Thursday, September 09, 2010
Talk About Your Infinite Jests…
To be fair, I tried this with three different posts. I was curious to see if there would be a dominant style. The first post gave me Arthur Clarke, the second was HP Lovecraft, and the third was Wallace. Apparently consistency of presentation isn’t my strong suit.
Thanks to Wheels for pointing this out.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Kindle v/ iBooks
This wouldn’t surprise me in the least:
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Quick Hits from a Nicely Spent Saturday
Darling girl and I have started haunting a little used book store here in Aurora. It’s run by an older couple and it sits in an anonymous little strip mall where the only real draw is the book and those two who seem to have been running the place for something close to ever. Anyway, when I was finishing up my run, I happened to spy a little hardback copy of Bill Mauldin’s Up Front.
I grew up with “Up Front,” which was Mauldin’s World War II infantry-eye view of World War II. Mauldin himself was an infantryman and his characters, Willie and Joe, were one of the most honest looks at the infantry that you could find, warts and all.
It may sound strange to hear that I, who wasn’t born within decades of WWII, grew up with those guys, but it’s true. One of my father’s friends had this same book and another (the name escapes me, sadly), and I read through not only the cartoons, but Mauldin’s commentary about the soldiers, the war, the cartoon, and the stories that inspired it all. I would still say that if you want to get an idea of who wartime grunts really are, this is a great place to start. It doesn’t sugarcoat the guys, but there is an obvious, gentle affection to the poor bastards who carry the load.
The technology and some of the terminology have changed, of course, and there is an old-fashioned feeling to the cartoons, but there is a reason that his fellow soldiers loved him, there’s a reason that he enraged Patton and the Eisenhower protected him, and there’s a reason that he won a few Pulitzers for his work. I have no idea what kind of a guy he was in the real world, but “Up Front” was as much a love letter to the infantry (and more authentic) as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Of course, I picked up the fragile old book--pages yellowing and tearing in a few places--and brought it home with me.
Mauldin had a very obvious concern for his fellow soldiers and was concerned that the returning soldiers wouldn’t be taken back in by the country that sent them off to war. A bit that I read pretty close to the front of the book probably bears repeating today:
If you see a copy next time you’re in your local used book store, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s well worth the few bucks you’ll spend. Mauldin passed away a few years back, but he’ll be remembered as long as his doggies have to go to far off lands to fight wars on behalf of the rest of us. Mauldin told their story, perhaps, better than anyone else has ever managed.
I also picked up a copy of PJ O’Rourke’s wonderful Parliament of Whores. It might seem a little dated--the book is nearly two decades old at this point and some of the stories stretch back to 1988--but it’s still a fun romp at the expense of the political class (finished with a painful look in the mirror).
Anyway, here’s a quote for you. It’s from the opening paragraph of the chapter entitled, “The Three Branches of Government: Money, Television, and Bullshit.”
I grew up reading this stuff: is it a wonder that there is a streak of cynicism in me that rears up now and again?
Lastly, we also picked up Crazy Heart since the local Blockbuster didn’t have one to rent.
No regrets on that. It’s a wonderful movie with absolutely stellar performances and surprisingly good music. It might be a little smaller than some people might expect--there are no grand gestures and no earth-shattering themes--especially given all of the Oscar talk. But it’s that tightly-focused look at one lonely, old, alcoholic that keeps the movie good.
No politics, no “brave” agenda about racism or sexuality or any supposedly hot-button issue of the day, and no overblown sentimentality leave it being a wonderful movie with more humanity, by far, than something like Avatar. Of course, I’m also of the opinion that District 9 was the best science fiction story last year, so take that as you will.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I have to say it again: the music was surprisingly good. Jeff Bridges, as Bad Blake, actually made a credible country music artist. I didn’t realize that he sang so many of the songs in the film, but was pleasantly shocked by just how well he pulled it off.
That’s not my favorite song from the movie (that would be “The Weary Kind”, but that song isn’t sung by Bridges) but it has the bonus of featuring Collin Farrell, too. Again, surprising.
And here’s one more for the road.
I hesitate to throw this story in the mix, but I can’t stand not mentioning it. I realize that not everyone is heroic in action or willing to sacrifice for others--although I hope that if I’m ever tested, I would would be both--but this story is not only one of the saddest things I’ve read in a very long time, but also one of the most shameful. Not shameful to me, of course, but to those people who saw, who knew, and who still did nothing.
If I were to say a prayer on this day it would be that I am never so callous, never so uncaring, never so low as to leave a man dying in the streets while I did nothing. I’m sure that some of the passers never noticed, never saw the blood, and never realized what had happened, but, just as surely, some of them did see.
This man deserved far better not only because he had acted with courage to save a woman that he didn’t even know, but because he was a human being dying in the streets. He didn’t have to die and he deserved far, far better than this.
Shame, shame, shame on those people who let the man die.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Meet Dave Cullen
I know this is a little late notice, but Dave Cullen is speaking and signing books at the Barnes & Noble Park Meadows off of County Line Road.
He’s a good writer, he’s a smart man, and he’s about as nice a guy as you can imagine. If you’re in the area, it would be well worth your time to go and have a listen.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
A Musing About VS Naipaul
After reading Paul Theroux’s book Sir Vidia’s Shadow, I found myself wondering just how much of the tone of the book was merely the taste of bitterness in Theroux’s mouth over a friendship grown cold. Was VS Naipaul really the man portrayed by the words and actions in Theroux’s book, or was he someone else entirely.
Sir Vidia’s Shadow is a well written book that draws the reader into the writer’s world and, very particularly, that kind of world as inhabited by these particular writers. It’s a world of intriguingly shallow people--writers, politicians, their loved ones--who see themselves as people of great depth and importance. It is also perpetually unflattering to Naipaul as it shows him as being cheap, petty, cruel, fickle, rude, and whiny.Wherever a ray of humanity shines through to give some view of Naipaul as something other than small, it is often immediately ripped away by a deep contrast that nudges the memories of his failings.
That Theroux was willing to publish such a personal, raw look at a former friend and mentor speaks volumes about his personality, too. Of course, after reading his books, it would be hard to imagine wanting to like Theroux in his personal life as he has portrayed himself (and thinly disguised versions of himself, as in My Secret History) to be a painfully difficult and selfish person, too. For that matter, in Sir Vidia’s Shadow, he’s certainly showing himself as another victim of Naipaul’s fickle nature, but he doesn’t imagine himself as an angelic figure.
The honesty is compelling, but it is a vicious kind of person who can write a memoir about a relationship and reveal, in such brutal terms, the warts and flaws of a former friend.
So, recognizing the book’s viciousness, I did wonder at its truth.
This, from the Telegraph, makes me wonder if Theroux was understating Naipaul’s flaws.
Both of the men are wonderful writers, and both of them look less impressive when you see them up close. VS Naipaul’s personality--so profoundly sour and self-indulgent--might make it completely impossible for me to read his work in the future. It’s lost its shine.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Nobel Peace Prize Thoughts, Part 2 of at Least 2 (Updated)
Update: Thanks to Shawn for linking this over on the American Spectator’s blog.
What might Robert Heinlein have thought of President Barrack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize? While it’s never quite nice to speak for the dead, here’s a clue:
That, of course, is from one of the History and Moral Philosophy lectures in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The Book of You, 11:4-13:4
A quick reading from The Boomer Bible--one of the more intriguing books published in the last few decades, and, I’m fairly sure, one of the most misinterpreted books of the last few decades. Most of the reviews that I’ve read never seemed to get all the way to the Books of You, Us, Weapons, and Ways. If they had, I imagine they might have come away with a very different view of the preceding 800 pages or so.
Anyway, if you ever pick up a copy, enjoy the first bit because it is biting and funny and impressive. But don’t stop until you’ve reached the end--an end that holds up virtues that might surprise you just a bit.
Today, though, I’m pissed for a variety of reasons and the Book of You truly fit my mood.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
And While We’re At It…
Not too many people even remember the Jeremy Piven vehicle, Cupid, so they don’t know enough to be cranky about the weak do-over being sold to the public right now. But while we’re sending a paltry bit o’ traffic to Liberty Girl, let’s just say that this is just about as spot on as her rants about personal liberty.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go consider Simon Jester’s place in contemporary American society. One nice thing about the Obama administration is that it is encouraging people to revisit some really great literature.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Fighting Back the Capitalist Way
iPod Touch and iPhone users might have run across an app called “Classics”, which offers an ebook reader and a set of classics formatted uniquely for Apple’s little gadgets. Until today, I’ve been happy using Stanza, a free application that doesn’t have the prettiest formatting, but does have an amazing, searchable library of downloadable, free content. I’ll still use Stanza, but I’ve just bought Classics (for $2.99 on iTunes Music Store) and it’s a top-notch bit of software. It’s simple, but it’s very well done.
What convinced me to pony up a few bucks? Theft.
See the screen caps and read the full story at Ars Technica. And, if you have either a Touch or an iPhone, I’d encourage you to spend a few bucks (link is to the iTunes Music Store--you must have iTunes installed for the link to work) to help support the developers who have been thoroughly ripped off, and, whatever you do, don’t buy the competing product.
And, Apple, you might want to do something about “Classics: Jane Austen"--as obvious a rip off as one is likely to find this year.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Appalled, Disappointed, Sad, and Proud (And Proud Some More)
Firstly, I am appalled. Whatever message was intended, whatever he wanted to say with the “drunken negro cookies” in honor (?!) of our President, it not only defies sense, but it is in hideously bad taste. He deserves the boycott that is sure to come.
Secondly, I am disappointed. Not gravely, but enough that it brought to mind one of those bits of Kipling that springs up in my mind from time to time:
You can read the rest here, if so inclined. I read it first, if memory serves, in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers--a love letter to the bloody infantry--and it’s always stuck with me.
I am saddened by the death of Shane Dronett. It’s hard to say precisely why because I never knew him, don’t know if he was a great guy or not, and know nothing about him other than the fact that he left behind a wife and two children, that he was a pretty good player, and that his teammates seemed to like him quite a bit. Maybe it’s just because I know that a guy has to be feeling pretty low to want to kill himself--and, yes, I know and even agree with the idea that it’s a selfish act especially in light of the family that he left behind. But it’s still sad.
Thank goodness there’s a little happiness on this list, too.
I’m ridiculously proud of Mr. Lady’s nomination for the 2009 Bloggies as Best Candadian Blogger. You’ll have to scroll sideways to get to her category, though, which annoys the living hell out of me. Anyway, she may be a freakin’ lefty, but she’s our freakin’ lefty and I hope you’ll all help me stuff the ballot box on this one. The fact that she’s not actually a Canuckistanian by birth, on the other hand, I can’t help with.
I’m just as proud of my friend, Diane, for her cool elephant. No, really, check it out. She’s wonderfully talented and about as nice a woman as you’re ever likely to meet.
Monday, January 05, 2009
A Few of My Favorite Things: A Nearly Late-Night List
What about you? What have you been enjoying lately that needs to be shared with the class?
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Zombies, Village Voices, and Damnation: Three Quick Notes
Firstly, a kind friend sent me a series of albums for Christmas. One of them in particular is grabbing my attention--although Sia’s Some People Have Real Problems deserves some notice, too--and it surprised me quite a bit. Not a surprise in the quality, but a surprise in the tenor of the album. Opeth’s Damnation is a hell of a good album, trading the heavier sounds that I was familiar with for much quieter and delicate tones. Sounding, to my ears, much like Porcupine Tree (a good thing), songs like “Closure” and “In My Time of Need” sound nothing like the Cookie-Monster vocals that I’ve heard from them before. Admittedly, since I’m no fan of that vocal style, it shouldn’t be surprising that I don’t own any of Opeth’s albums. I’m curious to see if Damnation has any stylistic brethren in their catalog.
Second, without Nat Hentoff is there really any reason to read the Village Voice? I can’t think of any…
Third, who knew that LibertyGirl was a damned, evil zomby-hater? Though, to be fair, Zomby bin Laden is a bit of a disgrace to the league, isn’t he?
And, yes, I remain firmly committed to the proper misspelling of “zomby.” So there.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Happy Little Sentences
Do you ever read things that strike you as particularly well written? Well, this, from Sean Stewart’s Perfect Circle did that for me.
None of which explains why I haven’t said anything about the upcoming blogger bash (Donkeys Over Denver). Sorry about that, but I got distracted by some bits and bobs that floated through my world…
We’ll talk more on Monday.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Good Lord, That’s Nifty
This may not be the coolest thing ever in the ‘sphere, but it must be close.
Then, when you’re done laughing and stuff, go here for the big come down. Someone put on the breaks; we’re heading for a cliff.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Ways to Use That Gift Card: A Perfect Circle
If you’re a regular reader of this site, odds are that one of your friends or relatives gave you a gift card for Borders, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. This loved one certainly realized that you love to read, that they don’t really “get” your reading material, and it would just be easier if you chose your own obscure pleasures. Which is nice.
I was going through all my starred stories in Google Reader--the only RSS reader I use anymore--and came across a Wired story about the massive, immersive game built to support and build anticipation for Nine Inch Nail’s latest album, Year Zero. The company that developed the game, 42 Entertainment, was also responsible for immersive games like the ilovebees game for the Halo 2 launch--a company with an amazing store of talent and creativity. Until recently, it was also the day job of one of my favorite authors, Sean Stewart.
I recently had an opportunity to exchange a few emails with Stewart (mostly because I had written a little bit of a fan letter asking when his fans were going to be seeing a new book) and found him to be one of the most approachable and genuinely friendly writers in the field. I have a standing rule about meeting or speaking with your artistic heroes: keep expectations low. The artist that you read or listen to isn’t the person that you’re going to meet; you’ll have built a construct of the person in your head that generally can’t be met in reality. That’s not to say that all writers and musicians are jerks, just that they probably aren’t who you expect them to be and they might not like being bugged by yet another fan who wants to mine the depths of their works.
Sean Stewart was, via email, pretty damned close to the person that I would have expected: funny, polite, humble, smart, and extremely friendly. Besides that, though, he is also tremendously talented. With a small group of other talented folks, Stewart is starting up Fourth Wall Studios to continue developing immersive entertainment--not simply games, but a combination of the interaction of the Internet, email, phone contacts, and the visual and literary arts to create something less passive than movies and books, but smarter and encompassing than the typical computer game. Not only do I wish him luck with his startup, but I can’t wait to see what he and his crew come up with.
He’s a great guy and it’s hard to imagine anyone who is more deserving of rewards for all his hard work. So…
Here’s a list of books from Sean Stewart that will do your gift card proud. Most of them are best ordered and easiest to find online, so I’ve included links to Barnes & Noble or Amazon (and, no, I don’t get kickbacks from this).
Stewart won’t be to everyone’s liking. I won’t lean on the idea that if you don’t like his writing you don’t understand his stories; much of what he’s written is emotionally raw in a way that won’t appeal to people who like their magic packaged with unicorns and princesses (although, if that’s you, his book Nobody’s Son might be an effective antidote); when magic intrudes in Sean Stewart’s world, it has huge costs and consequences and rarely resolves itself in anything resembling beauty. That, along with his talent for describing the complexities of relationships, is probably why I like his books.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Terry Pratchett Has Alzheimer’s
One of the most creative and funny writers I’ve ever enjoyed reading sent out some bad news today: Terry Pratchett has an early onset form of Alzheimer’s.
Here’s hoping that the disease progresses at a glacial pace. Which, with the threat of global warming, hoping for anything “glacial” just seems downright unscientific right now.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Scratch that Itch
When I was younger, I indulged in lakes of alcohol and the occasional dip into something less than legal. As I’ve grown older, my drinking has tapered off a good bit (although I’ve lost none of my taste for good liquor) and my “other” has disappeared entirely. I indulge now in the written word.
My habit peaks--or, at least, the expenses peak--right before a vacation. I have to have a few books and a short ton of periodicals to read on the airplane and in the hotel at night. If there is a beach involved, the habit swells to something that any of the members of Def Leppard would instinctively understand (although they might be confused at the delivery device). I’m leaving for a vacation in just over a week and a series of packages arrived for me at work today that will carry me through my vacation and a bit beyond.
My exclamation of joy was met with giggles by my office mates--and then eyes cocked in confusion at the source of my joy. Books. Beautiful book with that sweet, earthy smell of paper and ink. Just as beautiful, the words inside.
“Watching him swinging on his hammock, like a big fish in a net, I was reminded of his nickname.”
“They took Sam down and buried him where he had fallen.”
“Thousands of our countrymen are dead: we accept that the world can never be quite what it was.”
The miracle of books--of well written words--is the drug that sustains me these days. Reading the thoughts, poetry, and creations of others (and, of course, wishing that I had their skill) is a happiness that I’ve always enjoyed in life, but now seem to crave.
While my coworkers don’t understand me, I’m betting that some of you will. Maybe you’ll even be a bit sympathetic.
The books? Paul Theroux’s On the Edge of the Great Rift and Hotel Honolulu; Victor David Hanson’s An Autumn of War, Between War and Peace, and Wars of the Ancient Greeks; Robert A. Heinlein’s To the Stars (a hardback containing Between Planets, The Rolling Stones, Starman Jones, and The Star Beast); The InDesign Idea Book; and John Bowker’s Beliefs that Changed the World: The History of Ideas of the Great Religions.
I think I’ll need a little more time off than I happen to have available…
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Robert Jordan: Another Sad Passing
I learned this evening from John Scalzi’s site that Robert Jordan, the prolific author of the Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels, has passed away after a bout with amyloidosis, a blood disease. My thoughts go out to the family and friends that he leaves behind.
While my interest in the WOT series had faded as the series moved along, there is no doubt that he was well loved by thousands of readers. They will miss his creative spirit and the characters that populated his world.
What I hadn’t been aware of was the history of the man who wrote as Robert Jordan. I had no idea that James Oliver Rigney, Jr was a well decorated Vietnam vet and a nuclear engineer or that he was a graduate of the Citadel. I had no idea, but my respect for the man grows with the more that I read about him. Rest in God’s grace, James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I think I’ve just been insulted. Luckily, I’m a little too simple-minded to fully process the cruelty.
Okay stupid, jingoistic, uncritical conservatives, it’s time to take an inventory. Since there is an impression that conservatives aren’t serious about policies or anything more deep than bumper sticker thought, I’m curious to hear what you’re reading right now. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate to impress me, and don’t make it prettier than it is. My reading habit--the books and magazines that I buy on a monthly basis--probably adds up to about the same amount that I spend on my car payment every month, but much of that is in magazines.
My monthly magazine intake:
Of course, that’s supplemented by my incredibly impulsive nature.
On top of that list, I usually read between three and four books per month. Right now I’m reading three (I read one “serious” one, one paperback of any kind that I can read while I shower [yeah, I know], and currently a third is piggybacking just because I liked the cover). The “serious” book is Martin Meredith’s The Fate of Africa: A History of 50 Years of Independence. The paperback is To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World from Arthur Herman. The accidental rider is Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943.
A week ago, the paperback was Sean Stewart’s spectacular Nobody’s Son, which I picked up when I couldn’t find my copy of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I was a tad disappointed with the movie and wanted to revisit the book; instead I found myself revisiting Sean Stewart’s story about what happens to a sword wielding hero after “happily ever after.”
The odd thing is that while I know I read quite a bit, most people that I know and spend time with are readers. They talk about the latest books on their night stands, they enjoy outings to good bookstores, and they have insightful opinions on what they’ve read. That crosses all political boundaries.
And, anyway, Pat Schroeder might think that the right has a corner on the bumper sticker market, but I would argue that no one comes up with chants, stickers, t-shirts, and bumper stickers like the progressive left. Not that I have much in the way of happy thoughts about the time that Pat spent representing her little chunk of my beloved Colorado.
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