Friday, July 30, 2004

Back to the world of meme

The Mumpsimus has created the Mumpsimus Cultural Concurrence Index. Basically, it's a listing of likes vs. likes more that will, in theory, show how close my tastes are to Matthew Cheney. The idea for this began with Terry Teachout, but his version was too filled with classical, jazz, dance and other people I didn't know. The Mumspsimus sticks closer to my part of the world. So here goes, The Mumspsimus's likes are in the left hand column, my likes will be in bold:

1. Isaac Asimov or Robert A. Heinlein
2. Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg
3. Bach or Mozart
4. Ubik or Valis
5. Mieville or Tolkien [Ugh, this one was too tough. I think I'd rather read Mieville, but Tolkien was too important in my life to ignore.]
6. van Gogh or Monet
7. John Clute or Paul di Filippo [I realize Cheney is probably referring to criticism, in which di Filippo clearly loses, but man I love "A Year in the Linear City."]
8. Edward Albee or Arthur Miller
9. Ani DiFranco or Alanis Morissette
10. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" or "Friends" [I'd rather not watch either, but "Queer Eye" wins because I've never seen it.]
11. The Nation or The New Republic
12. Truffaut or Godard
13. Peter Straub or Stephen King
14. Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman
15. Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet or Asimov's [Another winner because of its importance in my life. I've only read one issue of LCRW and already it threatens Asimov's.]
16. Bartok or Schoenberg
17. Brazil or Blade Runner
18. Aristotle or Plato
19. E.E. Cummings or Ezra Pound [Wins for brevity. I've never read much of either.]
20. "Mork & Mindy" or Mrs. Doubtfire
21. Talking Heads or The Police
22. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier ["Clash of the Titans" rules dude!]
23. Anton Chekhov or Ivan Turgenev
24. cats or dogs
25. Thomas Pynchon or Arthur C. Clarke
26. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Adaptation
27. vegetarian or carnivore
28. Max Ernst or Jackson Pollock
29. The October Country or Dandelion Wine
30. Philip Glass or Yanni
31. Texas Chainsaw Massacre original or remake
32. Samuel Beckett or Neil Simon [I feel stupid here, but I've only read "Waiting for Godot," whereas I've seen a ton of Neil Simon movies.]
33. Faulkner or Hemingway
34. Bakunin or Marx
35. Adrienne Rich or Robert Bly
36. Duck Soup or A Night at the Opera
37. R.A. Lafferty or Connie Willis
38. Hawthorne or Melville
39. Tom Lehrer or The Capitol Steps
40. Susan Sontag or Harold Bloom [Bloom pisses me off, but he's always interesting. And, sadly, I've never read any of Sontag's stuff.]
41. NPR or CBS
42. Gomez or Wilco
43. Samuel R. Delany or David Foster Wallace
44. Mac or PC
45. Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera
46. In the Bedroom or A Beautiful Mind
47. David Sedaris or Garrison Keillor
48. Ursula LeGuin or Charles DeLint
49. Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert
50. Paul Celan or Pablo Neruda
51. The 1960s or The 1940s
52. Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen
53. Philip Pullman or J.K. Rowling
54. Basho or Jack Kerouac [Although I never would have know who was if it wasn't for Cheney's essay on haiku, which I'm sad to note doesn't seem to be online anymore.]
55. Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber
56. Frank O'Hara or John Ashbery
57. Paul Bowles or Graham Greene
58. Schubert or Schumann
59. Dostoyevsky or Dickens
60. Orson Welles or John Ford
61. August Strindberg or Eugene O'Neil
62. Keaton or Chaplin [I suspect I'd like Keaton better, but I've never seen any of his movies.]
63. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction or Galaxy
64. Short novels or long novels
65. Castle in the Sky or Princess Mononoke
66. Patricia Highsmith or Jim Thompson
67. David Lynch or Spike Jonze
68. William Gaddis or Saul Bellow
69. Bob Dylan or The Grateful Dead
70. Nebulas or Hugos
71. Fence or The Gettysburg Review
72. Jonathan Lethem or Dave Eggers
73. Toni Morrison or John Steinbeck
74. They Might Be Giants or Phish
75. Philip K. Dick or Frank Herbert
76. Sylvia Plath or Robert Lowell
77. coffee or tea
78. Rear Window or Vertigo [Only because I've seen it more recently. Both are awesome.]
79. Rodgers & Hart or Rodgers & Hammerstein
80. Gore Vidal or Norman Mailer
81. tragedy or comedy
82. Angels in America or Rent
83. Swift or Pope
84. George Carlin or Howard Stern
85. Theodore Sturgeon or Hal Clement
86. Seven Samurai or Rashomon
87. Vladimir Nabokov or John Updike
88. Edward Whittemore or John LeCarre
89. Radiohead or The Cure
90. Goya or El Greco
91. Alice Munro or Raymond Carver
92. James Baldwin or Truman Capote
93. New York or Paris
94. J.M. Coetzee or Nadine Gordimer
95. H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard [You are a cruel, cruel man, Matthew Cheney.]
95. Roald Dahl or Beverly Cleary
96. Annie Hall or Sleeper
97. Jello Biafra or Ralph Nader
98. Virginia Woolf or Arnold Bennett
99. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" or "The Wasteland"
100. Weird Tales or Amazing Stories

When I was completely out of my league on some of these (Kahlo, Strindberg, Schubert) I took Cheney's pick because I would be interested in it if he recommended it to me.
To add up my score: "At the end, count up the left column (my choice) and subtract the sum of the right column from it, thus creating your MCCI." So that comes out to 36 percent MCCI. (Actually, there are two #95, so it's actually 37 percent. Although I'm not sure it's a percentage with 101 questions.) Wow, I thought that would be much higher.
UPDATE: OK, now that I understand math a little better, I find that I'm at 68 percent. Much closer to what I expected.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Oh, no, Hogzilla!

A Georgia man claims to have killed a 1,000-pound feral hog, but all the proof he has is one picture of the dead pig hanging. If it's real, that is one scary pig. As the plantation owner points out:

"They say bears get mad when you mess with their babies," Holyoak said. "Hogs don't need a reason to get mad and come after you."

And readers of William Hope Hodgson's House on the Borderland know how scary even normal sized pigs can be.
Link found at Shaken & Stirred.

25 Sci Fi Legends according to TV Guide

According to sources, here's TV Guide's Top 25 Sci Fi Legends:

25- Captain Video
24- Dick Solomon (3rd Rock From the Sun)
23- Ultraman
22- Doctor Who
21- Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica)
20- John Crichton (Farscape)
19- Steve Austin/Jamie Summers
18- Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)
17- Max Guevara (Dark Angel)
16- Allie Keys (Taken)
15- The Coneheads (Sat. Night Live)
14- Robot (Lost in Space)
13- MST3K Crew
12- Sam Beckett (Quantum Leap)
11- Duncan MacLeod (Highlander)
10- Jack O'Neill (Stargate SG-1)
09- Capt. John Sheridan (Babylon 5)
08- Alf
07- Fox Mulder (X-Files)
06- David Vincent (The Invaders)
05- Diana (V)
04- George Jetson
03- Uncle Martin (My Favorite Martian)
02- Star Trek Crews (all in one big lump)
01- Rod Serling

Despite some qualms about this list (no No. 6 from the Prisoner and Alf at No. 8!!) I like that it makes some unusual choices. Rod Serling at No. 1 is cool. Diana from V and David Vincent from The Invaders, both played so high, is awesome. They're not well known characters to the general public, so to even appear here is great. And, best of all, Ultraman made the list! Nice to see a Japanese show that hasn't appeared much since the early '70s appear on the list.

Carl Hiaasen on Warren Zevon

In this interview with Carl Hiaasen, the mystery writer and Miami Herald columnist, he talks a bit about his late friend Warren Zevon.

Warren was such a great writer. I think his lyrics are so unique and so literary, and if you met him and talked to him, you would find out immediately, at least in my case, he read 10 times more than I had time to read.
He was just extremely literate and well-read, and much of his song-writing was nuanced with literary references. And he also agonized over every single adjective and adverb and every line of his lyrics. He went through the same sort of agony that writers go through, if they're serious writers, when they're writing. And I think that's why he had so many friends who were writers and so many were drawn to him. ... And he was a great character on top of it. I think that's the other thing you have to remember from a novelist's point of view. He was a true character. He was larger than life.

Hiassen is a good writer in his own right, so go check out the interview.
Link found at Syntax of Things.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A diamond is equal to ...

You know those DeBeers diamond ads? Well, here are the ads in a language all guys could understand.
Link found at The Minor Fall, The Major Lift.

Quick, get the Millenium Falcon fixed!

The Cassini satellite orbiting Saturn has caught a picture of the Death Star. God, I hope we don't have a princess captured on that thing. We're a peaceful planet, really!

The Virtual Anthology returns

Jeffrey Ford has announced he's bringing back The Virtual Anthology.

I began The Virtual Anthology with the inception of Gabe Chouinard's S1ngularity Webzine. The idea was to compile the Table of contents for an anthology of the Literature of the Fantastic that would suit my own tastes. In other words, I got to play virtual editor. What I did was write little pieces, not critiques or reviews or essays really, appreciations of those stories I chose to be included.

Ford had only just gotten started when the e-zine was shut down. The potential for the series was obvious, especially for a big Jeffrey Ford fan like myself. But also for anyone who is interested in fantasy literature. Ford was looking across the fields of stories to find his works. The first three stories he chose were from Henry James, Ray Bradbury and Akutagawa. Imagine where he'd go from there. So I'm cheered to hear it's coming back.
Fantastic Metropolis will be the host for the anthology. Apparently, the site is preparing for a redesign and The Virtual Anthology will be part of that.

Minor adjustments

Due to some inquiries by powerful people, I have made some changes along the right. I've added a link to my other blog, Giant Monster Blog, and I've updated the links. I took out a few that were dead and more importantly I added some new people. Please, check it out, all the people along the right are worth visiting at least once.
In particular, I added Project Pulp, which is a great outlet for fiction zines like Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and Say... ? and unusual books like Nick Mamatas' 3000 MPH in Every Direction at Once and Paul di Filippo's A Mouthful of Tongues.
And while I'm talking administratively, let me apologize for the lacking of posting for the past month or two. A mix of summer malaise and life things have been keeping me away. I'll be heading out on a vacation soon, so don't expect much exciting round these parts until September. Check in irregularly in the meantime and I should have an interesting post or two, I hope. (I should probably take Ed Champion's novel idea of asking a whole bunch of other bloggers to do my work for me.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Trawling the blobosphere

The New York Times looks at sea blobs, especially the blob in Chile last summer. The article goes back over the same territory, that the blobs are most likely the bodies of dead whales (although it doesn't include the description of whale deaths that previous articles had), but it encompasses a lot of different blob sightings, so it's pretty cool.

The blobs were made of almost pure collagen, the fibrous protein found in connective tissue, bone and cartilage. The scientists concluded that it had come not from giant squids or octopuses or any other kind of mysterious invertebrates. Rather, the Bermuda blob arose from a fish or a shark, and the St. Augustine one from a whale.
The Florida sensation, they said, had probably consisted of a huge whale's entire skin.
"With profound sadness at ruining a favorite legend," they wrote in the April 1995 issue of The Biological Bulletin, published by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., a distinguished research institution, "we find no basis for the existence of Octopus giganteus."

Link found at Professor Hex, who coins blobologist and, best of all, blobosphere.

Shatner's new music

Right now, I'm listening to William Shatner and Ben Folds sing Pulp's "Common People." It's fantastic. I don't know the original song, but I suspect it would be even better if I did. Anyway, Neil Gaiman posted the link to the song among many other good things. Check it out, download it. It's all fun. And you do know that Shatner is putting out an album produced by Folds, right? I'm sure I posted about it. Shatner will soon take over the pop charts, count on it.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Constantine: As bad as it wants to be

Well, there's a trailer for Constantine up and it looks to be as bad as expected. It's a little early to say for sure, but there is nothing in the trailer to make this look any good (well, maybe Rachel Weisz, but I'm not going to sit through this whole movie just to look at her). Keanu isn't using a British accent, but he's doing something strange with his voice. I've pretty much written this off as something I won't see.
Link found at Bookslut.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Donnie Darko answers

Salon answers questions about Donnie Darko (and being Salon, you have to watch a 15 second ad to read the article.) The article basically proves to me that the director's cut of the movie will explain too much. However, none of it will be stuff I didn't already know from the Web site, the Donnie Darko Book, and the DVD commentary. And seeing it all written out this way, I have to say I think the movie is better ambiguous. (Not that that will stop me from seeing the new version.)
Here's one of the more interesting q&a :

Couldn't you interpret this whole movie in another way, without any sci-fi stuff at all? As sort of a subjective rendition of Donnie's descent into paranoid schizophrenia?
Absolutely. A number of my friends read the film this way and feel it is a far more interesting interpretation of the events of "Donnie Darko" than the dominant sci-fi narrative. Certainly aspects of the film -- the flatness of affect in Donnie's meetings with Frank, Donnie's increasing menace and the way the mechanics of the plot revolve so explicitly around typical teenage sexual hang-ups -- support a reading of the film as Donnie's Descent, shown from inside his head. Even the careful tying-together of the plot doesn't necessarily negate this read; one trait of the budding schizophrenic is the creation of coherent, if unlikely, narratives tying together the hallucinations and paranoia often manifested as part of the illness.
That said, I'm not dealing too much with this read in these Cliffs Notes because it seems to me that through his supplementary materials and his director's cut, Richard Kelly is pushing viewers to accept the primary narrative -- the sci-fi, Tangent Universe narrative -- as the "proper" way to interpret the film. We can argue all day about whether Kelly's decision is clarifying or foolishly reductive. Many of my friends think that the film is far richer as an exploration of madness than as an "Escher thriller about freaking wormhole bullshit," as one friend so succinctly put it. Conversely, I myself am much more interested in watching a clever sci-fi flick with good '80s tunes than another inside-the-nutcase's-head movie, and so I'm perfectly happy to have Kelly attempt to clarify the intentions of his plot a bit. Kelly himself has spent years crowing about his film's careful ambiguity, so I'm interested in why he made the additions he did to the director's cut, additions that serve primarily to make the film far less ambiguous.

Personally, I don't care for the crazy teenager version of DD either. I like the science fiction better, but it still doesn't do it for me. I think there's a third interepretation out there that no one has mentioned yet. I'll have to watch the film again and contemplate. (That's what makes it so fun anyway.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Casually catching giant squid

Can this possibly be right? This article, about improved salmon fishing, has a one sentence statement that just doesn't seem correct:

A commercial boat brought in two tons of giant squid Sunday, the smallest 8 pounds, the largest 40.

What? Wouldn't that be a huge scientific event? It has to be a typo, it just can't be right.

Film composer Jerry Goldsmith dies

Film composer Jerry Goldsmith died at 75 after a long battle with cancer. Goldsmith composed lots of great movies, two in particular that spring to mind "Planet of the Apes" and "The Omen." But he did lots of films and more than a few science fiction films, including Star Trek and all the Alien films. He will be missed.
News found at Pullquote.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Jeffrey Ford interview excerpts

LocusOnline provides excerpts from the Locus interview with Jeffrey Ford. He mentions his latest work in progress:

Currently, I'm finishing a novel, The Girl in the Glass. It takes place in 1932, the Depression, along the Gold Coast of Long Island, and is about con men who put on séances for the grieving rich. The head of the confidence operation is quite cynical, but during one of the séances he believes he sees a real ghost of a girl whom he later discovers has been murdered. The ensuing mystery involves the Ku Klux Klan (huge on Long Island throughout the '20s) and a eugenics lab in Cold Spring Harbor, funded by Henry Ford (a major anti-Semite) and prominent US banks. The writing is a departure for me — much more pared down, more dialogue, less florid. I was very influenced in writing this by Dashiell Hammett, especially The Thin Man.

He also has some interesting comments on genre:
I also have a hard time delineating the difference between SF and fantasy. Both attempt to transcend everyday perceptions. I do recognize that classic difference between a scientific method where you're going out and collecting empirical data and Plato's concept where you contain all the information of the universe and you look inward for answers. It's not that one mode of inquiry is better; they both genuinely work. But the best is when they meld together. I like to get an idea that has some kind of metaphorical resonance to the characters' lives or their situations. If you make the connection between these two, it makes for a good story.

It figures this is the one issue of Locus that hasn't turned up at my local bookstore.

Memorizing poetry

Our Girl in Chicago, over at About Last Night, posts about memorizing poetry and whether it should be taught in school. She argues that it should be. She argues that it does not make people look at poetry by rote, instead it gets them closer to the poetry and makes them understand its inner workings.
She makes a convincing argument. I wish I had been forced to memorize a poem or two. Or even the Gettysburg Address. I didn't have to memorize anything in school. While I was probably happy about that then, I regret it now.
But I wonder if this is something worth doing at my age. I would like to know poetry better. I own many collections of poetry, but I spend little time with any of them. Most of my time is spent on novels and short stories.
I think I'll take OGIC's advice and start memorizing Kubla Khan, a poem I've always loved anyway.

Giant Monster Blog

I created a second blog a while back. It's called Giant Monster Blog and it's where I will be putting all my giant monster news and views on the movies, fiction, videogames and music that feature giant monsters. I just posted there about the death of Noriaki Yuasu, the director of the original Gamera films. If giant monsters interest you, that's where to look.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

I, Robot and the betrayal of Isaac Asimov

Slate looks at Isaac Asimov and how I, Robot gets the science-fiction grandmaster wrong. They do a good job of articulating the essential meaning of Asimov's work and how the movie betrays it. In short, Asimov hoped to promote reason over emotion, to show that robots could make not only mathematical choices well, but moral ones as well. The movie, on the other hand, aims to put emotion over reason and show how evil the unemotional robots are.
It's too bad. I expected so much from Alex Proyas after Dark City. But that's what Hollywood does.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

About Last Night has a birthday

Terry Teachout's blog, ArtsJournal: About Last Night, is now one year old. Congratulations Terry. If you haven't read the blog by now, you should. It is wonderful. He writes about the arts, pretty much all the arts from classical music to Looney Tunes. And he knows a lot about all of them. And he doesn't talk down to those who don't understand. He wants you to know about this stuff. He's enthusiastic and he wants to bring you along for the ride. If you haven't read About Last Night, now is the time to start.
Here's a good starting point, Teachout's blog entry on growing up highbrow in a lowbrow place and how uncomfortable he was with that.

All Music changes

So the All Music Guide has redesigned. I'm not sure I like it. All Music has been a good resource for finding out about albums and biographies of singers. I've rarely seen much wrong with the info and the reviews at least give you a picture of what the album is like, even if you disagree with the author. But now, I have to register for the site and there always seems to be two or three clicks before I can get to what I want to see. On the other hand, they are also offering sound clips and other additions. It seems less handy, but more thorough. I'll hang in there though and see if things improve at all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Chewbacca and Return of the Reluctant

Chewbacca's Mrs. America diary. What more needs be said?

Friday, July 09, 2004

I want to live under the sea...

I want to live in the Jelly-fish 45 Habitat, floating on the oceans. How cool would that be. (Another link found at Professor Hex.)
Posted by Hello

A cry for help

A woman crashes her motorbike into a causeway and dies. Rescuers find carved into her skin the words "Help Me." What a great way to start a horror novel.
(Link found at Professor Hex.)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

A picture worth 1,000 words

A sport utility vehicle had just crashed through her fence, rolled across her patio deck and into her backyard swimming pool.
She watched, stunned, as the vehicle began to sink. "I thought I was dreaming," said Peacock, 80. "I was so shaken up."
Posted by Hello

Getting Stoned

Tingle Alley has discovered the documentary Stone Reader and has fallen in love. I completely understand. I loved the movie so much, I bought the four disk special edition (I don't know if it's still available.)
The movie, in short, is about a guy who reads a terrific book, The Stones of Summer, and finds that the author hasn't written anything since. The documentarian goes out in search of the writer and along the way discusses books and writing with everyone he meets.
Some people have complained about the research and some scenes that were obviously set up. But, as CAAF points out, that sort of misses the point. The movie is not really about the search for this missing author, it's about the love of reading. It's a chance for Mark Moskowitz (the documentarian) to talk with people like editor Robert Gottlieb and critic Leslie Fielder as well as little known authors who talk about the pains of writing.
CAAF actually wrote to Moskowitz and asked him about The Lost Book Club, which plans to find more books that are out of print or need some attention.
Rake's Progress also discusses the movies and quotes from Roger Ebert's review.
Then there's the book list. During the film, many, many books are mentioned and thanks to somebody named "dedicated transcriber" we have nearly all of them. Transcriber put the list together on the Stone Reader discussion board, but I'll do the service of printing it here:

William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey
James Joyce, Poems
John Seelye, The Kid & Beautiful Machine
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat
Lord Byron, Collected Works
Howard Mosher, Northern Borders (coming of age story set in Vermont)
John Frederick, The Darkened Sky
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook (& introduction to the 1972 10th anniversary edition)
R.A. Lafferty, Fourth Mansions (SF)
Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading
John Barth, The Floating Opera (Leslie Fiedler’s favorite modern American 1st novel)
William Kotzwinkle, The Fan Man
Crocket Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon
Ben Hogan’s Power Golf
Claire Bee’s Chip Hilton series
Dan Guenther, China Wind
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
Ross Lockridge, Raintree County
Thomas Hegan, Mr. Roberts
Siri Hustvedt, The Blindfold
William Manchester, The Last Lion
Ferol Egan, Fremont
A. Yehoshua, Five Seasons
Janet Hobhouse, The Furies
Christopher Isherwood, Berlin Stories
Peter Taylor, A Summons to Memphis
Virginia Woolf, A Voyage Out
James Lord, Picasso and Dora
Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy Boys books
Colin Wilson
Mark Twain Puddinhead Wilson, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
Ernest Hemingway, Old Man and the Sea
Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Edgar Allen Poe
James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
Harry Mulisch, The Assault
Emily Bronte
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched by Fire (nonfiction book on artistic temperament)
William Cotter Murray, Michael Joe
John Legget, Ross and Tom
Tony Tanner, City of Words
Frank Conroy, Stop-time, Body and Soul, Midair
Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds
Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel, The Stranger in Shakespeare, Waiting for the End
Tony Tanner, City of Words
Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle, Mother Night
Wright Morris, The Territory Ahead, My Uncle Dudley
John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I Am
Cynthia Ozick, Myth and Metaphor
Philip Roth, Goodbye Columbus
Stephen King, Carrie
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Lewis Mumford
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Richard Yates
Robert Coover
William Thackeray, Vanity Fair
Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
Mario Puzo
William Gaddis, The Recognitions
Connie Willis, Lincoln's Dreams, The Doomsday Book
Joseph McElroy, Ancient Paraphase
Marcus Goodrich, Delilah
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
F.O. Mathiessen, American Renaissance
John Seelye, The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jealousy
Alberto Moravia
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting & Testaments Betrayed
Joseph Skvorecky, The Engineer of Human Souls
Knut Hamsun
John LeCarre
James Ellroy
Anne Rice
Anne Tyler
Thomas Pynchon, V.
Maura Stanton, Molly Companion
Laura Cunningham, Sleeping Arrangements
Franz Lidz, Unstrung Heroes
Alan Furst
Raymond Chandler
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
James Jones, The Thin Red Line, The Merry Month of May
Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Something Happened, Good as Gold
Chaim Potok, The Chosen
Thomas Pynchon, V.
Robert C.S. Downs, The Fifth Season
Bruce Dobler
Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday
Gail Godwin
John Irving
John Casey
Jane Barnes Casey
Andre Dubus
Tom McHale
Jonathan Penner
Jose Donoso
Nelson Algren
Terry Southern, Red Dirt Marijuana
Vladimir Nabokov
John Dos Passos
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Frank Conroy, Stop-time, Midair, Body and Soul
William Faulkner, Soldier’s Pay, Sartoris
Vance Bourjaily
Emily Dickinson
D.H. Lawrence, Apocalypse
Willa Cather
Ed Gorman, Harlequin
James Webb, Fields of Fire
Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Dan Simmons, Hyperion tetraology
Casanova, History of My Life
James Joyce, Dubliners
The Complete James Fennimore Cooper
Flannery O'Connor
The Bible
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Mark Twain, Autobiography
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Gibbon, Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
Geoffrey Chaucer
Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Islands in the Stream (my favorite EH)
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Thomas Wolfe
William Wharton, Dad
John Marquand, Point of No Return (great lost book of the 40s)
Hamilton Basso, The View from Pompey’s Head
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter (all)
Bernard Malamud, Dubin’s Lives
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils

Sidenote: I can't tell you how happy I am to see R.A. Lafferty on that list. He's a great fantasy/science fiction writer who should be better known. Other writers have often sung his praises. I haven't read Fourth Mansions. I would recommend his short story collections, like Nine Hundred Grandmothers.

Obviously, those aren't all lost books. But they are all discussed in the movie.
If you do enjoy the movie, definitely try to get your hands on the multiple disc version DVD. Some of the extras are great and aren't directly related to the film. For instance, there's an old episode of Firing Line that features an interview with Leslie Fielder. After watching him in the film (where he's old and craggy), it's a revelation to see him young and inspired. Kind of funny how he refers to things like comic books and science fiction as "pornography" though (and he's in favor of them!). He also mentions science fiction books like The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad. There's also a nice short documentary on Henry Roth.
MadInkBeard has a different take on the DVD. He points out some of the bad points of the film, most of which I agree with, I just don't think they make it a bad film. (For instance, I'm not annoyed by the long shots of sky and pool skimming, and as both Rake's Progress and CAAF point out, one of the best parts of the movie is Moskowitz rambling about Joseph Heller as scenes of a carnival go by.) However, I do agree with his last statement:

10. All that, and I still don't have the desire to pick up the novel, which Barnes & Noble re-released in the wake of the film.

The Stones of Summer appears to be a Faulkner-esque coming of age story. It's huge. It's the kind of book that you either struggle through and fall in love with, or simply struggle with. Again, while I'm sure Moskowitz wants you to read the book, I don't think this is the ultimate goal of the movie. The movie is trying to express the love of books and reading and how that affects a person. And that's why I love it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Great comic strip

Fleep is a pretty wild online comic. It's about a guy who goes into a phone booth, blacks out and wakes up to find it is surrounded by concrete. In his pocket, he has a Simbian to Russian dictionary, a note written in Simbian, several coins and 20 feet of dental floss. From that point on, the strip (which originally ran in a newspaper) shows how the main character tries to figure out where he is and why. For a while, not much happens in the strip, but it really pays off toward the end.
The strip was created by Jason Shiga. has a profile of his work here. Shiga also has a Live Journal account, which appears to be inactive.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Memic Monday: Books on my shelf

Today is meme day at Weirdwriter! Or at least, that's all can find to blog about. I found this one at David Fiore's Motime Like the Present; he got it from Rick Geerling at Eat More People. Here's the relevant quote:

So every writer - hell, almost every person - has that bookshelf. That one. The one where all the favorites and good picks and really cool looking books go. Mine is right on top of my desk. I got out of bed this morning, looked over at it, and thought...well, what better way to get some insight into a person? We're always doing favorite movie lists and favorite CD lists, but no one ever just talks about what they've got lining The Bookshelf. I'm going to jump out into the pool a bit and do mine and we'll see where it goes from there. Remember - no cheating and grabbing the cool books that aren't on your shelf, no saying you have books on there that you don''s okay if you haven't rearranged it in a while and have some crap on it. I do. That's just how it goes.

Well, I don't have The Bookshelf, but I have one shelf at home that I always look at wistfully. So I'll list those:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (Alan Moore, I love him.)
The Adventures of Lucius Leffing by Joseph Payne Brennan (Brennan is a Connecticut native and one of the last major writers for Weird Tales. He wrote some great short stories. I haven't read all of this yet, but it doesn't seem to be his best work.)
City of Saints & Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer (the hardcover edition from Prime)(There's lots of Vandermeer on this shelf. This was the first one of his books I read and I fell in love with it. You should read Vandermeer, now!)
Leviathan 3 edited by Jeff Vandermeer and Forrest Aguirre
The Golden Dawn Scrapbook by R.A. Gilbert (Always interested in occult groups, but haven't read this yet.)
Rebels, Pretenders & Impostors by Clive Cheesman and Jonathan Williams (I have no idea where I got this, but the subject matter (false kings and such) is fascinating.)
Little Big by John Crowley (Another Connecticut resident. I'm going to read this soon. I've heard too many good things about this book over the years.)
The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases edited by Jeff Vandermeer and Mark Roberts
The Third Level by Jack Finney (You can read my comments on it here.)
The Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch (Excellent graphic novel on the early days of animation through the eyes of a fictional artist.)
The Annotated Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, annotated by Roy Pilot and Alvin Rodin (Dinosaurs! Adventure! How could I not love this. I still haven't read this edition though.)
Cities edited by Peter Crowther (British edition) (Novellas from four great writers: China Mieville, Michael Moorcock, Geoff Ryman and Paul di Filippo. di Filippo's story, "A Year in the Linear City" is my favorite so far, although Mieville's "The Tain" is also very good. Haven't read the other two.)
Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural by Algernon Blackwood (A classic horror writer and this book was a lucky find at a used bookstore.)
The Heart of the Affair by Graham Greene (I had heard people like Maud Newton say so many good things about this book, I have to pick it up. I loved it and I've been buying more of Greene's stuff ever since.)
Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (Not much to say about this. I loved Fight Club, so when I heard about him doing a horror novel, I had to have it.)
Fun with Your New Head by Thomas Disch (Disch is a master. I've only read a couple of the stories here though.)
Dinner at Deviant's Palace by Tim Powers (I enjoyed Powers' On Stranger Tides, so when I saw this at a used book store, I grabbed it up. Still haven't read it though.)
Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (An excellent book on the life of heretic and writer Michael Servetus and how his book, though to have been burned, turns up across the centuries.)
White Apples by Jonathan Carroll (Carroll's awesome. What more need you know?)
Sinai Tapestry by Edward Whittemore (Found thanks to Jeff Vandermeer's constant recommendations. Powerful story. I need to pick up the other parts of the Jerusalem Quartet soon.)
The Serenity Prayer by Elisabeth Sifton (Got this at a book sale at work. Far better than I ever expected. It's a memoir about the life of Reinhold Niebuhr and how he came to write the serenity prayer and what its meaning is, written by his daughter.)
The House on the Borderland and other Mysterious Places by William Hope Hodgson
The Boats of the 'Glen Carig' and other Nautical Adventures by William Hope Hodgson (Hodgson is a great weird writer. Most people know of him through the novel "House on the Borderland." His stuff is great and these collections from Night Shade Books are truly beautiful. I've already got the next one on order.)
Venniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer (Night Shade Books edition)
Koko by Peter Straub (I've always wanted to read Straub. I tried reading "The Floating Dragon" but couldn't get into it. I picked this up at a used book store and hope I'll like it better.)
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard (Just bought this the other day. I grew up on Conan and I've been reading Howard ever since. These new collections of Howard's work from Del Rey are really good.)
and two that really shouldn't be here:
Guide to the Unexplained by Joel Levy
Monster by John Michael Greer
Also on the same shelf, but not books: an incense stand, a Godzilla Bandai action figure, a box of thumb tacks, "Surfing with the Alien" by Joe Satriani tape and the remains of a light fixture.
Only about half of these have been read. So what does this all tell you about me?

Movie meme

Here's the latest meme, found at Scribbling Woman. I think I did pretty well on it:

Instructions: bold the titles you've seen and add three to the end of the list (from mamamusings, Chuck, and Culture Cat).

01. Trainspotting
02. Shrek
03. M
04. Dogma
05. Strictly Ballroom
06. The Princess Bride
07. Love Actually
08. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
09. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
11. Reservoir Dogs
12. Desperado

13. Swordfish
14. Kill Bill Vol. 1
15. Donnie Darko

16. Spirited Away
17. Better Than Sex
18. Sleepy Hollow
19. Pirates of the Caribbean
20. The Eye
21. Requiem for a Dream
22. Dawn of the Dead (The original).
23. The Pillow Book
24. The Italian Job [Seen the new one, but not the old Michael Caine one. This thing doesn't specify.]
25. The Goonies
26. Baseketball
27. The Spice Girls Movie (Spice World)
28. Army of Darkness
29. The Color Purple
30. The Safety of Objects
31. Can’t Hardly Wait
32. Mystic Pizza
33. Finding Nemo
34. Monsters Inc.
35. Circle of Friends
36. Mary Poppins
37. The Bourne Identity (both!)
38. Forrest Gump
39. A Clockwork Orange
40. Kindergarten Cop

41. On The Line
42. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
43. Final Destination
44. Sorority Boys
45. Urban Legend
46. Cheaper by the Dozen The original.
47. Fierce Creatures
48. Dude, Where’s My Car
49. Ladyhawke
50. Ghostbusters
51. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
52. Back to the Future

53. An Affair To Remember
54. Somewhere In Time
55. North By Northwest

56. Moulin Rouge
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
58. The Wizard of Oz
59. Zoolander
60. A Walk to Remember
61. Chicago
62. Vanilla Sky

63. The Sweetest Thing
64. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
65. The Nightmare Before Christmas
66. Chasing Amy
67. Edward Scissorhands

68. Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
69. Muriel’s Wedding
70. Croupier
71. Blade Runner
72. Cruel Intentions
73. Ocean’s Eleven [I've seen the original. Again they don't specify new or old.]
74. Magnolia
75. Fight Club

76. Beauty and The Beast
77. Much Ado About Nothing
78. Dirty Dancing
79. Gladiator

80. Ever After
81. Braveheart
82. What Lies Beneath
83. Regarding Henry
84. The Dark Crystal
85. Star Wars
86. The Birds

87. Beaches
88. Cujo
89. Maid In Manhattan
90. Labyrinth
91. Thoroughly Modern Millie
92. His Girl Friday
93. Chocolat
94. Independence Day
95. Singing in the Rain
96. Big Fish
97. The Thomas Crown Affair [Again, new old? I've seen the new one.]
98. The Matrix
99. Stargate

100. A Hard Day’s Night
101. About A Boy
102. Jurassic Park
103. Life of Brian
104. Dune

105. Help!
106. Grease
107. Newsies
108. Gone With The Wind
109. School of Rock
110. TOMMY
111. Yellow Submarine
112. From Hell

113. Benny & Joon
114. Amelie
115. Bridget Jones’ Diary
116. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
117. Heavenly Creatures

118. All About Eve
119. The Outsiders
120. Airplane!

121. The Sorcerer
122. The Crying Game
123. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
124. Slap Her, She’s French
125. Amadeus
126. Tommy Boy
127. Aladdin

128. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
129. Snatch
130. American History X
131. Jack and Sarah
132. Monkey Bone
133. Rocky Horror Picture Show
134. Kate and Leopold
135. Interview with the Vampire
136. Underworld

137. Truly, Madly, Deeply
138. Tank Girl
139. Boondock Saints
140. Blow Dry
141. Titanic
142. Good Morning Vietnam

143. Save the Last Dance
144. Lost in Translation
145. Willow
146. Legend

147. Van Helsing
148. Troy
149. Nine Girls and a Ghost
150. A Knight’s Tale
151. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
152. Beetlejuice
153. E.T.

154. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
155. Spaceballs
156. Young Frankenstein
157. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
158. American President

159. Bad Boys
160. Pecker
161. Pink Floyd: The Wall
161. X-Men

162. Sidewalks of New York
163. The Children of Dune [Isn't this a TV movie? Does that count?]
164. Beyond Borders
165. Life Is Beautiful
166. Good Will Hunting
167. Run Lola Run
168. Blazing saddles
169. Caligula
170. The Transporter
171. Better Off Dead
172. The Abyss
173. Almost Famous

174. The Red Violin
175. Contact
176. Stand and Deliver
177. Clueless
178. William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet
179. Dangerous Liaisons
180. I Am Sam
181. The Usual Suspects
182. U-571
183. Capricorn One
184. The Little Shop of Horrors (the one with Jack Nicholson) [I've seen both versions.]
185. Die Hard
186. The Flamingo Kid

187. Night of the Comet
188. Point Break
189. Chatterbox
190. Secretary
191. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
192. American Beauty
193. Pulp Fiction

194. What About Bob
195. Roger and Me
196. Fahrenheit 9/11
197. Bowling for Columbine
198. The Professional (aka Leon)
199. The Fifth Element
200. La Femme Nikita
201. Heathers
202. Bull Durham

203. The Scorpion King
204. The Thin Blue Line
205. Do the Right Thing
206. Lady From Shanghai
207. Natural Born Killers

208. Funeral in Berlin
209. Decline of the American Empire
210. Citizen Kane
211. Casablanca
212. Night of the Hunter

Friday, July 02, 2004

"And maybe marlon brando
Will be there by the fire
We'll sit and talk of hollywood
And the good things there for hire
And the astrodome and the first tepee
Marlon brando, pocahontas and me
Marlon brando, pocahontas and me
Posted by Hello

Marlon Brando dies

Marlon Brando has died at 80. The man made a lot of great films over the years. And once in a blue moon, he could make a bad film more enjoyable. His bizarre take on Dr. Moreau in the 1996 "Island of Dr. Moreau" was the only good thing in it. He most often took the serious roles, but he had a sense of humor. Check out "The Freshman," his take on his former character is perfect. Might be time to rent some flicks this holiday weekend.

Girl: What're you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: Whaddya got?

The Mumpsimus interviews Alan DeNiro

The Mumpsimus interviews Alan DeNiro. It's the second interview that Matthew Cheney has done and it's excellent. They have a good discussion on zines, poetry and "difficult" fiction. Lots of good stuff. Cheney has also said he's looking to talk with M. Rickert. The interviews are great, Matthew, keep 'em coming!

Salon runs "Perfect Circle" excerpts

Salon is printing excerpts from Sean Stewart's "Perfect Circle" starting today. I don't know anything about the book, although it comes from a well respected small press publisher and at least one other person has recommended it. Here's the first paragraph:

I woke up sweaty and shaking. Tense. I had been dreaming about ghost roads again. This one was leaving an apartment complex swimming pool, and there was a little girl walking down it. She was looking back over her shoulder at me, eyes solemn behind a cheap kid's snorkeling mask, and wearing pool flippers; slow dreamy duck-steps, a trail of wet inhuman footprints disappearing into the dim black and white houses, the humming silence.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Living dead presidents

The influence of zombies on American politics has been revealed.

Dream machine at a store near you

A new device in Japan can help you control your dreams.

Placed near the bedside, the dream-maker emits a special white light, relaxing music and a fragrance to help the person nod off.
Several hours later, it plays back the recorded word prompts, timed to coincide with the part of the sleep cycle when dreams most often occur. It then helps coax the sleeper gently out of sleep with more light and music so that the dreams are not forgotten.
The device, which will sell for $136 in Japan starting late August, targets sleep-deprived businessmen, a company official said.

Of course, there have been other types of dream machines available for years. Results may differ however.

Hello middle ages!

The FDA has approved leeches to be sold as "medical devices."

For many people, leaches conjure up the image of Humphrey Bogart removing the bloodsuckers from his legs in African Queen, but FDA reports that leeches can help heal skin grafts by removing blood pooled under the graft and restore blood circulation in blocked veins by removing pooled blood.
Indeed the use of leeches to draw blood goes back thousands of years. They were widely used as an alternative treatment to bloodletting and amputation for several thousand years. Leeches reached their height of medicinal use in the mid-1800s.

By the way, isn't the "African Queen" a rather old reference to use? I love the movie, but the first thing that comes to my mind when leeches are mentioned is the scene in "Stand By Me." Generation gap?

Snakehead is here to stay.
Posted by Hello

"Zen" and the art of reviewing

This Salon article about "Zen Arcade" pisses me off. I have no problem with people praising the Husker Du album, it is great. But this article is a little much. There's a lot of pointless noise and stretched out nonsense in the album. I'm sure it marks a particularly important moment in hardcore music, but 20 years later, it can be a little boring to listen to. It does have its classic moments (I'm not sure Husker Du wrote a better song than "Turn on the News"), but the reviewer should ease off on the hyperbole.
Also there's this:

This is the album Nirvana and Pearl Jam only wish they could have made: intelligent, clamorous, and hashing out more torment and passion in four sides than all the grungers and headbangers since -- all without a hint of heavy-metal pretension.

Why is it that everytime someone wants to praise something as a classic, they have to shoot down the latecomers? Nirvana made two great albums, both of which I think are better than "Zen Arcade." (I'm not going to defend Pearl Jam, let their fans do that.)
And then, what's this about "heavy metal pretension"? As if there is no pretension in a double album that goes on about spiritual seeking and includes a song called "Hare Krishna." Believe me, "Zen Arcade" has pretensions all its own.
Can somebody please write an appraisal of "Zen Arcade" that's realistic and doesn't take cheap shots at later bands or heavy metal? I would appreciate it.

Here's the latest image of Godzilla from "Godzilla: Final Wars." The picture is courtesy of Monster ZeroPosted by Hello

Jeff VanderMeer and The Mumpsimus

Matthew Cheney of The Mumpsimus has done an interview with Jeff VanderMeer for SF Site. Definitely worth checking out.

NPR : Too hip for its own good

According to NPR's Ombudsman their music reviews are too hip. I'll wait for you to stop laughing.
Alright. The ombudsman claims that the reviews are incomprehensible and he uses these quotes to illustrate his point:

A review of the band Wilco on All Things Considered on June 21:

These extended explorations and others, like the five minutes of abrasive dental-drill feedback drone near the end of the disc, give Wilco's music an entirely new dimension. The guitar isn't here to make things pretty. Tweedy uses savage, wild lunges to punctuate the verses and sometimes to inject a little danger into otherwise lovely songs.

Yeah, "dental-drill feedback," that must be really hard to understand. Maybe it should have been edited to "shrill, piercing noise."

A review of the band The Magnetic Fields from All Things Considered on June 9:

The songs themselves are the draw. They're disciplined little gems of composition, poison-pen letters set in the first person and caustic, coffee-shop observations propelled by not particularly heroic desires. The best of them tell about being deluded in love or not being able to let go of an old flame. And even under Merritt's dour storm clouds, they gleam.

I'm completely mystified on this one. What is hard to understand here? Maybe "coffee-shop observations propelled by not particularly heroic desires" is a little silly, but it sure isn't hard to understand.

A review of an album by Morrissey on All Things Considered on June 4:

Morrissey has always seemed to be a walking paradox, both playful and morose, ambiguously asexual, political but hopelessly self-involved, which is why You Are the Quarry is still a classic Morrissey album. Songs like "All the Lazy Dykes" and "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores" serve up such themes in spades. But his usual inclination towards detachment ends there. And the new Morrissey, the older Morrissey, the wiser Morrissey, the Morrissey of this moment is unafraid to show a more personal side, venting his soul with songs like "Irish Blood, English Heart" about his withering sense of nationalism and, of course, the starkly brave and confessional accusation of Christianity entitled "I Have Forgiven Jesus."

Again what am I missing here? I'm not saying I agree with any of these reviews, but what is so hard to understand? After reading "the starkly brave and confessional accusation of Christianity" I know exactly what the song, called "I Have Forgiven Jesus" for godsakes, is about and know I don't care. Isn't that what the review should tell me?
All right, maybe some of this language is in rock-crit-ese, but none of it was inscrutable.
So what does our NPR ombudsman give as the alternative?

Ulaby's interview with Timbaland was about how he found inspiration in the Tolkien novels, The Lord of the Rings. It seemed an unusual combination, but Ulaby made Timbaland more comprehensible and his music more accessible.

This was good cultural journalism: It introduced me to an artist I didn't know. It told me why he is important and why he is an artist. I may not run out to buy his CD, but at least I can make an informed choice.

Well good. But he's not comparing same to same here. He's comparing record reviews to an interview with an artist. An interview can go more in depth on what an artist hopes to achieve and why he uses the sounds he does. A review takes what's in front of the reviewer and describes why he or she thinks it's good or bad. It's not an introduction, it's advice.
Sounds like he's upset that rock music isn't reviewed the way classical music is. In classicial music, you can say "this E note coming in during this cluster of notes brings a feeling of" blah blah blah. Nobody in rock cares about E notes or C notes or notes at all. How would a classical person describe five minutes of dental-drill feedback? He wouldn't. It may hit a certain note, but that would miss the point.
It's funny, because I always thought NPR reviews overexplained rock music. Maybe NPR should just leave out the rock reviews and go back to classical. A younger crowd isn't listening to NPR for their record reviews anyway.

UPDATE: I am always so pleased when smart people agree with me. Terry Teachout and Greg Sandow have written blog entries that take issue with the ombudsman's critique as well. Sandow also makes a good point about the whole situation:
That said, there's still a problem. How are music reviewers supposed to talk, when even things they say in simple language seem -- at least to some people -- to come from another planet? If they stop to explain the most basic concepts ("Wilco's latest album may seem to be full of horrible noise, but there's a reason for that"), they'll sound ridiculous to the many people who do know the music. ("The Beethoven symphony that the Philharmonic played last night is very long, but that's how classical pieces are.") One thing this shows is that music, in spite of all the sentimental talk about it, is anything but a universal language. Instead, it seems to divide us -- to mark subcultural boundaries -- far more than it unites us.