OK, I've done it. I've changed my comments generator. I've chosen HaloScan, which appears to work well on other people's blogs. Please try it out for me and see how (and if) it works. Hopefully we won't have all the crashes and other problems I had with the last comments generator.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
As you've probably noticed, I've done a massive update to my links sidebar. I've included blogs, news sites, fiction sites, comics site, videogame sites, and basically anything I read on a semi-regular basis. Take a look around and leave a comment if you find any broken links or other problems.
Posted by Brian at 3:36 PM
The Revealer has an interesting article starting with the idea that churches and strip clubs serve similar needs. From that profane beginning, the article goes on to discuss the necessity of being able to explain your religious decisions. Good writing, well thought out. I'm really loving The Revealer, check it out.
Posted by Brian at 12:57 PM
I think I'm going to take the 50 Book Challenge as interpreted by Bookslut. Last year, I read about 54 books, so it's definitely possible. More importantly though, it'll give me a chance to write about what I've been reading. So I'll be posting my thoughts on each book as I finish it. The first will be "Nova" by Samuel Delany, which I've almost finished.
Posted by Brian at 12:16 PM
I've always liked the idea of a motor home, being able to travel the country and live (somewhat) comfortably at the same time. What a cool life that would be. Now they're just making me jealous with this: a new motor home that can travel 80 mph on land and 6 knots in the water. Link has pic of the motor home at sea.
Posted by Brian at 11:44 AM
Friday, January 23, 2004
Here's a little bit of history I didn't know about: The Hartford Convention. Apparently, New England (or at least the Federalist Party members in those states) thought about seceding from the Union and talked about it in a convention in Hartford. Why don't we learn about these things in high school?
Posted by Brian at 12:55 PM
Trent at s1ngularity::criticism offers a take on "The Lord of the Rings" (the books, natch) as anti-racist. I'm not sure I buy it any more than I buy the racist viewpoint, but it's nice to see it spinned in the other direction. The comments also add a lot to the discussion.
Posted by Brian at 12:13 PM
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Here's a site on Nazi architecture that includes images from the 1930s and '40s and the same place today. The real interest here is the "Thingstatte" (scroll down to the Heidelberg section) which was called a "veritable church of the Reich" by Goebbels. It was an open air stadium built to harken back to the ancient pagan gatherings. (Page found via Cylindrical Primate Storage Unit.)
Posted by Brian at 12:33 PM
According to Poynter Online, The New York Times Book Review is changing direction. Now there will be less literary fiction reviewed and more nonfiction. Because literary fiction is boring. Unlike, say, the latest book on budget implications on capitol hill. Or the big, multivolume epic on the life of President Garfield. The Book Review is the only section of the Sunday Times I still read, even as boring as it is now. This "updating" of the Review is bound to send me off completely.
Posted by Brian at 11:59 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Fishermen have been making some big catches lately. Here's a world record blue whiskerfish. Tanzanian fishermen caught a rare dugong, which must be like a manatee (it looks like one and they call it a "sea cow.") And thank god for the Russian army. They saved 10 tons of beer that sank under ice in River Irtysh. Best catch of the day.
Posted by Brian at 2:08 PM
Story and video of mysterious object caught on video over Kansas City sky. It looks like a flat, white rod or something. Not very impressive. And the second half of the video, you can barely see the object.
Posted by Brian at 2:00 PM
Some people are reporting that "Enterprise" may get canceled. Not having cable and not watching TV anyway, it doesn't concern me much. But I've always liked the Star Trek franchise. Still, I think this is exactly what it needs.
For too long, Star Trek has been coasting. After the Deep Space Nine (the pinnacle of Star Trek shows), they had the awful "Voyager" and the (from what I've seen) boring "Enterprise." On top of that, the last two movies have not been winners with critics or with fans. And "Nemesis" was a bomb at the box office. It's time for Star Trek to settle back into obscurity for a little while, let people work up some interest in it again. Wait a few years. Then maybe Paramount can get an ambitious and intelligent writing staff to come up with a new direction for Star Trek.
Or maybe, it's just time the franchise was put to bed and better stuff will take its place.
Posted by Brian at 1:15 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Sunday, January 18, 2004
There's a new blog called Boomer Deathwatch and it's something to see, especially by people of my generation. They take all the angst about the selfishness and screwed-upness of baby boomers and print it in great detail. I'm not sure I feel as strongly as they do, but I'm sure enjoying the bile. I like their disclaimer too:
"And if you're in any way offended by the content or message of Boomer Deathwatch, sorry, but we really don't care. Seriously. We'll probably just post your pissy e-mail and make fun of it, so don't bother."
Posted by Brian at 3:21 PM
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Friday, January 16, 2004
An explorer has bought a Russian icebreaker and is heading out to the North Pole to determine if the Earth is hollow. Here's the pitch from Steve Currey's Expedition Company - Voyage to Our Hollow Earth: "Don't miss this chance to personally visit that paradise within our earth via the North Polar Opening and meet the highly advanced, friendly people who live there. We are of the opinion that they are the lengendary Lost Tribes of Israel who migrated into the North Country over 2,500 years ago and literally became lost to the knowledge of mankind. "
Posted by Brian at 12:20 PM
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Gottfried Benn was a poet and a doctor. He seems to have combined those interests in some very odd ways. I just downloaded his poems from this site and they are grotesque in the best sense. Try this poem:
A drowned beer hauler was heaved onto the slab.
Someone had heaved a lavender aster
between his teeth.
As I reached through the chest
under the skin
with a long knife
to cut out the tongue and palate
I must have bumped the flower, for it slid
into the brain lying alongside.
I packed it into the chest cavity
with the sawdust
as we sewed up.
Drink your fill in that vase!
Rest in peace,
That comes from a collection called "Morgue," which you can dowload as a pdf at the link. Enjoy.
Posted by Brian at 12:36 PM
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Neil Gaiman recently made mention of Harry Stephen Keeler and linked to Ramble House, who are currently republishing his novels.
So, looking further, I found this page: Harry Stephen Keeler Home Page. Read this page. This guy sounds crazy and wonderful. I want to buy his books. Here's a good passage from that page:
"In one novel, there's a character named Suing Sophie. Sophie goes on transpacific cruise ships, striking up an acquaintance with a single man on board. When the ship gets into port, Sophie bids her male friend farewell by loudly exclaiming, "Yes! I'll marry you!" then rushing off. Now the man has not proposed marriage. But Sophie has made sure that there are plenty of witnesses to her farewell. Soon afterward, the man is greeted with a breach of promise lawsuit for failing to marry Sophie. In the settlement, Sophie collects a huge award, which she then uses to travel to the cannibal isles of the South Pacific; specifically to islands whose inhabitants have recently been converted by Christian missionaries. There Sophie convinces them of the errors of their recent conversion, and reconverts them as practicing Jews.
"You know all this and more about Sophie; before it's over, Keeler probably gets more plot mileage out of Sophie than Flaubert does out of Emma Bovary. The difference is that Sophie does not appear in the action of Keeler's novel at all. Other characters just allude to her."
Posted by Brian at 11:53 AM
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
A Ghost ship found more than a year ago off the coast of Australia will be sunk as an artificial reef. I love stories of people just disappearing, like the crew of this ship or the residents of Roanoke. There's probably reasonable explanations, but I like the far flung theories I can come up with instead.
Posted by Brian at 2:07 PM
Monday, January 12, 2004
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Gene Wolfe, a really great writer, discusses the Lord of the Rings and their influence on him and the influence he believes they should have on society at large. It's a conservative viewpoint, but not a bad one. I particularly liked this:
"Philology led him [Tolkien] to the study of the largely illiterate societies of Northern Europe between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the true Middle Ages (roughly AD 400 to 1000). There he found a quality -- let us call it Folk Law -- that has almost disappeared from his world and ours. It is the neighbour-love and settled customary goodness of the Shire. Frodo is "rich" in comparison to Sam, though no dragon would call Frodo rich; Sam is poor in comparison to Frodo, though Sam is far richer than Gollum, who has been devoured by the tyranny and corruption of the One Ring. Frodo does not despise Sam for his poverty, he employs him; and Sam does not detest Frodo for his wealth, but is grateful for the job. Most central of all, the difference in their positions does not prevent their friendship. And in the end, poor Sam rises in the estimation of the Shire because of his association with Frodo, and rich Frodo sacrifices himself for the good of all the Sams."
Posted by Brian at 11:48 AM
Slightly less thrilling than a moon base and Mars exploration is deep-sea exploration. A next-generation robot will soon visit the deepest part of the Marinas trench (and therefore, the deepest part of the ocean.) I found this interesting:
"While the oceans cover two-thirds of the planet, the vast majority - 90% - are unexplored.
"We have better maps of Mars than we do of our own seabed, oceanographers say.
"But according to Professor Chris German, from the Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC), UK, new underwater technologies will extend scientists' reach - soon - to all areas of the ocean floor.
"You could say that deep-sea exploration is the new space exploration," he said."
Posted by Brian at 11:21 AM
Friday, January 09, 2004
I think everybody knows a little bit about Charles Berlitz. Who doesn't have a copy of "The Bermuda Triangle," "The Philadelphia Experiment" or "The Mystery of Atlantis" hanging around their house (and most likely unread.) Here's a good article about "The Flim Flam Artist." It's also interesting to note that he was one of the world's top linguists. (I wonder if he knew Noam Chomsky, another world famous linguist who is better known for his side work.)
Posted by Brian at 1:10 PM
The Revealer is a new blog/web site about religion and the press. It's got some very thoughtful entries in it so far. I already like it more than the B-Log, BeliefNet's Web log on religion. The B-Log mostly did weird religion stories in the news, where The Revealer actually explores religious issues. Check them out, see what you think.
Posted by Brian at 12:52 PM
"In today's hurly burly and mixy dixy it is very important to know if you are a space alien!" No kidding. Well fortunately, this Web site offers a handy dandy test to determine whether you are of the extraterrestrial kind. I've tried it, now I feel much more secure in my human-ness. Try it out for yourself. Ask questions like step 2: "If you frequently think about kidnapping farmers and subjecting them to rectal interference, look at yourself in the mirror. If you are wearing a plaid hat with earflaps, you are simply a serial sex murderer. If you are not, proceed to step 3!"
Go ahead. You'll thank me later.
Posted by Brian at 11:41 AM
What Valerie [a "domestic android"] CAN and CANNOT do. Valerie can call police in an emergency. Valerie cannot have sex. Damn, what good is she. (Was that sexist? Or droidist? 100 years from now, everyone will know the word droidist.)
Posted by Brian at 11:27 AM
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Minor giant squid news from Santa Cruz: "Strange catch of the week reported by Bayside Marine was two giant squid caught by an angler using diamond bars in 220 feet of water off Davenport. Rarely seen in this area, the squid were 3-4 feet long." I think "giant" is more of a physical description here. I don't think they actually caught Architeuthis, unless they were baby versions.
Here's a photo essay on bookbinding. For some reason, this looks really attractive to me. Something in the back of my mind wants me to waste my time building my own books. I can't cut in a straight line, yet I think it would be a really good idea to put together my own hardback book. It's a recipe for disaster.
Posted by Brian at 4:26 PM
Science fiction writer Lucius Shepard gives his review of "The Return of the King." I don't agree with everything he said, but he seems to feel the same way I do: the movie (and the trilogy) are great spectacles with a lot of entertainment value, yet filled with many faults. His summation seems pretty on point:
"The trilogy has now gone into the popular culture, standing as an incomparable feat of technical magic, and criticism of the project will seem no more than dust raised by its vast passage. Still and all, a quibble or two are not completely out of order, and I submit, for whatever value it may supply, that LotR’s hallucinatory content—giant spider, F-16 pterodactyls, super-mega-mastodons, et al—might have been better served with a lighter touch of magic, a few less epic sorrows, and a smattering of sufferings more mundane."
On a separate point, for what it's worth, Shepard brings up the Sam and Frodo dynamic and how they represent a 19th century British view of the relationship between servant and aristocrat. And that is certainly there in both the movie and the book. But when I was a kid reading the books, I saw their story as one of loyalty between friends. Sam was a good friend who supported Frodo right to the end. In fact, I saw LOTR as Sam's story (and he is the last person to write in The Red Book, the book you see finished at the end of the movie.) And while Tolkien certainly had the class dynamic in mind, I think he also saw it as a story of friendship and loyalty.
Posted by Brian at 4:22 PM
Finally, giant squid news! A second giant squid predator has been found. Up until now, scientists believed only certain whales lived off of giant squids, but apparently Antartica's sleeper sharks also regularly eat the big calimari. There's also a neat graphic showing the size of a giant squid and a colossal squid in relation to a London bus.
I'm not sure I trust this source, but this article says scientists have found the best proof "yeti." A furry limb has been tested and found to be part of no known mammal.
Also in mysterious identifications, scientists confirm that the Chile sea blob was just a decayed sperm whale.
Posted by Brian at 3:14 PM
This article on something called "mindsight" is interesting. However, I think the "Star Wars" metaphor (the article is called "Proof that the 'force' is really with us") wasn't what they were looking for. I don't think I'll be making my light saber jump into my hand anytime soon. The article is more about a "sixth sense" or auras or something. Still very interesting.
Posted by Brian at 3:07 PM
In Norway, they are going to hold a memorial service to honor Keiko (aka 'Free Willy"). One person is quoted as the memorial being "to honor Keiko as a symbol of freedom."
OK, I can understand people that feel strongly about an animal, strong enough to attend a memorial. But symbol of freedom? This was an animal that was in captivity the majority of its life and tame enough to appear in a movie. It also had a tough time surviving on its own because it wanted to come back. Yes, what a proud symbol of freedom. Bah!
Posted by Brian at 3:03 PM
Apparently this is a big Ursula Le Guin day. Sci Fi Channel has announced they will be making a mini-series of her Earthsea books. I read the first book, "A Wizard of Earthsea" and liked it, but I'd have to read it again to see how well it would do on TV.
Now that I think of it, it's a marketing department's dream. It's about a young boy who goes to a school for wizards where mysterious things are happening. He grows up to confront dragons and find out his true powers. Harry Potter references here we come!
While I liked the book, I wasn't in love with it. I didn't go on to read the rest of the books, but many people swear by them. It will be interesting to see what happens with it.
Posted by Brian at 2:01 PM
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Woman sells herself as imaginary online girlfriend. She was sold (the first time) for $41. I also like that all the people who won the auctions said they were just doing it in fun. Yeah. Sure you were. Also, here's her Web site, not that you'd need it or anything. It's just for fun. Really.
Posted by Brian at 1:05 PM
All right, vacation is over, time for me to get back to work here at the old blogging mines. My first nugget of the new year I've dug up for you: Being 'left-haired' affects brain, say scientists. I know you missed me.
Posted by Brian at 12:31 PM