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Showing posts from October, 2012

Two related thoughts

Event #1: I have reached the Stone Ages in my Ancient Civ class. Always a merry time, I get to talk about the rise of human civilization, and the great changes that brought about the rise of agriculture, villages and cities in rapid (relatively speaking) succession. One small part of today's lesson was giving a definition of religion (yes, I talk about religion in my history class). Let me write it down and see what you think of it.


Religion is the belief in the unseen. If you can't see it, hear it, touch it, smell it or prove that it exists and yet you still know that it exists -- that's religion. It's one of the most basic characteristics of the human species. The odd pile of flowers over dead Neanderthals aside, we seem to be the only hominid capable of such an interesting assumption. I might quibble with the definition but it seems to work for seventh grade history.

Event #2: This blog popped up on Twitter today and I was blown away by the force of its argument and t…

Sandy

Sandy is coming.

Right now I hear gusts of wind outside and the gentle patter of drizzle on the porch. But the storm tracks I saw on TV looked awful. I really don't like the looks of a storm that curves back and heads through Massachusetts from west to east. You know that's going to take a long time to flush out.

They already cancelled school for tomorrow. I'm wondering if they'll wait until tomorrow to cancel Tuesday or if I'll hear about it tonight. The storm isn't even supposed to make landfall until Tuesday morning. Ugh.

A helpful soul on FB basically suggested writing off this week, buying a generator and waiting it out. According to her Isaacs wiped out power for five days. I'm not sure I what would happen after five days without power here. Probably nothing good.

Anyway, if you live on the East Coast, I hope you've done your storm prep and ride it out in style. If you're living somewhere else, enjoy the sun. I suspect it will be awhile before…

Cloud Atlas Review

Cloud Atlas is loud, confusing, awkward, painfully earnest, and a lot of fun. The best way I can explain it is take a half dozen really good trailers for movies you would normally not bother seeing, draw together some obvious thematic parallels and let the trailers find their own way towards a coherent movie. It's like a movie created only from the 'good parts' if by 'good parts' we extend our meaning to include the necessary quiet sections of introspection and character development that appear in trailers right before the music swells and the marquee actors names flash on the screen.

If you don't know much about this movie or the book from which it is adapted, then here's the short version: six stories, taken from a variety of time periods and genres, weave in and out of each other's story lines, the characters from each story in someway influencing or informing the characters of the next. In the movie this idea is reinforced by the gimmick of having t…

Wabi-sabi

A fun word floated to the top of my head today: Wabi-sabi. It's Japanese, referring to an imperfect, transient melancholy, basically the mood I get into every October around this time. The Wiki on it is pretty good but here's a moment I think defines the word for me:

I was walking back to my apartment where I lived for a year in Japan. I turned a corner and saw this flash of red pass in front of my eyes. A red butterfly, seized by the wind. I froze, watching it flutter down to the sidewalk in front of me. Touching ground it became a red momiji leaf.


The End of the Debates

The Boston Herald has a typically bombastic reaction to last night's debate filling the front cover today. "SNARK ATTACK" in 415 pt. font. Stay classy, Herald.

But it points to the problem Obama has in the last two weeks of the campaign. It's still his campaign to lose but he hasn't found a sure way to win it yet. I would never vote from Romney under any circumstance. I think he's incomprehensible chimera who, to borrow someone's tweet from last night, would ultimately do exactly what Obama is doing, only louder. That said, the guy has momentum heading into the election. He is creeping up in the national polls and he's picking away at the battlegrounds. Slowly but inexorably. It don't like to write that. I think Romney would make the same kind of president he was as a governor: an indolent pompous twit.

But the guy bought the right people for his campaign.

I think back to the lead-up to the first debate with increasing chagrin. There was a New Yor…

Earthquake and Bear: Flash Fiction

I wrote this a couple months ago as an experiment in rewriting a Chinese fairy tale by Pu Songling as slipstream flash fiction. The original story is simply titled Earthquake. I hope you like it!

The port of San Diego was struck by an earthquake on June 17th, 2027 at seven o'clock in the morning. I was stationed at the barracks then and sipping at tea with my good friend Linda when we heard a sound like thunder rolling from the southeast and going northwest. The lights went out and the video screen toppled from the kitchen table, smashing on the tiles of the kitchen floor. Soon white dust began to seep from the seams of the ceiling and we were thrown from our feet. The walls and rafters shook and shrieked. We looked at each other, our faces gone pale. It took awhile to realize that the sound was coming from outside, in the port. Each of us hurried outside. Two and three story buildings were drunk: swaying to the left and right. The sounds of the disaster, the wails of women and chi…

What I like and what I don't

Had an hour to watch the season opener for "American Horror Story" last night. I was very nearly blown away with the awesomeness of this series. Unapologetically, I decided to care about this show after an interview with its creator on NPR talked up Jessica Lange as an actress. She is awesome, so I thought I needed to give the show the five minute test.


Five minutes became the whole show very quickly. The character writing is top-notch, Jessica Lange plays a nun, Sister Jude, that showcases her talent for slipping around the edges of expectation. The second season of this show centers around a single story set in the 1960s in a Massachusetts Mental Asylum run by the Catholic Church. One concern I had about the show was whether or not Sister Jude would be another Nurse Ratchet type, a malevolent portrait of female abuse of power. I'm please to say the first episode obliterated those concerns. Sister Jude is a complicated monster, in one episode she ruthlessly commits a rep…

The Roller-coaster

I was told today that some excerpts of my review of Chris F. Holm's The Wrong Goodbye made the front page of the Angry Robot "Robot Round-up." If you're checking out my blog from that link, welcome! Make yourself at home! If you're not, then please check out Angry Robot Books and look at their fine selection of genre novels including the excellent first and second volume of the "Collector" series written by the talented crime noir writer Chris F. Holm.

I've felt I've been silent for the past month on this blog mostly because it's hard to talk when you're holding your breath. This election has got me wound up. I can't even watch the news any more. I can't listen to the radio. I have to be careful what websites I go to. I am a mess.
I guess I had gotten so used to the polls not making sense for Obama that I had assumed that the polls didn't need to make sense. Sure the economy is bad and will be bad for the conceivable future. …

Impressions of Looper

I saw Looper on Saturday but my feelings on the movie are still fresh. I've already recommended it to a few friends (the few that haven't already seen it, that is) and I think that's about the right approach to it. It's a movie you tell your friends to see. You caution them that it's not Primer and they shouldn't spend too much time puzzling through all of the Timey Wimey permutations of the plot. You tell them it isn't worth it.

Don't get me wrong, Looper's a lot of fun. The world depicted in the movie is low-rent but believable. The world of 2044 isn't so different from our own: slumping into decay; grimy cars retrofitted for natural gas and solar panels, cities awash in corruption and glittering sky-scrapers. The difference is that the world of Looper is in contact with another future, about 30 year later that keeps sending the people it can't properly kill to be assassinated and disposed of in the more unruly past. The Loopers of the tit…

Review of "Wrong Goodbye" by Chris F. Holm

I finished Chris F. Holm's pulp paranormal thriller 'Wrong Goodbye' this week, the impressive second novel in his 'Collector' series. I had the pleasure of catching up with Chris this summer at Readercon and I have to say this is the writing, foremost, of a committed story-teller. In that, I mean, Chris has a tale to tell and he goes about the business of telling it with style and authority.

If you haven't read the first novel in the series: 'The Dead Harvest,' I suggest you do so, but it isn't strictly speaking necessary in terms of understanding what's going on in the plot. The anti-hero of the series is Sam Thorton, a 'Collector,' a disembodied spirit capable of leaping from one body to the next in pursuit of condemned souls to cast into Hell - basically an infernal repo man. Not the most sympathetic of protagonists but like all the best noire archetypes, the road to his particular hell was paved with good intentions.

Not that Chris…