Mike’s Prattle


Archive for January, 2007

Cursed computer week part 2

Posted by Mike on January 25, 2007

Was explaining to a family member how much my Grateful Dead Fillmore Box was going for on e-bay, so I decided to go over there and see what the latest was going for, only to find my account had been hacked a couple of weeks ago. Gotta hand it to e-bay staff, they were fast and efficient dealing with the problem. But, no, I am not selling a Sony Playstation 3 and this ain’t Connecticut either.


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Cold as ice

Posted by Mike on January 24, 2007

Your results:
You are Mr. Freeze

Mr. Freeze
Dark Phoenix
The Joker
Dr. Doom
Poison Ivy
Lex Luthor
Green Goblin
You are cold and you think everyone else should be also, literally.

Click here to take the “Which Super Villain am I?” quiz…

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Mike survives the weekend

Posted by Mike on January 22, 2007

Over the last month, I’ve been working on my music database lists, catching up on adding stuff I hadn’t gotten to over the last year. It’s kind of a crazy task overall, if I wasn’t a typical Virgo with that love for organization and lists inherent to most of us, I probably would have gone mad, after all I’d probably be rather doing other things, but it’s getting to the point I barely know what I own anymore.

So over a three day weekend, the idea was to have two work days and then one to chill before I went back to work. Late Sunday morning after chuckling over a few (never-ending) Gnosis-related issues that had come up, I intended to send my friend a file over IM, so I made for the reboot only to have my computer crash due to a corrupt file.

My Sunday was practically wrecked at this point.  A previously clean domicile turned into a mess of papers as I hurriedly tried to find my Windows disc, Dell info and the like. I spent at least two hours on the phone with a tech repeating the same steps over and over. I’m OK with the software aspects, but I ended up having to open the machine up and remove and replace the battery to reset things, which necessitated removing the audio card. The battery was fairly stuck and the only paperclips I could find were the thick ones, so it took me a good 15 or 20 minutes to get it out.

I got a break in the middle of the day while the machine went through the chkdsk procedure only for it to fail upon restart. The tech who called back informed me that we were going to have to reformat the hard drive. While this is no fun for anyone, I was comforted by the fact I’d spent a lot of time recently emptying my hard drives, so I wouldn’t lose much of anything important. Resigned to my fate, I went through the steps with the new tech, only for the computer to restart and Windows to come up with most of my computer intact (the only casualty so far is the recent installation of the new AOL IM, which may have been the problem in the first place, I was more than happy to start the old version up.) So it seems that the whole agonizing process was well worth the trouble and I seem to be up and running again.

Of course after such an afternoon it was a bit tough to key down, which I did by catching up on some comedies and then watching the Season 3.5 premiere of Battlestar Galactica, which was very cool, with a few interesting new twists. I still feel like I lost my weekend, but it could have been worse.

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Song of Ice and Fire comes to HBO

Posted by Mike on January 18, 2007

This just kicks so much ass I don’t even know what to say.

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Books Received; Rome; Extras; Nebula Awards 3; Alan Moore et al – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1; Frank Miller – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Posted by Mike on January 18, 2007

  • M. Rickert – Map of Dreams
  • Bruce Holland Rogers – The Keyhole Opera
  • Elizabeth Hand – Saffron & Brimstone
  • Avram Davidson – Adventures in Unhistory
  • Alan Moore – The Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2

I’ve been working on my music databases for about a month or so, which has reduced my reading time quite a bit – in fact I’m pretty thrilled to be almost finished with this. Over the weekend I intertwined this work with catching up with the HBO series’ Rome and Extras. Rome is, at least, entertaining. Even though just about all the actors are British, at times the accents throw me out of the story, I’d like to think ancient Rome wasn’t positively Wodehousian like it can be in the show. The aim was to make people forget the Rome of the epic movies of the 60s. While the sex and violence contribute to doing so, I was still reminded of movies like Ben-Hur and Spartacus nonetheless. The show does succeed in playing with your empathy with various characters. Just when you think Titus could have been played by Mel Gibson or Stephen Seagal, he does something almost inexcusably brutal. The show does strike me as being flawed in some way. Part of it is that I don’t seem to make the temporal jumps with the story and have to sort it out later. Part of it is the questions raised. What happens to criminals that are crucified, but immediately set free? Were the orgies really this tame? Did the slaves do the bikini waxes or the priesthood?

Extras is perhaps more disappointing. I really dug Ricky Gervais’ The Office (even like the US version a little), but Extras strikes me as being something like a weak Curb Your Enthusiasm. Gervais’ character in The Office is hilariously oblivious of his actions (like Alan Partridge), his character in Extras much more knowing, and the trouble they get in rather minor. In fact what I liked about the show is some of the sweetness in the character moments, it does show that Extras has a heart. But, really, even though it’s already Season 2, with only 7 episodes aired, it hardly seems fair to judge it without letting it gather some steam.

I finished the third Nebula Award collection which was easy, as I’d already read about half of it: one of Ballard’s Vermilion Sands stories, Leiber’s Gonna Roll the Bones, Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man and Anne McCaffrey’s Weyr Search (this latter novella making up her first Dragon book iirc). That left Harlan Ellison’s Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes (a fun story about a haunted slot machine), Gary Wright – Mirror of Ice, and Samuel R. Delany – Aye, and Gomorrah…  Been so long since I finished it that I don’t remember too many specifics of these last two shorts. I find myself continually underwhelmed by Delany for some reason.

And then a couple graphic novels. Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was apparently made into an atrocious hollywood movie with some startling plot and character changes. After reading this rather neat bit of Victorian fantasy I felt that to watch the movie might just ruin the impact for me. It’s almost what I’d call steampunk, Victorian England through the eyes of Jules Verne, H. G, Wells and the like. I definitely liked it enough to order the second volume.

I’m not much of a Batman fan, wasn’t really even when I was young, but Miller’s revamp of the character comes highly recommended in comic circles, so I figured I’d give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. While it’s definitely a child of the 80s with the concerns of that decade, there’s at least one subplot that presaged 9/11 and the themes of terrorism run rampant throughout. Batman/Bruce Wayne is not the figure of the old TV series, old comics or new movies, he’s older, embittered and about to be pushed past his limits. The climax of the series, in which a showdown between Batman and another major superhero goes down, is suitably over the top in comic fashion. Batman’s Robin, a young 13 year old girl this time, is pretty delightful, even if you wonder over the plausibility of such a relationship happening.

Also read the essay in Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory on Aleister Crowley and although he misses a few things (like taking the myth of Crowley’s final words, “I am perplexed” as fact), it’s quite well done. He does make the important point that for someone who was supposed to be able to create gold, Crowley died penniless, but I think he forgets that the alchemists were often being metaphorical where this is concerned (well either metaphorial or full of shit anyway). I’d say such as statement is more akin to Davidson’s alchemic effect on the English language.

Anyway that’s about all for now. Haven’t been writing as much around here as Outer Music Diary is taking off again, feel free to stop on by, link on the right…

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My little tribute to RAW

Posted by Mike on January 12, 2007

Been sitting here virtually stunned since I heard the news of RAW passing on. It’s very difficult to explain why the man’s writing means so much to me. He’s mostly best known for cowriting the Illuminatus trilogy, although for me it’s works like the Cosmic Trigger books and Prometheus Rising that were more influential. Wilson called himself, at times, a guerilla ontologist, which I took to mean someone whose writing could literally change the way you think and see the world. For someone who had great difficulty in leaving the religion of my upbringing, it was RAW, more than anyone else, who helped to clarify my thoughts, to show me clearly the way my thinking had been modified and altered by a rigid set of dogmas and beliefs. In fact I probably credit him more than anyone else for relieving me of the fear that goes along with such a process and to bring mystery back to the universe, to become comfortable with not knowing the answers to the big questions and most importantly to hint in the direction of LVX. He was the first person whose works I could say affected a sort of alchemy in my head. You probably could sum this up under the concept that he helped make me more free.

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RIP Robert Anton Wilson

Posted by Mike on January 12, 2007


I can’t think of any single thinker who was more influential on me than RAW. He had been in deteriorating health for quite a while due to, I believe, post-polio syndrome and had run into financial trouble in the last months of his life, when a large number of people donated money to him to allow him to live his final days at his home.



RIP Robert and thanks.

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The Number 23

Posted by Mike on January 8, 2007

It’s a movie. I kid you not. Don’t blame me.

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Books Received; J. G. Ballard – Vermilion Sands; Ted Chiang – Stories of Your Life and Others

Posted by Mike on January 2, 2007

  • Alastair Reynolds – Galactic North

I actually read the Vermilion Sands stories after encountering one in Nebula Award Stories Volume 3. I’d just received Ballard’s collected stories, two fat, imposing paperbacks, so just reading these stories felt like a good way to test the waters. They are: “Prima Belladonna,” “Mobile” (rev. “Venus Smiles”), “Studio 5, The Stars,” “The Singing Statues,” “The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista,” “The Screen Game,” “Cry Hope, Cry Fury!” “The Cloud Sculptures of Coral D” and “Say Goodbye to the Wind” and were probably in a slightly different order in the Vermilion Sands collection.

My first encounter with Ballard was through his two earliest novels, “A Wind from Nowhere” and “The Drowned World,” his first two disaster novels of the elements, the first Air, the second Water. While I admired Ballard’s prose, setting and descriptive prowess, I found both books rather bleak and thus a bit hard to read. The Vermilion Sands stories have all of Ballard’s strengths set in a unique milieu. Vermilion Sands is something of a resort for the rich and famous, although you’re introduced to the milieu in its decline. As most of the stories were written in the 60s, the stories definitely have something of that flavor, although it seems obvious that the stories of Vermilion Sands are set in some undefined future. While discussions of the people who live in Vermilion Sands speak of decadent actresses past their prime, usually legendary figures who have met some sort of tragedy, the technology of the milieu is futuristic, including clothes and houses that are alive and musical statues that resonate to people. It makes the entire atmosphere totally unique, a future that isn’t a future, so to speak. The language speaks of the place like a seaside resort, but it seems that it’s more a desert resort, for instance “rays” (akin to manta rays) are visible from everywhere, but float in the air rather than the sea. The stories are generally about a disaffected protagonist who comes into contact with one of the town’s longtimers and finds themselves transformed in a way. The stories are more character studies than plot-driven and one reads the language for the sublimity of emotion. Overall there seems nothing like it elsewhere, although by the final story, you can understand why Ballard never returned to the milieu again (or did he?), so much of it breathes in between the spaces.

In comparison, Ted Chiang’s only collection seems much more plot or concept-based, in fact his concepts are so excellent you could see different writers plotting books and series out of them. Chiang is somewhat infamous for writing very little while raking in the awards when he does and there’s at least one story here that is quite deserving. That happens to be the title story, a first contact story that works its magic through the protagonist’s attempt to learn the language of the aliens the humans call hexapods. This language eventually changes the translator’s viewpoint of time a fact brought home by a parallel thread that develops the character’s viewpoint beautifully. I thought I’d like “72 Letters” more than I did given its central conceit of a science evolved from the tenets of kabbalism, but found that the Victorian milieu delivered without much of a sense of humor made the story difficult to read at times, despite the fascinating view of this science. The collection’s only original, a pseudo-documentary about a technology that removes the ability to tell if someone is physically attractive or not, was also beautifully done, exploring the ramifications of such a technology about as perfectly as one could with the length. Overall, a nice little collection and I have to agree with the late Octavia Butler that Mr. Chiang doesn’t write nearly enough.

Christmas and New Years were great, but never long enough as usual. More later if I get a chance…

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