Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Archive for April, 2006

School Reunion

Posted by Mike on April 30, 2006

As a lad living in England from 1975-1980, I grew up with the television show Doctor Who, which, while a geek stigma here, was a mainstream hit both then and now that the show has returned as modern television. In the most recent episode of the show, School Reunion, both versions converge, bringing back Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. It's hard to explain how affecting this episode was, I was very young, maybe 5 or 6 when I saw Sarah Jane leave in the Hand of Fear. To see one of your iconic childhood characters come back as much as 25-30 years later is about as profound as anything I've experienced on TV. While I thought the first three episodes with new Doctor David Tennant were fun, it was only until this one, the best episode of the new series to date, that everything came together, new and old. The episode definitely had Buffy similarities with the high school setting and, of course, Anthony Head as the villain, but the major influence was in the character development, which worked wonders with all of leads. The evocation of loneliness was almost physical. While, like much of the new series, the plausibility of the plots leaves something to be desired, the writing on the character level was as good as the show has ever been. I love the multi-levelled, but to have that one level that hearkens back to the 70s really brought back how long it has been. I also thought it was very bizarre that the computer screens the children were using had a cube with what looked exactly like Enochian script on it.

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Bookstore Run

Posted by Mike on April 29, 2006

Did the downtown end of the Sacramento bookstore run yesterday, Time Tested, Beers, and The Book Collector, and then swung back to hit the Trent's Bookworm at Madison and Kenneth. I love Sacramento springs, but this year it seems to have gone missing, as it was a surprisingly summerish day. I finished the next story in Silverberg's _Roma Eterna_ sequence, "Waiting for the End," which was very nice and am currently finding it hard to move my eyes from Edward Whittemore's Quin's Shanghai Circus.

  • Liz Williams – Empire of Bones
  • Liz Williams – Banner of Souls
  • Italo Calvino – The Castle of Crossed Destinies
  • Kobo Abe – The Woman in the Dunes
  • Karen Joy Fowler – Black Glass
  • Nalo Hopkinson – Skin Folk
  • Jeff Noon – Vurt
  • Thomas Pynchon – Vineland (first ed hb)
  • Sax Rohmer – The Romance of Sorcery (hb)
  • Edith Wharton – The Age of Innocence
  • Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita (hb)
  • Charles Palliser – Quincunx
  • Vladimir Nabokov – Bend Sinister
  • Vladimir Nabokov – Ada, or Ardor
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez – The General in His Labyrinth
  • Nicholson Baker – The Fermata
  • The Unabridged Mark Twain
  • Jonathan Swift – Gulliver's Travels
  • John Barth – Giles Goat-Boy
  • Jerzy Kosinki – Steps
  • Rabelais – Gargantua and Pantagruel
  • Sarah Zettel – Reclamation
  • Marge Piercy – He, She, & It

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Various Ramblings

Posted by Mike on April 26, 2006

Been adjusting to a lot of changing life patterns lately, particularly at work. It has been almost oppressively busy and I've had to work through clouds of insomnia to get things done, which is a level of effort that isn't fun to hang with. Today was like having a pillow between my brain and the input. What's amazing is that sometimes you end up getting all your work done and I'm glad I did because now I have a 4 day weekend to recuperate fairly guilt free. But, as is always the case, everytime I'm sleepwalking at work, the day ends with a two-hour meeting that's virtually irrelevant to my job. I did manage some rather fine doodles though.

It's partially a stressful time because once again the Sacramento Kings are in the playoffs. Game one I parted company with sometime after the first quarter, but last night's game was like turning everything to eleven. And thanks to Dick Bavetta and co. calling every foul they saw, not to mention the overtime period, this was a game that ended at about 10 PM PST. Pure, intense playoff basketball with a defeat at the end. Maybe the only thing I can say is that I have a lot of respect for the San Antonio Spurs team, the players, the coach – it's a class act organization. No Kobe Bryants to pour salt on the wound.

Then add the television show 24. No matter how implausible it can be, it also delivers suspense at a volcanic level for one hour straight, leaving me wide awake at bedtime. The Shield, before the season ended, did the same thing and even later. It makes me long for the days when I watched little TV, or even the days I was catching up on programming on DVDs. 24 Season 6 on DVD is sounding more and more like a good idea.

I've also managed to break what were getting to be fairly rigid methods of listening to music. I seem to have succeeded in doing this by playing Chicago's At Carnegie Hall for the last week, nearly every evening. It's kind of nice to actually just play what you want to hear instead of a continual appraisal of things I'm becoming less remotely interested in, which is what I'm doing at work. I mentioned to a friend today that I don't think I've listened to anything I actually like at work in about 2 weeks, as I'm basically giving final listens to stuff I'm tossing out the door. I can imagine feeling tremendously grumpy on Outer Music. I have enough mediocre music to fill boxes apparently. But above all, listening to music I like is a good way to ease the sharper edges of a lot of intense, ongoing lifestyle changes.

All I've been able to read outside my esoteric studies of late is Joe R. Lansdale's first two "The Drive-In" books. While they were both pretty fun, neither were up to the best of his short work and I'm starting to detect a storytelling pattern that affects many of his characters, certainly all the majors in these books. Male, female, tough, easygoing, whatever, nearly every Lansdale character is about the wittiest feller, er gal, you've ever heard. But on the other hand, I think I read both in about three evenings, which is always pretty satisfying.

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Avram Davidson

Posted by Mike on April 24, 2006

Got in a couple stragglers today, a mercilessly beat up copy of Jonathan Carroll's Land of Laughs and Avram Davidson's Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven, which happens to be a collection of stories related to his Jewish faith. I frequently get one intensely visceral feeling every time I start reading Avram's stuff, the tragedy that he is is still almost totally unknown, with a talent that ought to have put his oeuvre with the classics. Anyone in the dark, The Avram Davidson Treasury beckons. I was won over with the very first story I read, The Golem (in both of these titles), still one of my favorite short stories.

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Latest Book Hauls

Posted by Mike on April 22, 2006

  • Clive Barker – Books of Blood 1-3
  • Harlan Ellison – The Essential Ellison
  • Rickard K. Morgan – Market Forces
  • Joe R. Lansdale – The Boar
  • Vernor Vinge – The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge
  • Theodore Sturgeon – The Ultimate Egoist (Collected Stories Vol. 1)
  • Lucius Shepard – Two Trains Running
  • Joe Haldeman – War Stories
  • Storm Constantine – Wraeththu
  • Jeffrey Ford – The Beyond
  • Charles Finney – The Circus of Dr. Lao
  • Michael Moorcock – Mother London
  • Gardner Dozois – The Year's Best Science Fiction Fifth Annual Collection
  • Richard Grant – Views from the Oldest House
  • Fritz Leiber – Shadows with Eyes
  • Joe R. Lansdale – Electric Gumbo

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NBA Playoff Picks

Posted by Mike on April 22, 2006

First Round West

San Antonio-Sacramento 2-4
Dallas-Memphis 4-0
Denver-LA Clippers 4-3
Phoenix-LA Lakers 2-4

First Round East

Detroit-Milwaukee 4-0
Cleveland-Washington 2-4
New Jersey-Indiana 3-4
Miami-Chicago 4-0

Second Round

Sacramento-Dallas 2-4
Denver-LA Lakers 2-4
Detroit-Washington 4-1
Miami-Indiana 4-1

Conference Finals

Dallas-Lakers 4-2
Detroit-Miami 4-3

Finals

Detroit-Dallas 4-2

Champion

Detroit

Posted in Basketball, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Couple changes

Posted by Mike on April 20, 2006

After some internal struggle, I've decided to remove most of my posts in the esoteric category and make no further comments in this area. It was a struggle between being a writer and the need to be silent. While it was theory, the writer won out, but this is no longer the case. And that is all.

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Reading

Posted by Mike on April 16, 2006

Still working on several short fiction sequences, some of these relate to having old issues of Asimov's I wanted to finish and move out of the way. The first of these is Robert Reed's Sister Alice series, of which I just finished novella #2, "Brother Perfect." This is very far-future SF and introduces a flurry of ideas that really color the world, although to some extent not much has been offered in the way of plot movement to really keep me gripped. The introductory novella set the stage nicely in terms of giving you the panorama of the story, but in a way "Brother Perfect" adds layers rather than developing forward.

Robert Silverberg's Roma Eterna sequence is one I decided to read chronologically in order of the stories released, they're ordered by internal chronology of story in the book collecting all the stories. So it's sort of like moving backwards through the history. The writing is extraordinary, I haven't read much Silverberg yet, but if his latter day material is this strong, I'll have to check out some of his peak writing sooner rather than later. The novella I read last, "Via Roma," is a Celtic royal's vacation, a view of a modern, alternate Rome, still decadent, but about to change in a historical and tragic manner. In fact, it's something of a prologue to "Tales from Venia Woods," my favorite of the four stories in the sequence so far.

Bruce Sterling is one of the main cyberpunk writers and his Chatanooga short story sequence definitely fits squarely in that mode, in fact it's hard not to draw immediate connections to Snow Crash, although Sterling is leaner and meaner than Stephenson. "Deep Eddy" was a very strong opener for this universe, but the Hugo-winning "Bicycle Repairman" was truly amazing, a definitive "show but don't tell" story that reveals the complexity of the universe's future political system through a plot that is short and compelling. "Taklamakan," which seems to be the last story in the sequence, is more an adventure story, one with so many high tech and futuristic ideas it sets a very believable atmosphere while compellingly unravelling a mystery with a climax to match. Unsurprisingly it also garnered a Hugo, as well as a Locus award. All these stories are in A Good Old-Fashioned Future; now I'm going to have to read the first four in that book.

I've also tried to get some novels worked on, a little more progress on the fabulous One Hundred Years of Solitude and nipped a bit at Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes. Both books are extremely dense (and there is an influence on Shepard from Marquez), maybe twice or more so than the above short fiction, but the extraordinary writing makes them instantly compelling. And I knocked out about a third of Gordon R. Dickson's "Soldier, Ask Not," the third chronologically in his Dorsai universe, which leads up to the novella of the same name, which is about the last third of the book. I've liked this series quite a bit in that it tries to see change through military, scientific, faith-based and other viewpoints and how they evolve over time. Part of the impact is reduced by some of the mystical plot twists in the series, but they tend to make more sense in the long run and it's hard to feel that the whole series isn't guided by a sure hand.

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Books

Posted by Mike on April 14, 2006

When it rains it pours…

  • Jack Ketchum – Offseason The Unexpurgated Edition (hb)
  • Bradley Denton – A Conflagration Artist
  • Eric Wagner – An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson
  • Thomas Pynchon – Gravity's Rainbow
  • Jeff Vandermeer/Forrest Aguirre ed. – Leviathan 3
  • John Pelan/Benjamin Adams ed. – The Children of Cthulhu
  • Jeffrey Ford – The Empire of Ice Cream (hb)
  • Ben Okri – The Famished Road
  • Jack Dann et. al. – The Fiction Factory (hb)
  • Count Jan Potocki – The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
  • Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita
  • Paul Auster – The New York Trilogy (Penguin Classics Delux Edition – they went all out to make it look like a very old, creased up book)

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Books/Reading

Posted by Mike on April 14, 2006

Getting in some nice hauls and finally getting a bit of reading done:

  • Robert Anton Wilson – The Illuminati Papers
  • Joe R. Lansdale – The Magic Wagon
  • Joe R. Lansdale – Zeppelin's West
  • Joe R. Lansdale – Flaming London
  • Lucius Shepard – Weapons of Mass Seduction
  • Sherry Decker – House Hook & Other Horrors
  • M. P. Shiel – The House of Sounds & Others
  • John Calvin Batchelor – The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica
  • Kage Baker – The Graveyard Game
  • Lucius Shepard – Floater

Read a few of the film reviews in the Shepard book, he's a truly extraordinary critic as well as fiction writer. Finished Robert Reed's "Brother Perfect" in the Sister Alice novella series, it wasn't bad, but maybe a bit more hard SF than where I'm at at the moment. A lot of great ideas though. And I'm still loving One Hundred Years of Solitude which is not only beautifully written but very funny. One favorite quote in many:

"She had to make a supernatural effort not to die when a startlingly regulated cyclonic power lifted her up by the waist and despoiled her of her intimacy with three slashes of its claws and quartered her like a little bird."

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