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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Talk About Your Infinite Jests…


I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!



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:


Despite Steve Jobs’ recent claim that the iBookstore has taken 22 percent of the US e-book market, some authors still report significantly higher sales volume on the Kindle. Author J. A. Konrath has published more than three dozen books on both platforms, with Kindle sales averaging 200 e-books every day. On the iBookstore, however, sales have only reached approximately 100 each month.

First, understand that this encompasses not only the

While I really enjoy the iBook in-app purchase process, I like the interface better, and I like the store. That said, Amazon’s Kindle--the application--has a lot of advantages. First and foremost: the Kindle app runs on multiple platforms--its reach is far greater than iBooks. It also had a good head start in the war for peoples’ ebook dollars along with some nifty features. The Kindle also has a far better selection.

Apple’s iBooks might or might not catch up in the sales department and, honestly, I don’t really care. As long as competition gives me better prices and wider selection along, I’ll be a happy boy.

Unfortunately, neither of them has many of the books that I look for and I continue to spend most of my book dollars at Barnes and Noble and Borders. Similarly, I would happily push nearly all of my magazine purchases to the iPad if the magazines I want were available, but the grand majority of the publications I read simply aren’t available.

I am becoming convinced that the biggest thing standing in the way of wider adoption electronic publications is this: availability. I am a heavy reader with a monthly habit of between $150 and $250 spent on magazines and books and I would prefer to move that to electronic delivery if I could. I wonder when the publishers will catch up with me?

Read the rest.

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:

They don’t need pity, because you don’t pity brave men--men who are brave because they fight while they are scared to death. They simply need bosses who will give them a little time to adjust their minds and their hands, and women who are faithful to them, and friends and families who stay by them until they are the same guys who left years ago. No set of laws or Bill of Rights for returning veterans of combat can do that job. Only their own people can do it. So it is very important that these people know and understand combat men.

Absolutely right.

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.”

Feeling good about government is like looking on the bright side of any catastrophe. When you quit looking on the bright side, the catastrophe is still there.

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.

A heroic homeless man, stabbed after saving a Queens woman from a knife-wielding attacker, lay dying in a pool of blood for more than an hour as nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him, a shocking surveillance video obtained by the New York Post reveals.

Some of the passers-by paused to stare at Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax last Sunday morning and others leaned down to look at his face.

He had jumped to the aid of a woman attacked on 144th Street at 88th Road in Jamaica, Queens, at 5:40 a.m., was stabbed several times in the chest and collapsed as he chased his assailant.

In the wake of the bloodshed, a man came out of a nearby building and chillingly took a cellphone photo of the victim before leaving. And in several instances, pairs of people gawked at Tale-Yax without doing anything.

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.

Details here.

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.

They have led French to paint a picture of a bleak, largely loveless marriage in which Sir Vidia frequently put his wife down - he refused even to buy her a wedding ring. He often abandoned her to go travelling with Mrs Gooding, the married Anglo-Argentine with whom he fell in love in 1972, and they periodically lived apart.

When in a self-pitying mood, Sir Vidia, who was born to Indian parents in Trinidad but has lived in Britain since winning a place to Oxford, would tell his wife how he was missing Mrs Gooding but then say that he needed Lady Patricia to help him with his books.

Trapped and unable to leave the husband she worshipped, Lady Patricia’s diaries reveal how she became little more than his cook and carer, and how for a time she became dependent on Mandrax, the prescribed sedative.

Sir Vidia’s sister, Savi, regarded her brother’s claim that Lady Patricia accepted the situation as “absolute rubbish, such profound vanity”.

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:

“Nothing of value is free. Even the breath of life is purchased at birth only through gasping effort and pain.” He had been still looking at me and added, “If you boys and girls had to sweat for your toys the way a newly born baby has to struggle to live you would be happier . . . and much richer. As it is, with some of you, I pity the poverty of your wealth. You! I’ve just awarded you the prize for the hundred-meter dash. Does it make you happy?”

“Uh, I suppose it would.”

“No dodging, please. You have the prize—here, I’ll write it out:`Grand prize for the championship, one hundred-meter sprint.’ “ He had actually come back to my seat and pinned it on my chest. “There! Are you happy? You value it—or don’t you?”

I was sore. First that dirty crack about rich kids—a typical sneer of those who haven’t got it—and now this farce. I ripped it off and chucked it at him.

Mr. Dubois had looked surprised. “It doesn’t make you happy?”

“You know darn well I placed fourth!”

“Exactly! The prize for first place is worthless to you . . . because you haven’t earned it.

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.

And if you’re one of the ones who phone it in,
And never rock the boat,
And never do more than you’re told to do,
We’re sick of you.

If you’re one of the ones who’s faking it all,
And think life’s just a dirty game,
And do it to them because they’d do it to you,
We’re sick of you.

If you’re one of the ones who want something else,
And are looking for someone to blame,
And your creed could fit on a bumper sticker,
We’re sick of you.

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.

Chances are that if you have browsed the iTunes Store or watched prime time television, you have at least seen the popular eBook reader Classics at least in passing. Apple has featured it in one of its iPhone application advertisements and the UI has drawn some critical acclaim from end users. As a result, the application has been doing well; well enough that it has essentially been copied, right down to its images.

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.

Read the rest.

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:

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-’alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

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

  1. Outsourced. While it has moments that are remarkably predictable, Outsourced has a sweet charm in its affection for India and its main characters. It’s a small pleasure, but one that stands out for its gentle spirit and mildly sanitized view of India. While it wouldn’t do to expect anything life-changing, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a quiet romance, good humor, and a little flavor of India.
  2. FilesAnywhere.com When I had to start sharing large files with clients over the Internet, I looked for a service that gave me a great set of tools, a decent price, and generous storage. FilesAnywhere.com did that in a big way. It’s quick, reliable, and mature. I’ve only been using it for a few months, but it’s impressed a number of clients so much that they’ve become customers. That’s about as good a recommendation as I can imagine.
  3. Thunderer. I’m only about half way through Felix Gilman’s Thunderer, but I’m truly impressed by his first novel. It’s intriguing, compelling, and filled with well-realized characters to carry the reader through all of the wonders of the strange world that he has concocted (and all of its gods). Having read his blog, I can’t help but think that Mr. Gilman is a bit of a jerk when it comes to his political opinions (though no more so than John Scalzi). Luckily for me, I won’t let his politics come between me and the enjoyment of his novel. He wouldn’t be likely to miss me as a customer, but I would certainly miss the artistry of what he’s written. It took a little more than forty pages to get past the awkward introduction, but by then Mr. Gilman found a perfect pacing for the shifting views between the lead characters. I’m vaguely planning a full review of the book once I’ve finished it, but, in case that doesn’t happen, I wanted to make a quick note of this wonderful bit of epic fantasy.

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.

I’m considered a bit peculiar in the family, but not as peculiar as my Aunt Dot, who--though still a Baptist--believes that in a past life she was the queen of the planet Saturn. (Aunt Dot got into past-life regressions as a weight-loss therapy, and since discovering that she died of famine in eighth-century Ethiopia, she’s lost forty-eight pounds. And kept it off.)

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.

5 The Bishop sipped upon hys tea
36 And sayed, “an open mind must we
37 Keep, for know thee well the Mussel-man
38 Has hys own laws for hys own clan
39 So question not hys Muslim reason
40 And presaerve ye well social cohesion.”

Read and marvel at the wonder of the thing.

Big thanks to Christopher Orlet for pointing this out. And then, to wash it down, Shawn’s suggested reading for yesterday: Be My Political Valentine. You’ve captured a supermajority of my heart!

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

Ways to Use That Gift Card: The Off Colfax Edition

Off Colfax has a few suggestions for eating up those gift cards--and I already own one of his suggestions, although I’ll leave it as a guessing game on the title.

Check it out.

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).

  1. Cathy’s Book. To get an idea of the kind of thing that immersive entertainment can mean to the publishing industry, check out this book for tween and teen girls, but can entertain anyone with an open mind with its combination of Cathy’s diary, phone numbers, clues, and sketches. For anyone with girls the right age, it’s also one to consider as a late present.
    Buy it from Barnes & Noble.
  2. Perfect Circle. One of my favorite works of literary fiction (calling it “fantasy” and sticking it in the genre just doesn’t do it justice) of the last few years. The characters are stunningly close to real, the plot is engrossing, and the writing is compelling. Read my earlier review. Truly exceptional.
    Buy it from Barnes & Noble.
  3. Mockingbird. Stewart is a master of magic realism and this story shines. It has voodoo, dark magic, pregnancy, and a well-drawn portrait of Texas. As a bonus, the Small Beer Press issue of the book is awfully nice.
    Buy it from Barnes & Noble.
  4. Galveston. Aside from the brilliant, but more difficult Resurrection Man, (read my review here) Galveston is his most brutal and bleak book. It has its funny and touching moments, but the characters are harder to like. But it is so well written that I went through it in a few big gulps.
    Buy it used from Amazon.

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.

Author Terry Pratchett is suffering from a rare form of early Alzheimer’s disease, it has been revealed.
He said in a statement that with forthcoming conventions and the need to inform his publishers it would have been “unfair to withhold the news”.

Discworld author Pratchett has sold more than 55 million books worldwide.

The writer, 59, who gave the news on the website of Discworld artist Paul Kidby, said the condition was behind a “phantom stroke” earlier this year.

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.

Read the rest. Original posting here.

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.

From his blog on the Dragonmount site:

It is with great sadness that I tell you that the Dragon is gone. RJ left us today at 2:45 PM. He fought a valiant fight against this most horrid disease. In the end, he left peacefully and in no pain. In the years he had fought this, he taught me much about living and about facing death. He never waivered in his faith, nor questioned our God’s timing. I could not possibly be more proud of anyone. I am eternally grateful for the time that I had with him on this earth and look forward to our reunion, though as I told him this afternoon, not yet. I love you bubba.

Our beloved Harriet was at his side through the entire fight and to the end. The last words from his mouth were to tell her that he loved her.

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

Homework (Updated)

I think I’ve just been insulted. Luckily, I’m a little too simple-minded to fully process the cruelty.

“The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes,’” Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. “It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page.”

Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress’ most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who “can’t say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion.”

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:

  1. Car magazines: Automobile, Car, Car & Driver, Thoroughbred & Classic Cars, occasionally Motor Trend
  2. A few music magazines: Q, Paste, Uncut, Spin and a few others less regularly--never to include Rolling Stone, which has become less and less important to music with the passing of the years
  3. Political magazines: The Atlantic, National Review, American Spectator, The Economist, Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, BBC Focus On Africa [which is a quarterly] and a couple others that I pick up as I see but to which I don’t subscribe
  4. Graphic design magazines: Computer Arts, Dynamics, GDUSA, and, again, catch as catch can by when I find them in the store. Some of these--the ones published in the UK are the most expensive of the bunch. Computer Arts and similar cost between $12 and $16 each copy.

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.

Just sayin’.

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