' Update

I remember thinking that there wasn't going to be much to look forward to publication wise for the next few months, and I have been way wrong. I wanted to take a moment to promote a few recent titles and the like.

Neal Stephenson's Anathem and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book I have already mentioned a handful of times. Still recommend them, especially the Gaiman title. It's an immensely smashing young adult read that hopefully will turn into a classic. In fact, due to it's speed of reading (it only takes a couple of hours) and it's well-hewn balance, it will stand out as one of Gaiman's go to titles for a bit.

Cory Doctorow released Content with almost no fanfare.

The paperback edition of Clive Barker's Mr B. Gone has just come out, and a couple of month's old paperback of Alan Weisman's The World without Us is out. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist is just a couple of days around the corner.

Richard Laymon's novel Beware is also about to be reprinted in a couple of days. Mass Market Paperback. The manga Battle Royale should have it's fourth "ultimate" volume collected. Absolute Sandman volume 4 and Walking Dead HC 4 are soon for printing, as are a couple more titles in the EC Archives.

John Hodgman has a quite funny book out: More Information than You Require. I recommend you try it out, though the challenge is to read it without imagining his voice.

Zoe Heller, best known for Notes on a Scandal has a novel coming out early next year called The Believers. I have an early review copy of it, and it's interesting and infuriating by degrees. It ended up being a much better read than I thought it was at start, and I recommend you keep an eye out for it if you like novels that deal with family drama and the questioning of values.

Christopher Moore has a book called Fool coming out early next year that excites me.

White Tiger (by Aravind Adiga) and A Fraction of the Whole (by Steve Toltz) and what seems to be the entire Man Booker shortlist have came over to the US. Well, they were already here but several have had recent paperback reprints.

Though I am not a fan, the expanded Dune universe had a new novel come out.

And, about 6 months from now, Palahniuk has a new book coming out and Martin's next Song of Fire and Ice book isn't supposed to be too long around the corner.

Happy reading...

October 25, 2008. Saturday.

(07:33:10 PM CDT)

Halloween + Year Meme Thing

The rules are simple. Do a GIS (Google Image Search) for the term "Halloween + (year)" where year is the year you were born. In my case it is Halloween 1977. Go through the first few pages and pick out your favorite.

I had to cheat slightly for mine, because I found two I fell in love with. The first one is those little crappy costumes that were popular when I was a kid. A little, cheap plastic mask that would cut your lips and were hard to see through, with a plastic shirt thing that just said who the mask was supposed to be. The way the kid is standing, like he is being crushed by the world, finishes out the image. The second one has an awesome homebuilt costume. The back says, I think, R2TII. That's awesome. Check out the vampire next to R2T2.


(06:48:22 PM CDT)

Update 2 of 3: Links Update

I have a handful of links I have stored up over the past few days. Figured I would share them in something of a link dump, sorted roughly by subject.

If you don't like spiders, skip this paragraph. If you do like spiders, well, here is a Golden Orb Weaver eating a bird, a terrifying, and somewhat well known, photo off a spider behind a clock, and the wikipedia article on the Camel (not really a) Spider.

Cracked.com has had a few excellent articles show up lately including 7 Terrible Early Versions of Well Known Movies (includes a goofier Alien and a less goofy Back to the Future), 6 of Your Favorite Things that are Secretly Making You Fat (note: one of them is "your friends"), and 9 Foreign Rip Offs Cooler than their Hollywood Originals (cooler mostly equals stranger and goofier).

The art of Jason Limon is pretty cool, as is the cut paper and illustration of Patrick Gannon.

Also cool? this Wikipedia article on Constrained Comics.

Coolest of all? Richard Feynman Playing the Bongos!.

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:53:27 AM CDT)

Update 1 of 3: Life's Update

After last Saturday's funeral, life has mostly been about getting to work and waiting for some sort of information on University related money. Wednesday I went down to campus to visit a professor and talk about some career options, which he was unsure of outside of those related directly to libraries (and the outlook was lean, if not grim). That was the day I bought looseleaf paper. It warranted a post above and beyond the conversation with the professor. I now, looking back, find this strange and odd. I can be weird when I am slightly tired and have been a longish walk.

Work is going well. It does not pay super sweet, nor is it glamorous, but it is fine. I have enough British in my Irish/Scottish mutt mix to feel comforted by a cozy job. Christmas season looms, but somehow it doesn't seem to loom so hard this year. Christmas trees and dumb ass combinatorics (say, Jack-o-Lanterns wearing Santa caps) are starting to bleed into the mall consciousness, but at a glacial pace compared to last year's "It's September, come spend!" attitude. I know that we are probably close to some bend in the path of least resistance, where "Seasonal" dominates "Non-Seasonal" and the mall will descend into green and tinseled red decadence. The music will start. The blaring, joyous music. Siren songs for the expenditure of money, the constant reminder that our gifts are an expected social norm. The horror. The horror.

I had to wait in the rain for the bus to come, this morning. There is something romantic about it, sitting there with an umbrella overhead and a coat tucked tightly around to keep out the chill and the moisture, my satchel held under it to protect it from the deluge as best possible. There is something cold about it as well, and something damp about it. You might can say that poetic suffering is best retained to poetry. Real world excursions into it leave you wearing slightly damp shoes all day, with a slight, musty odor following you like a hungry cat you petted on the street, a random animal on a nightly walk.

I have gotten back into writing. I have a couple of rough poems that I need to touch up. I'll post at least one of them here, but both should be added to my site. I also have bits of three or so horror short stories that I want to get finished by Halloween. I make no promises. I work a bit of every day next week so I do not know what free time I will find. Not many hours, mind you, but inspiration is something that strikes at odd times. It is not pleasant when the best possible prose occurs in the middle of a shift. I will probably take basic, rough notes with me everywhere and then try and compile them into some semblance of "good" at night before bedtime. This might induce nightmares, but the vast majority of my dreams have always included nightmare elements. It is a chicken and egg thing, I suppose.

Sunday is our fourth wedding anniversary. I know, I know, congratulations. Thanks. Whether she has been putting up with me (a base lie), or I have been putting up with her (the truest truth), I will leave for your own imagination. It has been four years since we have been wed. We lived together a year before that. We, actually, lived together a couple of months before we started dating. I am not sure if that is living in sin or dating in convenience. I'll leave that, too, to your imagination.

Our plans are few, but potent. On Saturday, so that we have a longer, less fettered time, we will go on some nice walk for an hour or two, and I will cook her dinner. Spaghetti, most likely. We will play tennis, perhaps. Watch some more Lord of the Rings (we watched Fellowship of the Ring, tonight). X-Files. Something. She will finish off a bottle of shiraz that I bought for her. We will eat (or not eat) something called dump cake, and she will bake pumpkin pie. Dance. Stars. Beach. All night. You heard what the "Dante Hicks" like guy said in Mallrats. Something like that, except not.

I have a handful of links to post, and some book update news type stuff. Those can wait until I have gotten about eight hours of very much so needed sleep.

Good night

October 23, 2008. Thursday.

(07:42:18 AM CDT)

Random Factoid: The Loose-Leaf Paper Thing

I met a professor to talk about things, yesterday, and so figured I would pick up some paper from the UAH Bookstore (whosiwasit? "Charger Store", or something like that). UAHuntsville. I'm not calling that. If it has more than 5 letters, it's a crappy abbreviation. It's like Soviet and stuff: Unialahun!.

While in the bookstore, I bought some loose leaf paper. 8.5x11 (which is strangely called 11x8.5, now). College ruled. Pre-punched. What we called, well, loose leaf. I don't know if there is a name for thin, pre-lined paper, with holes on. It occurred to me, though, that I haven't bought such paper in years. Years. Sure, sure, I've been out of University for four of those years, but more than that. I think it was something like 1998 the last time I bought any. I have bought lined notebooks. I have bought tons of printer/copier style paper: blank, thicker. In fact, for most of my college career, if it was unbound, it was plain white paper. I don't know when I started that kook or why I kept it up, I just preferred to take notes and doodles on paper without lines. I also was likely to get notebooks with "graph paper" and take notes like that. I think I have some fetish about writing wherever I want on a page, slapping back and forth from vert to hor with a flick of a page, annotations in a new dimension.

Maybe I'm just weird.

At any rate, I now have 200 sheets of pristine, lined paper, so that I can get back into writing, which I have been doing for the past couple of days, what we call longhand. Wish me luck.

And if I get tired of lines again, my next step is to order some A from England or something. Screw fitting in our copiers!

Si Vales, Valeo

October 21, 2008. Tuesday.

(07:37:30 AM CDT)

Oh, There They Are. The Sun Prepares to Strike. Pumpkins.

The "missing evangelical" seems to have moved out to where-ever this poster was shoved into people's windshield wipers. Ok, of course, not really; but I do find it interesting the handful of similarities. At it's core is the implication that it's a matter of national security, that we will be exposed to attacks once more. That seems to be the overarching theme of all of the crazy, cooky, outright lies I see spread about as political nuance: we will have to be afraid, again.

I'll be getting to the mall early today and leaving a bit late. This should give me a chance to walk around and see if I see anything of the like dropped off. I didn't yesterday, but I didn't get a great chance to look.

Or, if you want, you can get monster masks of various Republican mouthpieces and politicians (as well as the original Republican Joe. Maybe we should wear them with above flyer taped to our back for good measure. Confuse the issues a bit.

Other halloween fun? AMAZING carved pumpkins. Trust me, click that link even if you skip the others.

How to wrap this up? How about this, my first thought about reading this article on the Sun was that it prepares to strike us when we least suspect. Second thought? Sunshine.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 20, 2008. Monday.

(09:47:46 PM CDT)

The Compleat Enchanter. The Faerie Queene. And Beer Keg Information.

I finished reading The Compleat Enchanter today. L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. I had heard about it off and on, but since it has been out of print since the 90s, never really got a chance to read it. I found a copy in Booklegger a week or two back, and have been bringing it to thumb through at breaks and those times when I am waiting for work to start or for the bus to come. It's kind of a quick read, and not really deep reading material, but it is a fascinating look at pre-Tolkien, post-Howard fantasy. It very much so reads like a E. E. Doc Smith novel set in a fantasy world. An Anglo-American intellectual wades through thick and thin with pluck and vim. Harold Shea wanders into the world of Norse mythology, The Faerie Queene, and some other story that I don't know: Orlando Furioso. There is a Wikipedia page on this epic poem, however. In each case, he uses magic, often to humorous effect, and jumps around doing basically noble deeds despite himself. A lot of the ways it handles beasts, magic items, and magical spells definitely found their place in later works (namely Dungeons and Dragons). You get things like chlorine breathing green dragons and walls of fire and anti-giant swords.

If you can track down a copy, I say do so. It reads fast and is fun. It also continuously takes what amounts to surprisingly progressive stances on sex and race. Sure, it will be chauvinistic in places, but somehow it seems to suggest that this isn't a good thing to be. At least that's how I took it. Maybe I am wrong.

Reading it did make me feel like taking a crack at The Faerie Queene. I found a good copy through Amazon marketplace (hopefully) which I am going to have to wait a week or so for. However, you can read a free, HTML copy of The Faerie Queene through Renascence Editions which has a wonderfully arhaic text where "u" and "v" are the same letter as is "i" and "j". Enjoy such words as "Ioue" (Jove) and "iollity" (jolllity).

In completely unrelated news, those of you interested in keg sizes, weights, and the like can find a lot of good information Draft Beer Keg Sizes Dimensions.

Si Vales, Valeo

(11:38:25 AM CDT)

The Change(d) Election Year

Four years ago, and sharp tacks amongst my fair readers will note that was the last presidential election year prior to this one, I worked in a calendar kiosk. The job was fine and boring and interesting and fun and not fun at all the same time, being that it was largely just me for four to eight hours at a time and a couple of rows of calendars and lots and lots of people walking by. One of the huge themes of the calendar kiosk (kiosk, n, a small structure, often open on one or more sides, used as a newsstand or booth [American Heritage Dictionary]. In mall worker terminology, a generic term from stands and booths set up in the center of walking paths, usually offering highly specific goods and staffed by single workers [Doug's addition]) was the constant barrage of political pamphlets I would find. The general form was a [Jack] Chick Tract, or some similar bit of quasi-religious spumous spiel, in which some handwritten note maintained, in some version or another, that ten out of ten terrorists agree, Kerry is the man fit for president. About mid-October of oh-four, presumably because it seemed to (1) suggest that some might like Kerry or, more likely, (2) suggest that a third party candidate would suffice, the wording changed to "Ten out of ten terrorists agree, anybody but BUSH!". I read this phrase a good three or four times a day, every day I worked. They would be hidden behind calendars, wedged between calendars, left in front of calendars, on the floor, and left by the cash-wrap.

By coincidences larger than you and I, I am back at the calendar stand this year, fully grown into an in-line (read: what you normally consider a standard mall) store. This means I get to see a huge number of calendars and talk to a lot of customers about various dog breeds and again be surprised that most of the swimsuit calendars are bought by women. Yesterday, though, it occurred to me that I have yet to see one wayward religio-political tract. I've been thinking about that. Does this mean that the evangelical force behind the 2004 campaign (admittedly, assuming that the tracts were left by actual evangelicals and not people just pretending for political reasons) is silent this time? Why would that be? I mean, they hated Kerry because they thought he would coddle to terrorists but they don't think Barack Obama, whom I still get e-mails about proving how he really is a muslim despite anything like real proof, would get the ten out of ten approval rating? Maybe they realized that Gallup has never asked terrorists who they would vote for and so a claim like that might constitute a lie? Who knows?

I suppose the practical answer is "we are store that would require someone to enter and drop off the tracts" instead of "we were a kiosk where people would drop off tracts while walking by". I wouldn't really chew someone out for it, I just throw the tracts away, but I somehow imagine the people doing it being afraid of being assaulted or something. Lions. Emperors. Being thrown to by orders of. All that.

I wonder, though, if it does represent one of two truths? Either the evangelical outpouring for Bush was somehow manipulated by campaign design, or the evangelicals simply don't feel like this campaign will determine the destiny of America like 2004's would. This latter doesn't seem possible, considering the vast implied differences in the candidates. Maybe the evangelicals are tired of campaigns? Maybe they have moved on to cheaper forms of expression (e-mails, Wikipedia article editing, etc). I have no clue.

It just made me wonder.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 19, 2008. Sunday.

(10:41:10 AM CDT)

Tired. Perchance to Sick. Nick and Norah's Infinite The Beatle's Gaffe.

Some combination of temperature change, pressure change, stress of the past three days, the going on a two-hundred mile round trip, and (I suppose) working in a store that has just enough cardboard dust to count has driven me to a case of the sniffles and a headache. Nothing like a full blown viral, just a touch of the irritatingly irritated sinus. I'm also the kind of guy who takes vitamins and really haven't had any to take in a while (though I did stumble upon a sale at Walgreens for buy one, get one, if you might need some, and so I now have some). My body might be confused by that lack, so I remedied it.

I have to be at work within the half hour, but thought I would share something that caught my eye last night. In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a character named Thom tells Nick that The Beatles had it right with their first single "I Want to Hold Your Hand". The implication, I guess, he is driving for is that relationships are about just being with each other and don't have to be about all sorts of complicated things. Now, this is sweet and kind of works out as one of those contrived scenes I mentioned in my last post, but is the source for a handful (pun intended) of complaints about the movie, who claim that a movie about the power of music to touch us should be able to get it's facts straight and not list "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as the first single when music nerds just know it was "Love Me Do". Except, of course, unless you are talking about their US singles. I'm pretty sure that I remember that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was their breakthrough single in the States, and it's Wikipedia article seems to back me up while "Love Me Do"'s article seems to further back me up. Sure, the sort of websites that people nitpick movie goofs and whatnot are filled with people who are quick to judge and say things like "Duh, anybody knows..." while half their facts are cobbled together from Trivial Pursuit boards and that fancy Trivia-a-Day bog rolls.

It's just, what if they had got it wrong. I have some big music geek friends I would bet half of them would be unsure of which single was actually first. Why this continued insistence that every character in every book get every fact right, to display ever moral properly, to exhibit only true values? The novel as an unflinching description of moral action was challenged in Dicken's times. Mark Twain used playful fact bending for the fun of it. Vonnegut, and later Palahniuk, both use wrong facts to make novel points, though in some cases it is unsure if they do it on purpose or not. By the time of Choke, though, I am sure that Chuck is doing it on purpose. Why this continued need to jump on characters who are meant to be human and yet must get every tiny slice of trivia unflinchingly correct? People lie, get things wrong, and get things confused all of the time. I just don't understand people's continued hatred of the imperfect narrator, of the imperfect fact.

Even though, in this case, it looks like most of the nitpickers are wrong because they forgot to account for The Beatles as a British band and having different release orders outside of their own country.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 18, 2008. Saturday.

(11:14:35 PM CDT)

Trip Down to the Funeral. The Briary. Nick and Norah. The Quiet Night.

Part of me wants to go ahead and pass out, but part of me is up for the duration. I kind of figured I would skip trying to be communicative for a couple of days, but I almost feel like I need to just ramble for a few minutes. Bear with me (as opposed to bare with me, which could imply a mutually lost strip poker session or an interactive emo concert).

The trip down to Birminham was nice. As nice as, well, a funeral can be. It was solemn in the right ways and pleasant. I hate to be one of those people who says things like "She looked peaceful" or "It was a nice ceremony" as a way to not really contemplate the fact that we are not so much mortal as incessantly marching towards death with each squandered moment (looks like option 2: interactemo); but it was a nice ceremony. Also, sort of unintentionally half humorous since the presiding pastor was in fact a priest as in Catholic and the presiding audience was a dash of a dozen flavors from various Protestant groups. "The Lord's blessing upon you..." And also with nobody, echoes stoically the silence inside.

Making passable excursions out of sad moments, I had a somewhat serendipitous encounter with The Briary, a pipe cum tobacconist cum cigar shop and general smoke filled wooden building. I have seen advertisements for it in a few piper mags and it seems like it is the only other pipe shop in old Ally Bam worth a bit, though I am sure there are some others hidden away. I know there is a cigar shop in Prattville that I think caters somewhat to pipers, but I don't think it has that piper feel. You walk into The Briary, and the customers and the workers are bearded and friendly and talking about politics using real big words pronounced correctly and the walls have a sense of class and are covered in racks of British tins and hand carved pipes from around the world. It really is an aesthetic that is wonderful. The sad thing, sad in a different way than the day in general, is that it was only about two blocks from where Sarah's grandmother lived. Several times I could have stopped by but I didn't know. Ah, well, c'est la vie and all of that jazz.

Picked up a two ounce pouch of English Aromatic (which seems to imply "of full character" as opposed to the American use of the word, meaning "of sweet character"). Said I would be back. Probably mean it, whenever we get down the Birmingham way again. They have some nice, cheap pipes including some green Petersons that are eye catching.

Back up in Huntsville, Sarah and I spent most of the afternoon semi-conscious. She full on napped and I sort of half slept in the lounge chair for an hour or two. We get up, slogged down some cold chicken and casserole, watched an episode of Kamen Rider Kiva, and then tried, again, to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. We attempted to go see it on Friday night, while Alicia was still in town, but the process broke down because either the showing was sold out or, as I suspect, I simply read the time wrong and that's why it wasn't showing up as available on the little ticket screen thing. Again, something like c'est la vie but it annoyed me because I seriously wanted us to do something to take our minds off the events that would be happening today. This time I either got the time right or it wasn't sold out but Sarah and I did get a chance to see it. It was pretty good. I would give it a Good in my Blech-to-Great rating system (think 4 stars out of 5, if you must). Cute in places, surprisingly realistic in others, but sometimes just a bit too contrived-via-predictable. It has about as many real plot twists as a Teletubbies episode. If you were to edit out about five minutes of vaguely annoying scenes, the movie would be a classic. As it is, I think it will be a quasi-classic to some, and forgotten by others. I just loved it because I got to see Michael Cera make out with two women. Not at the same time or anything, but awesome. I think many of my friends would enjoy it, if not outright love it, so take that as a suggestion to see it. Especially you, Alicia. Sorry it got screwed up last time.

I found an interesting article on MSNBC, which is kind of like finding an interest plot point in the Gossip Girl series: A Decade of Internet Superstars: Here's what happened when their 15 minutes of fame ended. You have to sort of squint your eyes in order to make some of these superstars, and a couple of them are still at it and so the phrases "ended" seems awry, but you get to see some updates on things like JenniCam and the "Numa Numa" guy (i.e. Gary Brolmsa). The two that I had forgotten about was that Peter Pan is looking for love guy and Mahir. I had forgotten all about Mahir. Can't really forget the Peter Pan fellow, but I hadn't exactly thought of him in a while.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 17, 2008. Friday.

(10:43:45 PM CDT)

Brief obit and explanation of scattered-brainedness. Zombie Short Story = KY Felony

There is some personal stuff going on, and I haven't really had time to write or read any body's blogs or most e-mail sent to me over the past day or so. The good news, that I've hinted at but not specified, is that I am working again. It's the old calendar haunt that I used to work about 4 years ago. Madison Square Mall. It's kind of boring this time of year, but not too bad in that it offers just enough organizational puzzles to play with. Low stress and no real responsibility besides for myself. Two things that work great now that Grad School looms and I get scary e-mails about signing up for classes and paying for them though I haven't heard anything about sort of loan/reimbursement. Fun.

Very bad stuff: Sarah's grandmother, Barbara Gallagher, passed away yesterday afternoon. She was a great person and literally fell ill going on one of her many, recent adventures. She was extremely supportive of Sarah and myself. She offered Sarah a place to stay after both Sarah and myself were jobless in the summer of 2007, which gave us a chance to get some money back under a feet. She took us to Mass to see her faith and she cooked us french toast the next morning. That's sort of the end of my obit. There are tons of things to say about her, but those who knew her know this already. I have a couple of posts planned on ebooks and the like, some stuff about the EC Archive editions, and the Man Booker prize, but that will have to wait until probably Monday or Tuesday. A need a couple of mental recoup days.

This story, though, fell in my lap after Niko forwarded me the link. It was, strange, to say the least, but also very troubling in that it shows a continued assumption in our society that to write about something is to wish it to be true. To me, this is the same sort of witch hunt that I had back in the early 90s when a teacher accused me of Satanism for having a Dungeons and Dragons book in my bookbag. I was told that I might start thinking it was real one day. My response was basically "I play the good guy, for one, and who would think this was real?"

The story seems to go like this. Guy writes a short story about zombies invading a school. Indefinite article. Not the school. Not his school. A school. Kentucky teachers get ahold of it and read it as a threat against his school. He says he didn't make it about his school, any of his classmates, and etc. I have no idea how gory it was. Then the article goes on to say that the prosecution has asked for bail to be increased to five thousand dollars because of the severity of his crime. Writing zombie stories. Set in a school. Not his school. Which is a felony, because it implies a proto-Columbine type situation in their mind.

You can read the story for yourself: Student Arrested For Terroristic Threatening Says Incident A Misunderstanding. Oh, and according to the headline, this constitutes a terror threat. A zombie story. In a fictional school.

You want to know the only thing the kid threatened? The English language. And I quote, "It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County...didn't mention no principal or cops..." I kid. But seriously, a second degree terrorist threat? You know what's sad, this means that prosecutors in Kentucky think that Lost is really happening on an island somewhere, that Star Trek is an amazing example of the American space program, and have never, ever, seen The Night of the Living Dead.

Allow me to be vulgar for a moment. I fucking hate zero tolerance laws and the power they give idiots to claim they are just following orders. That's right. I went there. Godwin on me. Godwin on me.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 15, 2008. Wednesday.

(10:14:16 AM CDT)

Things This Campaign Has Taught Me

These aren't supposed to be serious. In fact, I picked most of these because I could make something silly out of them. They are and are not researched. I mostly just took impressions given to me by headlines and my own sense of sarcastic wit. This post will be somewhat left-leaning, but only because I find the right-leaning bullshit to be more expansive and multi-directional. Left-leaning bullshit is mostly summed up with the statement that Obama will bring about some mythical level of change and that withdrawing from Iraq is going to somehow fix 90% of the countries ills.

I did not include a couple because they are somewhat serious issues. I included one (you'll figure it out) because it is very serious issue.

#8. Obama is king of the acorns. Actually, though, he is being blamed for ACORN, which he did admittedly send finance money to. Both candidates have sent even more money to TV stations for ads and the like and to all sorts of other sources of tedium and chaffe. Can we blame them for those, too? Everyone take note, sending campaign money to an organization means you can dictate what that organization does.

#7. Sarah Palin's kids are off limits, except when she needs them for a photo shoot or to give speeches to. Ditto for all the candidates kids. This reaffirms something, I will never vote for a man or woman who puts his or her kids in a commercial without good reason. I'm looking at you, Don Siegelman. Also, McCain's daughter is the hottest. Hand's down. The rule still applies, though.

#6. Radical Muslims can hide their faith for years. They can also be members of outspoken Christian churches. And atheists. And Marxists. Who mock religion. But can't disagree with their Christian pastor.

#5. Statistically speaking, Obama once breathed in air that Ayers breathed out. This makes Obama a terrorist. And sure Palin had some ties to a seccessionist party, but she didn't inhale, so let's not worry about that.

#4. Where in the hell is McCain's flag pin?

#3. Youtube, which is literally the worst and largest source of dreck in the history of the planet, is used by millions as a legitimate source of political discussion. The word legitimate was used ironically, just FYI. Bloggers and pundits, who are largely personally motivated propagators of pedantry funded by advertisement and an addiction to ratings, are considered the future of political commentary, what with their allegations that Trig Palin is somehow Bristol's baby and that Hillary Clinton didn't look pretty enough to be president. What's even better, Obama and McCain are somehow responsible for every post, podcast, response, and editorial that is done in the name of their party. Sean Hannity is a bitch, let's vote for Obama! (Ok, I say things like this, too, but I've decided it was very jerkish of me and I now apologize and sincerely promise to stop, turns out the candidates have said and done plenty of dumb things to take them to task on).

#2. Racism and sexism are alive and well in this country. From Hillary's wrinkles to Obama's name to Palin's dealing with her own family, so many attacks on the candidates, their running mates, their spouses, and their children have been shot from the hip at gender and race differences. Every e-mail showing off Obama's "family" and talking about their crack habits and AIDS comes from someone's belief that all blacks are AIDS ridden crack addicts. Even praise for the candidates has been largely motivated by racial and gender differences. Obama is for change (partially) because he is black. Palin's somewhat average political career is amazing (partially) because she is a woman. We shouldn't attack him, because that would mean we are racist. We shouldn't attack her, she is sweet heart. Etc.

#1. If I ever have to sit through another 20+ month campaign, largely driven by candidates avoiding their current job, I may never vote in a national election again. Or watch TV. Jesus. Christ.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:08:03 AM CDT)

16 Days to Halloween: The Dunwich Horror

It has been a few days since I have updated my countdown so I figured I would share this tasty morsel with you. "The Dunwich Horror". One of the classics out of Howard Phillip Lovecraft's goody bag of tricks. "The Dunwich Horror" is about a small town in which bad things happen, which is something of a synopsis for a lot of Lovecraftian horror. Old ones and bad ones are dealt with, which is again not so much a synopsis as a general summation of form. Finally, there is something of an obvious plot twist at the end. Again, this is the very heart of Lovecraftian. One of the things that makes Dunwich such a spooky place to visit is the evocative language that sets up the story:

Without knowing why, one hesitates to ask directions from the gnarled solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strewn meadows. Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do...Gorges and ravines of problematical depth intersect the way, and the crude wooden bridges always seem of dubious safety. When the road dips again there are stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwills chatter and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. The thin, shining line of the Miskatonic's upper reaches has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hills among which it rises...Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin, and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge, yet there is no way to avoid it. Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odour about the village street, as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. It is always a relief to get clear of the place...Afterwards one sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.

From here, the story tells of the time that the town was besieged by an evil plot. A strange baby was born, who grew up too fast, and sought evil. His mother and grandfather made strange preparations and bought lots of cattle that all died off, sickly and strange. Weird noises are heard. Finally, the outside world is involved and the final climax comes down to a test of outside evil versus man's best intentions and acts of bravery and genius. It wraps up with the by-now-guessed plot twist (guessed if you read the story, I mean) and there is a sense of weirdness in your bones. The weirdness partially put into place by the opening passage quoted from above.

This story is somewhat singular in the main Lovecraftian library in that it does not involve a lone genius going mad. It does, to a degree, but he is placed in the role of bad guy. It is the good guys that make the final stand, and they get to keep relatively large chunks of their sanity intact. Does this diminish the story in any way? Can you have a horror story in which the good guys do more than die in gruesome ways? Yes, actually, and this shows one excellent way of wrapping up a horror story without a feeling of being cheated on one side or the other.

I have prepared a quite readable pdf version of "The Dunwish Horror" for you, and you can find it most of Lovecraft's anthologies. There has been movie adaptation made. It sexes up the plot and introduces a way too hair Dean Stockwell into your conscious. It avoids most of the moodiness of the original story and replaces it with late 60s style color washes and freaking outs, man. Far superior is the HPHLS Radio Adaptation which was made recently. You can buy it as mp3 or CD (or come visit me and I'll play it for you). It is an impressive piece of work, though not perfect, but worth the price most assuredly.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 14, 2008. Tuesday.

(10:37:23 PM CDT)

The Scales, They Lie! (or, My Life as PKD Novel)

After work today I went up to the Madison Square restrooms and decided to weigh myself. It has been months since I have done this, and I was curious. However, the number the scale gave me was 531.9 pounds. Which is, frankly, impressive. Now, most of me finds this number to be nonsensical. The Steelyard demands that the scale be broken. I can't help but wonder about alternatives.

Alternative 1: Sarah has been injecting gold or platinum flakes into my blood, hoping to cash in if the stock market fails. My current worth, assuming 200 pounds of gold and about 800 dollars per ounce this means my kidneys and liver, which are chock full of the stuff, would be worth about, oh, 2.56 million dollars. Getting it out will probably use some sort of fancy chemical process. Which will hurt. Sulfuric acid level hurt.

Alternative 2: While my mass has stayed the same, my personal gravitational field has increased. This can be caused by a number of reasons, the most logical being that I somehow closer to the center of the earth than the rest of you.

Alternative 3: Since I am no larger than I once was, and actually a tad bit smaller than my last weigh-in, my density has increased. Either I am developing superhuman like bone density, or I have been replaced by a robot that looks and acts like me, but cannot hide it's robotic endoskeleton (oops, originally said "exo-" which would mean a pseudo-chitinous skin that would probably be spotted from a mile away, unless you assumed I was a horribly disfigured burn victim, or, you know, a south seas native in a H.P. Lovecraft short story). Clearly, the only way to test the theory is for me to say, outloud, "If that is Spencer Olham, than who am..." and just hope for the best.

Come on, you had to know that last joke was coming. I even foreshadowed it...

Seriously, though, broken scales. Or I stood on them wrong. Or gravity field. You should have seen the look on the guy's face who walked in right after I got off of them. He looked down at the scales. Stopped for a second. Turned around. And just stared at me. I looked back at him, and then he walked on. Dude's probably having nightmares about superdense retail workers from the future coming back to destroy Christmas season or something.

Si Vales, Valeo

(04:14:57 PM CDT)

"Dead" Mall. First "crazy" bus driver. Time Waster: Zombie Mini-Fig Tower Defense Flash Game!

Forgive me; I felt like using quotes in my subject heading. I am currently letting a pair of egg + bologna sandwiches digest alongside a large glass of iced tea. I forgot how much spending 6 or so hours at the mall can take everything out of you. The issue with working there, at this time of the year, is that things are dead enough to make you want to nod off from boredom, but there are constant, minor, perparations to be done. You spend a lot of time in a state of near readiness. Then you come home and eat a egg + bologna sandwich and watch The Mist and blink back a sensation almost like calm sleepiness, but more like an exhaustion induced apathy.

The random highlight of the day was the trip back, in which the bus driver must have felt that she was behind schedule, so took a couple of turns sharper than she should and got mad at a couple of cars going slow. That made me chuckle.

Since I need to do some eye resting and some self-caffination, I will leave you with this little ditty of a time waster. It is a tower defense game, where you only weapons are a series of stationary towers of various powers, rangers, and effects. The twists are that the visual motif—based around legos (hence the term minifigs)—and the attackers are nominally zombies. As such, all they do is wander towards the base and then you take hits when they get there. There is a budget (which starts out small enough to actually be troublesome in some stages) that increases as you beat the zeds and your weapon choices get increasingly fun as you play more levels. Anyhow, it's called Minifig Zombie TD and you can click that link or you can click on the screen shot below. Yes, by the way, I am getting whupped. Kind of hard to take a screenshot and manage the field at the same time.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 13, 2008. Monday.

(09:36:49 PM CDT) More Minireviews: Quarantine, The Graveyard Book, Trinity Blood (anime + light novels)

I've not updated much lately, something that I will try and fix tomorrow, but for tonight I want to drop off another three or four mini-reviews. Much like the last time, I will likely expand a couple of these some later time.

Quarantine. American remake of the Spanish movie [Rec]. For all intents and purposes, it is a shaky-cam, quasi-zombie flick. A reporter and her cameraman are covering the night shift of the fire department when a call comes in. When they get on scene, an elderly woman has been screaming loudly and no one knows what is going on. They try and help her, but she attacks them, and then everything goes downhill from there. Not only does the claustrophobic atmosphere work really well, but the number of cast is kept down to a manageable few, and the justification for several of the actions makes sense (number one being why keep ahold of the camera when things get the roughest?). There are a few spots where the plot is eased along by idiot reactions, but the majority of scenes are smart, crisp, and tense. The original feels a little more authentic, but some of the humor of the remake works really well in the genre. Both are worth watching, and are very near identical, with the remake mostly just updating the effects (slightly) and Americanizing certain aspects of the situation.

Trinity Blood (Anime). This anime series is a hoot, but kind of a spastic one. The overarching plot tends to jump and swerve, sometimes with little justification for actions, and most times with seemingly too little response to major plot points. It is fun, though, and fast flowing, with enough potential pairings to satisfy every Shipper than ever lived. Plays around with vampire myths in neat ways, and the world's tech is intriguing, but will probably leave you feeling a tad confused even by the end. If you like your vampires with a slice of science fiction, though, have at it. The only way I see there being any problem with it, besides someone put off by the erratic story, is if someone is a diehard Hellsing (or Trigun, which also has notable influence over it) fan who can't help but feel this is unnecessary competition.

Trinity Blood (Light Novels). Twelve novels (novellas, more or less) that make up two general story arcs. The first one deals with episodic adventures of the AX agents trying to keep humans safe. The second one deals with the specific story arc of Esther and her impact on Father Abel Nightroad, also exposing several key secrets to the world at large. Part of the reason the anime jumps so much back and forth is because it interlinks stories from both story arcs together, occasionally weaving them in and out, and sometimes just allowing the random differences to say as is. The novels give a fair amount of additional back ground information, read fast, and tend to make more overall sense than the animated series, but occasionally have typos ranging from minor to major. I have found at least one typo that confuses one of the major early moments. Still, there tends to be enough context to figure out that something is up, and it is not hard to backtrack, but it makes for some knots in the midst of what is otherwise a very light, very quick read.

The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman has put together an extremely powerful piece, here. The young adult fiction world is being ripped up by people who want another Harry Potter (with some solace being delivered by Twilight), so books not in serial form might get overlooked and that would be a shame. This is the story of Nobody, a boy raised by ghosts after his parents are killed. It is a mix between something of a Tim Burton fantasy and (obviously, by the name) The Jungle Book. Each chapter tends to be something of a short story, a bit of Nobody's life, but they definitely work towards the whole. I've just finished reading it, so my thoughts are a bit jumbled, but it strikes me as a story about the loss of innocence and the potential that losing innocence can bring. Young Nobody sees nothing wrong with hanging out with the dead, and considers them family, but as he gets older he needs something outside of his small, graveyard home, and starts to branch out. But someone or something called Jack still wants to kill the boy, and every step outside is a risk. As in Neverwhere, Stardust, and American Gods, Gaiman weaves together modern concepts and old myths. I suppose a book about a boy living in a tomb runs the risk of being deemed too morbid by some, and overwhelmingly embraced by the most annoying of the emogoths, but for now I highly recommend it to my friends and their children, though it does deal pretty strongly with the concept of death and passing on. It is chiefly a novel about loss, and about finding new things, and some kids are more able to handle that than others. If you have one, and you read this, I trust you to be the best judge for such things.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 10, 2008. Friday.

(11:53:29 AM CDT) Nobel Prize in Literature Winner Announced: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio

True to their word, the Nobel Prize Committee did not pick an American to win the Nobel Prize. They did pick a guy who seems really cool, too bad (for me) that most of his stuff is not ported to the American yet. Ah well, maybe I can import something through Amazon.co.uk.

His name is Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. You can find information on him at Wikipedia and both the New York Times and the Washington Post have interesting writes up on the prize, the winner, and the comments made just recently about insular Americans. The latter two might require registration, I'm not sure.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 09, 2008. Thursday.

(11:58:39 PM CDT) Longer Review of Anathem. Mine and Others.

I've now posted my full review of Anathem. Those interested in reading what others have to say can also look at several reviews linked to from Bookmarks Magazine website (Anathem page).

You guys know what I think about the book, but figured I would post it just the same.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:11:16 PM CDT) Brief Reviews (longers to follow, probably): Anathem, In a Time of Darkness, and Starship Troopers 3

Here are a couple/three quick reviews, two of which I will probably expand into longer reviews for my site, about some stuff I've recently finished. I'll put them in order from worst to best.

Starship Troopers 3. This movie seems to want to cash in on the "so bad, it's good" market but doesn't fit into the grooves. It comes closer to the "so bad, might as well make it an excuse for a drinking game". The premise follows the general series format: space marines fight bugs and questions about war politics crop up, usually in a campy way. The first half of the movie is largely marred by the complete lack of excitement that anyone seems to go through. I imagine fighting the Bugs for years would dull your sense of edge, but we're talking about a real sense of boredom here. Weren't the actors even excited to be in a movie? The second half, however, comes out of nowhere. Just when you settle in for a run of the mill, mid-90s style SF romp, you get this protracted discussion on religion that isn't so much dealt with, but tied to a brice and then used to have forcible congress with your rectum. The following snippet comes from a chat I was having with a friend while watching it, converted to a paragraph form with ellipses representing small jumps in time.

Vagina monster hurts my soul. Wait. I think this movie is a parody. It must be. That's one hell of a pratfall, though. I lol'd. Oh, it keeps getting worse. HOW? Jesus Christ Pose versus Vagina Monster...and then a Halo effect of rockets. Hey, mecha...who have cross shaped gun armaments. Oh, look, a GODDAMNED SHOUTOUT TO THE SISTINE CHAPEL. It's a good thing I don't have any sharp blades near my eyes, right now, because the temptation would be too much...clap...clap...As in...this movie just gave me the clap. Oh, it's giving me the clap all over the place...A hit song called "Quit Bugging Me?" ahah. My IQ, it plummets. It's official. God's back, and he's a citizen, too! YAH! weh....

"In a Time of Darkness (Megan's Tale)": John Ringo's own fanfiction in his "The Council Wars" universe. A novella of about 70-80 pages that deals with a slave girl's capture and training. It's mostly just the bastard offspring of women's prison exploitation flick and a raperific exploration of Stockholm Syndrome. I've never been one comfortable with guys writing about how women can use their body to go from rape victim to seductress, which seems to be a relatively robust field, and this novella is no exception. Very little happens, besides the main character starts falling in love with her kidnapper, who is wasting valuable war time resources so that he can have a harem, and yet keeps hating at the same time. What could have been turned into character conflict ends up turning into a chapter long lesbian orgy. I'd say avoid this unless you read "The Council Wars" and just gotta know more (or like, say, harem fantasies).

Anathem. My primary read over the past few days (I think a month to the day, interestingly), though I have read several other things during the interim, has been this hulk of a novel (nearly 1000 pages, and it earns it) by Neal Stephenson. I found it greatly fascinating, like some mashup of a SF adventure novel, a PKD study of perception, a debate about how real mathematics are, a look at religion versus philosophy, and a general study of isolation, culture, and language. I don't know if I can fully recommend this without reservation, though, since rather than have a basic philosophy that helps to move the story along, it has a (albeit exciting in many places) story that moves the philosophy along. There are parts of this novel that made me very, very happy to read, and from about page 720-850 or so I couldn't stop reading (I got very little sleep last night). I think it is a very smart novel, and a lot of fun, and it gets full marks from me. I want to see more SF like this, rather than the upshot of fantasy and military SF. SF has long been a genre that allows the pursuit of pure ideas, and Stephenson takes advantage of it, here.

Yes, it makes up words. Yes, the first 200 pages or so are mostly background story (that sounds like hyperbole, it's not). Yes, it tosses out fairly deep discussions about consciousness and quantum crosstalk and mathematical formula without always going into what the heck it is getting at. Yes, it helps to have a background in philosophy, math, comparative religion, and a handful of other topics. And yes, a good deal of the humor is derived from surprisingly cheap shots at word play. But, you know, it all works. It at least works for me. It's an epic, no doubt, and has all the prerequisites. A young hero, who starts out flawed and stays flawed through out, is sent on a quest to conquer a foe that he does not understand, and works to this goal largely by coming to understanding of himself.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 07, 2008. Tuesday.

(11:48:10 PM CDT) I've Been Good about Politics for Awhile, so Here I Go. Battle Wins Mayor, Missed Votes, and ACORN raided in Nevada for Voter Fraud (with a twist?)

Unless the last couple of precincts reports differently, looks like Tommy Battle will be our new mayor. He has pushed alot about more careful spending, not abandoning old neighborhoods for new ones, getting old projects done, getting an even better bus system, and more pedestrian/bike options. I say we grill him hard every step of the way that he fails to uphold this focus.

In the second little blurb, I read that ACORN's Nevada office was raided by the FBI tonight for voter fraud. I also read the article, that sounds kind of stinky on both sides. Apparently, ACORN has been cooperating with them in the investigation up until now and so it doesn't quite make sense than an after hours raid was used. And a lot of the fraudulent registration cards were apparently caught and flagged by ACORN themselves. I don't know, though, I'll see how this turns out.

I'll close with this bit. This is the 110th Congress's "missed voted" rank by House Members and by Senate Members. McCain tops the Senate with 64% votes missed, with Obama not that far behind with 43% missed. Sure, they were campaining, but part of me reads that as "will sacrifice elected position for political gain". It's not like this country needed a 19 month election build up. No country needs that. In their defense, McCain only missed 9% and Obama only missed roughly 2% in the 109th. The best of the campaigners, just glancing and not really double checking, seems to be Kucinich, who only missed 8%. In Alabama news, Sessions missed 2% and Shelby missed less than 1%. Turns out Alabama's House members seem to average somewhere around 7% missed votes, which isn't too bad. I don't suppose.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:27:20 PM CDT) GPA. Finger Pains. Weird Things a Trip to the Mall. Voting. Et cetera...

My finger is better, today, but still hurt pretty bad yesterday. I had the fun process of trying to figure what things hurt the most. Carying a backpack and occasionally holding straps: nothing. Carrying something in my hand for a long period of time: more painful. Writing with a pen: more painful. Typing: depends on which letters. Showering: kind of painful. Opening bottles: hurts. Washing dishes: very painful. I don't even know what the parameters are. It seems to me that showering and washing dishes should hurt about the same, with the exception that I use hotter water to wash dishes. It seems like carrying something in my hand should put roughly the same pressure as opening a bottle. Nope, though, some things hurt worse than others.

That aside, I have had to run some errands over the past few days. Yesterday, I went to the mall to apply for a holiday temp job. It strikes me as funny that my a large part of my reason for leaving for Book Gallery, besides the low pay for a Manager, with the person after me getting paid almost twice as much to do the same, was "long hours stopped me from being able to do Grad school" and my reason for leaving Waldens was "not enough hours". I'm sure people look at that funny. All I need is about 12 hours a week, though, and could go from +/-50% of that if I had to, so too many and not enough probably won't come into conversation this time. On the way back from the Mall, the guys sitting behind me on the bus were talking about how White God and Black God will have to fight and how "white" comes from a Hebrew word that means low down and "black" means godly. Oh, and the word "Europe" means "Satan's Army". I tried not to laugh, and mostly succeeded. One good point was brought up, though: what kind of country allows a slave owner to write their declaration of independce? Broken clock. Twice a day. All that.

Today, the pressing errands were to vote (voting looks to be a tiny, tiny turnout today) and to get my GPA so that I know exactly what it is. It's about a point-one higher than I thought, so that's neat (I keep wanting to say "point", but who would think they scored an entire point lower than they did?).

Now I am cooking a dry rub Boston Butt to go on a slice of garlic butter Asiago cheese bread. MMMMM, bad for you.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 06, 2008. Monday.

(11:19:51 PM CDT) 25 Days to Halloween: The Fork in the Graveyard

Since I am trying to explore more than just short stories this time, and look at a range of things, let me bring up one of my favorite Halloween yarns. It is not a horror story, per se, but it has a certain tenseness to it. It's "punch line" almost makes it a parody of the genre, but the pacing and twist ending make it almost scary. A ghost story traditional involvs a moral aspect. Either the ghost was wronged or was wronging. The classic model of "find out why we are being haunted" have been around for awhile. A second class make strong use of "if they hadn't been dumb, it would have been ok". This is something more like the latter.

The story goes like this (in abridged form): About 30 miles down the road, about 50 years ago, the Johnsons had four young daughters, and older daughter who was about seven years older than the rest. She liked to tease and goad them into things, usually telling them scary stories to get them riled up and then springing some creepy crawly on them. One year, on Halloween, she decided to do the worst one yet. She told her sisters, ages nine to thirteen, about the big old gravestone in the town cemetary. The Tomas stone it was called, because that was the only name still visible on it. It was so old, before the Civil War old, and no one knew anything about where it came from. There were no Tomases around back then. She told them that on Halloween, Mr. Tomas (she assumed it was a last name) would come up and reach out and try to grab anyone walking by. That's where Cynthia Little had went, she told them, though the truth is that Cynthia Little had run off with the Baker boy two years ago.

They said she was a liar, and so she acted like it hurt her feelings and then she somehow talked them into a dare. Instead of trick-or-treating, which was more about visiting neighbors than about candy in those days, they would sneak up to the cemetary and she would give the four younger ones a fork. All they had to do was stick the fork in the graves and then count to ten and then they could leave. And she would buy them all candy for a month.

It took some cajoling and some name calling and some prodding, but eventually the four younger ones agreed to it and snuck forks down in their sack and they headed up to the town graveyard. They dressed up in costumes somewhere between a princess and a witch. They were to each take a corner of the grave and then do it, stick the fork in, count to ten, and then get out. "No running" was a rule added in, they had to walk the whole time or get no candy. The night was kind of cloudy, so it wasn't easy to see, but that big Tomas-marked stone at the north end stood out near the mostly dead cypress tree. The four each walked up, pulled out a fork and pushed down into the ground, kind of hard and dry after the lack of rains that year, and counted out loud to ten. One. Two. Three... and so on, each time getting both nervous and more giggly at the same time. It was almost over and they were almost about to start laughing, when the nine-year old screamed "HE'S GOT MY DRESS!" at the top of her lungs and then fell silent. It was too dark for the others to see what was happening and so they ran in three different directions and, in the case of the eleven year old, ran for over an hour. By the time the three were found, it was hours later. They were in hysterics. The parents made out something about the graveyard and went up with a lantern.

And there, by the Tomas grave, was the nine-year old. Her face was devoid of color, her hair mostly white, and her lips mumbling softly in a language no one ever figured out. And, at the hem of that homemade costume dress, one of the Johnson's forks pinned to the hard, October ground.

The punchline of "It was a fork the whole time" is both a groaner and not. Like I said, it is both a jokish yarn, and a tale about taking pranks too far as well as respecting the dead. Whether you feel the girl was stupid, or feel bad for her, or feel mad at her oldest sister pushing her into it, will kind of be determined as to whether the story (as told above) makes you feel like it could happen to you. Many of the details for this story, and it's variations, take advantage of an old school feeling. Even if you feel that no one would fall for that nowadays, you still have to wonder if someone would 50 years ago. 100 years ago. Whenever. By making it set in a, perceived, simpler time it helps to make us feel like the girl is more vulnerable.

Another variation, as told to me by my brother Danny, had the girls being friends who talk themselves into it and they are all older. The ending in that version has the girl who sticks herself with the fork dying of a heart attack.

The oldest version I can find, called "Caught in a Graveyard" (dating to 1941, but again looking to the past) has a single girl doing it to see who she will marry. The end is, again, death.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:08:33 PM CDT) Glowstick Party: The Pics

I mentioned a glowstick party in my last post. Pictures were taken by both Raymond and Nathan. I've not seen Nathan's yet, but Raymond posted his batch this morning. Click on the picture below to see the rest of the gallery, which has some odd, weird shots. In some cases, you have to play "What's the going on in this here picture?"

glowtick photos

Si Vales, Valeo

October 05, 2008. Sunday.

(06:58:24 PM CDT) I'm Typing This With a Busted Finger...

I'm typing this because of a busted finger. My finger is, to a minor degree, broke and the reason it is broke is because I twirled a string really fast and it got up enough friction to remove a small chunk of skin. It hurts to type, so I will be brief.

Friday night and Saturday night, Sarah and I drove out to Harvest to help take care of Katie and Jason's cats: Mike and Joe. They are sweet things and aren't really a bother, though they can be incorrigible in the way of all cats. The trip was fun because I got Sarah to listen to some of the Anathem audiobook and this is about the best time of the year to drive around at dusk and twilight. The sky just has a certain tint of blue, a certain clarity, that it will not repeat again until next year. I have posted for years how much I love October air, and it is still true. By winter, the sky is too crisp. In summer, it is too moist. Right now, it looks good and it feels good.

Besides shopping and being exhausted due to a 3-4 day run of insomnia Friday, did not do much. On Saturday night, though, Raymond and Nathan came over to watch Iron Man and just chill. Raymond also brought over a small pack of glow sticks, and we had fun just turning out the light and trying different things like throwing them up, at each other, and shaking them around. I tied a couple to a string and then we played around with various speeds and angles and spiral effects. During one of these "experiments" I used my finger to make the string wrap around it. This shortened the string with each pass, causing each pass to get faster and faster. By the time it got the center, it was going quite fast (looked visually to be a constant, small circle) and this is about the time it caught me in the right, index finger and I ended up with a knuckle sized blister and a centimeter sized hole in my hand. Next time, I am going to invoke some intermediary, like a stick, and will avoid abusing the flesh. No pun intended.

Now it's sore and pretty stiff, but does not seem infected so I'm just going to give it a couple of days and then it should be fine. I'm having to take pain killer with anti-inflammatory agents, though, to stop it from swelling. It doesn't look like it will need anything else besides me keeping it clean. When I woke up this morning, the finger as a whole was swollen to almost twice the size of it's left equivalent. Now, it's about the right size, though the base of the finger is still a little swollen, for whatever reason (since it is towards the end where the blister and cut are).

Today, Sarah and I went over to Garden Cove after bidding Raymond adieu, and we took advantage of their "First Sunday" sale. We got a couple pounds of black beans, plenty of rice, oats, and cereal, and a couple of other minor purchases. I do adore their bulk selection. Looking at their flax seed and lentil selection, I need to find out how to cook with those things so we can add them to our diet. After that, we've just been lazy. Tennis is probably out until the end of this week, but a walk might be on hand.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 04, 2008. Saturday.

(03:31:23 AM CDT) 28 Days to Halloween. Horror Adage 1: True Terror

I want to dedicated the four Fridays of this countdown to four quotes about the nature of horror with varying degrees of depth and meaning. Much like the snag of not being able to find the, supposedly, public domain "Call in the Night", I have run into a snag in this regard. At some point in my life, I read a quote. I have repeated this quote several times, so it might have been telephone gamed. I may have changed some things. I have adored the quote for a bit. Now I can't find it anywhere. Partially because I'm sure the original quote used the word "terror" which tends to bring back "terrorism" in Google searches. In light of the fact that I can't find it anywhere (I'm pretty sure some version of this is Steven Wright) I figure that I will expand it, and post it, and maybe the owner will show up or someone who knows where I got it from and I can edit this entry to include that information. Anyhow, the [new] quote goes like this:

"Nervousness is when you see strange men driving away from your house. Fear is when you see your front door open. Horror is when you realize all of our stuff, including your dog, has been stolen. Terror is when you realize it has all been replaced by stuff exactly alike."

When I tell people this, usually shortened to the last line only, I mostly get stares and polite nods. I think it's because people don't think about it enough. How much of our personal identity goes into our stuff, into our pets? What would happen if you came home one day and your dog was gone, except there is a new dog there that acts and looks just like the old one? What if you didn't know that the dog had been replaced? Isn't that a little bit creepy to you? It is to me. Even the idea of, say, coming home and having had someone still all my bedsheets and replace them with a matching set is creepy. It's all about our trust, our faith, that our stuff is still our stuff.

One of the best uses of it comes in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Convinced that her uncle has been replaced, she goes to talk about it. She mentions a mole (or birthmark, I forget which specifically) on the back of his neck. "Oh," says her doubtful confessor, "it was gone?" "No," she says, "It was right there!" Which makes her sound crazy, but isn't the idea that our friend or loved one is replaced by someone just like them a little weird to you?

It makes me nervous. That it does.

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:05:27 AM CDT) I Wish I Was a (Person Sure of this Song)

Seeing that embedding is disabled by request, I'll do a linkie: Youtube clippages of Sandi Thom's "I Wish I Was A Punkrocker". It' starts with the lyrics "I wish I was a punkrocker with flowers in my hair, 77 and 69, revolution was in the air". Which makes me think that she is trying to say "I wish I was a hippie and/or a punk". Maybe she thinks they are the same thing? So many of the lyrics "Anarchy was still a dream" and "Pop stars were a myth" make almost no sense. If you think accountants weren't in control of music in the 70s...well, that's a bad thing for you to think in that it's wrong.

Is she purposely speaking in terms of the mythic, a time that did not exist but still managed to mean a lot to a lot of poeple? Is this rampant Lapsarianism? Is she being ironic, mocking those who talk about the 60s as a glory time? Or should I apply Hanlon's Razor and just assume that she doesn't know what she is talking about? I haven't a clue. Anyone got opinions?

Good voice, though.

And for those that would rather have Iggy Pop singing with the Teddybears, well, here you go:

Si Vales, Valeo

October 03, 2008. Friday.

(04:48:59 AM CDT) 29 Days to Halloween: Koji Suzuki's "Watercolors"

It had been my intention, with the 30 Days 'til Halloween, to try and feature easy to find stories. The problem is, well, stories that should be easy to find aren't, and sometimes it is easy to find stories shouldn't be easy to find. That's a nice way of saying that I'll do my best to bring them from all sorts of places. Just you wait and see.

"Watercolors" is one of the short stories Koji Suzuki collects in Dark Water. The most famous of the lot, and the strongest story of the lot, is the story "Floating Water", which became the movie Dark Water, a tale of a woman and her daughter moving into an apartment and the secret they uncover. The themes of water, hidden secrets, and old ghosts echo through a lot of these stories, most of which are worth a shudder.

If the name Koji Suzuki sounds familiar, it is because he is the author of Ring which is pretty much the reason why Hollywood can't stop itself from putting out about three ripped-off-from-Asia horror movies a year. Fact is, Ring was powerful enough that several of it's themes, from fear of technology to the concept of thinking of digital copying as a virus, have infected (pun intended) a good chunk of Asian movies, too. Make no mistake, One Missed Call is basically Ring with very little thematic change (i.e. "Let's investigate a ghost that kills using technology to get you. Look, there are clues!"), even if the plot is different. See also Shutter, that borrows again the idea of female ghost, digital copying, and following a subtle line of clues to be free.

I picked "Watercolors" because it really had the potential to be the best and scariest story for some time. It just sort of, you know...well, I'll get to that. Imagine you are in an old building, taking up one of the lower floors with a play production. And you get a leak threatening to ruin everything. You go up to the floor above, which seems to be dark and abandoned, and feel around until you find a bathroom that is the source of the leak. But, even though the floor is quiet, and all the lights were out for some time, and the bathroom is filling with water, you can't help but notice that one of the stalls is locked from the inside.

In my last post, I pointed out that vulnerability is a strong aspect of horror stories. You are scared because you feel that it can happen to you. People who go "it's just a movie" have the least fun with horror movies ever, and often should be avoided as far as having a movie partner goes. The unknown makes us feel vulnerable, so we are scared of it. In the last post, I also noted that bathrooms are vulnerable places. Just about any horror scenario, and quite a few non-horror ones, are made worse if you think about being caught in the bathroom. Imagine being in your living room and you hear the sound of the backdoor's knob being jiggled. Now picture being in your bathroom and hearing the same thing. This story, though, uses the bathroom's vulnerability in reverse. It is not the protagonist who is vulnerable in the bathroom, it is whoever is behind that locked stall, sitting for who knows how long in the dark.

The story seriously impressed me the first time I read it, and I've wanted to write a homage to it ever since. The Hodgson story "Call in the Dawn" is an early version of the same thing. Something is where it makes no sense to be, and this something doesn't play by the rules we attribute to sanity. My version was to involve some variation on a shipwreck scene. I'm thinking something like this: a man is lost overboard and floats for a couple of days. One night, as he watches the sun set, he feels a hand grab his foot, and then childsized hands pull up his pants leg, and start crawling up his back. Sure, it's not the same story, but it's inspired by the same sense of fear.

The caveat to Suzuki's story is this, though: the ending sucks. Well, it doesn't suck so much as it kind of runs at right angles to the rest of the story. Turns out that part of what he is exploring with the story is the nature of art and artist, and so the story goes on for a bit after that and by the time it is done, that closed stall in an abandoned bathroom has started to fade from the mind.

Still, though, creepy.

Si Vales, Valeo

October 02, 2008. Thursday.

(11:32:20 AM CDT) Giganews?

I use newsgroups for three groups: alt.horror.cthulhu, alt.smokers.pipes, and alt.games.int-fiction. The first one I have been going to for years, though mostly as a lurker for the past five, the second one I just glance at because the guys on it tend to be fairly erudite at times, and the last one I look at to keep abreast of comps and new releases. I might, in the long run, look at about 800 entries in a month, each one about a paragraph in length, or shorter. What is that? Maybe a meg?

Today, I get a letter from Comcast. Turns out that since 2001 they have been using Giganews to provide their users with "free" newsgroup capabilities. "Free" as in packaging*. It's not like I am NOT paying for their service. It's just that so few users use usenet that the few that are paying for it aren't making up the difference, I would imagine. Well, more and more people use Google Groups everyday, but they don't quite know what a newsgroup is, and often think that it's a message board. Or something. Anyhow, since me and the five others using Comcast's newsgroup service through Giganews aren't justifying the cost, they are dropping it. Sure, it's probably "me and the thousands of others", but Comcast isn't losing sleep over the number, I assure you.

On October 25, I have the option of paying Giganews. The bad thing is, their lowest price seems to be about 8 bucks a month. 8 dollars a month for their most limited features. If I want, I can pay 20 bucks a month and go whole hog. For newsgroups. Look up above. I would reckon, if you include my brief stint on the binary.pictures._______ days, that my total usenet usage is about 300 megs. If Giganews had a "20 bucks a year, with 1 gig a month" kind of deal, I might take it. I am not paying them $72 a year, though.

I am going to Google Groups. God help me.

Si Vales, Valeo

*: the terminology gets messed around with and different people have different meanings, but this is what I mean. The first two are accepted uses, generally speaking, with the last two being needed phrases to add to the collective. Free as in air is free without attachment. Free as in beer has attachment. If a friend buys you a beer, you buy him a beer later on. The beer you are currently drinking IS free, but there is an expectation that you will make it worth your friend's while. Also used to say that the free thing is permanent, that beer only stays with you until the next trip to the bathroom. At any rate, it's free but with a catch. Free as in packaging is how I say "you pay for it, technically, because it's price is included, but it makes up such an unappreciated piece of the cost that you ignore it, if you even want it to begin with". I suppose there needs to be a Free as in batteries included (also "free as in bonus features") for those things you want, and are made to look like a bonus item, but whose cost-value is included in the original. Think "Buy this movie, get XXXXXXXX's college film for free!" If it was free, you could just download it. If it's on a DVD, it's a cost-value factor.

October 01, 2008. Wednesday.

(11:56:33 PM CDT) 30 Days to Halloween - William Hope Hodgson's "The Call in the Dawn"

I have to admit that I'm a bit dissapointed. I was hoping my first entry in this years "countdown to Halloween" would be something that I could post some etext of, but no such look it seems. I've tried searching about online and haven't found much of anything. Which is sad, because this one has a special something about it. "The Call in the Dawn", also called "The Voice in the Dawn" (as something of a reference to his much more famous, and easier to link to story: "A Voice in the Night", the inspiration for Matango, aka the Japanese movie with mushrooms), is not even quite a horror story. A ship comes upon a bed of thick sea weed that has it's own little ecosystem going. Then, every morning (for I think three days, but don't quite quote me on this), they hear a voice shout out "SON OF MAN. SON OF MAN. SON OF MAN." and then the piping of a flute. As they explore the seaweed, they find no humans. They do find a wreck covered in seaweed, but now years old and a large cephalopod, but nothing that could be shouting out. Yet, time and time again they hear it.

It is not exactly prestented as a horror story, but is the kind of story I like for creeping myself out. Just that slight hint that something has gone very, very wrong in the world but not in any way you can put your finger on. The principle combines two horror themes together, "something in the wrong place" and "no confirmation of truth". To get the vibe, think about this one:

You go down into your family's basement and are looking through a few old records in preparation for a retro-party. While down there, you hear the sound of a baby crying. You go upstairs and then check to see if where it coming from, sticking your head out of the front door, but you see nothing. You go back downstairs, resume the search when you hear it again. You ignore it this time, thinking it's just some prank or maybe a neighbor's kid whose voice is being carried by the wind. It sounds pretty muffled, but it seems weird that it would come down into the basement like this. You find a few old records to play and go head upstairs, but as you get about half way you hear it again. This time, though, your change in position helps you to almost pinpoint it, before it stops, it's coming from underneath basement floor.

Now, in traditional horror, it would have been knocking sounds and the ending would have been it's coming from the floor above you and you would have started with the assurance you were supposed to be alone. Alone is vulnerable. You know what else is vulnerable? Going to the bathroom. Traditional horror combines elements of the unknown with a sense of vulnerability. Try this, you are in a locked house, by yourself, on the toilet, and then you hear the shower curtain open. See, freaked up. You would panic. However, vulnerability and the unknown can sometimes be reversed. Knowing that something is not known can be it's own sense of vulnerability. Imagine you get done doing your business, go and see what time it is, and then come back because you forgot to hang up the hand towel after washing your hands. Except, when you get there you find it already hanging. The shower curtain is now closed when you are sure you left it open. You heard no one moving around, though. Sure, you could have done it without thinking about it. Maybe it's just a lapse in memory, but maybe, the truth you think is the truth is wrong. You don't trust your own memory so you don't know what's behind the shower curtain. Maybe you are not alone in a locked house. Maybe you are, and are just absent minded. Maybe there is some way for a dying baby to be underneath your basement. And maybe, somehow, an old sailor is alive in a sea of weeds singing out a mournful prayer. Maybe something inhuman is waiting in those same seaweeds.

(10:16:41 PM CDT) Rule of Thumb. Sturgeon's Rule. The Sweetest Thing.

Webcomics have delighted me today. From reverse Godwins on Dinosaur Comics to this ditty from today(m10d01y08)'s xkcd:

I enjoy the novel he is poking fun at, there, but still chuckled pretty hard at it. Then I realized, that graph is all wrong. It doesn't really convey what he is trying to say. At least it doesn't seem, too. That graph posits that normal books have about a 80% chance of being good while books laden with neologisms are down to the 10% mark. It seems like it was meant more to be "Chance a book is bad" and the graph should be reversed. Maybe not, since that would be a similar graph, assuming you hold that books are either bad or good. At any rate, it also occurred to me that this is a graph that begs for Sturgeon's Law to be applied to it. Which is exactly what I done...did...done did:

And that's just about true, dammit.

For those in need of a quick pick me up, I'll leave you with this one, from the latest ASofterWorld:

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:42:06 PM CDT) Feel Free to Duly Commiserate or in Schadenfreude to Participate

How would that go as a more fleshed out poem? "O muse, oh higher powers/ Oh readers, oh word devourers:/ Partake upon my moribund joy./ Feel free to duly commiserate,/ or in Schadenfreude to participate,/ but for a moment your attention hie,/ and think upon my plight,/ and know it given without ploy." and cetera. I might actually work on that. The Ode to Grad School. Or something.

I was going to head down to UAH campus or the Mall today for various reasons (getting out, talking with people, finding a holiday season (or fall semester) sort of job) but ended up not doing so because I also had to do a few things more nearby (wait for UPS, though possibly in vain order showed up while I was waiting, fill out a couple of forms, look up some things, talk to the office people here at Fontainbleu) and, though my schedule could have done all of those things in a single day, I decided to split them. The "not-here" errands can wait until Friday and Sarah and I can do them jointly with our other various errands.

One of the forms that I am filling out is a general scholarship form for Grad School, that should have been done months ago. Why wasn't it? Because the options for financial aid on it seem to imply that scholarships go towards public librarians, media specialists, female librarians (but surely they are the majority?), minority librarians, law librarians, and current/ex-librarians who are going back to school. My GPA is fair, and my test score is excellent, but it doesn't seem very likely that me taking six semester hours through an online program is likely to get much considering that I plan to be an university or scientific librarian and don't fit most of the other options. Still, though, it would be bad form for me to not try and so I will. It's not that I'm bitter or anything, I just feel that such forms are of a lesser pragmatic purpose for me than they would be for, say, a black, female ex-public-librarian planning on going into K-12 media specialties.

This leaves two broad choices that are readily apparent. I can get a student loan (through the government, if possible, where the interest rates are generally low) or I can move down to Tuscaloosa to do internship. Loans don't scare me that much, they are investment and generally come in under the rate of inflation (meaning that if I get only a few, and pay them off quick, then the rate that tuition tend to rise will be more than the loans I have, if I pay them off quick). Internship is better in a dozen ways, but it looks like UA-SLIS interns get about $500 and 1/2 tuition. That comes out to be about 9 free semester hours a year, but is replaced with about 9 months of living costs (which is more, even at the cheap end, the stipends would probably just make up the difference of the actual rent, not including any of the utility bills or such). This means that for that to be an option, it probably needs to include Sarah and I moving whole hog down to Tuscaloosa, which is something I want to avoid right now.

The third, kind of unspoken choice, is to get a job that makes enough money to generate about $1300 a semester (or about $325 a month) and then work it to pay off the semester ahead (assuming no installment plan). There are pluses and minuses to this, as well, and I'll leave them unspoken.

Now that I think about it, there is a fourth choice. I could alter my plans with the intention of going into K-12 librarianship for a few years (say, five). I could focus on employment at low income areas, and apply for partial loan reimbursement on top my salary and the like. I have to say that K-12 does interest me from time to time, while the research and design options are about as limited as they can get, the promotion of literature and proper research is just about at it's highest (arguably, since by University most students have already picked up their own brand of study habits) and the hours are better than any other librarian, with a starting pay that is better than most public librarians can get.

Anyhow, that's sort of what my mind has been thinking about today. I guess I'll get the medical history stuff filled out and then ready to mail, and wait to Sarah gets back to talk about financial aid choices.

And then I will work on that poem.

Si Vales, Valeo

(11:48:57 AM CDT) The One In Which I Promote Things: Shadow Out of Time CD and Cory Doctorow's Content

In what makes my post yesterday ("I'm Feelin' It") look like some sort of trickery, it looks like the Howard Phillip Lovecraft Historical Society has released, today, The Shadow Out of Time radioplay (for those Darkest of the Hillside Thickets fans out there, this is bound to confuse searching for The Shadow Out of Tim online, heh. At $19.50, it's a step up from their previous Radioplays (both which were in the $17 range), and I have not heard it so I can't say for sure that it's as good as their other output. At the Mountain of Madness is one of the best HPL-based productions to date, and The Dunwich Horror has a fair amount of things going for it. I'm not sure when I can get it, but as soon as I do, I'll let you know how it goes.

That was my surprise for this morning. Last night I had another surprise. I love Cory Doctorow, I do, and I say this in respect, but he does tend to be his biggest promoter. That's fine. This is a shit time for any writer to not be a self-promoter. Publishers (with some exceptions, most of them genre or limited) just don't seem to care about getting a book sold until it is already a best seller. Still, it caught me off guard to find out that Doctorow has released a book called Content that includes reprints of speeches and essays he has written on technology, DRM, copyright, and cetera. I've read the first couple of essays (the book, like most of his, is available for free through his website and protected by a Creative Commons license, go to the link above or to the free download page to get a copy if you like ebooks or just want to browse) and I enjoyed them (well, they are roughly the same essay). I know most of his stances, as does any reader of BoingBoing, and so it's old hat sort of stuff, but the writing style is a lot better here than his BoingBoing posts, some of which seem hastily written and can be reactionary. I'll read through the book a couple-three essays a night. To see what I am talking about, I highly recommend you go and read the first chapter, a speech he gave to Microsoft to encourage them to avoid DRM. It was in 2004, and with several DRM servers shutting down as of late, it does seem like even better advice to spread around now.

I'll share a couple of quotes from the first essay. First: "The hardware-dependent ebooks, the DRM use-and-copy-re-stricted ebooks, they're cratering. Sales measured in the tens, sometimes the hundreds. Science fiction is a niche business, but when you're selling copies by the ten, that's not even a business, it's a hobby." And, more extensive, because it shows off one of Doctorow's common themes, that most so-called attempts at security merely hurt the honest while doing nothing to slow down the intelligent thief:

There is no market demand for this "feature." None of your customers want you to make expensive modifications to your products that make backing up and restoring even harder. And there is no moment when your customers will be less forgiving than the moment that they are recovering from catastrophic technology failures.

I speak from experience. Because I buy a new PowerBook every ten months, and because I always order the new models the day they're announced, I get a lot of lemons from Apple. That means that I hit Apple's three-iTunes-authorized-computers limit pretty early on and found myself unable to play the hundreds of dollars' worth of iTunes songs I'd bought because one of my authorized machines was a lemon that Apple had broken up for parts, one was in the shop getting fixed by Apple, and one was my mom's computer, 3,000 miles away in Toronto.

If I had been a less good customer for Apple's hardware, I would have been fine. If I had been a less enthusiastic evange- list for Apple's products -- if I hadn't shown my mom how iTunes Music Store worked -- I would have been fine. If I hadn't bought so much iTunes music that burning it to CD and re-ripping it and re-keying all my metadata was too daunting a task to consider, I would have been fine.

Si Vales, Valeo

Written by W Doug Bolden

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