Posts filed under 'Books'

Books That I Must Have

Awesome.

The images arrayed here come from “The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss” (University of Chicago Press, 2007), by Claire Nouvian, a French journalist and film director. In its preface, Ms. Nouvian writes of an epiphany that began her undersea journey.

“It was as though a veil had been lifted,” she says, “revealing unexpected points of view, vaster and more promising.”

The photographs she has selected celebrate that sense of the unexpected. Bizarre species from as far down as four and half miles are shown in remarkable detail, their tentacles lashing, eyes bulging, lights flashing. The eerie translucence of many of the gelatinous creatures seems to defy common sense. They seem to be living water.

On page after page, it is as if aliens had descended from another world to amaze and delight. A small octopus looks like a child’s squeeze toy. A seadevil looks like something out of a bad dream. A Ping-Pong tree sponge rivals artwork that might be seen in an upscale gallery.

(…)

One shows a dense colony of brittle stars, their arms intertwined and overlapping, their masses in the distance merging with the blackness of the seabed, alive, inhabiting a place once thought to be a lifeless desert.

Craig M. Young of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology writes in the book that the diversity of life in the abyss “may exceed that of the Amazon Rain Forest and the Great Barrier Reef combined.”

Do be sure to click through to the review and check out the slideshow for more bizarre creatures. And tell me that the yellow dumbo octopus doesn’t look just like a Pokemon.

2 comments May 22nd, 2007 at 11:07am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Coolness,Science,Weirdness

Mitterature

Wait… what?

What books did Romney claim as his favorites? The Bible is his favorite book. His favorite novel is Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer and Scientology founder. The first we would have expected, but the second is so wacky, it breathes new life into the tired old reporter’s trope: There must be something we can learn about Romney by examining this answer.

(…)

The whole tumbling horror of the Battlefield Earth experience is so profound it nearly comes out the other side and achieves a kind of perfection of awfulness. Is Romney being ironic, then, like those people who buy clown art? Unlikely. There’s not a big irony bloc in the GOP and Battlefield Earth is a thousand-page book. No one can sustain irony for that long. (At 13,000 words per dollar it is a great value, though, which might appeal to notoriously frugal New Hampshire voters.) Romney was quick to point out that he disagreed with Scientology, so he wasn’t going for that vote, or the smaller, untapped, creepy-Hubbard-ascot-fetish vote. Is Romney trying to act like he’s a regular guy? Only 8 percent of the words in the book are considered “complex,” so he can’t be labeled an elitist, but no one trying to look like a common Joe would pick this book. You simply need a deep level of weird to like Battlefield Earth. The speed with which some of his aides tried to distance the governor from his remarks suggests they think he now looks a little too weird.

But I think they should stop covering up for the governor. Let him embrace his choice. There is no obvious stratagem behind it, which means Romney, the most meticulously arrayed and perhaps the most careful of the candidates may be giving us a peek at a robust inner goofball…. Nothing could be more regular than the irony-free love of schlock found in overwrought thrillers written by self-aggrandizing madmen.

Having seen the so-bad-it’s-brilliant movie version, I am 100% on board with the hilarity of a major Republican presidential candidate saying that Battlefield Earth is his favorite novel, but I think Slate is overlooking a much bigger story here: The Mormon candidate named The Bible as his favorite book, not the Book Of Mormon. And, of course, Battlefield Earth was written by the creator of Scientology.

So Mitt Romney named not one, but two, favorite books closely associated with religions not his own. Does this strike anyone else as odd, and potentially problematic?

6 comments May 3rd, 2007 at 11:55am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Religion,Republicans,Weirdness

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Kudos to the NYT for working in a reference to Balzac in their editorial about The Great Scrotum Controversy Of Aught-Seven.

February 21st, 2007 at 11:51am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Coolness,Media

Great Moments In Tech Support History

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRjVeRbhtRU
A n00b struggles with a complex new technology. Helpdesk to the rescue!

(h/t Kyklops)

February 15th, 2007 at 10:38am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Monday Media Blogging,Technology

O.J. CSImpson

I think it’s great news that O.J. has written a book about how he would have killed his wife and Ronald Goldman, if he were the killer. As anyone who reads or watches a lot of whodunit crime thrillers like CSI or Criminal Minds or Wire In The Blood knows, the key to catching an insane killer is to get inside his head and understand what he was thinking before, during and after the murder. That O.J. has reached this stage can only be viewed as a testament to how serious he is about his quest to find the real killer or killers and bring them to justice. It should also be recognized for the impressive achievement that it is; typically a person has to be borderline insane themselves in order to inhabit the mind of a killer so thoroughly and completely, so for a sane and peaceable fellow like Mr. Simpson to pull it off is nothing short of amazing.

…Or maybe he just figured out a way to cash in on having committed a double murder without actually admitting to it, but only a hardened cynic could believe that.

3 comments November 17th, 2006 at 11:37am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Wankers

Curious George Gives Hitler The Slip!

This is a rather surreal juxtaposition…

Curious George is every 2-year-old sticking his finger into the light socket, pouring milk onto the floor to watch it pool, creating chaos everywhere. One reason the mischievous monkey is such a popular children’s book character is that he makes 4- to 6-year-olds feel superior: fond memories, but we’ve given all that up now.

(snip)

…[I]n truth, “Curious George” almost didn’t make it onto the page. A new book, “The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey” (Houghton Mifflin), tells of how George’s creators, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become “Curious George” as Nazis prepared to invade.

His original name was “Fifi,” you know.

September 14th, 2005 at 08:08pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Weirdness

Catch-Up Literary Blogging

I’m trying to ease back into blogging gradually after the long vacation, so I’m going to try to get a little caught up on my book reports while I wait for my political muse to inspire me.

I believe the book that would be next up would be Ilium, by Dan Simmons. I’ve read some other stuff by Simmons, the Hyperions and Endymions and whatnot, and my impression was that he created a fascinating and compelling universe, but his prose was kind of jarringly clunky. Either he fixed that in Ilium, or I’ve just gotten used to it. Anyway.

There are three subplots, which gradually orbit into each other as the book progresses.

Subplot 1: The Greek gods (who are apparently some kind of high-tech “post-humans”) have somehow resurrected a bunch of modern historians and sent them back into time to chronicle the siege of Troy, and confirm that everything is unfolding just as described in the Iliad. Apparently only Zeus actually knows how it turns out. One of the historians gets recruited by one of the gods to do some dirty work, and is not so keen on the idea. The descriptions of the battles and the various characters are quite raw and intriguing.

Subplot 2: Humans of the future have become naive, pampered, and eloi-like (not Eli-like), or like the people in Logan’s Run or The Island, except 100 is the magic age instead of 30, and instead of Carousel or “The Island”, the belief is that you go up to Earth’s rings (yes, Earth has artificial rings now) to live with the post-humans. Almost no-one can read words or maps, and there are no long-range vehicles, because everyone just “faxes” from one place to another. And if someone gets killed, they just get faxed back into existence from a backup copy. Anyway, a small band of humans go on a quest to try to reach Earth’s rings, led by The Wandering Jew. No, really.

Subplot 3: The robots/cyborgs (“moravecs”) who work the moons of Jupiter have become alarmed by the fact that the post-humans appear to have terraformed Mars with alarming rapidity, and there are little green men erecting millions and millions of Easter Island-style heads there. They launch a covert mission to Mars to check it out and see what the post-humans are up to. Orphu of Io, Proust enthusiast, is one of the participants (and for some reason, he sounds like an Eschaton commenter to me…).

I leave it up to you to figure out how all these might fit together, and will also tease you with a mention that some literary figures, and not necessarily all Greek ones, show up in some rather unexpected places. Unfortunately, it ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so you (and I) need to read Olympos to see how it all turns out.

4 comments August 28th, 2005 at 05:04pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books

Out-Of-Context Literary Weirdness, Part II

You know how some books have a rundown of “dramatis personae” at the end? From the book I just finished (and will need to blog about when I have some more time), Ilium by Dan Simmons, this is quite possibly the greatest dramatis personae entry Of All Time:

Orphu of Io: eight-ton, six-meter-long, crab-shaped, heavily armored hard-vac moravec who works in the sulfur-torus of Io; Proust enthusiast.

5 comments July 29th, 2005 at 12:40am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Quotes,Weirdness

Out-Of-Context Literary Weirdness

From the book I just started, Heaven by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen:

He knew that there would be squids in the lemon trees again, and most likely crabs in the sagegrass as well.

Like all of No-Moon’s sailors, Second-best Sailor always carried a piece of his wife with him, locked away in a mesh closet in his cabin so that the waters could flow over her and keep her healthy. A wifepiece was the best way to maintain mental equilibrium and physical condition on the long voyages away from the home lagoon.

…Second-best Sailor’s father, Talkative Forager, had won a sailor suit in a game of float-the-cube.

And that’s just in the first twelve pages! I have high hopes.

1 comment July 29th, 2005 at 12:23am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Quotes,Weirdness

Literary Catching-Up

I’ll get to my current book in a later post, but I wanted to cover the one I finished recently first. It’s an anthology of Theodore Sturgeon short stories called Beyond. I’m sure I’ve read Sturgeon before, especially in my voracious youth, but I don’t associate him with anything. I think that’s changed now.

We have:

A story called “Need”, where one of the characters can sense the needs of others, uncomfortably so. So he roams around as sort of a freelance fixer, working to satisfy everyone’s needs (except junkies, who he runs out of town). The thing is, he’s not a very nice or compassionate guy – he’s kind of a shady jerk, really – but he acts like a humanitarian just to make the Need go away.

Another one where a tinkerer working on a special radio transmitter jerry-rigs a mutton-bone in tinfoil as a makeshift condenser, and discovers that anyone hooked up to the radio experiences the entire life of the bone’s original owner.

Another one where the human race, dying off at the height of its powers, decides to designate a successor and hand off all its vast wealth of knowledge to… the otters.

But I think my personal favorite is the one about this broken-down drunken sailor, who has permanent DTs (“the horrors”), gets washed up on a desert island inhabited by intelligent, telepathic worms (well, more like twined pairs of tentacles with an underground body), who offer to obey his every whim if he agrees to kill the giant cannibalistic worm that lives in the middle of the island, and which will eventually grow large enough to reach anywhere on the island.

Strange, strange stuff. Will need to get my hands on some more Sturgeon, I think…

1 comment July 16th, 2005 at 04:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Coolness,Weirdness

Belated Overseer Wrap-Up

Well, I finished Jonathan Rabb’s The Overseer (more here and here) about a month ago, and I’ve been terribly lax on the postmortem I intended. Ideally, I was thinking about going through the actual text of the fictional On Supremacy (think Machiavelli’s The Prince on meth) and pointing out all the parallels with the current Republican party, but there were just too many of them…

But there was one quote that I wanted to put up, because it was such an intriguing take on states’ rights, and one that I had never seen before:

“Your politics,” broke in Zander, “are supposed to be about dismantling big government, giving power back to the people, or have I missed the point? It seems to me you folks on the Right are the ones who want to tell the people what’s good for them, even when they don’t realize it themselves.”

“…[D]o you think we’re giving up power by doing that? We’re simply letting the states deal with the petty quarrels. ‘Get government out of your backyard.’ It’s a clever slogan, isn’t it? Keeps them preoccupied with the minutiae. Actually, we’re taking their minds off the federal government, giving them something smaller to play with so that they leave us alone to handle the larger issues.

“Let government do what it’s best designed for – turn a maximum profit without having to worry about the few who can’t make it on their own. The more we focus the people’s interest on state government, the less they focus on the federal, the less they get in our way. Once you create a thoroughly disjointed electorate – a group of people concerned only with their own backyards – you can achieve great things.”

Chilling.

1 comment July 9th, 2005 at 06:35pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Politics,Republicans

The Memepire Strikes Back

Okay, I admit, I’ve kinda been procrastinating on this book meme that Phila tagged me with, because I, like, already did one, and I’ve been generally distracted by various goings-on, but here goes:

Number of books I own: Jeez, that’s a toughie. I’d guess I probably have at least four or five hundred here, and maybe two or three times that in my mom’s garage in California. So we’ll call it an even 2,000. Of course, I’m about as good at estimating this sort of thing as Christopher Walken was in that census sketch…

Last book I bought: I’m not sure if that’s actually changed since the last book meme, so I’ll say either 1602, a graphic novel that takes place in an alternate past where a whole bunch of the Marvel heroes were roaming around in 1602 instead of modern times, or Gridlink’d, by Neal Asher, “where the main character is a government agent who has been gridlinked (connected to the cyberuniverse in realtime) for so long that he’s started to forget how to be human. His eccentric and mysterious boss has him disconnect from the net to reconnect with his humanity while investigating a massive teleportation disaster, while being chased by a crazy vengeful terrorist and his goons and evil psychotic android.” And did I mention that the terrorist may be in the pay of an enigmatic space alien composed of a three giant spheres that calls itself “Dragon” and is able to create dinosaur-men to do its bidding? Or that the evil psychotic android likes to collect souvenirs from its victims (kid stuff, like a rubber ball or binoculars) and arrange them around himself when he’s not killing people?

Last book I read: Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. I think I had just started in on it when the last book meme rolled around. Essentially, the main character is some sort of terrorist or anarchist, who was killed and had his mind (which was stored on a hard drive at the base of his skull, as is customary) put in deep storage for a while, but got pulled out of it and “resleeved” in a new body to investigate a 350-year-old filthy-rich guy’s apparent suicide, because the filthy-rich guy doesn’t believe that he would kill himself when he knows full well that he has a backup copy of his mind in a remote storage facility. Devious, twisty stuff, set in a very intriguing, seedy and coherent universe that hangs together very well. May one day be a Major Motion Picture, although that looks like it’s stalled right now.

Five books that mean a lot to me: Wow, that’s another serious toughie. There are a lot of books that I really like, but I don’t ordinarily form emotional attachments to them. I’ll take a stab at it, but my choices are going to be a little strange…

Queen Of Angels, by Greg Bear. I scrounged this from my older brother’s paperback collection many many years ago, and it totally blew my mind. Not only was it the first book I read to really explore the possibilities of nanotechnology, but it had a description of how the mind works that profoundly resonated with me – very compartmentalized, with independent agents and personalities for different tasks and functions.

The Book Of Strange Facts And Useless Information, by George H. Morris. My first and very favorite book of trivia, which I got when I was probably about 10 or 11. I’m pretty sure my love of trivia started here.

National Geographic Atlas, 1981 Edition. Just a bloody huge honkin’ book with all kinds of good stuff in it. I loved that book as a kid, and used it to memorize state and world capitols, and to find weird/cool place names, like Sexmoan in the Phillippines. I also remember noticing that almost every town & city in Madagascar started with an A.

World Almanac And Book Of Facts, 1989 Edition. Another great source of trivia, with fascinating facts like the number of female urologists in the US between the ages of 55 & 64 (two), which I tormented my college suitemates with for weeks, if not months. Plus I needed to get caught up on my world capitols, since there were some new ones.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson. I only have a hazy recollection of the actual content, but I have fond memories of my dad reading it to me as a kid. My dad is very cool. And a bit weird.

Theoretically, I’m supposed to pass this along to five more people, but I’m a little hesitant to do that, since this is so similar to the book meme that passed through the blogosphere just two months ago. So I’m going to make my link in the chain more of a voluntary, opt-in one: If you didn’t get the last book meme, or if you’d like to do another, please do, and let me know so I can take lots of credit for it.

Codename V. has already asked to be included.

3 comments June 8th, 2005 at 06:49pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Memes

More Overseer

I have finished the main body of Jonathan Rabb’s The Overseer, but I’m going to attempt to tackle the nifty bonus at the end; namely, the (fictional) On Supremacy treatise itself.

One the most pivotal and chilling elements of The Overseer is education, which the Shadowy Republican Cabal uses in secretive camps to indoctrinate and train an elite cadre of loyal killers and operatives. Here is a sampling of the educational techniques – again, there are some eerie echoes of themes that we hear today. This excerpt describes a class of 6- or 7-year-olds who have just read Cinderella:

In quick succession, the children shouted out a long list of [Cinderella’s stepsisters’] infractions, the most poignant from a shy boy who had waited until all the others had quieted down to speak.

“They made her feel very bad and said that nobody liked her.”

A silence filled the room, several heads turning toward the boy as the teacher, in her most motherly tone, added, “And that’s probably the worst thing, isn’t it? To make special people, like Cinderella, feel that they don’t belong, that they’ve done something wrong. And people who do that shouldn’t be our friends, should they? And we don’t have to like them, do we?” A chorus of nos. “In fact, sometimes it’s all right not to like certain people. People who scare us, or hurt us, or make us feel bad about ourselves. People like Cinderella’s stepsisters, who knew how special Cinderella was, but who did everything they could to hurt her. It’s important to know that you have to watch out for those people. And you shouldn’t feel bad if you begin to dislike them. Dislike them so much that you begin to hate them.”

It’s a little over the top, but I can’t help but think of the Right’s “woe is poor little ol’ me, oppressed and condescended to by those mean know-it-all liberal elitists, they’re all traitors who should be deported or shot” narrative, and it suddenly becomes not so hard to believe that they received an indoctrination like this.

4 comments June 3rd, 2005 at 12:35am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Republicans

Meet The Overseer

“Hatred, if directed properly, is a powerful tool…. [It] makes the people docile and unimaginative.”

On Supremacy, Chapter XV

Okay, so, I think I’m close enough to the end of my book now to describe it fairly accurately. It’s The Overseer, by Jonathan Rabb, and my mother sent it to me because it scared the bejesus out of her (not that she had a whole lot of bejesus to begin with). The basic premise is that a Swiss monk, a contemporary of Machiavelli, wrote a treatise called On Supremacy that made The Prince look like one of those books that tells you which fork to use with your salad. It has fallen into the hands of a Shadowy Republican Cabal, and they’re using it as a roadmap to take over absolute power of the United States.

Essentially, the way the On Supremacy gameplan works is, there are three spheres: Financial, Educational, and Political, each with its own leader. They are independent of each other, but they are all controlled and coordinated by an “overseer”, who is the only one with the big picture. The takeover itself is to be executed via a series of rapid-fire catastrophes, terrorist attacks, assassinations, and financial crises, using brainwashed operatives created by the educational sphere. The attacks will expose the country’s weakness and decadence, and allow the Shadowy Republican Cabal with its firm steady hand and unerring moral compass to take absolute control. For our own good, of course.

What makes the book scary is that it was written in 1998.

I realized there were too many juicy and alarmingly apt quotes from the book to weigh down a single post with, so I will be posting additional ones here and there as the mood strikes, and possibly some more tidbits about the book.

9 comments June 1st, 2005 at 12:28am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Republicans

MSBC3K?

This sounds like a brilliant idea:

Celebrating clunky sentences and mixed metaphors, self-indulgent prose and just plain old bad writing, Lit Lite, a weekly literary series, invites performers to select and read from their favorite bad books. And so one evening last week at the Chelsea restaurant Elmo, Greg Walloch, a stand-up comic, chose to deliver passages from two novels by the actor Ethan Hawke, “The Hottest Stat” and “Ash Wednesday.”

“Man, when I first met Christy – and this is no joke, a cliche but no joke – it was like my heart was literally stuck on my esophagus,” Mr. Walloch read from “Ash Wednesday” as an audience of more than 40 groaned and giggled. It was soon revealed that Christy is a woman with a posterior so “dynamite,” that, “if you looked at her from the back you’d swear she was a black chick.” Mr. Walloch, who is white, deadpanned, “That happens to meall the time.”

….Earlier this month, in keeping with the theme “Women’s Problems,” performers read excerpts from Rosie O’Donnell’s free-verse poetry blog (onceadored.blogspot.com), “Yvonne: An Autobiography,” by the actress Yvonne De Carlo, who played Lily Munster in the television series “The Munsters,” and Eve Ensler’s “Good Body.” Tonight, under the banner “Difficult People,” Jodi Lennon, a comedy writer, will present “Hold My Gold,” a hip-hop how-to guide for white girls.

I envy all of you who are in NYC and have the opportunity to partake of such giddy entertainments. I especially approve of anything that mocks Ethan Hawke for the pretentious, fatuous twerp he is.

Also, Flotilla DeBarge may be The Best Drag Queen Name Ever.

May 17th, 2005 at 09:06am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Coolness,Favorites

Nothing Is Over Until You Say It’s Over!!!

Or until the last sequel is over.

NYT Week In Review has an article about how Star Wars is “so over,” and about how it’s not really science fiction anyway. It’s not as good as driftglass’s explanation of why Star Trek isn’t really science fiction, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. (By an odd coincidence, the NYT article featured numerous quotes from none other than Richard K. Morgan, the author of Altered Carbon, which I am nearing the end of and enjoying very much.)

Like science itself, science fiction has evolved since the days of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the end of World War II, the genre has shifted its focus from space and time travel to more complex speculations on how the future, whatever its shape, will affect the individual.

That shift has only accelerated in recent years, as biotech and genetic engineering have moved to center stage in science and captured writers’ imaginations, and as the lines between science fiction and other genres begin to blur. “We’re starting to look inward, rather than outward,” Mr. Morgan said. “There are exciting and scary things going to be happening in our bodies.”

One problem with “Star Wars,” science fiction writers say, is that it is not, ultimately, concerned with science, but rather with a timeless vision of good and evil. Mr. Lucas has said that his story, especially the journeys of his central characters from innocence through trials by fire to wisdom and acceptance, were rooted in Joseph Campbell’s comparative studies of world mythologies, and especially in his popular book, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

On the other hand, the first trilogy still works quite well as a sweeping epic – good action, good effects, good story arc, even though Return Of The Jedi would have been a lot better without the Ewoks. (Best quote from the NYT article: “I fell asleep during the third one, when they brought out the Care Bears.”)

Mysteriously (or politely?) unmentioned in the article is the fact that the second trilogy is a complete disaster, and it has nothing to do with its sci-fi street cred. I have no idea what there was about the first trilogy or subsequent research that led Lucas to the conclusion that Star Wars audiences were hungry for more merchant guild intrigue, parliamentary procedure, wooden acting, and painful dialogue (or is it wooden dialogue and painful acting?), but he certainly has embraced that approach with self-immolating gusto. Perhaps a little more Hero’s Journey would have helped, but the second trilogy is essentially The Villain’s Journey, which could potentially be far more interesting if it weren’t, y’know, virtually nonexistent through the first two movies…

Here’s what I don’t get, though:

Science fiction writers, however, are awaiting the release for a different reason. To them, “Star Wars” is nothing more than a space opera, and if the big guy in the black cloak is finally singing, that means the show is over. The saga continues no longer.

“That’s the past of science fiction you’re talking about,” said Richard K. Morgan, the British cyberpunk-noir writer whose most recent novel is “Market Forces.”

No-one seriously thinks that the end of Star Wars is going to usher in a new era of science fiction fims, do they? Effects-heavy blockbusters will continue to be box office gold, while challenging, thought-provoking science fiction films will continue to be alienating and off-putting box-office poison, and/or unsuccessfully marketed as something they’re not (i.e., Solaris). Speaking as someone who reads a lot of science fiction books and watches a lot of science fiction films, I can attest that they are two completely different animals, and will probably remain that way. A large part of this is that the best science fiction books are all but unfilmable, except maybe as animation. Stephen Donaldson’s Gap Series? David Brin’s Kiln People or Uplift Trilogies? Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy? William Gibson’s Neuromancer? Any of Iain Banks’ Culture novels? Anything by A.A. Attanasio or Greg Bear (okay, maybe not the Darwin’s Radio books)? All great stuff, but I just can’t see any of it translating to the big screen.

In the end, I suppose the question is, Is this such a bad thing? By their very nature, movies are visual and surface-oriented, and thus not the best instrument for probing depths and subtleties. It can be done to a certain extent, but anything that requires significant narrative explanation or exposition of inner thoughts is going to be tricky and not entirely successful (see: Dune). This is not unique to science fiction, either. Books and movies are just two completely different experiences, to be enjoyed on their own merits. And that’s without even getting into the superior portability of books, or how easy they are to “pause” or “rewind,” or how you can understand every word you’re meant to understand, or how it doesn’t matter how big or HD your screen is. And without getting into the shared social experience of watching a movie with other people, complete with pop and popcorn, maybe in the comfort of your own living room, maybe in a darkened room full of strangers and THX surround sound; or the poetry of great actors, directors, or cinematographers in action. Plus I would much rather watch kung-fu than read about it…

6 comments May 1st, 2005 at 06:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Favorites,Movies

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Once again, I am taking liberties with myself (whoa!) – this week’s quote is in fact an excerpt from the book I am currently reading: Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan (see Book Meme posting for more information). It’s really not a political book, but it has a quote from an imaginary political book that had some very aptly cynical observations (albeit perhaps a bit… militant for my tastes).

The personal, as everyone’s so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide out from under with a wink and a grin…. [call for bloody personal vengeance deleted] And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous, marks the difference – the only difference in their eyes – between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and time again they cream your liquidation, your displacement and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life, and that it’s nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.
QUELLCRIST FALCONER
Things I Should Have Learned by Now
Volume II

I wonder if the call waiting will say “Federal Bureau of Investigation”, or just “FBI”…

And here is a subversive, militant cat (as evidenced by Of Arms and Men on the left, and the Risk game above, suggesting dreams of World Conquest):

Dozer has apparently selected Pictionary, a bold move for someone without opposable thumbs. Posted by Hello

6 comments April 22nd, 2005 at 06:36pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Favorites,Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Wacky Book Questions!

Well, thanks to Thersites, I am now obliged to answer some pointless-yet-thought-provoking book questions…

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Solaris. Unless there’s a novelization of Waterworld

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I’m sure there’s hundreds of them, but I think Mrs. Stainless Steel Rat comes to mind first. Dead sexy, resourceful, lethal, smart, and tolerant.

The last book you bought is:

I will take this to mean “intentionally”, rather than “by default ’cause I didn’t decline the book club selection fast enough”…

I’m not rightly sure, actually – I think it may have actually been a cheesy Marvel graphic novel called 1602, where various Marvel characters like Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Nick Fury, and The X-Men are living and heroing (or villaining) in 1602.

As far as a real book without any pictures, I think it might be Gridlink’d, by Neal Asher, where the main character is a government agent who has been gridlinked (connected to the cyberuniverse in realtime) for so long that he’s started to forget how to be human. His eccentric and mysterious boss has him disconnect from the net to reconnect with his humanity while investigating a massive teleportation disaster, while being chased by a crazy vengeful terrorist and his goons and evil psychotic android.

It’s, um, not exactly literary, but fun stuff all the same.

The last book you read:

Lempriere’s Dictionary, by Lawrence Norfolk. My stepmother raved about it and loaned me her copy. The main character is a bookish young 18th-century classical scholar who gets sucked into a mysterious and elaborate conspiracy involving the East India Company. The arcane Greek mythology references made it difficult to get into, but after the scene with the village priest who could only achieve sexual climax by covering himself in mashed potatoes, I was pretty much hooked.

What are you currently reading?

Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. More cheesy sci-fi, it’s kind of like a mild amalgam of noir and cyberpunk. It’s set in a future where everyone (except Catholics, for religious reasons) has hard drives in their heads that store their consciousness, so if their body is killed they can just be “resleeved” in a new one. There is almost no death penalty at all; instead, punishments are in terms of “dislocation”, where the criminal’s consciousness is stored for months, years, or decades and then resleeved. Seems a bit ineffective to me compared to prison, but what do I know. Anyway, the main character is a criminal who also happens to have outstanding detective training, conditionally reprieved, hired and resleeved by a 350-year-old gazillionaire who wants answers to his own death. You see, he was found in his study with his head blown off (fortunately for him, his consciousness is remotely backed up every 48 hours), and he wants the protagonist to prove that he was “murdered”, and did not commit “suicide”, which is what the police have decided. Pretty intriguing so far – I have a broad-outline theory on what might have happened.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Ouch, that’s a toughie. Definitely Queen Of Angels by Greg Bear, which is just amazing. Possibly the Watchmen graphic novel by Alan Moore. Dune, by Frank Herbert (only the first one, though…). If I may combine a bit, I would round it out with Tom Weller’s Science Made Stupid and Culture Made Stupid, and both volumes of Monty Python: All The Words.

UPDATE: Okay, much as I love Dune, I think I would have to replace it with How To Build A Seaworthy Raft Out Of Palm Trees And Coconuts, by Hibiscus J. Moped.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

The shadowy and mysterious Codename V., whose reviewing skills are exemplary.

driftglass, because he’s a honking great bibliophile and borderline insane.

LJ/Aquaria
, because she’s a writer herself, and maybe this’ll get her to come back…

7 comments April 11th, 2005 at 09:29pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Memes

RIP, Hunter S.

May your afterlife be an eternity of good trips. May you keep writing, and find some way to publish from beyond. If you have to possess someone, that’s cool. We won’t tell anybody.

5 comments February 21st, 2005 at 12:00am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books

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