Thursday, July 30, 2009

Robots, Love, and Other Apocalypses

Hello, readers.

It's still not Thursday, but we're close.

Here, briefly, are things that are happening, possibly occurring, and irredeemably exciting. In that order.


My car radio began speaking French this afternoon. I don't know why.

Also, Love is a Four Letter Word, a collection of essays written by writers of varying fame in which they discuss those relationships which didn't quite live forever but whose memories never die. It's edited by a man named Michael Taekens and introduced by a man with a different name, Neal Pollack. Titles include, "Exactly Like Liz Phair, Except Older, And With Hypochondria." Famous writers include: Gary Shytengart and Junot Diaz.

Possibly Occurring:

The end of the world. At least, according to those people who believe the Mayan prediction that our current age will end on December 21, 2012. NPR has a story on that here. Apparently, 2012 will see an increase in solar flares and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Scientists say they aren't worried. I believed them.

Then I found this New Scientist article called, "Smart Machines: What's The Worst That Could Happen?" In it, we discover that a select group of scientists began teleconferencing in February of 2008 on the maybes of an AI-induced apocalypse (self-aware internet, for example, or smartphones smart enough to pretend they're you). They dismiss the idea of an AI "singularity" (that point at which an unstoppable chain reaction occurs and AI systems began self-manufacturing smarter AI systems and so on and so forth until Keanu Reeves becomes a techno-Jesus), but they do warn of our increasing ability to "creat[e] systems so complex and opaque that we don't understand them." See below for one artist's rendering of what the robot apocalypse will probably look like.

Irredeemably Exciting:

The future of books, . Assuming they don't learn to read themselves, of course.

Happy Wednesday, readers.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Not Thursday

Hello, readers.

It's not Thursday anymore, and so, today, we shall not be literary. We'll try comic booky instead. It is the time of Comic-Con, after all. You can tell because google has transformed their logo into a heroic mosaic of various superheroes, a thing I found out about because my sister said to me yesterday, "Have you seen google today?"

This was another reminder we live in the future.

Speaking of the end of the world, look at this:

Horrifying, I know. And yet, must hug, must hug.

Related news, once upon a time, my sister and I won tickets to comic-con. We were in Hollywood for a Buh-Bye Buffy Bash. This was May of 2003. We were going home in a week and had no way to fly back out to San Diego for the convention. We had to sell the tickets. It was tragic.

Possibly happier news: Sam Raimi, of horror and camp fame (also he directed Spiderman), has been tapped to direct a World of Warcraft movie.

Neil Gaiman battles Kevin Smith. The term miscreant gets thrown around. Scroll to the bottom of the post for the action. You should read the whole thing, though. There's fun Gaiman stories of being famous and hanging with fabulous people who occasionally die.

Last night, hung out at my sister's house with Mom. We ate chicken fajita things. She gave me Guyanese rum. I played some Neko Case. It was nice. We only rarely talked of missing Comic-Con that time. Tragic, as I said.

Happy Friday, true believers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Literary Thursday

Hello, readers.

Today finds me still in Oxford. Did have a conversation with someone in British Columbia about teaching in Korea, though. That was exciting. My preparation included thinking of questions as well as drinking tea and eating coffee cake. Hopefully, I spoke words at an understandable rate.

Of interest to people who like to read but are more interested in listening to authors talk:

Neil Gaiman discusses on NPR, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, his two-part love letter/graphic novel about Batman. It takes places at Batman's funeral. His old villains and friends tell different stories about him. It's mythic and sad and Alfred kicks a little ass--sort of, in a way, you'll see.

Also, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler's death--I refuse to make any noir title puns here concerning big sleep or long goodbyes. You can learn of his until recently undiscovered cameo in Double Indemnity here, as well as listen to his interview with Ian Fleming, here. If it seems strange to you that a cameo by a famous author in a well-respected movie might go unnoticed for more than fifty years I direct your attention to candy corn, which people continue to eat despite the fact that it neither resembles corn, nor particularly tastes like candy. Some things are inexplicable.

Of interest to people who like to read and/or are interested in the awesomeness of my friends, please note two stories written by one Anya Groner which have been published in the latest issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and can be read at Flatmancrooked, respectively. One story is about a young girl who is kidnapped by a magician. The other about the oddities of sex. Both are charmingly grotesque. Enjoy.

Happy almost, but not quite, Friday, readers.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Hello, readers.

I'm in Oxford. It must be Tuesday.

By Oxford, I mean the one in Mississippi. We only have the one red telephone box.

And by Tuesday, I mean the day between Monday and Wednesday. The one named after someone I can't remember but will look up presently. Also it's a reference to a show I sometimes used to watch all the time.

In other news, I did visit a cemetery in Louisiana, but not the one that wonked out electrical devices. It was an old Catholic cemetery a few blocks from my friend's house. The tombs were generally above ground types, one or two the size of small sheds. There was also a giant tree stump nicely placed near the center.

It was not a particularly scary graveyard. The grass was green. The number of shadowy alcoves fairly few. The community seems to use it as a dog park. My friend suggested I take his dog, Wyatt, for a walk there. When we arrived, a man and his three dogs were already playing fetch among the tombs. Eventually, they left though, and Wyatt and I walked quietly among the dead, noting names and dates. Most of the people there had been alive in the mid-eighteenth century. Some of them had been named Pujo.

I was glad Wyat was with me. Not because of the possibility of ghosts, so much as that before entering the cemetery, a man walking with a slight lean, and also carrying half a brick, seemed to follow us for a while. He was not a ghost so far as I know. He did have an odd laugh.

Happy Harry Potter Day, readers.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Graveyards and Leprechauns

Hello, readers.

Today finds me in Lake Charles, Louisiana. It is a deceptive place. The interstate tells that it is seven exits big. The skyline is full of tall buildings. My friend insists it is very small, though. "All those buildings," he says. "They're refineries." Apparently, Lake Charles is one of the countries largest collectors of natural gas.

It's also, like Florida, prone to bouts of apocalyptic weather. Which was nice, as it allowed me to finish The Graveyard Book during a particularly dark and stormy morning. You can read my review here.

Later, after the rain, a friend of the friend I'm staying with came over. We had hamburgers. I, being in a just finished a book mood, was rather distant and probably a bit unpolite, but then it occurred to me to ask this friend about graveyards in Lake Charles. He proceeded to get animated and told me about one graveyard that zapped the power from electronic devices. He demonstrated. "Outside, full charge." He walked through an imaginary entrance. "Inside, dead." And he repeated the scene for effect.

"I used to ghost hunt," he said. He doesn't like the show on sci-fi though. "There's an abandoned church here where I heard a little girl running and laughing."

I don't know if these things are true, readers, but my opinion of truth is very much like my opinion of tea. There are many different kinds and some are bitter and licoricey and some are too fruity, but, they are, generally, still tea.

Tomorrow, maybe, I will investigate.

If you do not hear from me, read The Graveyard Book. It's good, and on the off-chance I've fallen into a ghoul gate, you may find a way to rescue me.

Happy heroics, readers.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oooh, I Like That One

Hello, readers.

It's the fourth of July. I'm not sure if "fourth" should be capitalized or not. I could look it up but for the moment, I'm okay with mystery.

As a kid, today meant driving into Nashville with my family. We parked at a fire station a few miles from downtown so that we could see the riverfront fireworks without the hassle of people. Generally, we got there an hour or so before the fireworks. Sometimes we played a game where we owned cars as they passed by. Sister, me, Dad, would sit on the car and collect volkswagons, sedans, and semi's. At the end of the day, we gave out awards for best paint job, oddest, best overall, etc. It was nice.

As a me, now, today, visiting Orlando, I drove downtown and watched the extravaganza put on by Disney. It was at Lake Eola. A lot of people were there. A few were dancing to Thriller--one of the radio stations played it for the hour leading up to the fireworks. Speaking of which, this was one of the better shows I've seen. True, they weren't the biggest or the loudest, and they weren't synchronized to music, but what they lacked in blam, they made up for in foreplay. I've never witnessed a firework show with as many false climaxes as this one.

Random favorite bits: Kids blowing bubbles. Tiger faces. Girl with umbrella. Giant muscle men taunting the fireworks show with shouts of, "Bring it on." Also, a small girl who, every once in a while, would grant her approval. "Ooh," she said, "I like that one."

Hope you had a happy fourth, readers.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Brake For Robot Zombies

Hello, readers. The past week and a half has seen me leave Oxford and hit the road. First stop, Nashville. Home base, more or less. Filled Mom's garage with books and things. Also filled my sister's trunk, and one of her living rooms. I really did give away/sell/trash a lot of stuff. Apparently I had a lot a lot of stuff.

Saturday night I drove to Knoxville. Stayed with an old friend for a few days. He and his wife had a baby, whom they named Lenna for reasons which it's not entirely clear whether or not I'm at liberty to reveal. Much wonderful food was had (chutneys, chappati, and the like). On the last night--which was, in fact, last night (Tuesday night)--I made some falafels and tzatziki. Some of my friends' new friends stopped by. They stayed for food. We stuffed pitas and talked for several hours until most everyone went to bed, except for me and the old friend. We discussed the future for both of us: him graduating; me, possibly, vacating the country. Eventually, he slept, and I inscribed two books as presents for little Lenna. The books being, A Little Princess and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. She is, at three months, much too young to read these books, but she's not too old to be read to, and, in any case, perhaps their being near her will add some air of imaginative wonder and helpful sorrow. Books are magic, you know.

Today finds me in Asheville, currently at a place called World Coffee. I entered in the hopes of finding Vietnamese coffee. I stayed for the lovely service and also the outlets allowing this post to be posted.

Sunrise in the smokies is a beautiful thing. Sun beams slicing the tops of mountains, clouds bruised with the early light. This is how I entered Asheville. I highly recommend it. Just watch out for those curves which take you directly into the sun. In those moments, driving becomes mostly an act of faith. If you can't see the road, is it still there?

Tonight, my cousin (whom I'm visiting here), takes me to a play called, A Beautiful View. It's being put on by the company she works for. I'm excited to see the play, but more excited to see the fruits of my cousin's labor. It's a wonderful thing to absorb a bit of her life here: to see how she works and lives. Her apartment, for example, contains stress balls, peacock feathers, and a cat named Guinevere. Seeing people twice a year at Thanksgiving and Christmas is nice, but you rarely hear about peacock feathers.

Hope you're having a pleasant Wednesday readers.